Late Afternoon Storm Haiku

Late Afternoon Storm Haiku
[Wilmington, NC]

 

Storm fells big branches
while gossamer lines linger—
the strand between us

*

Long after strong rain
moves on, forgotten, moss on
branches remembers

*

Light flickers inside and out.
Dove on shed roof hears
a thousand unseen frogs

*

The day starts again
hours before dusk. In sunlight
palmetto fronds drip.

By the Banks of the Cape Fear River My 11th Century Poet Friend Mei Yao-ch’en and I Are Joined By A Ghost From My Not-So-Recent and Not-So-Distant Past, And As the Night Lifers on Front Street in Wilmington NC Assume Their Weekend Fictions, The Three of Us Walk Through the Downtown Neighborhoods Back to My Mother-in-Law’s Old Victorian House, Where Ghosts Get Going and A Thousand Year Old Poet Writes the Following Lines on My Beach Towel

By the Banks of the Cape Fear River My 11th Century Poet Friend Mei Yao-ch’en and I Are Joined By A Ghost From My Not-So-Recent and Not-So-Distant Past, And As the Night Lifers on Front Street in Wilmington NC Assume Their Weekend Fictions, The Three of Us Walk Through the Downtown Neighborhoods Back to My Mother-in-Law’s Old Victorian House, Where Ghosts Get Going and A Thousand Year Old Poet Writes the Following Lines on My Beach Towel

 

In a cricket-less city the chirps and clicks of air conditioning units keep us company
We reach the waterfront and stand on a dock whose pilings are so low

you can feel the air trapped by the waves beneath it pushing through the gaps
like the breaths of ghosts of the drowned. No gibbons swing and moan

from the trees on the distant shore. It’s so quiet we can see the past from here.
A white figure draws nearer across the water—at first rowing a stand-up paddleboard

but after he gets halfway across he gives up and just shuffles across the sound.
My host tells me this is his mentor and one of his favorite poets. Therefore I know

he must be dead. “Well yes, I am dead,” the apparition speaks and steps from water
through the rail and onto the dock. “And I’m Archie. You don’t know me, Sheng-yu,

but I know you. Oh yes.” As he quotes from a poem I wrote I can hear the English
version my host hears, as well as my own words in my native tongue.  Archie

notices my wonder and smiles. “You learn a new thing or two when you’re dead,”
he says. “Now, Jeff, I know you were expecting me, so put your jaw back together

and let’s take a walk. I haven’t seen your wife’s mother in decades, and I hear
she’s still a pretty woman.” Huge live oak trees arch over the streets, we walk slowly

and looking up you can see the grief that has not been permitted to leave.
“The grief itself is lighter than air, you see,” Archie says. “But everything connected

with the grief, as long as it’s connected, trunks up thick, stretches out in search
of space, blossoms, rejuvenates, drops back and re-rooting re-routes the grief.

Take a breath. Only the tiniest bit comes out from the leaf-ends, so pure,
without that little bit let go to go on we’d suffocate.” Front Street is on us then

its restaurants and bars, its noise. Finally, I relax. Here are the gibbons I’m used
to hearing at the river’s edge, monkeys of heartbreak howling. They just don’t know it yet.

GOAT sighting in Napa Valley

He gets around, that Goat. Most recently sighted with baguette and coffee in the vicinity of St Helena by poet Robert Okaji, and taking respite and comfort at the Bonita…

photo courtesy of Robert Okaji

photo courtesy of Robert Okaji

photo courtesy Robert Okaji

photo courtesy Robert Okaji

I am still awaiting the promised photographic evidence of our yarn-horned friend on a bluff overlooking the Aegean Sea…and other places far and wide.

Chicory

chicory

Chicory

 

My boy falls asleep by my side each night
cats sometimes fight in the alley even in rain

walking in the hallway past the open door
one daughter sleeps suspended by pillows

the other flings everything aside and sprawls
face down and then I’m here room as wide

as a hundred year old house and your guitar
sits waiting for you and I sit waiting

I finally hear the crickets they’re late this summer
when a poem begins to emerge it begins

like stink bugs and hard backed bugs
charging the window screen like rhinos

then when all that fails like moths alighting
holding their ground like kites in instant photos

and when that fails I finish my tea and listen
the crickets I hear are from a midnight walk

in Ithaca on Coddington Road 28 years ago
in the dark of no streetlights and miles of field

when my soul first disappeared into a million
songs with no refrain and when that all fails

I go out and look at the gangly weed of a plant
in the front yard I spared from the weeder for

No good reason one afternoon the next morning
it was full of modest flowers the color of late May

skies closing up at noon like it was the old school
diner of the plant world since then I have noticed

it everywhere on the highway’s side every morning
the short lived beauty newly bloomed each day

and I think I’ll write about that but cannot find
a poetic way to describe a plant made entirely

of old ladies’ elbows and eye wrinkles that turns
into a goddess in the cool morning air so

I sit waiting along with your guitar it is not a question
you will come up and carefully take it

from its case and hold it and find the chord
that brings me back to this

Spirit

Spirit

 

I don’t believe in spirits but I believed in the spirit
of my first unborn daughter because I saw her

framed by the blue gray screen, a face with expression
and a body with movement. What else constitutes

a spirit if not those? My wife’s great aunt Julia
pulled onto route 17 in Murrell’s Inlet and into

the path of a white pickup truck; she was flown
to Charleston not by angels but by helicopter

and when we saw her she was still alive
but I knew whatever was Aunt Julia was not there

and I resented when a hospital chaplain came in
to pray with us over her. Couldn’t he see that

her spirit had already fled or been knocked out of her
by four tons of steel? Spirit as more than consciousness

or less, as essence, a vector of character even before
experience presses its thumbs into your clay, a vector

which I recognized by its absence in Aunt Julia
having seen it preside so often over a cup of tea. But of my daughter’s

spirit I cannot claim the same familiarity. And how
did I feel it was with us that painful night

flashing in the air around our grief
as panicked as we were, the three of us sure

there was some solution, a way to get back
to the world just before that evening?

*

I don’t get visits from spirits that often. Aunt Julia
has never come back to have tea or hoot her

wise southern laugh with me in a kitchen of my dreams.
I’ve not once seen the face of my unborn daughter and

on occasion I think if she had not left us that night
the three who came after her would never have

existed. And who then might have? Because I don’t believe
in spirits I have even discounted visits from the only

two to keep up with me, my first pet Tuna Cat
who suffered much before his death and my poetry teacher

Archie;  they last came to see me together. Archie had a new place
just under the earth and though the floor was all dirt

it had a kitchen and everything. And Tuna, sitting
on the counter. “I like it here, Jeff,” Archie said to me,

and I think, I think he meant it.

Driving Down the Mountain After Dusk

Driving Down the Mountain After Dusk

 

Dusk is finally gone but it has left a mark on the dark green slopes
like pencil has been rubbed over everything

You know there are trees there pines and oaks maples others
but now all you can verify is that it’s a hill with the disposition

of trees or a tendency towards treeness but it’s too dark
to prove the trees are there and we’re moving too fast

following a line we can’t see the end of but which we know
ends before daylight