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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

Tracking

The new UPS driver looks like he’s been working his way down the corporate ladder.
I think he looks too old for a package car and he looks like he’s about my age
and finally: I’ve seen him looking younger.

It was 1982.
He hung an offensive nickname on me
that spoke of something I’d never even seen, much less done,
and I wore it like the proverbial badge marked Chicken Inspector
or I Felta Thi.  How mightily
we called it out when pinching female freshmen’s bottoms.
What cards we were. What utter shits.

In the synapse it takes for me to remember all this,
he has called me by that name again, laughing as
he clicks a touchscreen to note the exact time and place
the package was delivered.
I turn around to make sure my staff hasn’t heard it
and he laughs again. Hey, add me on Facebook!

The Dream of My Grandfather’s Return

My grandfather at the dinner table of his son-in-law’s farmhouse:
Saltines, sardines, turkey sandwiches, potato salad, jello molds.
The progressive potluck of his hardtack life, coming as it did
toward something like luxury.

The luxury was to sit down – all of his sons and daughters
under the roof, everyone getting along. My father telling
a story about the 1950s that everyone there
except the grandchildren lived through. Laughter.

Even in my dream I am the little man
who has to point out the obvious.
Whispering to him, so as not to upset everyone:
“Granddaddy, you’re dead.”

He gave me a disappointed look,
which I at first took for embarrassment.
We were suddenly in a field.
It could have been Egypt, but it followed the contours
of my uncle’s pasture. A sunset of the deepest indigo,
a cross in the distance.
Not the cross at the top of the church,
nor an old rugged cartoon rendition,
but two perfect lines of darkness
intersecting above the crest of the hill.
Neither one of us spoke a word.

I have never dreamed of him since.

Dull Sermon

He bleats a grey cardboard version of the word of God.
He makes me wish I believed in the kind of Spirit
which strikes men and women with prophecy
or else shuts their mouths to wait for a true saying.

Not the god of committee meetings, an ice-milk
calling no one else heard; a gentleman’s C
In Communications at a community Bible college.

He should have been a farmer.
Maybe then he would have understood
dry days and lightning on the plain,
What it is to work, curse and be cursed,
wrestle with God until your hip pops. He
should read Reynolds Price. He
should weep because he doesn’t understand,
not crow three points about how I don’t.
Jesus.

Helping Someone Name a New Company

for Marianne Moore

We sought a short word or noun phrase which was
unique, easy to pronounce, spelled like it sounds.

It had to convey something of the business without boxing it in,
and of course not already taken: domains, twitter, facebook,
nor have unfortunate interior spellings like newspaperverts or the like.

Lacking millions of dollars worth of television
coining a word and teaching everyone to say it wasn’t an option,
which let out the synthetic sounds of pharmaceuticals:
Gornext, Lytexia, and Nambivala, to give away
a few derivative examples.

The final result has the meaningless appeal
of fruit on a white ceramic plate
and the phrase sounds finished like fine wood
when you say it on the telephone,
answering a switchboard, perhaps,
or a help desk in a skyscraper,
and you may imagine someone asserting it
and that it’s good for a webmaster to be a poet.

What I Learned By Not Thinking About It (draft 2, dVerse prompt)

It wasn’t that important to solve anyway,
which is good, because it doesn’t yield
to analysis or much of anything.

Even in physics we learned one can observe
vector or velocity, not both,
which leaves room for something. Call it God,
but not the god of flannel cutouts in cigar boxes,
musty Sundays, leading us to ever more thinking.

But it’s not nothing.
Or if it is, it’s the type of nothing
expressed in the tired old lines:

Have you seen my wife?

Is she about 5’2″, red haired, wearing a blue sweater?

That’s her! Have you seen her?

No, man, I haven’t.