On Air Conditioning
The man who owns everything wants more.
Another offers his sandwich,
accepting grace with a smile.
Like vapor condensing in a coil
to remove heat from the air.
Difficult to comprehend.
Harder to live.
In the past few months I’ve been fortunate to have work included in two anthologies. The first, Indie Blu(e) Publishing’s As the World Burns: Writers and Artists Reflect on a World Gone Mad, is a 348-page “anthology of poetry, prose, essay, and art inspired by the unprecedented events of the year 2020.” Featuring 114 writers and artists from ten countries, As the World Burns chronicles the madness and horrors of the past year. The voices are diverse — raw and polished, young and old, experienced and new — and they reflect a populace whose needs have been unmet and ignored all too long. In time this volume will stand as one of the most powerful literary artifacts of this mad year.
Edited by Kindra M. Austin, Candice Louisa Daquin, Rachel Finch, and Christine E. Ray.
Available through Amazon in paperback and via Kindle.
Unlike As the World Burns, No More Can Fit Into the Evening: An Anthology of Diverse Voices is not a collection of themed pieces. Rather, its purpose is to offer a substantial grouping of poems (5-10) by each contributor, allowing readers to obtain a more nuanced flavoring of the poets’ work. Thus the 350+ page anthology presents only 39 poets. The anthology includes well known writers like Terence Winch, Kimberly Blaeser, James Janko and John Looker, as well as lesser knowns like, well, me. This is a perfect winter’s evening read. Dip into it and perhaps you’ll find a new favorite poet. At the very least you’ll find hours of entertainment, and much food for thought.
Edited by Thomas Davis and Standing Feather
The book is being distributed by Ingram, and should be available (if not in stock, through special order) through bookstores in the U.S., Great Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It’s also available through Amazon.
(Hotel Eden) In Full Light We Are Not Even a Shadow
Which is to say clarity persists in
increments, in the silent space between
color and lens, within parables seen
in the incomplete: straw, hand. Imagine
white valued more than manner as hidden
thought remains obscured. Lower your eyes, lean
forward. Perspectives tilt towards the mean,
suggesting purpose. When we examine
intent, do we find it? The irony
of bottled cork, of sullied paradise,
a coiled wire, the parrot whose voice,
unheard, implicates us. What felony
must we commit to admit the device
in play? Pull or release? The mimic’s choice.
* * *
Notes: “In full light we are not even a shadow” is a line from Antonio Porchia’s Voices.
Hotel Eden is the title of a piece of art by Joseph Cornell. An image may be found here:
This made its first appearance here in March 2015.
like the end of a long
dream flickering to wakefulness,
or an origami crane
unfolding between whiskey
poured and the tale of deceit
and a good woman done wrong.
Air flutters through this bamboo
tube, and it seems I control
nothing. Inhaling, I try again.
A simple instrument that will take a lifetime to learn…
With Guitar in Hand
With guitar in hand I observe the green beetles bumbling about,
the way they careen and crash and flail aimlessly, but to a purpose.
Sometimes I attempt one note, only to strike another, or plucking
three strings simultaneously, focus on the discordant one,
which is, of course, me. How do we live the right song?
Which casual arrangement sends us plummeting to the grass,
hearts racing? I recall thinking “this cannot be,” yet could not,
would not, turn away. I bang out a minor seventh, sing a few
words, adjust my arthritic grip. Yesterday I couldn’t form
the chord shapes I desired. Today the hands float along the
fretboard, unimpeded. I wish you were here. I wish
I could shift time signatures with neurotransmissions,
that we were somewhere else, out of the way, alone
but for birds chirping in the branches by the window.
I wish my flawed tunes could merge with moonlight
and compose pearlescent pieces, and that you would
sing them to me from the threshold of our shared lives. I want
everything, but cherish what we can hold in these wondrous
times. I think of your hair and eyes, how my heart
flutters to the floor and refuses to rise until your smile
unwraps the day’s gift to me, defying Newton’s third law,
offering unheard chords. I listen to your silences, as I do
your words, knowing the value of each. Gazing at your
photo, I speak your name, set down the guitar. Make music.
“With Guitar in Hand” was originally published in the print anthology Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love in February 2019.
Forced By This Title to Write a Poem in Third Person About Himself, the Poet Considers the Phenomena of Standing Waves, Dreams Involving Long-Lost Cats (Even If He Has Not Had Such a Dream Himself), And the Amazing Durability of Various Forms of Weakness
Five White cat always made sure no rats gnawed my books.
— Mei Yao-ch’en
His brain is squirming like a toad.
— Jim Morrison
Standing by the water, the poet wonders if,
as in this dream, his dead dog and Five White
might seize the separate ends of a rope and blend
their tugs, matching highs and lows, growls and purrs,
with near stillness, dawn to dusk and back again,
always equal, sharing through death their love
of work and honor. He throws a small branch
and asks the dog’s ghost to fetch, but it remains
at his side, as if reluctant to leave. How to release
what you no longer hold? Shadows disappear in direct
light, but always return at its departure. The
raindrop remains intact through its long plummet.
Words, though unspoken, hang like lofted kites
awaiting a new wind, a separate rhythm,
beyond compassion. He cannot hear it
but joins his dog in singing. The cat yowls along.
This piece first appeared in deLuge in fall 2016, and was drafted during the August 2015 30-30 challenge. Thanks to Jeff Schwaner for providing the title (which I edited for publication).
Letter from Insomnia
Accepting Li Po’s tragedy,
apocryphal or not,
we embrace her imperfect
rippling in the breeze,
but manage to surface.
I once thought I would name a child Luna
and she would glow at night
and like Hendrix, kiss the sky.
But that was whimsy
and only candles light this room
at this hour
on this particular day
in this year of the snake.
And what fool would reach for a stone orbiting at
1,023 meters per second?
There are clouds to consider, the stars
and the scattering rain
and of course wine
and the possibilities within each glass
and the drops therein.
We must discuss these matters
under her gaze, where smallness gathers.
* * *
This originally appeared in Middle Gray in October, 2013. It was written in response to a poem my friend Michael sent me, replying to this poem.
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.
Music: “Senbazuru” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License