Thursday, April 18, 2013

Under the Bridge

Under the bridge a homeless man shivers
On a cardboard mattress he hopes will keep
The frigid cement from chilling bones.
The cold, overcast day dims his shelter.
In tattered overcoat he hugs himself tightly to quiet
Fine tremors spreading from bowel and marrow.

Under the bridge he gazes up,
Burrowing into shadows with blood-shot eyes.
There is a seething in the shaded corners
Causing a tide of fear to engulf him:
Is something moving there
In the umbral underbelly of the overpass?
He has seen the dark recesses jitter before
Then coalesce into wraiths and demons.
The obscure niche seems to swirl like muddy water
In Chocolate Bayou after a deluge.
He rubs his eyes now watery from the effort,
But his vision only becomes more animated.
It reminds him of litter eddying in a wintry wind.
But finally he sees the bats huddling body to body.

At dusk clouds clear, leave the sky washed clean.
The bats rise en masse like thick plumes of smoke;
And with them the high-pitched chatter
And rodent smell of the colony
As it smudges the perfect cobalt blue
Of this autumnal twilight.

written 7/18/2011-1/5/2013  published in Austin International Poetry Festival's 2013 Anthology Di-verse-city

Monday, October 22, 2012

Words for Fog

Near the Gulf Coast we live with fog intimately.
It's vocabulary and syntax we have acquired
As much as Eskimos are fluent in the tongue of snow.
When the sun emerges above this gauzy veil
The ground fog glows like God's grace
As if it were emitting its own light.
Close to where the Brazos meanders to its mouth
I watch a wintry dawn burn off sheets of haze
And lift them from high places and the highways.
I can taste the salty trace it leaves on my lips
As the remnant of a marine layer that moved inland
Dissolves into thin, ragged clouds scudding across
A faded morning star and tiny sliver of a rising mauve moon.
But still a thick white fleece of brume remains in low-lying places,
Covering rice fields, creek beds and bayous.
Stands of cypress and live oak become air-plants,
Or they have learned to levitate.
Anything that nudges above the white placid pond
Seems to hover, graceful as swans.
Cows heading out to pasture
Float like a john boat glides
With gentle rocking motion.
It's hard to tell what is moving and what is still:
Everything sways in this pool of impermanence.

written Feb. 2010-,Feb. 2011, ,published in Houston Poetry Fest Anthology 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Austin Streets

O sing to the shrine of the street called Pine

That lost its name and found a number (fifth)
O say Amen, Amen! to the hymn of its pith;
Shout Alleluia with the chorus of remorse
For all the streets of Austin that were renamed,
And all the buildings that have been razed and erased.
And raise your voices in praise of the powers that be
That left the names of Texas waterways where they were.
You can still drive down the streets San Antonio and Neches,
or navigate those called San Jacinto and Nueces.
Now don't get me wrong:
I would not try to brake the wheels of progress
Any more than I would try to push these rivers.
And digits are fine for the hands and feet,
But streets in a city that's been around this long
Need their stories told about the days of old
In the labels we give to the boulevards and byways.
They whisper their history if we learn to listen.
Cruise down these hilly avenues
And from the pavement over cobbles
Where horses once were hobbled
We hear the music of horns as the traffic swishes
Carrying poems of our dreams and wishes
In their wakes as roads roll like rivers of rhyme.
Stroll down the sidewalks that course under the tangle
Of branches of Live Oak and Linden, of Peach and Mesquite,
Of Mulberry and Cherry, of Cypress and Cedar.
(Their streets became feeders on to I-35)
This city that re-invents itself every decade or so
Sloughs buildings and businesses
Like snakes lose skin or people change clothes.
The next and newest is always the best.
No one wants to hear about the Russian Tea Room
With its quiet mystique, or the peace
Of a petite rose garden tucked away
Behind a biology hall on the main campus,
Now paved over for more parking spaces.
We must dig with trowel under these streets
To find the skeletal remains of the city of old,
We can make mosaics of the shards of broken glass
And chipped plates from that lost culture,
Then sprinkle the pieces in our poems.
And like words of spells and curses,
They have the power of old Magic
To heal and charm.


written May-July 2011, published in Preoccupied with Austin 2012 (47 lines, 375 words)

June Bugs

For a long time they frightened my brothers, sisters and I.

If those bumbling fat beetles had a bite it would be vicious.

We measured the potency of bites by the size of the insect.

Ants and mosquitoes mostly made us itch,

While the sting of bees and wasps could make us cry.

And by that standard, these chafershad all the signs of a killer.

How were we to know all that bumbling about,

Bumping into us was not testing their targets,

But simply poor navigation.

Finally when we saw no one was hurt,

We gave them the same deference we gave

To butterflies and lady bugs,

Dragonflies and doodle bugs.

One brother once observed they looked drunk

With their unsteady gait and faltering flight patterns.

We thought that was so funny

We started calling them boozy beetles.


But we did not know what made them tipsy

Until I observed them one night

Through the door left ajar

To allow a fresh evening breeze

Clear the air of supper smells

As we cleared the table

And argued over who would wash dishes.


Kneeling on the screen in summer's heat

In adoration of the yellow bulb burning on the porch,

Those drunken June bugs gathered

Drinking in the glow from the kitchen.


written February 2011, publshed in Rejected Anthology of AIPF 2012

Two Men on a Roof


Two men on a roof
work in silence,
shirts off,
coppering on that slant;
hammers aloft,
arms silhouette against the sun
for that momentary pause
before the arc, described,
powers homeward
on a pinpoint of steel.
Steady slamming beats nail by nail in place,
and tier on tier
progresses to the apex.
Then they stand,
swaying in the heat,
aglisten with their toil -
one foot on each half of the world they built
that slides away from that point
too close to heaven -
and descend to earth.
written June 1979, published in Rejected Anthology of AIPF 2012 


 

 

Jazz at Houston's Brasil

Melodies get lost in this instrumental jungle.
A jazz trio plays their avant-garde sound soooo surreal:
It spices the food with such exotic flavors
That the audience savors it like ambrosia of the gods!
That music infuses the space with hues never seen
Flung like paint on a Pollock canvas
Or slapped with a splash like graffiti.
The chord progressions lift as they mix
with the patrons' laughter and patter,
Till the words are blended and blurred,
Replaced with raw syllabic sounds
That undulate like scat.
I swear the notes slide down the brick walls
Now wet with their sweat
As those jazz cats strain
To the strains of Monk and Coltrane,
It shimmers off the sax that hoots and howls,
That yelps and yowls, squeals and squawks
Until those folks have to stop their talk,
And get up and move to the groove.
I tell you it's not just music:
It's a current of high voltage.
Go ahead touch it: it'll make you jump!


Written January 2011, published in Preoccupied with Austin , part of AIPF 2012

Poetry Workshop Results in Flagrant Acts of Vandalism


When one workshop instructor

Invites the gathered poets

To chalk poetry all over Austin,

We like children take the chunks of colored calcite

And scribble poetic imagery like graffiti

On bus stop shelters and concrete park benches,

And on the wooden walls of sidewalk sheds

That surround noisy construction sites downtown,

Besides on cement walkways every where we went.

Some writers frame the lines underfoot

With borders like embroidery

Then hopscotch across the streets,

Jumping from haiku to cinquain.



But this day of poetry slips past us

In a pastel trickle of letters

That drip into gutters

When a midday shower washes them away.

Perhaps our spontaneous poems

Have risen with steam to be reprinted

In the rainbows that arch the sky.


Written April 2011, published in Austin International Poetry Festival's 2012 Anthology Di-verse-city

Monday, August 27, 2012

Shadorma 2 -- Dandelion Field

 



my child blows
dandelion seeds
sending white
down skyward
that had been a field of gold:
"Are we making clouds? '

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Shadorma 1 -- Underside





A drill bit
pierced a tree's rings
then broke off
Decades passed
Now a cross section reveals
steel teeth still there.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tornado Fantasies

I used to wish for a cyclone
to come barreling down the alley
and hit this house, knock it roofless,
suck all the innards out,
leave it empty as an eggshell,
or take the whole thing
cleanly like a loaf
lifted off the pantry shelf –
not splintered, blown to bits
with pieces of belongings
(a broken skate tangled in cedar branches,
as if the tree had caught that boiling cloud
by its heel when it tried to make a fast getaway,
or a shirt hung on a nearby shrub,
waving to me like an old friend
hardly recognized from aging.)
No, not a sloppy job with mementos
left about for the heart to ache over,
but a clean sweep.


I'm not sure I want that anymore.
The years have taught me
that even without this burden of belongings,
I would still stoop from habit.
My life has left its mark
and is not the accumulation of what I've kept.

Written April, 1978. Previously published in the Trinity Review, 1980 (27 lines, 162 words)