Interiors Continue reading
The right has only one option,
as is true of the left,
neither to mingle
nor disappear like washed socks
or loved ones in a casino.
There are those who believe
in fallen towers and pasts
burnished beyond recognition,
and truth, as it was written, for them,
in blood, with money inherited
from thieves. The puddle happens.
The door rotates. A snifter shatters.
The shoe’s approach defines its wearer.
* * *
This first appeared in March 2016, but somehow seems even more appropriate today.
Dream of Wheels and Lights
Bells clang in the night. The lamp post belted
by mist offers little comfort. A stone’s
toss away junipers curved like melted
spoons shudder silently. There are no phones
in this place. A thought sneaks into your mind
quietly, like a straw piercing the oak’s
armor in a bad wind. You turn and grind
the thought with your heel. A wheel rolls by, spokes
flashing like scythes. Crouching by a puddle
a man studies his face. He looks at you
and cries: “All I want is to be subtle.”
You think you know him, but you’re not sure who
he used to be. You throw a rock and shout
at him. The wheel slows and the light burns out.
Originally published in Amelia, in 1985, and posted here in March 2015. I remember writing this, but it still puzzles me.
Simplify, as in Forget
To turn off the stove
or close the refrigerator door,
such brazen attempts to win
the aging contest or blur the mirror
of clarity — you won’t say
which to blame or praise
or whether intent is implicit in
action or if I should hold my breath.
What is the freezing point of love?
When you were cold, whose
belly did you curl into, whose ear
gathered your breath and returned it
warm and with the promise of bees
producing honey? Your name floats
above my outstretched hand,
and unable to grab it, I blink and turn
away. Nothing works as it should.
I exhale. You push the door shut.
* * *
“Simplify, as in Forget” first appeared in the print journal Good Works Review in February 2018, and is included in the anthology Lost & Found: Tales of Things Gone Missing, Wagon Bridge Publishing, 2019.
When the earth shrugs,
some warnings are better
heeded. A little
smoke, some ash.
A knife point held to the chin.
Why listen at all?
The man in the big house hides in its vastness.
Surrounded, he walks alone.
People speak, but he hears only himself.
and the birds fly north
seeking firm ground
upon which to land.
* * *
“Vesuvius” was first published in The Big Windows Review in December 2017. I’m grateful to editor Thomas Zimmerman for accepting this piece.
Dictionary of Dreams
You do not know their secret names.
Mine is the music of metal and wood.
Human voices behind walls.
Trapped in reds, in chiseled words.
And silence. Always silence.
Or the filtered woodwinds at dawn.
How to describe her body?
The quickness of night. Year’s demise.
A family of ghosts hidden in these halls.
* * *
“Dictionary of Dreams” was published in Kingdoms in the Wild in April 2018.
In Praise of Gravity
Which bestows weight
or slings me around
some other heavenly
body, a version of you
I’ll rise from my next
plummet, victim of
curvature and infinite
range held in place,
attractive in nature,
bent perhaps and
scarred, proud to have
survived but never wiser.
Cleansed, we continue
our orbit, our mirrored fall.
“In Praise of Gravity” is included in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.
Track (after Tranströmer)
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…
This first appeared here in April 2015.
What name would survive
had you not stepped into the water
that day? Memory assigned
a separate word, another given,
and the face I’d placed with you
appeared in front of me
fifteen years later, in another
setting, miles away
and still breathing. How
may I honor you
if not by name? I recall
the gray ocean and how
umbrellas struggled in
the wind, and reading
in the weekly newspaper
a month after
that you had never emerged.
Now your name still lies there,
somewhere, under the surface,
unattached yet moving with
the current, and I,
no matter how I strain,
can’t grab it. Time after time,
it slips away. Just slips away.
.* * *
“His Softness” was published in January 2016 in the inaugural edition of MockingHeart Review.
Waiting for the Windshield on the Freeway
Take velocity into account, figure height and distance,
add trajectory plus time, then let her rip. Billy likes solid
paving stones, while I prefer hollow cinder blocks. Karen
chooses traditional red bricks, as she lacks the upper body
strength to throw anything heavier. What she’s missing in
muscle, she makes up with accuracy – one bull’s-eye last
month, with three kills to her credit. Imagine driving down
the highway, singing along with Toby Keith when wham,
a brick spiderwebs your windshield and without thinking you
mash down the brakes and the idiot tailgating you crunches
your rear end, launching you off the road and into the muddy
ditch, while another obliviot crashes into him – Karen’s work.
The only time I’ve seen her smile. Billy says she’s meaner
than me and the old man put together, which is quite the
compliment. We don’t see each other often, but Daddy’s
up for parole in a few months, and if his lying has improved,
well, who knows. Billy’s aim ain’t much – he’s managed
to dent a few roofs and truck beds, and caused a Ford
F-150 to swerve, but that’s about it. Me, I’m hunting the big
game, the 18-wheelers. I got a good feeling about tonight.
“Waiting for the Windshield on the Freeway” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge, and ten days later was featured on Algebra of Owls. Thanks to Leigh Smith for sponsoring the poem and providing the title, and editor Paul Vaughan for choosing this piece.