Musing on My New Chapbook

From where do these poems come?

Beats me. I can’t explain how I write poetry. It just happens, generally at a desk, word by word, without prior planning.

So it was with the pieces in I Have a Bird to Whistle (7 Palinodes), my latest chapbook. I was staring out the shack’s window, through the bird imprint (months earlier, a dove had smacked into the glass, leaving its body’s smudged outline behind), when the first words of the poem came to me: “What falters in translation?”  Which of course led to thoughts about assumptions and traitorous actions, passageways, Robert Johnson, slide guitar, truth, perception, flight, refraction, etymology, deflection, Jung, and much, much more. Thus the book’s title is taken directly from Robert Johnson’s lyrics, inspired by a dove’s misperception, and filtered through my mind’s colander, with the residue dumped out on the page. Not en elegant process, nor a quick one, but there you have it.

The book is available here to U.S. residents for $7.50, shipping included.

Non-U.S. purchasers can order it directly from me by emailing aBirdtoWhistle@yahoo.com.

 

Shakuhachi Blues

 

Shakuhachi Blues

That waver,
like the end of a long

dream flickering to wakefulness,
or an origami crane

unfolding between whiskey
poured and the tale of deceit

and a good woman done wrong.
Air flutters through this bamboo

tube, and it seems I control
nothing. Inhaling, I try again.

 

A simple instrument that will take a lifetime to learn…

Waiting for the Shakuhachi, I Practice with What I Have

 

Waiting for the Shakuhachi, I Practice with What I Have

The tone feels round on shorter bottles,
which more closely resemble my shape.
Longnecks pitch lower, while the emptied
pinot requires more controlled air flow.
My grooved fingers fumble in their
search for meaning. I know this silence,
but that one requires more study.

Cool air stumbles in
through the trees.
Ah, autumn’s return.

 

This first appeared on The Zen SpaceThank you, Marie Marshall, for publishing my work!

 

Self-Portrait with Mandolin

almond

Self-Portrait with Mandolin

Being
the afterthought

of wood and
steel, I accept

the phrases
allowed me.

Limitations
frame our days;

working within,
we grow.

Almond to tree,
sound in time.

Chords
by implication.

I root among
the falling

leaves,
gathering

their tunes.
When I cannot

see, my hands
find the way.

mando

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 Sings the High Lonesome

Scarecrow3

 

Scarecrow Sings the High Lonesome

Nothing about me shines or sparkles. If asked,
I would place myself among the discarded —
remnant cloth and straw, worn, inedible,
useless, if not for packaging intended to
convey a certain message, which I of course
have subverted to “Welcome, corvids!” Even
my voice lies stranded in the refuse, silent
yet harmonious, clear yet strangled, whole
and unheard, dispersed, like tiny drops of
vapor listing above the ocean’s swell, enduring
gray skies and gulls and those solemn rocks
bearing their weight against the white crush.
Why do I persist? What tethers a shadow
to its body? How do we hear by implication
what isn’t there? Bill Monroe hammered
his mandolin, chopping chords, muting,
droning, banging out incomplete minors
to expectant ears, constructing more than
a ladder of notes climbing past the rafters
into the smoky sky. What I sing is not
heard but implied: the high lonesome, blue
and old-time, repealed. Crushed limestone
underfoot. Stolen names, borrowed sounds.
Dark words subsumed by light, yellowed,
whitened, faded to obscurity, to obscenity.

“Scarecrow Sings the High Lonesome” first appeared in Crannóg, in June 2017.