The Draft (with recording)

 

The Draft

All memories ignite, he says, recalling
the odor of accelerants and charred

friends. Yesterday I walked to the sea
and looking into its deep crush

sensed something unseen washing
out, between tides and a shell-cut foot,

sand and the gull’s drift, or the early names
I assign to faces. This is not sadness.

Somewhere the called numbers meet.

 

* * *

“The Draft” first appeared in Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art.

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, and is included in the anthology Lost & Found: Tales of Things Gone Missing, Wagon Bridge Publishing, 2019.

Vesuvius

 

Vesuvius

When the earth shrugs,
some warnings are better
heeded. A little

smoke, some ash.
A knife point held to the chin.

Why listen at all?
The man in the big house hides in its vastness.
Surrounded, he walks alone.
People speak, but he hears only himself.

Meanwhile,
the mountain
belches

and the birds fly north
seeking firm ground
upon which to land.

 

* * *

“Vesuvius” was first published in The Big Windows Review in December 2017. I’m grateful to editor Thomas Zimmerman for accepting this piece.

 

I Praise the Moon, Even When She Laughs

moon-through-trees

 

I Praise the Moon, Even When She Laughs

I got drunk once and woke in Korea
with you watching over me.

Odd, how you spend seasons looking
down, and I, up. If I lived in a cloud,

could you discern me from the other
particles? Perhaps your down is

peripheral, or left, or non-directional. I can
fathom this without measuring scope,

yet I feel queasy about the possibility
of being merely one vaporous drop

coalescing among others, unnamed
and forgettable, awaiting the particular

atmospheric conditions to plummet to my
fate. As if we control our own gravities!

One winter I grilled pork tenderloin under
your gaze, unaware that the grass

around me had caught fire, and when I
unwound the hose and turned on the

faucet you laughed, as the hose wasn’t
connected and only my feet were

extinguished. Dinner was delayed
that evening, but I praised you just the same.

I look up, heedless in the stars’ grip, unable
to retrace all those steps taken to this here,

now, but still you sway above the branches,
sighing, lighting my path, returned once

again, even if not apparent at all times. Every
star signals a departure. Each is an arrival.

 

*  * *

“I Praise the Moon, Even When She Laughs” was published in Sourland Mountain Review in January 2017.

 

Meditation in White

lily

 

Meditation in White (Lilies)

Clouds pass my high window quickly, abandoning the blue.
Indefinite mass, indeterminate, impersonal

as only intimates may know.
Though you lay there, nothing remained in the bed.

Which is the blank page’s gift, the monotone
or a suggestion of mist and stripped bones.

The nurse marked the passage with pen on paper.
Renewal, departure. A rising.

I accept the ash of suffering
as I accept our destination, the morning

and its offerings, with you in synthesis,
complete and empty, shaded in contrast,

wilting, as another opens. Laughter eases the way.

 

***

page

 

This was first published in Shadowtrain, and made its first appearance here in March 2016.

Two Poems Up at Grand Little Things

 

My poems “Another Goodbye” and “Flinch” are live at Grand Little Things, a new publication that “embraces versification, lyricism, and formal poetry.”

Thank you, editor Patrick Key, for taking these pieces.

 

 

Dictionary of Dreams

 

Dictionary of Dreams

You do not know their secret names.
Mine is the music of metal and wood.

Human voices behind walls.
Trapped in reds, in chiseled words.

And silence. Always silence.
Or the filtered woodwinds at dawn.

How to describe her body?
The quickness of night. Year’s demise.

A family of ghosts hidden in these halls.

 

 

* * *

“Dictionary of Dreams” was published in Kingdoms in the Wild in April 2018.

 

Letter from Kansas

file7201265025021

 

I was a military brat. My return to the U.S. after attending high school in Italy was, well, interesting. Junction City, Kansas was definitely not bella Napoli. This poem came from that experience, albeit a few years after, and was published in the mid-80s in the Allegheny Review, a national journal of undergraduate creative writing, and was republished by Silver Birch Press in 2017. The kid who wrote it still exists. Somewhere.

 

Letter from Kansas

Caro amico,
Driving the stretch to Junction City,
I look for familiar faces in the cars
we pass, but see only strange grasses
gliding by. Three weeks ago
I slept on a stone-littered hilltop
overlooking the Bay of Naples.
Now the prairie laps at our front door.
A mile from the house two corralled bison
munch dull hay thrown daily
from a truck’s flat bed, and past that
the Discount Center’s sign
spells America. What I wouldn’t give
for a deep draught of Pozzuoli’s
summer stench and the strong
yellow wine that Michele’s father
makes. We mixed it with the gardener’s
red, creating our own bouquet,
remember? And here they say
I’m too young to buy beer and wine.
Without them the food is flavorless,
like the single language spoken.
I understand it all,
and miss the difficulty. Maybe Texas
will be better. Ci vediamo. Bob

 

 

This was one of my first posts on the blog, and as you might expect, very few people saw it. I wrote the poem in the summer of 1983, when I was new to poetry, still tentative, exploring. A few weeks later I attempted the sonnet form, and, well, everything changed. Everything.

 

Feeling Squeezed at the Grocery Store I Conclude that the Propensity to Ignore Pain is Not Necessarily Virtuous, but Continue Shopping and Gather the Ingredients for Ham Fried Rice because That’s What I Cook When My Wife is Out-of-Town and I’m Not in the Mood for Italian, and Dammit I’m Not Ill, Merely a Little Inconvenienced, and Hey, in the 70’s I Played Football in Texas and When the Going Gets Tough…

emergency

 

Feeling Squeezed at the Grocery Store I Conclude that the Propensity to Ignore Pain is Not Necessarily Virtuous, but Continue Shopping and Gather the Ingredients for Ham Fried Rice because That’s What I Cook When My Wife is Out-of-Town and I’m Not in the Mood for Italian, and Dammit I’m Not Ill, Merely a Little Inconvenienced, and Hey, in the 70’s I Played Football in Texas, and When the Going Gets Tough…

I answer work email in the checkout line. Drive home, take two aspirin.
Place perishables in refrigerator.  Consider collapsing in bed.  Call wife.
Let in dog.  Drive to ER, park.  Provide phone numbers. Inhale. Exhale.
Repeat. Accept fate and morphine. Ask for lights and sirens, imagine the
seas parting. On the table, consider fissures and cold air, windows and
hagfish. Calculate arm-length, distance and time.  Expect one  insertion,
receive another. Dissonance  in perception, in reality.  Turn head when
asked.  Try reciting Kinnell’s  “The Bear.”  Try again, silently this  time.
Give up.  Attempt “Ozymandias.”  Think of dark highways. Wonder about
the femoral, when and how they’ll remove my jeans. Shiver uncontrollably.

 

football

 

The events in this poem took place seven years ago. A lifetime ago.

 

 

Something Lost, Something Trivial

broom

 

Something Lost, Something Trivial

Another word, another bewildered
moment in transition: the phrase
barely emerges from your mouth
before crumbling back into a half-opened
drawer in the loneliest room of a house
that died seventeen years ago.

I nod as if in understanding, and stoop
to pick up a crushed drinking straw,
the kind with the accordion elbow
that facilitates adjustment.

From a rooftop across the street,
a mockingbird warbles his
early morning medley of unrelated
songs, and you say left oblique,
followed by matches, then
collapse on a bench,
winded. I sit next to you

and we both enjoy the warmth
and birdsong, though I know
this only through the uplifted
corner of your mouth, which
these days is how you indicate
either deep pleasure or

fear. I have to leave soon,
I say, and you grab my wrist
and stare into my eyes.
Broom, you reply. And more
emphatically, Broom!

Though I cannot follow you
directly, knowing both path
and destination, I pick my way
carefully through the years
stacked high like cardboard
banker’s boxes stuffed with
papers and receipts no one
will ever see. I know, I say.
I love you, too. Broom.

 

* * *

“Something Lost, Something Trivial” was published in January 2016 in the first issue of MockingHeart Review. Many thanks to founding editor Clare L. Martin, for her multiple kindnesses.