Like You

Long thin fingers fly and float
over guitar strings, drum
skins, keyboards. They pluck

and press, push and rest,
painting stories with sound
and sleep. There is a rumble,

a murmur-mumble. There’s
a strum, a thrum, a
rock beat, a bop. There
is a cascade of notes,

a steady tone, an open
chord. There is a whir of
wheels, a bounce of balls,

a blast, a blare (there),
a burst never curst, roar
of jets, a roar, a roaring,

a flare, where the hollow
of the past curves ’round
silence. Mute answers
to questions never asked.

Everything I say is, was.
Everything. It’s all in
round numbers. The date

you began. The date
you weren’t. Ages, years, gifts.
“I feel moved,” you began, then

spun on wheels whirling like
laughter, curved like smiles,
round as eyes. It was
a piece of everything.

In memoriam, Carl A. Larkins, 1948-2018

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Leaflet

i. Create

Stalwart and sturdy, the tree’s trunk
is luminous in the late light,
standing before and against dark.
Its roots are burrowed deep into
the valley between the green hills

and dry, hidden, invisible.
The leaves cluster tightly, cling close
together, wondrous and wary.
The dry and the dark creep close, but
the leaves are not ready to fall.

ii. Redeem

Even broken, even shredded,
wounds can be woven into one,
something new, a form to be found.
This is the shape that suffering
takes and makes and shows
                                               as it heals.

iii. Sustain

So many. So many. We are
not alone. We are together.
We are a forest in autumn,
full of ripe fruit, bright fruit, bright words
to carve the light, the light that carves

us. We are sharp, crisp with edges,
with wounds. We are soft, moist and warm
as if coming out of ovens,
out of caverns, weak with hunger,
fading, yes, but first, branches blaze.

Leftovers

Scrape the leftovers into a pan on the stove,
whatever was chilled in the fridge, crammed in cupboards,
canned or covered, not quite fresh but only newly

expired. Things others would throw away, broken tools,
laws, a person telling the right story at just
the wrong time. Call this truth. A bit of fajitas

with peppers and onion from the birthday party
two weeks back, a can of too spicy tomatoes,
the last can of sweet corn, yesterday’s rice still there

(forgotten in a pan on the stove overnight,
but only barely starting to turn sweet). This works.
Cook it all again, hot, really hot, and simmer

long enough to kill off the early signs of rot.
I was raised to save what’s still useful, and so, here,
we are not throwing anything out, not tonight.

Black Birthday

When life is too black to play the hap-hap-happy
jester, it’s tilt-your-fedora time. Where’s Hyde Park,
where’s “la Rue Mouffetard”? Time to lounge under lamplight
or a fan, at least, in this solemn sweatbox town,
sin city, hidden city, dark city. What kind
of city is it? The kind where “They say it’s your
birthday” gets bellowed out on Facebook, and Facebook
denizens bellow back (not at all concerned with
the shadow behind the curtain, the sooty shoes
poking out from under the bed). It’s never time,
never the right time. The beat bumps, heart pumps. Beatles
scream, “We’re gonna have a good time!” but the screaming
isn’t at all convincing. There’s a sweetheart there,
somewhere, whispering, “Well, Happy Birthday to you.”

Suicide Sonnet

Take a word, image — slice & dice them through
like sausage (or the stuff of which sausage
is made). Scrap old meanings, & stuff in new.
Things you see but can’t say become bossage,
old words carved into new symbols, bone bright,
delicate & sharp. I haven’t told you
about when I stood shaking, in the night,
on a high balcony, staring down. Cue:
skin crawling, nerves firing. It was only
an hour before someone else jumped. Next day,
when I went down to breakfast, so slowly,
the hazmat team cleaning up turned away,
as if the floor would vanish, the plumped pink ghost.
Shhh, I thought, eating raspberry jam on toast.

Untitled Sonnet

So, you do what it takes because, well, love,
you know? Because love. And because love, we
let them go. And then howl, losing them, not
like they howled, no, all alert and proud of
a job well done. Slow and rough opens grief,
then grief, door-like, snaps closed, snaps a snapshot
of life before, and sets the camera down.
We have been promised a tunnel of light,
a safe haven, a destination, but
not for them. Doves in flight caught with a bound,
squirrels treed above, a long straight road bright
with sun and dust, to rove down or run, cut
loose and free, as if there’s another place
to be … we stay, and they run a new race.


Form: AA 12-Step Sonnet

Of Numbers, Names, and Weeping Things

Over and over and over again.
Cycles and circles, creatures and crawling.
The howling that haunts the space between throat
and skin (“let me in” / “let me out”), shouting
its name. Of course it has a name, because

all things have names. That’s what we do, humans,
ever since Adam. We name things. All things.
More and more things. Names that emerge, whispers,
climbing on bones of names that came before.
Names that slide slickly down the hunger tube

as if they can satisfy. Names so still
we don’t know they hold shivering inside.
Names roaring like wind in the ears of those
falling, too far and too fast to survive.
Names like little boxes to live inside

but can never redecorate. That’s what
poetry is for. Stripping the purple
from the crocus, plucking the gold. Swallow
the minuscule piece of poison that’s left.
It’s all dose dependent. It’s all context.

The winged things that called to me as a child,
singing on the sidewalk in front of home,
as if they were weeping, as if they were
so tired of weeping, as if grief lifted
their feathers, separating and spreading,

as if grief was joy and beauty and love
twisted in time. As if only nameless
beings could open the boxes, break them,
remake them. Do numbers need names to be
friends at ease with each other, to become

blue and yellow, pink and turquoise, to take
up space and shape and form and to delight
each other? They tip like balance, a scale,
float like bubbles or petals, quietly
amused. Numbers sing weightless in the air.