no. 111

pulled from a delicious lethargy

(that of course can only be found in this microcosm)

a blanket burrow, fibrous with polyamide and cotton

swaddled until that moment

when, marshaling all the breath of patience that abides,

bhudda-like, within that bubble

of stale but comforting air

a sweet but mewling timbre

that at first calmly coaxes, but quickly becomes

more and more urgent

when, with the demands of morning just below the slip of sunrise

(that orb also struggling to heft itself from soft but heavy restraints)

a hand, small fingers curled, stealth-be-damned-now, brazenly yanks

oh, the sear upon skin liberated to the gray of pre-dawn light!

that is when defeat becomes precursor to movement

wood meets toes with icy welcome

hands greet eyes with increasing vigor

hope fills nose and belly with the promise of that which occupies

kitchen cabinets and soon sizzling pans

(that those thoughts trump all else, now, is paramount)

when, legs scrambling for purchase on the counter-top

suddenly find place around hips and arms around neck

that no-longer tiny body, all limbs and curls,

plasters itself unabashedly to the form which birthed it

too long ago for comfort, but not long enough for the space of maturity

when, nestling a lanky head between the crook of chin and neck

(that last bastion of sleep’s warmth and afterglow)

mouth receives the repast from mother’s feeding fingers

(written 2 january 2019)

flash fiction: Dvorak for the recently departed

Chester Prime was lost, but in a moment of clarity, he realized he had no desire to be found.

When he opened his eyes, a hazy grey mist wet them, and he blinked away the sand of sleep, turning westward toward the ocean.  He couldn’t remember which one.  In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t really matter.

He had dug up the earth under the tree by the house.  The house was always an ugly piece of work, and as he chucked the shovel  onto the small hill of brown dirt and red clay, he realized that it was not long for this world, either.  Too much dry rot.

Now he stood facing away from the rising sun, shivering a little.  He reached for a cigarette and lit up, allowing the noxious inhalation to warm his chest.  There was no one else to whom he could offer the pack, so he stuffed it away.

Three weeks ago, Chester listened as Moira played the cello with long strokes, bow slightly angled, the smell of rosin dust and horsehair enveloping her.  His sister’s long calloused fingers slapped lightly on the cello’s neck, her body swayed as she practiced the Poco Adagio of Dvorak’s String Quartet Op. 61.  Beatific was the only word that could describe her at that moment.  Chester snapped a series of shots.  Later, he scrolled through them and found that moment, printed it out, and framed it.

The cigarette burned out so Chester flicked the butt into the sandy grass.  He took a deep breath.  Maybe facing the day was the only way to move forward.  Picking up the black violin case beside him, he made his way down to the beach below.

Sandra and Roy were waiting for him on the flat rock just a few feet from the ocean’s reach.  They had already set up the chairs and music stands.  Barefoot and clad in cream linen, they watched him warily.

Five days ago, Sandra had called Chester, asking him to come to the beach to play.  We’ll do Mozart, or something cheesy like that.  Moira would have liked that, she said, Or maybe some Dvorak?  Chester hung up the phone.  Later that afternoon, Roy sent him a message:  Are you okay? Chester deleted both messages and turned off his phone.  The next morning, he found himself waiting outside the home improvement store at 5:30, looking to buy a shovel.

Roy approached Chester, the dry sand dunes and the viola in his left hand making progress slow.  Where have you been? We’ve been trying to get ahold of you for the last four days!  Chester didn’t answer.  Instead he plodded to the rock, put the case down and toed his shoes off.  He rolled up his black trousers.  He sat in the second chair from the right and gazed out at the horizon.  The ocean would serve as their conductor today.

Three days ago, Chester had driven home to the house that looked like it would fall down sideways.  Crooked houses made for crooked people, or at least that’s how Chester felt.  So, many years ago, he had taken off with her as quickly as he could, even though she thought it had character. Now, he couldn’t go straight to the house, so he had just driven around the neighborhood slowly.  Old ladies came out onto their porches with tea but Chester knew they were really just keeping an eye on him.  He slouched in the seat and turned into the driveway overgrown with moss and weeds.

Sandra, sitting in the first chair, tuned up her violin and then played an A for Roy and Chester.  They all took their time, bare feet grounded as if the rumblings of the ocean could direct their movements.  Chester closed his eyes, even though he knew Roy and Sandra were looking at him.  He could hear Sandra’s intake of breath, the cue to begin.  And so they played.

They played without sheet music.  They played without noting the passage of time.  They played without feeling the cut of the wind against their linen clothing.  Their music soared over the lap of the waves at the sand, the rock still taunting Poseidon’s greedy fingers.  Chester was so lost in the music that he entered a reverie of sorts, halfway between reality and Dvorak’s Poco Adagio.

Two days ago, after subjecting himself to an uncomfortable night’s sleep on the threadbare and possibly pest-ridden davenport, Chester rose before the sun.  In the wan light, he retrieved the shovel and began to dig.  He ignored all early morning imperatives to eat or drink or relieve himself.  He found an unsteady comfort in the rhythm of the shovel’s cut into the earth and subsequent chuffing of dirt.  It was four feet long by three feet wide by six feet deep, to insure against discovery.  Satisfied with the hour’s labor, Chester went back inside the house to retrieve the hole’s occupants.

As the last strains of the quartet married the wind and departed for the ocean’s abyss, Chester allowed the bow to dangle from his fingertips.  He stood and walked toward the ocean, unresponsive to its icy touch.  Soon he was knee-deep, and the bow floated away.  The violin, taking on salt water, was relinquished to the ocean, which swallowed it whole.  Sandra and Roy hopped the waves to grab Chester’s arms.  They gently but firmly guided him to shore.  He made no resistance.

One day ago, red clay mixed with brown dirt covered the hole under the tree.  Chester sat a few feet away; it looked like a fresh scab, it looked just like her grave in the cemetery.  He wondered if anyone would come looking for the cello or her photograph.  He doubted it.

(written 16 april 2018)

 

no. 93

at the football stadium

i want to go under the bleachers with you.

it’s not just some high school fantasy,

but a memory dredged up

made me think about you.

i want to find a quiet spot and,

without irony, hold your hand,

even though i may be coy or silly.

maybe i’ll avoid your eyes,

looking instead at the raindrops

that cling to the bottoms of the seats above.

we’ll laugh when they land on our cheeks.

are we in a movie?

i want to go under the bleachers with you.

it’s a starry-eyed notion,

in the vein of those embarrassing and painfully perfect

romantic comedies i used to watch.

those days are not yet far enough away

for me to regard them with amusement;

i never held hands at football games

or wore a high school sweetheart’s jacket.

will you lend me yours?

(written  18 september 2015)

 

no. 92

no, yes

she brave, she strong

she don’t take no for an answer

she ball up your no’s and stick ’em in her pocket

she collect ’em like consolation prizes and string ’em up later

those no’s, they twist and turn in the breeze

tickle the back of your neck

cos she done put ’em up right where you gotta pass ’em

but they don’t mean a thing; she put ’em up there to teach you

remind you that even when you said “no”

the “yes” was on the tip of your tongue, and you added “ma’am”

just in case, so there wasn’t any confusion at all

she only take yes for an answer

she fold ’em up and crease ’em just right

she send those yes’s right back out into the world

they fly and then boomerang themselves back

she iron ’em out and use ’em like a blanket to cover you at night

they keep you warm and happy

cos she wrapped you up tight and safe with those yesses

yes baby, i love you

yes baby, you are my treasure

yes baby, i keep you safe

yes baby, everything gonna be all right

yes baby, i know you can

yes, baby, yes

(written 3 may 2018)

no. 85

the becoming

this morning, as on other mornings

i chose to look at myself, the mystical part of myself

lying deep beneath my skin

but i was distracted by the mirror’s reflection,

one that revealed much more than that meditative view i often sought.

i could see the person i used to be, i could just make out my former shape–

the one un-softened and also un-steeled by the last fifteen years

the one that had not seen the stretch of skin and flesh

over a beating heart, had not known the grasp of a tiny hand,

had yet to feel the dichotomy of love and frustration that

accompanies the realized dream of fledging a child

my hands had not known how tightly they would hold on

and how tired they would be.

my brain could not comprehend, in all its intelligence

how challenging life would be.

but in that moment of seeing what i was, i also saw what

i was not, and how the becoming was not unwelcome.

and so, in reflecting, i make this loop:  i claim what the mirror has shown me,

as if it were something magical, holding immense power and beauty.

(written 22 august 2017)

no. 79

Sonnet V

He pulls his fingers through dark tangled curls

A babe no more, he wants she’ll never age;

Remain forever young, his little girl

Turn back fleet time! Not on to’ard the next stage.

Wait, but no, his heart does play cruel tricks,

For he would yearn to see her grow and learn;

To help her when her problems need a fix,

See failure and success, each bend and turn;

How full of bitter sweetness is his heart

He cannot help but spool the threads of time:

Preserving that with which he cannot part,

Imagining her youth, her blooming prime;

A father pulls his daughter close and sighs,

Wipes tears, both sad and joyful, from his eyes.

(written 3 may 2018)

no. 67

i have been reading and writing so much love poetry lately that i feel the universe must be in dire need of it…so here’s another one.

love poem number 6

if all the unwritten love poetry in the world

were compiled, anthologized, immortalized

in a tome of vast proportions,

would there be a single page there for our love?

 

could anything come close to describing

the way our hearts speak to one another

a strange dialect among languages,

that no one but us can hear or understand?

 

how can such emotion be laid bare upon the page

exposed, dissected, analyzed

by overly sure literary critics,

why would we let it suffer their gaze?

 

if i were to read all the love poetry in the world

searching for the verse that whispers this is it

a true rendering of you and me,

i would only find it written in my own heart.

(written 17 december 2017)