My poems “Unwinding the Snake (after Linda Gregg)” and “Water Strider” are live at ONE ART: a journal of poetry. Many thanks to editors Mark Danowsky and Louisa Schnaithmann for taking these pieces.
Self-Portrait as Wave
Feeling limited, I succumb to surge,
disperse, reassemble, return
in the calming swirl. Nothing
resembles me. I relinquish this piece,
retain that, and reinforced,
reside in the whorl, swollen,
winnowed to a point and capped,
roar and rumble, shredded,
whole yet apart, a solitary
fist crashing through another
watery torso in response, in
resonance, again, again.
“Self-Portrait as Wave” was first published in the inaugural issue of Kissing Dynamite. Many thanks to editor Christine Taylor for taking this piece.
What the Body Gives, Gravity Takes (Cento)
As if what we wanted
were not the thing
as what was given
to answer ourselves with – air
moving, a stone
on a stone,
something balanced momentarily.
Or wheels turning,
The waters would suffer
at being waves,
but nothing of their dream
nothing that is complete
breathes. But the world
is peopled with objects.
You grow smaller,
smaller, and always
You can think of nothing else.
Jane Hirshfield, Gustaf Sobin, George Oppen, Joy Harjo, Alberto de Lacerda, Jacques Dupin, Francis Ponge, Denise Levertov, Jacques Roubaud.
* * *
“What the Body Gives, Gravity Takes” appeared in Issue Four of Long Exposure, in October 2016.
years, through my ribcage and into the safe
stones you gather, the morning’s obsidian eye.
coveting in a way I cannot, my hand, warm
contrast and heat, of flesh and gnarled bark.
tears into nuggets, transforms nights into
Our secrets kiss the dark quiet.
“Clandestine” first appeared in Issue 6 of Kissing Dynamite. I am grateful to the KD team for taking this piece.
That year we learned the true language of fear.
I baked boule and you haunted medical sites.
You said to arrive I must first depart
or be willing to suffer self-awareness. Let’s not
mention our pact just yet. My basic boule requires a
Dutch oven, 20 ounces of flour, water, yeast and salt.
At twenty I learned the finer points
of sausage-making, how to butcher chicken, and
that your hair smelled like dawn’s last flower.
Back then we owned the night. Now I harvest
wild yeast and sharpen pencils, make to-do lists,
pour Chianti, run numbers. I agreed
to your proposal. It would be a kindness, you said.
The pancreas produces hormones
and aids digestion. I chopped off my left thumbtip
and a year later the abscission point
still felt numb. After rolling the dough
into a ball, let it proof for an hour in an oiled bowl.
We shared a taste for sharp cheese
but never agreed on pillows. You loved
down comforters and found vultures fascinating.
Years together honed our lives
but we never considered what that meant. Score
the dough, bake it for 30 minutes with the lid on,
remove the lid and bake for another 15.
Kneading resembles breathing: in,
out. Rise, fall. Bright lights made your eyes water,
so I kept them dimmed. You swallowed
and said “Tell me how to knead bread.”
With the heel of your right hand, push down
and forward, applying steady pressure.
The dough should move under your hand.
Within minutes it will transform.
* * *
“Bread” was first published in Extract(s) in April 2015.
Some Answers You Never Considered
At the cusp of night, before the sun steams out in the ocean,
and blues abandon the reds.
Nothing rests at the core of zero.
Cerulean blue was first marketed as coerulium.
What we consider sky includes only its lowest reaches.
Even considering a dense history with kites, I humbly concede,
and admit sacrifice as atonement, with grace.
No. I say it again. No.
Your visual system constructs the colors you see.
Only when the wind unbuttons its greatcoat, or at the tip
of an icicle, just before the drop catches itself.
Release the line and know the freedom of loss.
Transparent yet wide, unfolded like a fist freeing
a swarm of bees into honeyed air, it contains us.
Your inability to see it does not refute the horizon’s base.
If I knew I’d tell you.
* * *
Scarecrow Sings the High Lonesome
Nothing about me shines or sparkles. If asked,
I would place myself among the discarded —
remnant cloth and straw, worn, inedible,
useless, if not for packaging intended to
convey a certain message, which I of course
have subverted to “Welcome, corvids!” Even
my voice lies stranded in the refuse, silent
yet harmonious, clear yet strangled, whole
and unheard, dispersed, like tiny drops of
vapor listing above the ocean’s swell, enduring
gray skies and gulls and those solemn rocks
bearing their weight against the white crush.
Why do I persist? What tethers a shadow
to its body? How do we hear by implication
what isn’t there? Bill Monroe hammered
his mandolin, chopping chords, muting,
droning, banging out incomplete minors
to expectant ears, constructing more than
a ladder of notes climbing past the rafters
into the smoky sky. What I sing is not
heard but implied: the high lonesome, blue
and old-time, repealed. Crushed limestone
underfoot. Stolen names, borrowed sounds.
Dark words subsumed by light, yellowed,
whitened, faded to obscurity, to obscenity.
“Scarecrow Sings the High Lonesome” first appeared in Crannóg, in June 2017.
On the Burden of Flowering
Even the cactus wren
to the task,
though it rarely listens
to my voice. How do clouds
blossom day to day
and leave so little
behind? The bookless shelf
begs to be filled, but instead
I watch the morning age
as the sun arcs higher.
Yesterday you said
the mint marigold
was dying. Today it
stands tall. Yellowing.
“On the Burden of Flowering” first appeared in Panoply in August 2016, and is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second.
Boundless loss, hemmed at the edges.
Another mended hole, wasted mornings.
Unwound, I towel off, extract loose hair.
Look for messages in the clouds, see
only deceit. I am sick with
joy. I no longer sing. My goats
shun me. Where is the love,
the missing fact. An albino
squirrel skitters up the oak.
I think of blood, of bone fragments.
The pleasures of rendering.
“Cyclops” first appeared in September 2019 at Recenter Press, a publisher “dedicated to sharing work that is grounded in both the spiritual and the material.” Many thanks to the editors for taking these pieces.