UNDERWOOD

When I stood in Hemingway’s study
in Key West, I was certain that
the old Underwood portable probably had
at least one if not more
great novels in it, and I
would gladly be the one to unburden it.
Then I paused to wonder
wouldn’t Ernest have taken his
Underwood portable with him
to Ketchum, Idaho, and how could
Mary be sure none of his blood
was splattered on to it, and if so
the one in the study in Key West
was probably bought at an antique store
sold to them by some failed writer
who had given up on it, or on writing,
with no great literary works lying
in wait, just the mundane, and I
have long mastered that alone.

BLEEDING

A violinist can
look at an Amati
or a Guarnieri
and hear a concerto.

A birder hears
the call of the songbird
and can describe
the beauty of her plumage.

A skilled photographer
looks through the viewfinder
and tells a complete story
with one press of the shutter button.

But it is the poet
alone, staring at a blank page,
who spills onto it joy and sadness,
tears and elation, and his blood.

LIFE, ABBREVIATION

Arrival noted, 11:30 P.M.
delivery normal, baby
prepared for agency, mother
released in two days, baby
to foster care, then
to adoptive parents.

No memories, save one,
a fall, bathroom, head
bleeding, black and white
floor tile, radiator harder
than child’s skull.

Now 70, the same person,
a lying mirror each day,
a small cemetery, West
Virginia, a headstone
a mother finally,
a life of mourning.

THE SAINT OF UNCOUNTED NAMES

A desert again,
always a desert
and she the saint
of uncounted names,
her crying eases, no
smile appears for this
Madonna of the coyotes,
her orange-orbed eyes
shuttered against the
slowly retreating sun.
Once her tears watered
the desert sands, mixed
with the blood of a Christ
now long forgotten, trans-
substantiated into a spirit
we formed in our image,
no longer we in his.
The Blessed Mother
watches, holding hope,
holding space, holding
a serenity we cannot
fathom in our search
for divine justification.
She remembers, she mourns,
for what ought to be, and waits
for the windwalkers
to pull the blanket
of stars over her.

First published in Liquid Imagination, Issue 52, October 2022
http://liquidimagination.silverpen.org/

ABYSMAL

At the edge of the abyss,
teetering on the precipice
you need not tell us not
to jump, need not tell us
the horrid details that
would befall us if we did,
blood and gore in
infinitesimal detail.

It is more than enough
that you point out to us
the sheer height at which
we stand, the cragged
floor of the canyon
awaiting those who
imagine they can fly.

We will walk away calmly,
never considering flight
into the too well known,
and leave you to ponder
why you are again alone.

MISSING SONGS

The problem, or one of them, is
the lack of music today. We have
all manner of what people call music,
but not the music of the sort
we need, needed once and found,
as we stormed the bastions
and bastards who mired us in war,
who shunned darker brothers
and sisters, who made alienable
basic rights to half of us without
rhyme or reason, save greed
and fear of loss of status, power.

Where are the songs now,
calling us, you, to regain
the victories, no matter how small
that we won with our sweat
and often our blood, eroded
or taken over time by those
who live in the shadows, who
crawl out in the dark, who
dread the light we would
so willingly shine on them again.

MOSES SAYS TO AARON

We sat in the tent
and you complained again
of our condition, knowing
what lies just out of reach.
He speaks to me, not you
and there is little you can do
to hide your jealousy.
I often wonder what might
have happened if I had wiped
the blood of the lamb from your lintel.
It was you who watched
the calf take shape and
did nothing, seeing it
a personal tribute, and
ordained its fashion
and for your sin
we shall be together
forgotten men
in the land of Moab.

First appeared in Live Nude Poems, July 2021
livenudepoems.com/2021/07/

A NAME

Someone said that you must name something
before you can really know it, and we
have gone about naming everything, even
as we know less and less about those things.

We have grown so adept at naming things,
that we have created multiple names
for the things that we find the most problematic,
for then they can be more easily ignored.

Where once we found ourselves in wars,
we now engage in armed conflicts,
police actions, and where we are the aggressor,
active dispute resolution operations.

The bodies that litter the battlefield
did not stop to consider whether they
were at war, and had morphed into police,
they did not resolve any dispute with their blood.

HOLY ARMY

1.

A millennium ago
the army of the lord
dressed in mail and rode
proud steeds across
barren lands, swords
flashing in a red roasting sun
washed in the blood
of the infidels.
They stopped for prayer
blessing the bodies
left along the dirt track
left by their hooves,
a common grave
for common faces
differing only in the color
of skin and hair.

2.

In this millennium
the army of the lord
slouches outside the mall
rubbing hands against
the chill, the bell bleating
against the night,
a barren moon reflects
off the red kettle.
As they locked the doors
he pulled the flask
from his hip pocket
and thought of the bodies
passing by, swerving
to avoid him, and the
forty dollars he would get
would warm
his frozen skin.

First Appeared in Lullwater Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1998. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.