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 30-30 Challenge, thanks to Sunshine Jansen’s sponsorship. It subsequently appeared in The Blue Nib in September 2016.

 

 

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.