The Politics of Doors
With every doorway, decisions.
Accept, deny. Turn.
How to resist the ajar,
the barely closed?
Is what emerges
expelled or escaped,
free or released?
Resistant as always,
pause to inhale.
White Mules and a Column of Smoke
I am thinking of a place I’ve never seen or visited,
much like Heaven or Jot ‘Em Down, Texas, but with better
beverages and the advantage of hindsight and seasoning,
a glance back or to the peripheral, with a side of memory
and sliced, pickled jalapeños topping a pile of imagination.
And how do we so clearly remember what never occurred?
That book I read in 1970 was first published three years
later. A drowned childhood acquaintance ordered a beer
and sat next to me at a party in college. The open fields
I recall from the garden walls in France, where homes stood.
If only we carried with us slide shows or grooved vinyl
to trace back our lives – photos and recordings of those daily
remembrances – detailed notes indexed on cards, or data
embedded in our palms and accessed by eye twitches.
Would such evidence improve our lives?
Which filters shutter moments and thoughts, twist them
into balloon animals we no longer recognize? False
accusations and convictions aside, can we trust what we
know to be true? That oak stands where it has for four
decades. I bleed when cut. The sky still leers above us.
“White Mules and a Column of Smoke” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge. I am grateful to Natalie Butler, who sponsored the poem and whose photo inspired me.
Every hour becomes another.
Surrendering minutes, accepting
gain, which gravities restrain us?
Strong coffee, books. A smile.
Such imponderables – the measured
digit, starlife, an unmarked sheet of
paper fluttering to the floor.
Sometimes the lights go out
and we wonder when they’ll return,
not if. Or the laborer misinterprets
a statement and stains the carpet.
There but for the grace…
Anything can happen, and frequently does,
but we open the door and step out, unhindered.
One Day I’ll Market Your Death
Do not mistake this phrase for one contiguous with threat.
Even its flower knows the theory of attractive quality.
An ideal medium for cochineal production, the prickly pear
shelters a host of creatures we seldom caress.
Which displays greater motility, the cactus or the cochineal?
Life-cycle of attributes, packaging, excitement, the unknown.
In the Aztec language, the word meant prickly pear blood.
The insects’ bodies and eggs yield carminic acid, which mixed with
aluminum or calcium salts yields the red dye.
Reaching for substance is neither metaphor nor effect. Sessile
parasite: carmine. The product of Dactylopius coccus
became the second most valued resource in Mexico, behind silver.
Opportunism unveiling itself, revealed, or, layered greed.
What appears to be fungus is wealth.
One-dimensional / attractive / indifferent. We look together
through the window and observe our separate selves.
This poem originally appeared in a slightly different form in Otoliths, and was included in my chapbook length work, The Circumference of Other, published in IDES: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, by Silver Birch Press.
Staircase at Fifteen
Ascending, her centrifugal
influence captures me
and I follow,
despite all longing
discretions, in spite
of the thundering
and the incessant
demand to act
She pauses, looks
and slowing down,
far below, on equal
footing but so
never to meet
in truth, unable
to define direction or
motive, I remain
fixed as she moves
higher, far away, close
River Carry Me
I approach the window with closed eyes.
In this case, the between dissolves.
Without form and weight, still you linger.
A ticketless morning unfolds.
The water flows in braids, through stone and air.
Before my limits enact pity, before falling fruit.
Images condensed throughout the night.
An inheritance of trees curving towards the horizon.
One exactly as another’s, only different.
* * *
The river fills her body
like handwriting on a scrap
folded into a book
and found years later.
No one reads that language.
she remains closed, cleansed,
* * *
“Inscrutable” was first published in Volume 3, Issue 1 of Ink in Thirds. Thank you, Grace Black, for taking this piece!