The Specter of an Innocent Age – A Poem

I spend my time
lost in your shadow
beneath the cherry trees.

Schubert’s Arpreggione Sonata
is drawn to me by a feebly
remorseful wind.

Brightly colored boats
dagger across the bay:
their oars cutting into the dark blue water
that reflects a white sky.
The glare burns my eyes
and I seek shelter in the memory
of kitchen window curtains
fluttering in a paisley carelessness.

But even that grows still.
Lifelessly fading until it is no more
than the specter of an
innocent age.

We were the members of an improvisational
generation once who believed
in absolution.
Our spirits moved through dreams
and we would ignite the fire of the world
with our golden breath.

Where are we now?

I am content though.
On the cool grass beneath the bending branches
and green leaves
the day passes.

Your zealous heat
overwhelms me into a state
of disillusionment.

The evening comes and soon
too the night.
I will count the stars if the sky clears.

North 71 Cleveland – A Poem

“Any,” she says. “Yes, any.”

And so any.

North 71 Cleveland. A temperate mood just like a Floridian evening in June. Patio tables wet with rain; an umbrella silhouette; a man alone in the fog.

“Fourteen days. Fourteen days! and then suddenly one became three and everything went to hell,” the engineer exaggerates.

“He’s working on a treaty with the surveyor,” she explains to me in confidence.

“A bold move,” I reply.

“Aw hell, I am going outside to smoke. Want to join me?”

“Don’t smoke.”

“Aw hell.”

She pairs up with umbrella man and I leaf through my notebook. A transference of company.

I listen. The minister is mumbling as he writes a keynote address. Ice cubes are talking. The low moan of a distant train.

Vibrations from an undercurrent of violence disrupting our natural inclination for solitude.

She returns and umbrella man is gone. The Engineer is now orchestrating a coup d’état. “The dams will be our first objective!”

“He’s going to end up before a firing squad,” she predicts and giggles.

The gray light behind her mutes her features. Her shoulders are wet.

She sips her drink.

“It’s dangerous times we live in,” I say.

“We can go south, though. My sister lives down south and she says its safe. Not filled with all this talk of revolution. We can slip away at dawn.”

“I can’t. I have to go north.”

“Why?”

“North 71. Cleveland. It was on the sign and I have to follow it.”

“A damn sign?”

“It’s all I have.”

Opposition – A Poem

I tear my name apart and throw it into the ocean where the pieces sparkle for a moment under the sun before they submerge and all that is left are the waves crashing blue, white, and green.

Time moves. Clouds cover the sky.

The wind sings playfully to the rain which drops softly into the sand at my feet.

There is an opposition between the three (the wind, the rain, and the sand) and I am left isolated on the shore.

My memory skips and I find myself standing in a bedroom. Or is it the bedroom. I have no basis to differentiate between the two. The place lacks both a sense of the familiar and the strange.

In front of an open door a pile of dirty clothes lies on the floor, and just outside it, a presence languishes in the inky darkness of the hallway.

The sound of robots flipping switches and the smell of burning butter escape from the kitchen.

A Champaign bottle opens behind me. In the mirror over the vanity I see the shadow of a person by the window. My reflection exposes eyes that are clear and deeply cool but I don’t recognize myself.

I am not here I think. But here and there have no relevance.

The Willow Laughed – A Poem

Don’t account for that morning.

A south wind blew but brought no promise
of deliverance.

Summer had covered us in a lunatic charade of love.

A chill hovered over your bare skin, a pale protective aura.

There where the willow
laughed
I found God
to be powerless
except for in
those small meaningless moments of tender compassion.

You shifted your arm and leaned your shoulder into me.

In a blighted gown the sun crept over us.

I tasted the blood in your lips as the shadows fluttered
on the grass
and craved even more for that subtle parting.

But in our haste to preserve a timeless moment
unraveling before us
we gave allowances to each other
to console the turbulent imaginings
of youth’s naked want.

A Memorial in the Middle of the Park

Maddie sits with her grandparents in their parlor. They smile sweetly at her and she twists her red hair.

This room isn’t big enough for the three of us she thinks.

The bright afternoon is suffocating.

Is your mother doing well then Grandma Lan asks.

Yes well Maddie answers.

Good. Good. All so good.

Maddie wonders what is in the big wood chest under the window as she sips her ice tea. Granddad stares at her fingers as they twirl her hair.

Nervous about something he asks.

No.

Your chi is out of whack. You need to center yourself.

Yeah. Maybe.

Granddad has a long beard and smokes pot. She thinks he may be propositioning her some and stops twisting her hair.

What is in the chest Grandma Lan she asks.

Oh this and that. Mementos I have collected and saved over the years. There are some things that are for you after I pass away.

Maddie finds this disturbing but thanks her grandmother anyway.

I’ve got to go. For a walk she says as she stands and walks over to the door to put on the boots she just removed fifteen minutes ago. I need some fresh air and want to look around the neighborhood.

Would you like to help me prepare dinner when you come back Grandma Lan asks we are having BURR – REE – TOES.

Maddie takes note of a picture on the wall by the door of her father as a boy in a soccer uniform and leaves without answering. The air is hot and white. A moderately intoxicated man down the road wears sunglasses while driving his lawnmower.

The outside smells of corn and sulfur. Each house is distinct from the last that she passes, and all in various stages of care. She is stifled by all of the green that she sees.

There is a sense of familiarity that permeates the town. It feels to her as if she is living through a reoccurring dream. One that she always forgets the moment she wakes up.

Entering the commercial district Maddie dives into the entry way of a boarded up post office. She lights a cigarette. There are the voices of several teenagers nearby. Wanting to avoid them she decides to change the direction she was going to go when she leaves.

She ends up in a park located nearly in the center of town. At the bathrooms she buys a bottle of water from a vending machine.

There is a memorial in the middle of the park. A stone dome with ionic columns and a hole in its roof. Some people say the hole was caused by a meteor that crashed through the roof. Others speculate it was a piece of a doomed aircraft. The newspaper stated it was an unknown object that fell from the sky. Whatever it was it was removed long ago. The hole was left as a curiosity and town attraction though. Now none pay it any attention.

Maddie spots the teenagers that she heard back at the shutdown post office. She can tell them by the sound of their voices. There are three boys and two girls. They notice her and she knows it and straightens her skirt. She regrets her choice of shirts. A tight bright blue t-shirt.

Two weeks Maddie thinks two weeks and then…

And she doesn’t know. She does not know if it even matters.

You have another one of those Granddad asks appearing behind her. Not even aware she lit another cigarette Maddie offers him one by holding the box out. Thought you might want the company. Probably wrong though.

No. You’re not wrong.

Maddie lights his smoke and they are quiet for a while. The teenagers are at one of the park picnic tables. A boy jumps off of it. He splays his legs in a mock stage jump. He is wearing a green shirt with a Chinese Dragon which Maddie finds ridiculous.

It’s been a long time since you have been here. You were ten I think.

Eight.

Right. Is it a lot different Granddad looks into her eyes. She looks away. At her fingernails.

No. Not different at all.

Suppose not. Things don’t change here much.

Gazing back up to the hole she studies its jagged sharp edges. There is a reddish hue to them. It contrasts the pale white stone of the building.

Know what caused that Granddad asks.

A meteor.

No. The devil.

A devil fell from the sky she asks incredulous.

No. THE devil fell from the sky.

She laughs Why would the devil come here.

Who knows. Some believe he’s here still. Granddad puts out his cigarette on the trash can lid and smiles at her. Let’s go get some of Grandma’s burritos.

Maddie smiles back.

Back Roads of Eden – A Poem

This love
this
piercing sound
recollecting a filament

of that which
was left behind us. Enshrined
echoes gather fire
and their madness

shudder
before the storm. I coil
into the protection
my fallacies afford me. The back

roads of eden
where this love is peddled and pushed
corrode into an iridescent
blue.

It overwhelms our reason.

It is all and nothing.

The Solitude of Birdsong – A Poem

I left it by the eggs.
I can remember that.
But where the eggs are?
That I can’t remember.

An image I am trying to recreate
is masked by the rapids.
Water falling unreflective,
white.

I think back to yesterday when Alex stole that car.
When we stole that car.
She was just paid fifty dollars
for dressing up like Lady Liberty
to lure people into a store.
Standing outside for four hours
she held a sign with an arrow
to point them in the right direction.
But no one followed it.
No one went in the whole time
she was out there.

The man who owned the store
wasn’t happy.
“Worst fifty bucks I ever spent.”
But he paid her anyway.

And she was wanting to get into town
to spend it all away.
So that is why Alex found an easy target
(a car parked outside a movie theater)
and waived for me to hurry into
the passenger seat.
When we drove away she reached over
and popped open the glove box.
“Bad parents,” she said
pointing her thumb to the back
to an empty child’s car seat.
“Good parents always have snacks
for their kids,” she smiled.
For some reason this justified the crime
to me.
I felt reassured.

This world and everyone in it
can fuck off
bastards.
“That is what he wrote?” Alex asked me
later at night
when we were back at my house.
She looked up from the sink
with her short, dark hair
clinging to her face after she wet it down.
I was busy with the eggs and tortillas.
“He was a shit writer,” I said.
She pouted her lips and rubbed her head
with both hands.
She asked me a personal question
that I refused to answer.

At the border of Belmont County
(the eastern border)
my house is breaking apart.
It’s a short bike ride
or a nice walk
to the river where the falls are.
That is where the image was before
it went away.
Or disappeared.
Or maybe I just lost it.

It’s one of those things that I can’t
remember,
and can only now try to recreate.

Alex walks in front of me along the path.
She is wearing jeans and her arms are crossed
behind her back.
I have the wrong type of shoes on
so my feet hurt.

The rushing sound of the falls is interrupted
by the solitude of birdsong.