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.




Painting by David Clark © 2016


Blue boat of sunset I'll sing you a song if you promise me home. 




Antique Japanese silk (detail)



Here are micro-poems based on the writings of the 10th Century woman-of-court--

Sei Shonagon.  These are my own adaptions—a way of enjoying this writer's timeless voice.


How annoying, to send off a poem--then think of a word that would have changed everything.


There is nothing in the world as agonizing as not being liked.


It seems to me that people who don't like me must be insane. However, it happens.


A spray of juniper is caught in the carriage--a wonderful fragrance at the window.


As the carriage passes the Great Gate our heads knock—we laugh but our combs are broken.


The future of our love depends on the subtle care of your taking leave.






Sour Grass

Oxalis with its flowers,

the yellow blooms on long,

nodding stalks the traditional yield

of rainy season in our town.

Sour grass is a weed, however

celebrated, stubborn

champion of the curb

and the shabby lots

where buildings have been torn down

and nothing else constructed.

I pick two stems and I bring them home,

one for you and one for me,

because I associate these flowers with

good luck, and with the passing

of another season,

you alive, and me alive

with you. And we each bite a bitter

stalk and as ever make a mild joke,

that it tastes awful,

another sour year,

but this particular

warm winter day

you are weary with pneumonia

and the radiance of day

that falls through the window

illuminates the blossoms

as I fill a vase with fortune

and trim the bitten,

slender stems so they will fit.




The first lie has just been told.

It was easy, and

nothing is changed,

the river with its boats

and yellow sails,

the sole egret stalking just

beyond the reeds, all

just exactly as they were.

So much is never named.

The dentist's daughter

born with a tail we

never see, curling

at the end of her spine.

The lowlands burning

the rice crop blight

destroyed by the long

horizon of flame.

For a long time

he will believe anything.

If you are late any

excuse will do,

the vizier's guards

blocking the river road,

a caravan spilling out

beyond the market.

When the rainy season

rises up out of the west

you begin to tell

yourself the second

chapter: no

harm will come.





top, Japanese silk, date unknown (detail)  Photo Michael Cadnum


Drawing by Jim Underhill. 

< Previous   Next >

© 2017 Michael Cadnum, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Content and content layout by Michael Cadnum
Programming and design by Cousin Isaac