Rice

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Rice

Yesterday’s rain informs me I’m born of luck and blended
strands, of hope and words forged before a common tongue emerged.

Of my first two languages only one still breathes.

The other manifests in exile, in blurred images and hummed tunes.

Rice is my staple. I eat it without regarding its English etymology,
its transition from Sanskrit to Persian and Greek, to Latin, to French.

Flooding is not mandatory in cultivation, but requires less effort.

Rice contains arsenic, yet I crave its polished grains.

In my monolingual home we still call it gohan, literally cooked rice, or meal.
The kanji character, bei, also means America.

Representing a field, it symbolizes abundance, security, and fertility.

Three rice plants tied with a rope. Many. Life’s foundation.

To understand Japan, look to rice. To appreciate breadth, think gohan.
Humility exemplified: sake consists of rice, water and mold.

The words we shape predicate a communion of aesthetics.

Miscomprehension inhabits consequence.

* * *

“Rice” has appeared here twice before, and is included in my chapbook-length work, The Circumference of Other, published in Ides, a one-volume collection of fifteen chapbooks published by Silver Birch Press and available on Amazon.com.

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The Geography of Silence

laundry

The Geography of Silence

1. Laundry drooping at midday.

2. She dreams off-key, in pastels.

3. With misunderstanding comes anger.

4. Mata! Mata! Again!

5.  Ashes crossing the ocean.

6.  Sweat, and the taste of separation.

7.  Reaching for past moons, she cries.

8.  Death’s shade.

9.  Rice.

10.  Self-sacrifice, the centered gift.

11. Inward, always. Inward.

telescope map

“The Geography of Silence” last appeared here in April 2017.

Riddle, Dollar, String

 

Riddle, Dollar, String 

Living between, she pretends the comfort of walls
within walls, the unseen’s dispensation.
A slow dragging. The raked leaves.

And all the naked oaks bowing to the wind,
feeling the scratch of impending growth,
the twig’s pearl poised to push through
this mask, stolen sounds dotting the morning.

Later, watching lizards on the wall
or the haze of bees surrounding the agave.
No one pays. Limestone. Mulch. Light.
Unformed thoughts snaking through.

Like that line wrapped around her waist,
another purpose only she could explain.

“Riddle, Dollar, String” first appeared in The New Reader Magazine, in March 2018.

What Feet Know (with recording)

feet

What Feet Know

The earth and its subterfuge.
Gravity and the points between here and there.

And sometimes the rasp of grainy mud
clenched between toes,
or a rock under the arch,
an explanation too pointed
for display on a page,
too hard, too much for flesh to bear.

No constellations foment underground.
Nothing there orbits a companion.

No light but for that darkness the heel scrapes away.

“What Feet Know” was featured on Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine in December 2016, and is included in my  chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, available Available at Amazon.Com and Here.

 

The Neurotic Dreams September in April

 

The Neurotic Dreams September in April


Already I have become the beginning of a partial ghost, sleeping the summer
sleep in winter, choosing night over breakfast and the ritual of dousing lights.
This much I know: the moon returns each month, and tonight you lie awake
in a bed across the river, in a house with sixteen windows and a cold oven,
where your true name hides under the floorboard behind the pantry door.

*

Differences season our days — from flowers to snow, root to nectar — take
one and the other lessens in its own sight. One day I’ll overcome this longing
for things and will be complete in what I own, living my life beyond the page,
past the white space and dead letters. When I mention hearts, I mean that
muscle lodged in my chest. Genetics, not romance. Tissue. Arteries, veins.

*

Dark cars on the street. Cattle grazing in the damp pasture. The liquor store
sign glaring “CLOSED.” Separate yet included, we observed these scenes but
assigned them to the periphery, grounded in our own closed frames. In a
different time I would transcend my nature and strive to withstand yours.
Look. That star, the fog silhouetting the tombstones. A bobbing light.

*

Love is a gray morning, a steel-toed shoe or coating of black ice; nothing you
do will repeal its treachery. There, on my stone porch, I will inhale the smoke
of a thousand burned photographs. The sun will descend but you won’t share
it, and I’ll no longer hum your tune. When I rise no one sees. Or everyone
stares. Imagine that great cow of a moon lowing through the night.

“The Neurotic Dreams September in April” was published in deLuge in December 2016, and was written during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge. Many thanks to artist extraordinaire Ron Throop for sponsoring and providing the title.

Which Poet, Which Beer (2)

pint

Tastes change. In my younger years I preferred sweeter brown ales, eschewed hoppier, bitter beverages, and seldom branched out. Nowadays, I lean heavily towards the bitter, and when the opportunity presents itself, feel compelled to sample the unknown. Thus when I spied Alaskan Brewing Company’s Alaskan Jalapeño Imperial IPA on tap, I had no choice but to order a pint. We may not normally place the words Alaska and jalapeño alongside each other, but if this Imperial IPA is any indication, perhaps we should. With an odor of hops and capsicum, it felt smooth on the tongue, a little malty, even earthy. Not  complex at the outset, but subtle, defying definition and developing over time, in the way a good poem develops. My only complaint would be the lack of heat. But hey, I’m from Texas, and we do jalapeños. This is a beer of multiple cultures, a blend of distinct identities. I think of Joan Naviyuk Kane, and her first book, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, in which she writes in “Antistrophic”

Instead of out, I am in,
Trying at the old habit of imperfect definition
As well as the less familiar,
Between falling gold

Kane’s narrative, her mythology and landscape, are not mine, yet they invite me in and envelop my senses, allowing synthesis, acceptance, to occur.

But sometimes I crave the unadorned. The Lone Pint Brewery’s Yellowrose IPA, a single malt, single hop concoction, startled me. Surprisingly mellow in the mouth, it imparts grapefruit and perhaps pineapple with a hint of something I can’t readily identify. Strong yet delicate, infinitely interesting, Yellowrose is most definitely a celebration of simplicity and craft – a few ingredients combined to create magic. Which may also describe Christina Davis’s book An Ethic. Spare in nature, her work transcends the limits of language, the borders of the page. Her poems blossom anew with each reading, and the farther away I move from them, the more I long to return:

”All Those That Wander,” in its entirety:

After the ark survived the Flood,
it was taken apart
to be made into cages.

This is the nature of religion.

Of course my curiosity leads me down other paths, too. Infamous Brewing Company’s Sweep the Leg peanut butter stout pours with a small head, and tastes of rich malts and coffee, with a little cocoa and, of course, subtle peanut tones. An opaque, dark brown or black, with minimal carbonation, exuding stillness, it isn’t quite what I anticipated, with the peanut butter flavor a tad muted. But the mouthfeel is spot on, and the aftertaste lingers, leaving me requesting more of this unlikely combination, and reminding me of Charles Simic’s  Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell, in which he imparts, through prose poems, the experience of viewing Cornell’s enigmatic art. Nothing is quite as you expect it should or could be, yet you go on, somehow understanding. He writes in “Secret Toy”:

In a secret room in a secret house his secret toy sits
listening to its own stillness.

Simic offers openings into Cornell’s art, explains the unexplainable without explanation. I stare into the pint of Sweep the Leg, and find my own stillness. I read Simic and find another. This is what I seek in poetry, what I want in good beer. I have found it.

blackbeer

“Which Poets, Which Beer (2)” last appeared here in July 2017. You will be relieved to hear that I am still conducting research in these matters.

3 Poems Up at Right Hand Pointing

My poems “Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl,” “The Shadow Behind You” and “Self-Portrait as Compost” have been published in Issue 125 of Right Hand PointingThank you to editors Dale Wisely, Laura M. Kaminski, F. John Sharp and José Angel Araguz for taking this trio.