Poetry

 

Here is a link to my new poem about the magnificent elephant:

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/poem-elephant-mall-grand-opening

 

 


 

 

 

 
The Centrifugal Force Ride

So much of the year
is given to us ready-made.
Morning, and then the heat.
Sometimes a whole day goes by
and it's hard to notice.

Unless it breaks, unless
the weather opens, a week
is flat, the neighbor
across the street killing weeds
with a long thin pipe that spurts fire.

Even joy arrives in pieces
ready to be assembled, flatbed trucks
and thin, unshaven men who
tug tarps and scatter cables across the grass.

It’s a cage that revolves,
tilting, spinning people the way
the spin cycle spins clothes.
It wheels people up into the air
and around so fast they can't move.
They laugh as the sky
opens and closes its mouth.


And when we line up,
flattening the dark grass, tickets
in hand we are doing what
we are supposed to do,
in love with a circle of light.
We spread our arms
and we don’t fall.

Some people say we are in love
with death. But we are in love
with life the way we find it.
All the way home we hear the screams.



This poem appears
in the chapbook Illicit (Frank Cat Press)

 

 

 

 

The Giraffe

 

Let the trees
root and grow.
Let the feeding birds choose this
shade or that branch.
When the learned accept
that the lessons are worn out,
only the wide horizon is left,
and a life shaped by such

magnitude is changed,
elevated in a way
that can only be awkward.
To be handsome, he realizes,
accepting this
clumsy grandeur, to be a
creature of proportion,
is hopeless. And so he feeds
from the crests of the woodland,
follows a shadow ungainly but fluid,

over the watering hole,
through the increasingly scattered salt lick,
over the tracks of lesser, quicker beings,
their dimunutive elegance exhausted
by escape from the predators
that only the extraordinary can see,
and only the silent ungainly,
resigned to his stature, free of hope,
can drive from the helpless.





The Giraffe has appeared in Commonweal


 

Lemonade


Lemons tugged from the old tree,

the one that every year surrenders fewer

but larger fruit, and the thick-skinned

harvest is acid, so much that all the tiny

cuts in my hand, the previously unnoticed


injuries, burn. And the stainless steel knife slices

slowly, grating against the wooden incisors

grown deep within the yellow

flesh until the seeds of the big-pored

stun-grenade spill out

slippery, quick-silvering across the sink.


I open the sugar, rock within its paper, and

I stir hard, so the spoon chimes and chimes

off the glass and I stir all the more knowing that

as hard as I mix the long drink,

after the slap of just-sour-enough

I will tongue the sediment

that never dissolves. That slow,

snowy after-life. And want more.




Lemonade has appeared in Blue Unicorn



 

 

Bee Swarm

 

Diving into its own intensity,

getting all the time greater

in noise and force. A frantic, powerful

entity not connected with the dawn or the night,

an inflamed person risen up furiously

primed, and not nearly finished, getting

greater in girth and sound


with a timbre like a gregorian single-note, a swell of voices

enthralled by its own harmonics.

A slowly lifting gordian knot

of riot that sparks

flint-chips, amber arrowpoints, a fighting host

hovering and casting a boiling shadow

above the sidewalk where the frail ivy

has just the day before been

tucked into the erosion-wrinkled land,


the wan green flags of the novice ground-cover nothing,

not even living, compared with this

muscled rage that by an hour's

tumult is absent, gone, two or three

spent winged splinters of the once-great

concord left behind on the ground,

while everything else has swept onward

to the places where day hides its power.





 

The Bee

 

A ricochet,

she races, lingers,

hurries to be forgotten,

the single vowel of a teeming alphabet,

too small to carry meaning.

Privation and bright colors,


these are what stir the amber full-stop,

this fragment made of hunger.

Dawn too cool,

noon too hot, where is peace

for this searcher? The chapter is the same,

beginning and beginning,


another blossom with a secret nearly as sweet

as its promise.

Almost followed by almost,


she survives beyond knowledge.

Even her dance of distance and direction

is the gavotte of decimals learning a new

place among the zeroes, notes finding a new

high-point within the octave as she


zig-zags, color to color,

clover to fuchsia to sage

in the only daylight.

 

 

The Bee and Bee Swarm have appeared in Commonweal.




Coyote



He watches

from the edge of the hillside, where the land

turns into town. Like a dog, but not,

in the first light

and the quiet. If I move again

he'll turn to nothing.


But he knows too much,

despite my silence, sees me and hears me,

his gaunt head, his thin legs,

his entire body aimed in my direction, but without

seeming to shift, first motionless,

and then motionless again. His ears

take me in, this cool morning,

drought lingering long after the season

should have turned. What else should I be


doing now? I have a day

ahead of me, and I am nearly late. The roofers

are starting their own efforts,

from far off the scent of tar and the wheezy rumble

of melting roof-stuff. A human voice

reaches this far, and a responding laugh.

On the hill the dry rye and oat weeds are

all around, but when the coyote passes

through them he leaves

no parting. In no haste,


he is there, and then there, and when he is gone

completely he surely must be

invisible, watching from a shadow where

there is only blank sun.

Why do I feel

such quiet joy? I approach

his place and stand on the ridge,

no sign of him,

except a lapse in the dry grasses where during

the night he must have rested, he

rolled and slept,

here where the weeds are already

shifting, their lifeless stems

just now closing to

haphazard perfection.



The Bee and Coyote both appeared in Commonweal.

 

 

All photos Michael Cadnum




 

 

 



 


 

 

 

 



 

 




 

 


 


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