Exhaling, I Get Dizzy
From one note flattened
to the next floating whole,
textured with rustling
stalks and the sweet odor
of dried grasses, you
detach, drift off.
What colors this tone, you
ask. What sings my day?
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
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.
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.
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.
What Are You Going To Do (Cento)
Not everything can be set to music,
you have to understand that.
If I went to the end of the street,
would I be at the center of myself?
Now ends. Now begins.
Still, we sing the same songs;
we live in the sound – no love
of miracle or numbers helps.
I wonder if my body
is outline. A far point rendezvous.
A smoke plume taken, but not
into a hot, dark mouth.
Or perhaps it never had a name.
Bruising’s not the end of it.
* * *
Credits: Maggie Smith, Michael Chitwood, Carol Frost, CM Burroughs, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Dan Beachy-Quick, Willis Barnstone, Lauren Camp, Ruth Ellen Kocher, Maggie Smith, Lawrence Raab, Natasha Saje.
“What Are You Going To Do” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo 30-30 challenge, and was published in the February 2017 issue of Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art. The lines used were taken from Tupelo Press publications.
The glass remains unchanged but what I see through it differs moment by moment. This door is truly of a port in air; I observe these shifting worlds, their translucent seconds ever ticking. Nothing rests – the Texas mountain laurel’s blossoms fade and flutter to the ground while the wind weaves intricate patterns through its branches. Rogue onion sprouts scatter throughout this small section of yard, and a squirrel scampers along the cedar pickets. Light slants through a hole in the clouds. A hummingbird buzzes by. Even the earth moves, and five minutes ago rain tapped out an inconsistent tune on my metal roof. I lift the shakuhachi to my lips, and exhaling, enter the day.
three dogs yapping
announce spring’s arrival
oh, sweet music!
“Door Haibun” first appeared here in April 2018.
On Listening to Edgar Meyer
Smoke, and bent grass,
the earth rippling underfoot.
A child throwing stones
but never at random.
You wonder that one suggests
laughter, as a second draws tears.
Still, it drags you in.
Like water seeking its level,
a depression that must be fed.
You ride that deep current
never questioning its source,
complete in the moment. Filled.
Edgar Meyer’s music removes me from my body, transports me to another plane, one free of politicians and avarice, a place where truth matters. Today has been a good day to listen, to absorb. And hey, those fellows he’s playing with ain’t too shabby…