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…
To recall but not recall: family, the swift curve
of evolution’s arc. One moment your knuckles
scrape the earth’s surface, and the next you’re
pinpointing mortar fire by satellite phone. Or,
having plowed the field by hand, you fertilize
with human dung (no swords in this hovel),
only to wake into a dream of high rises and
coffee served steaming by a blushing ingenue
who morphs into an uncle, killed in China
on the wrong side of the war, leaving his
sister still mired in grief six decades later
under the Texas sun. On this end of memory’s
ocean, we know poverty and its engendered
disrespect, neighbors’ children warned not
to play with you, for fear that the family’s
lack of nickels would rub off and contaminate,
that your belly’s empty shadow might spread
down the unpaved streets and envelop even
those who don’t need to share a single egg
for dinner. Years later the son will celebrate
his tenth year by suffering the indignity of
a bloody nose and a visit to the principal’s
office, a gift of the sixth grader who would
never again employ “Nip” to disparage
someone, at least not without looking over
his shoulder in fear of small fists and quiet
rage. Which half measures harder? In one
hand, steel. In the other, water. I pour green
tea on rice and recall days I’ve never lived.
“Genealogy Dream” was first published in August 2018 in Issue 4 of Lost River literary magazine. Many thanks to editor Leigh Cheak for taking this piece.
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 case you somehow missed it, my new chapbook, I Have a Bird to Sing (7 Palinodes), has been published and is seeking readers. If something prevented you from ordering it (the dog ate your homework, you had to wash your hair, or yes, yes, I know, indigestion from incessant self-promotion), fear not, it’s still available: Order here.
Many thanks to the members of this blog community for supporting my writing. I sit alone in my shack to write, but you are there with me, just a keyboard away. I am truly grateful for your wisdom, humor and willingness to help me traverse the strange and wonderful worlds of poetry and publication.