Saturday, December 28, 2013

October Air

Wind and water whip up the sandy soil
where trees sprout and grow,
until leaf by leaf they turn the October air to art;
and each breath exhaled, nailed to nothing,
animates the words we speak -
as our hands rub the shadow of lamplight,
wishing this day could hold the night at bay.

Friday, December 20, 2013

When the Topsoil is Gone

The dirt under her nails isn’t chic.
She comes by her red brick lips the hard way,
which is fine if you don’t mind clay in your throat.
That hardpan doesn’t even know she’s there,
scratching with her pencil, trying to form words.
The wind and water made it look so easy,
etching a coastline one grain at a time.
How do you learn to make bricks with mud
when the rain won’t let up? Or how to make
mud when the rain won’t come? The straw is
only an afterthought, unless you’re a swallow.
Yes but then we are not birds and our instincts
take us into layers they never dreamed.
So come with your soiled nails and clay lips,
we’ll be the envy of windblown waves.

Penniless Takes Its Toll

Sobs don’t come because the sex is good.
It is bad news for the pimp if his girls are laughing.
It means they don’t take the game seriously,
or even him, in his cream suit with matching socks,
but always the black hat and shoes.
Though really the whore’s life is no laughing matter.
It’s tough but someone has to entertain the troops,
keep the boys marching like men who can’t see the meat grinder.
Sometimes the boys whisper French into a girl’s ear,
it seems to make them more pliable, but of course
it only seems that way, a trick of the imagination.
Like the chaplain’s sermon makes it easier to die for the cause.
They pray he’s right but really it’s just a trick,
a way to keep from crying because the sex is good.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Some Idle Talk at the Y

Something To Do With Life
The living take up residence – claim jumpers really,
Inhabiting played out mine shafts,
Sharecroppers occupying cotton fields that should fallow for a year,
But the temporary is where fear and desire live  –
They make us want dust filled lungs, hands full of dirt, our minds on fire with
All that is temporal – the hard scrabble of life in lean years,
The resurrection it becomes with love, conception, birth,
The memories that annex idle moments –
Anything to forestall closure and putting effort aside
Hoping to find something gilt-edged,
Say the final scene of La Boheme,
The bittersweet beauty of death as art.
Something To Do With Faith
What is it the faithful know? What do the faithless believe?
What is the expectation of suffering less, or suffering at all?
What is the question why? What is the question when?
They are the curtain waiting to come down.
They are the finale, pregnant with doubt,
Anticipation, longing for understanding.
The word death carries its own weight.
The word life is borne in the hands like a chalice of wine.
The word hope is our faith.
The fire is on our tongues.
Our heads are anointed with the ash of generations,
And we are the instruments of our salvation.
Something To Do With God
The existence of God explains everything
Except the existence of God, for that you need humans.
God is either a physicist or a junk dealer,
Or maybe a gambler shooting craps with loaded dice.
God really must exist, who else would we blame for our folly?
Good and Evil don’t require God –
There’s enough of each in your average human to fuel the universe.
Silence on God’s part is simply mean spirited.
Silence on our part is surrender.
On second thought I’m not sure God’s mere existence explains anything,
Unless of course you believe what you read.
I am not sure why I felt compelled to write this poem. In fact I’m not certain it is a poem; but it is what came out when I sat down to write one “…so I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”
The quotation is from Carl Spackler

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Happy Birthday

Fractured before we are born.
Shattered, maybe crazed at the end.
In between all is light and luminaria,
except in the northern reaches of New Mexico
where the Tradicionalistas insist on lighting
small fires in the farolito lined streets,
causing dark spots before my bedazzled eyes.
Rattled by your flashing badge,
red and blue over and over again,
what can I do but plead guilty
in the face of this third degree light,
mend the chipped surface of my conscience,
and behave as if nothing happened on the way
to pick up the cake at the bakery –
its tens of candles sparkling
like stars hanging on the lip of sky over the Sargasso Sea.
The same sea our ancestors feared for the monsters
harboured in its darkness as they lay at anchor
under a gibbous moon in all their mothic finery.
When the air clears and all the gifts have been opened,
we see our glass etched by the spider’s web,
we see that fashions change,
and the brighter candles burn the less we see.

Lights are on over at dVerse prompt night

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Morning, Timberline and Possibility

From the dark stone of slumber,
stumbling out of ancient ruins
where the dogs bark for release,
the finger of a shadow across your eyes - 
you walk out to the timberline.
With the wavering transience of a reflection in rainwater
you see the candlelight white of a deer’s tail
disappearing into the pine colored light,
unnoticed by dogs with noses to the ground.
Taking the hill with an awkward stride,
each frosting breath exhaled for its twin,
you notice the rushing bunching of clouds ahead of the storm
as the dogs, with noses now in the air, turn for home.
The almost cruel sting of bitter cold,
the resilience of high thin branches in the churning wind,
the rolling grace of horses painting the hillside brown,
the glazing rain trying to answer the murmuring rhetoric of the stream,
bring to mind questions that will trail you throughout the day –
Will unseen bones return as ghosts
Why such longing for vanished things
Must one moment murder the next
What is the purpose of the body’s dazzling dreams?
Though you are yet unable to discern the answers,
you turn for home where you will write them in your book –
take them as a sign of possibility.
 dVerse open link night…drop in for a cup of cheer

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Inertia 2

Something was needed,
a weight bearing substance
or a strong back.
Only children answered the call.
Only the children stepped forward.
Only the children were called by name.
They were stacked like cordwood.
Their bones burned with
the fierce heat of a black locust.
They became the fulcrum.
An indifferent world
would not be moved.

Adapted for dVerse 55 word poem prompt.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Prayer For A Day

Though I know the rustling of the newspaper cannot be heard above
the crumbling of a bombed out street, I can let myself hope the
soothing strains of violins and woodwinds drifting across my
garden might carry over lines drawn in the sand, smooth them,
erase their every trace with peace.
On this bootless day in a garden where fuchsia reigns over
yellow cups and white bells of honeysuckle my thoughts may
turn to colors, bare feet in air-cooled grass, the soothing swing
of laundry on the line. Still I can hope for a cease fire amid the
rubble of towns and lives. The luxury of an idle day.
A moment's breath to remember the scent of roasting lamb,
the peppered sweetness of mango in curry.
The resonance of the Muezzin’s call to prayer –
Azan, the first call to a new day.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Childhood Country*

It was another time, an age ago.
Now I wonder where we are
when we lie together late in this supernal night.
Beside me in graceful repose,
there is an air of the numinous
in the light on your skin.
Our world is reeling through a wind shaped nimbus.
From beginning to end we know nothing beyond
the ecstasy and the dread.
Outside the engines, denizens and fauna hum –
a country
for children.
*The title is from “The Abduction” by Stanley Kunitz 
Open link night at the dVerse Pub, come on in and enjoy.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Walking in Snow

The snow teaches me separateness,
the ice to be hard.
Though I was born in the desert
where the teachers are sand and rocks,
I could not hear them for my youth.
Now with youth spent I return to hear
the sand admonish me for isolation
and the rocks’ rebuke for a hardened heart.
Now that the curls of time have been
beaten out straight I seek a return to
an earlier language – my own scrawny language,
meager, unable to bear the weight of explanation,
words too remote, isolated, underdetermined.
The years have turned my ears to tin.
My tongue is the knot behind my teeth.
With age isolation calcifies, lost love
becomes a window in the heart,
language an uncertain chant,
youth a snowstorm on the high desert plain.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Closing Time at the Museum

Today is a wish,
or a halfhearted promise of escape
from the contrived hopes that scaffold my vision.
In the cell of my heart,
the hot tight center of my body,
there is neither youth nor future.
None of the contrivances of a public life;
only the strong sweet warmth 
of a private life -
the solitude of a landscape painting
and a single detached patron
at closing time.

Come visit dVerse open link night.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"A Blaze of Changes"

The Age of Water

Primordial Water

Virgin Birth


The first word
in the place
where it all begins.


The age of Twenty Tribes,
Twenty Languages
in twenty square miles of Eden.*


“Blaze of changes”

The Age of Two Tribes,
East of Eden, West of Eden.

Theologians’ courage
in the wilderness of tongues,
searching for Eden’s Fruit.


“A Blaze of Changes”

The Age of Wealth

Eclipsed the age of children
Eclipsed the age of women
Corrupted the age of men

Rising whitecaps
on ancient surf.

The Age of Water

Where it all began,
where it is ending now
in the soft slip
of surf on sand.


Title from George Oppen’s “Myth of the Blaze”

*Twenty Measures of Chitchat by Terrance Hayes

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Out of the Shadow

Shadows of mountains
guard the thin ground of this life.
The high dry canyons stretch
out among seamless dunes
in the magic Western plains.
Footprints in leaf rot,
the sweet smell of season’s end
in cool shadowed green.
The beauty of light
is cupped in silence
in cactus flowers,
ghost flowers,
in the trickling mirror
of freshwater pools.
Can we go on from here?
Have we the power
to lift the balm of shadow
for the silence of light?


Combed through trees
the wind brings secret motion.
The sun rising in the eye
of a silver needle brings
a golden rush.
The sea’s message,
a rhapsody, brings
the aria of taut rigging,
set sails,
and the hopeful voices
of men in search of land.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Searching For Goodbye

We begin saying goodbye,
become distracted by
the search for time -
attic, relics, the old street,
a man selling hot pretzels
and peanuts from a cart,
the doughnut truck.
Letters, old photos
tied into square bundles,
the thin ribbon of time
holding memories together,
adding depth to the confusion.
There should be another word.
One that carries the same weight
but is lighter off the tongue,
easier on the ear, that can be thrown
over the shoulder like salt, or rice
for the luck it will bring.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Among the Stars

The starlight’s fractured dance
across the chitinous skin of atmosphere
-who can believe the blank verse of night?
This much is true:
Veracity, the rare poetic kind,
is in the light of a million diamonds,
cold, hard, brilliant as the world.
This initial light shining
on the wet black road
is closer to home than it seems.

This Small and Open Place

This small place
with its invisible wall
and nowhere
to stumble
on the smooth black streets.
How do I judge it?
The house on the hill
catches the first low light,
casts its shadow across the valley.
Leaves are silhouettes
on high thin twigs
where the unknown
touches the known
How light the air,
the earth, the sounds;
what could be more evident
than infiniteness in time,
this open time.