Poetry

Pandemic Blues Day 43: In Which I Invite the Germs In

I busy myself making

sourdough starter,

involving ingredients I don’t have

to shop for – flour and water, and hope

a few sympathetic microbes will fly

into my kitchen alive and ready to work,

leaven this flat feeling that our lockdown

could last what’s left of my life. I’m doing whatever

keeps me from sleeping

all day, drinking too much.

On YouTube the helpful man uses just

a measuring cup, eschews

a digital scale and all its romantic precision.

Just eyeball it, leave something to chance he says.

This recipe for anarchy, his casual approach

suits me fine. I think of all the things

you can do just enough –

like a life – chug along for years without a plan,

dump tinker toys onto the carpet

knowing a few pieces are lost,

make what you can

or take a road trip in an old car

with squiggly-line signs to warn you

of the cliff, but not when you’ll meet it.

A carefree journey marked

by ambiguous symbology, open to interpretation

open to hope –

So when the gloppy mess goes rancid after a few days

I pour it down the drain, mix a new batch of chaos,

lid the jar loosely, open a window,

welcome the air from outside, hope

for a different outcome.

Originally published in the Bay to Ocean anthology (Eastern Shore Writer's Assn.)


Why It Took Odysseus Ten Years to Get Home

We walk around the weekly farmer’s market booths, bleached sails

billowing in the breezes of June, light flitting onto tables, white linen

unfurling like water lilies, glittering bottles of blackberry jam and plates

of peach slices oozing nectar. No one in a hurry, no one in need.

We taste, make a lunch of samples, crab cakes, a handful of popcorn.

Tapping guitar strings try to recreate the 60’s, the pulpy ballads now

squeezed dry of memories. A tepid siren in the distance, but no

heads move. The afternoon slides gently away like a receding

wave, drawing into itself the stillness of the air, the sun-soaked metaphors

of completeness and a lack of care. I can’t think of anything

we still need, so why am I so hungry?

I sneak away to the car and wait for you to finish choosing the perfect corn,

I tidy up the mess, the backlog of half-busy lives. Papers on the floor

reveal the recent weeks, mail opened, placed back into envelopes and

discarded, the receipts from the auto repair, wine store, thrift shop, doctors.

I spread them out on my lap, press out the wrinkles, promise myself

to deal with them later.

Waiting for your return I stare at the passenger seat, I want to reach

across and squeeze your hand, lead your peach-juice fingers to my mouth.

Suddenly you appear, your arms full of green and silk, I pick up the pile

of receipts so you can sit down.

We are on a voyage, it seems, well-provisioned, a hull full

of overdue notices, heavy with the weight of hollow cravings. Under

cloud-covered stars we float, hold outdated charts and scan the horizon,

take turns at the rudder, skim past whirlpools and monsters, and arc

into currents circling the rocks.

Originally published in the Broadkill Review

Undercharged

Under the burning glare of

fluorescent lights

of the ice cream shop

on a steamy summer vacation night

I cheated the man

out of a dollar or so,

wordlessly accepting the change

in my palm,

when, our eyes meeting, you saw

the look on my face.

You looked up at me,

saying nothing,

studying something.

What did you learn when,

as soon as you got outside,

your scoop hit

the pavement with a plop,

your eyes spurted tears

with instant disappointment,

and we went back inside

to the same man

who gave you

another one

for free?



Originally published in the Rat's Ass Review

Poetic Biography

I’m reading the on-line biography of a famous

writer, a laureate whose language is

so clever it makes me quake,

whose life in academia hovers in the background,

the life of I-have-time-and-space-to-write.

We are both old men now, but

it says that he was born

a few years before me, and I think

“Oh, good. I still have time.”

Then I click on a video where he twangs

so matter-of-factly about himself and

his writing and quaintly blathers about failing and

failing again and I take heart until

I see his country porch on his country house

off a mud dried road and then

just to make me feel worse

he puts a floppy mushroom hat

and plucks a goddam banjo for heaven’s sake.

At least he’s not wearing overalls

doesn’t remove his teeth.

In a close-up I wonder “How did those crags

get carved into his face?”

notice his moustache needs a trim

his wire-rimmed glasses are slightly askew,

explaining his view of the world.

So I go outside and add chlorine to the pool

dive in naked, swim long, under water

start a new poem in my head.

Originally published in Mojave River Review


Once Again, the Flock

Dawn, I lean over the steering wheel, look up.

Traveling, linked invisibly against a grey sky

their outline expanding like a spill

shifting their positions

coupled for life, moving, a still autumn journey.

October, the Chesapeake landscape dim and dull,

a flock above my head, honking

above the harvested fields, corn stalks lie down

against the new chill, brown remnants withered,

like an exhausted traveler collapsing in the dust.

Noon, forty cycles later, I return, drive

the same roads, a few miles and messy tears

from that life, to the route,

watching again these geese gliding overhead.

I quickly close the car windows

to keep the blown leaves out,

heading home, to an aging man’s dry bed.

I peer above the wheel again,

again descendants spreading wide against

a feathery cloud, the same fixed and moving form

I saw then,

in constancy they reiterate.

Dusk, I park beside the fresh sod lawn,

enter a house bathed in falling down shadows

unpack the moving crate - the hallway clock

and hunt for the winding key into the night.

The next morning, swooping over the roof,

not leaving – the warmer days keep them close –

they consider moving on, but don’t.

Originally published in Rehoboth ReImagined (Rehoboth Beach Writer's Guild)