White Mules and a Column of Smoke

vinyl

 

White Mules and a Column of Smoke

I am thinking of a place I’ve never seen or visited,
much like Heaven or Jot ‘Em Down, Texas, but with better
beverages and the advantage of hindsight and seasoning,
a glance back or to the peripheral, with a side of memory
and sliced, pickled jalapeños topping a pile of imagination.

And how do we so clearly remember what never occurred?
That book I read in 1970 was first published three years
later. A drowned childhood acquaintance ordered a beer
and sat next to me at a party in college. The open fields
I recall from the garden walls in France, where homes stood.

If only we carried with us slide shows or grooved vinyl
to trace back our lives – photos and recordings of those daily
remembrances – detailed notes indexed on cards, or data
embedded in our palms and accessed by eye twitches.
Would such evidence improve our lives?

Which filters shutter moments and thoughts, twist them
into balloon animals we no longer recognize? False
accusations and convictions aside, can we trust what we
know to be true? That oak stands where it has for four
decades. I bleed when cut. The sky still leers above us.

 

 

“White Mules and a Column of Smoke” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge. I am grateful to Natalie Butler, who sponsored the poem and whose photo inspired me.

 

Recording of “Shadow Charm”

Shadow Charm

When you place your mouth
to my ear

how does the ocean know
which wave

to relinquish?
In your darkness I find teeth.

Blessings of the meek-throated.

A ribbed tunnel. Codicil.

Your tongue scrawls: too late,
the unsaid     nerve-sparked and

dilated     too late

And my skin replies: with
lightning     all strikes

count     to each its charge

“Shadow Charm” was published in August 2017 in The Icarus Anthology.

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.

 

* * *

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

River Carry Me

 

River Carry Me

I approach the window with closed eyes.

In this case, the between dissolves.

Without form and weight, still you linger.

A ticketless morning unfolds.

The water flows in braids, through stone and air.

Before my limits enact pity, before falling fruit.

Images condensed throughout the night.

An inheritance of trees curving towards the horizon.

One exactly as another’s, only different.

 

* * *

“River Carry Me” first appeared in Underfoot in October 2017.

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.

 

Jackboy’s Lament

Jackboy’s Lament

We define ourselves in movement,
in the uncertain light and forms

shuddering by: fences, the nameless
wave, odors, dark water.

Look at the hills, their lines stretched taut like
smiles, or voices torn from the earth.

Or the creek below us – how its mouth never closes
yet nothing emerges but a shadow

on the wind. Two questions arise,
leaving only the abandoned to consider.

In our solitude, only my self is missing.

 

“Jackboy’s Lament” made its first appearance here in October 2015. I started the poem about a dozen years ago, after a drive through the Texas hill country with Jackboy the cattledog, who was quite the philosopher and humorist. This is what emerged after several conversations and much reflection over his circumstances (abused, abandoned, rescued). Jack didn’t talk much, but he thought. Oh, how he thought.

vultures

 

Bowls, Emptied

bowls

 

Bowls, Emptied

I picture them always separate, unfilled, never nested among the others.

In descending order: yellow, green, red. The missing blue.

Concave, hollow, hemispherical, freed of conscience.

Other images – the skies, denser with age.

You stirring with a wooden spoon, cigarette smoldering nearby.

Or the itinerant smell of new sod and wet soil.

My knee aches whenever I traverse stairs or turn quickly.

Which holds more grief, these vessels or memory’s lapse?

Inverted, their capacity remains constant as the heavens, dark or light.

The paling dome, a memory of freshly pulled onion.

Squatting, you would patiently pluck weeds.

I bite my tongue and kneel to place the flowers.

Near this stone, where the crickets chirr and dew worms burrow.

By this mound and these blades of near-silent grass.

Where I accept this moment’s offering. And you do not.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Bowls, Emptied” first appeared on the blog in January 2016, and was subsequently published in Galway Review in December 2016.