an essay on process and prayer
SSubmittable as unto the Lord
Poets write for intimate strangers. The editors of literary magazines presume to know us when asking for poems for their magazines and then assume they know what our readers
prefer to read. It’s a highly subjective process and when you add the reading fee to the
process it can become prohibitive. Fitting into the margins of the printed page is meant to
be part mysterious and part miracle. It’s a lot like prayer.
Preparation and careful editing of a piece, so that it reads spontaneously, is encouraged,
a blog about unlocking the prison within
I’m going back to prison and I can hardly wait. It’s been fifteen months since I was inside the State of California’s version of the Pearly Gates. Pandemic protocols are relaxing to allow volunteers, such as myself, to meet with the inmates. I’ve been offering chapel services at Pelican Bay State Prison, just an hour and a half from my home, for the better part of ten years and I’ve never been so excited to return. …
a poem about what’s not yet not
I repair your guitar in a
bath of broken glass, these
are the new blues, frozen
specimens, blood tipped
tiles and light disappearing
outside a window.
One hand sidles smoke
two hands grip an ostrich
from the sand insisting
the repeating song is changed
by repeating songs our
father failed to mention.
The earth bends grey the
sea green a name carved
in a bench wants to sing
the faded initials the heart
long closed to the knife
The fallen take care of
business logic allows
a moment to follow another
a traveling poem of travail
I went to Africa in this shirt,
short sleeved, cotton, blue
collar to appreciate water
as treasure and see broken glass,
affixed to a compound wall, spread
rainbows of the drought.
Diesel fumes force my nose
back to cattle in traffic my eyes
white as my skin and the glove
slapping the bus window to
halt for the stick driven parade
of centuries past, present
and threatened. Yogurt hawkers
pocket the same dollars as
missionary Mercedes trunks flagged
through the intersection, chickens
swing by their plucked feet
to Gospel market music.
Only science can prove…
a poem about reparation and reclamation
I halved the fig, lopped it
low to foster runners at the base.
The tree, retrieved from an
abandoned garden, staked
against the wind overriding the vane
The expectant fruit only a hope
the cost of new dirt a hobby’s
expense. The leaves so famous
bend green from the branch
respond to hose water with
a curl of the lip like Elvis.
Growing things rewrite ink stains
with mud, the deep roots read
like a back story, fingers grip
ache and tend to the plot in a potted
plant claiming a place in the sun
I met my first Black person during my senior year in high school. There were no people of color in my town unless you counted itinerant workers and I don’t think we did. As I was not included in the class field trip to Jonesboro Arkansas from Port Washington Wisconsin because my hair was too long, and my politics too vocal, I went on my own. Our Greyhound bus pulled into Effingham Illinois in the dead of a December night. 1969. The driver encouraged us to get snacks and use the bathroom in a now or never sort of voice…
a poem about the distance between compassion and comprehension
Three smokers cross the
street in the wind to inhale the
corporate plan. Blueprint
of profit a richer blue than restricted
veins in the female neck turning
to each boy…for a light.
If they were storks I might admire one
foot in front of the other ingesting hell
fire, black lungs in a specimen jar far
from this freedom of choice tobaccos.
Begrudge not. Who says life has to be lived?
My tattoos prove me foolish, should I
offer water, dried fish in a net? …
a poem about taking a chance encounter in search of angels
Withdraw from the swaddling wrath of
the unhoused. In the season of waving
away mosquitoes go in the city bush
to piss. The stranger eats your sandwich,
by the roll down window one striped
sock indicates rank, folded paper
stuffs a mud boot to size.
I’m looking for an address and
explain my van in the bike lane
I don’t have a smoke. I imagine
Van Gogh would paint the man
golden where light touches hat
and sleeve and hand him a few
dollars toward a pack. “Camels?”
The morning’s cold begs foot warmth to cover
it, to cover it all before working, before walking
in a slivered light from bleak curtains
and the next minute of a missing breath.
The hospice news a day late, a day too
early, leaves the phone cord a dangle
the air precious, precise, and rare.
The name sounded. Alone.
Cancer ends the night
dawn a mere golden gray
a gown of clouds lifts aloud
a silent forever rest.
In the wake of peace; mass
shootings, virus spikes, rocket bombs,
twisted cars and falling cliffs
this body in bed blessed.