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amorphous

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (14)

forgetting the pattern of fear

and doubt tangled about me

I fall out of sleep and remember

what parts of myself I need

to continue some resemblance

of the day the inessential shades

my ghosts as darkly as the essential

each shifts its position evasively

when questioned like a cat

slips through shadow and grass

(January 21, 2020)

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the future was a threat

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (12)

in school we were always on the move

field trips to museums to math class

with Mr. Buesing to middle school

to high school to college the future

was a threat brandished like a whip

by degrees our world turned

then it stopped and I stumbled

and found myself here in the mud

like a body dropped from the door

of a passing car

(January 18, 2020)

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Squirrel

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (11)

she skitters part way

into the empty street

stops stutter steps

grasps the road

trying not to fall off

then leaps back

unsure what’s next

*

I rarely know

finding myself

now as if

it made sense

yet knowing I’m wrong

*

I turn

without reason

as a car

crushes past

(January 16, 2020)

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with options of desire and defeat

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (8)

I don’t want

to be a salmon struggling

upstream to spawn and die

exhausted and decayed

nor

to be swept downstream

with broken branches and silt

into a churning sea

I want to be

a catfish

calm and content

deep within a silent pool

(January 12, 2020)

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metaphor’s logic is like you know

from an untitled serial poem (4)

yet you know

we are alone

together

only in our common

solitude

I assume you are

like me a simile

if you will 

like

an understandable analogy

a cat is to a dog

as a rabbit is

to a stellar singularity

I fear the wind

in my fur

is a tell a fox is near

a trap is set to drop

I am aware 

because somewhere

some other thought

and told some other

who eventually

inscribed the pattern

along a random strand

like now

(January 6, 2020)

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the illusion of narrative fragments

from an untitled serial poem (3)

and nothing specific is ever learned

it’s more a pervasive atmosphere

an inescapable context which traps

us in a web woven and rewoven

moment by moment knitted from our flesh

and residue left from this dark frenzy

*

daily we fall deeper into the tale

yet there is no white rabbit to follow

only desire to ride us like harpies

the news the neighbors our friends all screaming

into a discontent none can escape

nor explain enough to be forgiven

*

as if there could be a strong enough god

to save us from our own stupidity

(January 5, 2020)

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Fairy Tale Endings

from an untitled serial poem (2)

tufts of dark fur

scraps of red cloth

broken glasses pools

of wine the remnants

of someone’s meal

are splashed across

the cottage like blood

on a butcher’s apron

she is not here

neither is he

one fled

one’s dead

birds hop and sing

on the window sill

a family of rabbits

nibble grass

along the path

the door lies shattered

on the ground

dry splinters of wood

punctuate the grass

with unvoiced cliches

(January 3, 2020)

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Start the Way You Intend to Go

from “an untitled serial poem”

grey and cold all day

the year begins again

cedar pollen drifts wildly

I can feel the shredded bark

deeply behind my eyes

trying to cut a way out

I’m not surprised but fear

all that has changed enough

to become a normal day

as wolves claw and slaver

at the door

(January 2, 2020)

note: I am starting a series of 140 poems, the length of each poem will be a set number of syllables determined by a random number generator. each poem/stanza will organically arise from the previous poem/stanza in the series in the manner of a renga without following the traditional renga’s syllable parameters. Additionally there is another requirement put upon every tenth poem/stanza in the series which will connect it to another “ten” poem/stanza following abstractly the traditional rhyme pattern of a Shakespearian sonnet. This is the second time I have written a longer poem following this self-imposed system. The first was called “Sonnet: a rengaThis is the beginning poem/stanza of the new series.

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Mistranslations

My past imperfections intercede

to lay claim to what I can see.

The air between thickens in time

like delirious veils in the wind.

Each word she spoke I heard

as if her fingers on my arm

traced a secret in braille

I was too blind to read.

*

Now too tired to transform time,

I watch myself as if dead;

the chill pushes through my flesh,

like a rat gnawing in the wall.

Time’s translations fill my silence

with the words neither of us spoke.

(December, 20, 2019)

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Dispersion

When we scattered mother,

the ash swirled about me

like a cape. I breathed her

in, then spit out what 

I could into the winter grass.

Metaphor’s bitter aftertaste

lingered between my teeth

for years. Now, left with

a handful of ash to toss

to the wind, I resist this

final gesture, and begin

again. Life’s easy without

thought, or a nearby pattern

to hold one together, despite

death’s constant push to contain 

the living who remain.

(December 12, 2019)

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Lightning Ignites the Core of a Tree

All around him, the forest burns,

uncontrolled, beautiful.

The warmth reassures him

with its certainty.

His fingers burn; the flesh

chars as on a spit.

He turns, searching;

but she is gone, if ever

she were truly there.

He stands alone,

arms outstretched.

Flames leap through the trees;

smoke swallows the sky.

(December 10, 2019)

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Simple Enchantments of the Young

The cracks proved the power

of words. Such spells cast

across the fissures formed

fears of a painful death.

Who would be willing to test

this hypothesis on one so dear?

Her survival, by correlation,

confirmed the childish chant.

She lived. Not writhing on

the floor, vertebrae shattered,

just oblivious to your heroic

leaping, like a hopscotch knight,

from slab to concrete slab

to save your one true love.

(December 5, 2019)

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Haunted

The ghosts have returned home

slipping between the day

to day conversations

holding our silences

in locked yellow boxes

without a trace of air

.

I would say I’m happy

to most circumstances

with my small discontents

not sad enough to search

for bits of joy scattered

across a field like grain

weeks after the harvest

was gleaned by dark sparrows.

(November 30, 2019)

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Sunday Morning

In downtown Baltimore

Years after he died

Lou Reed sings from the sound system

Of this corporate hotel lobby.

This is funnier

Than it should be.

I am almost sixty years old,

Attending an English teacher convention.

Back in Austin, hours later,

I casually toss herbs into the mortar,

And without thought, begin to grind:

“I don’t want to know…

All the streets you’ve crossed

Not so long ago”

(November 24, 2019)

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Preserve

Like remnant threads

lifted from the floor,

I collect shreds of shadows

from my heart. Then later,

when the room’s dark,

and the nights grow long,

I pack them tightly in a jar

and place them on a shelf.

Some nights, I’ll rise from

sleep into the dark, and sneak

a slice of one from a jar;

And in an ecstatic occlusion

to shroud what I’ve become,

I dance bodly beneath the moon.

(November 22, 2019)

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Lessen

I read with difficulty,

poets I once admired,

not seeing anymore

the simplicity I once saw.

I worry stones smooth

between my fingers,

as if patterns emerge

through a force of will.

There must be something

more than what is here.

Certainties tremble, then

fall like ash into dust.

I’ve come to know less

than I have ever known.

(November 8, 2019)

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I’m Not Looking for a Saint

When I read a poem, the voice

of another being is enough.

Someone extant in the world

who for this moment speaks,

resonant with each leaf,

with each burgeoning flower.

I do not expect epiphany

to fall from Spring’s mouth

for that would not be true;

truth grows in retrospect,

a mirror to distort the past

reshaped to an image more divine.

All gods are just us

without desire for more.

(November 7,2019)

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The FrogPrince Without Standing

He sat by his pond content

with the depth of his longing.

Then one day, she dropped in

laughing her way into his dream.

He thought he heard a splash,

and a glimmer near the bottom.

She played along the pond’s edge,

waiting for what he might bring.

When he returned to the surface,

the forest was dark and she was gone.

The castle was so far away—

and it was just a toy after all.

He sat by his pond discontented

with the depth of his longing.

(November 4, 2019)

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A Haiku a day for a Month

A little more than a month ago, one of my work mates proposed that she, a math teacher, and myself write a haiku a day for a month. After 37 haikus (I wrote more than one some days), I am going to stop the exercise. I think that my fellow English teacher proposed the undertaking in order to make her write everyday. I do this already, so it did not motivate me to write. I did find it a calming activity most days: a time to stop and think about what was in front of me either physically, mentally, or spiritually. However, it also deflected my attention away from other poems I had been working on. Usually I post about 15 or so poems a month (sometimes even pushing to 20). In October, because of the haiku event, I posted 38 new poems. I like haiku, and like writing them. Usually I make up parameters for my writing in an arbitrary and random manner. During the exercise, I used the traditional 5-7-5 syllable count, although I have in the past ignored that stricture focusing more on the brief flash of attention than on a numbers game. Figuring the syllable count is more of a guideline than a law. I don’t plan on giving haiku up; I’m just not going to sit down each day to write one. I have always written in small snatches of time, never having the leisure to write for extended lengths during the day. So, haiku, and imagism, lend themselves well to going from start to finish in the brief time I have to write. However, I also like spending time in my head as I go through the day, thinking about a longer piece. Therefore, as I stated at the beginning of this ramble, I am going to end my participation in the project. Thanks to all of you who read and liked the work I have posted over the last month.

(October 31, 2019)

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Hansel Grows Old

Bread crumbs were not enough—

insubstantial as memory 

flitting away like sparrows

through the trees. He was lost,

tangled in possibility’s inevitable

collapse; he could not pull past

the brush to a salient interpretation:

where he went, where he was going,

or what language he now spoke.

She had fled years ago,

escaped to the witches who

had forgiven her childhood

sins. She no longer believed

in the lies of her father,

the long walks in the woods

with her brother. She returned

now for some redemption,

only to find him not at home.

(October 25, 2019)

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always transitional

this is the moment

we find ourselves

ignorant and lost

hung upon a cusp

another idea

malformed and old

gnaws open bones

to lick our marrow

with trees being trees

we do not notice

the iron sentinels

stolid as chessman

they seem to say—

do not pass

we’re surrounded

yet we are in love

(October 25, 2019)