I stand on black
water, like a navigator
at night, maps aglow
in lantern light, as the stars
wink out one by one.
Not sure how well this poem captures what I’m trying to express. With the death of my mom, it’s been like the reference point by which I find my way disappeared. Does that come through?
“Contact” was originally published in the Winter 2012 issue of the Dunes Review.
As boys we never
said I love you to
one another, but in the summer
days beneath the sounds
of mom frying chicken
with the smells of green beans and bacon
slipping through the windows
we cut each other’s hair.
The clippers electric buzz shook our hands
as one boy sat on a five gallon bait bucket
shirt off in the heat
while the other boy held down ears
hands against scalp, wrists
brushing skin, the back of the neck
tan fading along thin shoulders.
We shaved mohawks and patterns
ran barefoot into the house to hide
the clippers, the footsteps and yells
the snap-swing of the screen door
always close, always near
a chaotic melody to the steady rhythm
of old men mowing lawns, solitary
like steers put out to pasture.
Back on the concrete porch
white paint peeling, we always returned
apologies shrugged off, buoyant
in our bodies and the breeze
as the hair fell beneath one boy’s touch
and we became light enough
to float away, the fluff of a cattail
coasting on the water’s edge.
Originally published by the Dunes Review in their Winter 2012 issue.
“Small Spaces” was originally published in the Winter/Spring 2014 issue of the Dunes Review.
When your dad commits suicide
you go numb, you flee
the silence of good intentions, of friend’s
eyes wandering the outskirts
of your face. When your dad
dies before you can tie your shoes
you write a new narrative
inked in the folds of your brain
you wish for him
to reappear, to fall out of a newspaper
to notice you on a crowded street.
When absence is replaced by the movement of air
as doors swing wide with people
entering your house
you seek small spaces
the darkness inside a bathroom cabinet
the relief beneath a bed
dusty slats and springs
a shelter against the voices and footsteps
echoing on the fragile floors.
As you age, as the pulse of anger
keeps you awake at night, as rough-edged
questions choke your throat
you escape into stories
with a thousand pulp heroes to stand by your side
as rocket ships punch through space
stars swirling in their wake
but most importantly, you hold
onto your own story and begin to revise.
By now his face is blurred.
There is light, a soft fiction
that frames the fading details.
He steps from the crowd and reaches
down to surround your body—
feel his hands hold the slender curves
of your ribs as the pressure pushes
bones against lungs, a release
of breath that clings to the rasp of his beard
against the soft of your cheek.
He carries you, arm under butt,
face cradled into a shirt collar,
back to the home you left behind
hundreds of miles across the state
the home with its curtains
billowing bright as the day.
Pick up the latest issue of the Dunes Review and read all the other wonderful work inside.
Fluffed pieces of insulation
yellow and pink against green
notes left by a tornado. ∞
While the lots of First Baptist
and Central Methodist are filled
tight like parishioners in the pews
knees touching knees
beneath khaki and hose
the atheists are on the move
weaving through town
as the minister stands to preach.
Faces unshaven, elastic
waisted pants slipped on
between bedroom and front door
tennis shoes lightly laced
the atheists shop. They pray
to finish before the worshippers
pile into the grocery store
the aisles overflowing with combed hair
eye shadow just so, and kids in collared shirts
as the faithful greet one another, hands
pressed firm, inquiring after grandma
or the girls, amidst the unwashed
who hunt for a bargain
and sample cheese, the lactose covered cracker
crunching and melting in their mouth
a mix of pepper jack and whole grains.
Carts heaped like collection plates
the atheists whisk through the checkout
barcodes scan, small talk is made, numbers
transfer from card to computer.
At home, the family gathers. Bags
are brought in, unloaded.
The ritual completes and the meaning
is found in another day, another week
spent together, preparing food
joining around the table as dinner is served
and silence gives way to voices, laughter
the sounds of people sharing a meal.
Seek the solace
of a moment free
from text messages, status
updates from a person
who used to be your friend
but now is reduced
to an image, a sentence
that slips below the fold.
Find the focus
to be alone
to notice the sun
through the leaves, the smile
on a loved one’s face
the thoughts that wait
at the bottom of the cup.
Allow the world
to publish, remix, re-mash
as you turn off your devices
and settle into your seat-back
wonder as the seconds stand still.
High in the white pines
snow heavy limbs tip
the days’ drifts in a tumble.
The silence of the forest
disrupted by the weight of a squirrel
it’s body, a dark arc of fur
against bright skies
and evergreen, as it bounds
for the next branch, leaving
of small avalanches
to the ground.
(Inspired while out cross-country skiing with my wife on Lost Lake Trail in Northern Michigan.)
Gunshots fill the night
dogs howl in the distance
New Year’s Eve in Arkansas.