Icarus

Icarus

not the history
of flight but

a question of
wings a notion
born of desperation

and fright each
quill ruffled by
the delicate tongue

of air can
only reflect this
fortune a dream

but never a
of gravity’s denial

Written probably in 1985 or 1986, this is the first poem I titled “Icarus.” After lurking in a drawer for decades, it made its first public appearance here on the blog in December 2017.

Numbers numbers numbers: NINE

Numbers numbers numbers: NINE

Early on in my other life I was hand-picked and hired to assist with budgets, to work with numbers. One of the higher-ups remarked that my spelling score was quite good for a “numbers person.” This amused me to no end, as I’d no inkling that a) anyone in the world considered me fluent with numbers, or b) that the mundane labor that comprised my livelihood had been noticed, much less evaluated, by someone beyond my small, three-person office (certainly no one noticed the writing I’d produced and published). More than a quarter century later, I’m still amused. And still working with numbers, which even now remain mysterious, magical, and even inspiring.

Take the number nine. Multiply it by two, and you get 18. Add the two digits that comprise 18, one and eight, and you get 9. Multiply it by three: 27. Total the two digits forming 27, and you get, yes, 9. Multiply it by four, by five, by six, by seven, eight or nine. Add the digits that comprise the sum and you return to nine. Interesting, no?

It appears everywhere. In Islamic cosmology, the universe is built of nine spheres. In Ancient Mexico, the netherworld consisted of nine layers. The magic square consists of nine parts. Beijing was designed as a center with eight streets. Hindu temple foundations contain jewels and nine distinct grains. The human body has nine openings. The number also appears in both sacrificial and healing rites. The River Styx bends nine times. I could go on (we haven’t scratched the surface), but will refrain.

And if this piece piques your curiosity, you might find this poem inspired by zero (a truly fascinating subject) of interest:

Or this one, “That Number upon Which the Demand Lieth,” which takes up the number three.

Icarus (with recording)

Icarus

Currents of breath, the slight curve and lift
within a single motion, once

poised then released as if to say
the wind is mine, or wait,
I am alone –

the story we most fear, not height nor gravity’s
fist, but to exist apart, shadow and

mouth, rain and smile, feather
and sun, all denials reciprocal,

each tied fast and renewed.

“Icarus” first appeared here in April 2016, and subsequently was published in The Basil O’Flaherty in November 2016.

Ossuary / Arco Felice / 1974

Ossuary / Arco Felice / 1974

Sometimes the bone man clattered by, his horse-drawn wagon heaped high with the stripped remains of dismembered corpses, a cloud of flies in his wake. I would watch him from my perch on the hillside above the street, contemplating the wondrous creatures that could arise if only one possessed the imagination and ability to assemble and reflesh the various rib cages and skulls, the scraped and articulate bones and fragments stacked on the wooden bed. I never considered a destination, never thought to follow, but instead wandered elsewhere, down to the waterfront, or along Via Domitiana to Lago d’Averno, Hell’s entrance, not far, they said, from the River Styx.

Odd, I think, that I never once contemplated the various paths taken to bring that wagon before my eyes, to that very intersection, on those particular days. Nor did I wonder that it was drawn by muscle and sinew rather than engine, that its wares, while tarnished with dried blood, seemed curiously bereft of flesh and stench, and that its passage seemed unnoticed. Perhaps it was merely a parenthetical statement in the day’s phrasing, and I lacked the proper context with which to read it. Perhaps. But even at fifteen I knew that such sights were not long for my world.

Now, from this Texas hill, I listen to distant gunfire and wonder which bones will come my way, which offerings will appear at the roadside, what the dogs will bring. I have fifty-four years and much patience. The breezeway is lined with antlers. I wait, no destination in mind.

This prose piece was one of my first posts, and last appeared here in August 2017.

Cyclops

Cyclops

Boundless loss, hemmed at the edges.
Another mended hole, wasted mornings.
Unwound, I towel off, extract loose hair.
Look for messages in the clouds, see
only deceit. I am sick with
joy. I no longer sing. My goats
shun me. Where is the love,
the missing fact. An albino
squirrel skitters up the oak.
I think of blood, of bone fragments.
The pleasures of rendering.

“Cyclops” first appeared in September 2019 at Recenter Press, a publisher “dedicated to sharing work that is grounded in both the spiritual and the material.” Many thanks to the editors for taking these pieces.

Self-Portrait as Smudge

Self-Portrait as Smudge

Being this cloud on the otherwise
transparent pane, I resist removal,
smearing myself in thinner layers,
still shrouding the angry sky
or the fence post’s sagging
doubt, which is to say
my appearance may lessen
but spread, that you may rub me
out, but I’ll return, always,
beginning with that one small
and delicious obscure point.

“Self-Portrait as Smudge” first appeared in October 2019 in Backchannels. Many thanks to the editors for taking this piece.

Icarus

Icarus

not the history
of flight but

a question of
wings a notion
born of desperation

and fright each
quill ruffled by
the delicate tongue

of air can
only reflect this
fortune a dream

but never a
of gravity’s denial

Written probably in 1985 or 1986, this is the first poem I titled “Icarus.” After lurking in a drawer for decades, it made its first public appearance here on the blog in December 2017.

The Bitter Celebrates

The Bitter Celebrates

Mention gateways and mythologies
and I see openings to paths
better left unseen. No choice is

choice,
but preparation leads us astray as well.
Take this bitter leaf.
Call it arugula.
Call it rocket.
Call it colewort or weed.
Dress it with oil and vinegar,
with garlic and lemon.

Though you try to conceal it,
the bitterness remains.

But back to gates and myths. Do they truly
lead us out, or do we
circle back, returning
to the same endings
again
and again.

Remove the snake, rodents return.

Seal the hole.
Take this leaf.
Voice those words.
Close that door.

“The Bitter Celebrates” first appeared in Amethyst Review in December 2018.

Cyclops

Cyclops

Boundless loss, hemmed at the edges.
Another mended hole, wasted mornings.
Unwound, I towel off, extract loose hair.
Look for messages in the clouds, see
only deceit. I am sick with
joy. I no longer sing. My goats
shun me. Where is the love,
the missing fact. An albino
squirrel skitters up the oak.
I think of blood, of bone fragments.
The pleasures of rendering.

“Cyclops” first appeared in September 2019 at Recenter Press, a publisher “dedicated to sharing work that is grounded in both the spiritual and the material.” Many thanks to the editors for taking these pieces.

Self-Portrait as Smudge

Self-Portrait as Smudge

Being this cloud on the otherwise
transparent pane, I resist removal,
smearing myself in thinner layers,
still shrouding the angry sky
or the fence post’s sagging
doubt, which is to say
my appearance may lessen
but spread, that you may rub me
out, but I’ll return, always,
beginning with that one small
and delicious obscure point.

“Self-Portrait as Smudge” first appeared in October 2019 in Backchannels. Many thanks to the editors for taking this piece.