Friday, August 12, 2016

Lines to My Son


  My goal was to have this written for my son’s second birthday. But, although I began working on this poem with six weeks to spare, it is now about six weeks late. This mostly is due to my still learning how to manage and maximize my creative time and energy as a first time parent. Well, first the poem, then a few thoughts:

Lines to My Son


There is a stillness in your eyes
that not a lifetime could disguise,
never mind the mere two years
we’ve shared of laughter, play and tears.

My child, when you cast your smile,
I am compelled to gaze a while
on all the features of your face,
each contour radiant with grace.

I know that sometimes you will cry,
that pain and grief will make you sigh,
but in the end, I hope your share
of peace will far outweigh despair.

I hope that as you grow, a sense
of purpose—meaning—will condense
within your soul until a spring
of inspiration purls and sings.

I know that you will face arrays
of challenges throughout your days,
and sometimes with a heavy heart,
you’ll want to fold and fall apart.

But, son, I hope you’ll come to see
that what is gained too easily
is rarely valued at its worth
and offers only fleeting mirth.

I hope you’ll learn to meet with poise
each obstacle that life deploys
and overcome it with that grace
I see forever in your face.

I know one day that love may lunge
from shadows at your heart and plunge
its ancient kris between your bones
and leave you wretched, wracked with moans.

But if this end should come to pass,
I hope in time you’ll rise at last
and realize deep within your soul
that love is nurtured—not controlled.

I know that fear, with silent tread,
may one day stalk your thoughts till dread
swells acid-like within your chest
and melts all courage from your breast.

If that lean creature ever learns
your scent, I hope that you’ll discern
the way to throw it off your trail,
ensuring all its efforts fail.

I hope you’ll come to see that fear
pursues those thoughts within the sphere
of all the worst of what could be
until it mauls reality.

I hope you’ll learn to contemplate
your blessings and appreciate
the least of things that come your way,
the smallest moments of your day.

I know that sometimes loneliness
may chill you with her gelid kiss
until you crave for any fire
to burn away your dread desire.

But, son, I hope you’ll make your peace
with solitude and grant her lease
within your wide expanse of self
where she reveals one’s inner wealth.

For solitude and loneliness
are only sisters in the sense
that each reflects an attribute
of isolation, but in truth

the two are not at all the same;
one sister lights and keeps the flame
of contemplation, but her kin
instills an anguish deep within.

I know that loss will find your door,
and though you ask, entreat, implore,
he’ll barge into your private place
and carve a lasting, empty space.

I hope, despite the swells of grief
that crash across that jagged reef
of raw emotion deep inside,
you’ll find a way to bear the tide

and build a lighthouse on that shoal
whose spinning beacon may console
with brighter moments from before
you lost the ones that you adore.

I hope that you will find the strength
to mourn your losses, then at length
stand tall, gaze deep into the night,
and let acceptance fill your sight.

I hope with vibrant health you’ll live
till all your hairs turn gray and give
you such a sagely countenance
you’re loved by all with reverence.

  I don’t go into writing a poem like this thinking, “This is going to be written in iambic tetrameters using an aabb end-line scheme.” For me, the pattern emerges on its own, usually in mind as I explore the opening lines and stanzas before writing anything down. Once a pattern emerges, if it emerges at all, I usually stay with it. By the end of the fourth stanza, I decided that variations on rhyme suit the end-line scheme just fine, but that I would also still attempt to use rhyme whenever possible.

  There are five great difficulties explored in this poem, five challenges that I myself have faced and endured throughout the years, mostly stemming from internal issues—perhaps psychological in nature. These are giving up, feeling betrayed, anxiety, loneliness, and loss. There’s more to the poem than this, but as it has occurred to me that some my overwhelming difficulties with these personal challenges may be genetic in nature, it felt important to me to try to use this piece to pass on some of what I’ve learned about them in the hope that he will one day read and gain insight should he find himself facing similar struggles.

  I have no way of knowing if I’ll live long enough to offer him such insights as those I’ve tried to express here by the time he has need of them, and so this poem. Even if I do, it may be that by the time he’s dealing with some of these struggles himself, he’d be more open to taking my thoughts into consideration from this form anyway, written when he was still a toddler.

  My father was gone by the time I was 10. I have no idea what insights he may have had for me. I have no real indication that he even thought of what kind of person I might be as an adolescent or as an adult. As my son grows up, I would like him to know that I thought of him—that I thought of him as a teen, as a young man, as an adult in the middle of life, as an old man nearing the end—that I held hope in my heart every single day that he would have a good life and enjoy the bulk of his days clear to the end. It would have meant something to me if my father had such foresight. I hope this may mean something to him.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Year of Paradox


  In a strange sort of way, it's like coming full circle—but back to what? I don't know. 35 Julys ago, my father committed suicide. He was 45. Today I turn 45, and I find myself in an incredibly pensive state of mind. It's not that I fear I'll end up like him. I have a small child of my own now. I know better. It's more like for the next year, every day will be a reminder. Every single day. Here I am, alive. Here I am, living my father's final year—well, part of it. He didn't make it all that far into his 45th year.

  I don't know. I'm in a state of melancholy right now. Not a state of depression, just melancholy, reflectiveness, bewilderment. Yes, he was abusive, and absolutely terrifying. Yes, he was controlling and incapable of recognizing that a child has only just arrived in life and doesn't yet know anything. Yes, he didn't teach and explain, but punished and terrorized. Yes, he came home only after the bars closed and woke us from our sleep and yelled, screamed, dragged us around the house and punched holes in walls. Yes, he had terrible, terrible flaws. But, he was my dad and he also showed love, tenderness and compassion. Did he think I wouldn't care? Was he trying to hurt me? I don't know. I really don't know. And I know I'll never know. Never.

  But what I do know is this. For me, this is a year of paradox, like going back in time or into an alternate reality and meeting myself, my dad, or someone that looks like him or me, and stepping into an entire year of life that is not my own, not his, not anyone's. Just a crushing and unsolvable paradox.

Year of Paradox


Now begins another year,
    and not just any other year.
  This year begins the paradox
      of all the years that came to now.

Death began this very year
    when years had barely taken root
  in crackled soils of years to come,
      now finally tapping that year of death.

Life burgeons branches into years,
    each year sprouting foliage
  that casts upon the years below
      a shadow reaching for years of life.

New years wax within the mind,
    years of rocky, raw potential,
  but even these are bound to years
      spent fearing years of nothing new.

Old years fade from memory, but
    not the year you formed a noose
  and strangled out all years to be,
      haunting through the years of old.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Painter


  I have known Heinz since the early 2000s. We met on a poetry site and discovered we had some common interests. Though we have known one another for close to 15 years, I only recently discovered that in 1982, he lost his third child to a tragic accident. If I had learned this before having a child of my own, this may not have hit home. But as a father with a toddler of his own now, I felt tremendous, wrenching empathy for him and his story. It's a horror every parent hopes to circumvent, period.

  Realizing that no parent ever "gets over" the loss of a child, no matter how much time passes, I offered to write a memorial poem for his son, Benjamin, and he graciously accepted:

The Painter

for Heinz & Maureen Scheuenstuhl
in memory of Benjamin Patrick Scheuenstuhl
April 1, 1981 — September 7, 1982



I think you would have been a painter, son,
for though you only dreamed through nineteen moons,
you filled my days with color—every one—
and though a lifetime later I still mourn,
the vibrancy of all you were remains
refracted on the canvas of my soul,
reflected in the artwork of my mien.
Your strokes of laughter still adorn the holds
of memory with pigments bright and bold.
The accent of your curiosity
still decorates my thoughts, and still consoles
a grief that burns with black ferocity.
Your masterpiece, with all its wrenching hues
of joy remains enshrined within my heart.

  This was an incredible challenge to write. In fact, I had written it near to completion three times before I decided to scrap the idea and try another angle entirely. In the end, I finally decided on this metaphor, explored in the form of a Spenserian sonnet (easily my favorite sonnet form out of those I've explored).

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Beautiful Things


  I started a Spenserian sonnet over a month ago—or is it two? But I can't figure out how I want to proceed for the moment, so I'm going to manifest a few smaller ideas in the meantime.

Beautiful Things


Beautiful things go bloom
    in the night. Concussive
        shockwaves fan out to
    shake my bones and rattle
my humours with spasms.

Beautiful living things bloom,
    blasting silent explosions
        into my flesh as ashes
    of new beginning settle
in my convulsing lungs.

Grasses bang tiny blooms
    on the valley floor, as do
        conifers high on rocky hills.
    Everywhere perennials bolt
and burst blooms of every kind.

Cherry trees explode fireworks,
    ten thousand little blooms
        shifting beneath the moon,
    but these only fill the chambers
of my heart with quiet joy.

  Why all the explosions? Some metaphors connecting with allergies and asthma.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Suicide Note


  This is inspired by the barbaric tradition that exists in some cultures of marrying off young girls into what is basically a life of servitude and sexual slavery. I've focused on Afghanistan for the purpose of this poem, one of the worst countries in the world to be born a woman, according to several sources.

  Research into this practice has revealed that girls are married off as young as 5 in Afghanistan, but this poem assumes the voice of a girl who would have been married off between the ages of 11 and 13. Since it can be assumed that an Afghani girl, denied any access to education, will not be able to write such a note as this, imagine instead that she gained access to a recording device and left these final thoughts for her husband:

Suicide Note


i

My Dear Beloved,

When you find this,
                                I will be gone.

                Your brothers will have
        dragged me from our home
    by the hair and cracked open
my skull with jagged grey stones.

                                I will be dead.

I know you will not miss my presence,
            my face, my touch, my words.
    You never saw me
                    as more than just fertile ground,
                a place only to sow your rage.
        So many times you broke
that soft ground, driving in your plow
    again and again till blood welled up
                                    from the furrow.
            Even when life took root,
        you continued to drive in your plow,
                turning gentle red shoots
                                    back to oblivion.

    I am there now,
                                with my unborn.

                And into that oblivion
        I will have also taken your seed
                            and your plow.

                                                Yes,
        you will have taken tea
from my hands, just as always. Except
    this time laced with crushed dreams
            from your father’s private stash.
                        As you slept,
                I will have tied off your malice
with the tenderness of a lover,
            then with one sudden flick
                of my slender, scarred wrist
    I will have spilled all your seed
        and unhinged the plow forever,
                            leaving only the ass.


ii

My Dear Beloved,

I was but a child
                            when you took me
        from my home, my family.
    The smile of innocence still lit
            like a lantern my small face.
                Dreams of self determination
                        still shone like a beacon
                    through my pearl grey eyes.

    Now years have passed
            in the confines of our union,
        wishing on stars through the open
                window when summer nights
cooled the oppressive heat of day.
    It has been so long here, hidden
            away behind these dusty, dull
        tapestries, that I hardly remember
                                    the feel of sun.

    I am sure I must be a woman now,
                    or nearly so.
        But is a slave even human,
                        never mind a woman?

Somehow the entirety of my existence
                    had become payment
        for a debt older than the elders,
                debt my family owes even now,
    debt still owed by nephews yet to be.

    When I overheard your first wife
            complain that you were to wed
                        yet another child,
years of black despair turned
        to blinding white purpose.
                I would protect that child
                    from your relentless hunger,
                                    whatever the price.


iii

My Dear Beloved,

If I succeed in my final act,
        that poor child will be saved,
                                    at least from you.
            What reason would you have
                                for a fresh new field
                without seed to sow
                        or plow to till?

                            Perhaps now
            in the truest spirit of matrimony
                    we will share in all things.
        For you will know my pain.

    You will wear like a flame
        the withered rose of my shame.
                You will bear my despair
            through to your last breath
                    as demurely you peer
from the palpable shadows
                            of my isolation.

    My hopelessness will chew
        through your stomach
                and every time you catch
the eyes of a brother turning away
            my terror will gnaw
                    at your weakening bones.

        You will hold my grief high
    like a torch in the night
            and my sorrow will whittle
away at your flesh until your cheeks
                sink in to reveal the full
                    extent of my trauma.

            Yes, my dear husband, you
will wave the banner of my defeat
    over your head, each day filled
        to bursting with my endless
                dread. And no matter how
            hard and long you scream
    to the stars, Allah will never
                    bring peace to my rage.

  I hope for an end to this barbarism, and I hope that all who suffer and endure this horror will be freed from their bondage and some day know peace.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Old Pain


  My sister has commented in the past that I seem to be most drawn to reading and appreciating poetry that deals in some way with the subject of death. Perhaps. Some of my favorite, influencing poems are “Sunshine,” by Robert Service, “The Legend of the Organ Builder,” by Julia Dorr, “The Last Man,” by Thomas Campbell, and “Derelict,” by Young E. Allison. Each of these centers solidly around the subject of death in its own way. “Sunshine” follows the final thoughts and feelings of a man whose wife has died as he himself succumbs to the same ailment that took her. “The Legend of Organ Builder” tells the story of a young man who wins fame by building a legendary organ that plays of its own accord wherein he arrogantly abandons his bride believing she betrayed him and later, when he realizes his mistake, returns home from abroad just in time to attend her funeral—during which he himself dies. “The Last Man” sets your mental vision on the remains of a dead Earth where the last living human speaks to the setting sun, knowing full well that he himself is soon to follow. “Derelict” leads you across the deck and through the holds of a derelict ship where all hands have perished during a mutiny, ostensibly triggered during a bout of drunken revelry.

  So maybe it is no wonder that I find myself drawn to the subject as a poet.

The Old Pain


There are too many anniversaries
that haunt the days and years as they go by
and all too many treasured memories
that stir within the old pain to a sigh.

This is the day we met, the maple leaves
that flourish by the driveway, then as now,
were sunset red and swaying in the breeze,
dancing down to dress the walk below.

We paused amid the fumes of regular,
eyes locking for a moment like a spell
was cast between the rooftops of our cars,
enchanting us into a mutual thrall.

By time this maple tree had filled its crown
with lush green cover, we assembled all
our friends and family, and made a vow
to watch as one its colors fade and swell.

The months that followed blurred to a montage,
of salient years, each moment lived in full—
then all at once the sheen of that mirage
dissolved to barren sheets of salt and soil.

The call came in the evening as the sun
sent slanting shades of light across the play
of leaves that only barely had begun
to bob out infant hands in tremulous sway.

Your splintered bones lay tubed to life support—
I just assumed long hours kept you late.
It never once occurred to me your heart
beat faintly in the latexed hands fate.

I raced to reach your side, to touch your hand,
to seek some indication from the staff
that you would be okay, your golden band
would not become a pendant cenotaph.

But then the surgeons came who strove to hold
your spirit tethered to your heedless form.
They bade me sit—my limbs grew weak and cold
as they explained your limbs were merely warm.

The lightning storm of self behind your brows
had lost its charge—the person that you were
no longer lived within the clay, and now
the clay was all that lived, and nothing more.

For months I hovered near and watched your eyes,
your cheeks, your hands, your every subtle curve,
for any sign that you were still inside,
alive in some mysterious reserve.

But there was nothing, just the rise and fall
of ribs responding to the steady drone
of air pumped through a plastic tube to fill
your lungs that would not function on their own.

Your bones were mended, lacerations healed.
The nurses kept the pressure sores at bay.
For all of this, your soul could not be hailed
back from the stars into that quiet clay.

Insurance coverage tapped and savings gone,
there was no choice except to make the call.
The doctors came—with somber denouement
you were declared as unrecoverable.

I held your hand in both of mine. Machines
were gently disconnected. Line graphs
that danced desultory rhythms on the screens
lost all expression to an air of grief.

To think it happened only blocks from here,
close enough I might have heard the sound
of metal smashing, sirens speeding near
to lift your shattered body from the ground.

To think that as the surgeons cracked your chest
and opened up your skull to free the blood,
I watched the evening news, reclined at rest,
and snacked on crackers in a tranquil mood.

It’s fitting, then—I guess—these maple leaves
turn red as gore around the time we met,
a keen reminder that our vivid lives
lay at the mercy of an unguessed fate.

This is the day we met, a day of cheer—
or so it was a million years ago.
Your ashes dream throughout the tireless years
above the hearth—a ghostly afterglow.

  Maybe I use poetry to in some way explore and seek understanding into the concept of death. Maybe the inevitable has so occupied my thoughts since I was still a toddler that it only comes naturally to me now. Maybe it is the one thing we all share, no matter what. Even if there might be some immortal among us, walking through the ages observing our histories, he too must eventually die as the sun expands and incinerates the upper mantle from of our world. Death is something every living thing has in common. It is a bond we all share. So, then, is tragedy, loss, and finding some way to live and move on.

Monday, October 26, 2015

i found God


  Photos of Aylan Kurdi, the 3 year old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Bodrum, Turkey, have haunted my thoughts for several weeks now.

i found God


cradled in the pensive palms of earth,
his head rocked slightly in the gentle surge,
caressed by waves that murmured quiet prayers;
his arms lay pale and tranquil at his side,
his legs pulled partly up as if in sleep—
perhaps he slept, but he would never wake.

eyelids lightly closed on sunken dreams,
a cherub cheek lay pressed against dark sands;
and clothes that only hours before were filled
with flames of life and curiosity
now covered only stillness like a bruise,
a shroud still dripping fathoms’ worth of rheum.

peace was on his brow, immeasurable—
such contrast to the violence of his plight;
what circumstance would bring a child here
curled sleeping cold and graying on the shore,
his shrieks of laughter silenced to a sigh
caught strangled in the throats of passersby?

this is God, i thought, in all his glory—
we praise with words his name, then turn and plunge
him flailing in the dark of angry seas
until his strength plays out and every breath
is filled with brine—and sudden quietude—
just flotsam on the altars of the deep.

yes—i found God on the beach today,
the seagulls circled high above his head
and cried their long and steady mournful calls;
the people saw him and they knelt in prayer,
hands clutching at their heaving, hollowed breasts,
all hope of penance ripped from out their souls.

  If fatherhood has given me anything, it is an incredible pain in my chest at the sight of a dead, abused or impoverished child. I see the eyes of my baby son in the face of every child. I've heard it said that God is revealed in the face of our children, in their innocence, love and wonder. If this is true, then there is no hope of salvation for any of us, for we are all responsible and we all bear the shame of such atrocities.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Aural Borealis


  This is my 14th trisect, by far the most challenging of them all for me. First the poem, then some thoughts:

Aural Borealis


Vibration

Her voice began in a furnace where blinding flashes of light
arced through scraps of metal until they swirled in a pool
of fiery molten fluid, drawn through a running cast
to red hot beams that slowly dimmed to a charcoal gray.

Her voice remained congealed within those cold gray billets
until at last they were moved once more into the fire,
reheated to a yellow that rivaled an alpine sunrise
then rolled into burning coils of thick unfinished wire.

Her voice emerged like a mist—heavy, cold and gray—
clanging anemic pangs with every shift and shock,
until it was drawn through the eyes of a series of shrinking dies
and thinned into tensile threads of spidery, silvery hue.

Her voice awakened at last, a vivid reverberation
borne aloft on the wind to dance over rolling hills,
chasséing amid the bunchgrass, jetéing through the sagebrush,
and pirouetting through the air with flying seeds.


Resonance

Her frame was born in the grip of weathered, ancestral hands,
leveled against the kill, for when the shaft was flown,
the hunter’s ears were piqued by a sound that yet remained,
inspiring him to hunt for a means to play the same.

Her frame took shape in the calloused hands of inspiration,
coaxed into living form from scraps of wood and skin
by ancient artisans who notched imagination
in ornamental bows that flew but melodies.

Her frame evolved in marble halls that harbored kings,
scales and chords expanding until resistance formed
a pillar to hold against the pull of hallowed strains
and serpentine harmonic curves to relieve the same.

Her frame outgrew the very hands that gave it being,
bursting forth a will that of its own accord
would volley out barrages of elegance and meaning
on airs reechoed over undulating lands.


Serenade

Her breath is a wind that brushes gently through the desert,
stirring the stained glass petals of Venus’ looking glass,
exciting wild bergamot atop green towers,
and swaying deep-throated harebells lightly on their stems.

Her hum is a feathery rain that tickles arid sands,
drifting down from downy skies until all ears
relax for a moment from the wary, watchful strain
that haunts and harries every living thing through life.

Her chant is the purl of a spring high up a narrow canyon,
wild mint and licorice gathered round the edge
of small, translucent pools wherein the heavens ripple
impressionist renditions of hawk and thunderhead.

Her call is a shower of light that streams over emptiness,
distant mountaintops and nearby shrubby hills
dissolved into a silhouette that circles round
beneath the shimmering flow of relativity.

  The inspiration behind this piece is two wind harps, both conceptualized and created by New Mexico resident, Bill Neely. Most people know the wind harp as a wide, narrow box with a few strings upon which one may close a window in order to force air through them. These two harps, however, are shaped like the concert harp and larger than life. The first, referred to by its sculptor simply as “the NFO windharp,” stands 20 feet tall and weighs 1600lbs. The second, called “Tempest Song,” was commissioned by the owners of the now defunct Traditions shopping center about smack in the middle of New Mexico and weighs in at 3000lbs at 24 feet in height.

  “Tempest Song” was the first of the two wind harps I chanced to visit, in 2002, actually driving out to New Mexico to see and listen to this living, musical instrument after stumbling across some information about it online. The experience was somewhat ruined by noise from the close proximity of Interstate 25. Upon returning home, I sent its creator an email along with a copy of the poem inspired by my visit, and I was invited to visit the first of the two wind harps on his private property the next time I made it out that way. I made it a point to take him up on this offer two years later, spending a night under the soundboard of this 20 foot harp—a wonderful and somehow enlightening experience. It has ever since been my intention to try to write a poem worthy of that first harp, remembering that night under the stars listening to her sing.

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,
   the flicker of painted wings
bobbing amid bunchgrass
   and tall desert dandelions,
      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.