Saturday, July 31, 2010

Quatrains for Lark Street

I pay for a cup of rooibos
but get a seat on the street,
and see what comes into
my circle of light.

About three measures
of one-drop reggae,
as a car pauses briefly
in the street.

High heel clicks, measured time,
a working man’s loping gait,
a couple’s angry steps
in a broken rhythm.

Brave weeds, up through
a sidewalk’s crack, spiky
and barbed, like
a tribal tattoo.

Lights, motion all around—
yet someone gazes into
a tiny, pale screen like it’s
some kind of oracle.

Two women at a high table,
outside a bar. Voices
lost in traffic sounds--
gestures speak louder.

A clink of a cup—someone
sits close, and my muse
decides to quiet,
for a moment.

Two at another table—
her hand on his calf, and
I feel suddenly
too present.

Drumbeat motorcycle,
cicada whir of a bike chain,
tires slow to a whisper,
a handful of words.

Traffic, laughter, footsteps,
wind in the trees, occasionally
all pause--the silence
in great music.

Friday, July 30, 2010

All Is Well

The rumored humidity
has not arrived, and
now the wind
billows the curtains.
Filtered sunlight,
cats dozing.

Downstairs, hammering,
progress being made.
A clock ticking, a slow,
quiet fan—

At this moment, at least,
all is well.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Step Behind

Put it on paper, on a screen—
no matter, do you best to
see yourself looking back at you.
Hold it close—it comes close:
fact and fiction, shades of truth.
A loping mirror, a lens
slow to focus,
reflecting and sharpening
within a narrow aperture.
All writing is revision, a seeing again,
always a step behind the moment.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Poconos in August

The summer air
is alive, sounds of
wind and insects,
a nocturnal chorus
keeping some rhythm
that I cannot count.
The road crackles
under my tires as I drive
slowly to the ski center—
to put off meeting the parents
at their lakeside cabin.
I park, engine running,
the Grateful Dead on tape
spilling out the open windows
with their chrome edges,
my cotton poncho for
the August mountain chill.
I lie back on the warm, long
hood of the Mustang,
a car older than me—
The engine’s gentle hum,
its welcome heat, the music,
stars overhead like they’ve
been waiting for me.

Not the Poem

How you saw me,
even in the dark,
your bed or mine,
your scent, your touch,
your voice so near—
that was the real poem,
not these words—
dirt on paper,
dark marks on
a bright screen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Massage

I don’t know what’s
sore, tight, knotted
until it’s touched.
I carry this tension:
neck and shoulders
middle of my back
sacrum
unaware, distracted by
cicadas, a playful breeze,
my monkey mind.

A start, a tensing,
a pulling back,
a breath, as deep
tissue resists,
then yields, releases.

Come, invisible hands.
If only my heart and soul
could be loosened like this.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Reflected Light

The moon, low and full
over the cool white of the plaza,
casts my shadow in the yard,
catches the flashing on
a neighbor’s house,
draws my eye to a
tree’s silhouette, and
summer stars above
in a sky more blue than black.
Light and shadow, so much
seen with reflected light.
A low hum, machines and crickets.
My breaths are deep, in
the crisp night—
air so clear and inviting
that I could run,
slip through it effortlessly.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sleights of heart, and other things I don't want to write about

The way I felt when I…
How it feels when I…
The touch that told me…
What I see when…
The moment that…
The particular quality of light
on the morning of…
The way the water…
The missing words that…
The script from which
I have, apparently, exited.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Water

I will see light again.
I am water, moving as always.
I flow on—for me, there is no end.

A silver sliver, through cracks I wend,
down the slick rock, another dark day.
I will feel light again.

The earth pulls me, and I descend
deep, narrow passageways,
yet I flow on—for me there is no end.

Water can rend—
rip, tear, rot, hasten decay—
yet I will welcome light again.

Might water also mend?
Polish, smooth and amaze?
I flow on—for me, there is no end.

I turn to vapor and ascend.
I transform, yet something always stays.
I will touch light again.
I flow on—for me there is no end.

The Tourmalet

Seen through a rainy lens:
Two riders emerging from
the cloud clinging to the
Tourmalet—four K to go.
Quick nods to read faces
showing nothing.
The rest of the peloton
long fallen away,
deeper in the clouds.
Three K left—
A man holds a Basque flag
like a matador’s cape—
ignored by the riders, who are
both bull and torero.
Rain blurs the camera:
an impressionist’s vision
as these men climb,
and dig into themselves.
One K—the red flag
overhead like a muleta.
Two wraiths, shadows in fog,
skeletons dancing to macabre music
only they hear, reach for the line—
the man in white, the novillero,
takes it by half a wheel.
A fist in the air, pats on the back,
the riders suddenly slack.
The man in yellow concedes,
smiles, grabs the winner’s face
like a grandmother, winks
like a conspirator—they embrace,
ready to fight another day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ride to the River

I.

After a day of cutting,
crouching and painting,
the power in my legs
surprises me.
The bike leaps forward
and I need:
more gears
more teeth.
The chain clatters,
snaking through its cage.
Muscles, not motors.
I am an escapee, a fugitive,
on a ride to
the river and back.
Cracked pavement,
whistling wind,
the bike sure beneath me
as my weight shifts
in a turn. Chasing
my lengthening shadow.


II.

The river today:
blue, black, gray.
A string of forgotten
balloons dances in a
casual breeze.
Lines in the water,
wood smoke in the air—
props for conversation
as fishermen settle into chairs.
Catch, throw back,
repeat.
Notes of conversation
drop through lulls in
highway wind,
an easygoing rhythm.
Working men’s days,
ending at the water.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Browsing

Friday night, and
I don’t want to go home
I browse poetry at the
mall bookstore
Frank O’Hara—
inscrutable, as
a woman’s sandaled foot
hovers into my sight
below the open book.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Calling Dad

Dad, can you hear me now?
What did you grasp when waters got rough?
Can you tell me, somehow?

The house needs fixing--show me how.
Bare hands, or heavy gloves?
Dad, can you hear me now?

Give me calm words, unfurrow my brow.
When should I trade a hawk for a dove?
Can you tell me, somehow?

How much should anyone allow?
Gentle nudges or anxious shoves?
Dad, can you hear me now?

When did you know to make your vows?
Why did I never ask about love?
Can you tell me, somehow?

To whom--or what--should I bow?
When is love truly enough?
Dad, can you hear me now?
Can you tell me, somehow?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

After the Storm

Clear sky, but last night’s storm
shows in the river--swollen,
muddy, dark-quick water.
Thunderstorms, rain and wind have passed
bringing crisp air, a gentle breeze.
The hum of tires on the road,
approaching, fading, blending
with the chatter of water over rocks—
a welcome conversation.
The road to the south, the railroad to the north
both follow the river’s curves.
Sometimes a straight route
is not the easiest, or wisest.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

River at Twilight

The water widens
and quiets, content
to whisper against rocks,
murmur along with
the highway din.
Moving peaks and valleys
on its surface, light and shadow,
a thousand mirrors for the sky.
A silent gull overhead, painted
pale orange by slanting sun.
How many stories are here?
A party boat bisects the water,
like fabric being cut, then
perfectly mended—
the river closes, and
resumes its quiet.
Clouds like distant mountains,
one purple loosestrife
along the green shore.
Water, always seeking,
always speaking—
Listen.

Haiku

A silent crow stirs,
alights from a branch--how soft
his velvet wings sound.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Anything Else

At the Bargain Outlet
I browse tile mosaics
wood planks waiting for a room
find what I really need:
two bags—
cement
mortar mix
140 pounds total
for like eight bucks
load the cart
lift with my legs
push it toward the register girl
pretty, too much make up
I see the smooth white
rocking chair
on sale, last one
I imagine sitting in it
in a weed-free garden
mortar and cement hardened
floor nailed in place
I give it a push—
it rocks
next month, I think.
The girl raises painted eyes
anything else?
no, that’s it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Memo to Lance

You’ve beaten:
wiry climbers
big gear grinders
drug tests
even the French press.

You’ve dropped all
avoided countless falls
led loyal teams
from mountains to
the Champs Élysées
while playing cards close
to your chest.

Me? Sure, I’m impressed.
Did you know?
I’m an invisible rider
who sees all.
I’m on the road with you,
but I come closer still—
I’m in your bones when you rise
I’m the extra weight on a hill.

I’m time, and I keep
a steady, withering pace.
I overcome all, with patience and grace.
Seconds pass, but you can’t
catch me—
don’t close that gap
the elastic will snap.

Please don’t be angry—
you’ve held me off longer than most.
Seven times you’ve made that
champagne toast.

Today, I know you see—
so take your 2K victory lap,
say au revoir and be free
I will always win, but
no fanfare, no podium girls,
no maillot jaune for me.
Others will come and go
but I’m the eternal cyclist—
I ride on, it has to be so.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Breakaway

Dust from ancient cobbles,
thin Alpine air.
Fields of cattle and campers.
A narrow road, clinging to
a mountainside.
These angry peaks, a
silent threat that is met,
answered and raised
by the men in the peloton:
a study in cadence, game faces—
showing pain, or
nothing at all.
Soundtrack: heart and lungs,
played against a
sawblade landscape.

A rider, a hero, still hungry,
sets a brave pace--
but as the road tilts up,
a wiry shadow bursts loose,
into brilliant sunshine,
eyes hidden, a blur of blue,
a simian ballet-man
rockets into the light,
chiseled, lean and angry,
never looking back.

The best of times, the worst of times—
the clock will tell the tale,
have the last word—
deficits measured in seconds,
minutes, and years.

The human sea closes,
quiets, recedes,
leaving the haughty peaks
silent again.
Immortal names, scrawled
on the road, will fade into
history when nothing else remains.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Limerick

It’s July, my sabbatical--
I’m not pondering things grammatical.
Many days, I sleep late.
Cogitate? I procrastinate!
And I wonder if a poem a day is fanatical.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Working Man

Washing off plaster dust
from my hands and forearms
in the bathroom of the
Indian restaurant,
I look up to see my reflection:
two days’ growth,
cap and T-shirt covered
with a palette of primer,
caulk and paint.
How different than last month,
in the guise of a teacher—
crisp in ironed clothes,
doing the ritual, handing out
the final exam.
Ha, this working man thinks.
Nothing’s final. Not an exam,
not work around the house,
certainly. A respite from stacks
of papers, students corralled into
attendance books and columns
of grades. Measurable progress,
now, as I wash the morning’s work
from my hands, and think of
smooth walls, new paint,
mitered molding,
pipes I can trust behind
crisp sheets of drywall.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In the Guitar Store

Weary from last night’s
gig, I wander in—
walls of iconic shapes:
a Strat’s angles
an SG’s pointed horns
a Les Paul’s tiger stripes
an arch-top’s womanly curves.
The scent of lacquer and wood,
and the riffs:
Wasted Years,
Shine,
Blackbird
and anything pentatonic,
ragged but real.
Boys with small hands,
fumbling, stretching.
What will they come to know
of the late nights,
audiences alternately
adoring and indifferent?
For now, it’s me, and their
patient parents,
spectators in an
unplanned ensemble.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Gig

On satellite radio
the Stones play
you can’t always get
what you want—
Keith’s guitar and the
French horn sound like
a blessing
an epitaph
a fortune
a card reading that’s
always accurate.
A bartender with
silver hair
hey buddy
puts a smooth
gin and tonic in my hand,
a glacier in a glass,
sweet pine rising,
water clinging like sweat.
A clock and calendar says
it’s 10:22, July 9, 1989—
Close enough, it’s showtime.
Four stick clicks through
thick air, and we’re off,
waves of sound, chasing
night into early morning.

Friday, July 9, 2010

House Talk

Things flow in and out
of this house
through tight, dark places
rarely seen
sharp bends and
serpentine paths
the work of many hands
over the years
layers of labor
secrets behind walls
and under floors
always something more
things visitors don’t notice
water draining in a strange way
a creak in the floor
someone shutting a door
after many tries
and I’ll note it, to myself
consider the usual options
repair it
replace it
let it be.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Last Hill

Forty four miles under the wheels
untold elevation
dirt and flecks of sand
the sun’s sharp slant
still burning, evening fire
answered by the flames
in my legs, two matchsticks
against the flinty bite
of grade and wind
the land spinning off to my sides
as the string is stretched—
two riders ahead
offer a minuscule pull
the frame, a pendulum
counting slow time
as the bicycle rocks
a crude lever on two
silver hoops
clicks and squeaks play
over deep breaths
maniac music
as will drives me on
up, almost to the blazing sky
the music slows, stops—
and a new movement, quick tempo
whoosh into shadow and
the promise of gravity
a ride paid in advance

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Haiku

I hope I'm more than
drops of rain in this river--
this river of you.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reception Dancers

Their picture hangs, still—a sphere in my mind,
bathed in white light, one moment, one night.
Her dress a blue blur, his shoes brightly shined.
These two, I felt, had it all just right.
They made it look easy, like fine dancers do:
arms smoothly extended, fingers gently held.
He, slim and proud in Navy dress blues;
she, smiling shyly down as love surely swelled.
I see, then—still—a moment so pure,
a delicate bubble in uncertain air.
Maybe it’s only of moments we’re sure—
and of those, how many are shared?
White light refracts and bends—
might a perfect moment hold and mend?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence Day haiku


Drawn by loud and bright
things, they fill the city on
Independence Day.


Circling cars stop, and
people get out at the first
boom and flash above.


Bright colors distract—
eyes closed, nothing but the deep,
fearful explosions.


Fireworks’ booms, they
echo sounds of war, far from
tonight’s street party.


A city stops, as
people fill the street: colors
bloom in the night sky.


Independence Day:
freedom of assembly, right
here, now, on my block.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

7-3-10: The Rock and the River

I am the rock, and the river
of time moves over me.
I am still, and things pass—
the view only appears the same
through the rippled mirror above.

Time moves, one way, taking parts
of me while smoothing my roughness.

I am the water, moving over the rock.
As I move over what seems eternal,
I observe and remember:
turns, noisy and shallow, and the quiet depths
all feel familiar.

Everything moves, and even my reflection
isn’t truly me.

Stillness is an illusion. Do you ever see
a river at rest? An ocean?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

7-2-10: Things a writer in a hurry almost missed

Evening sky like an x-ray in blue
Onion domes and four golden crosses
My receipt says Joshua
served my coffee
Pennies in my wallet
A moth on the wrong side
of the glass
Music of machines keeping
things hot and cold
David Gray reduced to
wallpaper over
the clink of change
in a hard plastic drawer
Radio towers crowning a hill,
transmitting
something
to somewhere

Friday, July 2, 2010

Quiet House

A time, a place to live—
summer rhythms and I rise when I do
work for a time
rest and eat
voices in the street
the UPS truck, mailman,
cars chuckling in reverse
paint on my clothes and stubble on my face.
Old houses--
things settle, become quiet
mostly level and plumb, nothing square
molding undulates along bricks
grown comfortable with each other.
The ritual of painting--
smooth strokes over new wood and old,
uniform white spanning the years.

I imagine showing the apartment to someone
seeing the new paint
the terracotta floor
the water-smooth ceiling--
this person who knows nothing of last month’s
bows and bends and sags overhead
or the old floor, rippling underfoot,
a shape just fine in nature but not in
a living room.
This person will not know of
the dusty mortar behind the walls
the cracked tiles that were replaced
the crumbling brick, now patched
the shelves where windows were.
Maybe he or she will notice that curve in the
molding and raise an eyebrow
or balk at reaching for the checkbook.
“150 years, things happen,” I’ll say.
“This house is settled, it’s not going anywhere.”
A time, a place to live
a security deposit
one month’s rent
a year lease
a fraction of time
the blink of an eye for this quiet house.

A Letter to My Students

I don’t say it enough, but I care about you. Each of you. That’s why I’m here. It’s too much work to do it for the money, so there must be ...