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I say

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (29)

this is me

these words define

my perception

like skin

.

a vague edge

between

what I hear

and what I say

.

if I peel

apart

the wet layers

I find nothing

.

beyond regret

self-flagellation

embarrassment

psychic decay

.

this is me

a bleeding scab of words

clot across my tongue

like worn rags

(February 20,2020)

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first word last word interrupt

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (27)

if anyone speaks

of anything

she might know

some small bit

that might relate

to her

a childhood memory

the center

of a collapsing star

anything at all

sparks her speech

until it is hers

and she turns and

turns and turns

all to her

as if she were

more

than who she is

and knew more

than

what she was

(February 16, 2020)

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Today’s Lesson

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”

—T.S.Eliot

my students work over the abstract

idea of redemption in three stories

as a preparation for the wasteland

which we will read for the next class

one thousand miles away students

hide as their classmates are killed

and we are told there is nothing

nothing we can do except pray

prayers are useless balms for the dead

and pale recompense for the living

who must clean blood from walls

and mix memory into the earth

devoid of hope near an open door

we are in a hell we have created

(February 14, 2018)

I wrote this two years ago on the day of the Parkland massacre. I think about my students every time there is another school shooting. And there always seems to be another shooting. And still nothing is done. This poem was published by Shantih Journal.

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belied by circumstance

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (25)

walking the beach

before dawn

before the gulls

pierce

their pointed cries

through the waves’

unrelenting crush

I drown

in the wash 

of noise

my thoughts beaten

calm and submissive

I have no voice

among these voices

they are still

lashed into silence

by the cold waves

the sun’s first

motifs float

along the edge

of the sea

slight pinks

and greens

define night’s end

alone on the shore

I know who I am

without interpretation’s

variance to distract

(February 7, 2020)

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contrapuntal

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (24)

in the turn of dawn and dusk’s

vague half-light night becomes

neither herself nor the other

but a transitory beast slavering

wildly ahead or at the heels

of the raging sun

                                    shadows pulse

through me with celestial fire

each rock leaf flower

each grain of sand vibrates

in resonance the textures

of the world

                        I am all I am

and all I am not a conduit

for violent streams which fall

silent into a churning sea

(February 6, 2020)

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constellations

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (23)

starlings turn a double-helix into themselves

their poetry drifts through dark clouds

I murmur my admiration

still stunned after years

of seeing them dance

like calligraphy through silent air

what’s written into our veins

century by century

flows darkly

in a continuous reel

beneath these stars

(February 2, 2020)

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nothing much

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (19)

Cashel, Co. Tipperary

several years ago

for several years

nothing came to entrance me

more specifically

doors entranced me

the emptiness of doors

the simple lack of existence

led me further to rooms

and bowls cups and spoons

it wasn’t the rooms the doors

the bowls cups or spoons

but the pure embedded absence

nothing was useful

nothing was transcendent

the absence the lack the emptiness

(January 25, 2020)

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disambiguation

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (18)

I’ve been here before

floating adrift frightened

the water is cold

a door opens

I walk through an emptiness

to arrive in another

I’ve been here before

this time the people are blue

and the music hasn’t started

a door opens

air rushes in

to fill the space

I don’t want to repeat

but no one is listening

and patterns are seductive

years later

the same song plays

I dance alone

I’ve been here before

a door opens

I step through

there is no dream

there is no metaphor

the wind is silent

(January 23, 2020)

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how poetry asserts itself

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (17)

he alludes to a poem as if others

know what he thinks about before he can

speak which in this case means before he can

think his thoughts being like Rube Goldberg

devices clacking along tripping springs and

traps which propel the odd idea along

tangential routes until finally falling

into its assigned slot and everything

stops and silence expands like waves of water

rippling across the surface of a lake

eventually lapping the far shore

where a small boy plays with a wooden boat

never once thinking about poetry

(January 23, 2020)

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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)

storm surge

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (26)

yet I suppose it could be worse

the tidal pull and push

leaves me stranded

among the dune’s desolation

or drowning beneath the wave’s

cold pulse

                        so I take my meds

for ten years each morning

without fail I perform my Eucharist

without wine or blood or flesh

just chemicals I’m told will save me

from the rising tide

(February 12, 2020)