Set and Setting

“till we turn to see 

who you were, who you are, everpresent, vivid 

luminous dust” 

            -Denise Levertov 

Like wolves feeding on a fresh kill 

steaming in the snow, each dead second 

is pulled apart. No matter the effort, 

time disallows the past to continue 

fully formed. The future devours us 

leaving little tufts of fur and bone bits 

to decorate our current troubled paths 

and explain away our broken sorrows. 

I am hungry for something I don’t know, 

a freedom from imposed obligations, 

an escape to a place I am not known. 

Yet, where I am, and who I’ve been tangle 

like the strings of old puppets in a crate, 

waiting for someone to haul them away. 

(September 28, 2021) 

Campfire Story

A nostalgic old man,

whose whispers adhere

to the flames’ tongue,

tells his one story again.


You are charmed.

So the chains slip

into your veins,

your heart, your lungs.


The air thickens your breath,

until every song you hear

is the only song you hear,

then you can no longer dance.


And the fire burns down,

for nothing’s left to say.

(August 6, 2021)

Each Moment Re-inscribes the Present (123)

like the good china handled

with delicate hands as if

the people pictured could be

shaken from the scene and lost

they are only brought out on holidays

or as we gather to bury the dead

who were the ones who knew them all

these photographs that stepped from context

as soon as the shutter snapped

the aunts uncles cousins friends pictured

within a tangled patchwork of memory

at their own holidays their own funerals

look back at us with our familiar eyes

wanting to know who we are what we’ve become

(February 25, 2021)

as in fields of broken stone (109)

all the ropes and chains

and puppet strings

knotted about

our brittle bones

like love turn us

toward a hell

we’ve compensated for 

for years and years

where we coo and flutter

like lonesome doves

*
this is where i am this

is where you are this

is where i need to be

no where else but here

where i followed

continuity’s remains

like snails’ wet traces

through damp vegetal rot

where i find the eyes of the dead

laid on a cold plate

watching the mendicants

offer olives and oil

to a god

who cannot be bothered

to laugh

(January 25, 2021)

shadows near shadows far away (103)

as if trapped in a net of shadow

afternoon light through the window

struggles on the opposite wall 

to form a coherent pattern where

a difference may be discerned

between shadows near and far away


outside the oak and elm stand mute

allowing the air to whisper for them

allowing easy cliches to answer

decades of hardened blood

to answer questions never asked

to form opinions from shadow

as old palimpsests below the scars

re-inscribe the day hour by hour

Thanksgiving

When my mother died,

I did not get another—

one being 

more than enough

for a lifetime.

(November 20, 2020)

parenthesis (95)

with an accent slightly different

than any dialect spoken here

 a hole opens around us like an amoeba

and we are contained within 

an other’s misinterpretation

as if we were not a part

of the conversation like a rock

is not a part of the river

which erases incrementally

shaping the rock as it surges past

oblivious like memory to the change

as each remembrance rises

to take dominion everywhere

if only for the moment it takes

to speak and then to unhear

all the patterns which brought us here

(November 19, 2020)

drifting homeward (89)

dropping soft scraps of light

like rose petals on the floor

the moon threads her way

between the bare branches


purpose requires ambition

which the moon lacks other

than its spiral descent

toward a predestined end


where is the metaphor

who holds reins so slack

trusting the horse’s nature

to find a slow way back

(October 29, 2020)

heal thyself (87)

all I have are dull words

to bludgeon my tongue

into submission

but if i strop the blade

the leather’s length

until the edge gleams

as with sliced ribbons of light

then I might excise

the shadows from my heart

without a trace of blood

to mark my disillusions

(October 27, 2020)

who tells the tale

from a work in progress: process, not a journey (65)

she speaks of her self

and all that entails

.

your memory is not hers

less so than those daffodils

.

shut up and listen

(June 19, 2020)