You Find a Poem You Wrote Years Ago

It’s like seeing old pictures of yourself

long after the camera’s cold click. You

have a sense of familiarity,

a recognition that you were once there

in that moment, but not of the moment

before, or after. The lines have taken

on depth as their specificity blurred,

the colors clarity fading through time

into generalized gestures, and

you stop short, stunned at your oblivious youth,

the clear lack of fear, the unacknowledged

audacity that spoke with more wisdom

then, than you ever knew you had, and have

since lost like someone waking from a dream.

(October 21, 2021)

Self-Portrait

This is me:

laconically bored

sitting in the stands

watching from above.


This is me:

focused on the moment

tracing a rune

across the killing floor.


This is not a mirror,

a simple reflection,

rather, a dissection,

a slow flay, where


skin peels off

in thin sheets until

only raw red bits

of sin cling to bone.


I am a myriad,

shattered.

I am a scar,

angry and raw.

(October 14, 2021)

Happiness

Happiness

—after Jim Harrison

The wine and whiskey, I am certain,

do not compliment the anti-depressants,

as well as I wish they would; yet, “all this time

counting the mind, counting crows”—

I pour a new glass with a touch of ice

to begin this conversation:

Hell has come to us as a heaven

we will never know, like Sappho’s apple

dangling slightly beyond our fingers

which grasp only at still air.

Where do we go when things fall apart?


In 1978, Buddha’s birthday

was three days after my eighteenth.

I was a crumpled bag of emotion:

my father had died two months earlier;

I was in love (and still am) with the girl

I would marry. I moved, two months later, 

125 miles to the north, leaving my hometown 

forever, yet still trailing all my doubts and fears

behind like crows along a fence line

who caw and flutter, marking

their constant presence with darker eyes.


We think we can escape ourselves,

ignoring the crows flying in and out

between the twisted oaks nearby.

We flee burning madly as we go;

yet, we can only be ourselves,

and, most days, that is not enough

to keep our fears balanced tightly

like circus clowns spinning plates

atop long fragile poles through the night.

(September 15, 2021)

Worry

the darkness festers

into the night, then lingers

through the waking day.

(September 12, 2021)

So Afraid, Always Afraid

“but in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself”

—Albert Camus


Any tremble

through the trees

contrary

to the first

wind, the

next wind,

or no wind:


always afraid,

so afraid

to simply be,

with no

definition,

with no

place to go,


no

walls left to build,

no excuse

left to believe,

no end;

then again,

no end.

(September 12, 2021)

Negation

I’m lucky not to drown,

second by second, as I 

walk down the street—

what with all the lies

and recriminations

I mouth, then swallow,

like a gluttonous beast

devouring itself wholly.

Perhaps it’s fate not luck

which keeps me afloat? But that

requires some god to blame,

and explain the curses directed

daily over rosary beads, like 

mendicants to a self long lost.

(September 5, 2021)

Map a Return Into the Ocean’s Lost Metaphor

There is no causality, no maze

to transcribe into memory,

simply a chance to breathe

near the bottom of the stairs;

and, like a mouth singing 

arias, I crack open the bones

in my chest to find a way

into the warm flesh, to dip

my worn fingers slowly in,

to feel the heart’s contours

define the next last moment,

to map another return into 

the ocean’s lost metaphor.

(August 25, 2021)

Always a Model Nearby

“Props and other disinherited

paraphernalia are never enough.”

—Susan Howe

My hands cradle my face,

covering my dead eyes. 

Worn thin like ragged cloth,

I am tired of my life:

Before sunrise I wake,

slowly move down the stairs,

and start again. Morning 

rituals of coffee

keep the old dramas near,

private. I want to wail,

long howls into the dark.

Instead, I feed the dog,

whose tail wags happily

as she eats her kibble.

(August 9, 2021)

Extant Only in Memory

I bend to pick up a small bit of trash,

and I think of him crossing the room

to pick up a random piece of paper.


For decades now that one small gesture,

a moment of casual insignificance,

is all that remains of an old man’s life.

(July 12, 2021)

We See What We Will

He plods down a street,

head bent, watching 

the ground as if afraid

some detail will be enough

to tumble him into hell.


Every moment’s an edge

as each letter in each

word inscribes the air

cleanly, like a tattoo

cut freshly into skin.

(June 9, 2021)