Many, if not all, of these poems have appeared on this blog in various drafts. I hope you enjoy the fruits of my labors these last few months.
languish on the limpid
dermis of a lake,
beyond the reach of skeletal trees
and the silk moon’s rippling sheen:
ten thousand forgotten faces.
Today we think of the Greeks
at breakfast. Their legacy protein-rich,
smuggling probiotics to fortify our guts;
a low-fat alternative to the fried meals
preferred by barbarians.
Like that other Attic invention,
the final product is too evenly distributed
for American tastes. It’s a messy process,
but still better than those other forms
that have been tried from time to time.
Unable to stomach bland egalitarianism,
we bribe our bowls with berries,
lobby mothers for granola,
and whisper honey into every spoon
when we think her back is turned.
We know our portions aren’t equal, but we keep
our bowls hidden from other jealous eyes,
sneaking in the sweetest parts
like soldiers waiting to conquer.
Slurping broth at the bottom of a bowl of pho
You stare into the red-broth dregs at the bottom:
a slurry of noodle, sprouts and sriracha sauce. No need
to finish but you do it anyway, for her. She always liked
see you cringe as the heat hit.
It starts as a slow burn on your tongue’s tip,
quickly catches fire and rages through your palate.
You sweat, red-faced with a flowing nose,
a tingle moves from mouth to mind,
you transcend time. Blink and you’re back home:
Ebey’s Landing, where mountains loom
through clouded cowls. Baker, Rainier, and the Olympics
can each be seen from the trailhead
where she smiles to see it all for the first time.
You run down the bluff toward the snarling cape
of emerald-white waves and she twirls
the axis of your world. Exhale and return to steamy
windows and that faded mural of painted cedars
and a single frozen eagle, floating forever with his catch
just out of reach.
Grandpa’s passing robbed me of my pen, like frost
from a cool mourning blurring my mind’s eye.
Plots thinned and characters shallowed. I still tried,
but each line seemed tired and trite, too much lost
in abstract thought and smoke-haze. The cost
Of four years bolted to the same sofa getting high
is a stack of scratched-out notebooks to tell the lie.
No way not to write but no lines left uncrossed.
I cannot embrace this urge to erase
each line forever. Smothered light searches for a slit
to shine through, as I search for words to place:
a struggle on blank sheets for what might fit.
Grandpa smiles down and I know I can’t waste
one more verse written, only to omit.
Notes on Meaning
Each day the luthier works
in the dusty shop below his home.
He bends wood to shape,
carves holes for sound, and pulls
string from tail to scroll
then draws his bow to try the tune.
Years after he’s gone,
his work lives on in the soul
of every sounded note
she plays. The violin was a gift
from her dad, who loves the way that
music makes her eyes light up
as though she might finally speak.
Now he lives to watch her play
from his seat beside the stage.
As she sways, strikes
bow to bridge, he leans in so his wet eyes
may catch hers.
The boy inside you yearns to burst free
from the suit you wear to smother him
He longs for days when a bicycle wasn’t a vehicle
but a saddle to ride with a lance or six-shooter
when you climbed each tree with a branch you could reach
when you ran until you couldn’t
when ice cream stains on your cheeks
meant the day was won
You know he’s still in there
not transformed to the man at a desk
on the 34th floor waiting for his 11am
but the towhead looking out the window
as he folds a paper airplane to soar
This fatigue is more than can be cured
by day hike dates from OkCupid
or every streaming video on the Internet
You’ve forgotten your father’s smile
and what it meant
when spinning on the tire swing
The boy remains
beside the young man and the dreamer
wondering why you pass so many parks
on the way to buy vegetables
and how you can sit still for eight hours
as the whole day passes outside
He’s the reason you still take
a new route for each trip
why an unclimbed tree feels like failure
why you stop to smell the fresh-cut grass
why you still make time for ice cream.
We build camp in the gap
where a gnarled log fort
lets in sky. You stack
I rip sheets of past sins
Zeus, the rottweiler
who chose to join us,
stands sentinel outside the light,
thundering at each rustling thing
like his Olympian namesake. Before life
fractures the frame of our best-laid plans
before love and full-time jobs
take all our time. We’re warriors
living in our moment of the possible.
We watch night trip and fall
to scatter stars to the gloam;
drinking 151 from a sandy bottle
we ponder the ineffable flame
in a dim pile of coals.
Our futures are painted
in Perseid streaks and we know one day
we’ll take off.
Almost Lucy Temerlin
“Would she learn to love us, and, perhaps, have other human emotions as well? Would she be well behaved, rebellious, intelligent, or stupid?”
-Maurice K. Temerlin
Lucy almost always you. Almost my bouncing baby girl, my perfect
experiment, but never just anything. Never
the chimp you saw in the mirror, not quite the lass
in a gingham dress with a cup of tea and a hug
as wide as the room. Two years to grow
from tea parties with dolls to gin guzzling and leering at men
in dirty magazines. Too quick a switch from my sweet girl
to a simian whirlwind. We taught you to sign and you learned
to lie. I wish I’d never known you, Lucy. Never known that almost
girl who grew to love too much. You cared for your kitten,
caught a fish from my balcony and handed it to me smiling.
You mixed a gin and tonic to celebrate your womanhood.
I still dream of you and of the girl you almost grew to.
An elegant hostess in your red dress, ready with cakes
to greet our guests. I’m still proud of you, Lucy, and of the
girl you always were. So trusting, so embracing.
I should never have left you.