Saturday, April 20, 2019

Two Thirds

Two-thirds of a penguin is black.
(Has anyone measured? Let’s say it’s true.)
Two-thirds of the iceberg it sits on is underwater.
(Quite a bit more than that, actually.)
That water covers two-thirds of the Earth.
(Close enough?)
Even standing on dry land, two-thirds of your body is water.
(Well, probably a bit less.)
By the time this poem is finished, April will be two-thirds over.
(I am absolutely, positively 66% certain.)

Friday, April 19, 2019

Whitespace

The margins of a math book
crawl with a sequence
of dragons, flaming,
flying, hoarding, filling
every gap with their pencil-lead gems.

Printed poetry picks out
mere specks of ink
from an infinitely possible array of white,
letting the mind fit itself in
around what was said
to assume everything else.

Empty lines on a calendar,
like white black holes,
fill their minutes, then hours, then days
with menological gravity.

Even as I type,
space, tab, carriage return,
are honored
with the largest keys.

But where,
in my mind now,
is the space
for another poem
to germinate?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Permeability

“[Poetry] makes us permeable.”
—Jane Hirshfield, interview, March 20, 2015

The more I sit still, the more I become
aware of how still it is impossible to sit.
My outer motions yield to a silent thrum
of atoms, each one spinning, embracing its
Einsteinian truth: energy subtler than air,
vibrating back and forth, into the space
occupied by the atoms of the chair
I sit in, such a rapid interlacing
that I can no longer tell where I end
and it begins, both of us melting into
atmospheric spheres of atoms, blending,
expanding, and I find myself sky-skinned,
Earth-footed, galaxy-eyed, exquisite—
a single cell throughout the infinite.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Anticipation

Tokyo 2020, to compete in the discus.
Unidentifiable sounds on the roof, the night before Christmas.
The perennial lottery: boy or girl?
The last nut on a tree nervously eyeing a squirrel.
Teenagers turning into adults.
A lugubrious doctor stalling before giving you your test results.
Using only a rope bridge and a blindfold to cross a gaping abyss.
Your first kiss.
Guards on city walls, tracking the approach of oncoming crusaders.
Substitute directing for a choir of 4th-through-8th graders.
A midnight trip to Uruguay.
Tomorrow’s lecture to 500 people on a subject you were introduced to yesterday.

Whether it lead to bright or dreary ends,
Anticipation itself can be quite an experience.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

My Refrigerator

There’s half a sonnet, right behind a bit
of villanelle that actually hadn’t tasted
terribly good to start with. Rhymes that fit
with words that I’m fresh out of—probably wasted
on limericks or something trivial
like that. A metaphor that could have loomed,
humming and white against the kitchen wall,
but inside of which, only mold has bloomed.
What’s this? A couplet in the veggie bin,
forgotten about but somewhat fresh, the skin
off an old simile, a tupperware
of frozen quatrains—I think we could prepare
something perhaps not quite uneatable,
or irredeemably unreadable.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Second Wind

When you’ve wrung out your brain for the umpteenth time,
and can no longer stand the glare of the screen—
When nothing remotely resembles a rhyme,
and your imagination is stuck in the Pleistocene—

When you’re up way to late and you just need to sleep,
and your eyelids drag on the floor,
but the deadlines continue, like pumas, to creep
up upon you (there’s always one more!)—

When you realize you just can’t do this yourself
and yet you decide to carry on through—
then you’ll find that you’re carried by Something Else,
and the poems start writing you.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

What to Do When in Doubt

  1. Get your passport stamped. It always comes out a little blurry, but most of your friends back home will probably believe that you were there.
  2. Breathe in and count to ten. Write the numbers down to make sure you don’t skip any. (Seven is notoriously slippery, even on the first day.)
  3. Hire a guide. It should be easy to find someone who speaks your language, but you may have some trouble convincing him to show you around. Tell him you don’t mind if he’s new at this.
  4. See the sights. Your guide will be unable to tell you what any of them are called. At one building, he will gather together a small group of passersby and ask them if they know what it is. None can name it, but they each describe the interior in great detail. Each description is completely different, to which the others all say “yes, that is right.”
  5. Dismiss your guide with thanks. You will find lodgings inside this building, but you must enter alone.
  6. Make yourself comfortable. There is no staff, so you will have to make your own bed and keep the bathroom clean. You will find everything you need waiting for you.
  7. Look through your luggage. If you find a photograph of a person, a dog, or a guitar, put it out on the nightstand. It is probably someone you love. Dust it every day.
  8. Take long walks through the city. Occasionally someone will stop you and ask the name of a building. It’s alright if you don’t know. Enjoy the freedom of not knowing.
  9. If someone asks you to be their guide, welcome them, and do your best.
  10. One day, you will come to a bustling terminal, surrounded by people looking slightly disoriented and trying to count to ten. You can no longer get any farther than three, but when someone asks for your passport, you’re surprised to note that you had put it in your pocket that morning. Do not go back for your luggage, not even the photograph.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Time Tuba

[inspired by an autocorrect of my name]

Warning: This tuba will self-destruct in...

...5
The Time Tuba™ is guaranteed to provide many happy and satisfying hours of music to both practitioner and audience. [Actual hours sold separately. Not compatible with any other spatio-temporal dimensions.]

...4
The Time Tuba was created by an evil sorcerer whose neighbor’s son would practice at all hours of the night. With every note the boy aged a year. By the time he noticed, he was 87, arthritic, and had to give up the tuba. The evil sorcerer lived quietly ever after.

...3
The Time Tuba uses valves to change the length of a note, rather than its pitch. This is very convenient, as the musician can simply play all the notes ahead of time and trust them to come out with the correct timing. Unfortunately, all the notes are the same.

...2
The Time Tuba exists in its own dimension. No matter how long you practice or perform, you will finish at the same time you began.

...1
The Time Tuba has an extra key on its side. When combined with an E-flat, I found that it played slightly sharp while at the same time transporting me 156 years into the future. The F-natural remains perfectly in tune, and returns me to the present. B-flat, however, took me back to a date preceding the invention of the tuba. This has turned out to be a problem, as the Time Tuba itself has now disappeared. (Note to self: Make way to Germany, find Johann Gottfried Moritz, see if he can speed things up a bit.)

...0

Friday, April 12, 2019

After the Dance

It’s the end of the evening, a lingering haze of sweat and laughter,
changing shoes and packing up instruments in a contented ache of feet and fingers,
and one of the dancers still dizzy says to me, “I love it when you stop playing!”
Now, I knew what he meant, and took the compliment—
any good piano player knows when to drop out and let the fiddles fly,
shucking off the bass notes that held them and the dancers to the ground,
and then the fiddles turn and drop an octave and the mandolin pops,
sprinkling sparklers over the packed floor flashing back in their eyes,
so that when the whole band finally crashes back in all that soaring kindling ignites
and the hall explodes into another breathless, fearless hour of dancing.
And I watch this fellow twirl off with his partner,
back to a life that was, for a few hours, suspended,
raised up into a space of fiery flight, spun about and transformed,
ready to crash back, breathless, fearless, and turn the world on its toes.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

where the light goes

[inspired by the first ever photograph of a black hole.]

our eyes constantly seek the light
in our ever-ravening hunger for vision
we have fashioned of the very planet
one great, solitary eye
landmasses of retinas lifting and
reaching through volcanoes,
staring unblinking from deserts,
cliffs of ice, all fused into a single
optic nerve shimmering with data

but the eye gazing back at us
this dark pupil lures light to itself
endless galaxies of moths
yearning for their next
conflagration of consummation
in a flame that burns
beyond sight itself,
star streams immense beyond reason
fluttering, swirling, vanishing

and somewhere
traveling through that light
is the image of our planet
at every moment since its creation
the image of our own eyes
gazing in wonder,
called, captivated, absorbed
into the final transcendence
even of light

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Sisterly Things

National Siblings Day, 2019

18-petaled sunflowers.
Chocolate chip cookie dough, one spoonful set aside.
A PVC didgeridoo colored with Sharpies.
Christmas letters drenched in eggnog and laughter.
Mosquito bites.
Bells, ribbons, sticks and swords.
California-specific hiccups.
Spiced peach jam and sandWallaWallawiches.
Long hair. Also short hair.
Guitar string dreamcatchers.
Unevenly staggered toes.
Poetry like an elephant, a fish, and a bear.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

So, You Want to Learn Geometry

Now that Geometry has come within
your sphere of interest, we should have a talk.
It’s my area of expertise—has been
ever since I first held a piece of chalk.

First, tell me about your ancestry—
Are your roots square? Or full old scandals,
Love triangles concurrently dancing
a rhombus in an acute pair of sandals?

I’m sorry—it’s rude to make a point of this,
and perhaps seems a bit of a tangent,
but if you’ll be scalene the heights of these
new dimensions, we have to supplement

our regular evaluations with
something more oblique, which is of use
in this weather—you know that whenever it’s
over 90° out you get all obtuse.

But gliding right along… let’s say you do
take up this line of work. You’ll see that it is
similar but not quite congruent to
other things—at least on the surface.

Translate what you know already. You’ll find
volumes of complementary skills,
for everything, studied to its depth, winds
up at the same place. Math, like Truth, drills

down to the same center, the spinning axis,
radiating laws of the universe,
axioms outlasting death and taxes….
for a field of study, you could do worse.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Yang-Yig

[Inspired by Tibetan Yang-Yig musical notation.]

This is your line.
It is a line in the red of your blood, the black of your eyes.
It is a line tracing one edge of the invisible space of your soul.
It is a line that maps your route from earth to heaven.
It is a line of grace.

Sing it like the moon crouching behind a cloud.
Sing it like a cloud filling the shape of a conch.
Sing it like a conch shell shouting the wind.
Sing it like the wind touching all the intimate earth.
Sing it like the part of the earth that became you.
Sing it like the piece of heaven you will become when you sing it.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Time a Cold Had Me

I thought I had a cold, and so
the doctor came to see.
“A most unusual case,” he said—
it seemed the cold had me!

The cold, of course, was quite upset
and didn’t know what to do.
(I’m sure your cold would feel the same
if it contracted you.)

It missed its runny nose, its cough,
its itchy, scratchy throat.
All I could give was sympathy,
alas, no antidote!

It was annoyed that it could sing
and hit the notes aright,
and walk unchilled in misty dawns,
and breathe in ways polite.

And so it suffered through the week,
til Nature ran its course,
and gradually I left it, once more
snotty, dull and hoarse.

I haven’t seen my cold since then.
I wish it well, I do.
I hope it takes its vitamins,
and doesn’t catch a you!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Postcard from Choir Rehearsal

Rehearsal going great so far. Took a few days
to settle in, but feels great
being on the high C’s again.

Weather lovely, tho with occasional
gusts of hot air from the bass section.

See stage on front of card, my riser marked with X.

Shouldn’t have come at the height of the tourist season, tho—
srsly, this place crawling with altos.

Wish you were here (need more tenors)!

Love,
mi mi mi mi mi

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Lullaby in the Hullabaloo, or: The Hullabalullaby

“‘Christmastime with Mister Rogers’ is a quiet show. It is a kind of lullaby, dropped in the middle of the hullabaloo.”
Bangor Daily News, December 16, 1977

When a hullabaloo
is your worst bugaboo
and bamboo is tickling your nose,
and the kangaroo bites
while the cockatoo lights
up a barbecue under your toes,

that’s when Lorelei’s lullaby
lilts to us lovingly,
lulling all passersby longing to snore,
where wallabies wallow
in all-hallowed hollows,
and the butterflies follow to sleep on the shore.

So play peekaboo
in the rannygazoo,
but then sing to those lumbering pests
of the horrible apple pie
hullabalullaby
that brings us a slumbering rest.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Saraswati

Once every day
your mouth becomes a shrine

The Goddess resides there
for a few moments
makes herself at home
feeds her swan
tunes her vina
listens to your words
and gives them the gift of truth

Keep this space holy for her

Say that you are full of poetry and wisdom
Say that you are a river purifying all you touch
Say that you love God

Say these things until they are true

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Romance of the Wind and the Flute

(Title inspired by Romance de Viento y Quena.)

“What can I give you?” said the wind to the flute,
as he blew through the market square,
“When for all that I touch, there’s naught I can hold—
a wind’s wealth is nothing but air.

“The spices of India, flowers’ perfume,
all fade by the time I arrive.
With nothing to carry to lay at your feet,
tell me, how can I make our love thrive?”

“I need none of that,” said the flute to the wind,
as she sat in the market stall.
“Flowers and spices mean nothing to me—
just a kiss, and that will be all.”

So his breath became hers and her voice became his,
and each heart sang to its twin,
of the time that the wind fell in love with a flute,
and a flute fell in love with the wind.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Last Wise Man

I have no gold to crown Him King,
I have no frankincense, no myrrh.
I cannot bring Him anything
that Lord or Baby might prefer.

But still I have my place in line,
behind those Three who went before,
and many thousands since besides,
who spread their offerings on His floor.

What they have brought I cannot see—
what gems, what fine and noble deeds,
what eloquence of poetry
to pray through strings of jeweled beads.

And here am I—my hands are full
of nothing good that I can see.
Poor possessions, few and dull
accomplishments, a broken knee,

a mood that’s unpredictable,
a few bad habits, wandering thoughts…
but something irresistible
won’t let me turn away. I cross

the threshold. Here the light of day
shines from a cradle, showing me
what gifts are tucked amidst the hay,
there for Him and me to see.

And all of them in Truth appear,
what gold and jewels cannot hide,
what royal gifts beyond compare:
a thousand hearts, with mine beside.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Take a Breath

I spend March 31st inhaling.

The morning sunlight
thundering down on the windowsill,
the skipping mandolin
notes sparkling gold,
the taste of a cloud’s slow
pirouette through the sky,
it all becomes breath,
it all becomes me

until I become breath,
and breath becomes words,
and words flow out in a great exhalation of poetry
the length of April.