Practice

We practice everyday:
checking off boxes,
kissing loved ones goodnight,
and preparing our bodies for storage.
We wrap ourselves in amniotic blankets
and melt into the night
trusting that we’ll awaken—
and usually wanting to.
We’re born into each new day,
stretching joints and blinking at lights
as if for the first time,
so ignorant of what’s ahead
we’ll often look back on our morning naivety
and laugh or cry at what we see.

We know we cannot live there though,
in that nostalgia-tinted looking glass,
cannot snatch a single hurtful word
out of the air after we’ve sent it
buzzing like a mosquito into an ear.
Nor can we project our voices indefinitely
into the caverns of history.
Our words will echo until they fade
or until someone else picks them up
and shouts them ricocheting through time
just to hear how they sound,
and then they will be their words, not ours.

No, we can live only here
in this moment,
brief as a snowflake drifting through a flame;
we melt into night
so when the time comes for the eternal sleep
we’ll know just how it’s done,
only this time the womb is a coffin.
Suspended in lifeless fluids,
we are born into oblivion.

I was a river

I was a river when you found me, little bird.
You couldn’t bathe in the deeper parts of me
for fear of being swept away.
Instead you found some dissipated eddy
in which you could immerse yourself
and sing your titillating gratitude.
You marveled in my ebb and flow
and followed my tributaries as far as you dared.
Dark trees hung over me in which you could wait
for safety, to be fed,
or just to roost and hear my constant voice.
The change was nearly imperceptible at first.
A little softer
or a little lower down the mossy bank,
and you thought the winter runoff was ending early.
But it came and went, and still I changed,
twisting and turning on my own sandbars
until I covered twice the distance
with barely half the water—
then less.
From river to stream to brook,
and all of nature hedged me in
as banks retreated.
Many times you’ve flown to the source
to see what was the matter
only to find there’s nothing you can fix.
It may be that someday
I will find my course again,
and all my rivulets will become one
meandering no more, but raging,
crashing down and rising up
breaking the bars and blasting the trees,
retreading my old path.
Perhaps I’ll gurgle from the depths I’ve sunk
and pour over the sides again
with greater flow than ever
for the perspective I’ve gained,
and my branches will spread like fingers
over this place, clutching
and grabbing it up with abandon,
creating new tributaries to feed my appetite.
Perhaps, my friend, but I cannot tell.
I did not foresee this bend, and
almost everything has changed, little bird,
save one thing only:
I am still your stream.
Come perch above and sing to me.
Come bathe in my clear and gentle waters.

anxiety

put cotton balls in your mouth and chew
while hanging upside down
scraping your fingernails on a chalkboard
to the sound of feedback from a mic
as the fire alarm goes off
and you’re naked on a stage
giving a speech on quantum mechanics
to a group of Nobel Prize-winning physicists
who’ve prepared for your remarks
by digging through your grades
and social media posts
before interviewing your old boss
who fired you because he found out
you’d made a move on his wife
who was twice your age
and you forgot to put on deodorant
before they made you run that mile on hot concrete
and you want to shut your eyes and disappear
but you can’t even blink because of the metal clamps
holding your eyelids open to fans
that blast your face with freezing air
and you feel certain it’s a nightmare
only you never wake up

The Past

Our minds have grown around the past
like a tree that swells over a boulder
as its leaves push upward and outward.
The seasons pass,
the sap runs black,
the old trunk groans,
until the two are one—
though sometimes weaker for it.
Then, in some blissfully distant fall,
an evening wind may blow just right
stressing the tree along this fault
or ending the work the boulder began;
and were it to be removed by some
misguided arborist (or therapist),
the entire trunk would crack
and tumble to the grass.
No, we cannot ever escape the past.

The Punk-a-lunk

You’ve seen a lot of things, I’m sure
the land of Flarmp, a wandering dellacur,
but have you ever seen or thunk
about the purple punk-a-lunk?
The punk-a-lunk, they say,
eats 14 jibble cores a day
(but only ones you’ve thrown away).
It slurps them up into it’s trunk,
that tiny little punk-a-lunk,
then yawns contentedly and flies away,
or that’s at least what experts say.
It has orange stripes upon its side
and pinkish eyes 12 inches wide.
Its tail is green and full of scales;
its wings stretch out like flowing sails.
It snuggles with you while you sleep
and is as soft as a lurpa-sheep,
though if you ever try to peep,
the punk-a-lunk will start to weep
and will not stop its little cry
until the sun is in the sky.
But should you be content to wait
with jibble cores laid out as bait
and never even move or peek
the punk-a-lunk will kiss your cheek,
and in the morning you might see
it roosting in a nearby tree.
It will not grant a wish or speak
but should your way appear too bleak,
fear not, little one, though your path may wend,
or the whole world seem ripe to end;
all wounds of life belief will mend,
so the punk-a-lunk is your best friend.

a question

are poems ensconced somewhere inside my mind
like some hidden treasure I’m trying to find

or demons we summon with blood sacrifices
an addiction we feed with the rest of our vices

from erudite sex after months of gestation
or some kind of socially safe masturbation

are they sculpted completely in only a moment
or are we shaping slowly and don’t even know it

is a poem a seedling becoming a tree
or some captive bird that we have to set free

for some, I suppose, it’s a source of contention
but I think that most poems start out as a question.

Campus Tree

It grew in the space between walkways
where students shuffled past year round
hurrying to classes, learning
to fit into their chosen professions—
but the tree didn’t fit in. Not anymore.
It leaned too far south, they said,
and its grasping fingers had claimed
too much of the campus sky.
On a warm day in spring before its leaves budded,
a worker drove slowly to the spot
in crowds that broke around the service car.
The man stepped out and spat on the ground,
scrutinizing the trunk and branches.
He moved around the tree, peering down the walkways,
to see how it measured up to the others in its row.
More campus workers came during classes
and threw red ropes up the leaning trunk.
They hacked and hauled off the abnormal branches,
checking their work against the row
until the tree earned a passing grade.

It Does Not Matter

It does not matter what I write
of blood-soaked bathroom floors and notes
or bloody birthing tables;
of bodies huddled in the dark;
of children laughing on the grass;
of lovers cuddling tenderly
beneath a knitted blanket
a chilly Autumn day –
it doesn’t matter what I say
or in what way I say it.
I ignite thoughts for bushels,
little candles glimmering
in bowls on weathered windowsills
that no one ever sees.
It does not matter what I write
because I write for me.