This is a celebratory post. Yesterday I cooked bacon, and it smelled like, well BACON! And it tasted like bacon, too. One of the side effects of COVID-19 is parosmia (a distorted sense of smell/taste), and both Stephanie and I have suffered from it since July. We’ve been unable to tolerate such staples as onion, peppers (bell and chile), garlic, dark chocolate, sparkling wine, peanut butter, grilled/charred and cured meats of all kinds, celery, arugula, and assorted other beloved foods. But yesterday’s breakfast of migas tacos with bacon clearly indicates that we are improving. Finally!
Ode to Bacon
How you lend
the sweetest fig
in your embrace
self, how it
sopped. O belly
of delight, o wonder
how could I not
and your infinite
when you resist
my efforts and
shoot sizzling bits
onto my naked
hands? I pay
and all those
days to follow,
till the last piece
and our sun
All profits from this anthology published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus, a charity which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.
An editor said never start a poem at a window,
so instead I’m looking at the door,
which is made of glass. We are to avoid rain,
too, but it streaks the pane in such delicious
patterns that I can’t help but pretend to be someone else
in a foreign city, perhaps Helsinki, sipping black coffee
with a mysterious woman younger than my daughter
(who also does not exist), whose interests
in me are purely literary, although she straightens
my collar with lingering, scented fingers. Garden
memories and birds must never populate our lines,
but corpses are fine, as are tube tops and bananas
and any combination thereof. I finish my coffee
and wander alone through cobblestone streets,
stepping over clichés when possible, kicking them
aside when my hip joint argues, or simply accepting
their useful limitations when nothing else works.
Unknown and lacking credentials, I shrug, go on
past the closed doors behind which unseen bodies
perform the most bizarre and sensual solo dances,
or not, and shadows cook sausages over fire
and the grease spattering onto the tiled counters
issues a fragrance that awakens neighborhood dogs
and maybe a dozing stall-keeper at the market
where cloudberries are sometimes found.
I know little of Finland, and less of myself,
and then there’s poetry, which remains a blank
frame, a frosted pane I’ll never truly unlatch.
* * *
My poem “Helsinki” was first published at Panoply. It was inspired in part by a Facebook thread on which editors commented on what caused them to instantly reject poems. One said beginning a poem at a window was cause for rejection. Hence the first line.
I built a frame of apricot
wood. This was for you. The clouds float
through it even as I sleep. You wrote
once of wild herbs gathered and brought
to a lovely girl, an offering not
of passion but of some remote
desire to hear a word from the throat
of the Lord Within Clouds. I thought
of this as I chiseled the wood.
Last night it rained. I listened to
it from my bed by the open
window, hoping that the clouds would
not leave. This morning two birds flew
by. It is raining again.
Originally penned in the 1980s, “Apricot Wood,” is included in my 2015 chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform. It was first published in 1986, in SPSM&H, a publication devoted to sonnets, and was featured on Autumn Sky Poetry Daily in March 2015. It’s interesting to look at my writing from this period. Some pieces seem to have been written by a stranger, long ago and far, far away. This one somehow seems closer.
The forgotten poem, existing in title only: Yellow.
Which is a bruise at three weeks, or memory’s shade in autumn.
In what black folder does it hide? In which blinding light?
I take comfort in primaries, lose sleep at the edges.
Where fraying begins and annotation dwindles to scrawled lines.
Above the bones and flesh of the Egyptian gods. Above my books.
Within these lost minutes. Those moons, bereaved. The hours.
Desire germinates even after our rainless decades. Yellow, again.
The color of sulfur (the devil’s realm) or the traitor’s door.
Of cowardice and warning. Of aging and decay.
How to recover what’s sifted away, the residue of our loves?
Each day more bits break off, never to be reattached.
But you, I blend with the sky, perfecting trees, the grass.
* * *
“Yellow, Lost” was published in wildness, Issue no. 10, in October 2017. wildness is an imprint of Platypus Press, which published my work Interval’s Night, a mini-digital chapbook, in December 2016 in their 2412 series. If you’re not familiar with wildness, check it out. In fall 2016 Poets & Writers named it in their article Nine New Lit Mags You Need to Read.