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The sea spreads
steady as sunset, as spilling salt,
as the slow sink of forgetting –

unstoppered moments spiraling
down the drain, sluiced out
with melodies, hair-stroked strings,

undammed and unimpeded
by the star-flash of screens,
by fumble and fiddle.

The precious, ephemeral stillness seeds
a shark-sharp barb I’d have dodged otherwise.
My absent friend: You’ll never hear.

Breathe

It’s not necessary to breathe
Forever is a long time
Your head is on the moon
– They Might Be Giants, “In the Nightgown of the Sullen Moon”

I heard they had a space program
When they sing you can’t hear, there’s no air
– They Might Be Giants, “Angel

I learned to juggle
with three gossamer scarves
salvaged from a thrift-store table,
long fraying teal and square
purple brocade in arcs with the third,
plain white and scarred
with solutes left once the water had dried.

All three so reluctant to fall
I knotted their middles
like shuttlecocks, snitches,
still easy to keep from the ground.

They plummet like plates
away from the air, set to strike
at my feet as I scramble from flight
to flight, grasp at rolled hems,
loosed threads, my mind divided
from even the thought of impossible breath.

Reversion

Tonight we rolled back
a month of mornings that crept,
tickwise, the whole of the sky
like the firmament thought once
to swaddle the world,
star-layers and strata
stowing little ellipses
nested like cyclical gears.

Weeks of work undone
in the wake of an error,
but I am untroubled,
carrying only a pick
and a shovel, a drive
to remake what we’ve both wiped away.

Letterbox

Too late or soon to make noise about love and there’s no time for sorrow
– They Might Be Giants, “Letterbox”

Blue canary nightlight left
unplugged, on its side
among lipsticks never
much cared for, separating polishes
turned pigment parfaits:

My visitor asks where the light
switch is, her left hand fishing
among toothbrushes and brow combs,
and I can say only “Above
the shelf in the middle.”

It used to be lit.
I used to visit.
We used to raise glasses, and we raised the barn
behind the riverside house
she left years ago. Her then-future wife
maybe lives there still,
and I wonder whether
that might have gone differently
if I’d only planted the trio of bulbs,
tissue-wrapped favors bestowed at the wedding.

Panserbjørn

I have no record
left of him
but the little card
announcing “Best in Show,” the remnants
cast off from his armor –
mocked out in foam and glue,
rust down from rivets
brushed like the lines
in a porcelain iris –
and the second bear I bought
to craft one of my own,
still unarmored, tagged and settling
on the sewing room shelf.
Plain plush polar guards
half-made Starbuck BDUs,
cigar-box guitar with its neck never done,
Mod Podge and mesh
cracking in a frame, their failed
screen transferring only five
illegible heroines,
bird-white stream onto cornflower cotton.
My intentions snowflake-drifted,
collected until the chasms’ crusts
crumbled with their weight.

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