Ghazal: A Life
Name one life not filled with light.
Even a cold heart melts in light.
Fog no longer blankets the canyon.
Hear the warbling wren in flight.
Recall the lessons November taught.
After summer fades, fill its void with light.
Hear the day’s internal rhyme.
A soft chorus calls twilight.
This life is not the final draft.
No life is cursed with delight.
Restore stars and the sun to your heart.
My friend, let there live lyric and light.
The Old Man
The old man paused on the bridge
a favorite stop
upstream of the lazy oxbow
where a boy once watched
the milky gold
of evening sunlight
spill through the alders
into empty space
over still water
its silent weight
filled the air
patrolling the cattails
as if they knew
the lateness of the hour.
In the end we left things undone.
The piano player drove slowly home.
We did not sing the final refrain.
We did not read one last poem
to the ring of guitar strings.
So many threads
bound one heart to many.
In the end we were practical.
How can you bury a life
and be home before suppertime?
Photo Lissa Arroyo
Final line borrowed from the novel “The House of Broken Angels” by Luis Alberto Urrea
A poem begun years ago, edited recently, I set it free today.
Eternity smothers this one day.
This day devours every hour.
I taste each minute along my way;
still, eternity smothers this one day.
Of the beauties that bloom today,
I savor the lowest flower.
Though eternity smothers this one day,
today I devour, every hour.
The editors at The Cortland Review saw something in my poem, “I Could Say” and they published it in November 2015.
[Poem text is in the photo]
Today, I think the poem is strange, I do not like it, and I don’t think it’s very good poetry. Reading this poem conjures memories and emotions associated with my writing of the poem. Unpleasant, disturbing emotions.
I was very ill, living with a massive, destructive brain tumor, only weeks before diagnosis and surgery.
My notes tell me I had become obsessed with Sappho, and I tried to adapt Sapphic stanza and meter here. I even obsessed using long vowels at the stresses and short vowels at unstressed syllables. I don’t know why I did that. I mean, I worked the poem instead of eating, talking, bathing, sleeping. I was possessed by frightening drive and detachment. Writing was not comforting; writing this poem made me feel desperate and ill.
This describes a fairly benign episode of my otherwise terrifying insanity in summer 2015, when my brain tumor had begun noticeably crushing my neurons and blood vessels.
The parlor of my cerebrum where Sappho would frolic is today an untidy mudroom. Cleared of the big-ass mass, there’s neuro-crap strewn about, surgical and radiation damage, and a wee tumor has regrown. Could it be that Sappho’s cousin Dementia has moved in? That’s kind of funny, no? I’m laughing at it and you can, too.
In spite of your thirst
you gave up prayer
bowed your head
lowered your hands
put down hope
took up despair
And in despair you envied prickly pear
growing gray by day, invisible each night
or sandstone’s insensible dementia
And erased every tear
stifled hope’s breath
forgot hurt’s bite
Until one warbling figure of wren-flight
claimed his domain
And released tear’s sting
set hope’s hook
hammered hurt’s spike
Until raised hands surrendered
and folded round bird, song,
Of means, none silent as the candle
greetings, none soft as dawn
causes, none grand as the moth
to weave moonlight each night.
Of words, make mine such steel
that I too would render
wonder from darkness.
What comes each dawn I do not know Dawn knows no reason Keeps its own season Buds at budding time Ripens at harvest time Dies in its prime Leaves one fresh gift To confound the clever painter Blending at their palette.
Happiness is not yours.
A guest in our home,
It arrives warm, bright, generous,
Leaves quietly before its time.
Happiness is not mine.
It lives untamed
In wilderness between our hands
But not in our hands.
A tide between our shores,
Happiness is not yours
To keep, not mine to give.
But it may be shared
As you swim beside me,
The wake trailing your body
Gently joining mine.