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.
In the cathedral of this forest while birds sing unseen from the vaulted shadows, I sit in the hand-carved pew of a sawed-off cedar trunk and think about last night’s
argument, a congregation of notes falling, rising, coins of light clinking into the basket: the dappled adagio that ministers a tight staccato heart.
Century-old trees stand like mossed-over crosses unbroken in their silence, upholding the climb of secrets: the whispers about living on what’s left over from
the cacophonous demands of a day, the scraping of those plates to give again what is left over, love quietly shrinking from the beginning to the end of a word, pursed lips praying but little abiding as prayer.
Yet here, in a green profusion the curling ferns, the pungent earth and the soaring branches cannot hold all the love that grew them, nor can the birds so tirelessly singing, nor my dog chasing a squirrel chasing a squirrel.
The math is simple. There is no subtraction. Love’s pulse is steady and it loads the woodland table, as it must, even now, heap a forgotten room in us.
Another poem that first appeared in the Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art in 2017. My thanks again to editors Veronica Golos and Catherine Strisik for including it.
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 Journal of International Poetry and Art in July, 2017. Deep thanks to then-editors Veronica Golos and Catherine Strisik for selecting it.