Advice

ADVICE

Think buckshot:
Not the rifle,
but the musket.

Ear-horn of
powder, arm-
deep in black

soot. Think
flint lock
and flash pan.

Muzzle blast.
Hollow point.
Don’t paint

the rounds,
don’t ready
the bayonet.

No aim
is necessary;
nothing is true.

Think percussion
cap. Any metal
as shrapnel.

Any spark as
lightning;
be bottled.

Hiking Alone

HIKING ALONE

I shimmy out on sandstone and slate rock,
past the soft ledges where the last shrubs

grow. I’ve got my camera, unshuttered and
silent, ready to take back with me whatever

I’ve come here for—sore arms and a sunburn,
blue sky like something new. At the floor

of the canyon far below a stream flows from
nowhere to nothing, from one unseen cavern

to the next. I could think of a fish gazing up
at that quick flash of sky as it passes through

the white froth of the rapids, the silky silver
where the water pools. Oh, I am grey, I could

have him say, personified—moved, even
full of emotion. Oh, my scales are golden-

green—I could give him color just as easily
in the kind God of my imagination before

plunging him back into his comfortable
dark, this eyelet the only opening for miles.

How easy it is to paint epiphany, I think, like
the gaudy sunset now settling above the tree-

line I could call a bruise or a blush, windburn
on a woman’s cheek, though it’s only the

scattering of dust in low light, what one shakes
from a shoe, combs out of stiffened hair.

How easy, too, it would be to slip off this ledge,
to get lost out here, fall asleep on this rock and

let the cold night wake me. I could hold out
on figs and freshwater; I could chew the fibrous

bark off a Joshua tree. I could love the moon
like a mountain lion, stalk shadows, sharpen

sticks. Come morning I’d find the dirt road
and then my car at the end of it. Brush the dust

off my pants. Buckle myself back into habit
with a metal click like the sound of my one hand

clapping for joy—however briefly—at all we
ever wanted: a little darkness to climb out of.

–from American Fractal
first appeared in Confrontation

The Sense of Being Looked At

THE SENSE OF BEING LOOKED AT

Around the corner, footsteps. A heel
clicking stone. The slosh of loose gravel

and then the no-sound itself conspicuous—
even the crickets hold their breath, hush

their rough legs while deep inside houses
women reading bedtime stories pause

to change their endings, one good wish
at a time. A car sails by with its lights off,

but Elvis on the radio still crooning after all
these years, still young—like nothing’s gone

wrong. When you turn, the trees spring back,
defensive. They point to each other all at once,

a dozen limbs like the Scarecrow’s saying,
He went that way. No, no, he went that way.

–from American Fractal
first published in Cranky

The Memory of Water

THE MEMORY OF WATER

It can be demonstrated with thermo-
      luminescence: the salt solution
retains knowledge of what it once held,
      though nature, though logic
would tell it otherwise. Dumb as a bedpan,
      the hydrogen bond remembers
the lithium, the sodium chloride no matter
      how long distilled. There is so
little purity left in the world. Desire it,
      dilute it, strip it down till nothing
remains, onion eyes wept dry, last flake
      of the artichoke bit clean,
sour stalk swallowed whole. The homeopath
      stirs his mug, glass rod
guiding poison to balm, balm to poison,
      nothing settling, nothing
dispelled. With every loss the ache
      of a phantom limb he never
believed in. And still he finds himself
      awake at night, clutching the
cool insistence of a pillow to his chest.

–from American Fractal
First appeared in Crab Creek Review

White Noise

WHITE NOISE

Listen. How the wind whispers our secrets.
How a light rain will speak any language.

–from American Fractal
first published in Poetry Midwest