Always, In Returning

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Always, in returning to the house of my farm-grown summers
I come home to the wild oat, the whole grain of me.  Riding bareback
again through the fields of a long-ago self, who I was rises golden
and green in a warm wind:
                                                      Bud hasn’t gone crazy yet.  Audrey
and Rose still live.  The hayloft babies are hiding in the rafters
of first love, waiting to be born.  The lake’s so deep you can swim
one step out from the bouldered shore.
                                                                          Blind Grandpa keeps
his pockets full of change.  Cackling, he leans on his cane, throwing
every quarter-nickel-dime onto the ground.  He listens as we fall
upon them like scrabbling crows.  Gran scolds but he never stops
making us rich.
                                 Dad shows Bob and I at 5:00 a.m. how to hook
a worm (I’ve been saving them from a dry street death ever since).
Later Gran, with a shake and quiver of strong, baggy arms, scales
and cleans eight small bass in the kitchen sink.
                                                                                       Uncle Jim drives
his tractor in a pressed white shirt.  I slip out the door, running past
rabbit-friendly trees to hide among sky-driven stalks.  Lying down,
I press my body into sweet conversation with the earth.  Here, no
machinations of the soul, just secrets told, flitting like fireflies
through branches of maple, alder, birch. 
                                                                           Who I became is the land
that grew them—a defiant wave of long grass beside a paved road,
a wealth of open sky, water deep enough for a man to drown in,
the flickering light that might save him. 

This poem first appeared in the Taos International Journal of Poetry and Art in July, 2017. Deep thanks to then-editors Veronica Golos and Catherine Strisik for selecting it.

An Open Air Reading

I recently had the good fortune to be filmed reading a selection of poems from my chapbook “Irresistible”. It was my brilliant son Stewart’s idea and I really enjoyed the experience! Please do check it out, if you have 20 minutes to spare: 

We did this in the Carcross Desert in the Yukon. The wind was howling and though we found a fairly protected spot, you can hear it gusting here and there in the video (as well as the odd ATV gunning it over the dunes). Many thanks to Stewart for his expertise! Here he is at Bennett Beach in Carcross:

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Eagle

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Happy to say this little poem has just been published in the 2020 print edition of “Crosswinds Poetry Journal” along with other finalists and winners of its annual contest. The poem was inspired by an eagle seen flying at sunset the last day of September and the boating memory of another eagle which was carrying a 3 foot long snake home for dinner. 

 

Grocery Boy

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Photo by Alfred on Unsplash

It’s been ten years since the accident, and now
he’s a grocery boy in an older man’s body,
still dreaming—like any twenty-year-old
before a major head injury would—
of the beautiful women yet to come.
And come they do—to the stocked shelves,
pushing their carts like baby carriages,
strolling the aisles of their good lives.

No stroll for him though—his body
moves, but stiffly, accommodating
his intentions as best it can, as if he
were remotely controlling it for the
first time. But it’s his limbs seizing
the courage to keep moving
that mercifully fires his separate parts
into agreement. Nothing remote about that.

He carries the heavy bags out to the large
shining cars. It’s hard for him to speak
a sentence and be understood, but he tries
anyway: each word fought for, dragged
from the bottom of the laryngeal sea,
while his listeners fish for patience,
a few turning away with quick thanks and
driving off, their own tongues floundering.

He opens his shirt collar: Jesus hangs
from the chain around his neck—
the reason he’s still here, he says, and why
every day is “awesome”—because blue
sky, black sky, brazen eye of summer,
that’s the view the living have, and snow,
rain, wind are all two thumbs up
on the scale of tingling his skin.

With the light of the world glinting
in his eyes and the bleached sands of
his hair, shoring him up against the
cruel twist of the years, he writes down
his number, wants to talk longer, later.
Let the beat go on for the heart
that insists dreams are meant to be
reached for, not shelved.

This poem first appeared in the anthology “Best of Kindness 2017” by the Origami Poems Project. My thanks to judge Mary Ann Mayer and editors Jan and Kevin Keough for its inclusion, and to Kent at my local Safeway for its inspiration and for being such an inspiration generally!

 

 

A Kindness Bestowed

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Photo by SAMUEL HENRY on Unsplash

When Camel-heavy lungs finally shrank
my father’s world to a bed by the window,
on sunny winter days his bed
became a beach where he lay,
pajama top unbuttoned, hairless chest
exposed, the whooshing surf
of the oxygen tank now pleasing.

And the sun, unmitigated by a pane of glass
or the pain of a rationed breath,
was kindness itself, bestowing the
warmth of many hands it seemed,
keeping the dying fire inside aglow
long after it reached the end
of his square footage of sky.

Today’s sunshine reminded me of this poem, first published in “Best of Kindness 2017” by the Origami Poems Project. My father never lived to see this poem but he told me that the best last days of his life were as I’ve attempted to describe.

Poem Up at Recenter Press

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Photo by Fabio Comparelli on Unsplash

My poem LIFE – A Snapshot is now live at Recenter Press Poetry Journal! This poem was written a very long time ago – many thanks to editor Terra Oliveira for including it in Issue 3, alongside other insightful poems. And thanks to fellow poet Robert Okaji for introducing me to this journal, whose purpose is as its name suggests – to recenter!

A Thousand Blossoms

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Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

Late spring,
walking home
through the cherry trees:

a thousand blossoms
hurrying
to the ground below.

Though soon to die
they danced in the breeze
together

like beautiful lovers
forever entwined.
It seemed the trees

reached for them,
that the birds sang louder
with the squirrels chit-chattering.

It seemed the ants looked up
from their mad black scramble,
that we saw the grass billowing,

and the sun, wanting to touch
every petal, and the enormous lake
of sky, spilling down.

It seemed we all swam as one
for a moment, and belonged
in the world that way.

Though I promised to post a variation of the previous poem, this seemed a more fitting poem right now, written a lifetime ago. First published as an honorable mention for the Arborealis Prize in 2012. When we can travel again, I’ll return to the Mazatlán poem. May you and yours keep healthy!

 

By Myself In Mazatlan

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Photo by Davide Sibilio on Unsplash

Night here, alone, makes me unfaithful
to the woman we both know:
easy to give my heart away
to a stranger
wandering the beach

of my innermost shore,
the crash of the ocean’s ivory keys
drowning the do-re-mi
that has played
me for years,

the air so loose and warm,
all the old clothes
must be pulled off,
my body shown
for what it is—

a sweat
of holy longing, faithful
only to what seems to be
last call for living
this other me.

One of several versions of another Mexico poem. Maybe I’ll post the others sometime and see if you like one over the other….

Room

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Under the streetlights our shadows loom large
as we walk back from dinner to our hotel
on the shore of the Bay of Banderas.
The whole street holds its breath
as from the well-bottom of night
I look up, see floating the bronze
pennies of stars.

Our shadows arrive before us, looming large,
as if there’s something that first must be seen or said,
something that has waited so long
it lost its original shape and stride,
even its voice,
something that has followed us here
from home….

I don’t know what ragged corner
of my heart seeks mending
that it should beggar with a cup
near full. If it’s looking for change
here in paradise, that’s easy—so many
bright fish, big blue bucket of sky,
who isn’t young again, hard into wanting?

There’s room to be happy
your hand holds mine, swings it,
room to fancy
any dark angel fallen between us
just needs a push to fly,
room 222 unlocking
whatever’s been locked inside.

Another Mexico poem.