Right to bear arms: NaPoWriMo #24

A right to bear arms

It’s my right to feel powerful,
to protect what’s mine,
my family, my home,

come into my cave uninvited,
come near my children
and face the consequences,

these claws I’ve sharpened
on the trunks of so many trees,
these teeth that have gnawed

marrow from bones,
I am not hibernating.
When I stand, I’m ten feet tall,

my arms are strong enough
to break bodies like promises
of a peaceful night’s rest

during hunting season
when animals disguise their scents
beneath their bright orange vests

and their hands still stinking
of lavender and axe,
of oil and steel folded and honed

into things alien of the Earth,
but their arms are not my arms,
and their deaths are my self-defense.

NaPoWriMo Poem #11

On hanging a bird feeder

If I am a stranger to myself
maybe I’ve always been,
wondering at the man I’ve become,
buying a better drill to drive
these screws into the deck post
when twelve volts couldn’t do the job,
securing this wrought iron hook
to hang this lantern-like object
with its windows only reflecting light
I can no longer discover inside.

And then the disappointment begins
when nothing seems to happen,
days of waiting like a child
for a Christmas morning with no snow
and a living room floor absent
of the gift Santa promised to bring,
sitting in a cloth-backed chair
sipping beers at sunset,
the wind gently flapping
the sun-filtered shade of an awning
while blue-gray clouds ease their way
eastward beyond the trees that lean
into a sky past the fence line.

This is pointless, I think, listening
to that ambient susurrus
of neighborhood noise like ocean currents,
what winged thing would ever want
to visit me in my apathy?
And, of course, nothing answers,
as it always does the thoughts
of an aging mind.

But, life still holds an element of surprise,
life still happens without announcement
of itself, when without applause
a red-breasted finch alights
along that lantern’s metal-railed base,
cocks its head to and fro
as if in ambivalent acknowledgment,
picks up a seed in its black and white beak
and flutters out of sight,
back into the canopy of camouflage trees,
and there’s this moment
this inexplicable pause in the minutiae
of heartbeats flooding my veins,
where happiness finds its wings.

Always time for hating yourself

Lunar phase

so the moon is a sliver
against the turquoise and mango-tinged dusk
mountain ranges gone purple and gold
where the light hits the snow,
the black orb of the illusion,
what’s hidden in shadow can still be seen
just before the sky goes black.

in twilight, I find the darkness
before the darkness can find me,
and pry its skeletal fingers
into my skin like knives
digging around for buckshot
or bullets shaped like my mother’s face.

I want to sing the stars a love song
about the rapture of yoga pants
and summer clothes
but in this age I’d be called sexist
or worse, for daring to admire
women without their consent,
for objectifying shapely buttocks
held in spandex or stretched cotton,
for peeling the thin veil of apple flesh
from the core of my wicked thoughts.

I am an animal surrounded by animals
tying themselves to fenceposts
and then struggling against the ropes
to gnash and spit
inches from each others faces.

just say what you have to say
before time robs your words of their power
and leaves you fingering another dead flower
left in its vase for too long,
the water in the bell end
turned a fetid brown, rancid with decay,
there’s always someone picking fresh bouquets
just as there’s always time
for feeling sorry for yourself.

Among nature again

The truth of a waiting world

Is that another snow-capped peak
rising in the distance
or just cumulus clouds stacked beyond reason,
impossible to discern the difference
looking through a hillside of evergreens.

Even here the hum of highway
persists among the solace of tree and stone,
plots of grass sit occupied by random strangers
and their dogs, intermittent laughter,
the chatter of conversation fragments,
the haggard breaths of joggers
travel like the echoes of bird song,
the cries of the red tail hawk,
the chirps of a chubby squirrel
foraging amid the leaves,
it’s peace, it’s warm sun
on the back of my neck,
interlocking puzzle pieces
of this moment in time,
each passerby a story
independent of my own.

The flowering trees are in full bloom,
bright plumes of pink, white, cornflower blue
popping like fireworks
over the tops of the houses
along the road’s edge,
explosions of color frozen in full spark,
jutting against the sky
like alien manifestations of joy.

I’ve climbed the hills of this dormant volcano
still budding with life, I’ve stared
across the reflections of its reservoirs
and looked out over the descending valleys
where human achievement diminishes
itself from a cityscape to an ant farm,
and I have felt anxiety slip away,
the only threat here the promise
that the universe will keep its secrets hidden,
that every beautiful and dangerous thing
will reach the same unknowable end
and then be unable to reveal its truth
back to the waiting world.

Poem on the day of Stephen Hawking’s death

An ordinary day

Slept until noon because the sun has never been enough
to get me out of my own head, to get me out of bed,
to get me past feeling the opposite of weightless,
and after two cups of coffee, I’m skipping the shower.

It’s overcast and raining just enough to make noise
like an old television left on past midnight
and then it’s opting not to starve to death
and walking the dog once the static fizzles out.

The streets still wet, potholes filled with gray water
or brown water along the unpaved edges,
we could see our breath but breathing felt ordinary
and so, not worth acknowledging more

than birds chattering somewhere overhead, unseen.
I lose myself in tasks I put off longer than I should,
I load the dishwasher, drill holes and hang shelves
twice because I measured wrong, like most things

I am careless when I’m confident. The dog barks
at the vacuum, at the neighbor’s goat, at me
until I feed him and there’s a cat on my chest.
Two beers, a glass of whiskey and I’m buzzy

playing my guitar until my fingers are sore
because I rarely play guitar any more,
so on goes the television for some company
and off go the shoes, into slipshod piles by the door,

Stephen Hawking died today
and I heard about it via text,
a momentary pause among these flourishes
of ordinary perception, refracting around grief

or its absence.

Natural progression

Building a life

Do memories make a life?
Memories do make a life,
on a deathbed, looking back,
the mind becomes a scrapbook
with pages missing.

I always wanted to live
among the mountains
where the shadows of clouds
crawl like sneaking cats
across the cliff faces and the valleys.
I always wanted a life
of veritable joy upon waking
beside the warm body of a lover
and a puppy’s blinking awareness
from the foot of the bed.

You can call me selfish,
call me monstrous
for daring to carve a hollow
space for this wanting,
but every man is guilty
of some deforestation
to make space for a home.

The night sky plays no favorites
with where it drops its dew
or whose view of the moon
gets obscured by creeping cauls,
we must make due
with surviving the magnanimous tide
that gives and takes our breath,
and this gravity that allows our steps
without crushing our fragile frames.
These steps were always balanced
on a high wire between here
and not here.

Keeping Pain Fresh

From new to nowhere

I pass three waterfalls on my daily commute,
their foamy-fingered descent, contrasted against dark brown stone,
is a newborn countdown calendar of days, until beauty fades
into the ordinary, simple, and plain background noise
of just another forty minutes alone between destinations.

Nothing new stays new past the moment it’s first perceived,
the senses overwhelmed begin to adjust
like eyes squinting against morning’s fractal light
and shaking free of the dust of dreams to find
one’s self at home in the same room as yesterday and many days before.

Even mountains, even rivers, even jagged coastline cliffs
juxtaposed with seascape clouds of purple and white and gold,
become just more paintings to be ignored on walls
in waiting rooms of mere mundane diagnoses
to be slept away like common colds or boredom.

O, to feel each crested hilltop as fresh as a blister burned
on a child’s careless palm, to rediscover awe
in its truest form, the first pain, the first joy,
the first taste of sweet sugar, candy apple green
pressed against the virgin tongue.

To never be numb, to never view death as inevitable,
these bodies just trapdoors for sighs,
piles of kindling waiting for sparks,
to never see names of children in a breaking newsfeed
and place them like shells along the spiral path to nowhere.

deforestation

Death knell

Logging crews turn forests into graveyards
of tree stump tombstones, their markers
nameless and imperfect, tilted and broken
among the barren and brown landscape
dozer tread-tracked earth and splintered
discarded limbs left to gray and decay
like scattered remains of bombing victims
in a war-zone they once called their home.

So much for the soft serenity found in footsteps
among the shed and yellowed pine needles,
so much for intermittent shadows
and the disorienting pleasures of an upward gaze
through many-fingered flora filtering light
like so many interwoven DNA strands
building their ladders to the sun.

Best to keep driving until the madness subsides
and the silence returns its dopamine rush,
the rarity of a woodland left mostly untouched
where you can spend an hour
collecting images for a poem here or there,
crouched beside a creek bed
listening to water trickle down stair step stones
and through root-channeled harpsichord hands
playing the songs of calming quiet.

I’m here among the foot-trampled paths,
the over-grown fanning ferns
and the hidden heartbeats that scamper
before they can be seen
through the underbrush,
but I am also there
in the graveyard, my fingertips tracing
the concentric rings of the fallen,
asking forgiveness and permission
for a fate that takes
the same toll in all things,
its pace quickening.

Ode to a factory town

Longview

In the industrial towns you’ll drive past
rivers green as moss
creeping up the crevices
of every manmade thing,
every stone-jutted hillside
and tree so laden with that lush verdant carpet
its limbs droop down with weight
like alien fingers probing
scientifically for proof
of their own existence.

The paper mills chew their sawed trunks
into pulp that steams
in the chill damp dark,
and emits a stench
most akin to boiled cabbage
when it rains
and traps the scent
closer to the earth.

Some days it’s difficult to tell
where the rising smoke
from the slate gray chimneys
comes to its end, and where the clouds
begin, so many swollen vessels
competing for space
on the ever shifting skyline,
it’d be beautiful if not so obscene.

These testaments of human progress,
factories, plants, wonders
of the mechanical age,
they light up like spaceships
from some Spielbergian dream
where strange visitors
make friends with troubled kids
then leave them awestruck
and staring after stars
just as the music’s crescendo
begins its inevitable fade.

night rider

night rider

white water falling from black jagged rocks,
trickles into thin rivulets
like pale fingers
stroking a consensual body
and these trees lean over, observant.

I look at my hands and feel detached
from the sensation of touch,
my mind unable to flex a fist
and these appendages moving
independent of my thoughts.

shadows criss-cross every road
in conjunction and relative
to location of the sun,
winking between the branches
becoming silhouettes, inverse lightning.

at night, the frogs are awake
and cacophonous, white noise,
an engine left to idle
where the air rests like a damp cloth
on my forehead to calm my nerves.

there’s the moon oblivious to its phases,
to its many faces,
dropping its white halo
into the mist and fog,
creeping parade of ghostly caravans.

my mind is free again
to observe the minutiae
of light’s give and take
among the pine needles
and foamy splashes along river’s edge.

I’ll purchases hiking boots
and a new guitar
like a premonition
of life’s continuance
that the mountain refuses to notice.