because while some truths lend themselves to equations, others are best described in verse

love

the loneliness of train whistles

tracks over Mayo
the loneliness of train whistles
has been known
to keep us up at night.

when there is moon,
we play hopscotch
on  old sidewalks

with chalked silhouettes
of desire. when there is not,
we walk white-footed the rails

by the river, counting
darks between shadows
until the sun

comes and grows and
our backs bend too heavy
so we turn them

from the creosote-soaked
tang of the city
to dig holes in dry dirt,

filling them up
with all the weight
of emptiness.


it is a long way since 17, but

pipeline with rose petal

by midsummer i
am all riversand and
freckles, inkdreaming

in a language re-
born from murk
and rivermud.

and though
it is good growing
weather, all

sticky rain
and cloudless
noons, my vinedark

currents are slow to crawl,
slow as the sun eats
shadow.

snugged close
on a narrow doorstep,
swatting mosquitoes

seems suddenly
like some kind of love.
so we soak up each

heavy july evening
as if we knew
we weren’t meant

to last. as if fall
were already falling.
as if this were

another country
song dripping
to its end.


just where summer touches Mayo’s Island

heron, pipeline rocks

high-up, herons crank.
river shudders over rock below,
foam-white over brown-green-gray.
a cartridge of firecrackers sits
half-buried in sand, spent.
where beech trees leave
shadow, the sun fights for a print-
dimpled foot. there are egrets
too, like snow in july treetops.
and of all things, these
remind me of the ocean,
of us so much it hurts.


your yesterdays

DSCN0308.1

muddy my forevers,
wet river footprints
on the kitchen floor

of the house we’ll never buy.
we argue
over the absolute value

of nothing, the hollows
it leaves under your eyes
when we open the front

door and the world
comes in with the rain.
someone asked me once

why i write
poetry, and i didn’t have
a ready answer,

but after
so much of argument, i
think it’s to believe,

still, in
love, in all its
hot swollen

uncomfortable
nothings that creep
like poison

just under the skin,
its falling headfirst
over and  over and

over, somer-
saults into river shadow,
into, again, nothing,

the absolute value of which
is still up
for discussion.


mindful.

strangely tinted dandelions

 

this is how spring comes,
stripes of green between

herring-boned brick, fern-fronding,
bare-armed, broken-eternitied;

mindful. (i am) convalescent,
cognizant of the dragons

that still lean in, hungry.
they bite at me, at

wrists and cheeks and eyes,
blindfully, so that my shape

is not the shape of others, ever.
after dinner, your stereo

won’t work; you ask me to sing, but
i’ve got only that song

where the girl is leaving and the boy
must drop everything to catch her.

(and that is
not us, after all.)

dragons, as everyone knows,
hate the sun. while you are gone, i sit

on the winter-warmed stoop
bare-armed, watching spring come,

scars palely fade, wondering
how this song will end.


the last rhetorical question

snow in richmond, angled.

where do we dream,
now? i ask, remembering
monday afternoons
that could run through our fingers
like the juice from an overripe

plum. the snow this year
wasn’t as wonder-sunk as the last.
you didn’t dress me up and say
let’s make the most of this.
no, we sat with our backs

to a bar and watched the
flakes fall until they
didn’t. like a disconnect. suddenly
i feel i am stop-gap, filling-
in, badly wrapped

arm-candy. like winter-grass,
pale and limp and persistent.
like the snow that cries, fading.
so i do my dying during
daylight hours, afraid

the neighbors will hear,
call the cops, take
the cat, run. somehow i
am, still; embittered
& embroidered and melting

in what was. you are trim &
full up with prospects & when
you say let’s make the most
of this, it doesn’t sound
the same at all, at all.


sitting, two years later,

in the james center starbucks, i
am distracted by the business
which parades in suit, by
the slow, slow sound

of winter dying, its feeble thuds
keeping time with my own unarmed
chest. there is a meek half-light
outside the windowed-walls,

the sun un-warm & indecisive.
i am afforded a first-class view
of the parking garage,
the crimson-awninged atm,

the bundled cafe umbrellas.
i am waiting, brokenly:
for a car crash, for a lightning strike,
to see someone i recognize.

for you to catch hold
of my cheek and say, come,
let me take you home.
it is more limbo than

purgatory, the waiting;
there is no redemption at its end,
only the promise of a flatter
mattress and yellowed teeth.

as the poet said: there
is evening, there is morning,
and i think i loved you better
when we were

desperate. besides i
quit being a good catholic
years ago, now only
remember my rosary

when digging through
the jewelbox for a gold
chain you also didn’t give me,
also years ago.

This is kinda a re-make of a poem i did about two years ago, posted wayyy back here.

thunder-and-lightning love

they razor
across a face opaque
as sugared absinthe, her smile-
shanks, swearing nothing
could ever come between them, nothing:

the studded starlight, the straightness
of his spine;
there was a time i would’ve moved
everything; now all
that is left is to move on,

the piles of pills uncut, un-
touched on the kitchen counter, a
caress in their cold aloneness. no
half measures in this meeting; she
reads too fast, so crazy she

mustbe in-love, in-
fatuated (i find
i do not believe youmuch, anymore), un-
characteristically alive; still, she reads
too fast, like cobblestones

coming up to meet you, & there is no
sorry in cement, like our
footsteps that day we walked
the beach in the cold, like
elbows in a coffeeshop

on a streetcorner
where they sit and argue
(will they remember my voice,
when i am dead?)
over what it means to be crazy.


becomings

mythological trail of heartbeats

she breaks hearts
like she breaks
bread, gnawing &

soft, follows
the trail
of heartbeats

as it grows
more obliquely
spaced, slowing.

she is searching
for a place to rest
among the wreckings;

she is silent,
like an empty
tattoo, like a bruise

on a thigh. she is
chewing up her past,
tearing it in tiny pieces

and swallowing.
it is fibrous,
absolving, like a train

whistle, like you
in bed on saturday
mornings. she

still dreams of snow
and red dresses, of
the stuffed bear

he left when she left:
please don’t go
again.


re: the first falling star

this poem
is written under a gray sky,
looking out, poem-level,
at the power lines & december-naked
branches.

it has never smelled heather
in winter; it prickles
with gooseflesh but won’t
let you turn on the heat.

this poem
says: you must make
your own fire. it owes me
nothing. like you, it dreams
in cats.

this poem has no hands.
it sleeps naked. it likes
summer nights and
long walks under the stars.

this poem
is winter on paper,
a message in a bottle
washed upon a cold
Atlantic beach.

its breath steams,
champs, hisses &
waits for us, all, melting,
in the dark.


the things we burn

you say we are descended
from giants,
but i

am more impressed
by the tenacity
of acorns,

how they worm
their way into the wet
fall ground. inside

their porcupined-cap heads
they are oaks already, & we
mere children

playing in the dirt, watching
sparks curl round the thread-
bare dark. their every breath

threatens to catch the night on fire,
and my eyelashes are singed
with soot-stained doubting.

these are the things we burn;
with smoke in my hair,
will you love me still?


suddenly

we’re reaving yesterdays like
leaf-fall & peanutshells, piling
them in great heaps to smoke

and shudder; tonight
i listen to the same sad song
you sung me on those days

you sang for no one, and
the creak of the polished floors
under my uneven footsteps

echoes through all the seasons
between that day and this:
fall, winter, spring,

summer, fall
winter, summer, fall, winter…
the sound of broken

promises is similar
to nothing so much as that
of broken glass, & suddenly

nothing
is so bitter
as chocolate.

suddenly,
there is all this talk
of elephants.


doubt

is a dragon
who eats love poems,
chews up their beginnings

and chars my pages
with the white li(n)es
and black letters of regret.

fall has not even
truly fallen, yet we stall out
like gas-starved engines:

sparks that stutter, flame,
consume. will winter find
us hitch-hiking home,

the snow melt sogging
through wet leaves, limp
socks? what can rev up for-

ever, catch us now on fire?
who will teach me, again,
to purr?


reckoning season

summer passes. all its hot-
cropped doubts and match-
struck storms leave
a vacuum where we used to sit
on high-backed stools

and sip on laughter. this is
why i fall in love
though it makes me sad, why
we kiss on street corners
and write poems

about poems. autumn
comes welcome and in-
between, filling the sky
with empty spaces
to tell a story

of matched rails
and sunlight-through-leaves.
today is a good day
for the beginning
of end-

ings, wet-burnt
and rising as they carry us
off in laughter and smoke,
leave us fearless, bare-
footed in rain.


day-dreaming in stolen words

children chase the shadows
of butterflies round a fountain
of stone; pink
blooms of crepe myrtle drift in
the august breeze to land

teasingly on skin, clothes, hair.
she finds it strange
how every man who has ever said
he loves her has also said
you deserve better;

hikes up her skirt to let
the late afternoon sun
kiss knees, thighs;
wonders. the moon
will be small and orange

tonight, a plaything
for summer’s dying gods.
who will kiss
her noon-shadow,
chase the butterfly wings down

the arch of her back, crown
her summer-glow
like a prom queen in pink crepe,
carry her home when
august has ended?


drifting

it is august in earnest.
yesterday was almost
autumn, yet here we are again,
dripping. the sticky blueness

of these last few holdout days
clings to the streets like gauze.
by a series of unfortunate
coincidents, i

am thinking of laboratories,
of thinning lines of blood, of my
mother’s dead white hands.
the walls of her hospital room

were that same sticky un-sterile blue,
like an oil painting of some South sea.
it is not the same blue of puddled
dress they found me

in before they called the paramedics
at summer’s end the year of her death;
no, it is deeper and better
for drowning. most seasons i

don’t believe in faith,
but i thank god on august days
for ambles along the river,
for his rich earthy browns.


meditations on the death of summer

fog curling
off the water makes me feel

like falling
off the world; some-

times it’s damn hard
to feel at home here,

the drips of our lonelinesses
bubbling up from a depth which,

in august, is of consequence
to no-one. the sky is as oppressive

as oblivion, a smoky mono-
chromed sheet where

the saddest lines are typed
in a cloudy times new roman

and tossed in God’s wastepaper
basket. we dream

of dragons and decembers,
snowfallen starlight, autumn’s

bittersweet gold like sun
on dappled saturday

mornings, like the flamed tendrils
of my strawberry hair

in the dark field of absence
behind your closed caramel eyes.


poem ex nihilo

we burn
as the sun sets.

i am watching smoke curl,
feeding sticks into the flames
one by one by one, searching
the shapes of autumn’s shadow

for a metaphor fragile
enough to carry trust
in its silky, river-
fed palms;

for the words to drip
down your open-mouthed
throat like a benediction
and swallow naked, like a sword;

for the way silent twilight
fills the negative space
and becomes a poem
ex nihilo.


(between parentheses)

after R.S.
 
dear poet,

there is nothing
accidental
about this metaphor:

that we are children
reaching hands
in the hard calloused
eyes of the ferryman who
steers between the winks
of channel-markers
into gloamed twilight;
that we step
quietly on the creaking
planks of secrets and
drink in coastlines
like sweetwater;
and that we finally
follow stars hot
& hard as July earth
until each
reaches home again.


augury, in the strictest sense

we walk through thunder,
and there are drawn stormclouds

across your cheeks, brow; like train-
tracks to nowhere, and i’ll hop

the next boxcar, simple as un-
wanting, follow it til i find

the sun buried in your irides.
this metaphor is a railroad:

straight, the slow
unraveling of sudden horizons.

a friend tells me
the story of the red-

tail hawk attacked
sequentially by two crows

and a mockingbird. i
wonder if it’s because they know

jealousy like you do, see its predatory
threat atop every lamppost and

telephone pole.
raindrops like fat clay pigeons hiss

against rusted rails, tear-on-trestle,
black-feathered bullets of omen:

where will you be
when the lightning comes down?

 


they told me this was a poem

the notebook i burned that day i learned hate:
i wish i had those words again.

the one long coat i’ll never wear

and the books i’ll never sell, that sit damply expiring
in the back of the closet beside this box
(since they don’t all fit).

the nights you spend alone, every
one folded tight like an unused rain slicker.

my mother’s wedding ring.

my father’s Saint Christopher, the one
he wore for years after they told his sixteen-year-old self
he had a fourteen-percent-chance.

the Saint Jude i lit for the ones who didn’t, their names
melded to the bottom now.

all the poems i write but that no-one can see, and this one,
tucked underneath.

that picture frame she threw at me, before she could throw it:
those hours picking glass shards from skin i will
never get back.


so much for ekphrasis

At twenty-
four, what stories
did you sculpt
into eternity?

What mythologies
would you sing into
fluted white
forevers?

We aren’t much
for marble
anymore, any-
way, prefer-

ing city walls
and less
lasting art-
ifices: wood,

paper, pixel;
would Apollo’s
lust-laden trance
come across

on brick?
or Daphne’s heart-
beat through
softer stone?

(if i carve this
poem in Carrara,
will you still
feel its pulse?)

You’ll notice there’s no image here. I wasn’t sure about copyright protection of images of Gian Lorenzo Berninis sculpture on which this poem is based. The piece is called Apollo e Dafne, and is housed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. You can view it, and read a little about Bernini and the history of the piece (which he did begin at the age of 24) here.

urban farmhouse at twilight

 

there is the subtlest of breezes from full-flung windows where the world
comes in, dragging its day-end noises: settling birds, slowing traffic.
It smells still of dark coffee & morning-baked bread. someone
coughs. the last sighs of light reflect against glass and chrome;
shadows pool between the cobbles. a scrape of chairs as this place
slowly empties, we the dregs of what had been an over-full cup.
my wine is sweeter with every
swallow.

fluorescent heartbeat,
a new green pulses lamplit;
last lip-stained-glass kiss.


above Mayo Island, late March

waves run against the shore below the bridge, longing
to be the ocean. herring make their upstream leap, and
birds fish languidly from the rocks: geese, ducks, long-
legged Great Blues and a single, bleach-white crane. i
walk the beach barefoot, breathing the air sweet with
new green, watch him perch serenely among the highest
squirrel-eared branches, think this must be what it is
to be in love in spring-time, and alone.

 

 

 

linked to dversepoets for Meeting the Bar.

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