Portrait in Ash

blue-smoke


Portrait in Ash

In summer, sweet crushed ice, and crickets pulsing through the night.

Brake lights, and always the blurred memory of nicotine.

I recall running through the glow, laughing, fingers splayed forward,
and the ensuing sharp admonishment.

Steel, flint and spark. Blackened linings and diminishment.

How many washings must one endure to accept an indelible soiling?

In retrospect, your body still resists.

Lovely smoke uncoiling towards the moon, residue of impurities
and substance. Desire, freed and returning.

You dwell underground. I gaze at the cloud-marred sky.

* * *

“Portrait in Ash” appears in Interval’s Night, a mini-digital chapbook, available for free download from Platypus Press.

Somewhere: 28 Rue St. Jacques

Somewhere: 28 Rue St. Jacques

Or eating spam fried rice in the courtyard
after kindergarten, and playing cowboys
with Thierry, the kid next-door. We shared toys,
but not comics. Written language was hard

to decipher, unlike the spoken. I
never captured the nuances, and lost
the rest over the years. Today the cost
eludes me, like moths fluttering by. Try

to recall that particular morning light,
how it glanced off the French snow, and the
way our mother smiled at breakfast, no trace

of sadness, yet, the lines marking our heights
rising along the wall, limbs of a tree
we’d never climb, out there, somewhere, in space.

* * *

This was originally drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge. I was never satisfied with it, and didn’t see any reason to revise. But those memories are worth sharing!

In the Place of Cold Doors

cold doors


In the Place of Cold Doors

We have a word for everything,
or seven for nothing. Soon

you’ll enter and I’ll talk
on the other side,

watch for signs in every
dropped crumb,

every nailhead and
embedded phrase remembered

in another’s voice. The light
will dim and I’ll look for rain and

go on speaking. My words will wander
unnoticed. You hear only yesterday.

“In the Place of Cold Doors” first appeared in Gossamer: An Anthology of Contemporary World Poetry, published by Kindle Magazine in Kolkata, India. I was thrilled to have several poems included in the anthology.

nailhead

Thirty-Five Years Later, I Raise My Hand

Thirty-Five Years Later, I Raise My Hand

In spring 1983 I enrolled in a poetry writing course thinking it might help improve my short fiction. I was a history major by default, had never taken a course in poetry, but believed, with absolutely no evidence, that I could write fiction. At the time I would have been hard-pressed to name five contemporary poets, even counting my professor. To be honest, the class struggled to hold my attention. Only about a quarter of the students seemed interested in writing, and the instructor was a bit, uh, tired. But for the first time in my life I read, really read, poetry. I fell in love with Galway Kinnell, Ai, James Wright and Carolyn Forche, to name just a few of my early enthusiasms. I wanted to write like them. So I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. Most of it was laughably bad, but somehow I managed to win an undergraduate poetry contest, which suggested that hope existed. Maybe someday, I thought, one of my poems will be published. This radical idea had never occurred to me before. Publication seemed to be the privilege of special people, and a lifetime of gathered fact revealed that I was unequivocably nothing special.

Early on in the semester, perhaps even in the first class, the professor asked how many of us thought we’d still be writing poetry in twenty years. I didn’t raise my hand. I didn’t know where I’d be in six months, much less what I’d be doing in twenty years. Since I’d realized late in the game that teaching was not for me, I had no job prospects, and few marketable skills, despite experience in chugging beer, manning sound-powered phones on a ship’s helicopter tower, scraping barnacles and bending rules. The world was limited. The world was limitless.

Another gray day

dividing the old and young

Oh, this aching hip!

A song from that time:

Recording of December Moon (1999)


December Moon (1999)

If loneliness breathes,
then rain is its heart,

always falling to its lowest point
before receding. Water graces us

daily in all its forms – the slowest
drop, the line of ice on the wall,

your breath, so soft and even
in the cool night. But no one,

no thing, can fill the void of
departure. You exhale and turn

away, and the air, with its empty
arms, embraces the space

you’ve left. I feel this daily,
whenever we part. At forty-one

I’ve known you half my life
but have loved you even longer,

through the millennium’s demise
and all that preceded or follows.

The brightest moon for a century to come
is but a shadow in your light.

It’s hard to believe that I wrote “December Moon” over eighteen years ago. Busy with books, work and life, I didn’t write much in the nineties. But this, the last poem of that decade, surfaced a few years ago. The sentiments are as true today as they were then. I am a lucky man.

streetfog

Music: “Nightdreams” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Bone to Bone

chimes


Bone to Bone

He claims two sides frame every story.

I count three,      sometimes more,

believing in          multiplicity,

threats                concealed

but never

buried.      A dust devil twists across the path.
What ascends, what dies?

Heat, ashes.       A shadow’s flesh.

The earth, restraining all.

small town

“Bone to Bone” first appeared here in June 2016.