How time collapses
even the longest
held dream – that
trip to Italy
or the stilted
studio to the
barn’s rear, or
even the first
book and its
publication to early
acclaim by age
forty, fifty, sixty…
Truchas (Elevation 8,000 Feet)
in dry air,
and a ratcheting
heart rate, up,
out, and through
into the pale glow.
I spent a glorious four days in New Mexico, in the company of poets. The Tupelo Press Truchas Conference outdid itself again.
Few essays on writing poetry grab me by the collar, slam me against the wall, and say “Listen, dammit!” But this one did.
Camille Dungy’s words sear through the fog. She tells it slant. She tells it true. She explains how some masters have done it. If you’ve not read her poetry, seek it out. You’re in for a treat. If you have the good fortune to attend a lecture or reading by her, do so. She’s energetic, wise and kind. She knows.
Last posted in April 2017.
A Herd of Watermelon
My work tools include rubber boots, a hydraulic
jack and snake tongs. Prevention over cure, always.
A helicopter’s shadow crosses the yard.
I sweat in cold weather; today even the shade burns.
Ants swarm a dead bat on the gravel.
No keys for these locks, no fire for that place.
Stepping inside, the city welcomes me.
We drain coffers for this grass, and hope for rain.
This morning two deer jumped the east fence while I
updated software. The significance eludes us.
A dream of watermelons rising from their viny beds,
lumbering through the field to the creek. Rebellion!
How many have sat at this desk before me, plotting
murders and rumors or rhymes. Die, mosquito. Die!
“A Herd of Watermelon” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge. Thank you to Plain Jane for sponsoring the poem and providing the title.
Parting from Wang Wei (after Meng Haoran)
These quiet days are ending
and now I must leave.
I miss my home’s fragrant grasses
but will grieve at parting – we’ve
eased each other’s burdens on this road.
True friends are scarce in life.
I should just stay there alone, forever
behind the closed gate.
* * *
“Parting from Wang Wei” is included in my micro-chapbook, No Eye But The Moon’s, available via free download at Origami Poems Project.
The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:
Quiet end what wait
Day day must go return
Wish seek fragrant grass go
Grieve with old friend separated
On road who mutual help
Understanding friend life this scarce
Only should observe solitude
Again close native area door
Prentiss Moore, 1947-1998
I’d been so busy with the bookstore that we’d not been in touch. I always thought we’d have time for that breakfast, for those drinks, for that laughter. I heard about his death only minutes before the memorial gathering was to begin. Stunned, and dressed in my standard bookseller’s uniform of jeans and wrinkled shirt, unshaven, I felt inadequate to the occasion, betrayed, embarrassed. The clear sky pressed uncomfortably close. How dare he die! Why did I not know? The ground shifted underfoot and I walked like a man underwater. I swatted at a buzzing wasp, not caring if it retaliated. And for the first time I realized that I, too, was dying. We all were. We all are. The gathering was lovely, memorable. Friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers spoke. I could not.
I once said that I hoped to become half the poet that Prentiss was. I may finally be approaching that elusive mark, but I’m still angry. How dare he die!
To read one of his most memorable poems, please look here:
And my poem for Prentiss can be found on this blog:
Respite, involuntary and gentle
collar, a touch barely felt, renewed.
Or, the other turns,
belying expression and the halted voice.
The recursive window, closing.
A final poem in blood.
And beyond the glass? The face behind
the indifferent mask
designs its own
smile, risking everything
as the chair’s leg tilts,
inertia become constriction,
the taut lapse begun.
* * *
A fascinating poet, Sergei Yesenin died nearly 90 years ago. You might check out his bio on wikipedia.