And all the storms

(In memory of Edna St. Vincent Millay)

That your heart gave way in the end, my dear,

is no surprise. You were not wearied suddenly,

rather four seasons brought their storms to bear

and left you out to weather, or nearly.

That your soul was satisfied with Beauty’s

harvest, we do not know, but saw you’d leave

Love’s feast for a steady draft of the Muse’s

cup. You knew what you and she would weave.

And is this a contradiction?

A work of fiction? Would anyone regret

proving the power of Love’s addiction?

A good quick end, stubbed out like a cigarette,

the still-warm ash of life’s affairs

flicked down a flight of uncarpeted stairs.

 

 

(First published in Mezzo Cammin, Volume 11, Issue 1, June 2016.)

Now

Now, I decide

to live in the moment,

like one enlightened.

I linger by the Paulownia, watch

petals fall to the gravel

in the arboretum.

Still, I think of what I have to do.

All pink antennae and glazy eyes

in a bowl, the prawns need shelling.

The door is ajar –

there’s one of those fast, impossible-to-catch spring flies.

A shaft of light reaches into the kitchen

like an arm –

I move through motes of dust.

 

I move through motes of dust –

like an arm,

a shaft of light reaches into the kitchen.

There’s one of those fast, impossible-to-catch spring flies;

the door is ajar.

In a bowl, the prawns need shelling –

all pink antennae and glazy eyes.

Still, I think of what I have to do.

In the arboretum,

petals fall to the gravel;

I linger by the Paulownia, watch,

like one enlightened.

To live in the moment,

now. I decide.

 

(First published in The Curlew, Spring 2018.)

The magnolia and the eclipse

The school sent a note saying

the children will stay inside

during the solar eclipse.

Reading between the lines

their retinas will not be in danger.

It’s raining; the rare obscuring is obscured,

yet the light has a strange quality

as though some other lines

have been lifted from the spectrum.

Despite the partial sun

everyone carries on with their day,

withdrawing cash from ATMs,

pushing their bodies over zebra crossings,

and avoiding each other’s umbrellas

though one or two notice the magnolia

on the cusp of anthesis,

its buds pale and changeable as moons.

 

(First published in Wildflower Muse, 2 September 2016.)

Grace aux épaules

(For Alain Robert)

Burj Khalifa, Eiffel, Willis, Taipei 101:

their names are enough to give you vertigo.

Iron fists, twisting swords, taunting cartels –

 

this is not the Verdon,

it’s a quarter mile of glass and steel.

Necks craned, we scan the tartan grid,

 

our guts churning like fresh cement;

strong fingers, permanently bent, grip articulations.

It’s rare to see a man defy a stainless sky,

 

ignore the yawning void, not every day

someone smiles outside your window

on the ninety-seventh floor.

 

He skims up curtain walls, counts stories

like the months he lost in comas,

impossible reflections in his eyes,

 

clears the vertex, lifts his arms

above a blaze of urban lights.

Sometimes police arrest him, but this won’t deter him.

 

Our wounded superhero doesn’t care.

He climbs so he can be reborn

and doesn’t need eight legs – just two, and good shoes.

 

(First published in The Sunlight Press, 6 June 2017.)

The page turner

She seems like a minor inconvenience,

a child conceived for their lovers’ duet,

only fugue-daughter, her sole purpose

to flick a page at the nod of a head.

Did the same hands that fracture ordered keys

linger on her mother’s glossy belly?

Did she carry her with confident ease

as that miniature form began to swell?

Domestic rhythms, crescendos of will –

it seems like a natural progression.

Though it takes no extraordinary skill

to turn a page, a thankless profession,

it’s her I applaud as they take the floor:

no ordinary child could read that score.

 

(First published in Southword, Issue 31, 2017.)

Haiku

A selection of my haiku published since 2015:

 

giant chess

children look the knights

in the eye

(The Asahi Shimbun, Asahi Haikuist Network, 2 November 2018.)

 

white stork,

you do not pair for life

nor I

(Le Lumachine, N° 28, 2018)

 

blue wildflowers

the map that won’t

refold

(The Heron’s Nest, June 2018)

 

jasmine

a grandmother

in every floret

(The Heron’s Nest, June 2018)

 

thrown clay

a new planet starts

to spin

(Stardust, In the Starlight, April 2018)

 

her freesias

in his colours

prison wedding

(Chrysanthemum, March 2018, issue #23)

 

Genealogy Day

come nightfall I line up

the skeletons

(Presence, Issue 60, 2018)

 

night bus home

the idle counterweights

of cranes

(The Heron’s Nest, March 2018)

 

tended grave

a man makes the sign

for daughter

(Mayfly, issue 64)

 

premature birth

I choose the thinnest needles

and the softest wool

(Pulse, 16 February 2018)

 

New Year’s Eve

my hostess offers me

the home I lost

(The Asahi Shimbun, Asahi Haikuist Network, 29 December 2017)

 

truce peaches

gently I wash out

their bruises

(Akitsu Quarterly, winter 2017)

 

felled branches

the park

gets a brand new sky

(Gnarled Oak, Issue 14, 22 November 2017)

 

twice a widow

laundry stiff from ice

brought in to thaw

(Presence, Issue 59, 2017)

 

love poetry

back on the shelf

dust in my throat

(the Aurorean, fall/winter 2017-18)

 

bundled up

under the Milky Way

our naked thoughts

(Acorn, fall issue 2017)

 

sunflowers

facing in all directions

decisions

(The Mainichi, 17 October 2017)

 

sitting down

in another woman’s perfume

plastic flowers

(hedgerow #120 (summer 2017 print issue)

 

standing in line

for winter soup

a harvest of gourds

(The Croatian International Haiku Contest 2017, highly commended)

 

hurricane season

a journalist flies

against the flow

(The New Verse News, 11 September 2017)

 

both you

and the moon tonight

a second late

(The World Haiku Review, Summer 2017, Vanguard haiku)

 

heatwave

a child draws the head

on a hangman

(Under the Basho, 13 July 2017)

 

white ruffle

tied to the aerial

wrong car

(Right Hand Pointing, Issue 112, July 2017)

 

Alzheimer’s

the pomander

that I made her

(Failed Haiku, Vol. 2, issue 17)

 

holiday snap

lilacs open

on a tourist’s skirt

(Otata, Issue 17, May 2017)

 

my late night

mystery caller

Northern Lights

(Joint winner, tinywords challenge, N° 17.1, March 2017)

 

oysters’ lips

tremble underwater –

unsure I can conceive

(Modern Haiku, N° 47.3, 2016)

 

sheets of rain

a sunflower

on your damp postcard

(The 27th ITO EN Oi Ocha New Haiku Contest, 2016, Merit Award)

 

a bride at sixteen green apples

(A Hundred Gourds, June 2016)

 

http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/poet-details/?IDclient=1950

 

 

Musings on Mars

I can leave the crow but not the swallow.

I can say goodbye to ants and insects

but today is shorter than tomorrow

so we must have sushi, saunas and sex.

I can do without my morning coffee,

and propagate tea in the geodome;

I’ll find a good spot in the ancient sea

to fashion myself an alien home;

it won’t be spacious, but it will suffice,

my starter-pod on the planet of war

a corner to hang my breathing device.

We know you’ll forget us on Earth’s fine shore

but hope that at times you’ll look to the skies

and ask what we do when one of us dies.

 

(Honorable mention, Goodreads Newsletter Contest, May 2015. Wordrunner spring 2016 eChapbooks anthology.)

Babushka

 

I loved the game, the gentle unscrewing of self,

the soft creaking of the wood, a regular denuding.

First, the outer shell was cracked, swollen arthritic bones

snapped

and by invitation

we went down to greet the costumed women.

They are clothed as we remember them.

We finger them tenderly,

descending until my nail can’t find a cut,

until I hold you in my hand, tiny, complete –

satisfied.

Then, when your fantastic ordinary life is arrayed,

like a xylophone for me to hammer out your tones,

in a dancing line of blinking stones and just-blossoming jasmine,

set by girdles inscribed with golden mottos,

a caravan of chips and cracks,

a row of innocent eyes and wicked smiles,

the process in reverse, the smallest doll is covered.

I am careful to complete the formalities, in case it is the last time,

aligning the hips and the arms,

until by gradual compaction, the past is hidden,

darkened in a pregnant piece, a family toy.

 

(First published in Biscuit Publishing, 2003 Prizewinners. Finalist, Goodreads Newsletter Contest, July 2015.)

Madonna of Paremoremo

In prison I thumb

The Agony and the Ecstasy.

At the hour of rite,

I turn Michelangelo face-down,

offer Maori woman and child

coffee without violence,

biscuit with no ice terror;

we do not discuss their crimes.

For one hour a week,

the ordinary and the unthinkable,

unchiseled skin and ta moko.

They do not know or care of Florence –

who are the Medicis, anyway? –

yet it breaks my heart when he leaves,

her babe in his arms,

and tears cloud her marble eyes –

highly grained, low grade.

 

(First published in The Miscreant, Issue 9C, 2016.)