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Prey

Since I am 

no snake

sloughing skin,

I hide my scars 

in an imagined other.

Not the obvious,

oblivious sheep,

but one more wary,

who waits

along the edge

knowing fear,

knowing

like rabbits:

one step left,

one step right,

without calculation,

equals death;

and any

volition ends

with a quick flutter

of feathers,

and the talon’s

sharp pang

lifting one

toward heaven

like a song.

(October 1, 2019)

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This Day Today

“same as it ever was”

                        David Byrne

Less time waits ahead

than has been left behind.

I enter the last third

of my life as if entering

a room in a familiar

house. Lasts will out pace

firsts, until the last breath

sighs into the stale air,

the last heart beat falters

to finish the room’s silence

like the last furtive shadows

flee an early morning sun.

Still, this day is my day,

until it is not, and I move on.

(September 30, 2019)

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Dream Journal #36: Vague and Unconsummated

We were lost in the city, a post-apocalyptic Disneyland, searching for a car. We had driven to town for a birthday party.  Her birthday, a blue car. My hair was long and tousled, like it was in my thirties, not like now. The party had been in a building, like a school, but under construction, or in decay. There was a moment when we had kissed, or when she had kissed me, or almost kissed, which kept playing back in my head. Why had I turned away? Several times we passed a house which was being gutted. A large tree, like a live oak, had grown throughout the house’s framework. She clambered up the tree, to reach the second floor of the house. A large bare-chested man with a handle-bar mustache and tattoos, like a circus strongman from the 1890’s, came out and tried to sell us the house for 340,000 dollars. He said the house was only two stories, although it looked like four. We left to find the car. This went on for hours, or minutes. We would split up, return together again, push the car’s door lock key hoping to see lights flash. When we had left it for the party, the car was the only one on the street, now in the early morning light, the streets were crowded. It started to rain. A man running a uniform store overheard us talking about the house and said that we might as well buy a noose right now if we were going to buy that house. He started to tell us a story, but his assistant interrupted to show us a chef’s hat like they used to wear at diner’s or fast food restaurants, like Burger Chef in the late 60’s. Near the shore fisherman were unloading their catch from big nets. Along with the assorted fish, body parts, like arms and legs, stuck casually from the nets. She kissed me again, or tried to kiss me again, or was that the same kiss? Why did I turn away? At the party, a poet we both liked was reading her poems. No one was listening. Since the floor was being redone, broken tiles were strewn about like crackers. She looked around the crowd and wondered if there would be anyone we knew there. People I had known from work, or school, whom I had never socialized with talked together in small disconnected groups. Everyone seemed uncomfortable, and for some reason that was my responsibility. My brother-in-law, Jim, stood in the corner whispering judgmental comments, and combing his mustache. I left, but could still see them as if through a glass store front window display. The streets were empty and slick with rain. The blue car was nearby, but we had somewhere else to go. Home? An apartment? It was a white building, near where she had kissed me, or tried to kiss me. Why did I turn away? She followed me to my hotel room, commenting on the large leather chair and the open curtains as she entered. When I stepped out for a moment, she started to write a note on a pad next to the bed. She stopped and said it did not matter, when I came back into the room, interrupting her process. She said the room was over-priced. We left to find her friend and have a drink. It was emblematic somehow of the whole affair, unconsummated and vague.

(September 20-23, 2019)

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An Early Spring Day in Paris, 1984

The Seine flows

endlessly

around us.

We sit on the tip

of the Ile de la Cite

as if on a boat’s bow,

sailing up the river.

The sun shines,

like a promise,

after days of cold rain.

We drink a decent Bordeaux,

eat fresh pate smeared

across chunks of ubiquitous baguette.

Notre Dame looms

darkly behind

in its medieval bulk.

We are in love, as we

are still forty years later.

Nearby,

above a former morgue,

is a memorial

to the two hundred thousand martyrs

handed over to the Nazis by the Vichy

for deportation to the camps

forty years before we sat happily

oblivious to all but the beauty

of that one Parisian afternoon.

(September 19, 2019)

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Memory’s Constraints

“the fog solidifies among us”

            –Tristan Tzara

As a dark spider webs

her partly-poisoned prey,

he shapes another wall

around another day.

Beneath his crippled hands

a mausoleum soars

to contain all his fears

in tightly patterned rows.

Each dawn descends to dusk,

as dusk ascends to day.

How one can thus escape,

he cannot aptly say.

Most days are forgotten,

Lost in this clotted fog.

(September 16, 2019)

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Interrupted While Reading in Public

A nothing—

you suppose

and assume

too much

upon others:

as if your presence,

and proximit,y

are enough,

you claim space

upon our attention.

You who speaks

a flurry

of flatulence—

Who are you

to say we’re rude?

Like pebbles,

you throw words

to blind,

mock,

and silence.

At best, 

you are a gnat

flitting between

this book

and the table.

(September 16, 2019)

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Pompeii

Always nearby, Fear hangs back

floating like the hint of smoke

on the horizon. The city lies

in that direction. Home lies

in that direction. We are not

going back again. Still, it comes.

Its tongue insinuates the air; soft

words clot our ears with ice.

This is the time which we live in:

slow lumbering ideas, empty and angry,

tumble through the streets like rocks

tossed by giants from mountain tops.

No one notices the viscous fire

burning the flesh from our bones.

(September 4, 2019)

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We are the Light

“It’s up to poets to revive the gods.”

                        —-Jim Harrison

There are no more gods

to conjure our hope

against this darkness,

no soft rituals

filled with smoke and fire

to sate writhing snakes.

We must shape the dark

to find ourselves

a space to live,

protected from rain

and heat, a space

to sleep and be reborn.

We alone must be

the wood and spark.

(August 29,2019)

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Flux

“the warmth spun by the word

around its center the dream called ourselves”

                        –Tristan Tzara

He steps into seams

to sow a discord,

so as to unravel

that which cannot

be patched with 

threaded needles.

Like veins feed

extremities of flesh,

roots rip into earth

in increments

turning aside the grain

as one would wade

through water, searching.

He knows this as himself:

with walls, without walls,

doors opened, doors closed,

or no doors at all.

He stands within a room.

He confines himself

to his consigned spaces.

His hands rarely held high

in an ecstatic dance, but

tucked tightly together

holding himself wholly.

What walls wait for

him to stand before

dissolve in streams 

winding their way

toward a dead sea.

So it flows, again,

emergent, never 

itself, each moment

becomes the next

excuse for love,

the next consequence

to be sorted

like bits of broken glass

for a new mosaic

scattered across a table.

(August 28, 2019)

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As He Peered over his Glasses

She spoke without preface,

as if sh knew him:

each sentence a non-sequitar

even to itself; no beginning

no end, no predicate

to bend into an open heart.

Askew to his position,

she formed a fulcrum

with no place to stand

like surf far out to sea

crashing against itself.

Until in a froth of inaction,

he drowned, swallowing his words,

as if they mattered.

(August 21, 2019)

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In the Blood

The lie of my truth

visors the angle

of my descent.

I have no face,

but reflection,

a mirror

to lace assumption’s

discordance.

My flesh contains

shattered selves—

a prismatic array,

where each shard

bends an image

of itself into another.

This truth lies

along an edge

of broken glass;

it slices the air

with ribbons of light,

like tall grass

cuts children’s legs

as they flee through

the last summer fields.

(August 15, 2019)

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Almost

I received a rejection email from a lit magazine for a set of poems this morning. It was the standard, “does not fit our needs at this time” rejection. However, the magazine also told me that my poems made it to the final round of selections, before being rejected, and I should feel free (with a small reading fee) to submit more of my work in the future. It was as if I was told that my poems were almost good enough. But not being a hand grenade, nor a game of horseshoes.. almost is almost an insult. I know that it was supposed to be read as a compliment: my poetry was better than the outright rejections, yet still was found lacking. I laughed; It was funny. I am not bothered by rejection letters. They are just part of the game of submissions. A couple of years ago, I received a rejection from a magazine that had previously published a couple of my poems. In the rejection letter, the editor, I imagine in an attempt to be helpful, commented on what I could do to improve my writing, citing both positive and negative examples. I found this more troubling than the almost-good-enough rejection. The commentary was the sort one gets in undergraduate writing workshops. In other words, not really useful, or germane to what I was doing in the poem. I did not ask for feedback; I have been doing this awhile, I know what I am doing. I feel that if you did not select my writing for your publication, a simple polite no is good enough. I do not have to see your reasoning. I do not think, in the stereotypical manner, that the publisher did not “get” my writing. I just figure as the statement in most rejections pronounces: they do not fit, or they are not what we are looking for at this time. Or it is not the type/style of poetry the editor likes.  I write what I write. I stopped a long time ago trying to write what I think some specific magazine, or editor will like. I don’t need a gold star, or the affirmation of someone else.  I send out my work, because I would like it to be read; but, not to the degree that I will change the way I write. I am not trying to be arrogant, in fact, I see it more as humility.  I write my poems, and they are poems, not experiments, or assignments. If you don’t care for my style, or what I say, that is okay. If you do like what I wrote: cool. I send my writing out sporadically. Normally, I will send out to several magazines at the same time. Not simultaneous submissions, for I write all the time and have a large backlog of poems. After my flurry of submissions, I continue writing; I forget who I sent poems to, then they slowly come back to me with rejections, and the occasional acceptance, which is always a thrill. I have never been one to see POETRY as a career, where I have to get published all the time, in all the BEST magazines. I don’t think one can be a professional poet.  I do take poetry seriously: I read it all the time, I write it all the time. I even teach poetry, and conduct poetry workshops with my students.  I send some out every now and then. Some get rejected; some get accepted. 

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Beneath an Unrelenting Sun

“knowing less than drugged beasts”

–Ezra Pound, Canto XLVII

As we cower

beneath an array of bullets,

there is no forgiveness

for not knowing

the shades within shades

of evil. Yet, in this land

without shade, neither knowing

nothing, nor how to sail, nor

to have a sea to set forth upon,

even if a boat were here

in this desolate land

of sated men, and drugged beasts:

knowing nothing is cherished

as a privileged pleasure;

and so, I raise my voice

without delay, and sing

as if I could sow with my voice

in the cracked earth

some salvation from the sun.

(August 8, 2019)

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Light Erases Shadow

The sun sits still, yet moves

perpetually to a new horizon,

a new dawn; this world

moves with us, always here.

Inevitably, moment to moment,

color extracts from shadow,

as morning, refuses definition,

and pushes back night’s advances.

A prismatic god unfolds

around us as you speak; words

divide to nuance and variant, 

until blinded, we turn away.

Too much light erases shadow;

we’re defined by what we are not.

(August 4, 2019)

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Agoraphobia

Outside,

the trees and bushes seem

to vibrate in the bright heat;

as if any moment, they’ll collapse

into their own shade, exhausted.

*

Inside,

they are framed in the window.

I watch them from across the room

from the chair I’m sitting in.

I am cold in the conditioned air.

*

August

has begun. Soon, I’ll be back

at work, teaching my students

to find meaning in the mundane

details which often overwhelm us.

(August 3, 2019)

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Patchwork

I find a narrative,

as I age, hard

to patch together.

I cannot mend

all that I have

rendered, all

I have misplaced

in anger, and neglect.

I have no prologue

to explain succinctly

each switchback

I have turned along.

It’s easier to see

a moment without a past;

easier to mind the flower

as a petal first falls.

What scars I have

are well hid; no

stars to weave

a pattern in the sky.

(July 31, 2019)