Shaping (Haibun)

 

Shaping (Haibun)

He needed to shape things, make them his. Stones in the garden, carved wooden bookstands, the absence of light in certain corners of the house, all captured this need. His was not so much a desire for control as a means of learning, of observing and participating in processes not ordinarily viewed as such. To watch shadows develop in the presence of trees and vine-covered walls, flowering for brief moments, their entire lives encompassed in seconds: he wanted to hold and be held, to breathe in what the air brought him and return what he could. To live.

what greeting is this?
bugs tapping at my window
tell me winter’s gone

In the evening he often sat in a room lit only by a candle in an old iron lantern. He preferred candlelight for it did not obliterate darkness as did the electric lamps, but diminished it, allowing a room new life. Each crevice in the book shelves became a new world, each doorway an entrance to something beyond one’s perceptions of black and white, the difference of moon and sun. Corners lost their edges. Shadows flowered with every movement of the candle’s flame, became hands without bodies, fingers tapping time to an unheard music.

no gods in this room
singing the blues
darkness lights the way

 

Track (after Tranströmer)

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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.

Memorial Day


Memorial Day

Arriving at this point
without knowledge of the journey,

the slow collapse and internal
dampening – the shutting down, the closing in – lost

in the shadowed veil, my eyes flutter open to find
everything in its place, yet

altered, as if viewed from a single step
closer at a different height, offering a disturbing

clarity. Looking up, I wonder that she wakes me
from a dream of dogs on this, of all days,

only to detect under me linoleum in place of the bed,
my glasses skewed from the impact,

the floor and left side of my head wet. You looked
like you were reaching for something, she says,

and perhaps I was, though with hand outstretched
I found nothing to hold but the darkness.

 

“Memorial Day” was first published in Eclectica in July 2014, and was, much to my delight, subsequently included in Eclectica Magazine’s 20th Anniversary Best Poetry Anthology.

Which is an Eye or a Bowl, a Dream

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Which is an Eye or a Bowl, a Dream

Or well-placed mirror in a sunburnt room, shivering through shifted
images: that hand, blackened and stout, opened like a dark peony;
the tattooed chin; shovel and torch; hook and owl. You say no one
chooses one fist over another, that bread’s rise completes its cycle
and begins anew, pressed flat and rounded. Take this heart and seal
its chambers. Note the anterior descent. Compression, lesion. Plaque.
Consequence. And your friend, who slept, never to awaken. Lying
in that strange bed, you taste salt, acknowledge change, whisper
to no one: audible house…audible tree, knowing that time’s limit
remains unclear. The air swirls and you accept this new light.

 

Note: “Audible house…audible tree” is from Jane Hirshfield’s “Not Moving Even One Step,” from The Lives of the Heart.

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Thinking of Language

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Yesterday, while avoiding the big rig frenzy on the wet highway, I heard a fascinating talk on NPR’s TED Radio Hour, Phuc Tran’s “Does the Subjunctive Have a Dark Side.” The idea of how one’s language, one’s grammar, can shape or affect a culture, has never been made so apparent to me as in this well articulated piece.

Jackboy’s Lament

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Jackboy’s Lament

We define ourselves in movement,
in the uncertain light and forms

shuddering by: fences, the nameless
wave, odors, dark water.

Look at the hills, their lines stretched taut like
smiles, or voices torn from the earth.

Or the creek below us – how its mouth never closes
yet nothing emerges but a shadow

on the wind. Two questions arise,
leaving only the abandoned to consider.

In our solitude, only my self is missing.

 

“Jackboy’s Lament” made its first appearance here in October 2015. I started the poem about a dozen years ago, after a drive through the Texas hill country with Jackboy the cattledog, who was quite the philosopher and humorist. This is what emerged after several conversations and much reflection over his circumstances (abused, abandoned, rescued). Jack didn’t talk much, but he thought. Oh, how he thought.

It has been nearly three years. We still miss him.

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In Praise of Gravity

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In Praise of Gravity

Which bestows weight
or slings me around
some other heavenly

body, a version of you
wondering whether
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.

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This last appeared on the blog in November 2015, and is also included in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.