How to Write a Poem (with recording)

 

How to Write a Poem

Learn to curse in three languages. When midday
yawns stack high and your eyelids flutter, fire up

the chain saw; there’s always something to dismember.
Make it new. Fear no bridges. Accelerate through

curves, and look twice before leaping over fires,
much less into them. Read bones, read leaves, read

the dust on shelves and commit to memory a thousand
discarded lines. Next, torch them. Take more than you

need, buy books, scratch notes in the dirt and watch
them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first

gusts. Gather words and courtesies. Guard them carefully.
Play with others, observe birds, insects and neighbors,

but covet your minutes alone and handle with bare hands
only those snakes you know. Mourn the kindling you create

and toast each new moon as if it might be the last one
to tug your personal tides. When driving, sing with the radio.

Always. Turn around instead of right. Deny ambition.
Remember the freckles on your first love’s left breast.

There are no one-way streets. Appreciate the fragrance
of fresh dog shit while scraping it from the boot’s sole.

Steal, don’t borrow. Murder your darlings and don’t get
caught. Know nothing, but know it well. Speak softly

and thank the grocery store clerk for wishing you
a nice day even if she didn’t mean it. Then mow the grass,

grill vegetables, eat, laugh, wash dishes, talk, bathe,
kiss loved ones, sleep, dream, wake. Do it all again.

 

* * *

“How to Write a Poem,” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.

All profits from this anthology published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus, a charity which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.

Available at Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)

Baking Bread

 

Baking Bread

I would knead you in the afternoon,
in the warmth of a still room,
starting high at the shoulders,
one finger sliding down your spine,

my lips following, tracing the path
of a hummingbird’s flight. Oh, my love,
circumstance and distance, floods and
wildfires, will never truly douse our light.

I wait as the dough rises, and think
in the languages of yeast and water
and flour and salt, how my hands

will feel at your waist, how our day
falls into night, our love firming,
ever expanding through the rising heat.

 

“Baking Bread” first appeared in Ristau: A Journal of Being in January 2019. Many thanks to editor Bob Penick for taking this piece.

Self-Portrait as Never

 

Self-Portrait as Never

Within the unknown or could-have-been,
this stance requires certainty, the ability
to stand upright, rooted, implacable,
relentless in the is and the no in time.
I dream of faith, despite knowing its
secrets. Atoms swarm, seed heads explode.
Rivers reverse, the galaxy rots, and at the
center, we fold our arms across our chests
and deny or accept at whim, leaving behind
no footprints, only lost words, some dust.

“Self-Portrait as Never” was first published in After the Pause in June 2019. Thank you, Michael Prihoda, for accepting this piece.

Galveston, 1900

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Galveston, 1900

First the wind, then a tide like no other
uprooting the calm,

a visage tilted back in descent
as if listening for the aftermath.

And later, the gardener’s lament
and the building’s exposed ribs,

light entering the eternal
orchard, nine children tied to a cincture.

Not even the earth could retain its bodies,
and the sea remanded those given to its care.

 

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“Galveston, 1900” first appeared here in January 2015. Last February it was accepted for publication in an anthology to be published in 2020, but alas, I’ve just been informed that the publisher is unable to move forward on it. Such is the literary life.

 

One

number-one


One

I am Brahma
the straight line, the upright being,

fire that flares,
seed without end, manifold

self beyond all
polarity, radiating sun:
the all.

Philosophers considered one a non-number,
generatrix of all that follows.

Other.

The singularity. The lone.

From the Indo-European oi-qos we achieve solitude,
while the collective meaning of one derives from the Sanskrit sam.

United in itself, it changes nothing,
becoming everything.

On its side it represents the horizon.

Alone is all-one.
The Latin non is one negated, as is the German nein.

Symbol of intellect, the Hindu moon glows wide.
Atomic number of hydrogen, magician’s numeral,

monad and eccentric, I bear the empty product.

one on side

“One” last appeared here in December 2019.

Letter to Geis from This Side of the Glass

 

Letter to Geis from This Side of the Glass

Dear Greg: I can’t help but think about windows, their
function, their meanings, intended and otherwise, how
they block some entities but allow others entrance. A
black vulture feather lies just on the other side of this
pane, but the laws of material and physics prevent me
from reaching through and claiming it. Maybe I’d
sharpen the end, dip it into squid ink and write letters.
Or not. Cephalopods are scarce in the hill country,
unlike carrion birds, wild hogs and scorpions, and frankly,
ballpoint pens require less maintenance. Lately, the
opaque has redirected my attention — no matter which
government agency speaks, I feel surrounded by their
pseudomorphs, those little indistinct clouds of mucus and
dark pigment released to confuse and numb me. A common
occurrence, I hear, and all the more frightening for it. I
think of where we’re headed, collectively and individually,
and even knowing that our destination remains unchanged
offers small comfort. One foot at a time, the steps matter,
and though it appears we won’t share those planned brews
in Bandera, I’ll chuckle over our last meeting there and
dream up a conversation about futility and compromise,
and yes, success. I’ve just spent twenty minutes trying to
help a yellow jacket escape. It wouldn’t leave the glass even
after I left the door ajar, allowing a fly to enter. Instead,
it gazed out at the hazy morning, seeking a way through
refraction’s oblique path. Finally, shepherded with my bare
hand, it reluctantly skittered to the jamb, and I coaxed it
the final few inches by pushing it with the door. Such
are my days. A little faith, some hope, luck and a great
unknowing. This window seems cloudy, or is it just
my eyes? I miss you, buddy, as do the hills and the sky
and everything nestled and bustling between.  Bob

 

 

 

This first appeared in May 2020 in the Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art. D.G. Geis was a friend, a larger than life  poet, and a fellow Texan. We were both finalists for the Slippery Elm poetry prize in 2017, and after learning that we didn’t win, decided to have a “losers’ lunch” in Bandera, Texas, the closest town to our respective rural properties. Much laughter ensued, and we made plans to get together for a beer in the coming months. Alas, that was not to be.

 

 

You Say Cicada, Which Shrivels My Ears

Status

 

You Say Cicada, Which Shrivels My Ears

I say cicada, the difference lurking in the middle,
like the shortest dancer in an off-Broadway musical,
or a note hidden between two reams of legal paper
in the supply room of a well-appointed dentist’s
office, where you find yourself, by accident, searching
for the exit. But think how our sap-sucking friend must
feel, a foot underground, during its final instar phase,
reversing course, leaving behind the darkness
and moist roots, burrowing up through the soil
toward light and the shrug into maturity. And after
that, squeezing through a crack in what had been
itself, emerging, soft and vulnerable, slouching to the
inevitable call. I think of ecdysis, how we, too, shed
ourselves, leaving behind remnants, old skin and
armor, and rising, on occasion, wiser, softer, more
complete. But sometimes we try to reenter those
discarded shells. My acquaintance searches through
the past for bits of himself, purchases toys – marbles,
pocket knives – stitching together a semblance of the
old comfort. He keeps, in one jar, three teeth from his
childhood, in another the exuviae of a half-dozen
scorpions. How delightful it would be, he says, to
abandon your hardened self and become someone
new. He looks to the ground. I nod, and whisper.

 

 


“You Say Cicada, Which Shrivels My Ears,” appeared in the inaugural issue of Claw & Blossom, in July 2019. The poem was originally written during the August 2016 30-30 challenge. I’m grateful to Sunshine Jansen, who sponsored the poem and provided three words to be included in the piece: instar, ecdysis, and sap-sucking. Thank you, as well, to editor C.B. Auder for accepting the poem.

 

 

When to Say Goodbye (with recording)

dried

 

 

When to Say Goodbye

 If all goes well it will never happen.
The dry grass in the shade whispers

while the vines crunch underfoot,
releasing a bitter odor. A year ago

I led my dog to his death, the third
in five years. How such counting

precedes affection, dwindles ever
so slowly, one star winking out after

another, till only the morning gray
hangs above us, solemn, indefinite.

Voiceless. If I could cock my head
to howl, who would understand? Not

one dog or three, neither mother nor
mentor, not my friend’s sister nor her

father and his nephews, the two boys
belted safely in the back seat. No.

I walk downhill and closer to the creek,
where the vines are still green.

In the shade of a large cedar, a turtle
slips into the water and eases away.

 

* * *

 

“When to Say Goodbye,” drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, was published by Oxidant | Engine in May 2017, and subsequently nominated for a Best of the Net 2017 award.

 

All the Little Pieces

broken-glass

 

All the Little Pieces

How to rewind
broken,

the subtle shift of shard
and floor

laid between night’s
fall

and the morning’s first
glow. Take this

lantern. Set it
on the wall. Remove

the glass. Do not
light the candle.

Wait.

 

lantern