SAMPLE POEMS FROM IMPOSSIBLE LESSONS
YEAR OF THE RATTLE
Just when even last year had been cremated,
some coal must have rekindled.
Last night’s quiet speaking was a slow poem
about time and the earth ticking its own clocks
(the October click of oak leaves)–
how, then, did I miss the clear hint,
whispered though it must have been,
of today’s ill wish, coiled and menacing,
in the mind’s hot closet? Not even
a hushed hiss (July, the high grass)
or minute tap of egg cracking (April,
the earth burst open) warned of memory
re-hatching and already venomous.
Last night, our calm murmurs were of what
we thought we leave behind (the torched Yule,
cooling) when the wheel of the year
sweeps its turn anew. Not of what is further back,
fanged, and already at my heel.
Honorable mention in Tupelo Press Poetry Project, Spring 2011. First line is from Anne Marie Rooney, “Last Evening: Index of First Lines,” in Spitshine, Carnegie Mellon UP, 2012.
DIRECTIONS TO PT. RUPTURE
At the junction, opt
for the left, or the right,
as you are apt. Avoid
abrupt swervings, as from earlier
relationships gone septic.
I myself, inept at love,
am less than agnostic–say,
an interested skeptic. Yet
who among us has not kept
paired plosives within
the heart (or at least slept close)?
In case of rapture, unperson
your car with care, pen a cryptic
Inaugural winner of The Pitch contest at Poetry Northwest, November 2011.
The natural property of a wing is to raise that which is heavy
and carry it aloft to the region where the gods dwell. –Socrates, Phaedrus
True. But what of this whiskey-jack
presently harrying me to hand over my snack
of chocolate-covered espresso beans? I regret, Socrates,
that I am having trouble glimpsing transcendence
in this gray, uncrested jay’s brazen flappings
at my face. Sorry, lovely bird, but I am
fresh out of trail mix, and these caffeine beans
would burst your lovely bird heart.
Consider instead that we, both of us on this
Cascade summit, are a little elevated already.
Even if we have not yet ascended to the dwelling place
of the gods, at least we have made it
to the region of the huckleberries
that they have provided for us. Direct your wings
toward those blue spheres, and you will carry aloft
that which in me is heavy from its racing.
Originally published in Crosscurrents 2005 and in Pontoon: An Anthology of Washington State Poets, vol. 8, 2005, available from Floating Bridge Press. Collected in Impossible Lessons (MoonPath Press, 2013).
So I go to the doctor of philosophy
for my annual metaphysical. He asks me
the usual questions: Any irregularity
with your epistemology? Are the meds
still helping with those intermittent bouts
of doubt? I tell him Yes, but that recently
it has taken on a hyper-Cartesian
tinge, going beyond the use of “not”
as a helpful tool for testing a suspect
reality. It has progressed to a troublesome
tendency toward generalized negation, a habit
of rejecting every supposition. The doc says,
Then we’d better increase your dosage
to get this under control. With your
phenomenological pressure so elevated, I think
you are at risk of rupture. Well, I say,
that may be, but how would you know?
He’s good, that doc. He comes right back
with How do you know that you’re not?
So we agree I’ll try a higher dose.
But don’t go thinking I am going to believe
that it will work.