Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Plant this seed

She tells me to plant this seed.

It's not much of a seed,
this seed.

It's not much of anything,
with wee crags and crenels
its slip of a crescent slides through
the creases of my palm,
but she insists it’s robust.

She persists with me,
This seed can live within,
where there are no waysides,
no rocks, no thorns.

It can live despite
the greedy shadows everywhere.

It will thrive
basking in the light of a future sun.

This is not Egypt,
she says.

No wicker basket will deliver you.

The river here isn’t strong enough,
she tells me,
and above her there’s the drone
droning on,
droning her out,
but in it I still hear her,
and she lets me have her ear too.

So came she to sow
and the souring
night couldn’t discourage
her final words to me.

Not thirty, or sixty
or one hundred days,
but one day,
the plant will grow
and it will be grown
to a great height,
a height higher than you
can imagine it reaching.

Its future sun will be
your present sun,
and the old days,
even older ways,
will wither wanting
their lost light and the fluid
love taken up by these
stronger roots.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The stationary traveler, eighteen

Weariness closes
eyes. See magenta-full fields
float there in black. Yield.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Between me and a judeo-christian god

Forget the bit about being
everywhere, and seeing
everything. My mercy is
limited. I can try
to give you
my forgiveness

On the plus side, I won’t
ask sacrifices,
send down plagues,
cast you into the desert,
turn my not-all-seeing eye blind
to test you, or make you
a salty column.

Other than that, I think
we’re the same lonely guy,
and I do
love you
at least when I’m in
the proper frame of mind.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I do little more than repeat myself

More than twenty years gone.
What’s not, may not be,
but I won’t get there yet.

More. Then, twenty years.
Gone’s what I won’t. Maybe not.
Not yet, but get there.

Twenty years. More than
what’s not gone, I won’t get.
But there's not yet. Maybe.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Our future is looking up

We have our stories
etched in bone,
echoed by
this temple’s pulsing.

Tangled brown threads
play there and know
from their fibers,
not one word is true.

A serpent didn’t usurp.

It still has legs,
but they’re hidden where
no bitter gods can take them.

Stardust isn’t light.

It falls, not angels
prideful or worldly, as the sky
sifts a fateless effluence.

Neither snake
nor cosmic particle
will spark our clinging
gossamer’s tear.

The claws to rip it
can come back to us,
if we’ll use them.

Then we’ll twist
up the slit
and see our else,
no longer idly watching.

This week's wordle prompt at The Sunday Whirl took 13 words from Nicole Nicholson's excellent poem Homeward. These are always a challenge, but this week was a little more so for me. I tried to go against my usual instincts and write a piece that contains a bit of optimism.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

A language for the end times

It’s the midsty morning,
all grammar’s run amuck
and the rapture won’t take me.

They’re lining up,
the letters and errant punctuation.

Spray-tagged against walls
they’ll torment the souls
who’ll stay here in god’s mean timing.

I keep putting apostrophe’s
where they don’t belong.

It’s an oblonging of words
and it will always be
my denial.

What’s possessed me?

I could pose esses,
caressing them down to tildes,
til disappointed and unsexed
by a symbolic life on its side,
they'd rise back up to text,
not angry but sure
their standing’s worth fighting for.

That’s nothing but a bad dream.

Line theft has left
this man fantastical
and it’s broken my container
of finger-twitching quotations.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The stationary traveler, fifteen

Straight lines. ... I painted,
unacquainted with white. ... Watch,
the walls have stained me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wolfe, pig, whale

Wolfe's "You can't go home again" came
millions of years too late, or too soon.
India's pig, her offspring whales
re-committing and committed to mother sea.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bold doesn't suit me

my story isn’t

your story
with a foreign accent.

it can’t speak. devious

it signs an inspired sleep.
between us,

strange kinship slips. it’s not

but wishful. thinking its

enchanted thoughts, i won’t

lure you. a venus, all
torso, no alluring

sins, it won’t

feed the lotus readers
who’ve left off caring if

my story is.

Bold is not one of my favorite words, and it may require extensive psychoanalysis to uncover why. Clever fellow that I am, I worked it into the title, so all wordle words have yet again been vanquished. Brenda's moved the prompt site over to WordPress, so here's the new address where you can find the other poets' contibutions: The Sunday Whirl

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The stationary traveler, fourteen

Cobblestone, dust. ... Walls
huddle their heads, comfort. ... We
pine for far-off green.

Friday, June 10, 2011

meeting through the walls

Over the past three months, nooshin azadi and I collaborated on a series of poems that are now available in our self-published book meeting through the wall.

These 30 poems each deal with a pair of contradictions, such as light and dark, right and wrong, empty and full, joy and sorrow, etc. The "wall" of the book's title refers to the divide between these "opposites" where we tried to reach a common understanding.

Our method was to separately write a set of seven lines on one half of the pairs. Since nooshin lives in Tehran (and I'm in Chicago), we exchanged these short poems via email. Once we'd both finished our seven-lines, we alternated writing the four lines of a concluding stanza together.

It was a fascinating process, and I learned a lot from the way she approached these topics. The different sections of the poems can have different styles, and different points of view, but we tried to resolve these differences by the time we reached the conclusion.

If you'd like to order the book, it's available in paperback at for $7 US. And if you do, please leave a comment here letting us know what you think. There may be more collaborations to come...

An update... nooshin asked me to add this lovely poem and comment to the post:

you think you own many things
but when you share what you have
you understand owning is not having
but giving

you think you see many things
but when you share what you see
you understand seeing is not eyeing
but whying

you think you know many things
but when you share what you know
you understand knowledge is not knowing
but forgetting

(Francis... our collaboration was a journey into awareness... thanks!)

For Smita

I have to strain to see it.
I’m too far to catch it, your smile
Cheshire-tucked in the coming,
in those cooling mountain mists.
It waits for me, and I’m patient.

This poem is dedicated to my friend Smita Tewari who passed away yesterday. Please visit her blog Smita's Poetry and remember her with me.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

With apologies to Harold Arlen

It’s only a paper.
Moons cover cardboard.
See, it couldn’t be.
Make believe it’s you.
Believe it’s me.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The humor of human invention

A plane makes raspberries
against deeper blues. The chickadee
titters its approval.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Monday, June 06, 2011

Pretty things preach pretty thoughts

This blissful abyss we share glows,
gaudy-full if unfulfilling. It spins in
purple prose. It tastes of bon-bon
mots. It won’t suppose the inky
murmurs squirming below it,
or those secret scents that rise in goodbye-
giving waves ... or those
undulate and aqua misunderstandings
misgiving further underneath.

Ours is a blank-space world. ... It’s always
facing West, its face made-up
with gunpowder daubs.  Its head
is traced on one side by Queen Anne’s
lace, the other bullet baubles.  Its mind
is stripped of all naked-mole
rat thoughts. ... They’re the ones who might
burrow blind but unafraid
to love a common, unadorned heart.

Another week, another Wordle. Check out the other participants' pieces at A Wordling Whirl of Sundays.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Flowers can't care for you

The rose does not want
your water. It wants the sky’s.
It needs even less
sappy poems to it. Its ads
the petals jingle for bees.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Thursday, June 02, 2011

A wig, in the middle of the road

A wig
wigged out
in the middle of the road
is no middle-of-the-road

It’s not an octopus either.

A polypus?

Perhaps, because
eight’s not enough
what with these many strands
stranded on the center line
where pretty pivoted
away from trash.

It’s no skin
off my back,
or off your head, or his, or hers,
whoever ditched it.

There's no skin
to cover, so it covers
not divots but gouges,
and those gouges are filled
not with pebbles,
but bits of tarry black blobs.

The pigeon feather
farther on
knows what loss is.

This isn’t much of a loss.

It’s better
than losing your head,
a head you were part of,
to a vicious jack
with an angry boot heel
quicker than any head can move.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011