Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Wail


  Sometimes his cry would shriek through me and tear at my bones. There would be moments where I was sure I was going to go insane as I tried in my clumsy way to find and meet his need. But there were other times when I was just moved... Moved to the point of tears and chest-splitting empathy.

Wail


Your cry is the sound of blue
swallowtail butterflies
ever so slightly teasing the wind.

With every tear-streaked shred
of your being you call out,
red-faced, to your maker—Hear
and heed what I know
                       no words to ask.

But all I hear is the beauty
of fluttery painted wings
singing a call to nectar.

  It's time for me to accept that this burgeoning life is as much a part of my creative spirit as my own years have been. I have decided that I will begin writing whatever fatherhood poem ideas pop into my head. Maybe it won't be all that long before I can produce a small book from these poems.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sunrise


  Malaya will be one year old on the 22nd. I am going to try to write a poem every year to commemorate his birthday. As it occurred to me that he may one day want to hear about the circumstances surrounding his birth, I decided that his first year poem could serve as an archive of memory and impression as much as a commemoration.

Sunrise


You were born in starlight, stardust
   congealed, comingled with blood,
under the harsh, cold fluorescent
      glare of breath, suffocating for air.

It was the shortest night of the year.
   Your heart began to falter in the warm
red canal, so we nodded our assent and you
      were cut from the belly of mystery.

First light had not yet grazed the east
   when you were lifted, barrel-chested,
from your ancient, ancestral pond into
      cold, thin, arid space. Your round

orbs hid behind frail pink lids, squeezed
   so tight your nascent dreams moved
etched against them. And your face,
      it was wrinkled with screams,

yet no sound passed your uncut gums.
   A latexed finger reached in, swiped
meconium from behind tiny tonsils, and then
      you rattled a brief, panicked wheeze.

The dimmest of stars fell back into night,
   the space between ever so slightly
lightened. An amber tube snaked down
      past those tonsils and pulled up thick

green fluid, and when it finally returned
   you struggled with all your might
to slake some unbearable thirst for meaning—
      A quavering cry spilled from your lips.

The faintest whisper of halo gathered
   along the rim of eastern hills. Thick silver
scissors appeared in my hand as pale
      white gloves held you still. A voice

broke through my wonder, “You cut, Dad.
   You cut the cord.” I trembled—dizzy—
starting to comprehend your fear, but I
      couldn’t say, “No.” The now of this

moment already began to phase into then.
   Stainless steel bit down on that organic
corridor you followed from far-away realms
      of dream into being, cutting you free.

You were cleansed, briskly, like an old doll,
   swaddled in bright white towels, then
passed into my uncertain arms. Warmth
      of your newness pierced through me.

From the hills the halo gathered strength
   and began to lift—More stars drifted back
behind its veil. In my arms you drifted back
      to sleep, exhausted by the large ordeal

of becoming. A wooden bassinet wheeled
   out before me, transparent walls rising
from sturdy, light-grained panels. I balked,
      unsure how to lay such perfect frailty

safely down. Slender hands, showing
   signs of age, grace and motherhood
reached out to guide, half lifting from my
      arms your towel cocoon. Tiny round

nostrils peered out from the layered folds,
   drawing silence from well-trained chaos,
exhaling stillness as I wheeled you along,
      trailing behind a periwinkle gown down

sterile corridors through a series of wide,
   magnetically sealed doors to a room
where tiny round nostrils peered out from
      staggered rows of white, cotton cocoons.

A pale, pale blue began to follow the halo
   upward as more stars returned to dream.
You were cold, I was told, and so your
      wrappings were opened and your ribs

exposed to a deep, amber herald of the sun.
   This awakened you, and for a moment
you explored motion in this strange new
      atmosphere with tightly curled fists.

Then again you slept, afloat on darkness
   beneath clear light—a solitary leaf curled
perfectly still on the dark mirror depths
      of a pond. I watched you in your infinite

quietude, hardly drawing breath for fear
   of disturbing those waters. After a time
you woke, or perhaps dreamed, and you
      stretched out a nearly translucent palm.

With the last knuckle of my finger I touched
   the inside as lightly as first twilight winds
touch high summer glades. And, perhaps
      in reflex, your fingers closed around it.

The blue deepened, now only a few stars
   left peering through thin archipelagos
of cloud. I froze in contemplation, studying
      every detail of your glowing, coral pink

digits. Studying, until my arm grew tired
   and trembled, stiff and numb—Until I could
no longer sense your grip through the pins
      and needles that gripped my limb.

Then you let go, grabbed your folded
   thumb, and were still again. I leaned back,
lightly rocking the light tan chair reserved
      for new fathers to fill each exhausted

moment with new life. A fresh pair of eyes
   periodically floated by to check your core
temperature. I floated in and out of dream
      until you were lifted from the warmer

and returned to your light-grained bassinet.
   News came that the seat of mystery
had been resealed, and its bearer now
      recovered, resting. Time had come now

for you to know her warmth, smell her sweat,
   and taste the nourishment of perfect
comfort. I watched your face, still squeezed
      shut, as we wheeled down stark,

sanitized corridors to where she lay—half
   sleeping—covered to her neck by brown,
raveled blankets. The heavy frame rose, half
      lifting her petite frame to receive you.

Her gown was opened, the last two stars
   of night inversed on the sepia mirror of her
chest. You were placed in the sky below them,
      and, drawn to yellow light from those dark

stars, you latched on and drank deep of life
   -giving rays. Tall cottonwoods, ornamental
maples and broad, flat rooftops emerged
      from halflight into color. As you finished

the first meal, western peaks gave praise
   to the sun. You slept, rising and falling
on the breath of that flawless sky. And she too
      slept, exhausted by the long ordeal

of bearing a son. Shadows pulled back across
   the valley floor, light creeping into every
crack and crevice, sifting down through leaves
      and window blinds, settling silently across

your round rosy cheeks. Though my own eyes
   wearied, I stood watch, only closing my lids
enough to wet the hot, dry sting as morning
      rose like a blossom, and all things were new.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wild Cherry


  For over ten years now, I’ve tried to write a sakura (cherry blossom) poem every spring. Though I started this poem early in the spring when the trees were still in bloom here in the Reno area, they’ve since greened and gone to seed. As a new parent, it has been more challenging than ever for me to focus my time and energies as I would like, hence the slow writing process. Another thing I try to do every year is to complete a poem on my birthday, which I’ve managed to accomplish here.

Wild Cherry


  for Joy


Each hour with you is a blossom
  on a dark wood cherry tree
bursting light from the silence
      of wood grain mystery

Each week that passes between us
  is a twig on that dark wood tree
swaying on gentle breezes
      like foam adrift on the sea

Each season we share together
  is a branch from which they grow
bright as a cloud in the darkness
      reflecting the full moon’s glow

Each year that shimmers behind us
  is a limb that holds on high
moments arrayed in a splendor
      that rivals the dawning sky

And lifting it all like a prayer
  is the trunk that widens through time
rooted in layers of meaning
      that nurture the living shrine

  The particular species of cherry used for inspiration here is prunus avium, or wild cherry—sometimes called sweet cherry.

Monday, January 5, 2015

I must be


  One may be able to infer from these words the nature of an inner struggle. It is a struggle that has endured in one form or another since childhood. Now that I’m a father, now that I look every day on my baby son and experience the wild array of emotions that come with watching him coalesce and evolve, this struggle has become all at once completely inane and yet all the more intense. It is winter. My one method of preference is exposure. Yet I have a powerful new reason to cope with the fears and uncertainties that have plagued my being for as long as I can remember.

I must be


I must be more than memory,
   more than just a name,
more than faded echoes cast
      from pictures in a frame.

I must be more than faint suspicions
   coiled in the heart,
smoke-like apparitions drifting
      through a starless dark.

I must be more than supposition,
   more than just a guess,
fashioned from a dust that fell
      through years of emptiness.

I must be more than stories told
   by uncles, aunts and kin,
anecdotes of vague recall
      from time beyond your ken.

I must be more than fantasies
   of how things might have been,
conjured up to fill a void
      that widened in my stead.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

first rain


  As with the previous haiku, this was written as part of a dedication when I gave a copy of my book to a friend. Years and years ago, I met and got to know him a little while we both still lived in Ukiah, California. He now lives in Colorado; I in Reno, Nevada. One never knows where life will lead. Wherever that may be, the scent and sight of autumn's first rains in the hills around Ukiah will never be forgotten.

first rain


deep green leaves glisten
dust is rinsed from weaves of rust
fresh mud seals cracked earth

Saturday, January 3, 2015

ray


  I recently found occasion to sign a copy of an inkling hope to an author who has over the years influenced my style and approach to poetry. When I did, I wrote this small dedication. His nom de plume is blended amongst the words and imagery.

ray


red pine at dawn
light expands through cool sea mist
a sun beam sparkles through

Monday, October 20, 2014

October Moonrise


  I happened to visit a storefront a couple weeks back that's nestled in the eastern foothills of the Sierras along I80, a few miles west of Reno. Soon as I pulled up, I noticed the full moon and realized my luck. I hurried my way into and out of the store so I could hang out a while and take in the view. As I did so, watching every subtle change for 20 minutes or so as dusk rose up to meet and overtake the moon, I couldn't help but notice that not one of the several dozen people who came to make a purchase from this store so much as looked up to take notice of this spectacular scene unfolding before and around them. In some ways I felt sorry for these people, in other ways frustrated. How does one not notice such splendor? How does one stand before the throne of God and see nothing? I thought that impossible strains and terrors must be burdening and goading these poor creatures along to render them so incapable of seeing this rare panorama that perhaps occurs only once a year.

October Moonrise


large and silent the full moon hovers over
a pine studded ridge just inside the gray
purple haze that marks the closing
                                        edge of night

dark citrine plates climb high into a pair
of ponderosas where they reach out to join
spiky tufts of green that overhang and
                                        frame the moon

overhead cloudless skies still resonate
the deep cool purity of day as ravens
quietly fan claw-like wings up the canyon
                                        home to roost

that hazy rim rises faster than the moon
it folds like an eyelid ever so slowly
on the all-seeing gaze of Odin’s singular
                                        ice blue orb

a few of the keenest stars begin to burn
through darkness that gradually creeps
up from the long horizon like a distant fog to
                                        touch the moon

cars pull to a pause in the newly paved lot
people emerge thumbing their phones
to the store and back never once lifting
                                        up their heads

i sit on a rock by the concrete walkway
eyes struggling to take in every nuance
chest riven by a surreal resonance with
                                        all i see

Thursday, October 2, 2014

the calling


  I had a sense of my calling by the time I was 12, but it wasn’t until the middle of 2001, 18 years later before I knew for sure. The calling is a strange thing. It doesn’t come with instructions. There are no guides. To follow it may be just as difficult as not to, but for very different reasons. The force of one’s calling demands all attention. If one turns one’s back on it at this point, out of fear of poverty, marginalization, or not being able to realize its potential, then the despair that follows is as overpowering and destructive as the circumstances may be in heeding that call. For me, heeding the call meant simply casting myself on the current that had already swept away all else, and staying afloat as best I can. And in my case, it really has meant poverty, marginalization, and a continuing uncertainty with regard to realizing its potential.

the calling


it wails like an infant
crazed with wordless hunger
eyes wrinkled shut
toothless gums wide
fists balled tightly by
round quivering cheeks

it will not be ignored

it howls like a tempest wind
incessant against white paned windows
it rattles the mahogany door
in its frame and knocks
shadowy branches against deep
brown asphalt shingles

it will not be dismissed

it swells like a flood
seeping through sandbags
creeping up one wet carpeted stair
at a time until even the old maples
just outside succumb to the current
and the house leaves its foundation

it will not be turned away

once it is known
it cannot be unknown

it hungers within
rattles the windows of thought
floods the foundations of soul
until all of life is swept away
cast adrift on that one last
current of meaning

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Winter Relief


  My hope was that I was going to be able to use this sonnet form to write a pen portrait of a man, possibly homeless, who during the winter ambles a ratty old bicycle down the avenues near where I work, dispersing bird seed to the fowl. He trundles along with a 5 gallon, neon orange bucket hanging from a handlebar. At various vacant lots, some of which are fenced in, he stops on the sidewalk and lobs great big handfuls of seed out across the gravel or asphalt. As he approaches one of the feeding places, the sky darkens with winged creatures, which land in a whirl of calls and flapping feathers. They are so used to this man that they let the birdseed fall directly upon them, bouncing from wing, beak and back.

  I know nothing about this “bird man,” as I’ve come to think of him, save for the image of his moving among the streets in the dim light of dawn, arcing fistfuls of seed over his head and chest. His face is a mass of unkempt hair, his snow jacket old and held together with duct tape. His clothes are layered in tatters and crusted with dirt and debris. Yet for all his apparent misfortune, he has made it his mission to by some means acquire this seed and feed the cities winged residents during the winter.

  After a few weeks of trying to get the imagery in mind to bend to this sonnet form, I finally decided to give up and let the words and images find themselves. Sometimes the only way a poem gets written is to let go of the originating idea, allowing the words to choose and arrange themselves. Under such circumstances, the poet merely facilitates a process that was somehow already occurring, already waiting disembodied in the ether to find a channel into existence.

Winter Relief


The mourning dove lifts pale, majestic wings,
illuminating vacant, asphalt grounds.
A shadow moves amid the murmurings
of feathered creatures stirring all around
him as unsteadily he trundles down
the frozen sidewalks with an orange pail
suspended from a handlebar; the sound
of squeaking tires mingles with a gale
of pigeons, sparrows, jays that dance like hail
across a gravel, weed-strewn parking lot.
He stops and probes the neon depths to bail
a scoop of birdseed—harmless scattershot—
which, reaching back, he arcs above his head
to bounce among the birds with even spread.

  This is my 2nd Spenserian sonnet. It was my intention to strictly adhere to the rhyme scheme for this second pass at the form, but the word pool was just too small for the b scheme, so I kept extending it until enough words became available to allow for a fairly natural flow of language and imagery. Still a partial rhyme by all accounts, since all four words share the “oun” phonemes.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cupid


  If you take the lips—curved to a smile—as the bow, the cooing voice as the string, and eye contact as the arrows, then you may have Cupid himself, my son. Never in my life has love struck me so deep in the chest over and over, with each look and smile—each sincere, honest smile.

Cupid


Not one great archer of ancient times—
not Arash, Arjuna, Houyi or Oddyseus—
not even the ageless Titans had strength
enough to bend back and string your bow.

Yet each day with remarkable ease you
curl back the tips and notch the string.

With hardly a thought you draw back one
shaft after another, and each streak of light
finds its mark deep in the still-beating heart,
the only wound a fire of unbridled affection.

My ribs are riddled, glowing warm
with the mystery of your unassuming skill.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Gray Brown Eyes


  He has a floor mat with a domed shape tripod frame that sets over it. Toy animals hang from the frame just low enough for him to whack at, grab onto, and of course look at. When it comes time to feed, I’ll often sit down next to the mat, slide him over and rest his head just above my ankle bone, which gives the bottle a nice angle, especially since it’s the type of bottle that doesn’t run freely. He has to really suck out the formula.

  Sitting there thus, I’ll hunch over and look at him while he nurses the bottle. Lately he has taken to looking at me, too—right in the eyes. We stare at one another, and wildly intense, indescribable emotions well up. Here I’ve attempted to depict some aspect of those emotions, as best I can.

Gray Brown Eyes


I don’t know what you’re thinking
                                   or if you’re thinking

Your eyes are oceans of ancestry
and each time you look at me
each time you study my face with
those pure wide open wells
I begin to drown in their fathomless
                                   age

Then
      gently slowly
                       you blink
                                   and look away

For a moment the spell is broken
and I gasp for breath in my soul
claw at the rocks and pull myself
ashore
                                   ribs bellowing

Yet your eyes flood back to me
relentless as a tidal bore
and I am swept along and pressed
among debris to wash end over end
through unremembered histories

The momentum slows to a pause
for the space of a kick and a flail
then broken splintered timbers sweep
back once more toward that ancient
                                   abysmal pain

And just as I lose the last of my
strength to tread that awful swell
amid invisible fragments of time that
scrape and cut hands feet and mind
and I let go to slip drift sink beneath
                                   darkness

Once more
          gently slowly
                        you blink
                                   and look away

I don’t know what I’m thinking
                                   or if I’m thinking

Friday, August 1, 2014

Samsara


  Birth. Death. Impermanence. Samsara. This is my 6th synthetic ode.

Samsara


i

Roiling coiling boiling
             beyond memory dreams
   phase and shift in amniotic mists
         swirl in the silence of pulsation
      swim in the stillness of song and dance

Slowly gently gradually
   sensations coalesce illuminating
shapes only somewhat guessed before
      till time takes hold and presses
long hard strained contractions
         bearing breath into the light
      where lungs expel a fluid reverie
   and struggle with thin arid vapors of life

Now spry pink fingers fan out
            new translucent maple leaves
      that ball and bob and grasp
         at each candescent moment
   each ray of raw potential
               emerging from the void


ii

Ailing paling failing
             beyond hope of recall
   yesteryears evaporate like mists
         drift in and out of apprehension
      drone in the absence of conscious thought

Fiercely surely naturally
   perception dissipates into a darkness
shapes only somewhat recognized
      as time slows down and shuffles
somber strained abstractions
         toward an ever shifting shade
      where lungs expand in fluid misery
   and struggle at each dim sensation of life

Here sun browned fingers curl up
            frail exhausted walnut leaves
      that twist and creak and claw
         at brief pellucid moments
   at dreams of lost potential
               returning to the void


iii

An old oak grows on the side of a hill,
the side that faces the afternoon sun;
on the ground in the grass, her litterfall
has collected around her ancient trunk,
its bottommost layers turned back to soil.

A short distance away the blanched remains
of a sister lies rotting in the grass,
her wood resculpted by late autumn rains
and frosts that covered her corpse with a glass
that deepened the wedges along the grain.

The old oak rises, the last of her kin;
her trunk is split and a third of her limbs
in perpetual winter scrape like bone
the progression of ever changing climes—
the blistering azure, the thunder’s groan.

In the shape of a crescent moon, decay
has collected around her knobby base,
the twigs and branches that once would display
a green that shimmered now turning to waste
where skeletal shadows reach out and pray.

Another third is beginning to wane,
the crown has turned to a light mottled shade
and the leaves have begun to curl and thin
where, before, a reflective glimmer played
like fairy folk dancing within the sun.

She is old; she was old when condors soared
in the skies that revolve above her leaves;
for centuries she has weathered the storms
that lumber in from the watery weaves
which pattern the sandscapes of distant shores.

Her time is near, as it nears for us all;
the vibrancy of her youth has been lost
to the powerful change that claims us all,
yet she faces the end and bears the worst
with a grace that exists within us all.

  At the end of my book, an inkling hope—available at Amazon.com, I dedicated some space to describing the synthetic ode since three are included therein. This is what I wrote, including a few minor edits:

Synthetic odes explore and synthesize opposites in three parts. Part I introduces and explores a thesis, on any subject; part II introduces and explores its antithesis, which can be an opposing force, an opposite meaning, a contrasting aesthetic, and so on; and part III attempts to in some way synthesize the contrasts set forth by parts I and II. This can be done in numerous ways. For instance, in “Contrast” yin (thesis) and yang (antithesis) are brought together in a sort of karmic dance (synthesis) through eternity.

Parts I and II can be in any format, but they must be accentually isometric to one another and contain at least seven points of parallelism within and/or between them—preferably more. An example of parallelism is end-line rhyme, but the parallelisms can be semantic (like “mind,” “thought” and “id”) or any of the various alternatives to rhyme, such as with frame rhyme (“spring” and “sprung”). Part III can also be in any format, but must not replicate the format of parts I and II, and it must contain at least four points of parallelism within it—again, preferably more.

No first person personal pronouns can be used anywhere in the poem, so one’s “self” must be removed as a direct reference. Lastly, no two synthetic odes (from the same author) can share the same structure. So, in a sense, the synthetic ode is a kind of free verse despite the rules and restrictions placed on the form because the structure must be arrived at in a spontaneous manner each time one is written.

I designed this form for my own purposes to help me explore some of the abstract, aesthetic and visually expressive attributes of poetry.

So, with this poem, “Samsara”, part i explores birth, or coming into being; part ii explores death, or going out of being; and part iii explores impermanence, or the stream of beingness. Most of the parallelisms in parts i and ii exist between the two segments. You may find it an interesting experience to read parts i and ii at the same time, line by line.

Another thing that may catch your attention as you read is that part iii uses an entirely different style than the first two parts. Everything about it is different. Parts i and ii read like free verse while part iii reads more like a piece of classical poetry. This is intentional. This is meant to jar the senses by jabbing a sliver of “impermanence” under the fingernail of thought.