small stone 4 – water

i tried desperately to collect what i could in all my mixing bowls and pans, opened
the bathtub faucet and watched the stream weaken while the water outside
from the busted pipe bubbled up under the frontyard grass and lapped a course
down the driveway into the street. flowing away from my house, from the bathtub,
from all my efforts to contain it, from me.


small stone 1 – returning


i am so thankful
for your open door, although i insisted
getting in through the window.

i am sorry
it is broken; sorry
i fell through clumsily only to find you
waiting inside so porcelain
and calm; holding out to me
a warm cup of tea.

i am sorry i still believe
that a stubborn December
can wind us down, that i am not faithful
in the firm foundation that has held
up all these years.

oh, and i thank you
for the tea.

on my latest journey
i did not pick
anything out for you –
there was nothing
worth carrying home.

The Next Level – Poem

The prompt at One Single Impression was “seeking,” and I immediately thought of this poem.

The Next Level

“…we’re going to walk out into life in the next level above human.” – Marshall Applewhite

Maybe it’s really time to go – to tail ourselves
to a cosmic promise, gather like dust
in celestial corners. If we are nothing more
than our bodies, our hearts grey packets
of ash, useless as brier – does it matter
what we leave behind, or if ghosts
don’t scrabble from our caskets to climb
some glittering stairs? If all we need
is a sugared assurance, something sweet
to open our throats so we can swallow
the same emptiness that erases everyone, then let it be
an extravagant lie that blinds us, let us flicker
into it ignorantly, let us have our silvered
salvation to ferry us into the black
velocity from which nothing escapes,
not even light. Let our faith belong to the stars,
which are salient and brazen, unlike God,
who hasn’t glimmered in years, has never fallen
from the sky trailing sparks from his garments,
who declines to guide us, and always will.

Occupation – Poem


September 1945, abandoned gun emplacements
line the shoreline on the island of Kyushu
like a million white flags of surrender.

has no need to surrender,

the city a monument
to defeat, a plutonium horseshoe
hammered onto its heart.

Bodies float like blossoms

of man-o-war in the harbor
as Marines plow
the narrow river
sounding the floor for mines.

Tankers from Mitsubishi Shipyard, loosed
by the bomb’s concussion, drift dazed
and purposeless in the docks, banging
like gavels
against the anchored boats.

is the smolder of bodies.

The living do not know
the war is over
and hide from the Allies for days.

Women are first to emerge,
swarming the barracks
for work, the soft staccato
of their language
converting chambers
into sad belltowers.

Every morning they wait for soldiers
in the showers,

offer knobby squares of rags
and bath towels. They
squat together in corners,
scrubbing the tiles,
while soapy residue
from the men mingles
with ammonia
in the center drain.

They are unshaken
by the nakedness of foreigners,
the transformation
of their shipyard
into military quarters, the bodies
still fused

to the pavement, the steely spikes

of burned-out buildings
like bones picked clean,
like broken fingers
pointing accusations at the sky.

They still bow
to the prowl of every Jeep
patrolling the streets –
as they did the first time
Allies rode to the town’s center
towering over scraps of shops and offices
to consider

clean-up and rebuild, consider

the enemy
and its abandoned plans to station
women and children
at the emplacements
in an invasion, consider Truman
and the Fat Man
that made their mission humanitarian,

the release of American prisoners
with gangrenous stumps
for legs,
consider victory and necessity.
It served them right.

Most of the men
thought this, did not discriminate
between the people’s bows
and Hirohito’s surrender
eight days late: families
in the streets, rocking
like roadside brush ruffled
in the power of their wake,
the bend of their bodies
a bending of the will, like the trees
blown back on the hillsides,
leafless branches charred
and curled like a baby’s fist.

And the dying
competing for treatment
with their wounds in hallways
of a hospital hollowed
by fire, and the burns
branding the skin
of husbands and children,
and the black hair scattered
like dandelion seed
on tufts of wind,

were only outlines,
shadow images,
ghost-etchings on walls
where flowers or fenceposts
once had been. But every morning

women were waiting
to launder their bedclothes.
Every morning women
were working
in the showers, stripping away
the evidence of occupation,
their silvery voices warm
and familiar as a kitchen’s clank
of pots and pans,

their bodies small
and colorful against the yellow pallor
of the tiles, vivid
and undeniable, like leaves
on the black skeletons of trees,
already throwing out
new branches, already budding open
with new blooms.

We Write Poems Prompt #80 – Bread Crumbs

The prompt this week at We Write Poems was to accumulate twelve words, then write little snippets in response to those words. As usual I varied slightly: I took phrases from a Facebook page commemorating a young man who died last year. In each little stanza there’s a snippet from a post someone made to his page, with my own elaboration added.

facebook pages for the dead

melody says
she has lost faith
since clayton died

while the new owner
of his name
reassures her
he is in a better place

post private jokes
remember the time

& his father leaves
for him to read
it’s been a year
& we still
haven’t cleaned
your room

videos uploaded
in the night
here’s one of him dancing

dimly lit
& flickering
like altars
in dark corners
this is how I’ll remember him

prayers commemorate
important dates
I’m thankful for your
continued presence in my life

interpreting dreams
as more
he spoke to me
last night

as we are prone
to do
I woke up
and I still felt him
in my room