Here are the seven poems that I read for the Ralston, Baright Library Reading. I hope everyone enjoys them. They were a joy to write and a pleasure to read.
Grew taller when I was a boy
beneath the humid heart of Texas.
Adventure crouched in the dappled
shade cast by broad green leaves,
where I sought monsters through sultry heat.
I knew them by their chipped green
scales or rust-orange armor as they
rested on black haunches in the shadows,
waiting to feed on heroes like me.
Red augers, rising brontosaurus
necks lifted above the jungle weeds,
felt the terrible slice of my cypress
sword and thrust of sugar cane lance.
Across the accursed land, treasure
after treasure and dozens of thankful
damsels were freed from taloned
clutches—just in the nick of time.
In the fields and lots no one tends,
creatures still lurk in the shade of
velvet leaf, bindweed, and fleabane.
Squint your eyes just so and you
will see chrome grimaces and grills
of forgotten menace, waiting for heroes like you.
Musing Over Stone: Mt Gingilos, Crete
Lost time rains on my spirit
and beads on its white feathers,
then I wake to find dew on my bed.
A watery sky arches above me
and mountainous silhouettes
strain for what nobody knows.
I rise from my nylon nest,
half-asleep on unsteady feet,
shivering in the mountain’s shadow.
A fleece shirt buffers the chill,
but nothing need warm my spirit,
ready for its climb in the sun.
Gray expanses fall at my waiting feet,
great eyelids sealed over ages of sleep,
their lashes of grass touching the seam
of talus and earth. I imagine, beneath
the blocky grit, Gingilos dreams
of white foam on shallow blue seas.
When my fingers brush the layered dust
on that vital first hold, time seeps
through my skin, slow as the glacier
that groaned past this place
ten thousand years before I awoke.
The eons enter my restless blood
and grind my bones to dust.
Cosmic clocks have only moments
of time for me, so I edge upward,
across the face, shifting my weight,
focusing hold to hold. I rise—
a mist of fog—leaving hardly
a trace to remember, soon to evaporate
in the first rays of morning sun.
A thousand feet higher, my heart dizzies
at the vista. Each vertical step
has drawn back the horizon. From here
I glimpse the truth: I am a dust mote,
with an ego large as the star that birthed it.
Pausing on a ledge wide as my foot,
I dip my hands into a bag of chalk
belted to my waist. Wisps of white powder
drift away on the wind, disappear
into inner space, part of something
A thousand feet further on,
at the peak, I breathe cool air,
smell the pines’ tang on the wind,
but their sharpness quickly dulls;
taut senses fall slack off the edge.
The risk—skin in the game—keeps
every tenuous hour precious,
and my spirit above the ground.
drapes around my feet,
like an old, faithful dog.
It ties us to this vertical stage
we dance upon as we perform
our rising, brutal ballet for
no one but ourselves.
We push and pull our way
upward in turns, minds
focused and taut, hearts
soothed within the harmony
of rock, line, and movement.
We and the rope knot our fists
against gravity’s strong current,
as each man ascends alone:
lost in the stone’s sharp grit,
the impulsive voice of the wind,
and the silent distance below.
The bright rope, running
untangled and free, reminds us
our fate is tied to one another.
Rope binds us like blood:
woven with faith, unfrayed by fear,
made brave by love.
She envelops the chair across
the desk from me, glancing
up with eyes a little wide
and a wrinkled, hopeful brow.
She’s sat in places like this
a hundred times. The pattern,
like a millstone, has worn
a groove in her life;
she no longer sees an escape.
Her fight against foraging
in aisles laden with chips
and freezers of custard
as Cosmo mocks her
through the checkout.
Still, under the scornful weight
of her near defeated will,
from far behind every
short, gasping breath,
She pushes on in hope.
She begs for freedom’s taste,
to walk swift, with grace,
down any street, path, or aisle,
to turn her head and maybe–
see an admiring face.
I proffer my open hand,
choosing to be caught
in her endless task
that’s likely too large
for either of us to push aside.
It is my curse to try.
Take This Moment
Stand beside rippling water
running shallow over glacial sand.
Feel your blood fall into steady
rhythms to match the low whisper
of water moving through the reeds.
Breathe deep, expand your caged body
into fall skies etched with cirrus;
expand beyond the branches
of ash and cottonwood that stretch
sleeping buds into the distant blue.
Fall into the slow march of this world
where time slides by and nothing cares
where it’s from, nor where it goes:
grasses go dormant; water turns to ice;
rocks grind to loess, and bones turn to stone.
Drink this tiny sip of God’s eternity,
feel how it whets your thirsty soul,
set your roots under the mud
and feed from the layers of the land.
Take this precious moment—it belongs to you.
shuffle into the cobbled piazza
dressed in loose brown tweed
and slouching hats that hide
eyes dark with loss.
They sink onto wrought iron
benches below the silent campanile
and toss crumbs of stale grace
from paper sacks to adoring flocks,
pink-footed believers who never
seem sated as they preen and mill
about their gods’ leather soled feet
heads cocked, eyeing for more.
Shuffle through the streets,
careful not to trip and fail,
a splash in Trevi fountain.
Look up, “Oh! A cute kitty!
Cup the phone in your palm
hold it at arm’s length,
compose your personal emoji:
cock your head a touch,
drop a shoulder, tuck your chin
whisper “prune” or smile.
“Look at me!”
Click and whirr the shot
Bring the phone back,
cup it with your body.
Chimp your masterpiece:
face in focus, no bombs,
the kitty looks pretty too.
The world returns to periphery.
“Where was I?” Facebook,
Flikr, Snapchat, Twitter.
“Someone liked my post!”