If You Drop Leaves

 

If You Drop Leaves

If you drop leaves when she walks by,
does that signify grief for those
cut down early,

or merely drought?
How easily we abandon and forget.

Yet a whiff of lemon verbena or the light
bouncing from a passing Ford
can call them back,

tiny sorrows ratcheted in sequence
above the cracked well casing

but below the shingles
and near the dwindling shade
tracing its outline on the lawn.

And what do you whisper
alone at night within sight
of sawn and stacked siblings?

Do you suffer anger by way
of deadfall or absorption,

bark grown around and concealing
a penetrating nail, never shedding
tears, never sharing one moment

with another. Offered condolences,
what might you say? Pain earns no
entrance. Remit yourselves.

 

* * *

“If You Drop Leaves” was published at Bad Pony in November 2017. Many thanks to editor Emily Corwin for taking this piece.

What the Body Gives, Gravity Takes (Cento)

balance

 

What the Body Gives, Gravity Takes (Cento) 

As if what we wanted
were not the thing
that falls,

as what was given
to answer ourselves with – air

moving, a stone
on a stone,
something balanced momentarily.

Or wheels turning,
spinning, spinning.

The waters would suffer
at being waves,
but nothing of their dream
takes place,

nothing that is complete
breathes. But the world
is peopled with objects.

You grow smaller,
smaller, and always
heavier.

You can think of nothing else.

 

Credits:

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.
wheels

 

Memory and Closets

 

Memory and Closets

1

She came with the house.
A skull, spinal column, ribcage, tibia,

scapula – the list goes on, not quite to 206,
even including an extra lumbar vertebra.

Edna (long story) attended Halloween parties
and convivial gatherings, dressed in finery.

Silk suited her best, with linen falling just
behind. And hats! That green fedora,

like a parrot perched on a smiling egg,
never spoke, but stirred the conversation.

2

Old boots, worn left heel explaining the damaged meniscus.
Portable record player. Scratched vinyl.
Shopping bag of VHS tapes. Two empty scotch bottles.
The 30-year old suit that hasn’t been worn in 28 years.
Yellowed newspaper clippings of diet recipes.
The lost carton of wrapping paper.
A cheap guitar case, sans guitar.

3

If memory could speak, what would it not say?

Who else has rubbed this dust across his skin?

Only death is irrevocable.

In this darkness I find you.

Fearing withdrawal, we grow closer.

Things, and more things.

Everything we need travels with us.

Always.

 

* * *

This was originally drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and subsequently published in The Quiet Letter in April 2017. It’s original title, sponsored by Darryl Williams, was “Cleaning Out Closets in Anticipation of Moving Closer to Children.”

You can find The Quiet Letter’s 2018 interview with me here.

Clandestine

 

Clandestine

How did you slip so deftly past those bottled
years, through my ribcage and into the safe
room never before broached? I am the little
stones you gather, the morning’s obsidian eye.
Though the wind’s unseen fingers caress you,
coveting in a way I cannot, my hand, warm
against your pale belly, knows the truth of
contrast and heat, of flesh and gnarled bark.
Unveiling these furtive moves, our love smelts
tears into nuggets, transforms nights into
blue sky, sultry chatter into celestial song.
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.

 

 

Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bread

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.

pillows

Driving without Radio

trash-in-tree

 

Driving without Radio

One minute you’re sipping coffee at the stoplight,
and the next you find yourself six miles

down the road, wondering how you got there,
just two exits before the French bakery

and your favorite weekday breakfast taco stand.
Or while pondering the life of mud,

you almost stomp the brakes when a 40-year old
memory oozes in — two weeks before Thanksgiving,

the windshield icing over (inside), while most definitely
not watching the drive-in movie in Junction City, Kansas,

her warm sighs on your neck and ear, and the art
of opening cheap wine with a hairbrush. How many

construction barrels must one dodge to conjure these
delights, unsought and long misfiled? You turn right

on 29th Street and just for a moment think you’ve seen
an old friend, looking as he did before he died,

but better, and happier, and of course it’s just a trash bag
caught in a plum tree, waving hello, waving goodbye.

 

 

“Driving without Radio” was published at Split Rock Review in November 2016. Many thanks to editor Crystal Gibbins for providing a home for this one.

 

Some Answers You Never Considered

 

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.

 

* * *

“Some Answers You Never Considered” first appeared in Underfoot in October 2017.

 

Odi et amo (Zero)

zero sign

 

Odi et amo (zero)

How I fear what you contain.
Reaching through,

I find only more you,
but when I multiply your being,

the result limits me.
I add myself to your body and obtain

only myself. If nothing is something,
how, what, may I claim?

Your beginning and end, a line
become circle, become identity.

I enter, and entering, depart.

 

zero MGD©

 

“Odi et amo (Zero)” first appeared on the blog in December 2015, and was published in The Basil O’Flaherty in October 2016.

 

Texas Sestina

Texas Sestina


Wherein I search through debris for that root, 
that long foot grasping soil and air, a streak
of forever’s descent. Chain sawing wood
I’ve breathed the metaphor of ash and earth,
have stared at flame, dreamed of water, a wave
of night crashing me through its strong-armed flow.

Among limestone and cedar, shadows flow
past prickly pear shadows, where wild hogs root
among thirsty rocks, and bandanas wave
goodbye to yesterday. Hummingbirds streak
past, defending borders of air and earth,
and I gaze at my stunted, twisted wood.

Soon I’ll leave this plot behind, burn its wood
no more. I will release myself and flow
northward, pulled to a strange land where the earth
grows darker, where no one knows me, and root-
less I’ll stand, but not alone. Birds will streak
the gray sky. I’ll proffer a half-assed wave.

Longing, I think of Hokusai’s great wave
and the insect trails circling my stick’s wood
as I stomp through the knee-high grass, a streak
of diamond-shapes muscling ahead, that flow
between life’s weeds and thorns. My old heartroot
stretches past dawn, star and sky, beyond earth.

When I think of fire, I grasp the light earth
holds, the origins of water and wave,
the sadness of leaving. I will take root
in old ground, find new trees to love, hardwood
to carve and learn from, seek new patterns, flow
between now and then, reclaim luck’s long streak.

Until then I wait, watch that feathered streak
buzz its pendulum course above the earth.
When it’s time, I’ll surrender to the flow,
lie back, let go, accept the soothing wave
and all it carries — losses, secrets, wood —
leaving behind that sad cumbersome root.

The window’s streak contains light but no root.
Leaves flow, too fast to count. The earth
trembles as I stack the split wood. Just then, a wave.

* * *

“Texas Sestina” first appeared in the spring 2020 issue of ˆTaos Journal of International Poetry & Art”

Hail

hail


Hail

My hands know the sadness of rock,
of unfinished lines and rough

sides tapering to sharpness.
The shape of solitude, turning.

Now the stones fall as water,
a woman lets down her hair

and laughter chokes through silence.
Into this dream I ascend.

 

rock

“Hail” first appeared here in September 2016, and is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus.

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)