Reaching for Roses

James Rosenquist, Flower Garden, 1972 (source: 1stdibs)

Like kissing yourself after fingering a thorn,
no need to preach to the choir.
Lessons learned and forgotten
can be learned again.

Like new eyeglasses held up to the flames,
scorched timbers can be used
to build reminders, to frame
a way out of the race.

Confronting a great red wall of oozing eyes,
stop and smell the rose-kissed dawn
before silver shards shiver down
a single shot echo.

Watch your marks, see checkered flags flutter
as the new ones hurry past
and a single drop of dew
makes the petal tremble.

James Rosenquist, Professional Courtesy, 1996 (source: Christie’s)

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If There Were a Heaven, It Would Stink with Life

maledicta Paradisus in qua tantum cacatur!
William of Auvergne

Blanchot wrote that Nietzsche was the first to teach us that, “if you begin to think, then you can hope for no rest.” [The Writing of the Disaster, p 123] And yet it’s a fact, lucidity cannot be maintained perpetually. It’s also a fact that the human brain cannot conceive its own nonbeing. Continue reading

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Read, Pig!

Once I saw the title, Think, Pig! I had to have Jean-Michel Rabaté’s book, published last year by Fordham University Press. Continue reading

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drawing by Mark Kerstetter after Masson's Kleist

drawing by Mark Kerstetter after Masson’s Kleist

Masson saw skulls spilled in Champagne,
tried to box the damage in canvas.
In a new year pomegranates are lucky, they say.
If one is offered with bowed head
take it—take four, like Persephone.
Antioxidant or IED is not for you to say.
Hold your knife in one hand, heart in the other.
And whatever you do, don’t think.

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The Day I Met Leroy Jenkins

I am gratified to Jonathan Penton of Unlikely Stories Mark V for welcoming three of my noisier more biting poems. Is It Too Soon? is most recent, written shortly after and in response to our infamous November 8th election. I wondered, in 11 stanzas, if it was too soon to write this poem. But now, just a month later, I wonder if the clock is chiming 12 and that chime is OUTRAGE. Not so much that people are numb but addicted. Addicted to outrage after outrage and Trump serves that purpose. The Birthing is, I feel, one of my best. And A Chaos of Lust, a Pawned Guitar (Remembering Lee Teich) is the most personal poem I’ve published.

I feel that A Chaos of Lust sings on its own, but because the poem is about real people, I’d like to say a bit more about them. Continue reading

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Poetry and Communication

From a time in my late teens when I couldn’t yet write poetry I’ve salvaged this fragment:

perennial movement
tumescent adolescence
caught by webs of clotheslines
on a ladder of muscle and bone
into the womb.

perfumed shadows
secrets beating tiny fists
from a bloody plunge
to a spring back
up with flowers.

It’s from a confused and very bad poem that stays with me because of its subject: an inability to communicate with those who should be closest to us. It seemed to me then that nothing was more heartbreaking. Today I still can’t think of anything worse. But it takes more than feeling to produce a poem that works. A couple of recent efforts have been published in Watershed Review. I’m glad the two are together because they go back in theme or flavor to my first serious attempts to write poems.

One needn’t look far to see the devastating consequences of communication failure. What does the shock and awe of the U.S. presidential election result signify, above all, but a series of communication failures, not simply in the media or between Republicans and Democrats but, more seriously, within the parties amongst those who purport to have the same ideals? When I was a teenager communication began to break down with my mother who was a fundamentalist Christian. Fundamentalists do not or cannot recognize worldviews other than their own as valid. My mother gave me a book by one of the founders of the Christian Right entitled, How Should We Then Live? Today I like to ask the question: ‘How should we then communicate?’ Sometimes it seems hopeless.

And sometimes it seems to me as if we are all inside a dream, dreaming this life we live as a society. We don’t know, as a group, that we are dreaming. But those who suspect it are trying to create messages within the dream to alert the others. We don’t know if it’s possible to wake up, much less dream another dream. But we have to hope, if logic holds, that it is possible. Meanwhile, neither life nor death wait. As one creature breathes his last all points rush furiously outward.

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Two Roads

after Robert Frost

I don’t have to wait
for the ages and ages hence.
One will do, it’s been enough.

Though the lights were yellow
I thought were green
when I told you I knew what awaited,

I went, we go, it’s what we do.
We’re not made as sentries stand,
but split the flame in every word,

Take two for every one,
the first in every last,
in every waving hand.

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