next time – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

next time

No one saw us dancing
at the party
as we glided
separately
from room
to crowded room
greeting old friends
and avoiding each other
with practiced precision
until at the end of the night
our embrace on the threshold
lasted an acceptable duration
and we expressed
our mutual regret
at not spending
more time
together

weightlessness – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Weightlessness

When all the burdens
are cut loose
and you rise
past the thunderheads
beyond the crowded cacophony
of overworked satellites
into the peaceful silence
of weightless space
you will find me
waiting to wrap you
like a sun-warmed blanket

There
we will float
together in the void
the only sound
our slow breath
the only weight
our bodies
pressing into each other

our only view
the entirety of creation.

 

Distances – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Distances

Tall pines stand stoic
behind us, a row of sentries
barricading
two worlds from each other.
We broke their line
to escape the campground
with its unwashed dishes
and uncorked wine bottles
and unconcerned spouses.
We took with us
the children–
their implicit innocence
our passport
to the twilight
of the rocky dirt
beside the lake.

While they race along
the thirsty, drought-parched shore
you and I stand silent
side by side
motionless as ancient pillars
of a long lost pagan temple.

The bruised sky relaxes to black
and we turn our gazes starward
conscious of the trees
and the children
and the chill of the Sierra evening
and the warmth of each other.

I want to reach up
and pluck a star from the sky
like stealing a tiny white blossom
from a mountain vine
to curl into your golden hair.

But it would be easier to weave you
an entire wreath of stars
than to cross
the vast, impossible distance
that separates
your shivering hand
from mine.

Unlimited Capacity – flash fiction

“Your heart,” she told me, when we walked the pier and watched the lobstermen pulling up their pots at the far end of the dark bay, after that clouded talk in the coffee shop, when we both kept sipping at long-empty cups and looking at everything but each other…

“Your heart,” she told me, “has unlimited capacity.”

“You’ve told me this before,” I replied, remembering a drive in the Florida sun in a rented convertible, when I backtracked ten miles to retrieve the hat that had blown off her head on the interstate.

She was young, then, and I was… idealistic. Impressionable. Eager to be anything that she told me to be.

Her answer came like the sharp mist off the whitecaps, chilling under my upturned collar.

“I was wrong, then.”

“But–”

“Then, I thought you had a heart with enough room for everyone. A big heart. A heart like a balloon that could never pop, no matter how many people blew into it.”

I found her analogy lacking, but it had potential. I kept silent and waited, like the gathering clouds drifting along with us, far overhead.

“But my analogy doesn’t really hold water,” she mused, and I saw in her tight cheeks and quivering nose the telltale signs of a joke she knew no one else would understand.

“Your heart,” she told me, pausing to lean on a thick pole as a boat chugged past, wheezing white smoke behind…

“Your heart is more like a bucket with a hole in it. People pour their love in, and maybe it gathers for a bit, but it runs out just as quickly.”

Seagulls bobbed in the wake of the little lobster boat, facing various directions, as the twilight crept in around us and the chill of dusk oozed under my collar and raindrops began to patter on the mottled wood of the decking, drumming dully on the plastic lid of my long-empty coffee cup.

Winter Begins – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

winter begins

Tissue paper crinkles under the bed
waiting for Valentine’s Day
or an anniversary
wrinkled and flattened
over and over again
stuffed into gift bags
to decorate a mid-range Pinot
or add substance to the emptiness
left unfilled by a gift card.

I used to wrap gifts
with the Sunday comics
or sliced-up grocery bags
when presents held the magic
signaled by another candle on the cake
or cookie crumbs left by a fireplace
on a twinkling December night.

Now in a dusky twilight
the restless cats rustle under the bed
in the forgotten tissue paper
with fraying edges and fading colors
wrinkled and flattened
over and over again
waiting to be dragged out
for one more anniversary
or one more Valentine’s Day.

Coming Clean – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Coming Clean

Through the wash
Soaked and spun
Squeezed, wrung, and hung
Dripping out clear water
Like blood cheated of its color
To seep into the ground
And disappear
Into a muddy past

How many more washes
Until the tired cloth
Disintegrates on a pale wind

Better, perhaps, to let
The grime of years accumulate
And maintain the illusion
Of substance

 

Denial #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Denial

We turn back our clocks
unwinding
an hour of summer
in a futile attempt
to legislate autumn
into the future.
One more hour of summer,
as if daylight could be saved
like dollars
until the hours accumulate
into days, and the days
into months, until
we have cheated winter
of its cold-hearted
intentions.

But leaves turn brown
and our pace slows
and fog infiltrates,
dimming our bright thoughts
and chilling our fingertips.

Inevitability
insists itself
on our futures,
on our present,
and the irresistible rise
from summer
to autumn
to winter
will, inevitably, be met
by the folly
of our belief
that we can stop it.

 

Almost

Almost

It was never about the coffee,
not for me.
A chill afternoon breeze
ghosted off the river
and up my sleeves,
numbing my fingers
wrapped tight
around an insufficient half-decaf.
You strolled perilously close to me,
our syncopated strides
reflecting the fractured rhythm
of a conversation
that bobbed and drifted
in the shallower, safer waters
of work and children.

My chilling arm shivered
with the memory of
a San Francisco night,
when a drugged-up homeless guy
frightened you so much
that you clenched my arm
tight against your side
all the way up Market Street.
I slowed my stride
so we strolled together
at an almost–
almost–
scandalous pace.

We parted at the elevator,
and all the train ride home
I wondered if I would have
accepted the invitation
we both knew you couldn’t make.

Now in the bar next to gate B-7,
I gaze into the glare
of an emptied whisky glass,
its curved bottom refracting
my thoughts in the sharp
afternoon sunlight,
like the wineglass
on that San Francisco night,
when we talked over dinner
about office politics
and your autistic son
and my depressed daughter
and everything acceptable.

It was never about the wine, not for me.
And it wasn’t about the coffee this afternoon.

It never was.

Thaw – #poetry but not #poetrymonth poetry

Ducks, I suspect,
rarely meditate
or spend much time
contemplating their failures.

A few years back, two ducks
flap-flopped from the sky
to splash into the swimming pool,
returning each spring until
we filled the pool with dirt,
and with crushed granite,
because the ducks had become
the only ones swimming in it.

Decades ago, when I was young,
ducks waddled across Tryon Street,
marching from Roaring Brook
through the muddy flood pastures
down to the river,
ignoring the Killiam’s dairy cows
in a celebration of
mutual disinterest.

The cows and the ducks and the brook
comprised a constancy of motion and stillness,
much like the river,
which would announce the end of winter
with the booming thunder of cracking ice,
a magical sound I could hear
as I lay in my top bunk
on the hill across Tryon Street.

I loved the river all iced-over,
but I loved the great heaves
of the drifting floes more.

I wonder if the ducks, or the cows, even noticed.

I suspect they knew
what has taken me
a lifetime to learn.
That the river freezes over,
and the ice thaws,
but the water keeps flowing
just underneath.

And this is why I know that,
someday,
my phone will ring,
and it will sound
like river ice breaking,
and when I hear your voice
we will be friends
once more.

These Acid Years – #poetry but not #PoetryMonth poetry

The actual photo is unrelated to the poem.

These Acid Years
Wrinkled scratches of light stretch
Across her dress, like marshmallow
Polka dots melted and re-melted
Through a thousand summer days.
The dress might have been red
When the shutter snapped,
Back when she sometimes smiled
Even without
A photographer’s command.

That moment, emulsified in negative
And burned onto paper,
Has faded from my disloyal memory
Like names of second grade teachers
And second cousins.
Entombed in dusty fake leather
Under a shiny plastic shroud,
This photograph has persevered
Through these acid years
To dimly insist that once,
A thousand summer days ago,
We sometimes smiled
Together.

Today’s poem prompt was provided by a lost friendship