No Partitions

Beneath the bed, I hide

my sack of broken secrets.

They leak into my dreams

like drops of rain sift slowly

through limestone to form

deeper pools, darker caves.

I wake to put them on again

still damp, clinging to my skin.

Through the day, they etch

their strangled blue runes

onto my hollow bones

with a cold acid. I become

a flute to my fears, a crescendo

of trills like dying birds.

(October 8, 2021)

Dad at Work Repairing Antique Furniture

There was always a way; a way he knew

to map an idea out of the landscape

lying before him like an unfinished 

puzzle; some way to reshape creation

with a simple jig. His mind danced about

the problem, as he rose and sat, sat and 

rose to walk across the yard cursing his 

thoughts for not seeing it: so simple, so

obvious. He’d lumber back to the bench,

pick up the pieces of wood and begin

to cast the abstract into the concrete.

Beneath his broken hands, he would divine 

a new pattern from the pattern inscribed 

in the broken palimpsest of the wood.

(September 26, 2021)

Happiness

Happiness

—after Jim Harrison

The wine and whiskey, I am certain,

do not compliment the anti-depressants,

as well as I wish they would; yet, “all this time

counting the mind, counting crows”—

I pour a new glass with a touch of ice

to begin this conversation:

Hell has come to us as a heaven

we will never know, like Sappho’s apple

dangling slightly beyond our fingers

which grasp only at still air.

Where do we go when things fall apart?


In 1978, Buddha’s birthday

was three days after my eighteenth.

I was a crumpled bag of emotion:

my father had died two months earlier;

I was in love (and still am) with the girl

I would marry. I moved, two months later, 

125 miles to the north, leaving my hometown 

forever, yet still trailing all my doubts and fears

behind like crows along a fence line

who caw and flutter, marking

their constant presence with darker eyes.


We think we can escape ourselves,

ignoring the crows flying in and out

between the twisted oaks nearby.

We flee burning madly as we go;

yet, we can only be ourselves,

and, most days, that is not enough

to keep our fears balanced tightly

like circus clowns spinning plates

atop long fragile poles through the night.

(September 15, 2021)

Constructs

To connect to some constellation,

we curve toward our angle of light,

intwine our limbs

across any lattice we find.

For only in reflection

are lines straight,

a simple step followed by another,

where all our lies are justified

into sclerotic prison walls.

We turn our faces to the sun

like mirrors tracking distant stars,

where there are no explanations

for our desires, where absences

appear unanticipated

like the sadness of angels

momentarily entering a room

only to leave without speaking.

How do we know

to stand before the door

knowing it will open?

How do we know

the door is there?

(June 17, 2021)

Old Age

Along convoluted back trails

misted in vague familiarity,

we wonder in our ruins,

grown strange and inevitable

across dry rivers and dead grass.

Former landmarks fall to rubble,

become base for new towers,

new ways, not ours.

Then as if by accident,

as if with purpose,

we arrive each moment,

near-sighted and deaf

to regale in our misfortune,

repeating yet another iteration

of the story we all wear,

like chains forged from dust.

(May 20, 2021)

turn turn turn (140)

with spring’s violence flowers burst

into bloom from winter’s death

as chimes toll slowly in the tree


mere weeks ago ice creaked

tightly along the chase tree’s

twisted branches as the chimes

hung limp and people froze

to death alone at home

(May 9, 2021)

community spread (139)

when listening to someone speak

each word takes root

along the tendrils of the unsaid

a pattern emerges

branch grafted on old wood

flowers to mourn the newly dead

(May 8, 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) 

neither knowing nor unknowing (#134)

there in the day

to day constancy


there in the grain

of our tongues


as we speak

each to each


of the most

trivial things


there is where

the how arrives


on soft cat feet

oblivious of the night


there is the story

you said then said


along the seams

between dark and light


the story we heard

the story we tell


stitching our scars

along calloused lines


one strangled knot

woven into another


an embroidery

of nooses


until we’re hardened

to brittle words


which shatter all

we once were


thin crystal slivers

from a broken glass 


scattered like stars

across the floor

(April 19, 2021)

palimpsest (132)

tension slips between

skin and flesh

as skillful as a fishmonger’s

blade slices down

the length of an eel

with one stroke

a practiced motion

without thought

like a priest at prayer

each wooden bead rolled

over fingertips in sync

with the slow muttered vowels

one patterned moment

moving toward the next

with endless patience

as the next ritual waits

for the candle to be lit

the words to flow

less with meaning

than as a balm

to still disquiet

(April 14, 2021)