I try to build a poem as a carpenter might a jewelry box: pleasing to look at, solid, strong, original and housing a mystery that only opening it will reveal.
Here words are at their most intense and critical. If even one is off, the box is flawed.
I’ve included four poems. “Boy in Winter” from my 2011 chapbook from Finishing Line Press, The Language Factory of the Mind; “Dream and Thoughts on Waking,” from the 2011 Marin Poetry Center Anthology (I was nominated for the Pushcart Poetry Prize for this one); “Night” from the fall, 2012 issue of Spillway Magazine; and a new poem, “To an Iris.”
Boy in Winter
Saturday, eyes fixed on
steering rope, wool gloves
hung with icebells, snow
crystals cold-welding eyelashes,
he sleds down his white world.
His friends are bent ghosts
on the hill, sleds trailing
like tails, bleached-out breath
balloons leading them up.
Later, house a cavern of
stiff beds, garage a cave of
wheels, basement suppressing
snake-gray shadows, doors
enjammed, stairway frozen fast.
Through iced windows the driveway
glows with white light while
the down-slanting street
presents a grid of black bricks.
At dinner table: soup, liver, Lima beans.
His sister an alert doll going to flesh.
His mother, dishcloth in one hand,
the other raised to recall some sad
song, dances the few steps from dish
rack to drawer and back again.
In the livingroom his father
studies a map of Asia while
easing a socked foot under the
cat’s belly to dissuade it from
kneading a calico pillow to climax.
That night in his room he
practices goodbyes before
his mirror and envisions
taking a letter-opener to a
100-year-old book’s uncut
pages, a miniature map of
Europe, and smooth streets where
snow melts to mezzotint while
ladies twice his age saunter
sideways toward him in French.
thoughts on waking
my house as a kid
stay with it
lattice shadow across a face
looks familiar but
can’t place it
stairs going down
old paint cans in basement corner
oversized book on floor,
breeze turning yellowed pages
something not done
near my hand
a hungry dog
should be scared, aren’t
outside, crickets in a chorus
eerie, but relief
up steeper stairs
to the mind?
kitten walking up
turnstile at top
the price of…?
boxes taped shut
early writing? loss
On the roof a fish with compass
symbol of? (look up fish
fish speaks but I can’t
for a voice
In the distance,
strobe lights and rain
the bigger world
where I want to be
wind, nursery rhyme
immersed in the present
dog at the gate
The night’s just got started, wrapped in
green paper. Moon a silver-plate slash,
sun long gone like a hedge-fund scammer
jumping bail. Thins of enstripped plastic
in my pocket, I walk bookish, distracted,
a target for marketers, an investment to
redeem when. Frost stands grass blades
upright in iced witness. Dawn comes finally,
making sucking sounds. Day will limo in,
selling its return. I’ll buy as always,
only my lifeblood in arrears.
That’s schooling for you, and fear.
To an Iris
Descending the driveway for the morning
paper I slow to stare; you weren’t there
yesterday but now your myriad bride-
white and royal-blue petals shock and
stop me. Being biped with brain I quickly
sort things out and dictate terms: I am this,
you are that; I live mobile, you stay rooted;
I breed speech, you float pollen to act out
what you can’t articulate: the ache to survive
your own demise. Leave voicing that to me –
back indoors, paper read, coffee made, I’ll
write that, as if conjoined, we two birth
blooms, the difference being that for you it’s
moments after you appear and days before you
die. But will I ask what most I want to know:
when is it enough? No, no, I’ll not step so far,
but instead come back to look again and
know that my dour questing fades with spring
while your raw will holds the fuller sway.
I won’t stand here long this day.