Cracked

 

 

Cracked

When you say smile, I hear footsteps.
When you say love, I think shortened breath,
an inner tube swelling in the abdomen,
and the magic of tension and elasticity.
Decision, indecision. Bursting
points. The child’s hand clenching
a pin. I tell myself this, too,
will pass, that life’s gifts
balance hurt with pleasure. One
kiss lands in softness. Another twists
into bruises and cracked ribs. Two
nights in intensive care, perpetual
nerve-shredding. When you say quiet,
I see headstones. When you say
please, I feel fingers at my throat.

 

 

“Cracked” first appeared in Noble Gas Quarterly. I’m grateful to the Noble Gas team for taking this piece.

 

 

From Alternative Fiction & Poetry (1987)

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(This first appeared here in March 2014).

Quite the interesting mag back in the day. This particular issue saw the likes of Bukowski, Ivan Arguelles, Lyn Lifshin, Norm Moser, Sheila E. Murphy, and, well, me, among others. I was thinner back then, as was my poetry.

 

no more than
the slow grace
of light turning

the leaf so
patient in the
air and colder

now that sense
of permanence unfurled
it is not

long to wait
as Wang Wei
said in his

letter I listen
for a sound
but hear none

 

file000517598275

 

Ghazal of the Bullwhip

 

Ghazal of the Bullwhip

Who hears braided tongues lashing the glare still?
The language of pain writhing through white air, still.

Or herding cattle you pop and crack above the horizon,
pastoral and flowing. But sharp, a sonic nightmare, still.

You ask how love blossoms through decades and more.
That look, a caress, the perfect words – all quite rare, still.

Oh to be a larks head knot, strengthening when used.
Delicious hitch, unmoved water, tight square, still.

I fall, you fall. We fall together in pleated silence.
The inevitable loop of the captive’s bright snare, still.

No gods today, but voices trickling through my skull:
Bob, Bob, they say. Not again. Even you should care. Still!

 

* * *

In response to a comment, Daniel Schnee dared/challenged me to write a poem about a bullwhip. To make it interesting I decided to combine his theme with my latest enthusiasm, the ghazal form.

 

This first appeared on the blog in September 2017.

 

Year’s End

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Year’s End

If I lose myself in breathing,
will the air forgive my forgetfulness?

This oak, too, will stand long after
the last train exits the tunnel.

I worry that my friend may never
clamber past his lowest ambition.

Different and unabated, our words
now stumble over themselves.

Every night forms a morning somewhere:
each year, combined in our shared darkness.

 

* * *

“Year’s End” is included in my micro-chapbook Only This, available via free download from Origami Poems Project. Many thanks to editor Jan Keough for taking the mini-chap and offering this opportunity to so many.

night

The Simplest Coercion

image

 

The Simplest Coercion

Each portrait betrays a similar
attraction: faces

swallowed by the artist’s
eye, his sight being

beyond optic, that assumption
inherent in every expression

but one. Yet this, the self-
portrait, reveals a hint

of secrets – an unwillingness
to confront,

the simplest coercion.

 

* * *

 

Another piece from the 80s…

image

 

This first appeared on the blog in May 2015.

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

 

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.