One Nation

A country emptied by the fear of war.
from The Dream of Lee, Reynolds Price

WE sat together in a coffee bar,
sheltered from the gentle autumn wind,
streaming the speech of Russian subterfuge
an out-of-style wartime
dream, a shadow war played out
on social networks filled up by the fear
of truth.

How Soon the Sound

How soon the sound turns to gibberish, the
way form follows meaning into blind alleys. Listen:

I just got through playing Bach suites on
the wrong instrument for them, the wrong way,
most likely, but as it was it was meaningful,
as it was.

 

Written in response to a dVerse prompt: write a quadrille, using the word sound.

Sonnet: The View from the False Door

There is little to be
seen outside my door
which doesn’t open. I see
a shrub, wooden fence, and four

houses ranged close, paranoid
in their huddled, gap-toothed
yards with their backs avoid-
ing contact with me. Truth

to tell, we all avoid this backyard
meeting. Privacy fences are tall
sentries against each other’s hard
gazes from kitchen blinds that fall.

We meet each other in the way
we wave politely at the end of day.

Not my best effort, but it is an English sonnet, and I wrote it in response to this dVerse prompt.

After a Year of Drought

We went to my friend’s lake house
hoping the water was still up to the dock.
It was, but mud ran alongside the pilings,
made it look like a construction site,
with bottles, cans, and one boot
of a sort fashionable among young girls
in 2003.

Or as if the land was creeping back
to reclaim its own, after
the Hydroelectric Act of 1939
or whatever thing the legislature enacted
between dime-cigar bets and happy girls

flooded the land between two counties
mocking that part of creation where
dry land divided the waters and it was good

but it was also good to get out
on a boat and see the pine trees whizz by
like a flooded out interstate,
or Venice writ large and southern-style.

My friend pointed out trees
hanging on to dry land
roots leached out of the water
like receding gums,
or an uprising.

written in response to a dVerse prompt.

The Dream of Tartness

Often after a trauma
there is the mundane revery
if I could only
mine was a dream of an unbearable tartness
in a drink of volcanic coldness
I sipped metallic hospital crushed ice water
tried not to vomit up the simplest of soups

normally there is the gift of not desiring
the smell of nausea clings to things
that can’t be kept down but

I conjured up something like limeade
as a nuclear bomb is something like a firecracker
while the tubes of lukewarm glucose, morphine
and hot piss kept me alive.

written in response to a dVerse prompt

Handwritten

for M.B.

A handwritten note I found
that had nothing to do with me
and wasn’t particularly wrenching
or well-enjambed

still startled me
because the handwriting,
the blue lines and charcoal grey
reminded me of days in school
when you would write to me
thinking about me instead of
world geography.

The faint smell of your wrists
and the sweetness of paper itself
I imagine it in
a handwritten note I found
that had nothing to do with me.

My wife and I exchanged letters
by the mail across hundreds of miles
before we were married, and still
write things in cards three times
a year – but mostly we text, and
keep our grocery list synched.
She sends me an emoticon kiss.

It’s love like I hope you have
with your husband now.
I believe it in
a handwritten note I found
that had nothing to do with me.

Somewhat after the style of Leonard Cohen; Tedious explanation of what I’m up to after the cut.Read More »

Sestina: Wile E. Coyote

Permit me to introduce myself. Wile E. Coyote, genius.
I first see the roadrunner
on a sepia-painted morning in the desert.
Some might see an odd bird; I think he is the perfect
prey – in a land of shifting sand, a rock.
When I see him, I learn hunger.

I start by exploiting his hunger.
It is a stroke of genius;
At dawn, I hang a rock
over some seed I set out for the roadrunner.
He falls for it; the timing of the trap is perfect.
I cut the rope. Blackness covers the desert.

When I come to under the desert
sun, my accordion-like breath drowns my hunger.
I now see how to perfect
my trap. It is a stroke of genius.
I will lure the roadrunner
into a tunnel, actually a painted rock

with darkness painted on. He runs into the rock
and disappears. How could my wits desert
me? I follow after the roadrunner
and flatten my thin form on the sheer face. My hunger
doesn’t drive me anymore. It is a frustrated genius
that beckons me to build the perfect

mouse trap for a bird. The perfect
snare for him is speed, I realize. Make him rocket
to oblivion. The genius
of it is how he will run out of desert
at the end, falling, falling, falling. It is a soul hunger
I will feed: there will be little left of the roadrunner.

I am not thinking of the roadrunner
as I make a perfect
arc off the cliff. What kind of hunger
was that again? I wonder as I strike a rock
and take it with me. I will hit the desert
floor first; après mois, the stone. Sheer genius.

The roadrunner is pecking at something as I crawl from beneath the rock.
Such a waste, a perfect chance. My arms and legs desert
me for the moment. I will go now; feed my hunger with my genius.

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A Term of Art of War at an Organ Recital

The phrase has pleasing (even pious)
Connotations, like
Arbeit Macht Frei,
“Molotov Cocktail,” and Enola Gay.

– From Formal Application, Donald W. Baker (1923-2002)

Deep in meditation by the end of an hour of organ music
in an old church pockmarked by manhole-size plaques
To the Glory of God  commemorating rich men’s sons
blown into the next life on the winds of war,
I note the last piece:

Carillion-Sortie – Henri Mulet  (1878-1967)

I know the term sortie as a term of art of war.
More generally it means to go out, leave
in the Middle French word sortir
and learned its meaning of
deployment from a strongpoint
by associating with other tough romance words:
salient
petard
enfilade
and
carronade
the last of which sounds pleasantly like a musical term
but which was a short-barreled gun
of the late 18th and 19th centuries
that fired large shot at short range and
was used especially on warships.

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