Tag Archives: Staunton

Sitting under a mountain [Summer Mountains 1]


Sitting under a mountain

Three peaks: the host and two guests.
A way to art where images were drawn

after the shape of words for things.
Let’s call the guests Shan and Mu.

They wandered twelve miles, their host
shrunk with each mile, even they grew

smaller till a human could climb them
without a rope. They got green, waited.

On the other side of the water two women
lay down together and the plague spread

its blanket over them. Their names were pulled
from their mouths by the one who found them

and carried on the shoulders of children
to the place where Shan and Mu sat,

leafy and waiting for their host to retrieve
them. The people planted the names

and in a few seasons the names grew
into the hills and out toward the sun

like a character for a tree, or a man
buried to his waist and left to die

for stealing someone’s name
and taking it so far from their bones.

And the mountains tried on their new names
and the sound of syllables and that it

took twice as long to say a dead woman’s
name as it used to take to measure

three mountains and that was good
and to this day nobody will build

a house on the summits or
cut down a tree at the crown.

Lee on either side of the mountain

Lee on either side of the mountain

Citizens emerge from bars to high-five the protesters
Who stop short of the monument and line of riot police

On the other side it will be easier to tear down an entire school
So it costs nothing to remove his name from it

Movement trips a security flood light outside my dream
Deer walking silently through a dark backyard

Reading: Saturday 2-4pm Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room

For those of my Loyal Readers in the Staunton area who did not make the book launch a few weeks back, I’ll be joining three other poets — Caroline Brae, Patsy Asuncion, and Leona Sevick — for a reading at the Ox-Eye Vineyards tasting room on Middlebrook Avenue, right downtown.

I’ll have copies of Wind Intervals as well as a few other things. The Ancients would love this setting, as drinking wine during the reading is heartily encouraged! To honor those old poets I’ll probably be reading from the Mei Yao-ch’en sequence Moonlight & Shadow, as well as from Wind Intervals. And maybe a few others.

As always before readings, I throw out the question to All of You. Anything you’d like me to read from the bulky mass of thin wonders that inhabit this place? Right now I’m considering “Stillness in a Low Time During the Rainiest Month of May in Half a Century” and maybe “Poem for the Back Cover of a Book” and “What We Want” but I’m still in the half-panicky-open-to-anything stage of preparation…

Spring morning in a small city


Spring morning in a small city

The day is squeezed through the city’s buildings
Like water through a whale’s baleen

Leaving people harmlessly stuck to offices and stairways
Pressed against a wall in a hallway or sitting at a cafe

Table on the sidewalk. I, too small to be a meal for time
and commerce, slip through, discarded, on the quiet street

With my coffee. The sky is the blue of a baby’s iris.
A baby as big as a galaxy who is far from forming

Thoughts cohesive enough to create a world.
The only clouds in the sky slip together

Over the street into a momentary shape, a character
in a language not native to me but familiar.

I watch it pull itself apart. The city places orange cones
Around me to protect me while I stare and take a picture.

When I get home I discover it is the Chinese character
For “write.” I sit down with some paper and a blue pen

But every word drifts in a different direction as soon
As I write it and the page is as firm and white

As the sclera of a baby’s eye, of a galaxy whose
Unformed thoughts are rolling inward. The city blinks and

Before anyone can take a picture the day smashes its tail
on the surface of afternoon and is gone into the depths.

October 14 [Book of October]


October 14

All summer long their message was obscured
By texture. The leaves grew on thin stems

And below them from the ground grew
Their brothers the shadows. The leaves

Shook in the breeze, pattered with rain,
Danced in storms. Their brothers

Made the long journey across the park
Each day, dawn to dusk they made

The same one-way trek.
They were pacing but we didn’t know

Because they came back in the dark.

The leaves are falling now and blowing
Away, taking their shadows with them.

Across the grass and moss of this tide
Of hills, root and acorn abound and

Broken branch underfoot, it’s like the trees
Finally found a single letter for what

They wanted to say and a word
Can finally be seen inscribed

On the browning ground in the trunks’

Long shadows. I’m going to lean into
The hills and the sun’s cold shoulder

And read my future as I walk into it,
As I give it all gravity’s got.

Driving Through A Small Town Full of Churches on a Friday Around Dusk

Driving Through A Small Town Full of Churches on a Friday Around Dusk


The buildings vibrate like an old color
postcard whose message has faded

time lifting the letters off the back
one dark bit after the other

which now gather wordless on the horizon
rising without a message to take back

the sky which for a moment shows red
through the church steeples with no bells

Difference Engine

Difference Engine

The creek was buried forty years ago.
It runs unseen beneath the motel parking lot.

Here I am taking off my clothes
before I write this next couplet.

I don’t want what the day wore
to come between us. Like all

those tourists, who came to see
the thing that was moved

so they had a place to park
and undress, and sleep

without seeing a thing.

Sunday Service, Small Town in Virginia, Late September, on the Occurrence of Emptiness

Sunday Service, Small Town in Virginia, Late September, on the Occurrence of Emptiness

No traffic. A leaf clatters like a steed with an urgent message
then gives in to a burlesque swirl and stills itself out

of momentum. A yellow moth staggers on uneven air across the empty street.
I can walk down the middle of the road past lonely double-parked cars.

Not a soul is about. The churches are filled up with their giant doors shut
like a present I will not unwrap. The entire town is my empty prayer.

I can appreciate every curb’s lift, every curve of crumbling brick
arch on old buildings, window-shop for emptiness and find it

everywhere. Even the crow’s shadow barely skims the earth.
And a thousand yellow leaves do the moth better than the moth did.

Translation talk at Black Swan Books


I will be checking out this rather cool topic in my rather cool and little city this weekend. Angela Carter and Stan Galloway are area poets whose work I have enjoyed hearing in person.

Printer extraordinaire Emily Hancock of St Brigid Press will also be bringing copies of the mini-broadside of my translation of Li Ho’s “Sky Dream” for the event. I will not be selling this myself and I’m not sure if Emily has it for sale yet on her site, but you can always write her if you’re interested in seeing more. The poem is printed on very thin Unryu paper backed by grey Magnani Pescia paper, in Bembo typeface. The matting creates the shape of the moon which of course our poet Li would not bother to name in his brilliant and strange piece of verse, and will I think be available in a variety of night-sky-ish colors.

I believe St Brigid Press will also be issuing this poem’s companion translation of Li Po’s work, as well as a few other translations of classical Chinese verse. And of course as I attend this event I’ll be taking with me my time-travelling version of Mei Yao-ch’en, the great 11th century poet with whom I have spent so much time these last few months…




[Readings] National Poetry Month Reading 4/17


I will be one of four area poets reading in Staunton Thursday April 17th at 7pm at The Space, a newly renovated performing arts center in the heart of this great little city’s historic main street. Not sure what I’m reading yet. Any requests / suggestions?