Simplify, as in Forget

Simplify, as in Forget

To turn off the stove
or close the refrigerator door,

such brazen attempts to win
the aging contest or blur the mirror

of clarity — you won’t say
which to blame or praise

or whether intent is implicit in
action or if I should hold my breath.

What is the freezing point of love?
When you were cold, whose

belly did you curl into, whose ear
gathered your breath and returned it

warm and with the promise of bees
producing honey? Your name floats

above my outstretched hand,
and unable to grab it, I blink and turn

away. Nothing works as it should.
I exhale. You push the door shut.

* * *

“Simplify, as in Forget” first appeared in the print journal Good Works Review in February 2018.

Martín Espada’s “Letter to My Father”

I was fortunate enough to hear Martín Espada read this poem live last week. It’s a powerful piece to read, but listening to him perform was especially sublime. You can do both at The Poetry Foundation.

 

Henry Lee Remembers Grandmother’s Garden

Trigger Warning: This poem, from the viewpoint of a serial killer, is the creepiest thing I’ve ever written. After reading it, my wife said “I’m not sure I want to share a bed with the man who wrote this.”

Henry Lee Remembers Grandmother’s Garden

I smile and recall the sparrows,
wings separated from their torsos
and nailed to the cedar fence

like so many unachieved desires,
an occasional feather ruffling
in the breeze, simulating flight,

their power now all mine to savor.
Art begins in the heart’s
crotch, compresses through the ribcage

and up the vertebrae, drills through
the skull, directly behind the eyes,
emerging as idea, as will or compulsion.

Or release. I loved those birds,
pulling them apart, arranging their
pieces by odor. How, rising from

dirty little mounds, their outstretched
feet squeezed the air from my
lungs, sharp bursts scattering

into the sun’s evening gore. I have
attained no higher state in the years
since that day. While the flies and one

lone wasp buzzed happily around me,
proof that wings claim neither heaven
nor earth, that godness lies within,

I lay there in the splendor
of the torn and detached, among
heads and crops, my fingers caked

black and stiff, wondering which
treasures, what other
sweetness the week would bring.

* * *

“Henry Lee Remembers Grandmother’s Garden” first appeared in Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art in February 2017. I’m grateful for editors Catherine Strisik and Veronica Golos for featuring my work in their journal.

I’d read an article on what not to write about – reminiscences of grandmothers, gardens, birds and so forth – and couldn’t resist inserting those elements into a poem. The editor who wrote the article rejected an earlier draft of the poem…

Black Lilies

Black Lilies

Flensing words, slicing deeper: all, nothing,
red to redder. Their skin, paling to nothing.

I speak today but you hear yesterday.
Black lilies in the chill of nothing.

Drifted apart, the two halves reconcile.
Yellowed, whitened. Older. Both stitched in nothing.

How many words have we lost to morning? Shredded
syllables sparring for sound. The nothing of nothing.

A coated voice, turquoise and calm, spreading across the room.
Buttered light. Pleasantries, unfolding. You, being nothing.

The language of night sleeps unformed in my bed.
I remember your hand on my cheek; flesh forgets nothing.

* * *

Another near-ghazal, “Black Lilies” first appeared in ISACOUSTIC* in January 2018.

Forgotten

Forgotten

Is it simply forgotten
or not remembered?

My father coughs
through his days,

asking for answers
only his brother knows.

Some books are better
read from the end,

he says. I don’t know
what to do.

He tries to spell his name
but the letters elude him,

teetering between symbol
and thought and choice.

The chair tips over
when I lean too far back,

replacing memories
with hardwood

and a new bruise
coloring my thoughts.

This word, that one.
A face, the date.

Last Tuesday’s crumb.
The floor accepts us all.

* * *

“Forgotten” first appeared in ISACOUSTIC* in January 2018.

Recording of “Untitled from 1988”

file2281274629261

This first appeared in 1988, in Aileron. At the time I was experimenting with movement and breath and line, and wrote quite a few of these meditations in this form, some more successful than others.

* * *

where breath begins
it ends consider
light its secret

structure the sense
of limit defined
if a hand

recalls what the
eye cannot which
is the source

of remembrance one
touches more deeply
or allows itself

to be touched
a difference only
in the approach

file9071336337066

Recording of My Poem “His Softness”

shoes

His Softness

What name would survive
had you not stepped into the water

that day? Memory assigned
a separate word, another given,

and the face I’d placed with you
appeared in front of me

fifteen years later, in another
setting, miles away

and still breathing. How
may I honor you

if not by name? I recall
the gray ocean and how

umbrellas struggled in
the wind, and reading

in the weekly newspaper
a month after

that you had never emerged.
Now your name still lies there,

somewhere, under the surface,
unattached yet moving with

the current, and I,
no matter how I strain,

can’t grab it. Time after time,
it slips away. Just slips away.

.* * *

“His Softness” was published in January 2016 in the inaugural edition of MockingHeart Review.