Coyote Azure

Photo by Hugo Kemmel on Unsplash

Coyote Azure

Trailing the golden hour
everyone craves and praises,
there’s another wondrous state;

a shade of blue found
only in nature,

in latitudes nearing the poles,
nearing summer solstice,

just beyond sunset,
just before night snaps shut,

just above shadowed tree line,
when the sky reflects only
what’s needed; apology,
forgiveness, promises vowed
and kept, secrets shared

with roosting songbird and stirring frog as
coyote announces dinner to her band;

other than sunlight’s brashness,
coyote azure is the only color
that is felt and heard
more than seen.

Today is cloudless and fair,
and I look forward to
hearing this evening’s colors.
***

Five Ways of Viewing the Void

Photo by Andrew Draper on Unsplash

Five Ways of Viewing the Void

I.
I dreamt I died today,
and this was my last poem,
which isn’t a big deal;

I have died twice before,
run-through at seventeen,
undone at twenty-eight,

Respawning’s not instant;
often years overlap
some pieces remain lost,

the burn unrelenting
as pain from phantom limb
connect me to this realm.

Vast, and marvelous, we
are no more than my dream;
reality is me.

We cling to each other,
turbulent distractions,
our skin, burdened touchstones;

massaged lies, we embrace
pleasure clawed from our truth;
we’re so very alone.

Love me without knowing,
you’ll never see the seams
that bind the shame that is.

I would taste better as
ashes upon your tongue.
Love me until the void.

II.
Nothing warned me; nothing prepared me.
There was no vocabulary
for the remnants, for when the sun
turned away, withholding all of nature.

Nothing foretold the catastrophe,
nor was it immediately known, but felt
in phases; a series of cascading
calamities leaving the world dimmer
in stages as sources of nourishment
withered and fell like so many dominoes,

and soon, I found myself face-down
on momma’s couch, immobile,
unresponsive to external pleas to eat
or demands to get my shit together.

Soon, external voices no longer registered
as loud as the absence of the one who
no longer cared if I ate or starved,
and so I fell, falling behind the
dimming event horizon, leaving
only with what I entered; ending
as I began, staring into the space
between atoms as fields dissolved
and barriers melted to nothing.

III.
Perhaps in another life,
in a reality we’ll never know
I persevered against your will
shattered your absurd barriers
and married you.

I made you happy, filled your cup,
and exposed your doubts
and the specters of my many fears
as foolhardy fairy tales.

We had a girl and fought furiously
to name her; I wanted Olivia,
you demanded something African
that I couldn’t pronounce.

We compromised, choosing Nefertari
with Olivia as her middle name and
I was a good dad.

We loved each other
and lifted each other up,
instead of yielding to fear,
spite, and desperation,

but I guess if that all came to pass,
I wouldn’t really be me,
you’d be someone else,
and our daughter, a specter;
just another fantasy
of a foolish old man.

Stare into the void long enough
and the phantoms name themselves.

IV.
We all feel that lonely, empty,
meaningless pull towards twilight
of eternal nightshade where the
unknowable hell-verse beckons
as a perverse lullaby to our
seemingly incessant suffering
and so we are compelled to seek
its finite serenade towards infinity.

We hope to name it in order
to cast it back into its bottle;

we will ourselves to defy it
by defining it for ourselves, for

to chronicle it is to vanquish
its unshakable power over us.

We scrawl the void in ink and blood
and then someone labeled it poetry.

V.
In some eastern religions,
philosophies, and fiction,
heaven and hell are recast
as reincarnation and

the void; an endless chasm.

It is said that if our souls
carry too much vile darkness
at the instant of our death,
instead of our soul’s rebirth,

the last remnants of our light
are cast into the abyss,
never to feel warmth again,
left alone in an endless

chasm of despair alone
with the dreadful comfort of
all terrible emotions
imaginable to us.

At first blush, that doesn’t sound
all that bad to me; in fact,
it sounds like a fine place where
the best poetry is forged,

but never allowed to see
the light of a brand-new day.

But on second thought, perhaps
eternal life in darkness
as death’s greatest unshared poems
really is a hellish fate

to avoid at all cost.
***

Day 27: Sometimes, Even the Jokes are Stale

Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

Sometimes, Even the Jokes are Stale

This thing is defective.

It fails to connect,
except that when it does,
it will burn itself out.

But it almost never does.

The camouflage is
impregnable to a fault;
if worn for too long,
crisis of identity will occur.

The bubble is beautiful,
if its theory is explained,
which it never is.

It protects by deflection,
gestating its own physics,
lighter than oxygen,
sturdier than steel,

ridicule-resistant,
but nonexistent
once integrity
is compromised.

This could lead to a
cascading failure
and frozen self-reflection.

The external shielding
and internal barriers
can become polarized, and
is susceptible to both

self-aggrandizement
and self-loathing
meeting incidentally,
annihilating everything.

At this critical point,
mixing with alcohol
and cannabis products
is not recommended

but it is most likely
inevitable.

Overall, all it’s really good for
is writing poetry,
cracking mean-spirited jokes,
overanalyzing its passions and joys,
and waiting for death.

Retention recommended,
but only for the jokes.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 27: Today’s prompt:

And now for our (optional) prompt. Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem in the form of a review. But not a review of a book or a movie of a restaurant. Instead, I challenge you to write a poetic review of something that isn’t normally reviewed. For example, your mother-in-law, the moon, or the year 2020 (I think many of us have some thoughts on that one!)

Well that was easy…

Day 18: Nutrient and Toxin

Image by author

Nutrient and Toxin

The world burns
with the worst
humanity has to offer
along with a contagion
coldly vying to
finish the job.

The country where I was born
continues its fine tradition
of ignoring its festering
generational wounds,
allowing a con man
to bankrupt its already
decaying conscience.

The new neighborhood
is full of facile smiles
too perfectly affixed
upon the only books
I’d rather not open.

The sky is heavy,
densely burdened by
the shade of sorrow
that spittles rain in mists
too fine to be noticeable
until it beads upon
fresh spring leaves
and slickens the path
enough to reflect
dreary clouds
back into us.

The tears fall from her face,
mingling internal precipitation
with external condensation;
a reflection of both
my subconscious betrayal,
and the nature of nature.

The sugary-tart sunshine
emanates from my glass of
vodka-spiked orange juice,
rendered pale by soaked,
anemic daylight spilling
into my window.

The long swig I take,
soaking in nutrient and toxin,
reminds me that I still draw breath,
and therefore there’s
always a chance to
set things right.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 18: Today’s prompt:

Our optional prompt for the day also honors the idea of Saturday (the Saturdays of the soul, perhaps?), by challenging you to write an ode to life’s small pleasures. Perhaps it’s the first sip of your morning coffee. Or finding some money in the pockets of an old jacket. Discovering a bird’s nest in a lilac bush or just looking up at the sky and watching the clouds go by.

Day 5: Short Spring

Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

Short Spring

over time, trauma is a thief of joy
two fingers of bourbon mug the mugger
spring oozed into her room nonchalantly
embracing us with equanimity
her voice cooing we shouldn’t do this now
her lips tasting of why haven’t we yet
the fire in her almond eyes read mine
we chose the same musk-knotted adventure
music was jealous of our harmony
you introduced me to Martin Gore and
I didn’t get him, but through you, I did
I’m jealous I missed your London punk scene
and all the parts that broke you apart
we were both trauma and broken things
we been runnin’, done ran, till we bumped heads
finding joy in tending each other’s shards
I lived to cut myself open on you
seducing you into seducing me
say I won’t rise to meet your velvet taunt
your tongue had already run us through
I marked you as mine when your teeth pierced me
by the thinnest skin of goddess sinew
we loved, clear-eyed in the blackest of night
as the box-springs sang je t’aime, je t’aime
you took my life each time I surrendered
only to find your dear Eeyore renewed
I’ll re-steal this joy, returning to us
delightful, bottled beautiful struggle
thus was the elixir of our short spring
***

NaPoWriMo Day 5: “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” developed by Jim Simmerman. The challenge is to use/do all of the list below in the same poem, or as many as possible. This was extremely challenging, but also super engaging. I kicked off my shoes, threw out the punctuation, meditated on a topic that frequents my thoughts, (I was born a dirty old man. Sorry/not sorry) and started tinkering. I fudged some of the criteria, but I honored the spirit of all twenty requirements.

Here they are:

  1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
  2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
  3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
  4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
  5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
  6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
  7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
  8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
  9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
  10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
  11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
  12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
  13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
  14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
  15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
  16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
  17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
  18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
  19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
  20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.

Day 4: Even the Sweetest Ones

Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

Even the Sweetest Ones

It all flattens to simplicity,
stretching to infinity, as in
its edges transcend my perception;

dimming, fading, not like sad, last embers;
not joyously, as sunset aftermath;

but impassively, as the stage scene ends
in that space of quiet contemplation
where audience breathes uneasily
before giving way to rapturous applause.

That is the way all my dreams end, only
the applause never comes through the dark
and I’m left to ponder in this stillness

that maybe this is what awaits us all
when we settle into our final sleep,
converting even my sweetest dreams
into voiceless, realm-voided nightmares.

Sometimes, a ghost’s hollowed whisper is sought
over muted emptiness of end-scenes.
***

Metallica: One

NaPoWriMo Day 4: “…write a poem based on an image from a dream.”

Day 2: Mixed-Use

Photo by Janine Robinson on Unsplash

Mixed-Use

I’ve been told that way back in the 40’s
our Rosenwald complex was a black pearl
on Chicago’s South Side during the
blues, jazz, and soul renaissance.

It sheltered greats like
Gwendolyn Brooks, Nat “King” Cole, Quincy Jones
 – girl, I said Quincy Jones!

I think even Miles Davis
and Sammy Davis Jr,
but no relation, I believe.

I’ve been told that black folks in Chi
strutted down gaslit 47th street,
danced on smokey Michigan Boulevard,
sang on King Drive, and even Wabash
like they owned the night;

with a sense of pride
and musicality befitting us,
inseparable from the music

spilling from every throbbing tavern,
and even “hole-in-the-wall” was
just a teasing nickname thrown
at friendly endearing faces.

If I squint, I can see gilded hallways
of way back when,
which reek of pungent piss now.

I observe the sheen of polish
on some of the tiles not defiled
by dual-pitchforked, Star-of-David
Gangster-Disciple gang-sign graffiti.

Or is it Gangsta? I try to discern  
the artist’s penmanship from
the ones in our high school instead of

meeting your desperate gaze
as you kneel before me,
taking my hands in yours
in a shameful proposal.

Just yesterday, I’d given up on you.
I’d no tears left to cry over a girl
who don’t want me no more.

Now you return, on your knees,
perfumed in Bacardi rum and weed
you never thought to share with me.

What am I to make of this?

You didn’t even respect me enough
to break up with me;
you ignored my pleas
until I got the message.

Now you want to rewind the clock?

Any boy with a good upbringing
and a residue of self-respect

would’ve slammed that heavy
security door in your face for good,
chaining, deadbolting, and security-pole
in place for all eternity.

Sadly, this building
has seen better days,
better than I can imagine.  

He spurned you as you betrayed me,
you humbled yourself after falling,
and try as I might, I just couldn’t
kick you while down on that musty-ass floor.  

I lifted you from your knees,
welcoming you back into my
self-loathing and desperation,
knowing that I could expect no better.

I walked you home around the corner,
across the dusty courtyard
that once held fresh, manicured grass
when we first moved in.

I held your hand in mine,
thinking that to love you
went hand-in-hand with my
needing you somehow;

that without your water,
my life was empty, dead,
dusty-brown, a rusted, rotten
swing-set without swings;

only tetanus would remain,
waiting for antitoxin or
inevitable condemnation

and abandonment, twenty years from now,
long after our ill-advised marriage cracked,
eroded and ended; long after you

kneeled before me once again,
begging me to hold up my end
of our sham, a plea met with
silence and emptiness, like

the decayed ruins we once called home some
thirty years and two-thousand sixty-four
miles ago, before its renovation
into an elderly citizen’s home,

which is fitting, for all things age, slow,
decay, and are eventually consumed

by silence; even music
 – the most beautiful, the most vibrant;  
 – the most soulful, the most mournful
is fleeting, and always ends,

making way for the next,
as star becoming nebula
becomes proto stars.

I hope whoever walks
that hallway now
smells only lavender.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 2: “…write a poem about a specific place —  a particular house or store or school or office. Try to incorporate concrete details, like street names, distances (“three and a half blocks from the post office”), the types of trees or flowers, the color of the shirts on the people you remember there.”

I tried to be descriptive, but I was eventually sucked into the narrative. I may try this one again after this month’s challenge ends.

Four Ways of Commiserating with Indifference

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Four Ways of Commiserating with Indifference

1.
She confessed,
I’m just really lonely now,
you know?

I know, I replied,
having been lonely for
as long as I could recall.

I’m afraid, she said.

I know, I replied,
adding with certainty,
but you’ll survive this.

I know, she said,
it’s just scary with
all this uncertainty.

I didn’t reply, knowing
uncertainty is the
only certainty.

2.
How are you holding up?
is what he asked.

As well as can be expected,
was my reply, adding,
And you?

I feel the desire to go
do something, he said.

I’m not quite there yet,
I replied,
but I get it.

Just don’t like being told
what to do, he said.

I didn’t reply,
having spent much of my life
doing what I was told.

After a moment, he said,
I feel like you’ve been
preparing for this moment
your entire life.

Not this specific moment,
I said, but yeah,
I’m good, for now.

3.
How are you holding up?
I asked her.

I’m ready for all this
to be over, she replied.

Me too, I lied.

I know we have it
better than most, she added,
so I try not to complain.

I know what you mean,
I agreed with her
sincerely this time.

4.
She asked me,
how can anyone
observe the death, suffering,

the financial and emotional
hardships of our
brothers and sisters,
and feel nothing for them?

How can anyone
continue their selfish ways
in the face of this calamity?

I don’t know,
I replied with a shrug,
and I didn’t.
***

greeting card

dawid-zawila-zb2vBaHYB2I-unsplash

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

greeting card

“thinking of you”
written neatly, carefully
in black ink followed by ellipsis…

enclosed in insert
on sensible stock
of reasonable price

the card cover
gilded, framed, centered

a woman in repose
lounging in secret garden
drunk from moon beams
arm draped dramatically
over forehead,

informing of intimacy
concealed within her fold
open to my eyes

arriving, postmarked for
a random Tuesday, observing
of no one’s birthday

nor season’s greetings
not even candied-red hearts
with “be mine” carved
in sugar and bone meal

only an internal reveal
on a random day
after a weekend filled
with intimate truths

homemade mac-n-cheese
unremarkable, but meticulously
made to impress her

and gentle breath
on porcelain skin

contrasting in moonlight
with the rise and fall
of my mahogany drawn taut

gripping the night with her
with vigorous release

our spiritual surface long pierced,
our raw matter, now entwined
arriving at urgent merge

followed by teardrops

falling, pouring, mingling with grins
our brim overflowing with
graceless embraces

knowing how long we waited
pleading with fated winds

to stir currents leading
to this moment no longer obscured
by shadow of what should be

for one fleeting cherry bloom
we breathed our flesh into dream

birthing a brief reality
every bit as pure as gold
our priceless loot

the gilded frame, folded paper
and measured ink of sensible fee,

a remnant of a time
when we unfolded ourselves
opening to new gilded treasures

remembered, commemorated by her
in a postage-stamped envelope
addressed to this lonely man, piercing
my blue veneer yet again, knowing,

intuitively, without a doubt
I was thinking of her too…
***

Storm of Cherry Blossoms

sora-sagano-8sOZJ8JF0S8-unsplash

Photo by Sora Sagano on Unsplash

Storm of Cherry Blossoms

You want to tell her
everything
all the stuff
bubbling within
the stuff that mattered
that pitter-pattered
at the root
that once nourished
the bloom

but you can’t
because you’re gone;
an empty room
filled with unsaid words
unspent ideas
unexplored thoughts.

Just like that,
you’re all magma,
ash, ozone, and
deenergized particles,
now decelerated to
null;

your essence
returned
to the cosmic slop.

Her whispering thoughts
will return to you
with each storm
of cherry blossoms.
***