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)

how history begins (136)

maps do not speak 

as vaguely blurred 

vowels along riverbanks 

where second cousins 

two counties removed 

slur to their mates 

nor sift for finer 

details in pap’s 

bourbon tongue 

(April 26, 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)

which simple metaphor shapes my day (104)

a different time with new shadows

wraps the light in different patterns

more random more abstract less fragile

less likely to crack like a beetle’s

carapace beneath my careless boots


I roam between my vacant days

then disappear easier than I thought

between quick ire and old resentments

like broken branches slip easily

with the river’s froth across smooth rocks


despite all the engrained justifications

despite the comprised and contradictory

narratives despite the feral rage

I am who I am stripped of language

laid down since birth like shrouds

(January 15, 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

high mountain lake (99)

“where absent-minded prophets come to drown”

—Benjamin Peret

near the water’s edge he sat

as if waiting for something

momentous to occur


although the sun shimmered

brightly across the water

the mountain air was cold


for a moment he sensed someone

watching from the trees

he turned but nothing waited there


far away his life changed

as he watched the light

dance along the water’s surface


he swam out slowly

to the middle of the lake

and sank into the dark


(December 3, 2020)

you forget yourself (97)

“interwoven by the tragic spiders of the present”

Ingeborg Bachman





I am not 

who i was

nor who I will be

I am only 

who I am

nothing 

and no one

nothing more 

than anyone





memory lies 

laughing

like autumn leaves 

feed

the ground 

from which spring

emerges 

knowing 

only itself

Thanksgiving

When my mother died,

I did not get another—

one being 

more than enough

for a lifetime.

(November 20, 2020)

there is no life outside of this

this body holds no answers

other than its own


I listen to its stories

all the iterations

the looped variations


as if razors inscribe each word

labyrinths within labyrinths

a slow-cut scratch through skin

to bleed heal and cut again


until what is true

what is believed

what is said

intermingle


their incestuous scars

like runes carved

across cave walls


and I have nowhere to go

and nothing left to say

(September 9, 2020)

allegory

from a work-in-progress: process, not a journey (39)

each day the shadow

fluctuates

each day

I cover my face

from fear

of the shadow

from anger

from humiliation

that no one sees

rising and falling

with accusations

to be some other

as candle flames

flicker a wall

(March 12, 2020)