Synapses and Other Conjunctions

boot

 

Synapses and Other Conjunctions

My advice? Wear boots, even among the dead.
Our barefoot friend, having separated the rattler’s
head from its body, picked up the six-foot
length to show off, and stepped back onto
the head, which though not alive, still managed
to squeeze venom from the ducts and inject it
through its fangs, into his foot. Consider this
a metaphor, if you must, but don’t belabor
it. This morning I am searching for
connections. The plumber says that when
the overflow is clogged, the sink won’t drain
properly, and I notice similarities between
vision and words and the dryer’s vent — how
twists and hard angles and blurry lint may
confuse the issue, perhaps even start a fire.
And before you say, yes, yes, that’s what
I want, a fire
, consider other possibilities,
not to mention consequences. Confuse
one word for another, and you’re an idiot.
Let your finger tap the wrong key, and the
incorrect letter provides a glimpse into
the future, or at least beyond the neighbor’s
closed door, a passage of signals impossible
to predicate. But differences exist: decapitate
poets, and they won’t bite, or at the very least
their venom will infect your nervous system
indirectly. Other advice? Pause before sending,
look before you leap (or step back). Avoid fast
food and politics. Drink good beer. Laugh often,
breathe deeply. Contemplate your footwear.

 

dryer

 

“Synapses and Other Conjunctions” was written during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and was subsequently published in September 2016 at The Blue Nib. Many thanks to Luanne Castle for sponsoring the poem and providing the title.

 

Palinode (egg, politics, pathology)

 

Palinode (egg, politics, pathology)

Who determines completion if not the morning’s best
layer? The answer is what comes first, not the
question, which replenishes the old deviltry: I am not
whole: I am partial: I am absent: you. Please define
node. Taking exception, rules mediate the norm. Fried,
poached, scrambled, radiated, coddled, baked, raw,
boiled, I serve myself, and in turn am served, when,
truth be told, I’d rather serve you. Twice.

I’d rather serve you twice than be pushed aside, a
thimbleful of nectar fermented and forgotten in
someone’s late pantry. Or worse, cast into the Pacific,
swallowed by a Fukushima-fed tuna, caught and
auctioned to an Alaskan sushi chef and left to molder
at week’s crossing. The point at which a wave has an
amplitude of zero, or a pathological swelling. That one
moment of clarity before night’s fall.

That one moment of clarity before night’s fall at
Juneau’s 716 Calhoun Avenue, which posits the
ability to see beyond sight: the blind hen produces
more, never pausing to consider repercussive issues.
Progeny, pathological swellings, statements of the
incurious. Do we use squirmish? I take, or am given,
offense. Without you, I am the silence preceding the
letter, an untoward growth, the silence remaining.

Without you, I am the silence preceding the letter
terminating at vision’s end: a fence, the Phoenician
form which birthed H, or two posts joined at
midsection and later, abandoned. Breach. Enough.
One’s last egg brought to fruition, a terminus in
thought or language carelessly placed. A bruising
point between vanishing waves or carted through
our long nights. Denial. The pathology revealed.

 

 

 

“Palinode (eggs, politics, pathology) first appeared at ISACOUSTIC* in October 2019. Many thanks to editor Barton Smock for his tireless efforts to promote poetry and poets.

 

 

Light and Dark and Light Again (crawlspace)

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Light and Dark and Light Again (crawlspace)

Not hopeless, but without hope. If I could
capture my shadow, would I
imprison it in a cell of light

or release it to roam free among the dense cedars,
knowing always that I might betray myself again?
And other repetitions. Doorways beyond other

doorways leading to more openings, like
mouths releasing words in the random
silence, awaiting their return.

What lives under the house but another
darkness, another tale of contrast

and spent energies? Answers move swiftly
from point to point, refusing to be
pinned down. The questions remain.

 

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This first appeared here in February 2015.

What Happens Next

 

What Happens Next

Another night with the frost,
she says, and you’ll know

the half-life of cold.
Which is not to say enjoy,

or pity, or pretend.
It is the sheath of God’s

gaze, an unsuspected lump.
The harvested curse.

You grasp what happens next.

 

“What Happens Next” first appeared here in November 2017.

 

 

Which is an Eye or a Bowl, a Dream

eyes3


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.

bowlnhashi

Icarus

feather02-2

 

Icarus

the answer is
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
tragedy the gift
of gravity’s denial

 

sun

 

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.

 

 

Letter from Insomnia

image

 

Letter from Insomnia

Accepting Li Po’s tragedy,
apocryphal or not,

we embrace her imperfect
reflection
rippling in the breeze,

but manage to surface.

I once thought I would name a child Luna
and she would glow at night

and like Hendrix, kiss the sky.
But that was whimsy

and only candles light this room
at this hour
on this particular day
in this year of the snake.

And what fool would reach for a stone orbiting at
1,023 meters per second?

There are clouds to consider, the stars
and the scattering rain

and of course wine
and the possibilities within each glass
and the drops therein.
We must discuss these matters

under her gaze, where smallness gathers.

 

* * *

This originally appeared in Middle Gray in October, 2013. It was written in response to a poem my friend Michael sent me, replying to this poem.

 

image

 

Destined by Gravity to Fail, We Try

 

Destined by Gravity to Fail, We Try

Having fallen from the roof not once, but twice,
I verify that it is not the fall but the sudden stop that hurts.

The objectivist sense of the little: the and a, my house in this world.

Galileo postulated that gravity accelerates all falling bodies at the same rate.

While their etymologies differ, failure and fall share commonalities,
though terminal velocity is not one.

The distance between the glimpsed and the demonstrated.

Enthralled in the moment, Icarus drowned.

Rumor has it his plunge was due not to melting wax but to an improper mix
of rectrices and remiges: parental failure.

Thrust and lift. Drag. Resistance.

Acknowledgment of form in reality, in things.

When the produced drag force equals the plummeting object’s weight, the
object will cease to accelerate and will move at a constant speed.

To calculate impact force accurately, include the stopping distance in height.

Followed by long periods of silence.

 

house

This first appeared on the blog in December 2015.

 

In Praise of Darkness

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In Praise of Darkness

Night falls, but day
breaks. A raw deal,

no doubt, but fairness
applies itself unevenly. Who

chooses weeds over
lies, flowers over truth?

Last night’s rain fell, too,
but didn’t crack the drought.

Again, we think injustice!
Again, we consider falls.

 

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“In Praise of Darkness” last appeared here in March, 2016, and is included in my chapbook If Your Matter Could Reform. 

 

Self-Portrait as Compost

 

Self-Portrait as Compost

Beneath the surface find warmth,
the fruit of decay and mastication,
of layered mixes and intermingled
juices. Disintegrated or whole,
still I strive to speak. Bits of me
meld, to be absorbed slowly; I
process and am processed: here,
within the pepper bush’s deep red
berries, there among the dianthus.
Scattered, deliberately placed,
having been, I shall emerge again,
forever changed, limitless, renewed.

 

* * *

 

“Self-Portrait as Compost” was first published in Issue 125 of Right Hand PointingThank you to editors Dale Wisely, Laura M. Kaminski, F. John Sharp and José Angel Araguz for taking this piece.