Braving the Wilds

Field Notes from the Suburban Jungle

Berceuse à la Une

Thinking night thoughts, lying supine,
hearing echos of the why’s and how’s,
one sings an oxymoronic opus
of deafening silence,

in itself a sharp fool, an etymological
contradiction in terms that
seems to fit the syntactic bill:
we sophomoric emotional wonders

make music between the notes,
a tinnitus nocturne punctuated
by pizzicato plucks of a string
of a staff, holding an ephemeral,

Venetian shadow song of memory.
Return to a rubato, diminuendo,
a solo, of one’s own composition:
whole and melodic.

Finistère

The end of the earth is
what the French call their
Westernmost départment,
the tip of their beloved ground,

Where one can stand at
the edge of a rocky cliff
over rough seas, contemplating
a course to nowhere, the unknown,

With a stone in one’s pocket,
heavy, burdensome, worn smooth
with the distal phalanx of the
thumb in painful recollections,

And educational regret, or
the converse: a buoy of gratitude
and a truer understanding of
what we share, all of us.

My father described industriousness
as performing a task as if there was
no tomorrow, eagerly, frantically,
without restraint:

As one should perform every task,
as if encountered by the end of the earth,
touching foreheads with a loved one
over a deathbed, clutching hands.

If only such grace existed yesterday
And hindsight be wisdom, we could whisper
thanks and let many tomorrows be the product
of the hard-earned ground behind us.

A Woman on Earth

A Pittsburgh housewife is responsible
for flying the American flag
on the moon, where gravity grounds nothing
and the atmosphere hosts myth.

A womanly contribution to the Apollo
missions, at an inhospitable time for Her:
a curtain rod pocket and a pole to
pierce the lunar visage,

made of paper, cheese, igneous
rock, depending on one’s own celestial
mood, literary knowledge
or state of rational being.

Imagine the man on the moon
staking claims, driving golf balls
or longing towards a blue-green
orb at an impossible distance,

sliding down his own beams,
inquiring his way to Norwich, or
my lonely arms, finding nothing but
cold porridge that somehow burned his lips.

Preferring ethereal surroundings of weightlessness
dangling over paper seas, he pulls her waters and
matches the cycles of every terrestrial womb,
crowding delivery rooms on the brightest nights.

He remains an unrequited love
evasive during the darkest hours
and brilliant on the last ones when the
light that is reflected is — in sooth — our own.

Deconstruction of the Modern Personal Dialogue

Say what you mean, but don’t make me
do the work to tear it apart
just to understand what’s under
it all: a language completely uncentered.

Its artificial: a text that can’t
be naturalized or understood,
with or without context, or
empathy or modifications.

It’s a wonder any of us
understand each other, through words
that create tensions; unity
only rises to release some of it.

Modify, edit, add, take away
what you will, yet red will
still be read to me and I will
withhold any meaningless interpretations.

Questions are all any of us has, in truth,
that and the urge to scratch our heads.

Dandy Lion

For Hannah

is how you pronounced
an unwanted plant,
shot through the violet vinca like
a burst of yellow confetti,

its own high-styled
rebel, a wild flower
like you: tenacious,
resilient, hearty,

landed here, on the
prevailing winds,
a seed carried
on a child’s breath,

without plan, or
preconceived notions
on how it was supposed
to be, or become,

a culinary staple, a
lion’s tooth, roaring her
own benevolent yawp
over a Samaritan world.

Ode to the Brassiere

At the turn of the century came you,
freeing our confined, corseted torsos
from the high-fashioned,
short sighted, spleen crushers,
whale-boned, skeletal-deforming
straight jackets which kept us
swooning for the idealized
twenty-two inch waist.

Grace à vous,
le soutien-gorge
,
patriarchal control would
shift from our now free-breathing
abdomens to our boosted racks,
enticingly framing our throats
with half-orbs, a décolletage
to frame our now-oxygenated
cheeks, our pink visage.

Rocketed, coned, formed
in pockets in various
colors and fabrics, we breasts
rose in praise, pointing
to the sun we longed to
feel on our virginal skins.

And yet you singed, under protest,
by flames ignited by
angry, love-hungry hippies,
and rose from the ashes
like a wispy phoenix in the form
of the bralette, barely there
slips of fabrics left best to the
flater-chested of the girls to fly
with first amendment sensibilities
in the face of misogyny.

Decades later under a
glass ceiling, you held our
milk-engorged bleeders,
protected under layers of
absorbent cotton in
conference rooms populated
by gawking men. Exhausted
under silk, sexually confusing
to all those present, hinting to
the more sentient amongst us
that the only purpose of
these gorgeous mounds is to
fulfill their true desire,
to simply do what the
powers of the universe
expect them to do:
to feed a hungry world,
or not.

Ode to the To Do List

“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order.”
-Umberto Eco

Bullet-pointed, hash-marked,
numbered, prioritized or
collected in order of cognitive
awareness, combating
with each passing senior
moment: a Sisyphean
conquest, a black hole of
tasks curiously recorded
for the ages.

We praise thee, oh! words
as powerful as the
proverbial pen,
scribbling persuasive
arguments via epistolary
quest, a Dear John to
forgetfulness, an
appeal, a refund of
sanity for anxiety.

Let this inventory of
tasks restore our
autonomy, our powers
of control, fool us into thinking
with each catalogue of
chores, every enumeration
of jobs: we’ve got it all
under our ink-stained
thumbs,

And as we tick a check
mark to the margins of
this register, or more violently,
scratch out lines, with
frantic blood-inked scribbles,
let us slice pieces of our laden
worlds away with a sharpened
scalpel-nib, cut away the cancers
of our lives with
every tiny accomplishment.

Dominion

A true dilemma exists for this conflicted hound

in a world beyond his stove-warmed paws:

to follow his nose, to thee, unbound!

Our joints ache while the storm rages on,

forced to sing in domestic round, yet

a singular dilemma exists for this conflicted hound.

Soup simmers in a drafty house, the radio murmurs

of life in milder climes: where he might

follow his nose, to thee, unbound?

To sleep, once more, after injected pause

welcomed first for novelty, a break from the norm

he dreams of a dilemma, this conflicted hound.

To wake, once more, squinting in the sun

tethered and tripping through drifts of snow, he’d prefer

to follow his nose, unbound.

Strains for freedom, tugs at the leash

reminding sore shoulders of old injury

a true dilemma exists for the conflicted hound

to follow his nose, or to thee, be bound.

Portraiture

Among campily painted portraits
Is our photo, take a few years ago,
A moment, a grain, frozen in
Acids, chemicals, a fixer. The phantom
Women loom large over us, distorted
Somewhat grotesquely and reminiscent
Of discomfort in their oils.

I’m not sure if the collection is
A litany of lost desires, remembrances,
Or a study of the brush strokes, some
Folksy, others more sophisticated,
All portraying perfectly smooth skin,
Protruding lips and out-of-focus eyes.

There we stand, amongst the
Artifice, somewhat true to ourselves.

The grocer told me I hadn’t aged a
Day in fifteen years this morning,
But I corrected him: I have aged 5,475
Of them, some more pleasantly than others.

Some more memorable:
Those that were weighted down like
Leaden grief, others as light as
Sunlit beams of dust;
Most passed unnoticed in the
Monotony of enduring, marked
By one more cup of coffee, one
More walk to the park with a
Canine or another on the end of a leash,
A commute like all the others,
Hanging on the end of a strap.

If our portrait was painted, I suppose
It would be a pointillist one, made up
Of tiny dots, each one marking
The mysterious days we spent
Together, apart, marking
A line on our face, a streak in
Our hair. An Archimboldo perhaps,
A composite of every morsel that
Sustained us, comforted us,
Savored over candlelight
Or wolfed down over the sink
As a baby screamed from his crib.

Not a Cindy Sherman, a Warhol,
Disguised and obscured,
Nor a self-portrait, filtered and
Self-conscious. A candid!
Truer to a Rembrandt, and honest:
A photomosaic that captures
Every moment, a deconstruct.

Because we have aged, and lived, every day;
It’s dying we’d prefer to do just once.

Baptism

For Alyce

Voices, indiscriminate, mingled with
The rushing water, white noise
Suggestions of unfinished conversations,
Whispered and bellowed
During this interminable day.

If I closed my eyes I could
Conjure the river in the Spring:
Unfiltered melted snow rushing
Next to an old Indian trail
Long since paved over,
Lavender on its banks, the oil
Of which perfumes a colicky baby’s bath.

Wash away the day, you say,
Crawl into bed with no hint
Of the dust that sticks
To your skin, that burdensome layer
Sent to the waterways with
The race of men who live
In its rapids.

The nights should pass as fast
As years with young children.
Slow the day and walk on the earth with dry feet
Sound, circum caput, no longer
Plagued like Macbeth, but
Reborn, unburdened, present
And able to rest.