Put Your Feet Up

Let your sock-clothed toes
greet each other like sibling mutts
at the end of their patron limbs,
a pair of bridges that built themselves
between you and a yellow-wrought chair
then, satisfied, crossed their ankles
sending messages of familial quietude
up the mail routes of your bones
to angle your back more loungingly
against rosy worn wood.
Near your hands, coffee and a clutch of poems
reflect light between bay leaves
and also their associated shadows,
kept to remind you of losing and lost
but distantly (like the familiar horizon
every morning composed of trees),
allowing you a breaktime quiet
a load off your soles,
hair down and feet ― up.

Advertisements

Yellow

Wake to an ocean fog
come a hundred miles inward.
Wrap your body in textiles (shades of gray)
and do your best to remain invisible
while you walk through a new-lit
universe. Your neighborhood
(old Datsun, tire swing, terra cotta planters)
like your eyelashes now, is covered in tiny grains of water
harvested from the sea this very night.
Unexpectedly, at the same time as this blue mist
subdued every shadow, deepened every green,
the yellows switched on, a low but steady current
rilling their veins with light.
A spire of limbs and leaves remembers
the pillar of fire. In open spaces, yellowed grass of summer
becomes a carpet of gold.
And sunflowers, heads just bent in thought
and prayer, are brighter than any porch light
left burning ’til dawn.

 

Self-Congratulations

Two years ago I set out to become a reading, researching, writing, submitting member of the literary journal community. Armed with dozens of advisory statements that even a good writer should expect to submit scores of pieces before any were accepted, I determined to stick with it until a real-live print journal (not associated with me in any way, like my college’s literary annual) printed one of my poems.

The goal was reached with the Winter 2015 edition of Hotel Amerika.

So… What now…?

Not Roughing It

You know it’s gonna be in the Top Three when you walk a few steps from your campsite and see this (first photo), and while you’re sitting there getting your mind boggled someone comes along like this (second photo) and says, “I brought you coffee.”

IMG_0144 IMG_0148

In an unpaved 18-site campground in Tahoe National Forest, my first tent-camping session of 2015 commenced with small rain squalls (anticipated). Site #5, noted “good” on a quick drive-through two years previous, turned out to be “supremely awesome.” Just yards from a creek that served as our water source (with an upstream aspen-lined view), set back from the rest of the campground, trees perfectly situated for first-rate tarping of table, tent, and fireside… We celebrated with Reuben sandwiches, cheese-crisped and piping hot out of the pie iron; a bottle of Cidre Noir from a new favorite, Devoto Orchards; and perfectly fire-roasted corn-on-the-cob. This is what they call “definitely not roughing it.”

The next two days featured visitation of six lakes (including paddling on two), western tanagers, a hammock drift in the aspens, and cheesy grits with leftover vodka sauce and fire-roasted onions and mushrooms and sausages — which did not serve to lessen the euphoria.

We were ushered out by a charmingly growly sky, a concluding tiny-lake paddle, and a sighting of the most beautiful Land Cruiser known to man (“Yeah, it’s a member of the family… bought it 35 years ago.”).

 

Walking when

gently the naked hillside
begins to turn inside out
and fold into my body

the scoured slope above vineyards
raveling into the space under my right clavicle,
hewn of bone-dry dirt, tufted with vestiges
of summer grass, the gristle of a razed
and then untended ground

grizzled oaks gnarl toward my stomach,
blood vessels of gratitude ― but what humility
of packed ground they grow from, armor of earth
crusted hard over stone and bone and treasure

and from their feet a shallow ditch,
caked with roadside residue,
runnels down my torso
and subsides against my calf,
empty of all sympathies

somewhere a bird is calling, high and persistent,
against the dull stripe of an airplane’s engine
aloft in the space of my tibia, where the soul
has expanded against high cirrus clouds.

Negative Space

If a crow is the negative space
where an angel has just been
(not the shadow, as angels cast none)
then one would suppose the ravens
to be the sudden absence of seraphim,
(all this, of course, on the bold assumption
that angelic logic follows mine)
― a blackbird, then, an incognito angel-ette ―
and all their shadows (if they have them)
an ironic cousin, a holy darkness once removed,
a gap in a formerly sacred ray of light,
perhaps the most real holiness
one will ever find on this mottled, turning earth ―
and, finally, the long black wings
of a condor, two miles above my upraised face,
might just be the recent location
of the Holy Spirit himself.

Winter Clinging

Tangle your anxious keeping fingers
around that last cluster of sunshine,
before the curtain of fur and pine
rises to a cold, blue close,
concluding ultraviolet scarf of warmth
before the plummet,
birds and motors murmuring
between bug songs and questions: why
the loss of people to progeny, that all-consuming country,
why my lethargy to leave, to move,
why the luck of the annual draw in happiness
as the sunshine trickles at last
through oak branches and seeps into the hillside
and a hawk calls the end,
the breeze turns colder
by degrees
and everywhere sweaters
return to our bodies for another round
of loving.

After the Fork Disappears

Camouflaged predators shifting against old bones
in byways of the brain
come as no surprise to hypochondriacs
and the chronically lightheaded
but to a more oblivious mind
they provide a shock to the blood vessels,
a quick, short freeze in the tepid flow
of daily life, and after that
all manner of pieces break softly loose ―
unnoticed stalactites of regret
that formed by micrometers for twelve years
fall, without clatter, to the mental floor;
stone-grey egrets materialize
out of ethical walls and flap into the distance,
gangly legs trailing beneath them
like double exclamation marks;
and from unexpected windows, five-course meals
disappear in gradients of memory, the fork being the last
thing to go

after which the small brown rabbit self
having been for so long an expert in shadow art
finally flees, careening
against the shale walls of the private mind,
realizing each time (but always as if for the first time)
that it is being hunted down the roads
of home.

Diminish

My heart, so contained
by bones and vessels,
nodes, bronchi, the coming and going
of plasma and platelets
finds love ebbing
with the body’s retreat,
the baking fires
of lively bread now sizzling
into charcoal and smoke
beneath allergy tears
and the dirty water rung
from wash rags,
tasks done and slated
for the washer.

Vim twitches restively
in a bed of its own making
while vigor, gone hunting,
stays out for days.
The air is tinder,
fog-free and dusted
with the leftover heat
of summer, still lingering
in January.

Nobody is playing music
but I imagine that I can dance,
limbs lifting in time
to the melody, muscles
sprung with joy.

Previous Lives of Poems

Clapboard cottages, modestly painted and numbered,
daffodils in spring ―
sometimes they signal each other
on hat brims, a comic gesture ―
signs for “new green scrubber, left of sink”
and “time to prune the ivy!”
between watching overplayed television shows
and old, slow movies,
eating unhealthy but mostly harmless snacks
like Pocky and peanut butter pretzel bites.

The knowledge of the 11:27 daily
westbound tram is unemotional;
it is blue-striped and fumy and requires exact change,
despite all our protestations
on the receiving end,
our daily impatient hope contortions
and inducement exercises
performed on the median by the station,
begging a poem
to disembark in our direction.

In previous lives
they are rarely prone in fields
of daisies or hops,
rarely in unexpected parking lot fights
and basically never in heels or sport coats.
This would be too much like
the clothed and emotional lives
they might or might not live
in our flatter but less certain world
if one closes the pretzel bag in time,
thoughtfully collaring its crinkly neck
and strolling pocket-handed and humming
to will-call, where a ticket
has been purchased in the poem’s name
for the many-stopped passage
to a writer’s waiting page,
where it will introduce itself,
slightly dusty
and oddly at home.

PoemPhoto8