How to Do Nothing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

How to Do Nothing

First you must wash the window to observe more clearly
the dandelion seed heads bobbing in the wind. Next,

announce on Facebook and Twitter that you will be offline
for the next two days, if not forever. Heat water for tea.

Remember the bill you forgot to pay, and then cleanse
your mind of all regret. Consider industrial solvents

and the smoothness of sand-scoured stone, the miracle
of erasure. Eliminate all thought, but remember

the water. Hitch a ride on a Miles Davis solo and float
away on a raft of bluesy notes and lions’ teeth,

and wonder how to sabotage your neighbor’s leaf blower,
but nicely, of course. She’s a widow with a gun.

Now it is time to empty yourself. Close your eyes.
Become a single drop of dew on a constellation of petals.

Evaporate, share the bliss. Stuff that dog’s bark
into a lock box alongside the tapping at the door,

the phone’s vibration, the neighbor’s rumbling bass,
and the nagging, forgotten something that won’t

solidify until three in the morning, keeping you awake.
But don’t ignore the whistling. You must steep the tea.

 

* * *

“How to Do Nothing” was published in Volume 4 of Steel Toe Review.

steel toe

 

While Looking Up at a Working Wasp, I Trip

 

While Looking Up at a Working Wasp, I Trip

How do these things I once barely acknowledged
now snare toes or twist ankles, causing me to stumble,

spill coffee and curse. Steps, rocks, pavement, curbs.
Door sills. No matter which, without provocation.

Solitary wasps mate not in flight but in the vicinity
of their nesting area. Three years ago a female

violated our unspoken agreement of mutual
existence; my arm purpled and ballooned

to twice its normal size, and I demolished her nest
for fear that attacks would become habit. Today,

another builds in the same spot. I stoop by,
beneath notice, as she labors to make room

for eggs fertilized with stored sperm from a single
drone. Such diligence should earn rewards.

I stroll to the mailbox and marvel at their ability
to manufacture wood pulp for nests, how

certain species avoid mating with siblings
on the basis of chemical signatures, and that

they voluntarily control the sex of their offspring.
Ah, the wonders of nature! Approaching the door,

I look up and observe the growing nest with
admiration, enter the house without stumbling,

and inhale the fragrance of the perfectly arranged
lilies. The books on the table entice me, so I

pour a glass of malbec and thumb through them
with great pleasure. Soon, after sunset, she will die.

 

* * *

“While Looking Up at a Working Wasp, I Trip” was published in MockingHeart Review in May 2018.

Letter from Kansas

file7201265025021

 

I was a military brat. My return to the U.S. after attending high school in Italy was, well, interesting. Junction City, Kansas was definitely not bella Napoli. This poem came from that experience, albeit a few years after, and was published in the mid-80s in the Allegheny Review, a national journal of undergraduate creative writing, and was republished by Silver Birch Press in 2017. The kid who wrote it still exists. Somewhere.

 

Letter from Kansas

Caro amico,
Driving the stretch to Junction City,
I look for familiar faces in the cars
we pass, but see only strange grasses
gliding by. Three weeks ago
I slept on a stone-littered hilltop
overlooking the Bay of Naples.
Now the prairie laps at our front door.
A mile from the house two corralled bison
munch dull hay thrown daily
from a truck’s flat bed, and past that
the Discount Center’s sign
spells America. What I wouldn’t give
for a deep draught of Pozzuoli’s
summer stench and the strong
yellow wine that Michele’s father
makes. We mixed it with the gardener’s
red, creating our own bouquet,
remember? And here they say
I’m too young to buy beer and wine.
Without them the food is flavorless,
like the single language spoken.
I understand it all,
and miss the difficulty. Maybe Texas
will be better. Ci vediamo. Bob

 

 

This was one of my first posts on the blog, and as you might expect, very few people saw it. I wrote the poem in the summer of 1983, when I was new to poetry, still tentative, exploring. A few weeks later I attempted the sonnet form, and, well, everything changed. Everything.

 

Rain Haibun

 

Rain Haibun

Watching that thought slide down the wall
into the grass. Losing it and the next,
celebrating each. How quickly the body
accepts decay. This knee, those arteries.
A fragmented life. Not even the rain
brings us back.

 

The ticking roof
swells with thunder.
My old friends, waiting.

 

* * *

“Rain Haibun” first appeared in The Larger Geometry: poems for peace, available at Amazon. This anthology of poems that “uplift, encourage and inspire,” features poets from five countries and three continents. Published by the interfaith peaceCENTER of San Antonio, Texas, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to benefit the peaceCENTER.

I’m pleased to have had a small role in selecting the poems.

Contributing poets include Lynne Burnett, Charlotte Hamrick, Daryl Muranaka, Stephanie L. Harper, Sudhanshu Chopra, Texas Poet Laureate Carol Coffee Reposa, Michael Vecchio, Rebecca Raphael and others.

 

 

No One Knows

 

No One Knows

There, the dream of flying
cars, and the next,

tumbling through soft
glass, inconsiderate and

hopeful as a child
on his birthday,

hands outstretched, waiting.
Unsmiling. You might ask

where this story turns,
whether the glass reconstitutes

or the car crashes,
reminders of a childhood

reconsidered and the simplest
truth, which is no one knows.

 

“No One Knows” was first published in The Pangolin Review in March 2018.

 

Track (after Tranströmer)

file000826525674(1)

 

Track (after Tranströmer)

2 p.m.: Sunlight. The subway flows
beneath us. Flecks of darkness
shimmer madly on the wall.

As when a man cracks a window into a dream,
remembering everything, even
what never occurred.

Or after skimming the surface of good health,
all his nights become ash, billowing clouds,
strong and warm, suffocating him.

The subway never stops.
2 o’clock. Filtered sunlight, smoke.

 

* * *

I’ve been dipping into Friends, You Drank Some Darkness, Robert Bly’s 1975 translations of Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf and Tomas Tranströmer, and I couldn’t resist playing with one of my favorite poems. A different darkness, a separate space, another landscape…

This first appeared here in April 2015.

Windows: A Theology

 

 Windows: A Theology

They capture no light, but allow admittance.
Nor is darkness their prisoner.

Opened or closed, their purposes change,
like water trickling downhill, gathering,
absorbing, dwindling, pretending.

Looking at them, you see past, into.

I have taken glass from its source; I have
fallen through the hard edges and emerged

unscathed. Smooth to the touch,
yet transparent. The words mean nothing
or all, and exist only within structure.

So little to believe, everything to defy.

 

 

 

“Windows: A Theology” was first published in the online anthology Igxante: An Ontology. I am grateful to editor Kate Morgan for taking this piece.

Nocturne (Blue Grosbeak)

file0001285095497

 

Nocturne (Blue Grosbeak)

Why tremble
when nothing
arrives to be seen?

The architecture
of the day
comes and goes

in the same
heartbeat,
a disturbance

more felt than heard.
But listen.
The grosbeak sings

his presence
and departs,
leaving behind

the echo
of a motion
blending with night.

The air is cool.
A leaf utters
its own message

and falls
unnoticed.
Nothing awaits it.

 

* * *.

file8891250781951