Poems

An incompetent misunderstanding of time

I’m better off writing this poem tomorrow
during the solstice when days are balanced
like the teenage June I spent driving
through the same swarm of gnats
that congregate over dirt roads to nowhere,
past the same herd of deer,
so tranquil and ever present I assumed they were dead,
stuffed and set out for eternity to frustrate
hunters and lions with no land rights,

but I knew they were alive
because I was.
And what was the harm of wasting time driving?
I had it trapped and sitting in the bed of my truck,
time, waiting to be set free and spill about
the dust covered coulee like cleansing frost
or pungent sagebrush,

like liquor on ice in a humid sunset,
the kind of sunset that people lock in cages
with cameras and paint,
the beautiful kind made from summer death
and asphyxiating heat that was always there, lurking behind
abandoned houses and under old tires, even in the winter
when heat is supposed to be playing cards with
its grandmother in Santa Fe.

I hope that I find it,
the right hour, the right second
to begin, for without it I am
benign.

But for now, I will just write a single phrase—
“loneliness without time to understand.”
to leave in a drawer to remind a future self of this
task I’ve promised a now older self to complete,
and I will stay rooted in discerning paralysis.
It is comfortable here—
death or inspiration will come
soon enough.

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Poems

The road through the mountains

It’s impolite to begin a poem
with an expletive

I.
“Fuck
you lost,” was all he said, at first.

Not that he said much more later,
but it is what he opened with.

The “fuck” was not in anger or distress,
it was maybe a conjunctive adverb,
the Montana “consequently.”

It was spoken as rare punctuation, a verbal quotation mark
indicating “so says I” and seemed as much a part of the man’s speech
as the droop of his left eyebrow or hole in his neck

I tried desperately not stare at.

“Fuck
you lost,”
teemed between question, decorative, and imperative.
I’m in my car doubting.

II.

“Fuck”
(me this time)
Let me try this again.

Who wouldn’t stop for a
figure who stood in the middle of the road.

He had been there as I approached,
just an idea at first that grew into a man,
a sentinel, it seemed, to the road through the mountains.

I looked past him towards the road through the mountains.
Fingers drummed the steering wheel,
thought of spitting but thought better of it.
“Does this road go through the mountains,” I asked.

“Fuck”
So says I
“Gotta go around.”

I nodded as if I understood the situation,
noticing the stillness of the foothill grass,
the dog unmoving in the bed of the truck,

the rigid back of the head of a woman, with dark
wispy hair in the cab.
Through glass of the back window and rear-view
I could see she had no face, only eyes but her eyes looked
so tired they may not have been eyes at all
but sockets too long filled with tears or darkness,

the strangeness of life.

The dust of my approach reached him,
rural courtesy pulled along my wake.

I thanked him.
I went around.

III.

Last time,
I promise.

The problem with poetry
is that my words set to capture
the innumerable birds of the wilderness
with the tenderness of
an axe slicing orchids,
but cannot explain
the hole
in the neck.

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Poems

Wind chimes

A wind chime plays for me nightly.
Only for me
and my dog
who rummages about the yard silently,
sniffing and biting at the snow.

It’s my neighbors chime,
but it’s solely mine after dark.
I don’t know them,
inside their house which is close enough
to spit upon, but their chime
hangs above their back porch and
talks mindlessly to me about it’s day as I stand
taking in it’s quiet banter.

It is a dark winter breeze that whisks it to life, softly, tunelessly
like a child discovering keys upon a piano for the first time in the next room.

The motorcycles and adolescent’s whining cars are not mine.
But the chime is,
and the night is.

And my dog, I suppose,
she’s mine too.

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Poems

Thoughts During Summer Heat

“How do ticks,” I think, “know how to find me?”
As I watch three amber drops of blood cross
the moonscape of grass and gravel towards my backpack,
the scent of me, or aura, attracting their cause.

I can’t imagine pulling that much barbed wire
that divides the wilderness into sirloins and porterhouse
like a butchers dismantling of beef, but the haul and plant
of a million fence posts seems well within the realm of possible,
I think.

How long will this hot stillness last before the wind billows back,
buffeting my mind from the distant cloud
that reminds me of her?

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Poems

On the wind catching your fly line causing you to curse loudly and miss a trout the size of your hamstring

I.

My father never taught me,
he was too busy being a good father
or a good engineer.

I flail, land, and intertwine transparent line,
but the fish know my ruse.
They laugh.

 

II.

I’m casting by moonlight
fluidly but something is different:
a change in the stars, perhaps,
or a new nightingale coo.

And the river is turned, sucked
into the mountains
instead of the sea.
The moon, not knowing what she does,
turns her bright face closer
To smell the night air fresh with closeness before unknown.
Who wouldn’t?
Who wouldn’t take pause to notice
the peat, the pine, the discrete nothing
and everything of a mountain river?

And the river lifts
and I’m still casting
like an idiot,
just swinging that fucking stick,
like an owner shaking a ball before an excited dog,
into the river now above me.

And the river lifts out of its bed
dropping rain and minnows
onto its barren and rocky bed
on its path towards the peaks,
a cloud
a dense one with malice in its head.

Spring catalysts turn to fountains,
tiny geysers
for deer and huckleberry
displacing water into air.
Fawns prance like children in sprinklers.

The moon is down.
The night alive with change,
a new order, a new geography.

Scientists will calculate and strain:
drinking coffee and sit cinder eyed
at flows and screens.

And I will fish.

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Poems

symbiotics

During a brief and passionate
argument
with a robot

he threw my favorite potted plant
out of our spaceship’s cockpit window.

The depressurization sucked me out,
like the pearl from an oyster,

and the robot never laughed again.
He had never laughed in the first place,

but then, neither had the plant.

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Poems

Three Houses

A fistfight just started
on new stained steps.

It’s a nasty one, the fight,
blood on the buttons already

but the morning is early
and yet to be marred

as these two raise voices
and swing between curses

now in the flower beds
of my grandfather’s second built home,

punching directive at who will
grace the neighborhood.

He sits on the steps
and wipes his glasses, pondering

trusses of  the skeleton
of his third unfinished house

where he lives in a room meant for preserves
under a floor meant for carpet.

They crush the half silence
of the first Sunday of August

with cars slowing to watch
and the wind shakes the daisies.

He waves from his steps
as the motorists crawl,

church bound fingers point
with mouths agape.

And the wind shakes the daisies
planted by his wife.

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Poems

The Oceans Geographic

The Oceans Geographic

I.

The charm of daylight savings time
brushes him onto the porch before
the coffee cools. The moon flirts with perfection
filtered through night air tightening with cold
harsh on his lungs, but the kind of cold
that one might associate with preservation,
like snow at the dump.

His eyes remain closed
as if the surf could sting
at this distance, yet it dampens the notebook
face up on the table before him.

A long deep breath and it’s
enough to be thinking about
a symphony long forgotten in composer and melody
and all sounds relapse under

the percussion of lavender.
A glint of silver on the surf turns out
to be a bag of crisps.

And it all reminds him of
the triviality of what’s happened
but how serious it all was.

II.

They will know who wrote King Lear,
as he always had.

And the friend at the of the line
doesn’t pick up
but that’s okay because the letter mailed
will be far more important.

Anyway the girl walking by
breaks her gait,
or you think she does,
as a half-smile overshadows
the turquoise dress, a dress
meant for a bridesmaid.
The receiver drifts slowly from your ear
at the same speed she passes before you,
friction of ringtone, cold air, and playful lust
separating in a zero gravity drift.

And your friend, three hours in the future
feels the drag as well, you imagine.

Or maybe it’s meant for
the crow picking at popcorn
in the field behind you.

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Poems

Lament of the Frontier

(For my grandfather)

In the Dry Land, rain fell sideways heavy and half-frozen
upon tilted hats and upturned collars the way it always fell.
Forlorn thunder, the steady brown dirt and grass of all seasons
trembled in the warmest winter since you left for the city.

I rode and rode the hills
to watch the flood plain fill.

There is no riding left. No bluff, river, or levee.
Who cut these mountains small?
Who planted the bones of this wheat seed
now choked with wintry deluge,
and choked with heat soon
yielding a sweltered summer wind which echoes
down the valleys?

Is this wind distilled in the same snowcapped mountains
from your farthest trip West?
What of those two perfect days
saddled between solstice
when wind is swollen of wild daisy or huckleberry and there’s nothing
but to stand knee deep and watch the peach sky drop?

Fence posts rot. Barbed wire is planted in the earth
and blood, glove, and gun are interned with the buried borders.
And those who once rode are now snow-covered,
swollen.

Crippled and shrunken like the trees
of the desert.
The desert that might swallow child or cattle.
And I’ll die here too,
someday.

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Poems

There was this girl and

There was this girl and

There was this poem,
but I suppose the girl came first:

came to me
on Sunday evenings,

late and heavy with
lust and other things

and I studied both,
ran my fingers over

their bodies, not at first
but after a drink or two.

Deep in that apartment
the lights were orange, low

or off. My fingers traced
twist and line and couldn’t grasp

either completely, talking  lazy words.
They both hung around for at least

a winter and after I couldn’t smell
anything but the dead,

dusty odor of the furnace.
I perceived words

leaning over  me and her
or on the poem, inexhaustible.

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