Links to the original journals are provided where available (note: for some reason I can’t get stanza breaks to always work in WordPress). Some of the poems here can be found in my books Reckless Constellations, The Magician’s Handbook, Necessary Myths or The Trouble with Rivers.
“Elegy for a Turkey Vulture” appears in Bear Review.
“Walt Whitman at the Armory Hospital” in The American Journal of Poetry
“for these dead birds sigh a prayer” in Museum of Americana
Two poems in About Place Journal
Two poems in Watershed Review
“Gravity” at Split Rock Review
“Muddy Dragon on the Road the Heaven” in Superstition Review
Two poems in issue 21 of Gulf Stream Magazine
“January” in Barren Magazine
“Trouble Light” in Cortland Review
“Vanishing Point” in Verse Daily
“Hexenkopf Hill Road” in Gravel Magazine
“Tree House Hill” in Foliate Oak Magazine.
“Ode to Hellgrammites” in Cider Press Review.
“Things She Couldn’t Let Go Of” in The Cumberland River Review.
“Confessions of a Snipe Hunter in Crab Creek Review.
“Tumble Brook” in The Kentucky Review.
“Belly Full of Bees” in The Good Men Project.
“Catch and Release” in Two Hawks Quarterly.
Two poems in the summer 2016 edition of The MacGuffin
“For You My Love, Alchemy” in Amaranth Review
Two poems in the July 2016 edition of The Red Earth Review (Oklahoma City University)
“Bluegill” in vol 53 of The Southern Poetry Review.
“Ode to Scrapple” in Philadelphia Stories.
“Going Back” at Hawaii Pacific Review.
Two poems, “The Good Lie” and “Ode to Bats” at Superstition Review (Arizona State University).
“More Advice for My Daughters” in Issue 5 of One (Jacar Press)
Two poems at Marathon.
“Kabir Says” at Mason’s Road.
“Finding Water On Mars” at Split Rock Review.
Two Poems at Cheat River Review.
My poem Sick House published by Heron Tree.
A new poem called Water Girl featured in Cider Press Review.
Here’s a new one, The Catfish Nights, just posted in The Cortland Review.
To a Miscarried Brother, in Philadelphia Stories Magazine.
Two prose poems (or flash fiction) in The Citron Review.
* * *
The Man Who Works at the Swiss Hand Grenade Factory Loves His Family
And they love him back,
like a still life routine
as he walks in the door
each evening, hangs his coat
on the hook next to the backpack
his oldest son takes to school,
and his little daughter smiles
up at him from her puzzle—
unicorns preening in a field, they’re
touching noses, the unicorns,
and he reaches down to feel her
hair streaming over the back
of her neck, her skin the color
of halved pears, she so full
of everything now, the unicorns,
her father’s love, there’s food
simmering in the kitchen
and the day’s mail on a table
under a lamp he bought in Bern.
Outside the sun beginning
to fall past the living room
window casts a red light
on his eyes for a moment,
so he closes them, while
in Damascus a man pries open
a crate of hand grenades,
passes them out to other
men who take them into
the streets where Swiss
sunlight will burst
all over the morning.
>From Necessary Myths
A slight rain moistens the yard
like lips parting to speak.
Night passes a blue hand over the window.
She is sitting in the kitchen, mourning the child
and waiting for the murmur in her head
All month wind has battered the siding.
Crickets are gone.
Dawn is gone.
The taste of iron like blood
has made a home in my mouth.
When the hot stove ticks
the expansion of metal and air
I wonder what lies hidden
in veins, in the tissue
holding us together.
My throat wants to swallow
and move on.
My body wants to love another body
but can’t find a way.
>from Cortland Review.
Waiting for a Son
My pockets fill with a used up field,
some split jawless skull, some spent rifle shell,
some widowed rock of creek bed and the yellow
moon-skinned insect creeping up a branch.
The wind here smells like rats. I know the child’s
gonnna die soon. I know it’s a long walk to the bed
and the broken window where the tree sings
looks like a shiny mouth.
I would kiss the wet sheets where the she screamed
in labor. I would lift the bastard sap
with a still wombic heart like a small bird
I could squeeze into fits,
but the many fingered nights of my life
wrap around me now like the full-fanged snakes
I snap for belts. Seven months and nothing to count on
but pebbled of breast milk and a new grave.
So I kick the scattered traces of a fox’s fresh kill,
walk the few hours that she keeps the lamp lit,
while it wheezes like a kettle growing colder.
There’s always work to do. I’ll burn the fields tomorrow,
thinking of the ways I’ve waited for a son.
>from The Wisconsin Review, vol 27, no 3, Univ of Wisconsin
The Sea Mother
Sometimes the wind
makes the sound of children
calling for milk.
My daughter, you will ask
about the risk, the distance
it takes a life to sail
out of the bay.
Remember your father
and the sweet lick
of shells on his hands
or the way sand
clung to his legs
like a webbing of frost.
There is nowhere
you can go
where the sea
will not find you.
Your bed stricken
with the lather
or dreams that begin
Some day you will return
to the house
and wish for waves
like small hands
that can touch
the places you have never
and I will be here
in the last brackish light
of sea birds
telling you everything
>from Whiskey Island Review, 1994, Cleveland State University
Tying Flies for a Friend
The time isn’t anything of course,
or the hair plucked from a rabbit’s cheek,
feathers pulled from turkey wing, mallard neck.
Each thread pull, each twist,
tight against the steel hook
the barb surgically sharp like a threat,
the promise of a deep jaw set.
I haven’t seen you for years.
I hear your legs are gone,
the fight, gone too.
And yet I’m here at my desk,
tying flies and thinking of the moon
on the Bushkill, pale evening duns
lifting off the water like ghosts
while rainbow trout slipping in and out
of moonlight, gorge on velvet insects.
The water, cool against my hand
as I release the trout, one swish of the tail
and it’s part of the night again.
You laughing under the willows,
a pair of bats flying just above your head.
I twist a little bit of that night
into each set hackle, into the wings
cut from flight, into life.
>from Philadelphia Stories
What My Wife Doesn’t Know About Bass Fishing
Sometimes you have to wait for hours
or come back to the same olive hole for weeks.
Learn the names of plants–aurum, touch-me-not,
the leather leafed swamp rose and purple scent of skullcap.
Think fondly of insects, talk to yourself about moss
and the tendency for stumps to know more than they let on.
Count on rocks to move suspiciously under you,
and consider the challenge of wind.
Know the false habits of water, what can hide in a ripple
or swell like shame the instant it breaks waves.
Be wary of strangers, especially birds surveying the bank for snails.
but mostly prepare for lightning,
The kind that begins deep along a fine line of cattails
like a sudden emergency of water snapping away
what’s left of your patience,
committing you fatally to the spot.
>from Gray’s Sporting Journal/Gray’s TV.
for Keith Sheaffer
I know why, from textbooks,
some of the stars over my yard
appear blue, while others shine yellow
or red or phase in and out of sight completely.
I know how the earth moves,
how rocks shift and crumble, how these small stones
below my feet seem to have arrived
as if by legs, and I know how cells spread
along a spine, cancer, drilling into bones
meant for dancing.
And yet, it’s still a wonder to stare,
to think about the vast space between us,
between earth and star, light
and the dark stomach where rock is born,
and even the corrupt strands of DNA
gone haywire, radically dissolving
so that like everything else, it’s almost too easy
to remain speechless, to fold my hands
across my lap and talk to you
instead about the stars, the earth,
the garden I will plant in spring
for a harvest that will come
>From Schuylkill Valley Journal, vol 32
Watching It Leave
The first killing frost
draws water from the last leaves
like a sunset pulling its light
from a forest.
I won’t cut the grass again
til June, won’t touch
the shears hanging in the shed,
or sit by the pond
with a glass of wine
and the scatter of dragonflies.
When you think
you have finished something,
You will never do everything
on your list,
and the moment you see autumn
lose it’s stolen hour,
the hour when a heron
turns its dagger mouth
away from the pond
and leaves, you know
what empty means.
You know regret
as the sound of cicadas
typing furiously their songs
in the pine trees,
how they pace their fury
by seasons, their seasons
by years and their years
in the soft earth.
When it comes, winter
with its first cold fires
like nails in the door,
be ready, be something
holding warmth in its belly,
waiting for a signal
to call it home.
From Schuylkill Valley Journal, vol 32
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