She is…

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

She is…

a peace profile
in sepia tones and
cotton candy dreams.

She is of crescent moons
golden curves and
star shine reflected in
half-open eyes of
REM sleep
digesting another day
on the apex of praise
attention, and even parody;

a knowing eye-twinkle at rest;

grace under any light
lunar or lampoon;
luminous
even among blackened
new moon night;

She is earthshine;
a crest of coral ocean foam
only hinting at the volume
of her riches within;

of permanent afterglow
guiding her acolyte home.

She is of resting face, lines
curving down at the corners;

not a frown, but layered
determined peace; a portrait
of meditative resolve
smoothed upon a
capricious landscape.

She is a cosmos
unto herself
but even she has
her breaking point;

she greets me at her center,
with shoulders slumped;
her horizon curves
back onto me,

and I learn of the depths
of my own strength
holding heaven aloft
with only my two frail arms
and everything I am

The nature of things is that
I am and she is.

But often I am
because she is.

Occasionally I am
so that she is.
***

Blueberries for Reina

Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

Blueberries for Reina

I’ve never eaten a blueberry. I confess I didn’t follow my grandma’s golden rule; don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. They look vile and undignified; like grapes that didn’t quite grape correctly. But my grandbaby is housing those things like they’re nature’s candy, leaving blue and violet streaks everywhere; a little Rembrandt. Every so often, she offers me one with compelling questions of “Uhn? Uhn?” hanging beneath our sun-streaked skylit afternoon. I politely sing, “No thank you!” which always gets a giggle from her before she crams nature’s mess artlessly into her tiny face. She’s more blueberry than toddler now. Maybe I should try one next time she offers.

sea of blue and green
bird chatter and child’s laughter
we breathe together

***

Reina, destroyer of blueberries, all cleaned up now, focused hard on play. (Image by author, used with permission.)

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.
***

green branch and vine reach skyward
grey heavens drift indifferently
I too sit with back to nature
we all seek the unfeasible
gleaning meaning from raindrops
***

My first attempt at a Gogyohka.

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 28: Figment

Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

Figment

The shining city
on the horizon is not
actually there.

It is much lower,
and cannot be seen from here
with the naked eye.

What’s visible is
a mirage; a refraction;
trickery of light.

Theoretically, it exists,
though where you think it is,
there is nothing tangible.

In the beginning,
I had nothing,
but it was all mine.

No room to call my own,
but I owned every room
in momma’s universe.

The space we called home
coalesced from a hazy shade of blue,
brightening at the boundaries,
basement half-windows facing south,
allowing indirect light.

In the mornings and afternoons,
the TV was mine to visit Sesame Street,
Mr. Rogers, Mickey’s Club,
until evening, when dad returned
from some place called work.

We played until it was time to be silent;
I asked questions until the answers dried-up;
I cowered from the silent shadows
until the birds sang-in the blue again.

Sometimes momma kissed dad goodbye;
sometimes the silence between them
needed the icy space of January air
to thaw again; but either way,

the space was mine again
to build, to ponder,
to question.

In the beginning I had nothing,
but it gleamed along the margins,
and it was everything to me.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 28: Today’s Prompt:

Today’s (optional) prompt is brought to us by the Emily Dickinson Museum. First, read this brief reminiscence of Emily Dickinson, written by her niece. And now, here is the prompt that the museum suggests:

Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s description of her aunt’s cozy room, scented with hyacinths and a crackling stove, warmly recalls the setting decades later. Describe a bedroom from your past in a series of descriptive paragraphs or a poem. It could be your childhood room, your grandmother’s room, a college dormitory or another significant space from your life.

I went back to my earliest memory, when I was 3-4yrs old, and possessed neither a room of my own, nor the very concept of a room of my own. I did have tons of questions though, just as I do now.

Edited: Shared with dVerse OLN.

Day 26: Sculpting You

Image by Nadine Doerlé from Pixabay 

Sculpting You

I run my hands across your marble,
molding you into a goddess to worship,
cupping your curves in a familiar pattern;

suddenly, through repetition,
derivation of muscle-memory
we both know the way your lines end,

so I blend charcoal
and the ashes of Nefertari
to color your purity,

but your smile tells me
that the sun has shined for both
the old and new goddesses;
divine birth and rebirth;
unblemished, and golden-kissed.

You whisper the mantra
already breathed into life countless times
before, by you and then I, folded,
and then refolded upon we
and suddenly, I am unfit to carry on.

Your familiarity reaches out
beyond the common monolithic
colorless slab as if to say,

“I know you know. We are
already well-acquainted. But
will you start again, anyway?”

I smile to myself,
molding your rounded flesh,
flexing densely-knotted muscle fibers
into a slightly different direction,
knowing that you already know
that I will.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 26: Today’s prompt:

And now for our prompt (optional, as always). This is one that we’ve used before, but one test of a  good prompt is that you can come back to it! For this prompt, you will need to fill out, in five minutes or less, the following “Almanac Questionnaire.” Then, use your responses as to basis for a poem.

I tinkered with this prompt for about thirty minutes after answering the questionnaire (My answers listed below) before completely abandoning the prompt. The prompt itself is fine, but I began to experience Deja-vu, as if I were just retreading old thoughts, writing the same themes, and feeling rather stagnant and unoriginal.

At that point, I stopped, and gave myself permission to start again, independent of the prompt. The result still feels like themes I’ve covered before, but it also gave me an unbound sense of expression, so I went with it.

Maybe I’ll return another day to tinker with my answers to the Almanac Questionnaire.

Almanac Questionnaire

Weather: overcast, calm
Flora: evergreen, fir, new green, apple blossoms
Architecture: twenty-first century modern residence
Customs: America first, hoard the most nuts
Mammals/reptiles/fish: deer, bunnies, coyotes
Childhood dream: play halfback for the Bears
Found on the Street: nothing substantial
Export: thoughts, prayers, comedy
Graffiti: none
Lover: strong, confident, vulnerable
Conspiracy: only a genius could fake such stupidity
Dress: aggressively casual
Hometown memory: Bulls winning the 91 NBA Championship
Notable person: Kendrick Lamar
Outside your window, you find: air and water
Today’s news headline: tedious and depressing, as usual
Scrap from a letter: “You will not have this day…” (Seriously, Who has written a letter recently? I went with Chancellor Gowron’s last words after Worf, son of Mogh killed him in one-on-one armed combat during the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Yes, I’m a nerd.)
Animal from a myth: Pegasus
Story read to children at night: Go the Fuck to Sleep
You walk three minutes down an alley and you find: the scene of my mugging
You walk to the border and hear: slander, hearsay, and tribalism
What you fear: spiders, exotic insects, tribalism
Picture on your city’s postcard: A curtain being drawn beyond the Magnificent Mile, revealing the quiet suffering of its forgotten citizens. 

Day 25: Starting Back at One

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay 

Starting Back at One

There is a madness, a quickening, a voice
saying things one feels to be true, but
doesn’t want to hear, and so we stop and
shutter the door to beginning, living
in a state of non-living, but waiting for
death as if it were the next bus out of the
slum of existence, and so maybe the voice
should be revisited and heard to see where
it leads, and so we settle into the sound
even though we know it as a figment of
an active ego we’re vying to wrestle
control from, even if for just a moment
and the only sound observed should resonate
from the pulse, the heartbeat, the controlled breathing
of one who is close to oneness, for the voice
is just an awakening of noisy mind
being disciplined into silence as our
eyelids lower and the body sinks into
the chair and then the ground and then the softness
of cosmic fabric, and for the briefest of
moments it is felt, the connection we so
secretly crave has been there all along, for
you and I are now linked to everything
and everyone that has ever lived and who
will come after we are dust, and thusly, the
voice is silenced for a moment as water
becomes what is it shaped to become, just as
you and I have become water and the spring
season beckons a sliver of all seasons,
the pollen that tickles the nose coming from
a breeze that was the dying breath of artic  
jet-streams thousands of miles ago, roused by a
global spin and the sun’s disparate heating
of the sky; it is all connected as we
are unified by the breath of life, so when
I yield to you, I’m yielding to us, and once
bowed and humbled, you will see the good earth
and know that it is both ours and no one’s.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 25: Today’s prompt:

Because it’s a Saturday, I have an (optional) prompt for you that takes a little time to work through — although you can certainly take short-cuts through it, if you like! The prompt, which you can find in its entirety here, was  developed by the poet and teacher Hoa Nguyen, asks you to use a long poem by James Schuyler as a guidepost for your poem. (You may remember James Schuyler from our poetry resource for Day 2.) This is a prompt that allows you to sink deeply into another poet’s work, as well as your own.

I included a bit of a shortcut to this prompt. While I found the poetry of James Schuyler to be amazing and engaging, listening to the speaker read it was a bit grating and took me out of it. Instead, I read it myself while playing a live Tibetan meditation music channel from YouTube. Midway through reading, I broke-off and began crafting my own poem based on how I felt in the moment, paying no heed to the other steps.

I think I did pretty ok. I certainly felt better allowing for a stream of consciousness and getting out of its way a bit before returning to shape it a bit. It was an intriguing experience and helped to center me a bit.

Day 21: Confounded Twilight

Photo by Ryan Loughlin on Unsplash

Confounded Twilight

Afternoon sun poured into rung-out cloud-tops
allowing only enough light
to confound twilight
when it comes

The green beneath it blossomed into harmony
buds that would later burst into foreign tongue
reflecting moonlight poorly
as moonlight poorly stands in
for the sun

April taps patiently on panes, and I am unmoved
Everything in its own time,
even me

She was an unscalable mess, indifferent to fate,
even as night falls
and I no different from her
or even you

I cannot subsist on a diet of breadcrumbs
nor will I entwine my vines
to be nourished by yours

There’s no known scarcity compelling me
to rebreathe your air

On-tempo or asynchronous,
we may both live

As you become a tree,
I shall admire your knotted timbre

But I’m no mockingbird; I’ll sing beneath you,
announcing our quarry
to the other coyotes

Or I’ll shine above you, as your limbs reach
for my moonlight
***

NaPoWriMo Day 21: Today’s Prompt:

Find a poem in a language that you don’t know, and perform a “homophonic translation” on it. What does that mean? Well, it means to try to translate the poem simply based on how it sounds. You may not wind up with a credible poem at the end, but this can be a fun way to step outside of your own mind for a bit, and develop a poem that speaks in a distinctive voice. 

Yeah, nah. I went off-prompt today, as much as hated to do so. I’ve done homophonic translations many times before, but it just didn’t do anything for me this time. I couldn’t turn off my rational brain long enough to create a word palette with which to experiment.

I gave it a go, but bending the foreign words into something else that made sense in English felt weird to me this time. I used to do this a lot with J-Pop, K-Pop, and anime theme music, but twisting the words of a foreign poet felt wrong to me on some level. I’m not sure how I’d feel if someone twisted a poem of mine about some heavy topic like racism or injustice into some kind of child’s nursery rhyme.

Meh, I’m probably reading too much into it. I couldn’t get out of my own head this time. Oh well.

Day 19: Manicured Path

Photo by Avi Waxman on Unsplash

Manicured Path

We made it halfway up before yielding
to father time and self-imposed inertia.

Bending onto a level manicured path,
a young tree bloomed in watercolor reds;
a beautiful alien among
puffy white sapling blossoms.

Along a strip of conformity where
anything out-of-place is hammered, snipped,
or sprayed into one of the approved labels,
the tree of rubies grabs the eye for all
the reasons, right, wrong, or otherwise.

Towering firs in the distance command focus,
even as humanity carved condos,
two-car garages, and rickety steps
into where their cousins were felled years ago.

They stretch and slowly sway stoically
against the light breeze, reminding all
to stand as tall as their posture allows
and inhale deeply, accepting their
regifted oxygen, exhaling in
mutual respiration.

The opposite side of the valley,
across the Sammamish river,
teams with every shade of green,
blending seamlessly into each other,
accepting the uncolored order
before bowing to man’s rectangular
boxy factories and warehouses, each
aligned to and more unremarkable
than the last beige, bland nothing.

Between the bland boxes and us
lies another greenbelt with an overgrown
abandoned rail line cutting through it;
a boundary noted and ignored by most.

Near the bottom of the rickety stair landing,
two teens social-distance together
with their tiny dog, who silently,
but rightfully eyes me suspiciously.

I doubt he’s ever seen the likes
of me in his territory before.

But he shrugs it off, finding a
far more intriguing scent, oblivious
to the nearby blackberries at war
with a similarly invasive species.

The shrub battle is waged on its own time
and would’ve gone unnoticed by my eyes
had my beloved not been beside me to
pull me out of our moment,
drawing attention to it.

She often helps me see things
with new colors and angles,
bending our halfway-uphill trips
into an unyielding odyssey.
***

NaPoWriMo Day 19: Today’s prompt:

Today, our optional prompt challenges you to write a poem based on a “walking archive.” What’s that? Well, it’s when you go on a walk and gather up interesting things – a flower, a strange piece of bark, a rock. This then becomes your “walking archive” – the physical instantiation of your walk. If you’re unable to get out of the house (as many of us now are), you can create a “walking archive” by wandering around your own home and gathering knick-knacks, family photos, maybe a strange spice or kitchen gadget you never use. One you’ve finished your gathering, lay all your materials out on  a tray table, like museum specimens. Now, let your group of materials inspire your poem! You can write about just one of the things you’ve gathered, or how all of them are all linked, or even what they say about you, who chose them and brought them together.

Of course, upon hearing that in order to stay on prompt, I’d have to leave the house, my wife was thrilled. Me, not so much, but hey, I did it.