Nocturne with a Line after Kees

country

 

Nocturne with a Line after Kees

I close my eyes and see nothing but rain.
And after, take pity

for what turns beyond sight: the wretched
flower, a hiss from the road. Last night the wind
stole sleep from my body,

leaving me alone, wordless, listening
for her next breath. An alchemist,

I transmute the memories of old wounds laid open.

 

*****

This first appeared in Ijagun Poetry Journal, in December 2013.

 

Antique pharmacy

 

Poems in Oxidant | Engine’s BoxSet Series, Vol. 2

 

“Letter to Wright” is included in my collection of twelve poems found in Volume 2 of Oxidant | Engine’s BoxSet Series. I’m proud to have my work appearing alongside that of such luminaries as José Angel Araguz, Dorothy Chan, John Sibley Williams and others.

At $12, the BoxSet is a steal, featuring ten poets, each with 10-15 pages of poetry. Where else can you purchase ten discrete collections at that price?

* * *

 

Letter to Wright from Between Gusts

Dear Tami: The wind here speaks an undiscovered language:
diffident, it lurks in the background, stuttering, fingering
everything, shifting directions, mocking us, barely noticeable
until it gets pissed off and BLOWS! Then, shit happens. Pickle
jars appear in purses. Love notes remain unwritten. Shingles
flap across the lawn and idiots are elected to office (nothing new,
I know). When I was a kid I marveled at those fortunates who
lived under the same roof for years, for decades, entire lives, while
my family rolled around the globe, collecting vaccination scars
like postcards or nesting dolls. How interesting, I thought then,
to know and be known, to avoid the perpetual newcomer’s
path. Having shared this house with my wife and various dogs,
birds, rodents, insects and arachnids for thirty-three years, I now
know this – home is not a stationary edifice. No cornerstone
defines it any better than fog rubbing the juniper’s tired back,
or courting mayflies announcing warmth’s arrival in their brief
pre-death interludes. Desire is a feckless mistress; after obtaining
the prize, we miss the abandoned and wonder what might have
been. When you arrive at your new town remember this: no one
is stranger to you than yourself. I speak from experience, having
absorbed differences at one end only to watch them emerge
hand-in-hand at the other, like newborn twins or nearly forgotten
reminders of an uncle’s kindness in a year of typhoons and sharp
replies and rebuilt lives. Home is a smile, a lover’s sleepy touch
at 3 a.m., or the secret knock between childhood friends reunited
after decades. It lives in soft tissue, not steel, and breathes water
and air, flame and soil and everything between. But it can’t exist
without your mind and body lugging it around. I would like to
tell you what the wind is saying, but it’s singing different tunes
these days, and my translation skills begin and end in that still
place between gusts, floating in the twilit air like so many empty
pockets. These are the only words I have. Not much to hang a hat
on, and I apologize for my shortcomings and inability to expound
with clarity. I speak in poetry, but mean well. May your moons
be bright and your winds wild yet gentle, even if you can’t fathom
their meaning. I’ll keep trying if you will. All the best, Bob.

 

 

“Letter to Wright from Between Gusts” was published at The Lake in August 2017. Many thanks to editor John Murphy for accepting this piece, and to T.S. Wright for inspiring it.

 

Driving to Work, I Pass Myself

 

 

Driving to Work, I Pass Myself

Some days the drive takes twenty minutes,
on others, thirty or more. Seems I might pass
myself on the right morning if time flexed its
biceps or looped me into a dimensional shift
thick with donuts and tires and lost minutes.
How odd it would be to wave and say “see ya,”
knowing that tendered frustration grows in
distance, until it takes over the entire mirror.
Looking back, I see my frown diminishing
to a lone point in that shrinking van at the
hill’s crest. Will we meet in the parking
garage? Should I wait? You know the rules.

 

This first appeared on the blog in March 2018.

 

Recording of “The Body Gives”

 

The Body Gives

Sometimes the body gives too much.
A tendon frays, the heart mumbles
and no one sees the damaged parts.

Ignoring pain, we continue climbing ladders,
sandpaper breath rasping the morning light.

Little bits of us crumble all the time,
yet we stumble on, pretending.

Then the body kills us with its enthusiasm.

Cells duplicate wildly, plaque explodes.
This enmity within? Defensive maneuvers.

Working alone, I wonder where I might end.

On the floor. In a field. Atop the bed.
Under the surface of a rippling pond
or drifting with smoke

through a snow-clad afternoon
at eight thousand feet. Among
the grocery’s tomatoes and squash
approaching the end of a long list.

At the bar, glass in hand, or in a truck
at a four-way stop, the radio blaring.

Time enough for speculation, they say.
But I wonder: when I jump,

does the earth always rise to greet me?

 

* * * *

“The Body Gives” first appeared in The New Reader Magazine, in March 2018.

 

Recording of “My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar”

 

 

“My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar” was first published in The Lake in December 2018.

 

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

 

Transduced Ruin

desolate

 

Transduced Ruin

From bad to worse.
The hospital’s walls, shredded.

A turning back, the retrieval.
Frayed edges, unraveling, pulled down.

Conveyance and change, or, conversion.
Tying the knot, I think of home.

Things fallen apart.
She stands alone under the sky’s umbrella.

“Destroy infrastructure, destroy livelihood. Destroy.
Water leaking from the cistern’s wounds.

Wind to voltage; passive to active.
My church is the sky, the earth below, and everything between.

The center of one, of two.
Rounds, piercing armor.

A spiritual hole, leakage.
“It was easier to view them as targets, not human.”

Sequences: from water to ice, to vapor and back again.
I will surrender to flame and be scattered.

Firewing, starbolt, tearmaker.
Guided from afar, they sense but cannot feel.

Recursive death.
Counting graves, he considers relief.

The road to everywhere.
Looking back, I discover that I had already arrived.

 

* * *

I’d forgotten about “Transduced Ruin,” which was written during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30/30 Project, a fundraiser for the non-profit literary publisher, Tupelo Press. I am grateful to Atomic Geography, who sponsored the poem and provided the title and these three words: spiritual, sequences, things.