Apricot Wood (with recording)

clouds

 

 

Apricot Wood

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.

 

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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 Body Gives (with recording)

 

The Body Gives

Sometimes the body gives too much.
A tendon frays, the heart mumbles
and no one sees the damaged parts.

Ignoring pain, we continue climbing ladders,
sandpaper breath rasping the morning light.

Little bits of us crumble all the time,
yet we stumble on, pretending.

Then the body kills us with its enthusiasm.

Cells duplicate wildly, plaque explodes.
This enmity within? Defensive maneuvers.

Working alone, I wonder where I might end.

On the floor. In a field. Atop the bed.
Under the surface of a rippling pond
or drifting with smoke

through a snow-clad afternoon
at eight thousand feet. Among
the grocery’s tomatoes and squash
approaching the end of a long list.

At the bar, glass in hand, or in a truck
at a four-way stop, the radio blaring.

Time enough for speculation, they say.
But I wonder: when I jump,

does the earth always rise to greet me?

 

* * * *

“The Body Gives” first appeared in The New Reader Magazine, in March 2018.

 

 

Poem Up at Silver Birch Press

 

My poem, “How to Write a Poem,” leads off the Silver Birch Press HOW TO series.
Silver Birch Press is still taking submissions in prose and poetry, so give it a whirl!

* * *

“How to Write a Poem,” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.

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.

Available at Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)

 

Self-Portrait with Umeboshi (with recording)

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Self-Portrait with Umeboshi

Our resemblance strengthens each day.

Reddened by sun and shiso,
seasoned with salt,

we preside, finding
comfort in failure. Or does
the subjugation of one’s flavor for another’s

define defeat? The bitter, the sour, the sweet
attract and repel

like lovers separated by distances
too subtle to see.
Filling space becomes the end.
What do you learn when you look through the glass?

Knowing my fate, I say fallen. I say earth.

 

Ah, simplicity! When I was a child my mother would occasionally serve rice balls in which a single mouth-puckering umeboshi rested at the center. These have long been a favorite, but I admit that umeboshi might be an acquired taste. Commonly called “pickled plums,” ume aren’t really plums but are more closely related to apricots. I cherish them.

“Self-Portrait with Umeboshi” first appeared in the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Series (August 2014), was included in the subsequent print anthology, Self-Portrait Poetry Collection, and also appears in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.

 

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Music: “Senbazuru” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Yellow, Lost (with recording)

 

 

Yellow, Lost

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.

 

Shadow (with Recording)

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Shadow

walking,
crushing juniper berries
at dusk

the dog shadows me
in his absence

 

* * *

“Shadow” first appeared here in April, 2015. It could be considered a companion piece to “Mother’s Day,” which is included in the July 2016 edition of The Lake.

image

Music: “Thunderbird” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

Ode to Bacon (with recording)

 

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
yourself
to others,

enhancing even
the sweetest fig
in your embrace
over coals,

or consider
your rendered
self, how it

deepens flavor
with piggish
essence, coating

or absorbed,
blended or
sopped. O belly
of delight, o wonder
of tongues,

how could I not
love you
and your infinite
charms, even

when you resist
my efforts and
shoot sizzling bits

of yourself
onto my naked
hands? I pay

this toll
gladly,
today and

next year
and all those
days to follow,

till the last piece
is swallowed
and our sun
goes dark.

Hyperbole
becomes you,
smoked beauty,
salted love,

and I shall never
put you down
or leave you
behind

on a plate
to be discarded
or forgotten,

unloved.

“Ode to Bacon” first appeared here in July 2017, thanks to T.S. Wright’s challenge.

How to Write a Poem (with recording)

 

How to Write a Poem

Learn to curse in three languages. When midday
yawns stack high and your eyelids flutter, fire up

the chain saw; there’s always something to dismember.
Make it new. Fear no bridges. Accelerate through

curves, and look twice before leaping over fires,
much less into them. Read bones, read leaves, read

the dust on shelves and commit to memory a thousand
discarded lines. Next, torch them. Take more than you

need, buy books, scratch notes in the dirt and watch
them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first

gusts. Gather words and courtesies. Guard them carefully.
Play with others, observe birds, insects and neighbors,

but covet your minutes alone and handle with bare hands
only those snakes you know. Mourn the kindling you create

and toast each new moon as if it might be the last one
to tug your personal tides. When driving, sing with the radio.

Always. Turn around instead of right. Deny ambition.
Remember the freckles on your first love’s left breast.

There are no one-way streets. Appreciate the fragrance
of fresh dog shit while scraping it from the boot’s sole.

Steal, don’t borrow. Murder your darlings and don’t get
caught. Know nothing, but know it well. Speak softly

and thank the grocery store clerk for wishing you
a nice day even if she didn’t mean it. Then mow the grass,

grill vegetables, eat, laugh, wash dishes, talk, bathe,
kiss loved ones, sleep, dream, wake. Do it all again.

 

* * *

“How to Write a Poem,” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.

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.

Available at Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)

Helsinki (with recording)

Helsinki

Helsinki

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.

Recording of Requiem II

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Requiem II

To say what becomes: this word
bends in the wind of our

breath. Is this too simple to
say? Our bodies gather yet retain

nothing. Numbers, phrases, the way
the ocean rolls. Once I saw
a whale at dusk. Or rather I saw its

tail part the water and disappear
into darkness, an answer too complex
and sweet for tongues to comprehend.

But waves seldom explain. Imagine
something nearby but beyond reach.

Think of clouds and shrines, consider light.

 

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“Bittersweet” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/