How I should part my hair
The trustworthiness of my body
How much technology I require
What I require it for
The death penalty
How much sleep I need
How much quiet
The length of this list
New York City
My importance to the world
How much is enough
That I am now out of ideas
First published in The Scarlet Leaf Review, December 2016
In my previous life I was a leaf.
Or was I Cleopatra? I don't know,
I can't claim her memories.
I have no lingering animosity towards Romans,
no unexplained fear of asps.
But what I do know about is budding,
is spring, is green so brilliant it terrifies
the world that celebrates your greenness.
What I know about is unfolding, damp and limber,
learning how to open to what feeds you.
I have felt the thousand little things
that eat small holes in you
crawl across my darkening body.
How they labor to take pieces away,
leaving you less than you thought you needed.
I know about how the holes seal
darkened at the edges.
Little discs of nothing
punched through you.
How you still go on.
I can remember the warm, yellow days
when everything you collect flows,
as it should, to root and branch.
I know about the joy of buds, appearing,
brighter, tender leaves, unfurling around you.
I have known what it is to see
the brittle, brown leaves dropping before you.
To hear them released, and slowly fall away.
I have felt the drying at my edges,
the weakening at my stem.
Perhaps I was someone else, too.
A serf starving on the Russian steppe,
a Pygmy medicine woman, a potato bug.
Or simply star stuff, the sum total of carbon
the universe was willing to share on a given day.
But then a stiff, fall breeze rustles the ruddy foliage.
Crisp leaves break loose from their beds,
swirling about our heads for a moment,
and again I remember—and again I am with them,
falling back and away, down to the waiting earth.
First published in The Scarlet Leaf Review, December 2016
Some days, I need my toast fully loaded:
peanut butter, honey, maybe a thick
slice of banana splayed across seductively.
Perhaps you know those mornings,
when you require some sweet thickness
to fill up an emptiness in your bones
or to round off the sharp corners of a
blustery, steel-grey sky. Perhaps yours
is a full-fat latte or a bacon sandwich.
Perhaps yours is the K-Rock Morning Zoo.
But today, when the sun shines
with such blue ferocity
that even clouds dare not intrude,
when the song of every bird seems
sharper, ringing with purpose, and
every leaf vibrates with intensity—
when you find that you have awoken
to a world that is fully, burstingly alive—
then only a thin scrape of butter, the birdsong,
and a cup of bitter, jasmine tea.
First published in Verse-Virtual, September 2016
"Let us not forget that the cultivation of the earth
is the most important labor of man."
— Daniel Webster
To which I thought
"Yes, this is likely so."
until I went for coffee
watched the barista move
with such fluid grace, such swift
sure motion, such confidence
it reminded me of the fry cook
I used to watch from a counter stool
the efficient elegance with which he ruled his flattop
the singing sword of his metal spatula
not a single motion wasted as he molded
the hissing mound of hash browns into place
flipped pancakes without a passing thought
eased each egg such that never a yolk was broken
the way my uncle could work with wood
drive a nail with one sure blow
the roughnecks smoothly hoisting ringing iron
quickly clattering it into place around each thrusting pipe
pickers fleetly cascading unbruised fruit
into baskets with the somber deftness of piecework
the beauty of labor done fast and well and with attention
I will sit anywhere that I can quietly see such things
what's been learned deeply, done swift and right
the motions of laboring generations
every unimportant ancestor
emerging from their bones
First published in Poetry Breakfast, September 2016
The pigeon regarded me cordially—
feathers the color of oiled asphalt,
red feet scratching the bright pavement
of the lunchtime plaza—
politely, insistently requesting
a spare bit of my sandwich,
or a fry, to share
with him, and perhaps some for
the quiet rat lurking just out of view.
An appeal on behalf of our common bond,
as the civilized animals of the world.
First published in Your Daily Poem, June 2016
It is early
in the evening
and this pleasant little church,
modern, in its way, when it was built,
is without ornamentation.
Just a large, flat stage for a dais,
padded pews descending toward it
auditorium-style, wood-paneled walls,
reaching windows rising up
to the high-beamed ceiling,
structured, bright, arcing towards
their gentle and progressive god
and carrying back the sounds
delivered to the hundred of us
gathered not for an evening sermon
but to kneel in on stiff-backed pews,
lean forward and hear
the harpsichord's crisply plucked
and effervescent twinge;
the recorder's soft and woody whorl;
the teardropped thrum of the lute’s
lushly coupled city of strings;
the violas da gamba, long and leggy
notes feathered around the edges
of horse-drawn, caramel chords;
the silvery soprano's lithe and aching lilt.
Sifting up from the centuries
notes carved like scrollwork,
freeing with a fine brush
the music of masters
whose very names were like music:
Marin Marais, Monteverdi
Byrd, Buxtehude, Praetorius, St. Colombe
Fantasies of the gilded chambers,
consorts to make the King's courtiers swoon,
to set palaces and parishioners alight
with sombre and fiery passions,
to fill beating hearts with
pious reverence in the morning,
and loosen corset strings by night.
This, the soundtrack of Shakespeare,
Elizabeth, sun kings and baroque baronies,
200 years of broken consorts illuminating
the rosin-coated intrigue of castle walls.
Until ... those sweet and lively courantes,
joyous gigues, sensuous sarabandes
slowly give way
to the elegant and structured classicism
of rococo concert halls.
Steadily, those loud and lusty
the violins, the bright brass,
and like that,
one music passes,
gives way to the tastes of a new age.
As was ever so,
as with every generation
a new modernity takes shape,
redirects the tracks of the old,
and the things you love,
the things of your youth
fade, like old tracks
into the tall grasses.
And yet, somehow tonight, here we sit
surrounded in this gentle temple
with gentle company, soft skin
thumbing the edges of programs,
all of us somehow called tonight,
not to the music of our own youth,
but drawn by some invisible thread
spun by of our softening years
to kneel in tall grasses,
press our ears to ancient tracks and hear
the lovely, late and receding vibrations.
First published in The Three Quarter Review, November 2016
We built monuments once.
We erected great edifices
affixed fluted columns
in golden Greek proportion,
flew buttresses of marble
wrought like finely stitched lace,
raised obelisks to the sky.
Oligarchs exercised their vanity
by engraving their immortality
in elegant and vast and lasting things.
All around me scaffold-footed steel cranes
code shining, glass wrapped steel frames
to ever higher altitudes. But as I am whisked
by the silent elevators of engineering wonders
swiftly upward to the sky, am I raised
any nearer toward the heavens?
I know of a lovely old cathedral
where from each burnished pew
your eyes are drawn high
up from the mighty arcing ceiling
to the grand mandala of jeweled glass
that awaits the rising sun,
and a dozen, hulking origami cranes
are suspended in their paper flight.
Form, function. What if the greater
function was to raise us up
we, the small and temporal,
to lift us by our craning necks
and inlay our leaded bodies
into the dark and waiting whole
up among the gods, the jeweled stars,
the slowly turning paper cranes.
First published in Page & Spine, June 2016
at the little window feeders
Dark-eyed Junco, Pygmy Nuthatch
having found it, now arrive every morning
Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Bewick's Wren
to this magical tray of seeds, corn, manna, pink nectar
Rufous Hummingbird, White-crowned Sparrow
indignantly ruffled feathers when it is found empty
Stellar's Jay, Anna's Hummingbird
and we are repaid with the joy
American Goldfinch, Bushtit
of quick, sharp movements, music, morning song
Red-breasted Nuthatch, House Sparrow
wildness, chaos, life, brought close to a
middle-aged human, small brown dog.
First published in Poetry Breakfast, August 2016
How sad, thought my Dog,
is the life of that mayfly.
No time, in only a single day,
to invest an entire afternoon
in the sunny spot at the foot of the stairs.
How poignant, I thought,
is my dog's life. How static
are his passages. How limited
is his ability, in only 15 years,
to experience the sweep of the world.
How touching, thought the Mountain,
is that human's life, whose body withers
in less than 100 years and can never know
the magnificent upward folding of the earth,
and the soft rounding of the rain and the trees.
How piteous, thought the Earth,
is that mountain's life, worn to dust
in only 500 million years, rooted always
under the same skies, unable to feel the thrust
of gravity pulling us through the universe.
How quaint, thought the Universe,
is the life of the Earth, merely 4 billion years
and consigned never to experience the wonder
of polychromatic gas clouds ten galaxies wide,
towering nebulae, slowly gestating new stars.
How heart-breaking, thought God,
is the life of that Universe, only 14 billion years
and believing in the eternal expansion of its own
wonder. Unable to see so many other universes
bubbling around it, each bursting in due time.
How sad, thought the Mayfly,
is the life of God, to design an entire universe
just for mayflies, the flawlessly timed stages of life,
the delicate rebirth of every molt, and yet be forced
to endure beyond the simple perfection of a single day.
First published in Firefly Magazine, March 2016