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.

 

 

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Or its fruit, redolent of sun and rain, withdrawn and shriveled,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At times I have withdrawn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.

 

Listening to Cicadas, I See Charlottesville (Ghazal, with recording)

 

 

Listening to Cicadas, I See Charlottesville (Ghazal)

Shedding one coat, you live in the red, apart
from the rest. Never together, forever apart.

In this sun-drenched field, the cracks drill deeper,
wider, dribbling soil and small lives, expanding, apart.

What falls truer than any words released from this man?
Once divided, never again to touch, always apart.

The electric shrill fluctuates pitch, in unison. Hundreds
of tymbals, shredding dusk, now together, then apart.

You narrow your eye to a slit, but still see the entire
spectrum. Wing clicks, stridulation. Whole yet apart.

Shearing syllables, I learn the language of half-truth.
What is my name? I reach for that fragment. It falls apart.

 

 

Returns

baby birds

 

Returns

What good is a rock
if the people fall, if truth

remains but no one
hears the long grass

rattle, and words
burst into flame

and gas, and life
poisons itself with

greed and the deficit
of compassion.

No body exists to bury.
I am trying to return

to a place of open
mouths, of nests and

groves left standing
despite their value

to the market. Which
pocket do I empty,

what song do I leave
unsung. Tomorrow

always becomes
yesterday, and today

flakes away into chilled
ash, carried over

rooftops and clouds,
never to be seen again.

 

gargoyle

“Returns” first appeared here in September 2017.

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.

 

 

Scarecrow Ascends

 

Scarecrow Ascends

Fixed yet not immobile, I watch bits of me drift
over the wavering grain, a diaspora of disparate
selves once gathered. Some openings are blessings.
Others encourage dispersion. Yesterday’s coat-breech
is now a hole from which I trickle. Think of politics,
and how the tiniest crack may expand and engulf
its body, how one lie gains heft through repetition
at the expense of truth, driving fear. And to what
end? More wealth by exclusion? Power? Everything
dissipates. Even those mountains looming over
state houses, even the sun and its gravity, even your
idols and their power over reason. Had I no purpose
I would gladly rip open these rags and beg the wind
to carry me high, piece by fragment, to mingle with
the clouds and the rains to come and the refracted
light from afar, perhaps to glimpse something greater
ahead. Perhaps merely to dispel, to become undone.

 

* * *

“Scarecrow Ascends” first appeared in Sleet in August 2018.