Thursday, May 22, 2014

Breaking Branches

I have returned to take Aunt Vicki to the place she will likely die.
Home where I spread thin my youth has become bitter with death.
I don’t know how my brother can live here.
The old woman comes quiet as a saint.
The day wears on, we begin to stretch taut nerves.
She decides it is time to go home –
there is too much light coming through the window.
The nurse pulls the curtain around Vicki’s bed,
finally it is dark enough, she is safe from a ravenous sun.
When the doctor comes in she suggests sleep would be best
perhaps a pill will help the patient rest through the night.
Under a shattered sky
we live between thin layers of light and dark
asleep and awake, beginning and end.
An empty halo drifts above my ghost of a skull.
Time is a tree and all our lives breaking branches.

Is there pathetic fallacy in this poem?
Wondering what that is? Go over the imaginary garden with real toads to find out.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Color and Music

You can almost hear the click, in the dark, in the heart, in the silence.
A note, then another, flows over the crowd, a wave sliding up
the sandcastle wall, washing it down to nothing, taking it back to the sea;
this pearl of a note, repeated into a strand by the velvet breath,
the long boned fingers and the flash of gold trumpet that joins them.
It’s not as if black was a color, it was a thing you either touched
or didn’t, not by mood but on principle, the kind associated
with flags and floats, cowgirls on horseback their legs spread over
the muscled spine of a black quarter horse, just a color, not a thing.
How that music swarmed like something soft, a breeze of butterflies,
the gentle beginning of a wild, hot sirocco when the dust settles
in layers of new skin over the African coast. Movement happens,
a slight swaying of hips when lovers dance. Music ceases to be a thing,
becomes a force, irresistible under a black moonless sky.
The first time I touched color, a strangeness that startled by its
innocence, its simple matter of fact – black – the first time color
touched me, startled by its electricity, by the contrast, innocence,
and the lie – not a thing, just color, the way music is a strand of pearls.

Open link night at dVerse Poets 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tossing a Ball

I look at my dogs and wonder why they
like chasing the ball. Rabbits and squirrels
I get; the ball must have a magic all its own.
20 years after Annie Barker’s dress lifted
above her waist as she ran for a touchdown
I married her – still I marvel at the daisies and
freckles beneath her dress. Is glimmer one of
those words that makes you think of stars,
or ice in moonlight? If I have a glimmer of
hope would it shine like stars out over the
ocean, or would it mean the moon might
be made of green cheese? When that first
girl pulled the heart from my chest and
handed it to me like a shell, I put it to my
ear and heard the sound of my impending
doom. I survived, though I will never
forget the silence in that shell. I still hold
it to my ear now and then, searching
for a glimmer of hope, something magic
for me to chase.

dVerse open link night

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Cold and dark in the morning,
talk comes at a price.
It is a bargain with the waitress
and the diners get what they need.
The eggs are served with sympathy
for another birthday missed.
The road is more than miles for
the trucker who takes them over hard.
Booth number 9 is an omelet and oatmeal.
A preacher and acolyte looking for a church.
The preacher’s collar is frayed and yellowed
in service to a god who speaks too softly.
At the table by the door farmers drink
coffee and talk of weather, tractors, prices.
They have the look of a dying breed,
not because they are old -
their sons are off to college,
the army, the city, anywhere else.
Daughters will wait,
not one of them will marry a farmer.
A young couple passing through
sits in number 8, close almost huddled.
The boy counts coins, his girl looks cold.
The waitress brings hot tea,
“It’s on the house honey.” They order toast
to share, she slips ham onto to the
plate when the cook’s not looking,
“I’ll take that outta your tips.”
He never does.
The woman at the end of the counter
tattoos a glass with her lips.
She is the blue plate special, one egg,
one pancake, two strips of hard salty bacon.
The long night gives her an appetite for
comfort and something real before going home
to wash the scent of stale cologne from her hair.
Street lights go out.
The sun promises warmth.
Diners pay bills, homage, thanks,
and go out to live in the light.
The waitress cleans tables,
counts her tips.
She floats from counter to table
to booth serving coffee water eggs toast
and some things not on the menu.
She takes their orders brings them what they need,
and all of this beneath a sign that says EAT.
It's story time at The Bar...come on in and tell yours

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jubal Archer's False Horizon

Brown fallow fields ladder across the hills to a false horizon.
I am no longer able to see beyond these simple fields and hills,
or fathom the distance beyond the buoys in the harbor.
That world is on the far side of my vision.
Early stars hang over the water, birds frozen in the sky.
Boats without keels are safe in the low tide.
Gulls circle, drop from the sky for crabs or clams,
their incandescence makes me think of falling stars.
The wind brushes the hair from my forehead.
The first fairy strokes of dew are in the air.
Already, in the dimness of purple light,
darkness leans against my eyes.
I listen for the hush of grass –
the water stills as if it might hear it.
I wait to feel the magnetism of the moon –
the buoys ring as if they do.
I think of a glass of water, puzzling and perishable yet still pleasant.
I think of God’s body trapped in an atom of bread.
I think of women putting flowers on graves,
I think of the men, boys really, who inhabit those graves, and why.
The moon is bright and eases the darkness.
Still, I belong to the shadows at night.
There is a comfort in their dependable blackness.
They do not bring a false horizon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Diamonds in the Street

I wait in the rain for a taxi.
The street is newly paved,
a scent of smoke and oil
hovers, curling in the air.
Flecks of light reflect in the water,
reminding me of diamonds.
There wasn’t any pavement
where we lived on the coast,
only snow, gravel and mud.
The winter months were
best when we simmered in
out nest, wintering wasps.
The white clapboards preserved
us like a museum vault.
We celebrated Spring by
splashing them with schoolhouse
red, a sign, you said, of something
we cherished. But paint cracks and
fades quickly in sandy, salty air.
You left in October before the
first snow. There was a long note,
more than I planned to do.
It is still raining, the taxi driver is saying something.
I am remembering the night sky over the coast,
the way stars would shine out over the ocean,
a million hard diamonds.
Open link night at the Pub 

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Birch Grove
By Stephanie Williams

Broken skin on the birch trees;
curled silver taking in the light
and returning a muted glow to the air.
I wonder, do they prefer this smoky light
to the carnival glare of unbridled sun?
There is a gravity about the atmosphere,
as if they hold some deciduous secret,
waiting for it to be unlocked.
It's all about trees at the bar...climb on up. 

Friday, January 17, 2014


Yeah, it’s less than you think, what you see.
It is nothing more than the debris we bring,
like the pianos settlers dragged over the Great Divide,
deepening the ruts for the next wave of pilgrims.
It’s not insubstantial, this debris,
after all we have made our stand on its heap;
but we need to keep in mind its impermanence
and be prepared to come back again and again
to plant a row of something -
if for no other reason but to keep the thistles at bay.

The Great Plains

“Nature includes too much
and art can’t include enough.”
The gold that shines off prairie grass
as the sun comes to rest on the butte,
the absolute black shadow in gullies
scythed by flashing water, the expanse of blue,
shading to red above the sun,
sectioned by stray clouds, purple,
out of place in the sweep of space unfurled
over this champain ground,
accosts us with silence.
This place confronts what we have become,
how we made it, what to make of it now.
Quotation by A. R. Ammons, “An Improvisation for the Stately Dwelling”
champain = level, flat

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Speeding Through the Rez, 1963

The sun beats down on tin roofs,
a burning fist from God – the One who made
the cactus flower bloom, and needles to protect it.
Two boys lock eyes at 70 mph.
The bronze one standing still,
surrounded by flowers and needles.
The white one protected by his flying carpet
speeding through the Rez.
A boy can learn all he needs to
know flying at 70 mph,
or standing still. A boy learns:
who is already lost,
who will be in the end.
He learns tomorrow can be a block of granite,
today is a ticking watch,
and yesterday belongs to the dream catcher.
A boy learns on the Rez:
He learns the future can be a souvenir,
a trinket sold at the roadside,
fool’s gold dug from his nails.
He learns tomorrow comes
like a blue jacketed bullet,
like a bronze tipped arrow
-like something dangerous
speeding through the Rez.
This poem is based on an encounter looking out of the window of a blue 1963 Chevy Impala near Needles, CA.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Whiskey and Cigarettes at the End

Winter drizzle, a hill cemetery, open,
naked but for the stumps of stone
arranged in neat precise lines,
or laid haphazardly depending
upon the desire of the deceased,
and will of the living.
Jackstraw pines separate the hill from the road,
mostly dead or dying from exhaust fumes
and oil slicked runoff.
On a path at the bottom of the hill
a small white-headed man pushes
a smaller white-headed woman in a wheelchair.
He stops at a bench, turns her toward the stones,
lights a cigarette for her, hands her a flask, settles onto the bench.
Sitting still, waiting patiently, they are dressed for the weather,
as if they intend to wait for a change.
The old places are all deserted, the old times are all abandoned.
What remains are a few faces, the flavor of tobacco and whiskey,
food is a necessary evil like using the toilet and clipping toenails.
The business that remains is more than just letting go,
it is tearing loose from what is left of the grand possibility –
what was made and what became of it.

Open link night at the Pub

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jade and Filigree

The trees are there in the dark.
They tease and deceive me.
Weaving their jaded filigree against the night sky.
Leading me off and away in their rock and sway
to forget where I belong.
Lost in the song of wind in the trees,
needing to be found among the intricacies
of branch and bough – needing to find you lover,
to be found: if you open your arms, if your lips
part once more to capture my breath, then lover
I will be lost, lost to you and undeceived.
Come to the window at dVerse 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

We Know How Much A Man Contains*

Seeds and miracles
A mechanical spirit
The Father, The Mother,
Sons of steel, Daughters of the revolution
The will to pause
At dawn, in the mist, or ruins
to toast, sing, genuflect
Pity like some thing in the street
Pride like some thing in the mirror
A stick to carry remorse, regret
Virgin wool pristine with the memory of youth
Old rags sour with age
Layers of knowledge, upon knowledge, upon knowledge
-mortar between bricks laid in endless echoing vaults
And in these recesses, where nothing can touch, light, or hold sway,
Can we know how much a man contains?
*The title is taken from The Hemorrhage by Stanley Kunitz
This is the latest version of a list poem I have reworked many times over.
 The Bar is open!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

House on Fire

There is a life I never lived:
stopped short, dazed on the roadside,
stunted by smoke and ash,
waiting to become the stepchild.
One last astonished look at the ruin
and the grave it had become, I turn,
take the hand of a man and look for the way out,
into the air, beyond the circle of smoke.
Now in these seasoned days, returning to my people:
the perfumed aunts, uncles with quarters in ham hock hands,
cousins – my only brothers and sisters; I find that child, still dazed,
astonished by the mounds of dirt and what they hold.
The world disappeared into the ground, joy and trouble
rolled into the earth, a life, an era, an epoch of love,
and somewhere amongst them my parents and brother wait,
“…like water in water” life and death become one thing.
I take that child by the hand, turn his back to the stones
and watch the sunrise over smoky Carolina hills.
In the pond at our feet fish jump into the orange light,
hang above the mist, pausing, shimmering, still as air,
wild as wind, breaking away from the life of water
into an alien world of parched air and light,
a majestic dance of breaking patterns,
opening possibilities, new ways to new places,
before slipping back into their destiny.
It is a sacred dance as old as the world,
fresh as this flood of light spreading before our eyes.
Quotation from George Bataille

dVerse Poets are back and open for business

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Connective Tissue

Along the West Wind Drift
what versions of reality exist
might be frozen on the ice sheets,
seconds, hours, months…eons
when time goes rigid.
Except for the passing of ships
and the sliding wind
nothing changes or moves
in the perfection of blue ice.
In warmer climes,
populated, dotted with colors,
broken into fragments,
time gathers its denominations
behind fences, under swells
and tree lined streets,
to be released in the daily pattern,
the ebb and flow of tides and traffic,
in rhythms of heartbeat and breath.
Somehow we know a unity.
The piecemeal of time’s strobe effect,
flashes of black and white on a darkroom wall,
gather into this fabric of pictures.
Not the frozen blue confection,
but tenuous connections,
finding their way
through the light and dark patches
that separate us one from another.