Gulf

gulf

 

Gulf
for M.V.

Which looms wider, its sky or water? The birds, here, too,
reconvene in greater streaks. This morning I stomped around
Paisano, examining the grasses and soil, the rocks and various
configurations of clouds, and listened to experts discuss
prescribed burns and how the land’s contours can determine
sequence and efficacy. The mockingbird whose territory
we occupy has disappeared. Perhaps he’s just moved on.
I heard a red-bellied woodpecker yesterday, but never saw it,
and of course the rattlers at the ranch are still underfoot, just
less apparent this time of year. I looked closely, as always,
but never spied one. What else did I miss? The rich people
on the bluffs bulldoze habitat, poison creeks and erect their
Italianate villas, caring not a whit for the breeding warblers
or the landscape, although they might pony up a few bucks
for an environmental charity if sucked-up to properly. Given
a choice between the two, I’d pick the snakes every time;
they don’t smile or offer spiked drinks and stories of their
conquests, and usually warn before striking. Even a minor
deity might take offense and crack open a new fault in the
earth between this place and theirs, widening it by inches
with each presumption, every falsehood, whether shaded
in unrelated facts or illogic, until that shifting space could
be spanned solely by a bridge planked with truth and good
manners, and, yes, by mutual consent. Looking back, I
find many examples of these bridges collapsing in utero,
but we keep trying. Your story of the gulf coast storm
reminded me of weeks spent on calm water, and seeing,
no matter where I turned, blue meeting blue, from horizon
to horizon, the sky never broken by bird or cloud, born
anew each day, always looking between, never down.

 

 

“Gulf” was published in West Texas Literary Review in March 2017.

 

To That Dismal Train Somewhere Near Banff

 

To That Dismal Train Somewhere Near Banff

Forgotten, you settle into the earth,
naming stones for each destination missed –
Kamloops, Jasper, Lake Louise – which is worth
each open-mouthed coin laid on the rail, kissed

and reformed into altered currency
no longer capable of carrying
debt or a tourist’s sense of urgency,
only dying days and the wearying

plight of the unmoved. If vines caress your
body, who’s to blame for accepting their
advances? When green subsumes rust, deplore
that too, but enjoy the moments you share,

leaf on metal and glass, the raspy light
tonguing your throat through those long, whistling nights.

 

 

Political Haibun

 

Political Haibun

The wind knows impermanence but does not trust it.
Dependent upon atmospheric pressure, absorption
and rotation, who can blame the wind? We, too,
lend ourselves illusions, only to barter them away.
Three miles for a beer. Seven seconds for a fresh look.
A dollar extended for every five stolen. Empathy,
but only for the wealthy. Electing liars to office,
we justify our actions with more untruths. Nothing
improves. Even the quality of lies diminishes.

yellowed grass bending

under the sun’s weight

god’s will, they say

 

Awaiting Thunder, He Dreams

 

 

Awaiting Thunder, He Dreams

If all our voices were to meet in the atmosphere
what could the rain achieve?

When we give nothing we have nothing.

Is it enough to listen?

Wisps and heaps, ripples and sheets.

Accumulated, dispersed, fingers
unknotting death’s
grip, steps taken around the flames,

in caution, in delight,
imagining the greatest undoings.

 

 

“Awaiting Thunder, He Dreams” was first published in Red River Review, in August 2018.

 

Self-Portrait as Question

 

Self-Portrait as Question 

Walking hand-in-hand with what,
who presupposes why, and when
huddles with where before skittering
off to its murky corner. Sometimes
I present myself as a shy minute
or a cloud’s effigy streaming across
a scruffy field. Few suspect the truth.
Answers ricochet from the limestone
wall, but no one nabs them. I react
quickly and offer the unknown, the
life I claim, my name, in return.

 

* * *

“Self-Portrait as Question” was first published in Rue Scribe in September 2018. Many thanks to Eric Luthi and the editors at Rue Scribe for accepting this piece and several others.

In Praise of Time

timeFlies

 

In Praise of Time

We marvel that so much
produces only
more of the same,

increased yet
diminished, no two
alike yet never

differing, earth to
soil, glacier to rain,
stardust to morning,

open, filled, wasted,
lost, killing, preserving,
making more, wanting.

 

* * *

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Countdown #1: My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar (with recording)

 

My last five posts of 2020 are reruns of five of the most viewed posts on this site during the year.

 

 

My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar

Blue-tinted and red-mouthed, you light a cigarette
that glows green between your lips and smells of
menthol and old coffins, burnt fruit and days carved

into lonely minutes. I mumble hello, and because
you never speak, order a tulip of double IPA, which the
bartender sets in front of me. Longing to ask someone

in authority to explain the protocol in such matters,
I slide it over, but of course you don’t acknowledge
the act. The bartender shrugs and I munch on spiced

corn nuts. I wish I could speak Japanese, I say, or cook
with chopsticks the way you did. We all keep secrets, but
why didn’t you share your ability to juggle balls behind

your back sometime before I was thirty? And I still
can’t duplicate that pork chili, though my yaki soba
approaches yours. You stub out the cigarette and immediately

light another. Those things killed you, I say, but what the hell.
As always, you look in any direction but mine, your face
an empty corsage. What is the half-life of promise, I ask. Why

do my words swallow themselves? Who is the grandfather
of loneliness? Your outline flickers and fades until only a trace
of smoke remains. I think of tea leaves and a Texas noon,

of rice balls and the vacuum between what is and what
could have been, of compromise and stubbornness and love,
then look up at the muted tv, grab your beer, and drink.

 

* * *

 

“My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar” was first published in The Lake in December 2018.

 

Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl

 

Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl

Who do you think I am, what will
grace serve, where in this moonless
void might you lie, can we echo
through the hours and never attach
ourselves to one discernable tree?
Is query my only song? Is sadness
yours? Wrapped around these
priceless silhouettes, our voices
merge downhill near the creek’s
rustle, below the seeping clouds
and stars yet somehow above the
night and tomorrow’s slow ascent
into more questions, more doubt.

 

* * *

“Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl” first appeared 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.

 

Countdown #2: When Shadows Hide

  

My last five posts of 2020 are reruns of five of the most viewed posts on this site during the year.

 

When Shadows Hide

I breathe when you breathe,
and watching me,
you capture each lost molecule.

This book blinks whenever you turn the page.
I see you between the words, between the white threads.

You are the adored chapter, the one I read in bed before
sleep, and after I wake, before the first wren announces
dawn, then in the afternoon’s highest point, when shadows hide,
and later, as they emerge to stroke your bare shoulder.

What’s on the other side, you ask. What do you hear?

Your breath, I say. Your name.

 

* * *

“When Shadows Hide” was first published in the print anthology Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love in February 2019.

 

Countdown #4: This Oak

 

My last five posts of 2020 are reruns of five of the most viewed posts on this site during the year.

  

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.