ALL SHADOWS POINT NORTH
L. WARD ABEL
I’ve got a clear view of the west here
losing interest in eastern drones
up and down the coast.
Dryer air, the air of jaggedness—October
always scares me. The lines are too clean:
bolded black edges,
mortality, all waking thoughts, the moment.
Like coyotes, the world rummages through
Across the creek bottom, into woods,
I rummage too. As the flyway moans
due east of me I hear the train
on its way to Manchester. It drops down
to farmlands through feathers and the brass
I melt back along the creek beds and find
convergence, hearing my name spoken like
sung like a crow sings. The air shifts
to a southerly. All shadows
Before God kills me dead, which is the way
of the world they teach me at Sunday School
I'd better get my immortal soul saved
or I'll spend my immortality in
Hell and that means endless suffering and
I don't want that, they tell me, and I guess
I agree so Heaven's where I should go
and have fun forever, I guessing fun,
flying around with other angels and
playing the harp and singing even though
I can't carry a tune in a bucket
and maybe hopping from cloud to cloud to
cloud like in my room or a trampoline
but never land on the floor or ground but
to get all this I have to believe that
Jesus is the Son of God and died for
my sins and is also God Himself and
maybe even the Holy Ghost though I
don't really know who He is but at our
church God comes in triplicate, triplets, threes,
an odd number but I guess that's okay
but that's a matter for regular school
and I also have to be well-behaved
and helpful and love my neighbors as my
enemies or maybe that's vice versa
but even if so isn't it the same
and try not to sin though I always will,
I'm fallen they say at Sunday School, No
I ain't, I said the first time my teacher
told me, I'm just short for ten years old and
sometimes I wonder about being dead,
whether I'll miss real life, life in blood
and guts and bones and a little baby-fat
and did I say blood and as I grow hair
in strange places and a deeper voice and
another use for my tallywacker
other than to u-ri-nate, babies it
makes I hear though I'm not sure how but I
can ask my Sunday School teacher, maybe
she'll draw me a picture, I only want
to know before I'm dead and know it all
anyway but the diff will be in how
much hands-on practice I'll get. Thank you, Lord.
IN ONE STORY
humanlike beings visited this earth
millennia ago although it wasn’t
Earth couldn’t have been couldn’t
have had a name in our language it
was full of huge creatures who ate
each other and some of the plants
although fauna and foliage weren’t
even those things because we know
language evolved and we believe
somebody drew it in air and then on
cave wall with their earth- dipped
implements and fingers and they
uttered it made it into sound that
signified: fern and unfurling song
of language what we hear under the
black signs of this kept on singing
and these humanlike beings
recorded in their own songs sounds
of giant creatures on this wet grassy
rock and upon those recordings
they built stories about those
creatures numinous and immense
their appetites nothing short of
legendary and these humanlike
beings from elsewhere used their
stories to show themselves how to
make them- selves how to hurt and
love and how to die which they
considered the most precious of all
gifts they had been given and when
these humanlike creatures returned
to earth millennia later they found
the huge creatures had disappeared
and had been replaced by smaller
but just as powerful creatures
maybe even more powerful but that
couldn’t be the case could never be
they said and they were right which
is both true and false
a random mandarin
or something musical
and sweet like the song
she sang when
tried to displace
day’s green grace. Or
she said when nothing
but your body’s liquid
grew between you and
her and your breath’s
collective wreath. How
do we encircle the sphere
in which only touch
Do we call it desire
and move on to tricks
otherwise? And if so,
what do you
see when I hold up this
card? And when will you
tell me what it is that I
know I must know?
What is ground but something guttural green layered upon a sphere this heated ball swimming in its solutions and songs, not so different those rooms of suspension and belief. I’m praying because it’s cheaper and less invasive than surgery. Beneath the cursor: light rages. Beneath a sheet: another sheet jealous. Beneath the white field: black soul—I thought I wrote soil. If we’re being honest about history, shouldn’t the default screen be black with white text? Nevertheless, the current presentation will be continued with the knowledge that eventually black always fills the frame, completes the picture, takes the page’s stage. Beneath chair: structure’s strong legs. Beneath faith: structure’s strong legs. Beneath ink: skin and blood. Sin was there. Son, too. Beneath sky: one giant breath. Beneath rug: floor’s stories of story. Beneath hat: hair and hare. Beneath illusion: hope. Beneath hope: a hand writing a poem. Beneath a poem: every poem that came before. Beneath language: a body’s music. Beneath saying: feeling. Beneath feeling: lightning tracing us into life. Beneath life: black fields folding into black fields.
Even as a boy, my father would say
I was hard on tools--the lips of shovels
I left bent and blunted, the spading forks
and post hole diggers snapped at the socket,
rake tines bent and twisted like tortured fingers,
mauls and headless hatchets snapped at the neck.
And power tools that should have eased my effort
were sent to the dump with burned out bearings,
their gears sheepish grins of shattered teeth,
their drive belts snapped out of frustration,
unwilling or able to keep up the pace.
If I could, I’d craft an implement to match
my simple needs to create and destroy,
something solid and balanced in my hand,
hammered on the anvil on my stubbornness,
annealed in the forge that glows within this chest.
ZACH LEE GROESBECK
antlers cast above brome
treeline billowing a light
haze velvet boughs
suggest nothing but
late autumn fescues, forbs
all the color of deer
hide this hue: a spill of
field dressing the field’s margins
dappled red stray
lilies dusk a cedar
cambers to a stump
HEARD IN A BAR IN SAN MATEO
It started as a spot, a small one, on his leg,
Dennis with that van,
those crooked teeth, that grin.
Nothing lasts, not heat pumps,
toilets, HVAC units,
fishing boats, erections,
hot coffee or first wives,
nothing but the fog
rolling in from Half Moon Bay,
and the human need
to burn it off with words.
INSTANTS IN A CHAIN OF INSTANTS
DIARMUID ó MAOLALAí
startled by trains in motion,
they ebb and clatter
as if somebody somewhere
had dropped a handful of coins.
my hands are in my pockets -
I stand like a stork
in a marsh of sparse bushes,
watching clouds of starlings
as they rise among the roofs.
they scatter in circles,
reform in clustered outlines. dandelions
seen at speed on video, extending
wings of petal
to collapse. another train,
the same occasion.
the fling forward
and the back again. the air
clear in autumn;
cold as found pennies. wind blows.
I wonder how they do it, this group,
how they move so carefully - a game of soccer,
the choreography of instants,
and of instants in a chain of instants.
my train arrives. the crowd pulls forward,
collecting at the access
and crushing itself in. it's 8am. people in motion,
with purpose and no
communication. seem from above,
it must seem very fine.
INTO THE DAMP
The simpleton attracted by the light
walked into a slippery trap to the deep
falling in the sleep of the ignorant.
If only he had seen the writing upon life
that these days are numbered and cruel
perhaps he would have been safe.
Mere little human with dreamy eyes
he may have been a maggot in the earth
pushing at dirt until his final hour.
A thin layer of sunshine appeared through the gate
inviting with the voracious appetite of an ogre
the neophyte plunged with the faith of the meek.
High above the slither a voice thundered
bearing its poisonous saliva to fill a new sea
yet the mere human heard not a sound.
Buried below the molasses of her plotting soul
he swam in a desperate attempt to reach a shore
prisoner of the unending will of an ever-dying courtesan
My good friend
as distinct from
redoing 2nd hip
to make boomer
until death way
than just gritting
a few teeth
left to this X-hippy
fire tries to meditate
but now finds
it too hard to bear
from his previous
place of work
where he was an MD
patients and staff
as well as
the medical director
but now no
one can bear to look
at me wheeling
in on a steel walker.
MEMORY OF BODY
I am sick with you.
The space you take up
within me is minuscule
and my body is unhappy.
It will fade. This is not
my first time holding a person
in my womb. The sick vanishing
when my body is so full
of you, that there is too little
space for myself.
My body will know you then,
before my hands ever
hold you, before your toes
are free, not to walk
but to wiggle in the
filtered hospital air
I remember not ever being happy
Except for moments.
Most of my happiness involved discovery
Bugs, dinosaurs, The Bible.
I would dig for bones, deeper and deeper in the backyard.
I studied Fireflies and The Revelations to John with the same zeal.
Such a silly boy,
Sweaty hair in the summer twilight, watching ant wars
On the neighbor’s slates.
Later Steinbeck, then Bob Dylan,
My happiness rarely involved direct contact
With another person.
Mere moments, though:
When Traci Lauterborn shared the seesaw with me,
Raking leaves with my father,
Drawing pictures my mother would laud,
Genuinely or not.
Listening to my mother’s 8 Track of the Hair Soundtrack
Or her old Bill Cosby records
Was the epitome of emotional education:
No personal connection necessary or wanted.
My life always hinged on the people
I have never met,
Never will meet.
Still, it is so.
I know people
But I do not really know them.
I meet them and then
I invent them.
They eventually become not my invention but themselves.
Then they are gone.
I would rather masturbate than fuck,
Fantasize than make love.
My dreams are made of ether.
Nothing human exists within them.
All the sun blanched to shade.
All the shade becoming black.
I thought I knew her,
Maybe I invented the her
That I knew.
I toss the book I am trying to read on the bed:
I have read it before. I don’t remember it
But I know I kind of liked it.
I remember kissing her;
The taste of her, the feeling of the room,
Us in it.
I want nothing more than to kiss her,
The booze on our breath,
All mouths and hands
Until I sleep with her body
Us drunk, snoring, content
If but for one sunset.
Reading Hafiz, looking for that
But finding nothing.
I remember nights with her
When my heart would burst into flames
And my body would tremble in a thankful
In my emotions and beliefs
The way I do,
I imagine the truth lies somewhere inside
My beliefs and my fear.
I am a bird who flies without destination.
I am a bird who falls to the ground
With a well-aimed rifle shot.
At least I am the bird refusing
To meet his demise flying into a mirror.
I am the bird who flutters terrified on the ground
For your amusement.
Reading Bukowski and Hafiz tonight,
It is almost like reading Point/Counterpoint.
I am going to step outside for a moment,
Allow the moon to sneer at me
And contemplate her and contemplate me,
Reading and listening to music
As I list in this ocean of night,
Not a paddle or a port
If you hear me floundering,
My lungs filling with the darkness
Just turn up the music
And close your eyes.
The noises will stop.
CONJUGAL SPACE(S) #5
—fat bluejay / pregnant mama / screeching // there //
the backyard feeder rocking with her weight //
and you // you fight a headcold / drink your coffee /
try to leave a record // just how badly
do you need this // stay outside and play
awhile / your mother told you // morning getting
darker you as write // and when the dusk
had thickened / come inside / the call almost
eternal // come inside / dark angel sings /
like Mother / turn a page and lift a pen /
there’s light enough to sort the gathered darkness //
coffee’s gone // the sky has paled to milk //
the thing delivered might just horrify /
but you must nurture it and not ask why ///
CONJUGAL SPACE(S) #6
—a John Cage composition squeaks and hums /
a random headiness you’ve come to like //
the speakers / even though they’re inexpensive /
aren’t liars // nor are you / it’s just
that truth keeps changing // all this need / the way
that speaking clouds it / seeing clears // a bluejay
hogs the backyard feeder / spruces suck
the filtered sun // your slight hangover now
receding / like your hairline / like your gums /
and like the tide on Marco Island ten /
eleven New Year’s Eves ago // remember
scotch / the ocean’s moan / the married sex //
collecting shells / at least // you kept them zipped
in plastic // lasted till spring cleaning came ///
CONJUGAL SPACE(S) #9
—that Escondido open mic / your nephew
killed it on guitar // you kept your folded
poems / pale vagina / in your pocket //
sunburned forehead flaking snow / you’re drinking
local beers you brought back warm / packed
like ingots in your dirty clothes // when flying
in and out / you saw the ocean / never
touched it // socks got wet while walking shoeless /
drunk / in midnight rain around that gated
subdivision // cell-phone photos just
a husk / the wispy kernel’s here / between
the ears / the hauntings of all travelers
so lightly here // last morning hike / your brother’s
wife said / “god / your legs are so damned white” ///