Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven

glacier

Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven

But your breath could melt a glacier at three
miles, she says, and then we might consider
the dirt under your nails, the way you slur
your sibilants, and how you seldom see

the cracked eggs in a carton, a downed tree
branch in front of you, the ripened blister
of paint in the bedroom, or your sister
lying drunk on the floor in her own pee.

Back to your armpits. Do you realize
we could bottle that aroma and make
a fortune? I inhale it and forgive

your many faults. The odor provokes sighs
and tingles, blushes I could never fake.
Ain’t love grand? Elevate those arms. Let’s live!

 

 

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision writing a poem about armpits. But the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and Plain Jane, the title sponsor, provided that opportunity. This first appeared here in April 2016, and was subsequently published in Algebra of Owls. Many thanks to editor Paul Vaughan for taking it.

armpits

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.

 

 

On Air Conditioning

 

 On Air Conditioning

The man who owns everything wants more.

Another offers his sandwich,
accepting grace with a smile.

Like vapor condensing in a coil
to remove heat from the air.
Difficult to comprehend.

Harder to live.

 

 

Two Anthologies

 

In the past few months I’ve been fortunate to have work included in two anthologies. The first, Indie Blu(e) Publishing’s As the World Burns: Writers and Artists Reflect on a World Gone Mad, is a 348-page “anthology of poetry, prose, essay, and art inspired by the unprecedented events of the year 2020.” Featuring 114 writers and artists from ten countries, As the World Burns chronicles the madness and horrors of the past year. The voices are diverse — raw and polished, young and old, experienced and new — and they reflect a populace whose needs have been unmet and ignored all too long. In time this volume will stand as one of the most powerful literary artifacts of this mad year.

Edited by Kindra M. Austin, Candice Louisa Daquin, Rachel Finch, and Christine E. Ray.

Available through Amazon in paperback and via Kindle.

Unlike As the World BurnsNo More Can Fit Into the Evening: An Anthology of Diverse Voices is not a collection of themed pieces. Rather, its purpose is to offer a substantial grouping of poems (5-10) by each contributor, allowing readers to obtain a more nuanced flavoring of the poets’ work. Thus the 350+ page anthology presents only 39 poets. The anthology includes well known writers like Terence Winch, Kimberly Blaeser, James Janko and John Looker, as well as lesser knowns like, well, me. This is a perfect winter’s evening read. Dip into it and perhaps you’ll find a new favorite poet. At the very least you’ll find hours of entertainment, and much food for thought.

Edited by Thomas Davis and Standing Feather

The book is being distributed by Ingram, and should be available (if not in stock, through special order) through bookstores in the U.S., Great Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It’s also available through Amazon.

 

 

 

 

(Hotel Eden) In Full Light We Are Not Even a Shadow

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(Hotel Eden) In Full Light We Are Not Even a Shadow

Which is to say clarity persists in
increments, in the silent space between
color and lens, within parables seen
in the incomplete: straw, hand. Imagine

white valued more than manner as hidden
thought remains obscured. Lower your eyes, lean
forward. Perspectives tilt towards the mean,
suggesting purpose. When we examine

intent, do we find it? The irony
of bottled cork, of sullied paradise,
a coiled wire, the parrot whose voice,

unheard, implicates us. What felony
must we commit to admit the device
in play? Pull or release? The mimic’s choice.

 

* * *

Notes: “In full light we are not even a shadow” is a line from Antonio Porchia’s Voices.

Hotel Eden is the title of a piece of art by Joseph Cornell. An image may be found here:
http://www.wikiart.org/en/joseph-cornell/untitled-the-hotel-eden-1945

DSC_1972

This made its first appearance here in March 2015.

 

Shakuhachi Blues

 

Shakuhachi Blues

That waver,
like the end of a long

dream flickering to wakefulness,
or an origami crane

unfolding between whiskey
poured and the tale of deceit

and a good woman done wrong.
Air flutters through this bamboo

tube, and it seems I control
nothing. Inhaling, I try again.

 

A simple instrument that will take a lifetime to learn…

With Guitar in Hand

 

With Guitar in Hand

for Stephanie

With guitar in hand I observe the green beetles bumbling about,
the way they careen and crash and flail aimlessly, but to a purpose.

Sometimes I attempt one note, only to strike another, or plucking
three strings simultaneously, focus on the discordant one,

which is, of course, me. How do we live the right song?
Which casual arrangement sends us plummeting to the grass,

hearts racing? I recall thinking “this cannot be,” yet could not,
would not, turn away. I bang out a minor seventh, sing a few

words, adjust my arthritic grip. Yesterday I couldn’t form
the chord shapes I desired. Today the hands float along the

fretboard, unimpeded. I wish you were here. I wish
I could shift time signatures with neurotransmissions,

that we were somewhere else, out of the way, alone
but for birds chirping in the branches by the window.

I wish my flawed tunes could merge with moonlight
and compose pearlescent pieces, and that you would

sing them to me from the threshold of our shared lives. I want
everything, but cherish what we can hold in these wondrous

times. I think of your hair and eyes, how my heart
flutters to the floor and refuses to rise until your smile

unwraps the day’s gift to me, defying Newton’s third law,
offering unheard chords. I listen to your silences, as I do

your words, knowing the value of each. Gazing at your
photo, I speak your name, set down the guitar. Make music.

 

 

“With Guitar in Hand” was originally published in the print anthology Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love in February 2019.

 

 

Forced By This Title to Write a Poem in Third Person About Himself, the Poet Considers the Phenomena of Standing Waves, Dreams Involving Long-Lost Cats (Even If He Has Not Had Such a Dream Himself), And the Amazing Durability of Various Forms of Weakness

 

Forced By This Title to Write a Poem in Third Person About Himself, the Poet Considers the Phenomena of Standing Waves, Dreams Involving Long-Lost Cats (Even If He Has Not Had Such a Dream Himself), And the Amazing Durability of Various Forms of Weakness

Five White cat always made sure no rats gnawed my books.
— Mei Yao-ch’en

His brain is squirming like a toad.
— Jim Morrison

 

Standing by the water, the poet wonders if,
as in this dream, his dead dog and Five White

might seize the separate ends of a rope and blend
their tugs, matching highs and lows, growls and purrs,

with near stillness, dawn to dusk and back again,
always equal, sharing through death their love

of work and honor. He throws a small branch
and asks the dog’s ghost to fetch, but it remains

at his side, as if reluctant to leave. How to release
what you no longer hold? Shadows disappear in direct

light, but always return at its departure. The
raindrop remains intact through its long plummet.

Words, though unspoken, hang like lofted kites
awaiting a new wind, a separate rhythm,

beyond compassion. He cannot hear it
but joins his dog in singing. The cat yowls along.

 

This piece first appeared in deLuge in fall 2016, and was drafted during the August 2015 30-30 challenge. Thanks to Jeff Schwaner for providing the title (which I edited for publication).