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.

-Shane

Stars

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.

 

Trojan Yogurt

 

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.

 

Blocked Lines

 

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.

 

Play Acting

 

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.

 

Beach Bums

 

We build camp in the gap

where a gnarled log fort

lets in sky. You stack

driftwood sticks,

I rip sheets of past sins

to burn.

 

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.

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I knew I shouldn’t be mad,
I had, after all, ended things.
We’d both moved on, though somehow
Still in the same bed for the rest of September.
One bed we scheduled to keep separate lest we share
That painful quiet of the first few days. Now our paths
Only crossed at the most awkward of times: we’d both come home
To feed the cats, grab clean clothes, or make a sandwich;
I’d be watching a bit of Netflix when the lock would slide open
And a shard of glass would stab me. Shit!
Heyyyy. How are you? Fine. Just here for a sec.
As if more syllables implied affection, or anything other than
Bad timing. The new girl stood stiff at the door,
Like a bitch whose treat was snatched from her mouth.
You changed clothes as quick as you could and left.

I knew I shouldn’t be mad, but when I found
That discarded latex in the trash – my trash!
I was done. Maybe you didn’t need the neighbors
To see your streaked boxers icing the cake of clothes in the yard.
Maybe you had nowhere else to go and I was out of town
Anyway. Maybe we both deserve better,
But we won’t find it in the same bed.

Play this card
to reap a harvest of wheat.
Next Turn build roads to bring bushels to market.
Who knew a planned economy
could be so easy!
Be sure to build a barracks by Turn’s end.
The enemy is amassing at our eastern border,
and armies must be trained.

Roll three dice
to determine the fate of our soldiers.
They were brave men, but faceless,
and their sacrifice secures a new region for the empire.
Next Turn we gain a bonus battalion,
growing our legions and forgetting those lost.
There are unlimited fighting men available
as long as we can pay the cost.

Send forth an enforcer
to quell the peasants in Sector 12.
They are rioting from lack of food,
and we cannot survive
a drop in productivity.
Improving our defenses is essential,
so we cannot build new farms this Turn.
Our people will weather these sacrifices
for the glory of ______.

Like the horse,
It’s named not for where it came from,
But what it broke. Filtered through walls of cheesecloth
To lose the way.
The product is distributed too evenly,
So we bribe it with berries,
Lobby mom for the crunch of granola,
And whisper honey into every spoon
When no one is looking.
In the end each bite is unique,
Each flavor distinctly American.

The New Food Movement invited me to dinner,
As it often does, to discuss politics.
I was very hungry, and hoped for a banquet.
The evite conjured urban farms and rooftop gardens,
Little heads of lettuce grown without soil,
Nourished by plastic streams of water
Circulating the droppings from tilapia.
I love tilapia. It tastes like whatever it’s cooked in,
Like some aquatic tofu, but with texture.
The New Food Movement talked about P-patches,
Family farms, community-supported agriculture,
Permaculture, monoculture, enzymatic culture,
The culture of community and family under attack
When we trust assembly lines to make the meals
Served at bread lines to former farmers.
The New Food Movement wants us to get to work,
Wants dirt in our nails and land in our bones,
Wants children to know where food is grown,
Wants everyone to be a farmer. Skyscrapers cascade
Grapevines and condos cultivate arugula in
The world of the New Food Movement.

But I’m hungry now and the New Food Movement
Serves only stale rhetoric. The salad is made of leaflets
The entree is a cold serving of revenge. I can’t starve myself
As I wait for this bountiful future, so I stuff myself
On chicken nuggets and Round-Up resistant corn flakes.
My stomach is full, but somehow I feel like
I’m still going hungry.