A Note to Decades

I will tell you how often
I find myself standing
ten years past high school
when the body burdens the mind.
I will tell you how
I find myself standing
sideways, the mirror shows
the degeneration,
what’s to come
in my sixty-fourth year,
my neck craned, hair white
frame offering its thin reminder.

Hoisting myself,
as night comes over
the house, I stretch
past another ten years
and count my breathing
in the clean air, voices pass,
each breath deliberates,
avoids potholes, spills
forward into moon-cast shadows
as each foot shatters.

Tomorrow I will prepare
a great meal,
I will lean on the stove,
watch my fingers on enamel.
Eating alone I can stomach
the past, the meat pinkening
in oil and wine.
I scrub the plate,
stains shimmer, reflected
on my face and spread
like spots that won’t wash off.

I will tell you how
once, back in Virginia,
we talked till dawn, laughing
about the great adolescent pain,
in the gold iridescence of leaves
in the green veins of sentimentality
in the history without prediction
but dawn, like talk, leaves
only the black funnel
of ten more years.

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a work of real importance

I looked at “The Abbey in the Oakwood”
then at all the material ghosts
exploring ways of finding meaning
in administered society
education reduced to skill
flattening, flattening, flattening
docile and reliable workers
ideological-freedom-plastic-box
escape-as-rich-hedonistic-consumption
in the private sphere
all empty clichés
the value of choice
diminishing, diminishing, diminishing
sense of selfhood unexpressed
what barbarisms lie below?
narcissism and madness
punctuated by
humdrum poetic visions
possibilities of significance
within roiling industrial-commercial culture
devoid of any providence
devoid of full dynamic energy
without evident purpose
and so on, and so on, and so on.

Routine/Redemption

A daily habit
I walk my beat
forgetting, breathing
I bike my soul thin
sweating sap trees
rustling safely
I never thought to look
for the filthy leaves
guttered after the rain.

Near the Oregon Expressway
coast redwood felled
chainsawed into
thick trunk segments
waiting to be hauled off
sheltered by branches
of drooping honeysuckle.

Cooking dinner for myself
toast and something
feeling stagnant, secret
forgetting and creating habits
memory after memory after memory
the joy, excruciating

I stand dead tired on the edge
the sky bright with
orange-plum gasps
every blade of grass breathing
I become everything
I see
nothing else happens

Eucalyptus

Overturned shipping truck
catching the opalescent half-light,
bent metal balanced
on the rail guard, rubber neck,
making a whole world rise
out of the roadway detritus
I sniff the scent of grief on I-280.

West, the exit to Half Moon
stoops low through ranges
of eucalyptus, invasive, prepossessing,
anxious to make itself known.
I was short and small,
not in size, but in patience.

The peeling exotics
large and imperial,
obscure my memories
with their sticky scent,
granting new vision and effort.

The late sun crawls along
the bleached stem
of the afternoon, the warmth unfurls
nervous clenched hands.
No longer tremulous.

How often I’ve sat beside empty roads
and listened for new wheels,
humming like an industrial fan
but heard only wind or birds,
where shadow blends with shadow.

I approach the cove.
Confronted with shapes that,
flowing, moves as a shadow moves
and takes on such substance,
moon-pale under the dying day,
mouth full of the taste of ocean.

Waking and Leaving Before Dawn

Late March.
Rain and clouds sweep
across the moonlight.
Winds reveal patches,
constellation’s stars,
hollow as skeletons,
fall in the dawn.
I let them sleep.
Driving down that coast
of flowered fields
in dripping fog rubble.
The humming mind
veers off course,
more trees, clear springs,
as morning clouds are
picked apart by sparrows.
There is still work to do.
I hear the roar,
the distant freeway.

I buy a bag of oranges

What should I get?
Spring.
Blossoms on the trees,
examine, the fallen petal,
walking out the drive.
Dodging an impulse
to lie on the ground,
pressed into it,
to take its shape.
It is a pleasure,
to breathe this air,
feeling the chest rise,
ribs up,
standing still,
strained and upwards,
letting it free,
in the crowded Sunday
street market.
I don’t say much anymore.
Box of citrus slice samples,
I try cara cara,
it tastes…
of a complete life.
I buy a bag of oranges.

Patio Scene (A Floating World)

It’s our backyard, July.
Nearly afternoon, the trees
hold back the amber light,
its delicate flush fixed in place.
A breeze moves
between branches
jostling the shadows
on the pickwick siding.
Clear light fills the kitchen window,
I wait under the tree
in the absence of sound,
save for a vivid rush of wind.
The neighbor’s cat leaps down
from the slotted fence,
a quiet departure, anxious.
A small flock of cliff swallows
cross the rounded sun,
the earth lightens again.
Each beam summoning
still silence, waiting,
waking dream
smuggled under wing.

Seeking Ben Lomond

wooden signs
suggest a place
where branches glow
in the six o’clock sun,
where birds seem
shadowy messengers
there between box elder maple,
acer negundo,
where helicopter leaves spin,
the winged seeds
in their fast descent
seek prime sites,
where the red-tailed hawk
ascends to the chancel
of interminable canopy,
where a yellow-rumped warbler
perched on a warm bough
made for this world, chirps,
thin stems grow off
gargantuan stumps
leaf remains steam,
not common ornamental trees
but reliquaries for
radiant vacancy.

O Pacifica

On I go across Miramontes Ridge.
The day dragged me out,
the sun took it all.

This place begins to feel like home,
shapes in the mist swirl,
the air breathes and billows.

This thought begins to feel like home,
wayward and noncommittal,
memories slurring their lines.

El Granada to Montara,
now fully dipped in fog,
alone at the jetty, mud in the water.

Only last week they found
sharks in the harbor,
things seem less desperate now.

On I go across my own territory,
gone too far, away
from categorical people.

O Pacifica,
I’ll learn to wait, watching
with slow eyes,

Your muffled green slope,
seen in a single glance,
transports me until I am gone.

And the names of things
as we knew them
will no longer suffice.

But I will never tell you,
how much went to waste
with each promise reneged.

The soft waves begin to feel like home,
they cannot help
but to keep breaking.

Buried without a word
beneath gnawing crests
under the moon-clock. Turn, turn.

another one of those flying dreams

five A.M., sat up in bed
another one of those flying dreams
over CA-17 not far off
over conifers
over crumbled roadway
over trucks
over ferns
over soft sands
over time
over rising hills, slopes
over valleys, pastures
over sea bed, sun-bound
I almost make it,
closer and closer, until
neighbor’s dog
howling and yapping
rouses me, falling
from dreamy boughs
I shed my wings, this
flying and grasping
at dharma, ripe
as a dripping pith,
leads to no other life,
as flying dreams fly away
as I sit in darkened silence
as summer dust presents itself
with the coming of the light