Playing The Blues

Painting by Lenore Conacher

is to find pleasure in postponing
happiness awhile, letting the lights
dim, and go to those rivers
you have drowned in before
where lament, bronzed with
longing, hovers in the air,
and fill your lungs with it.

Melancholy is gorgeous when
it’s not just yours: no grape
more often crushed
for its fabulous blue note,
no glass emptied as slowly,
the bubble-burst of sorrow
like champagne on the lips,

no melody more played,
strung, as it is, like a bridge
you can cross now—
weep of the guitar,
moan of the sexy saxophone:
all that was,
and all that might have been.

I had the concept of “saudade” on the brain this morning, probably because of Ada Limon’s introduction to today’s poem on The Slowdown. My poem was written quite some time ago and was inspired by a painting by local artist Lenore Conacher.

HERITAGE

My son, holding his new baby boy, whom he named after his dad.

Americano coffee in a mug,
time alone to savor
some timeless good words,
the day, for me, just beginning,
unfolding sip by sip
from the generous cup
in which it is first held.

 Yes, wars still rage
on either side of the heart’s door.
But lucky me—a colicky baby
born into a colicky world,
a world, it turns out, impossible
not to love
with all the muscle
of the grateful arms
in which I was first held.

This seemed like the perfect poem for me to post, as I’m still in the glow of my son becoming a new father, the little guy a month old now. It was first published in 2008 in North Shore Magazine.

AFTER A BUSY DAY, WE SIT

Photo by Muhammad Murtaza Ghani on Unsplash

I have an ear for silence, the not-said and almost-said
of a voice in the room
 

or the once-said so long ago it’s gone to the stars and back
like a plucked and quivering string.
 

Call it the music of the spheres, that insistent ringing
of a divine bell

 or the toll for living: thump and blood-hum of a heart’s
undisclosed lives—

 no yawning matter for the mouth that opens only to
close without a murmur.

 Call it an old couple’s secret handshake, and keep it:
after years together, no need for words.

This poem won honorable mention in the 2017 River Styx International Poetry Contest and was published that fall.

May I just add my apologies for “disappearing” for so long – on top of many other events, we took our usual 6 weeks on our boat, mostly media-free, soaking up life on the water, emails and news unavailable in most of the little bays we stayed. And I forgot to post that.

Meditation

Wilted pink tulips

on a vase of tulips:
the pinks     whites     yellows
reaching upward             outward
way over the edge
opened wide to their silken centers               
until              inside out
suffused with the vibrant morning
light
they surrender who they are
with wordless grace
leaving only
small soft footprints
across the kitchen table
should I wish
to follow

Another “golden oldie” from two decades ago, first appearing in North Shore Magazine in 2005.

Lifted

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

Those who would in private bury us
with their solemn observations,

who would write us off sooner than
look into our eyes

do not know the happy grace
of our ignorance: how it lifts us
past their grave faces

back into our own
irreducible lives.

This little poem was a finalist for IthacaLit’s 2015 Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize and was published there April, 2016.

The Offering

Photo by Ryk Naves on Unsplash

Hymns whistled from a stand of trees,
light that falls in waves across the face
of morning, a gleeful wind that turns
away all thought:

you have only the skywide space
of a single breath to rise, unspoken for.
Any day offering itself to you like this,
would you refuse?

The day you can hold in your arms as yours
is the one that will love you back utterly
through the succulent and the unripe hours,
the one that deposes the future, crowning instead

this moment, the day you know yourself
as the praise of birds, as fully here—and enough—
as four letter words singing
good holy love, amen.

This poem was first published in “Nostalgia” in 2001 and then again in North Shore Magazine in 2004. It’s a good reminder for me on some mornings. 

TANDEM HANG-GLIDING INCIDENT

Photo by Riaan van Staden on Unsplash

An anniversary gift, her first time doing it
Lenami Godinez-Avila, 27, hugged the pilot
from behind as instructed, ran with him
awkwardly to the edge and stepped
into the wind-tug beyond anyone’s reach—

her harness not clipped on. She fell
like Icarus a thousand feet, melting
from sight with the pilot’s shoes
into a sea of limbs webbed with leaves
down, down to the forest floor.

Her boyfriend, filming it,
stopped. Love screamed
through the air as he ran down
Mt. Woodside to find her.
Until he did, there was hope.

The pilot glided back to an open
mouthed crowd, to his twelve
year old daughter watching,
and swallowed the memory
card onboard. His fiftieth birthday.

Who hasn’t known each of them
in dreams?—where we fall without
falling, see what can’t be happening,
get to creatively escape a bad scene.
And wake relieved, our lives still

hanging by a thread of assumptions.

This poem won IthacaLit’s  2016 Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize, as judged by Allison Joseph and was published New Year’s Day 2017. The prize came with a generous purse ($1000) and offered a huge thumbs-up when most needed. Sad to say, the magazine recently folded. Both the nutshell poem of the previous post and this one were drafted about the same time. I couldn’t give either of them up – for anyone following this blog, I’d be interested to know if one version appeals over the other.

A TANDEM HANG-GLIDING PILOT FAILS TO CLIP HIS CLIENT’S HARNESS ON

Image by Sheri McFarland from Pixabay

Don’t believe
inattention can’t wolf a mind,
expectation—lamb another. They grieve—
those left behind—
that a short sentence appears to love
more the one who put a period where a comma was.  

They grieve
Lenami Godinez-Avila—friend, daughter, lover.
Fate or happenstance, it’s how that leaves
a bad taste in the mouth long after,
sinking the heart too late to address
the assumption the one in charge knows best.

Another poem which first appeared in Volume 8 of The American Journal of Poetry, with thanks to editor Robert Nazarene. This is my short take of a horrifying incident: news article . My next post will feature a longer (and prize-winning) aspect of the same event.

Elsewhere

Photo by Joseph Greve on Unsplash

You drink the cool clean water
and smack your lips, refreshed.

Elsewhere, in this same country,
the water is not clean,
must be boiled, then drunk.

Elsewhere, you might be dying
to drink it as is,
and damned if you do.

Elsewhere, water means business.
It thickens wallets.
You will pay for it.

You could ask whose future is being spent
down to the last hovering drop.

You could ask about thirst—who thirsts
for a better life and who for just a life
to grow all the way up in.

But you don’t. You drain the glass
and turn on the tap for more.
There’s never not been more.

This poem, written 20 years ago and finally published in The American Journal of Poetry in 2019 (with deep thanks to editor Robert Nazarene) unfortunately addresses a continuing and current situation (I’m thinking of Texas). It was inspired by watching my thirsty ten year old son gulp down a glass of water and imagining this conversation. He must have heard me – he continues to ask all the right questions about this world that he and all our kids and grandkids will inherit.