Twice Burned:Previously Published at qarrtsiluni*

Last night I was burned twice,
once by one who cares too little
and once by one who cares too much.
Some nights I would light matches to stay warm,
if only someone would cup two hands
around mine to block the wind.
But I am dry tinder, and fire can consume
like the Ganges crematorium at Varanasi.
Did you know that when the monk
Thích Quảng Đức set himself on fire in Saigon
to protest the persecution of Buddhists,
he was re-cremated after his death
but his heart, twice burned, remained intact?

*Read and listen to the author at qarrtsiluni magazine

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Summer of ’69*

(Previously published in Eclectic Flash, Vol. 2, Sept. 2010)

The circle where we played,
a rabble of bare-footers browned
like August lawns, was ringed
by ranch houses and split-levels.

Some days I rode my red bike
alone to the new neighborhood
to climb dirt-pile mountains
and hide in the cool of the culvert.

By night I lay on the bed
tossing a ball toward
the plastered ceiling textured
like the surface of the moon.

That was the summer I learned
to lie still by the drain
at the bottom of the pool
and look up at the sun.

The trick was to go limp,
watch the exhaled breaths bubble
into scattered light and listen
to the ticking in my ears

that felt like the pressure
of the deep but could have been
the weight of seconds passing,
precious and ordinary, and yet,

curiously, I was light
in the way alone is not lonely
when you’re under the porch
in a storm, smelling rain.

Unamuno’s Dog*

*(Previously published at Eclectic Flash, Vol 1, in 2010)

Poems
circle
like flies
buzzing
just out of reach.

One poem,
like a nuthatch
in winter
at the suet feeder,
pecks for
word seeds.

Another poem
leads me
astray
like Unamuno’s dog.

I follow
her swishing tail,
watch her
snap at flies,
teeth clacking
the air.

The nuthatch
pecks
another seed,
flies away.

Gentrification: First Blush*

Squatting in the boarded-up brownstone
of your fin-de-siécle love, in moieties
of decay and splendor, sophistication,
world-weariness and fashionable despair,
I say it’s not habitation but rather my art
when they come to evict us, so I call out
“Don’t come in, I am painting a nude model.”
My brush hairs stroke your intimate SoHo,
my fingertips chalk your pastel breasts.

*Previously published at Contemporary American Voices,
Lisa Zaran, editor,

After the Long Summer of Our Discontent*

Turkey vulture, buzzard, carrion-eater,
a dark tension soaring on dihedral wings

tipped with light primary feathers like
fingers reaching apart, stretching beyond

what’s possible, taut to nearly splitting.
Linked eyelashes blinking in the sun,

tracing spirals on blue-sky thermals
above the golden mapled ridgeline,

one, two, four, fifteen vultures now
circling not to a kill but to a change

of season, each blackness marked
by a featherless head, purple-red

like an open mouth, a ravening beak
to pick clean the carnal landscape.

The tension is not life and death,
it is that tautness that keeps us

circling miraculously on thin air
like a love poem, like the tenuous

and ethereal mystery of you and me.
No poem, my love, can fly carrying

the weight of cliché vultures massing on
an upswelling wind like death angels.

Look again, watch them glide
with the flick of a feather, see the way

love floats away, just out of reach.
Then came the storm, after a hot,

dry season, a torrent upon the dust.
You could tell me not to say parched land,

not to talk of tempestuousness after
the long summer of our discontent,

but listen to the argument of hot and cold
resolved in sudden winds and sky tears.

 

*Previously published at Contemporary American Voices, June 2012

The Way

The path of desire
does not follow right angles
or obey the warning signs.

It cuts diagonals across vacant lots,
crawls through holes in chain-link fences
and treads on broken glass.

Bloody footprints mark the way,
one set flat and wide, the other
with narrow heels like ripe red plums.

 

Previously published at Contemporary American Voices, Lisa Zaran, Editor, where I was the featured poet in June 2012. To read my work and the poems of my invited guests Joanna S. Lee and Bryan Borland, scroll down the left column at Contemporary American Voices and click on the June 2012 link.