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February 29, 2012 / glencoyote

Poetic Interlude

Life Path

My life starts and stops,

Holding my breath moment to moment

even as the accelerating commuter rush

sweeps me toward the unexpected

beauty of sunrise over Los Angeles.

 

To start in cold and dark,

Traveling hard from birth to death

Profligate of body, penurious of soul

Always hardened against the fear

 

Ready to turn a dark face against the intruder

Tolerating no tentative footfalls

Replacing intimacy with pain

Punishing the failure to move on.

 

But tired now and more neglectful than hard

Alone and not truly menaced

Tears an attempt at reconciliation–

body moving, the heart softening.

But afraid still in the night.

 

Identity

Korean adoptees at a wine party

so hard against the softening grape

expelled at a tender age thousands of miles ago

a band of travelers whose lives start and stop.

 

Can you become American like cabernet?

Conceived on foreign soil but grown strong in domestic dirt

a sturdy bouquet, dark color, tasting of fruit

worth more than a swirl and spit.

 

Can you be more American than apple pie?

Identities shaped by the effort

the fear sweat on our Asian peels

smelling of strange soul dislocations.

 

We are well met on this coastal plain

Our alcohol red complexions

anticipating rosy fingered dawn

found in this swirling glass that feels like home.

 

Love Poem

Memories of lobster and clams

eaten in salt air and shore sun.

Sweet warm muffins melting butter

in a university town café.

Relaxed feet walking and

always the talking

throughout the day.

No faithless yearning

inside those simpler times.

 

Is this faster stuff somehow less?

Complexity a maze of loss?

Some times I despair it is so,

but I look into your eyes

and abundance returns.

 

Washed and rolled over

Smoothed by caressing moments,

We are a singular hard softness,

Stone, flesh, water, and fire.

 

And in the quiet a chuckle,

A thirsty man drinking,

A coyote howling,

Peace at the center,

In the glow of a wolf moon

we share love and survive.

 

Happy Birthday, Valerie!

This journey keeps us busy,

swooping and soaring,

climbing and cresting,

diving and ducking,

so take a breath,

the air sweetened by our scent,

take your ease,

the space scoured by our tears,

take in the view,

the future a custard of love and hope,

inviting, opaque, delicious.

Happy birthday, my love.

 

Phone Call

I am listening to your words

Thinking of you

Searching for the connecting thread

That in your absence

Will remind me of love.

 

As I sit

Translating sounds into flesh

I want the words to fly out of my mouth

Rising into the sky,

Imprinting themselves on an airy page

With a grace beyond my stumbling voice

And my stubby fingers.

 

Floating there before me,

Rotating and reassembling

Incandescent at every turn

I will read them

And they will tell you who I am.

Vibrations on a silent drum.

 

To Nick

I told you that it pained me still

That I could not run with you

That you would never understand

How sad it made me

That I could not run.

 

My legs were at the heart of who I was

They are the legs that your mom loved

As I ran up and down the soccer field

They are the legs that carried me to victory

In competitions that didn’t care

How big I was or where I was born.

 

I was proud, but they betrayed me

When all I wanted was to run with you

And I couldn’t, not for long, not very far.

You heard the disappointment in my voice

Maybe it helped to hear that there was something

That I had needed very much

So later you asked, want to have a catch?

 

And I know that this I can still do

This I can feel in my body

The pop of the gloves

The line of the ball

The smooth delivery

Real and imagined

This I can share with you.

 

And here we stand in sun and shadow

And my shoulder is only a little sore

And my legs are under me just fine

And I am young and old together

A father who loves his son.

 

Naming

Standing in a cavernous space

vision distorted by anxiety’s mask,

shrouded by memories of destruction.

Sky shot out to conceal us in a blanket of darkness.

 

Sheltered by imagination, dreams and memories,

powerful bones lay broken on the ground.

Soft findings gathered in piles by quiet people

intent on red, brown, mauve, and sand.

 

My heart returning now – where have I been? –

there is work to do helping distant knots of people

illuminated by lights

whose energy urgently charges the night.

 

But warning cries send us to cover

when rocks fall from the sky,

and wild animals run past us

called by another, different percussive thought.

 

In this chaos I am lost but they are approaching,

bearers whose hands hold an attempt at peace.

Forms too idealized, too romantic, too detached,

unable to keep despair from shaping their work.

 

They search for expression,

as I withhold my understanding.

While my eyes focus on the shoes in their hands

noise fades and there are words meant for me.

 

You are Daniel, the poet of decay.

In this hollow space

There is the comfort of tattered shoes–

And the poet of decay steps forward

seeking words of hope.

 

Are You Seeing This?                       

Sitting at the counter

anticipating breakfast.

Watching many fires burning,

practiced rhythms

knives slicing

arms shaking

pans sizzling.

Are you seeing this?

 

Thinking of you on the road,

driving to attend to death.

Singing spirits on their way

with luminous soft sadness.

Slow enough to step into spaces,

holy habitats of grief,

for those reduced to silence by unknowing pain.

 

Soldiers in places with names

we are forever learning to pronounce.

Incompletely armored

with politicians’ words.

Losing arms and legs and lives

through rockets red glare,

because we can.

Are you seeing this?

 

A possibility of transformation,

patterns of variegated strands.

Dreamt by women,

who overwhelmed by comings and goings

weave future memory

in a geometry of grief and hope.

 

Cloth Coat

Offer me the cloth coat

in neutral shades of brown

needing to go with too much.

No flattery intended even when new,

But old so quick,

worn in many ways but no disguise,

No replacement in sight.

 

What neutrality is possible

when shame and pride mix

in a muddy way that

affords scant barrier from care?

 

Offer me the cloth coat,

the one that caught on the door

thwarting all attempts

to cover humiliation with scorn.

 

Offer me the cloth coat

and I will know your love

and I will wear this coat

always seamless in the ways

of revealing truth.

 

Leave the Pills

The songs anesthetize me,

ethereal bits of joy embedded in freedom.

But sad more than sweet

from outside that circle and beyond the pain.

Am I strange or do we all want to be alone in the way

That goes on forever without limit.

 

From the loss of never saying what I feel

when my light blue shirt and linen pants turn me

into a cloud in a soft blue sky

pregnant with sweetness,

not knowing myself the limits of dreams.

 

Except when the words are ill-fitted

and the mouth speaks with a twist.

The mouth that waits to kiss you again to feel

the promise of pleasure that is not mine

no matter how much I stretch to meet it.

 

I’ve left that promise in cowardice

unable to sustain the hands that have borne me,

that would enfold me still if I could step into their grasp.

 

Where did these expectations come from

that rise up at me like a hill burning my legs,

that look at me like a child wondering why

a sister wanders still waiting for a brother

or a mother waits to hear from a son,

a lover wondering how deep the loneliness goes.

 

Leave the pills on my desk.

Please remember to refill the water bowl

because I don’t have the strength anymore.

 

On the Beach

I am alone walking barefoot on the beach.

My feet step along the line where water meets shore,

a shifting space where waves and sand come to dance.

 

My feet tease my soul,

wandering a little deeper,

provoking a gentle terror,

beyond my depth.

 

Rivulets of sand run out

but the waves put more time back on the clock.

I think of my feet teasing your soul,

the possibility that deeper may help us both

float away.

 

Facebook Epitaph

You have no friends at LAUSD.

There are 1,288 people in the LAUSD network.

 

You have one friend at Brown.

There are 12,663 people in the Brown network.

 

You have 12 friends in Los Angeles, CA.

There are 1,648,778 people in the Los Angeles, CA network.

 

Fifty-five and fifty-seven

Fifty-five and fifty-seven

in the desert summer

draining aquifers that should last for 200 years.

 

Trickster heat embraces and desiccates,

held at bay by cool air, or so it seems

buying time for love and memory

and for hope, mostly.

 

We have been here before

with children and desire

and in some ways escape is always the same.

 

But this love

which believes in infinity

will trade half of forever for a little more now.

 

Illumination

Red light – power on

Green light – you’re connected

Moonlight – still awake

Glow light – love infected.

 

Hope

The heart too often seems an insensate drummer

built for one billion beats and beyond

birthdays passing like smug mile markers

leaving shrews and rabbits in the dust

 

But there are bigger hearts

unimpressed by inverse relationships

committed to expending and embracing until tired

 

And that orneriness in the center of your soul

turns out not to be the mainspring of who you are

but merely a hitch in your swing.

 

Not the tick tock of the entropy clock

just a temporary jerk in the works

because when that fear suffused light goes out

the darkness does not blind you

 

The shaman dreams of hummingbirds and lions.

and the middle turns out not to be the center at all

because peace will not be contained.

 

Amazement

At the vertical intercept

where our souls met

our life rays overlapped,

an incandescent tracing,

a bold line marking movement

from there to here.

 

Racing through that constellation,

we saw starlight ignited

from mere embers of difference

revelatory explosions

splashed against the sameness.

 

At the edges of the dance floor

stand all those who fear

men becoming women,

white becoming black,

human becoming earth,

the known becoming strange.

 

As we whirl in this silent vortex

the only puzzle is why

we have not yet burst into flame.

 

Recompense

Lost in the darker moments,

when shunning passes as tact,

even earned goodbyes can go unspoken.

Later when much seems settled,

the past comes again

cascading down upon you.

If I did not penetrate your body

before flesh fled to bone,

can my late embrace wholly erase old neglect?

If my body searches you

for the pain we share,

will your wrapping womb be shelter or shroud?

And if you have me

will it make a peace, invoke a spirit,

open a pathway for the tears we endlessly shed?

 

Childlike Hope

Tell this tale melding child and adult:

Bobby Jansen was bigger than us

but we tackled him nonetheless.

Fourth graders, we ran and we screamed.

Swarming chaos and churning legs moved the ball

even through fear of suffocation

when not crying out was the hardest call.

 

I still wish to pursue the horizon

tumble after it like rolling down a hill

arms askew and Bobby in my peripheral vision.

 

Coastal Drift

Wandering along western shores

tracking a zephyr, a thought.

Through temples of mountain and ocean

every moment reworked for tone and meaning

pursuing solitude in the grim time

shadow of evaporating matter.

 

Along an improbable ridge

wind blows particles of sand

unfurling into space along a line

drawn against blue sky

an endlessly slipping edge

resisting the infinite field.

Watching as rivulets

released to gravity’s embrace

undergo strangely perfect geometric inversions

resistance and release tracing the architecture of life.

 

Naked

Desire scuttles under stones.

Sex is a slithery thing hiding in dark corners.

In the early hours of the unborn day

self-pity masquerades as thought.

 

Pour a drink, for joy is a vapor

and all victories are false.

But when cock crows,

the sun will rise.

 

Touching skin to heated skin reminds us

that all the ways we are fucked are metaphorical.

Vulnerability a talisman,

this is no time for shame.

 

Eagle Rock

Striations of blue sky over distant water

framed by gray clouds weighted with dark accents.

A painterly hand unencumbered by pigments

altering depth intensity and mood

creates shifting backdrops for the hopes

and troubles we bear along the trail.

 

Swifts mock our presence with darting ease

while the hawk pretends predatory indifference

wrapped in the elegance of its silken flight.

But together our leavening presence

invokes the subtle creature spirit that binds

companions in an effortlessly receptive dance.

 

From any vantage point but our own

we are nearly imperceptible on the hillside.

But close in our movement and breathing

alter the lines and spaces between us

the span of our strides measuring

distance intimacy and time.

 

If we can lean against each other

beneath this low-ceilinged sky

then our tears and yearnings will

mark us each to the other as

transient bearers of dark and light

in precious unnoticed lives.

 

Fuck the Empire

Just want to say fuck the empire,

not original but then I am not

wired for vocalizing creative

expressions of collective pain.

Let me hear the protest music,

rock and roll or angry techno,

no margin in holding anything close,

just give it a kick and a scream and I’ll know.

Let’s light out for places unknown,

out there on the plains of hope.

 

Happy Anniversary

Mao died but the revolution lived on

and we’d have socialism in America

if we hadn’t been distracted by each other.

It was Providence and a leap year

in this one of many possible universes.

 

Many years on we walk the streets blessed

warm memories testifying to past tenderness,

we hate war and love each other.

Our orphan souls cultivate roses

In this one of many possible universes

 

An inexplicable path has brought us here

our love overdetermined in an age

when philosophy is dead and war is forever.

I’ll love your subatomic particles forever,

happy anniversary, Valerie.

 

Labor Day

Seems workers have disappeared into the morass

yet I think I still see some of them around

and like them the worker in me refuses to fade away,

so on this labor day when less than 12% of American workers

belong to a union and real wages suck more

even than they used to I want to puff up my chest

on behalf of everyone still working

who can’t pay their bills, who knows the dream is not theirs

and who still feels a little bit pissed off about that.

 

My father dropped me off at the bottom of the hill,

the clubhouse is up there, good luck,

but no matter how uphill the walk there is no peak

when your first job is carrying some

rich guy’s toys around a manicured playground

for hours, for cash money

that they take out of their pocket

so your sweaty hand can put it in yours

so you know what a worker is.

 

My second job was busing restaurant tables

Where I learned to be gracious even when hours

of sweating and spilling melted butter on my clothes

while hauling dirty dishes on a tray

with an aching shoulder made me bold enough

to eat the leavings off the plates

of strangers whose tips had the power

to make me smile from the bottom

of another service relationship.

 

Thankfully my next jobs were in factories

where I operated machines and turned

some metal in ways that made it clear

that a worker was more than a mule with a smile

and the contract was like an armistice

signed on dignity day and the confetti that filled

the air allowed me to look directly at the boss

like a guy on the playground who knows

that somebody big has his back.

 

Of course that didn’t keep me from getting fired

for speaking my mind, or stop me from walking

off the job because who the fuck can show up

at the same time everyday to do the same thing

when there is so much else to do

like hanging around and not working,

or being with your girl who is so much more

inviting than the foreman who gives no evidence

of knowing the first thing about what pleases you.

 

Valerie is 58

We caught the tail of an Elderberry sunset

A blood orange streak pressed by a frail indigo sky

You feel passion heavy on your breast

Scary like Old Indian Wild Cherry Bark Syrup

But you don’t need Ying Chiao to extract my love

Horehound, Licorice Root and Rhizome, may boost your immune self

But there is no protection against my healing power

I come to you all Honeysuckle Flower and Echinacea Purpurea,

Eucalyptus Australiana, Lavender and Peppermint

Stick stirring in the honey pot

There is no need for Emergen-C, you have me.

Happy birthday, Valerie

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One Comment

Leave a Comment
  1. Ursula / Mar 2 2012 5:00 am

    Thank you for sharing your poems!! I loved it! The one for Nick brought me to tears…Also, I love how telling and poetic a facebook app can be lol 🙂 Love you and your work!

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