quote

Fall

Well travelled
roads or
less travelled
paths
it’s the inside
once hidden
that’s revealed
under
fragile camouflage
the ragged leaves
on branches
no longer fluttering
laid bare
along its arms

 

 

While out for a walk today I came across my own version of Frost’s “two roads diverg[ing] in a yellow wood.”

Warm yellow leaves carpet a trail that splits in two directions like a "Y." Bare branched trees surround the trail.

While both of these roads eventually circle around to meet the other, it’s true that the view would differ significantly depending on which I took: one bordering the river and the other wandering along the foot of a scruffy bluff. The constant with both at this time of year is the way fall has stripped the leaves and left bare an accumulation of things usually hidden, like this bird’s nest.

The thin bare branches of a tree cup a bird's nest

Along the way I also encountered a copse of trees with strips of peeled birch bark draped over branches well above my reach.

A large strip of birch bark draped over the bare branch of a nearby tree - one of several such strips

I’ve been reflecting lately on how the vagaries of life often do a similar job of stripping us of our emotional camouflage and revealing things we may not want to look at ourselves, let alone reveal to others. This poem is an effort to encapsulate some of that

audio

A Story’s Voice

In what is clearly an embarrassment of riches, I’ve now had the honor of having three different pieces recorded by audiobook narrator Xe Sands. It’s a fascinating experience to hear your words filtered through someone else’s voice, especially when that someone makes a living doing just that and knows what she’s doing. She did a really cool split performance for “Not” that matched the style of the poem perfectly:

 

There weren’t really any surprises for me in listening to someone else’s take on “Not.” Other than a rather undignified amount of “That’s so cool!” squeeing at hearing one of my poems performed, the emotional content was as familiar in the listening as it was in the writing. “Dictum” was a very different story:

 

I almost never consciously choose the voice of anything I write. Male or female; young or old; first, second, or third person and past or present tense are all factors that seem to occur because a piece of fiction demands it, not as an intentional framework I enforce on my words. “Dictum” was a bit different. As obviously intentional as it is in structure, the content is some of the most organic I’ve written although it didn’t start out that way. The entry in my Scrivener poetry file for that one has attempt after attempt to say what I wanted — in third person, second person, and a very removed first person. It was only when I told myself to stop massaging any part of it and just write the emotional content with the direct first person perspective the words demanded that the poem seemed to flow.

As much as I have to say about the structure and creation method of the poem, I don’t have any particular desire to walk through the content except to say this one caught me by complete surprise in hearing it read aloud by someone else. As intimate as our own words would seem, I thought “Dictum” was a pretty soft volley out into the void and it didn’t cross back into my own personal emotional DMZ until I heard it in someone else’s voice, at which point there was a bit of a detonation. In her written intro to it, Xe Sands speaks far more eloquently about its content than I ever will:

“Been thinking quite a bit lately about damage – how past damage in our lives continues to effect us long after the inner bruises have faded into funny little stories we tell our friends when comparing notes on our dysfunctional lives. But those stories have roots, and sometimes, they continue to bear poison fruit. We think we’re clear of it. We think it’s in the past, that we’ve named and claimed it, disempowered it, trivialized it so we can fold it away. But sometimes…well, sometimes we realize we’re still baking with poison apples.”

quote

Dictum

I tried to make it sound prettier
I called it payments made
but the currency of flesh
of bruise and blood and sometimes bone
that never sounds
(and there were always sounds)
anything but ugly
where home took it’s shape
in the insulation of silence
so perfect from the outside
what did we even earn in exchange?
accruing a balance of
too much vodka with
failed marriages
the need to run
and never calling anywhere home
with a hard anger turned inward
until the edges cut and
he always told us
you get what you pay for
quote

Currents

You have fallen
beneath an unquiet sea –
lost to those on land
who find you now
only in the ruin
of your storm’s aftermath

We comb the tides’ edge
gathering broken
pieces
but can’t put
our pieces
together

I wait with your book
and your dog
at the edge of your sea
but the answer is salt
and the sound of waves
when I call your name

quote

Not

I saw the picture of
yours
your daughter’s face with
yours
a smile reflecting
yours
her pride in
yours
the gap of a lost tooth

 

She isn’t mine and
yours
I don’t want her to be
yours
What I want is
yours
the glimpse of you I see in her face

 

The shape of an eyebrow like
yours
a questioning curve above
yours
the warm brown of eyes like
yours
nothing that will ever be
mine
and I will never be
yours
again
quote

The Shape of Us

When we started
that small flame which
of us guessed it could
lick away the darkness?
For every retreat I made
from the heat, you stoked
the fire and burned.
When did you decide
to husband your resources
and what taught you that
it’s in the dark void
of what you don’t do
that I finally see
the shape of us?

quote

PRiSM

It was a small project initially
that quickly encountered unexpected obstacles.
Manageable, although additional work
had to be put in with long hours spent
devising work-arounds
and creative solutions
that were hidden by the care taken
in polishing the presentation

It was at the mid-point
that the problem was identified.
A miscommunication maybe,
or the goal misunderstood from the start.
The sickening sensation that
every step taken
had moved in the wrong direction
and years of effort were wasted

The Project Manager called together the committee,
brainstorming

Someone called for her resignation
but was quickly shot down.
Another suggested pushing forward
in hopes the final product might be acceptable.
The joker in the back
voted for a fast red sports car
and maybe finding a new position with a start-up –
trading security for the lure of the unknown

At the end of it all, left on the table:
how to determine what criteria to use
evaluating future decisions
when every step taken up until now
seemed like the right one … or at least necessary.
Nothing to do now but confess the mistakes made,
nod to “This wasn’t where I thought we’d be at this point,”
and admit failure to that younger self