When to Say Goodbye (with recording)

dried

 

 

When to Say Goodbye

 If all goes well it will never happen.
The dry grass in the shade whispers

while the vines crunch underfoot,
releasing a bitter odor. A year ago

I led my dog to his death, the third
in five years. How such counting

precedes affection, dwindles ever
so slowly, one star winking out after

another, till only the morning gray
hangs above us, solemn, indefinite.

Voiceless. If I could cock my head
to howl, who would understand? Not

one dog or three, neither mother nor
mentor, not my friend’s sister nor her

father and his nephews, the two boys
belted safely in the back seat. No.

I walk downhill and closer to the creek,
where the vines are still green.

In the shade of a large cedar, a turtle
slips into the water and eases away.

 

* * *

 

“When to Say Goodbye,” drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, was published by Oxidant | Engine in May 2017, and subsequently nominated for a Best of the Net 2017 award.

 

The Most Intimate

 

The Most Intimate

How that blue turns gray over green
at a slight tilt of the chin,
and even upside down
anchors the tree.

Some constellations escape language,
stars looming without nouns and adverbs,
the utterances of the planets
caught in the gravity
of their own situations.

Laugh, but the trashcan is full. The lawn is brown.

There are no gods.

Unadorned statements abound.

Even this sky may shift again,
the most intimate twist
turned full.

 

* * *

 

“The Most Intimate” first appeared at Poetry Breakfast in May 2019. Thank you, Ann Kestner, for taking this piece.

 

 

Nocturne with a Line from Porchia

bureau

 

Nocturne with a Line from Porchia

Everything is nothing, but afterwards.
I rise and the moon disturbs the darkness,
revealing symbols, a few stolen words
on the bureau. Tomorrow I’ll express
my gratitude by disappearing be-
fore I’m found, which is to say goodbye
before hello, a paradigm for the
prepossessed. Compton tells us to imply
what’s missing, like Van Gogh or Bill Monroe,
but why listen to the dead before they’ve
stopped speaking? Unfortunately we throw
out the bad with the good, only to save
the worst. I return to bed, and the floor
spins. Nothing is everything, but before.

 

* * *

This first appeared in The Blue Hour Magazine in December 2014, and is also included in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform. The line “Everything is nothing, but afterwards” comes from Antonio Porchia’s Voices, translated by W.S. Merwin. Porchia wrote one book in his lifetime, but what a book it was! Often described as a collection of aphorisms, Voices is so much more – each time I open the book, I find new meaning in old lines.

Vincent

 

Letter to a Ghost

box2

 

Letter to a Ghost

Had I not dreamed your death, I would have praised this day.
Your name rests in a wooden box on a desk

in a room far away and twice as old as we were then.
My penance in this phase: to continue.

I gather words close and refrain from admissions.
The clock on the wall seldom chimes,

like one whose vows circumvent convenience, or
a shade allowing the barest sliver of light

through the window. That tock preceding
a long silence. Snow blanketing the mounded earth.

Your scent never lingers past sleep, where you remain.
At last I no longer covet those sheets you’ve shared.

Your name rests in a box. I gather words and refrain.

 

ghost

“Letter to a Ghost” last appeared herein 2017.

Bonsai

Bild

 

Bonsai

no feature enhanced
but beauty of
the whole and

its container the
tree is not
deprived and grows

as it must
though slowly like
a wave which

gathers itself for
years there is
no completion only

process a lapse
which presumes the
most delicate design

 

Asia_tree240000

Originally published in Aileron in 1988, “Bonsai” first appeared on the blog in December 2014.

 

 

Landscape

DSCN8501

Landscape

Utterance
within the parameters set
by form

expressionless
save motion

the lone branch
brought to the fore
and in the distance

stock ponds collecting rain

the word is
forget, as in the imperative
as in function, as in

you must have

file000783361490

This first appeared here in December 2014.

Scarecrow Believes

Scarecrow Believes
 

What is a ghost if not misplaced energy,
an apprehension or the sum of invisible integers
and the properties they possess? I preside over
this sea of maize, tracking clouds, noting patterns
up high and among the flowing stalks, absorbing
minutiae, assigning connections, piecing together bits,
moment to thought, soil to trickle, flutter to gain.
Energy. Inertia. Waves, converted. If I had a bed
I would not neglect to look under it. The closet door
would remain open, a nightlight positioned nearby
with perhaps a mirror or two angled to offer clarity,
and the radio tuned always to jazz, providing little
purchase to any ill-intentioned spirit. The power of
beauty transfixes, even as it carries me far from my
station, from hilltop to plains to glowering moon.
If neither place nor reason, what consumes
our spiritual remnants, what directs our currents
to the next, and each successive, landing? Crows
have long been considered conduits to the afterlife,
but they exist here, in the now. I do not perspire but
fix my gaze on numbers and their tales, on zero and
the history of nothing, on unseen fingers walking up
my spine, shedding a residue of snow, of mercury
and latent images and dormant seeds in the world
underfoot, acknowledging the wonders of what
can’t be proven, what won’t be held or seen. Still, I
add and subtract, unclench my fingers and accept the
quiet, caught forever within the limits of the boundless,
under the sky, in space, within the improbable.

“Scarecrow Believes” was first published in May 2017 in GFT Presents: One in Four, a semiannual, print literary journal, and was subsequently published by Vox Populi.

 

 

 

Cardinal

 

Cardinal

Question: what is air if not
the means by which we

see and feel? Sound creates only
itself, another version of the original

sense. I move from shadows to a deeper
darkness, hoping to find that point where absence
ends. But there is no end, only

continuation, a cry for those
who offer their hands in ambiguity. Sometimes
a cardinal’s call fills our

morning with questions. So
little of all we touch
is felt. We are the air. The air is.

 

 

Another poem from the 80s. I was obsessed with birds even back then…

Boxcar

boxcars

 

Boxcar

Whose voice lingers
among the gathered stones,

raised then lowered as if
to ensnare followers?

This is not the issue.
Nor should we speak of paper

shuddering in the wind
and the dense glare of shovels

in the night underfoot.
Pray that the road continues

beyond the next curve
or increment of time.

Trust in motion,
the reticence of trees.

 

paper leaf

“Boxcars” first appeared here in November 2015. It had been moldering in a folder for three decades when I uncovered it. I have no idea what originally sparked it.

This Oak

  

This Oak

Never rooted in Tibet,
has not watched a whale breach
a November Pacific dusk, or guzzled
bitter beer near Vesuvius. Nor has it
absorbed the warmth of a loved one’s
hip on a frozen morning long after
the embers’ glow has greyed
and the windows blossomed
white. It cannot know the beauty
of disparate instruments playing
in joyous harmony. It will whisper
no incantations, does not smile,
won’t ever feel the anticipation
of a first kiss after a complicated
courtship. The bouquets of Bordeaux
elude it, as do tears or the benefits
of laughter. Why, then, do I envy it so?

 

 

“This Oak” was published in Slippery Elm (print only) published by Findlay University in Findlay, Ohio, in spring 2019.