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even now I hear them (a reading)

even now I hear them

from a work in progress: process, not a journey (72)

“Sea, I am like you, filled with broken voices”

—Guillaume Apollinaire

insistent demanding attention

soft whispers curl at my feet

like cats they claw at me

with their sharp reminders

lightly pulling at my skin

until the ground is awash

in the blood of memory

and then slightly below the surface

small phrases embedded in dead

conversations rise like tattered faces

from the sea to mouth their silent

vowels like fish dying in the sand

until the raw scraps of language

in which I am tangled 

are cast out in a storm surge

far out among the dark waves

and I drown choking 

with nothing to say

(July 6, 2020)

A Disappointing Session at the English Teacher Conference

I am here

I am here abuzz on coffee

I am impatient with the speaker who is reading her power points to us

I am a reader, as is everyone in this room

this is an English teacher conference after all

the power point is structured like an academic research article

I only know this because once

I was, or wanted to be, an academic

I am a teacher

I understand research and its power

I want my students to feel this power

The presenter has stopped reading her power point

a student of the presenter has stood to witness

he was successful, he feels transformed

so he is transformed

another student stands to witness

she too was successful-

and transformed-

Bless Us Jesus-

which no one said, but they could have

or did say without being religious

or calling on Jesus

this presentation is a sales job

not just for the class on research

but for the presenter’s new book on research—

your students can feel this way too

BUY my BOOK

I’ve had too much coffee

and leave to find a restroom

(December 6, 2019)

I’m Not Looking for a Saint

When I read a poem, the voice

of another being is enough.

Someone extant in the world

who for this moment speaks,

resonant with each leaf,

with each burgeoning flower.

I do not expect epiphany

to fall from Spring’s mouth

for that would not be true;

truth grows in retrospect,

a mirror to distort the past

reshaped to an image more divine.

All gods are just us

without desire for more.

(November 7,2019)

reader response theory

he dreamed he could read
her like a difficult text
could part the oblique veils
draped about her words
slowly and with care run his
fingers along the edge of her
lines beneath the skin of her
story opening her tale teasing
fine points hidden from others
massaging the tips of her phrases
until she would unfold her meaning
meant for him alone to mouth
rolling each syllable like grapes
succulent and ripe with love
(June 30, 2013)

Tell Me a Story

because reading declines
because pages are lost
because people talk
(stories remain simple
loss love honor truth
the enemy always evil
inside outside
the enemy always evil
hearts are campfire sparks
minds flow towards stars
the moon’s lost in clouds
devoured by darker wolves  
the circle pulls tighter
a drum taps song into dance 
its skin tight like consonants
chromosomes blaze Van Gogh’s eye
as stickmen chant innate rhymes
a line forms like dust on air)
touch hands and speak


(circa 1990-1994, from If This is a Comedy, They Why Aren’t We Laughing)

Dream Journal #6: A Nightmare Vision

Amid the life of the dream
I awoke into the dark
of a post-apocalyptic world
where knowing how to read
especially hearing
toward the voice
inside of written words
was dangerous
too much ability
to hear meaning
and thus determine
lines of control
accounted dangerous
the old stereotype
of people with glasses
as bookworms, intellectuals
and always suspect
prevailed
glasses were confiscated
and destroyed
as instruments
of sedition
the commander of the camp
I woke into
brandished his diploma
during my interrogation
he had me read it out loud
then made me stop abruptly
at “all the rights and privileges
thereto appertaining”
and show him where
as if it were a test
to see
if I could tell
but I suspected
from his tone
that he did not know
how to read beyond
sounding out letters
like a mariner
sounding out the depths
of an unknown sea
 causing the fear
to rise up through him
wrapping its tentacles
about my heart
and I woke
into this dream
and like the imprint
of fossilized shells
left in limestone
centuries ago
along the bottom of the sea
the textures of the night
remain
as I move about this room
teaching children
to read and write
afraid for us all
that they cannot
(April 2013)