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gently down the stream

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (49)

our lives changed

around him

the first born

.

that summer he turned one

I read dante and the moderns

for grad school

.

at night I’d rock him singing

row row row your boat

until he’d drift to sleep

.

now he has a child

and that summer

floats away into dream

.

like a mountain river

we happily crossed

splashing in the sun

(April 7 2020)

as if he must explain

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (31)

after dad died

I would wear his shirts

they were too large

for my adolescent body

.

thin wisps of skin 

like spider’s silk

drift in the wind

.

each new mask adhered

to and was shaped by

the one that came before

.

my feet are numb now

as if on fire

.

as the ground slips away

I grasp for space

.

I don’t know how I got here

or where I’m coming from

I’m tired and out of breath

I need to sit down 

.

when asked I don’t know

who I am or where

.

I think of my father

and how he died gasping

for air drowning in phlegm

.

and my collar grows tight

.

(February 24, 2020)

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)

Hansel Grows Old

Bread crumbs were not enough—

insubstantial as memory 

flitting away like sparrows

through the trees. He was lost,

tangled in possibility’s inevitable

collapse; he could not pull past

the brush to a salient interpretation:

where he went, where he was going,

or what language he now spoke.

She had fled years ago,

escaped to the witches who

had forgiven her childhood

sins. She no longer believed

in the lies of her father,

the long walks in the woods

with her brother. She returned

now for some redemption,

only to find him not at home.

(October 25, 2019)

Mother

 

Not from any petulant resentment,

Nor a lack of matriarchal love, but

It does not bother me much now

That mom died a decade ago.

Worry distracted her and kept

Her distant. She wanted me

To be something she wanted

To be, without regard for me.

Her love, no doubt, was sincere,

But was obligated, and entangled

With obligations in return with

A thousand hair-thin lines to untie.

Like rags, I wring my hands, like her;

And wish, like her, I was someone else.

(October 8, 2018)

A Part Apart

A story’s comfort
comes in retelling.
The pattern laid out
like a blue quilt;
each square tightly
stitched to someone
else’s contribution,
someone’s scraps.
It’s taken time
to listen close,
to follow a thread
from knot to knot;
until I, too, am
woven whole.

(July 9, 2016)

Basic Training: a faux fable

                                    “Who do I think I am to decide that she’s wrong?”
–Townes Van Zandt
“Tell me a story; maybe I’ll believe it.”
                                                                        –Iggy Pop
Once one morning in Virginia on the Appalachian Trail,
we stepped out from the dark forest
onto a ledge of rock jutting into the air,
the view across the Shenandoah Valley stunning
enough to almost make one believe in God.
A few feet from the escarpment’s edge,
like a sacrificial gift upon an alter,
a pile of human excrement lay covered
by a few scraps of paper as if with a bow.
Some after partaking in drugs, relate
an experience, a vision if you will, most profound,
transformative even, like a pocket
pulled inside out – – – often comparing
their evening’s chemical experience
to the weeks-long vision quests of some
native American tribes – – after all, this is
the age of convenience – – the quick fix,
even in spiritual matters. So listen close:
Back in my distant youth, almost a man,
during my sophomore year of college,
I often took hallucinogens.  One night,
I sensed I had to use the restroom; so I sat,
and wandered through the bowels of my thoughts.
Among the many lost profundities, I thought
about Elvis who had recently died, and heard
like a voice from heaven, my Aunt Hazel
bending over me fussing about wasting time.
Then I was home somewhere between two
and three years old, screaming for help,
my pants dangling at my feet, screaming
for my mother to save me, to help me
clean up my mess. Aunt Hazel stepped
in, cigarette dangling, grabbed some paper
and roughly got to the bottom of the problem:
You’ve got to take care of yourself,
no one wants to clean up your shit.
(June 29 , 2016)