"Full Ablaze" is the final poem I recorded from my book Burnt Offerings prior to its release in January 2012. It was later selected by the Kitsap Peninsula area's Ars Poetica to be interpreted with art—a pencil drawing of a woman with a fiery hemmed skirt!
She had chosen invisibility in this second life
burnt down from shining so brightly
in her first.
It seemed a wise and necessary choice
placing herself inside the bushel basket
But after some time she felt the ache
her cramped legs and pretzled arms
the stale air, the dull dark.
And so she pushed against the barrel
bruising her shoulders until finally
it toppled, leaving her out there
It would take her a long time
years, perhaps, to remember how
to unfold herself, how to walk
through the streets and into a room
sparks flying from her hem
lighting those in her path until
all of them were awake
"Shaped" is included in my book Burnt Offerings and this was recorded prior to its release in 2012.
I am reaching for a metaphor
to describe not only what happened
but what those happenings mean
how they marked and carved
and shaped without my knowing
This existential sculpting
it is a subterranean language
that comes to mind
but nothing so grand as core,
magma and mantle,
nothing as violent as volcano
as earthshaking as quake
Something much more subtle
like centuries of continental drift
the slow parade of plate tectonics
as we float past each other unaware
I gaze down on my life
as if from canyon rim and only now
does the past become visible:
striations of sedimentary rock
the subtle insistent layering
earth and water, erosion and silt
glacial creep and spring melt
the cliff face made smooth
the hidden life exposed
the narrow path revealed
Another poem from my 2012 book Burnt Offerings. Recorded for the release.
Things That Are Beautiful
In the tradition of “The Pillow Book” by Sei Shonagon of Japan, written in 1002
The bottomless blue of a glacial pool surrounded by craggy walls of ice.
Crackled frost on fallen leaves plastered to the hood of one’s car.
Twelve pounds of purring tabby cat nestled on one’s lap.
The glistening red nursing blister visible on a baby’s upper lip in sleep.
Wax stalactites formed by candles dripping in a sanctuary on a Sunday morning.
A mile-long ribbon of Mexican free-tailed bats looping across Austin in the summer dusk.
The top-forty song one sings while showering and chopping onions that is secretly a love song to God.
The sound of one’s name whispered in the dark low and soft as a caress.
The exhale—loud and forceful as a hundred tired men—of an orca surfacing off San Juan Island.
Gleaming raspberries in a clear glass bowl and a cherished friend to savor them with.
One who holds open a door, physical or metaphorical, for one who is burdened, physically or metaphorically.
The music of the Holy Spirit that trills up one’s spine like fingers on piano keys.
Any flower painted by Georgia O’Keefe that entices one to become a bee, crawl inside, and suck out the nectar.
The perma-bruised rice-paper skin of the grandmother’s hand one holds.
"Was that You, Jesus?" is another poem from my book Burnt Offerings recorded before its release in January 2012.
Was That You, Jesus?
Maybe you were standing at the door for a long time
for a very long time but I didn’t see you
didn’t hear you over the clattering footsteps
of all the people walking in and out of my life
Maybe you rang the buzzer but my wires were disconnected
Maybe I opened the door but someone else
brushed in past you so I dated him
Maybe you knocked but I never heard
because I wasn’t home I hadn’t yet learned
to live in that house my house
with the gaping hole where the soul was supposed to be
Maybe you knocked but I was too tired
or too busy to answer and you had to stop
for just a moment because your knuckles were bruised and bleeding
Maybe when I thought I heard you
it was only the echo of your last knock
so that by the time I made it to the door I thought
no one was there
Maybe I heard you knock and considered letting you in
but I’d hidden the key to the door of my heart
or maybe the lock had been broken too many times
Maybe you didn’t really barge in
Maybe I’m the one who unscrewed the hinges
so that the door only looked closed
Maybe that’s why it seemed like you showed up
all of a sudden and finally one small sharp rap
toppling the door and you didn’t mind
walking in barefoot over the splinters
"Becoming Blackfish" appears in my book Burnt Offerings. I recorded this in late 2011 prior to publication.
"Zeke and the Dry Bones" was inspired by Ezekiel 37 and appears in my book Burnt Offerings. I recorded this in late 2011 prior to my book publication in January 2012.
Zeke and the Dry Bones
Zeke borrows a trick from God
Puts on a record
Makes dry bones dance
In my living room
Zeke divines blood
And bone between us
When what exists
Are brittle fragments
Best left unexhumed
He tries to strip us
From love's grave clothes
I want to believe he can
My flesh and bone
Long to dance
In the living room
Revived by Zeke's bones
The record skips
The beat is off
Zeke's sharp elbows
And bony protrusions
Revealing the valley
Prophetless and bone dry
"I Want a Voice Like Billy Collins" is the first poem in my book Burnt Offerings. I recorded this in late 2011 prior to my book publication in January 2012.
I Want a Voice Like Billy Collins
One of his books sits on my bedside table
Each night I allow myself one poem
restraining from gluttony
the same way I trained myself
away from a whole bag of M&M’s
in favor of one tiny square
of the darkest chocolate I can find
It is after all poetry and I want
to do it right savor it like a guilty pleasure
tasting on my tongue the unadulterated
cowness of his Irish cows the steaming
locomotive perfection of his cigarettes
the Beethoven symphony of his neighbor’s dog
There’s some chemical in chocolate
released in the body the same way his poems
dissolve in my mind something I’m sure
that could be explained in the kind of book
I’d never read
I finger the spine of Picnic Lightning
wonder if I slid it under my pillow
while I slept if osmosis would have
its way with me if upon waking
my head would be filled with
fresh baked scones, blackberry preserves
and clotted cream that would pour
onto the page a diapered baby poem
with a startling cry