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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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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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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)

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)

accents shift

from one neighborhood

to the next — one town

over– no more sounds

like yours or your friends

at the corner pub

where even the odd

and unloved fit warmly

at a table in the dark

where the fog follows you

home into a darker wood

until your voice tangles

among incestuous roots

and a knife draws

a line along your throat

at the possibility

of a misunderstanding

(April 22, 2019)