The Feet of Another

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Slide your feet
into the sand
and feel the
perfect fit of
erosion.

It forgives:

it won’t remember
if you move above it,
but holds you, moist
and solid, connected
with beginnings.

The sun looks to you,
burning and curling
your skin
with its thinking —

the water tries,
effort upon effort,
to wash the
peelings away.

Your hair changes colour,
follows the water
in anticipation.

Your eyes and ears
fill prematurely, but
it doesn’t matter —
even if you could hear

hear the steady sand,
see the scent of
killing water,
it is all too pleasing
to stop.

Smiling now, your
teeth coat and blend
with the dust.

Your tongue dries
to blow across the
feet of another.

[for Dr. William E. Taylor, 1927-1994]

Daphne, 1929-2015

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Do not look for me in the curve
or colour of the rainbow,
or in the pleasing shape
of a passing cloud.

Though I loved them,
I am still not in the small
petal of the lilac, or
the sweet spring scent of
the lily of the valley.

And you will not
find me anywhere
near the chiseled dates
and letters on those
gleaming plaques.

Do not worry.
When you need me,
you will find no search
is necessary.

I am already behind your eyes
and closer than your own skin.

Cry for us both now,
if you need to,
but know that,
still and always,

I will find you when
you’ve fallen
and help you again to stand.

Split Chin

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“I’ve been where you’re hanging / I think I can see where you’re pinned.” –Leonard Cohen

Amidst all the talk
of blood and damage,

of resolutions and higher powers
as we understand them:

There is what has happened
and what is happening.

What happened is
that you did right and wrong,

got and gave
and lost and saved,

responded, usually, with generosity
and laughter,
and, sometimes, with a fully earned,
yet suppurating pride.

And then you got drunk
and fell down.

What is happening is something else.
What will happen is anybody’s guess.

Only know that I am with you through it all.

[for Mike Doke]

November 9, 2015

Addis Abeba, 3 a.m.

three-sleeping-babes

“They are leaning out for love / they will lean that way forever” –Leonard Cohen

These precious, fragile petals
are drooping now.

All sustaining essence cut,
grown cloudy in the
steel cabin oven.

The threat of ejection,
at this hour,
triggers a slow, mournful
hemorrhage of tears.

We know — perhaps even
more viscerally — this
frustrated pulse, restraining
ourselves only with a
familiarity born of greater years.

And yet we yield the less resilience.

Moments later, quenched by
simple sleep and a gentle laying
on of hands, their six irises again
gaze petal-perfect, their

stems stand straighter still than beforehand,

leaning
lithely and literally
toward the growing sun.

[Bole International Airport, May 24, 2017]

Blood Pudding

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” –Kierkegaard.

And now,
after all that,
things threaten to begin again.

Blood pudding
boiling into solvent, quickening
rivers, feeding that
splintered muscle just now
remembering the responsibility
of pulse.

Bone and muscle and
gristle and sinew –

and grey matter too –

all almost too weary now,
facing the impending passage
of their long,
indolent choice.

And every inhalation a new old dream.

After all that,
why tremble at the good news?

Why so nervously consider
the artifacts of disappointment;
the latest appropriate behaviour;
the open, wounded memory that,

should it end tomorrow,
at least it will end free?

[for Roddy McManus]

Forget, for a moment

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Teach me the whole Torah whilst standing on one foot.

“What is hateful unto you, do not do unto others.
The rest is commentary – now go and study.”
–Hillel

 

Forget, for a moment,
the pressure of loving
others as you do yourself.

No matter what an old friend says,
or what even the newest enemies persist
in pretending,

loving oneself is too often
too much to ask of anyone.

While I hate to say it,
hate even to think it,
perhaps we must begin with

what is hateful;
maybe we must first imagine
what it is those others

might suffer,
if only in advance to recognize,
and then resist,
even the correct commentary
that may whet that ache.

This study is not pointless.
This emotion is not wasted.
And this is no call for the wearying
gymnastics of regret.

Rather, this is the liturgy of concern:
the mother of sympathy,
forgiveness,
trust,
and, of all things,
love.

This is the oasis of your company.

And, I suspect,
this is how
you have always been
so very kind to me.

[for Kathrine Petric…and my brother, Ben]

 

Mo cuishle / My Pulse

Muscle and beat,
   adrenaline and sweat;
the urge for attachment
   within the yearn to forget

a life that you’re told to
   for one as you want to,
must do, and yet:

the callow confidence of a
bullet and the unleavened
cowardice of a machine
that sprays them out
like bloody tears.

A craven warrior and
the contortions of a god
who, for all his vaunted power,
cannot but be washed in shame.

What have you done?
The blood of our brothers
and sisters cries out
from the dancing floor
to the city’s asphalt.

Vanquished, for the moment,
are the loving many
by the fearful few,
and there are tears
and hushed voices,

but what then must we do?

[for the Pulse of Orlando]