As Before and Before

Overhead, a heron.
Along the quay, a seal.
A tame air, still,
Winter in it.
The turning near,
And the measured
Lengthening of the
Light, as before
And before.

This piece appears in the second Christmas/Winter edition of Black Bough Poetry.

Found Jesus

All that she was,
And it was plenty,
Was reduced by a scrub-faced preacher
At 1:13 p.m. on the afternoon they buried her
To this: In the final days before she left us, she’d found Jesus.
And maybe she had.
Maybe she’d untethered herself
From all the evidence
And covered herself in a Jesus blanket.
I’ll probably do something similar,
Push comes to shove comes to penultimate.
No atheists in foxholes, or so we’re told.
Anyhow, those of us who actually knew her
Knew that, her physique notwithstanding,
She was pixie-souled
And in a hurry,
Maybe because she’d been told
That her life would be shorter than most.
Something about her kidneys.
Her wry wit poured from her
As if frantic to escape a condemned building in a temblor.
Her eyes sparkled behind her glasses.
A tilt of her lip gave her away
When she wanted her zingers
To sneak up on you unawares.
Okay, maybe she’d found Jesus.
But all that she was,
And it was plenty,
Can’t be cabined
Within the antiseptic claim
Of an epiphanic moment.

This piece appeared in Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine.

Nursing Home Near Midnight

The night nurse makes her rounds
With the gentle tread of a librarian
Among closed stacks of half-forgotten volumes
So fragile they might crumble at a touch.
Mrs. Lovell in Room 214,
Who was Angie once,
Glides in sleep
Across the ice of Oldham’s Pond,
Her alabaster skates agleam
In the February sun of her eighth year.

This piece appears in Boston Literary Magazine.

Alien Worlds Waiting

Blue leaves that ring
At a touch under
Twin-sunned skies;
Not-birds aloft on
Linen-like wings,
Whispering over
Ebony seas;
Alien worlds waiting
On library shelves
Where they might be found
On summer days
In the years when
Asimov and Heinlein
And Norton and Dick
Were selling tickets
To places unreachable
Except by curling up
On couches or
Sliding under covers
And moving through the chapters
Of paper starships.

This piece appears in Poetry Leaves 2019.

I’m Good With It

Revelation ain’t happenin’ here, pilgrim. Santa ain’t pullin’ up alongside the gurney to hand- deliver the Truth of the Universe as I lie at the lip of whatever’s next. And what if he did? Santa, I mean. What if he did bring the Answer down from some North-Pole-Certified unimpeachable source, a Nepalese burning bush or some guy at Cal Tech who’s stumbled across the Algorithm of Ultimate Insight. What the hell do I even do with it? If I’m right about the other side, I’ll have an elf-wrapped epiphany and promptly go poof, not taking Revelation or anything else, including most importantly, myself, to the nothingness. So I’m good with the Cosmic hide-the-ball. Really. I’m good with it.

This piece appears in the Passager Review.

Hiram Nichols’ Epiphany

A fella named Hiram Nichols,
Who hadn’t been north of
Valdosta or south of
Jacksonville, and who
Won an award from the FFA
In the tenth grade and
Rode shotgun on the
Ambulance that took
Senator Hankins to the
Talmadge Trauma Center after
Bambi Sledge winged him
Outside the courthouse
As he passed by in the
Fourth of July parade,
And rebuilt the engine
Of his ‘68 Camaro
And could play the
Opening riff on Pretty Woman
As smooth as just about anybody,
Had an epiphany at the crossroads
East of town one midnight while
Waiting like Robert Johnson
For the gift of being an electric bass
Virtuoso, getting instead
A helping of the Holy Spirit,
And quit his job
At the Texaco and
Found his momma’s Bible
And found a congregation
That would have him
And became Reverend Nichols
And in that role preached a sermon
One summer at the fairgrounds revival
That so moved Tommie Jean Raymond
As she stood on the bridge
Over the shoals and heard
Him through the tent speakers
That she didn’t jump.
She just went home, had three kids,
Including Joe, who grew
Up to be the sheriff that
Rescued Marvin Chalmers
When his eighteen-wheeler
Jackknifed and caught fire
On the interstate.

This piece appears in the Naugatuck River Review.

Pastrami Sandwich

If a midtown pastrami sandwich could talk, boy would it talk. It would out-talk a Long Island farmers market pizza slice, no problem, and that’s saying something, my friend. That’s saying something. By the way, what do you think that is in Kojak’s pocket, a bagel? A slice of pie from the Automat? You like my fedora, right? I like it. No, I haven’t yet mentioned the hot dogs from the corner. So sue me. My lawyer is my uncle who lives near Columbus Circle. Very near. Did I tell you about the time I saw the hostage parade then took a cab up to Lincoln Center and saw Bernstein conduct Copland and then Copland stood up in his box and bowed and Lenny bowed back, it being Copland’s birthday? Appalachian Spring, baby. And Lenny leaned back on the rail and stopped conducting at that one point, Simple Gifts, goddamn, and just soaked it in like the rest of us. All true. And I had no idea, okay. I just went. Did I already mention it? Forgive me. I might have mentioned it. That he just stopped conducting and leaned back on the rail like he was in the very presence of something.

This piece appears in the Naugatuck River Review.

Village Birds

Those who laid
the village stones
and beams and eaves
didn’t have the birds in mind — the rooks, I mean,
and doves and bright white gulls and lanky herons
perched and peeking down
from roofs rent-free,
keeping their opinions
to themselves, not
wondering why we lost
our feathers or why
we sometimes sing.

This piece appears in Waymark Literary Magazine.

A Dogwood

Gorgeous it was, once,
In the quirky way of dogwoods.
Asymmetry covered over
In creamy blooms, some
Low enough to marvel at.
And who’s to say it isn’t still,
In a past that’s closed to us.

This piece appears in the Roanoke Review.

Delicate Geometry

The spider never sees its web.
Not really. Not as we see it.
The delicate geometry of it —
The implications. There’s
No real cunning, is there? No
Stratagem. Every inch of
Every thread the spider spins
Is coded in, fashioned
Down the palimpsest of
Geologic time.

This piece appears in the Tiny Seed Journal.