White Mules and a Column of Smoke

vinyl

 

White Mules and a Column of Smoke

I am thinking of a place I’ve never seen or visited,
much like Heaven or Jot ‘Em Down, Texas, but with better
beverages and the advantage of hindsight and seasoning,
a glance back or to the peripheral, with a side of memory
and sliced, pickled jalapeños topping a pile of imagination.

And how do we so clearly remember what never occurred?
That book I read in 1970 was first published three years
later. A drowned childhood acquaintance ordered a beer
and sat next to me at a party in college. The open fields
I recall from the garden walls in France, where homes stood.

If only we carried with us slide shows or grooved vinyl
to trace back our lives – photos and recordings of those daily
remembrances – detailed notes indexed on cards, or data
embedded in our palms and accessed by eye twitches.
Would such evidence improve our lives?

Which filters shutter moments and thoughts, twist them
into balloon animals we no longer recognize? False
accusations and convictions aside, can we trust what we
know to be true? That oak stands where it has for four
decades. I bleed when cut. The sky still leers above us.

 

 

“White Mules and a Column of Smoke” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge. I am grateful to Natalie Butler, who sponsored the poem and whose photo inspired me.

 

Bone to Bone

chimes


Bone to Bone

He claims two sides frame every story.

I count three,      sometimes more,

believing in          multiplicity,

threats                concealed

but never

buried.      A dust devil twists across the path.
What ascends, what dies?

Heat, ashes.       A shadow’s flesh.

The earth, restraining all.

 

small town

“Bone to Bone” first appeared here in June 2016.

Scarecrow Questions

scarecrow

 

Scarecrow Questions

Though my tongue withers from disuse and
drought, I taste from across the sea astringent
smoke and the progeny of a hundred bullets
buzzing by like misguided insects through
the theater of the dying, and I question how
pride and greed, hubris and fear, unwind their
cords to detonate these differing yet tangled
lines. How to fathom such depth of mistrust?
The Christian paints her door frames azure, a
Muslim carpets his tile floor, the Jew panels his
walls, yet among each, various segments clash,
and all of their houses implode. I feel nothing,
yet shiver throughout the sun-blazed afternoon.
Then I consider the structure of zero, whether its
body contains or extracts, negates or compromises,
hollows out duplicates within duplicates, exorcising
with a blade so sharp as to peel away memory from
those it crosses without the faintest murmur. Gone.
Erased. Banished to never having been. I neither
breathe nor digest, but I absorb and recall. How do
you so willingly forget history? This post determines
my destination, but not my destiny, not tomorrow’s
promise, nor the returning birds and faith, the long
nights, their stars, their deaths, the following days.

 

Eifel

“Scarecrow Questions” first appeared here in February 2016.

Life among the Prickly Pear

image

 

Life among the Prickly Pear

Rain’s twofold curse: not enough
too much. Still, I take comfort

even among the thorns.
There is much to like here.

Its moonlight flowers.
Paddles fried with minced garlic.

Wren’s jubilant shriek.
The fruit’s red nectar.

I wake to distant screech owls
purring their desires on separate

slopes. Late spring, storms looming.
I close my eyes and the creek rises.

 

* * *

A draft of this first appeared here in June 2015, and I posted this version in May 2016. I’ve had to deal with a flooded creek recently…

In the meantime, two of my guitar heroes:

Icarus (with recording)

feather02-2

 


Icarus

Currents of breath, the slight curve and lift
within a single motion, once

poised then released as if to say
the wind is mine, or wait,
I am alone –

the story we most fear, not height nor gravity’s
fist, but to exist apart, shadow and

mouth, rain and smile, feather
and sun, all denials reciprocal,

each tied fast and renewed.

 

sun

 

“Icarus” first appeared here in April 2016, and subsequently was published in The Basil O’Flaherty in November 2016.

Snails

Snails

How convenient to carry a home on one’s back, I
think, disregarding heft and plumbing and the shape
of rooms too hollow to feel. Yesterday a box of African
chapbooks migrated to my doorstep, and I plucked
yellowing leaves from the tomato plant by the poetry
shack. Marine snails constitute the majority of snail
species, but we count first what we can see. Everything
turns–the days buzz by like male blackchins swooping
through their pendulum air-dance, and I tally my
diminishing hours from the safety of these walls.
Heliciculture is another word for snail farming, but
reminds me of stars spiraling wildly above my roof
each night, spewing poetic fire throughout the cosmos.
The neighbor mows her lawn and I observe the wind
stepping from treetop to treetop, another sign of the
earth’s continued rotation. Their slime permeates human
cosmetics to minimize premature skin aging, and was
once used medicinally to soothe coughs (I write this
as mucus slides down my throat, a response of the
lung’s filtration system to histamines). There is much
to consider about the intricacies of harvesting slime.
Most snail species consume plants, but a few are
predatory carnivores, which leads to questions
about their prey. Cooked in butter with garlic, served
with a dry white? I spear one, contemplate texture
and move on to the next, leaving behind no visible trail.

 

* * *

My poem “Snails” was published on Vox Populi  in October 2017. Many thanks to founder and editor Michael Simms for giving this poem a home.

Transduced Ruin

desolate

 

Transduced Ruin

From bad to worse.
The hospital’s walls, shredded.

A turning back, the retrieval.
Frayed edges, unraveling, pulled down.

Conveyance and change, or, conversion.
Tying the knot, I think of home.

Things fallen apart.
She stands alone under the sky’s umbrella.

“Destroy infrastructure, destroy livelihood. Destroy.
Water leaking from the cistern’s wounds.

Wind to voltage; passive to active.
My church is the sky, the earth below, and everything between.

The center of one, of two.
Rounds, piercing armor.

A spiritual hole, leakage.
“It was easier to view them as targets, not human.”

Sequences: from water to ice, to vapor and back again.
I will surrender to flame and be scattered.

Firewing, starbolt, tearmaker.
Guided from afar, they sense but cannot feel.

Recursive death.
Counting graves, he considers relief.

The road to everywhere.
Looking back, I discover that I had already arrived.

 

* * *

I’d forgotten about “Transduced Ruin,” which was written during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30/30 Project, a fundraiser for the non-profit literary publisher, Tupelo Press. I am grateful to Atomic Geography, who sponsored the poem and provided the title and these three words: spiritual, sequences, things.