Patterns

dead-dahlia(1)

Patterns

For one who moves in uncertainty, this
flower, the petals of which

gently fade, as if reason
is found in the decline of beauty
and its comforts.

But all you touch remains
touched. If silence reveals the body

of music, what can be said of darkness? Words
appear motionless until they blossom, a
pattern seldom seen yet carried to us in

all manner of conveyance. Listen,
for there is no purer voice.

Let the earth speak.

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“Patterns” first appeared here in March, 2015. I wrote it 30-some years ago, placed it in a folder and promptly forgot it.

Tuning the Beast


 

Tuning the Beast

I prepare contingencies for all outcomes. No.
I’ve prepared for this: a body. A key. As if

that cloth draped a leg. Not a leg
but the representation of a limb.

Another fragment, brought forth and opened.
Not a limb, an arrow, perhaps, pointing to the sea.

An oar, brought inland and unrecognized
for its purpose, directed or aimless. No, not an oar.

A neck, polished, and a chamber, with strings.
Repetition, fixation. Position. Intent.

I pluck and strum, pick and stroke, maintaining
space, steel above wood, bending notes,

moving sound in time, purposefully, from
this place to that, the left hand, creating,

conversing. The right, reasoning, controlling,
burning its past to the present, allowing,

preventing, rendering beat, consistent
motion, shaping only this moment, this now.

 

 

“Tuning the Beast” was drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge, thanks to Sunshine Jansen’s sponsorship. It subsequently appeared in The Blue Nib in September 2016.

 

 

RO

Ro

When this note fades
will it join you in that place
above the sky
or below the waves
of the earth’s plump
body? Or will it
circle back, returning to
my lips and this
hollow day
to aspire again?

 

 

Note: Ro designates the fingering required to produce a particular note on the shakuhachi, the traditional Japanese bamboo flute. In this case, closing all holes.

 

Bamboo Flute

 

Bamboo Flute

I am studying simplicity
in the way a rattlesnake
watches a field mouse,

which means of course
that I am doing it all wrong
and making this much more

difficult. Today’s lesson
is humility: I achieve no
tone from this damn bamboo

flute, no matter how I adjust
my mouth and wind. Go
watch football
, the voices

say. Instead I go to the grocery,
buy my wife’s favorite
wine, and later pour her

a glass and offer Irish cheddar
with rice crackers and a few
grapes. I sip beer, pick up

the flute, and sound a
wavering D followed by a goose
fart and spitting hamsters.

Progress, at last! Now
back to the lesson. Relax.
I’m nailing this simplicity thing.

 

* * *

“Bamboo Flute” first appeared in The Larger Geometry: poems for peace, available at Amazon. This anthology of poems that “uplift, encourage and inspire,” features poets from five countries and three continents. Published by the interfaith peaceCENTER of San Antonio, Texas, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to benefit the peaceCENTER.

I’m pleased to have had a small role in selecting the poems.

Contributing poets include Lynne Burnett, Charlotte Hamrick, Daryl Muranaka, Stephanie L. Harper, Sudhanshu Chopra, Texas Poet Laureate Carol Coffee Reposa, Michael Vecchio, Rebecca Raphael and others.

While Blowing on the Shakuhachi I Think of Birds

While Blowing on the Shakuhachi, I Think of Birds

Yesterday’s sorrow
dissipates in joy.
Though you are not here, I hear your voice,

blow a solitary note in response.
Your philosopher bird carries it to you,
two-thousand miles away,
as the wren brings your song to me.

This is love today
and tomorrow, 
embodied in birdsong and faith.

Next week I will know your touch
as you will mine.

We’ll follow our lists,
starting with lips, while the universe
surges around us, filling the voids we never saw.

Needs, answered.

Perhaps the world will end.

Perhaps the red-tailed hawk will follow its nature.

Perhaps I will stand on the roof and shout your name.

But today, this little bird nesting in all the unsaid spaces,
is all I have, little mouth flickering, forming moons and

new mornings, new shadows, new light.

* * *

“While Blowing on the Shakuhachi I Think of Birds” first appeared in Voices de la Luna in March 2020.

Morning Suizen

 

Morning Suizen

Boundless, it sips direction in the way of all music,
tonguing each note for its salt.

We call this ecstasy. Or peace.
Follow, and they still escape, always beyond
our outstretched fingers.

Exhale slowly. What do you know?

That long tunnel, ribbed in silence.
The scent of burning cedar.
Days framed in darkness and birdsong.

 

* * *

Note: Suizen is the practice of playing the shakuhachi, the traditional Japanese bamboo flute, as a means of attaining self-realization.

 

“Morning Suizen” first appeared on Nine Muses Poetry. Many thanks to editor Annest Gwilym for taking this piece.

Scarecrow Believes

Scarecrow Believes
 

What is a ghost if not misplaced energy,
an apprehension or the sum of invisible integers
and the properties they possess? I preside over
this sea of maize, tracking clouds, noting patterns
up high and among the flowing stalks, absorbing
minutiae, assigning connections, piecing together bits,
moment to thought, soil to trickle, flutter to gain.
Energy. Inertia. Waves, converted. If I had a bed
I would not neglect to look under it. The closet door
would remain open, a nightlight positioned nearby
with perhaps a mirror or two angled to offer clarity,
and the radio tuned always to jazz, providing little
purchase to any ill-intentioned spirit. The power of
beauty transfixes, even as it carries me far from my
station, from hilltop to plains to glowering moon.
If neither place nor reason, what consumes
our spiritual remnants, what directs our currents
to the next, and each successive, landing? Crows
have long been considered conduits to the afterlife,
but they exist here, in the now. I do not perspire but
fix my gaze on numbers and their tales, on zero and
the history of nothing, on unseen fingers walking up
my spine, shedding a residue of snow, of mercury
and latent images and dormant seeds in the world
underfoot, acknowledging the wonders of what
can’t be proven, what won’t be held or seen. Still, I
add and subtract, unclench my fingers and accept the
quiet, caught forever within the limits of the boundless,
under the sky, in space, within the improbable.

“Scarecrow Believes” was first published in May 2017 in GFT Presents: One in Four, a semiannual, print literary journal, and was subsequently published by Vox Populi.

 

 

 

Jazz Study in Time: Migraine

ice

 

Jazz Study in Time: Migraine

How the body expends its pain,
receptors enunciating their message,

all of one pulse: outward then in,
ice pushing through glass,

metal’s red glow searing flesh,
and the moments between

the piercing and acceptance, the
dull and incomprehensible whirl

of lights flashing from midnight
to snowflake, returning, always there.

 

 

Abstract swirl

 

“Jazz Study in Time” first appeared on the blog in December 2015.

 

Door Harp

candle

Door Harp

tear-shaped or is
it the inviolable
form of the

candle’s flame ever
changing but constant
in its own

presence that being
momentary or fixed
as a loved

one’s death I
listen and hear
only three notes

each one solitary
and aloof yet
of one purpose

image

Yet another piece from the eighties. It first appeared here in November 2015.