The Military Industrial Complex’s CPAs Never Sleep

 avocado

The Military Industrial Complex’s CPAs Never Sleep

We so seldom bury people at sea
in weighted shrouds,
preferring instead sealed
containers or ashes
mixed with concrete.

Little girls skip
down the street,
giggling, unaware of their
value on the open
market. Dollars, oil.
Weapons. All fungible.

On the forgotten shelf,
the avocado’s flesh
blackens inside
its withering armor.
How is too much
never enough?

Targets based on
possibilities, innuendo,
cost-benefit analysis:
three men and a camel,
wedding parties,
hospitals, homes.
Schools.

When morning comes,
they’re still awake,
collating damage, counting
opportunities, massaging
sums, ignoring cost,
harvesting their rotted fruit.

military

This first appeared here in September 2016.

Variations on a Theme

darkedinburgh_shadow

Variations on a Theme

1. The Long Night

We envy the shadow its attributes, its willingness to subside,
but what of its flesh?

I lay in the field and wept.

Think of the fragrance, the moist leaves
enveloping the still

warm body. In retrospect, I realize that I should never have left, that air
returns to voided space despite all attempts to disavow

light, that wind and rain and soil alike filter through the chest’s
cavity, that stones may bear one’s touch in perpetuity.

At nineteen, death had gifted nothing to my world.
At twenty, little else remained.

So close, so lovely.

 

2. The Loneliness of Shadows

Light collapsing around a point. The two-headed flower.

In my dreams, no one speaks.

Not the thing itself, the bud bursting forth, petals ablaze with color,
but rather change: the process reinforced.

Sleep seldom shows such kindness.

Or its fruit, redolent of sun and rain, withdrawn and shriveled,
and finally, ingested.

Yesterday I woke damp but unafraid.

 

3. Alchemy

Stones never talk, but they rise from the earth, appearing as if by invitation.

The way silence lines an unfilled
grave, which is to say as below

so above, an infinite murmur open to the night.
And other notions: transpiration.

Waste.
Sublimation. Calcination and burning.

At times I have withdrawn
like water from the air’s

body, fearful yet reckless in the act.
That evening the moon flickered and the shadows lay at our feet,

and all the words we never framed,
the bitters our tongues could not know, the wasted

music and abandoned caresses, those words,
sighed into the ground, leaving you adrift, alone.

But how else might one transform darkness to light?
Or the reverse.

huey_ef

 

This originally appeared in Boston Poetry Magazine in April, 2014, and was first posted here in July of 2015.

 

Gaza

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Gaza

We presume affliction by census,
whereas light

requires no faith.
Is the roofless house a home? When you call
who answers? The vulture

spreads its wings
but remains on post. Shifting,
I note minute of angle, windage. No

regrets, only tension. Breathe in. Exhale.
Again.

***

“Gaza” first appeared here in July, 2014, and is included in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.

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Strollermelon

 

 

Strollermelon

In the summer I roll them from grocer to bus stop, little bonnets
affixed, cooing all the while – cantaloupe, watermelon, honey dew,
casaba, canary, sugar, you name it, they all come home with me,
in pairs or solo, snuggled tightly in blankets and ensuring
dropped-jaw, raised-eyebrow gapes from those who approach.
Don’t they look just like their mother, I ask, and no one ever disagrees.
Everybody is so nice, even the teen-age boys who no longer offer up
their seats. But Damon, who recently purchased new pants to impress
Wanda-I’m-An-Attorney, enjoys whispering secrets to us. Did you
know they’re actually berries? And that some are called fruit,
others, vegetables? They’re not much good for pies, though. I just
call them “Mel,” which is funny because I know that you’re not
supposed to name something you’re going to eat, and really, I do
recognize the difference between sentient beings and plants, but
then candidate Harumph comes to mind, and how do you explain
him and his followers? When cool weather approaches, I turn to
squash. Happy acorn, the elongated, sad butternut, pumpkin. Each
holds a niche in my heart, and I love strolling down the sidewalk
with them, humming tunes, adjusting stems, planning meals.

 

* * *

“Strollermelon” was first drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and was published in Quiet Letter in April 2017. Thanks to Plain Jane for providing the odd title. One never knows what’ll arise from sponsored titles!

 

Curtain

black-curtains

Curtain

Adept at withdrawal, it retreats.
How appropriate, we think,
that its body curls
with the wind’s
tug, offering
only the
slightest
resistance. Then
it returns,
bringing to mind
the habitual offender
whose discomfiture
lies in choice,
the fear
of enclosure
removed. The
forward glance.
And back again,
whispering its
edict: concede, reclaim.
Give and take. We are as one.

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“Curtain” last appeared on the blog in July 2017.

Letter to Schwaner from the Toad-Swallowed Moon

 

Letter to Schwaner from the Toad-Swallowed Moon

 

Dear Jeff: The glow here betrays our fantasies,

and between day and night and that uncertain

moment when neither holds sway, I have gained

a toehold on consequence. Who knew darkness

could shine so? Last November the surgeon

incised my belly six times but no light oozed

out and little crept in. I say little, but feel

a peculiar radiance emanating from my middle

which I can only attribute to the moon, although

the medical professionals would say it’s just

gas. But what do they know of Sheng-Yu or

Li Ho, of jade wheels and spilled cups? Last

night, to honor our marching sisters, I looked

to the cloud-filled sky and toasted them and

our ancestors, the poets and scapegoats, friends,

allies, compatriots, Five White and Jackboy,

shedding a solitary tear of joy in the process.

We won’t label the other tears, but I shudder

at our country’s current course and how the

bulging wallets of the rich continue swelling

at the expense of the poor and unhealthy,

the elderly, the unacknowledged, and those

living on the fringes, in colored shadows.

If we meet in person on some desolate, moon-

free road in a country that could never be,

how will I know you but from the ghosts and

smiles sparkling in the surrounding fog,

and the little voices singing their sad tune

of happiness into the night. This is where

we stand today, but tomorrow? Look for me

on that bench. I’ll be the full-bellied fellow,

the one with an eclipse leaking from his shirt

in a six-point pattern, two glasses in hand,

wine uncorked, ready for reptiles and politicians,

mirth and causation and good conversation

in brightness or tenebrous calm, whichever

needs replenishing more. But bring another

bottle. Or two. Talking makes me thirsty. Bob.

 

 

* * *

My poem “Letter to Schwaner from the Toad-Swallowed Moon” was first published at The Hamilton Stone Review in October 2017. Much gratitude to editor Roger Mitchell for taking this piece.

 

 

Before We Knew

 

Before We Knew

All thought of consequence
melted with that first touch
of tongue to skin, no respite
to be found in that heat,

no shade at all. I recall
hitching a ride later with a
German couple who lit up
and passed the joint without

asking, and after their
Cinquecento sputtered away,
I walked down to the bar at the
waterfront for an espresso and

to watch the lights spark along
the bay.  A few times a week
I’d see a boat putter in and tie up,
and the one-armed man would

display his catch or a carton
of bartered Lucky Strikes, but
not this night. The moon
weighed heavy on my shoulders

as I trudged home, remembering
the way you’d smiled and said,
from some place I’d never
witnessed before, come here,

now, as if I could have said no and
turned around, as if another urge
could have inserted itself
in that moment, in that life, ever.

* * *

“Before We Knew,” first appeared in Sleet Magazine in August 2018. I am grateful to editor Susan Solomon for taking this poem.

 

 

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.

Self-Portrait as Border

 

Self-Portrait as Border

Some rivers shift course, but
I stand firm, a nexus of rejection,
that line denoting separation of north
and good, evil and south, dark and
white. Welcoming no one, I stand
guard, opposing all with my flag
of diminishment. Squint, and you
still can’t see me. Your bare feet
won’t stir my dust. I am nowhere,
but remain here — that feeling of
prideful despair, strong, resolute,
inflexible foe to all who dare cross.

 

“Self-Portrait as Border” first appeared in October 2018 in Minute Magazine. Many thanks to the editors for taking my poem.

 

 

Return (El Salvador, 1983)

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Return (El Salvador, 1983)

Two years with no word.
The stick you planted
sprouted leaves last spring,

restoring hope. We had long
thought it dead. Two leaves
and a bud. A note

scrawled on a dollar bill,
unsigned and smuggled out
by some kindly stranger.

This is not much.
We can do little
but watch the tree grow

while you count steps
and deny the walls of a room
that light never touches.

image

“Return (El Salvador, 1983)” first appeared here in June 2015.