Lodestone

Another name for wisdom forgets
how marks and stains overwrite their past,
means pretending autumn always was, and leaves
never stood intact and green before.

Offering a tribute to ruin and rubble
in its tranquil splendour requires a certain trance,
a suspension the young sparrow makes
scrounging in the diagonal rays.

Of carbon, only take diamond and coal,
pulling teeth from time’s hard gums,
those sore trophies and a body
brandishing its happy scars.

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Netsuke

Whole, half and emptying
history needs all its hollows,
pleasure and pain alike

in recesses where dust won’t go.
Smooth pockets that make a second
heart for holding sun and silence,

all that fits past clasp and key.
Say the unwritten is unerasable,
not true, never having been

more than out of mind, a sound,
a hint or wish to know
how to cast a jigsaw of the sky.

In the columned quiet
of monuments, tombs and temples,
you wonder what was left unsaid

and why.

A final vocabulary

That year I gave up
on mastering the dictionary
between advocate and avocado,
I like to think,
but it took a few letters longer
for the infinite to sour.

Always was missing
and always was departing.
The pendulum could not merely
swing across the chasm
when some grander jump
would take us whole across.

It seems we return again
to simple comforts and pleasures,
the melodies of before,
forsaking more for less,
content that it takes a glance
only to trust who we are.

Camera obscura

When I am not so much strained, one day,
holding scatterings unsaid, when I have gained
and lost enough to let the truth of things
slip out like seaweed, what of the water?

The past gushing, the bough boiling,
a bag of almond meal never used for fear
at letting sweetness fall. Nor do they make
guarantees for the future, guides for how to take

yourself apart from yesterday. We are
outlasted and outdone by distant years, perhaps,
in their consoling way. Will I know? Crafting walls
whose doors we fear to test, not trusting

how to sketch space when the sudden moon subsides
leaving little room for seeing what silence hides.
You hold tomorrow up and take this pulse,
decant the sun, shy away, softly fading false.

Hungry

When I was knee high to here
before my legs could do more than crawl,
sugar dipped itself onto my lips and my brain,
and my smile was big enough to fill
the photo all the way up
like the hypnotic wheel of your mind twisting into spirals
after watching a TV marathon non-stop, persisting
in the vain hope that it will be
sweet in the hereafter
when it stops.

That was when I first tasted a Tim Tam:
damn.
My first sugar kiss
such bliss
and your flickering mind
wondering how did I miss
this
until now
raised on bread and water and smiles,
it riles to know they were keeping you
from this.

But without teeth bigger than milk-size,
fun-size me couldn’t ask anyone for an upsize
yet.
Couldn’t do more than suck and smile
for the while, this dummy wanting more,
thinking he’d discovered
that really all life’s meaning
was just chocolate-covered.
Somewhere there were secret codes and covenants,
preaching messages only taste buds knew.

They had me hooked and they knew it,
angry Oompa Loompas diving deep and free-basing,
loading up some molten cocoa river proselytizing,
just for me. It meant a decade and more
when only the gods could deliver those glycemic goods,
the mouth-stuffed joy I could clamp down on
and fix my jaw around
a dog with a bone
getting over life’s bittersweet after-blows.

Cause I was hungry,
I was a hungry Tim Tam,
hungry like the wolf preying on the moon,
like an Argonaut on an endless Odyssey.
And damn.
Damn you, Tim Tam.
This is not a complaint
and it isn’t a confessional
where I tell you I was unfaithful
to what I swallowed by the mouthful
even though I played the field fast and loose
and tried them all or enough, sweet and salty,
and not giving enough attention
to the lack of my intention
to get fat, big, large, king-size
because it was all in the eyes.

Or maybe I’m just making excuses
for the little kid who knew nothing but the fact
that if this was going to be how the cookie crumbled
then there was no faith that couldn’t be tumbled
if there were biscuits.

Theme for Class

In school they never let you
pick the topic, especially those
secret and distant
worlds I once dismissed out of hand

offering no more
than mystery and flight,
fantasy filling hours on end
with its looping plots

the constant adrenaline tug
of knowing how chapters
were just beginning
to unlock keys to untold lands

where you already knew of ciphers
and suspense, how each dangling drip
begat an understanding
that peace would always be elusive

that the earth must tremor
and the seasons topple,
so all stories repeat their truths
in different lies.

Swing-time

That’s where you’re standing,
you’re standing until
from under you with a swift clatter
like the beat dropping
and the mic tumbling
the trap door takes that breath

cause you know this is it,
swing-time that’s gonna
hit you on the pass,
like a roundabout or a trebuchet
lurching towards the exit
until the silence hits your feet.

Paper dance

sensing only the same tempo, melting
and reshaping itself

is how the dancers ended up
searching for silhouettes through the floorboards,

waging war against the constant choreography,
leaving the watchers waiting and the music

flailing, trying to meet
the riff, riff, riff

as legs speak in tongues
so that each adjustment and rise

becomes an offer and a pose
grappling with a set of parentheses

dangling like the open sesame
chanted to cleave the shade

and send the lamplight scurrying
into the twilight’s daze

though the show goes on regardless,
scenery rippling, wavering, dancing.

Slide out

To the last
of the stomached breath
before going under
water without your eyes
peeled, holding the hum,
tight.
And gripping the thin tube
feeling sound steam out
like a trombone’s rattling prayer
on the express
with the carriage packed,
bag growling at the seam,
the audience condensing,
as if some mystic gas
were blurring the room
like wonder descending,
liable to eviscerate
the air at once
and it slurs and blows
and slides
out.

Slide in

Like tourists free-training
in the rhyme of their own city,
trying to grab the beat
and embrace the thrum
until you step just inside the notes
and meld
with the walking story,
crevices and twists
through floorboard and windows.

There the legs astretch, growing nearer
the pedal falling
atop this syncopated step
and the drag and tap, skim and break
as voices cut in
on top, top, top.

Another layer riffs
while wrists scout out
a trail of loose footholds.
Snapping into joint the tune
and its cacophony
slide craftily away.