a stone in a river, 18

she says it’s not the light that bothers her
but the whirring clicks that picture
her grey matter, spotted
signs she is well
on her way


/ / /

My mother had an MRI today to try to access the condition of her brain & count how many mini-strokes she might have had. Her biggest fear is a major stroke. I imagine it is all our fears.

Going back a couple months …


The surprise that the new day begins so
soon after midnight, that we climb
from the murky bottom of one day
to the narrow opening of another. The newcomer

in the wake-up mirror appears bewildered,
like a scarf discovering it has two ends
and knowing right away that it will wrap both

around its lover’s neck. No one doubts
the fragility of the clearing inside
the throat, how its compromise is both
easy and deadly. Everyone is

ashamed of these imperfect affections,
old anxieties, torn between an idea of love
and its good practice. What’s difficult about
staying faithful is what’s difficult about squeezing

blue from the sky — no amount of wishing
makes it possible. We try it on: say
“dust wings” instead of “moth,”
say “come singing” instead of “men

beneath my window.” Our explanations
evolve just like our bodies: not clay
happenstance, something closer to fog,
yes, fog that unfurls from the perfect

and predictable set of conditions to obscure,
assume any shape it chooses to keep. Simply:
we go where we can walk without tripping over
our own stories. What the mouth accepts

from the cup is its own business. I want to learn
to go out with no shell. There’s infinity to consider.
And how I want to live through it all.
He tries to tell me, “Even miracles grow in rows

in fields just like corn, sweetening
at ordinary intervals.” I tell him, “No.
I must be the one to crawl then, up, out
of the sea to the land.” But that’s already been

done. And here we are now: at the river,
which dreams (of course) about the mountain
it left behind, remembers each lover
lost as a turquoise morning that followed

a hollow black night.


Remember this list of words (“An idea from Deb’s poem”)? Deb had used lines/phrasings from a final offering at The Big Tent to make a poem, and I sifted through her lines for pairs of words. You can visit that first link for the list of pairs (and they are below, as well, though interrupted by my notes). The only pair I didn’t use was “want warehouse” because I’ve already used that one (here).

I started this one in May by attempting a word association, writing down the first thing that came to mind from each pair. That list is below (at the end of this post). So that was May. I did it, and promptly forgot about it. And got distracted. And once in a while lamented about leaving it to collect dust, but still failed to return to it. And then a friend reminded me about the list, and I decided I’d been avoiding it too long. Sit down and write the fucking poem, already! (I said to myself. And meant it.)

And so that’s what I did last night and tonight. I tried to use them in order, and I tried to use my original thought/association, though I didn’t always succeed. Clearly, the draft above is the result of an exercise. I can’t get away with all that in a subsequent effort, but I feel good that I finally got back to it. And I think I found some things worth looking at again.

midnight surprise
The surprise that the new day begins
so soon after midnight

wake-up mirror
The surprise of the wake-up mirror

scarves discover
Like a scarf discovering its true love, its perfect neck

clearing inside
I didn’t expect to find this clearing inside

these imperfect
I am ashamed of these imperfect

want warehouse
There is a want warehouse, storage

anxiety torn
my anxiety torn between

about difficulty
What is it about difficulty that

squeezing blue

squeezing blue from the sky

dust wings
Dust wings is another way of saying moth, of saying

come singing

the men come singing beneath my window

clay happenstance
Our evolution just clay happenstance, just as easily, we could be

keep simply

keep simply what you cannot do without

walk without

i cannot walk without tripping over

accepts cup

what the mouth accepts from the cup

no shell

i go out with no shell

there’s infinity

there’s infinity to consider

miracles fields

miracles grow in row in fields just like corn

at ordinary
At ordinary intervals

crawling then
Crawling then up out of the sea to land

river dreams
The river dreams about the mountain it left behind

turquoise morning

each lover lost is remembered as a turquoise morning

yes fog
Yes, fog is the stuff that obscures

a stone in a river, 12

Your bookkeeping has given way, numbers tumbling like the Yahtzee dice. You 76, at the 5-year survival mark, turned over the checkbook — can’t subtract anymore — and now little black dots send signals you know you should know. The score isn’t what it should be.

/ / /

/ / /

Happy birthday, dear Mother. (Ed/ note: I moved this from the prose lines.)

a stone in a river, 11

After the burn, rain. Soon rivulets will stream steep slopes, swamp creeks with dark ash. But for now the still forest is yet needled sepia, a ghost. The ground a carpet of smoke. One standing fir bark-stripped: Jesus on the Mount, hands at his sides. One valley over, two elk cows graze a green-fringed streambed.
/ / /