Night Opera

From the book published in 2021, And Don’t Come Back.

Night Opera

Empty garage at night
door open
a bright white cube
not a thing in it but three men
sit center stage slouched in lawn chairs
a semi-circle of sweat and beer-drinking
in the glow of fluorescent lights

in one of the townhouses
squared up around a parking lot
and a couple of tired trees
panting in the thick air
it’s the kind of night
where men sit
drinking beer in an empty garage
under fluorescent lights

while the kids ride their bikes around the court
weave in and out of the parked cars
between what they’re yelling
and the cycle-on-cycle-off
exasperated invective
from all those air conditioners
the night is a choir
singing out a haphazard round

in counterpoint to the men who
Talk. Lift beers.
Talk. Talk.
Lift beers. Talk.
Lift beers.

8/3/20

When It Came

From Writing Notebook 2021, published in 2022.

When It Came

I was eating lunch in a hurry
I had just been married
I was driving a tractor in a field.

I was planning to buy some fabric
a flat of pansies an ironing board
a wrench a box of toothpicks.

I was telling my third lie of the day.
I had woken up with a hangover.
I was singing an aria with the radio.

I had just
Hit a tee shot straight down the fairway
Dialed the next name on my client list
Fluffed the fringe on the pillow case
Broken an egg into the bowl

I was
laughing gossiping
sneezing joking
sighing humming
not afraid at all

we were all the same
back there on the planet
all of us and then our
stems snapped
yanked plucked harvested
a clean sharp cut
a ragged tear
however it happened
it was abrupt
it was done
and
now we are
here and now

which is where?
and when?

4/20/21 

A few new: *in which I attend a haiku/haiga program*

Last night I participated in an online program given by the National Gallery of Art called Virtual Studio | Haiku and Haiga: Transforming Poetry into Visual Art. Led by poet/artist/teacher Sean Felix, the program involved looking at a work of art, writing a couple of haiku about it, and then using one of our works to create a guided artwork (haiga being the artwork created from the poetry).

The image we used for our reference was Cattleya Orchid and Three Hummingbirds, 1871, by Martin Johnson Heade. I’m going to tell you right now that I found this painting vaguely disturbing, almost creepy. I felt I was looking at an alien world that was not too friendly. Also, I don’t much like orchids anyway – there is just something about them that I find kind of threatening. And hummingbirds? I’ve never felt the same about them since I learned about their true personalities.

*******

We discussed the haiku form and then spend some time viewing the artwork, in the first quick session focusing on what we saw, and in another look, what other senses were evoked by the image. After each examination we wrote a haiku.

Then, taking one of our haiku, we focused intently on our words, and then, eyes closed, drew a continuous line around our paper to depict the elements or sensations of our words. Once done, we opened our eyes and added color.

Here is the haiku I wrote that I used for the haiga exercise. We had about 5 minutes to come up with something. My mind was full of feelings and speculations about the painting and I had a hard time focusing and paring down in that short of a time, so I think my work was pretty vanilla:

crushed leaves underfoot
release their scents to the air
I taste the warm mist

But so what? It worked fine for the next part of the exercise. Here is the artwork I made to accompany it:

I had a black-gessoed page already set up in a sketchbook, so I used that as my surface, and my drawing materials were colored pencils. As I drew the continuous line, using a white pencil, I consciously tried to include the visual elements I mentioned in the haiku. Each one is in here more than once (take my word for it). Once done, I went over the line in pink and then colored everything in.

Now that I understand the process, I would certainly do it again. I think almost any scene could work as the inspiration to start things off – it doesn’t have to be an artwork – but I liked the aspect of paying very close attention to the art a lot. I was forced to go much deeper than the usual passing glance an artwork might get as I flip pages in a book or walk along in a museum.

And, it’s a very contemplative process. You have to slow down and go deep into your mind to be able to come up with words and art. It felt good to do it.

*******

I’m still thinking about the picture today. Here are two more poems inspired by this session. I think you will clearly see my feelings as I look upon this scene. (I guess the word “stink” kind of cues you in. Oh dear.)

Tanka 302

the stink of wet heat.
the pink orchid in the gloom.
the warm mist veiling
the frilled gleam held in the grasp
of bulbous alien leaves

5/13/22

Haiku 999

leaves trod underfoot
release their stink to the air
with each step I take

5/13/22

I encourage you to take a look at the National Gallery of Art’s site. There are so many resources there and like this workshop, they are free. This museum is another one of the institutions that I discovered during the pandemic when I was looking for online resources, classes, lectures, and activities. I thank them for their generosity to me, the average citizen. And I thank our instructor, Sean Felix, and my classmates for a great experience.

A few new: Tanka 299, Introduction

Tanka 299

Thank you, paperwork
For what you’ve done with detail.
For consequences
made vivid. For dust-dry words
rehydrated. For bluffs called.

4/29/22

Introduction

The new car is so shiny
No dust on it
for a finger to write a message in.
A green t-shirt
I wore eleven days in a row
back in college
now a dust rag
I use to polish up the door handle
that doesn’t need it.

No eating no drinking
no smoking no chewing gum
no wet bathing suits on the seats
no muddy shoes on the carpet.
No items likely to leak, melt, or stain allowed –
in this category I also include
any person who may be in this condition.

At least for now.
The new car is so shiny.
So new.

4/29/22

Brown Dog Series

Brown Dog Series
4/2/20

From The Immediate and No Sooner, published in 2021.

I saw a man walking a brown dog in front of our house. For some reason the image really stuck with me, and I don’t know why, because I don’t much like dogs and anyway, you see dogs and people walking dogs all the time, don’t you? Nevertheless, when I feel this way, I follow the urge.

I did several poems in different forms. I think now I have expressed all that I felt and saw that day. Here they are.

Tanka 164

brown dog lithe long legs
smooth glide and a weave reweave
switch stride doing undoing
propelling. April is cold:
He wears a red coat.

Shadorma 278
that brown dog
in a red coat. Legs
sew switchback
cross-stitches
Waxed threads drawn by a needle
through a cold morning

Haiku 818
Brown dog in red coat.
Not-quite-spring April sunrise.
Hurry our walk. Cold.


Brown Dog

Look out the door one
minute past sunrise
wow he sure can go
I think. The rattles
from the inside of
my battered and frayed
old morning head I’m
not up to talk yet
but I could take in
that sidewalk scene of
brown dog wide awake
on the move and fast
one leashed human man
in tow. That brown dog
brown like hot coffee
plus cream and does he
ever have a shine
a vitality
from more than the light
seeped from that tired
stayed-up-too-late and
all-tapped-out today
pale sun queasy weak
and bleary dragging
up and out of bed
just the same as the
rest of us who groan
and moan because it’s
just too darn early
for what might for what
is coming at us
but we still have to
shine. I feel it too
Oh I feel it. And
Here goes another
day Let’s hope and then
I quit thinking what
I hope but instead
I make to shuffle
back into the house
having found out what
I opened the door
to which was April
the version which is
chilly but what a
shine it has on it
and the brown dog he
scissors those legs on
goes a nice long trot
a smooth easy glide
that brown dog he is
alive and whole and
his brown coat does shine
he goes and he goes
alive and in fine shine

each line 5 syllables

Door to Door

From the collection published in 2022, Writing Notebook 2021.

Door to Door

Then that day comes when
hand raised to knock on the door
Failure
bangs on the window from inside
shows its teeth and salivates
Let me at you
comes clearly to my ears
even through the triple-pane glass

I finally understand
once and for all
no matter how bad I need the money
I am not meant
to be in sales

3/29/21

As I Journey Up into the Morning

From the collection published in 2022, Writing Notebook 2021.

As I Journey Up into the Morning

I think many problems are
mistakenly underlined in fluorescent marker
I think oversweet people
set up a craving for the bitter
I think the last page fell out of this book
a long time ago I think renewal
is a word for glossing over bad memories
I think he needed a good dose of aspirin
I think she deserved a divorce
I think it’s a good thing that last night was
all expenses paid I think that piano piece
was too hard for you though
you played it with feeling I think that
there were so many mistakes
in the chicken recipe
I think about that last page missing
in the book I think about
the happy ending I was hoping to get to
and I think it’s up to me
to decide I think it is high time that
I get out of bed and start up
today

3/18/21

May I Help You

From Writing Notebook 2021, published in 2022.

May I Help You

This cafeteria here
say the starving lunch seekers
they drift in
form a line
ten minutes before the doors open

where
the heat lamps glow orange-radiant
the metal trays are shiny-empty and full of
Stage fright. Bowls of red jello
burrow further into beds of ice.
Heavy white plates nervous chatter
in their four-stack racks
tension vents from the kitchen
bursts the doors open

Tuna casserole leads the way.
Metal clangs. Spoons clatter.
The servers adjust their caps
retie their aprons

The line for lunch wiggles.
The cashier takes payment
from the first person at the register.

3/4/21

Yes, It Must Be This Way

From the collection published in 2022, Writing Notebook 2021.

Yes, It Must Be This Way

I baked a cake. I bought new shoes.
I slammed a door. I brushed my hair.
The rain was warm. The mail was late.
The milk went sour. The news was bad.
The tooth decayed. The secrets slipped.
What could have been. What never was.

The tree withered. The green shoots died.
The clippers snipped. We grew apart.

The knife is new. The hand is sure.
We won’t divorce. I’ll see you dead.

3/4/21