Bartholomew Park

Joggers traverse the perimeter.
At the center of the park is a playground.
There is one child in the playground.
He pops a head out from under a slide.
He pokes a stick in the sand.
One of the joggers has stopped near a trash barrel.
Several Coke cans and part of the meat of a fruit lay around the barrel.
She is breathing heavily. No, she is weeping.
The child studies something dark that he holds in his hands.

It begins to rain.

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Meng Jiao makes Masticadores

Thanks to Gabriela Marie Milton, editor at MasticadoresUSA, for publishing my poem, “Lost song for Meng Jiao”:

Lost song for Meng Jiao

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In the beginning

I haven’t seen you in 20 years
except in my mind’s eye
the hurricane center of the hot black night
when I slip to our trip to

Galveston. We drove all night,
knowing already it was the end,
and rode the ferry at daybreak,
the sound of the sea and the sad
cry of the gulls
scored upon us.

Then earlier, the southward journeys
past rice farms and shrimping towns
the thick humid patio nights
catching lizards
and laughing.

And earlier still, in the beginning
when we took LSD and lay
all night in a field of sugar cane
tasting the forbidden fruit

afraid

       but liking it

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Lost song for Meng Jiao

I too have seen the winter stream,
waves beating the swords
of ice, dreamed

of imperial jade, green and blue,
of topaz the color of honey.

Cold streams crumple
the ragged banks of dreary forest,
Above the stream the swells of snow,
Further still, the stars by time and distance frozen,

as far away as your language from mine,
as your solitude from mine.

Spring comes on apace.
The waves beat harder. The swords
of ice break like paper branches. We turn
inward, you and I, creatures of the winter, to seek

someone or something approaching,
cold comfort in translation, here,
the icy clarity of the mirror.

Meng Jiao (751–814) was a Chinese poet during the Tang Dynasty.

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A brief narrative interlude

Who was I to be working on a trail?
I know nothing of trails. But
I do know one thing. Trees
have no hearts. But
there it was.

A deformity, a fleshy blotch, something
primeval, excessive, root and stem, something
ludicrous, abhorrent, something that shouldn’t be there.

Raging, I tore at the thing,
the thing that could not be a tree, a heart,
that could only be a ghost of a thing, a word,
a high-sounding phrase said and stupidly repeated

(to correct it, I had
no other intent).

My fury opened a thin purple line, a drip,
then a flow, pumping out a silk road
of opulent red, cambering down
the broken skin of bark.

It seemed a thousand years
swept by, countless passings of moon
and stars, blood and bone, in their great cycle.

And the thousand years filled with weird
dreams of life being lived, food trucks
and book shops and dancing under
the steady moon on a small plaza
up high, with lights of a village
below, then of doors opening
downward into something
bottomless deep, then
closing.

I grew thin, I aged as I watched
the slight silky line of red now
trickling across the earth,
now into the earth.

Then the parched earth cracked,
a pain long forgotten pushed
its wobbly head through,
unsure of whether
to lean this way
or that.

I went back to my work
changed and satisfied.

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