Memorial Day


Memorial Day

Arriving at this point
without knowledge of the journey,

the slow collapse and internal
dampening – the shutting down, the closing in – lost

in the shadowed veil, my eyes flutter open to find
everything in its place, yet

altered, as if viewed from a single step
closer at a different height, offering a disturbing

clarity. Looking up, I wonder that she wakes me
from a dream of dogs on this, of all days,

only to detect under me linoleum in place of the bed,
my glasses skewed from the impact,

the floor and left side of my head wet. You looked
like you were reaching for something, she says,

and perhaps I was, though with hand outstretched
I found nothing to hold but the darkness.

 

“Memorial Day” was first published in Eclectica in July 2014, and was, much to my delight, subsequently included in Eclectica Magazine’s 20th Anniversary Best Poetry Anthology.

We Call the Neighbor’s Fat Burro Donkey Hotei, but His Name is Cantinflas

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We Call the Neighbor’s Fat Burro Donkey Hotei, but His Name is Cantinflas

Certainty grows in corners, away from light.
From his mouth issues the breath we take, the words we keep.

Enjoy the collusion of shape and sound.
We share the hummingbird’s taste for sweet, but not its fierceness.

Its heart beats 1,200 times a minute,
and you ask me how best to bury money.

Hotei’s name means cloth sack, and comes from the bag he carried;
a man of loving character, he possessed the Buddha nature.

What we own cannot be held.
Most plastics are organic polymers with spine-linked repeat units.

The space you’ve left expands exponentially.
Left in the rain, the bell grows.

Christen me at your own peril. Agaves flower once then die.
Fluency in silence.

I dropped my pants when the scorpion stung my thigh.
The wind takes nothing it does not want.

After vulcanization, thermosets remain solid.
The Cantinflas character was famous for his eloquent nonsense.

Vacuum wrap the bills in plastic, place them in pvc.
Having mastered imperfection, I turn to folly.

Not the thing itself, but the process laid bare and opened.
Hoping to hide, the scorpion scuttled under a boot.

Thought to action, whisper to knife: which is not a curse?
The wind wants nothing; the burro sings his loneliness.

 

This first appeared here in May 2015. My failures often lead to success. I’ve never quite completed this piece, and don’t know that I ever will. But the first draft (nearly five years ago) set me off on a new path, one that has served me well. What more can I ask?
 
 
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Which is an Eye or a Bowl, a Dream

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Which is an Eye or a Bowl, a Dream

Or well-placed mirror in a sunburnt room, shivering through shifted
images: that hand, blackened and stout, opened like a dark peony;
the tattooed chin; shovel and torch; hook and owl. You say no one
chooses one fist over another, that bread’s rise completes its cycle
and begins anew, pressed flat and rounded. Take this heart and seal
its chambers. Note the anterior descent. Compression, lesion. Plaque.
Consequence. And your friend, who slept, never to awaken. Lying
in that strange bed, you taste salt, acknowledge change, whisper
to no one: audible house…audible tree, knowing that time’s limit
remains unclear. The air swirls and you accept this new light.

 

Note: “Audible house…audible tree” is from Jane Hirshfield’s “Not Moving Even One Step,” from The Lives of the Heart.

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Jackboy’s Lament

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Jackboy’s Lament

We define ourselves in movement,
in the uncertain light and forms

shuddering by: fences, the nameless
wave, odors, dark water.

Look at the hills, their lines stretched taut like
smiles, or voices torn from the earth.

Or the creek below us – how its mouth never closes
yet nothing emerges but a shadow

on the wind. Two questions arise,
leaving only the abandoned to consider.

In our solitude, only my self is missing.

 

“Jackboy’s Lament” made its first appearance here in October 2015. I started the poem about a dozen years ago, after a drive through the Texas hill country with Jackboy the cattledog, who was quite the philosopher and humorist. This is what emerged after several conversations and much reflection over his circumstances (abused, abandoned, rescued). Jack didn’t talk much, but he thought. Oh, how he thought.

It has been nearly three years. We still miss him.

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Still Hands (Cento)

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Still Hands (Cento)

I let it burn, rooted as it is. Now
nothing else keeps my eyes

in the cloud – get close to a star,
and there you are, in the sun.

What about all the little stones,
sitting alone in the moonlight?

Silence complicates despair.
I have believed so long in the magic

of names and poems,
and I know that you would take

the still hands to dryness and
loose rocks, where the light

re-immerses itself. It’s not the story
I want. We cannot live on that.

* * *

Credits:
Sharon Wevill, Julia de Burgos, Francis Ponge, Mary Oliver,
Alberto de Lacerda, Robert Hass, HD, Jacques Dupin, Francesca Abbate, George Oppen.

“Still Hands” appeared in Issue Four of Long Exposure, in October 2016, and prior to that, on this blog in July 2015.

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Glass with Memory

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Glass with Memory

When I remember you
glass comes to mind,
but nothing so transparent
as an unclothed thought

or warmth trickling in
through the pipes or
under the haze of
the second night’s sheet,

no two alike except
in appearance, but under
the lamp’s unconscious glare
I find warmth spreading

across the hard surface,
telling me all is
not lost, that smoothness
persists beyond our reflection.

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