Howard’s Mill Burns

Turns out the fire got it all. Not much insurance. Not enough
to start over. Howard’s workshop gone, the crowded
bench, scattered with wrenches, mismatched parts.

His son-in-law comes, helps him sort through the mess,
set aside what might still be of use. In the end
Howard knocks it down to keep trespassers out. In the spring

he’ll set it on fire again, then bury what’s left.  Now
half the roof  sprawls wide, an upside down V, 
with shingles crooked and missing.  A metal desk

with its one drawer closed, squats on its top.
Peeking out from underneath—the white door 
that never hung straight, always caught as you tried

to enter. All of it like some giant broken nest, taunting me, 
a dark scar on the snow. Scraps entangled with the bare arms 
of bushes. Gossip has it that faulty wiring caused the blaze, 

some jury-rigged circuitry. Howard was known for that, 
piecing together odds and ends, making do—sloppy but functional.
Now nothing will replace it. He’s taken to standing in the roadway

looking at the charred planks. At eighty-five he remembers when
it was a working mill. The stringent smell of sawdust, the whir of the blades, 
like a coat he once wore. Tattered now. Nothing that will keep him warm.

Third Wednesday
Spring  2018

like the sky I’ve been too quiet

I sit in the forbidden room      a chair by your bed    holding my weight in stones, in sorrows in uncountable grains of touch you can still speak  so I lean over to catch   your voice in my mouth to swallow these        bits warm               in beak  and you tell me I was always the quiet one  and you don’t know about all the words layered in me              like rotting leaves  so many things I have said inside the cavern of my chest full of nervous screeching   bats flitting around   while  things I don’t say pile up   light   cuts across your blankets and I am afraid to touch you because you are a pillar of pain     and this is the bad thing this is the moment I remember and write over and over and over always that light and my own body screaming from every rivet    I promise now   to go over      the years to scratch the earth of your love   for me  to erect those landscapes eclipses rays       shimmering like milk  in sky   —so I say— but this poem   goes down the same   mournful path and     out the window              blackbirds have come to eat what I have  scattered on blurred  and foggy     ground                                       

                            *from “Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient)”
                                 by Kaveh Akbar

Crab Creek Review
2018 Vol. 2

All That Remains

when your shoulder becomes the arms
of a willow, branches hiding grass shadows

when your collar becomes a cloud, a conundrum,
a cauldron that clenches below your face

when you keep sadness below folded hands
like an insect you do not wish to escape

when secrets from your past rise like water
lapping, lapping at your waist

when shoe buckles turn to stones, 

when you stand in a murky world

you won’t find the truth sitting in a chair
peering at you from beneath wicker legs

he’ll be waiting for you there in an alley, he’ll be
grinning from behind a desk, he’ll laugh at you

in the locker room where you won’t hear, he’ll
put his hand on your thigh, your knee, your neck

he’ll slide like a fish between your legs
when you are least expecting it

Vol. 30.1

The Unsuspecting Gardener

It began innocently, the way most things do—
the seed planted in good ground, the ovum
splitting again and again, the first cigarette
held to your lips between three fingers
in the fluorescent light of the bathroom stall—

when you reached too far to pull the last weed
from beneath the narcissus, their heads
already dead and gone. Somehow the tilt of body
wrong, you plummeted to the brick walk.
After, you limped into the house, surveyed

the leg, which in days ahead turned purple,
blue. The cost of growing old, you thought.
An inconvenience. Nothing that stopped you
from cooking dinner, making the bed, speaking
to your daughter on the phone. And Thursday,

the day you always went into town for groceries,
laundry, a visit to the local bookstore—you did
that too. Even went out for an evening of music,
as your lower leg swelled and hurt
more than it should. How could you know

that your very bones had betrayed you—
the orderly birth of white and red cells turned
into pandemonium, a blossoming of random
blasts, good for nothing except chaos—invisible
cancer growing? No lumps on your breasts

when you raised your arm and felt around,
no bleeding or black lungs. Only a bit of tiredness,
a new drag to your step that could have been age,
that could have been anything—a virus, a slight
cold, the humid air weighing you down. 

Volume 30.1

Raising the Ghost Year

We swept into the new year—danced the blitz—
then staggered home to the hills of Los Altos, not as high
as we’d like to have been, the lost days falling from our arms.
Four of us crowded into the cabin, slept on floors, 
all black and white and gravelly gray. Remember the way 

you kissed me then, as if the world didn’t mean anything
and yesterday was just a song on the hit parade?
I bawled and bustled, wrote poems, heard the Grateful Dead 
singing a storm, watched someone stir pots of soup in the park.
You sold the Saab, thyme spread like crazy in our garden,

and all we talked about was getting back east. I saw
December 31st riding on your shoulder. A ragged shadow 
did a flash-boom dance across the backyard. I couldn’t
shake free, found myself sheathed in months and Mondays, 
sealed up in numbers. We dropped acid, counted out

our food stamps for the next day’s meal, rode north
to harvest redwood driftwood from the beach in hopes
of selling it on city corners, the exhaustion of the day before
like a tattered shirt on our backs, the smell of humanity
rising, cars parked one behind the other, buildings

black as melted tar, but the road a shining path.
Those days all scattered now. A whirlwind of years
plucked and thrown along the street. Eventually we made it
back east, split, took up ordinary lives, turned pages,
looked at books, lost  years, papered in feathery days.

Atlanta Review
Fall/Winter 2018

Harold Tripp’s Daughter Tells a Story

Sometimes we hid under the beds when he got like that,
his anger raining down over the floorboards, hard kernels
of hail, a storm that pushed through him every time he drank.
We knew nothing about the island then, how he lived on a boat,
pulled from his dying mother’s arms, his bitterness reflected
in blank spaces between buildings. I kept thinking he’d get better,
instead he beat on us like the sea, as if we were rocks, the storm
sinking all our ships. Him just whaling, whaling, and us never knowing 
why—our mother caught in the upstream current, bruised about
mouth, nose, ribs aching from the momentum of his blows.
We grabbed at the bedposts, hoisted ourselves out the back windows,
all the time no help for our hating him, no way to understand
what the world had done to him, our pain like crows’ shadows
slipping across the shuddering back of the world.

Issue 25   Summer 2017

Where I Live

I live by the stream, by the old dam tumbled  into a fit of rocks.
Through the path we made, past Royal and Long Beech fern,
small huddles of baby oaks, sting of raspberry, a clutch of young pines,

I step onto the mown lawn, jumble of grass and weeds,
dandelion blades, fuzzy camomile, a scatter of gravel spilled by workers
building the garden wall, rocks as hard put as memory and more lasting.

I live in a house built from ground that Charlie cleared, just beside
the knot of spruce, needles falling, a constant rain of thin slices of life

that hide themselves in the grooves of my car, grow into clumps 
around the motor like small nests. I live on Oak Hill Road, though the oaks 
have grown thin and too many hills rise up to tell which is the one named. 

On weekends the train whistle blows, up at City Point, where the tracks 
cross the road and the walking path comes out after following the river from town. 
I see the stain the tide makes on the edge, a ceaseless coming and going—
dog walkers, joggers, bicyclists jamming along the old rail bed. 

In winter I stare at the frozen waterfall, bare branches, footprints 
caught hard in solid snow. I live in a world of snow, a place of blizzards 
and white-coated nests, of lines cut parallel through new snow, of white-outs, 
and power-outages, of lanterns, wood stoves and the thumping of generators 

in the shed outside. I watch the ospreys circle the stream, the eagle dive, 
the fish hang caught in beak, see the carcass of porcupine smashed on the shoulder, 
blood  smeared in tire tracks. At night cars slide by on the way to town,

to Belfast Variety, to beer, to milk, to wine, to the parking lot 
on the corner of Bridge and Pierce Streets where the young
gather, laughter a blanket of waves, an ocean, bandying curses and cuts,
tender limbs, cooled in the breeze, kisses touched on love-struck necks.

Naugatuck River Review
Issue 19   Winter/Spring 2018

Beyond the Final Chapter

Books form cliffs. We fall
into wanton characters’ arms.

Nothing holds us. Just whispers. Whims.
Each page turn, turns us into someone

dissolute. The author tells us we carry
a nest of laundry. We finger undone buttons.

I found the unexpected villain at the end.
A valley with trees tumbling down the sides. A gate

ruined. A gauntlet of afternoon light, a woolly ruff of heat,
stone-faced cats and rusty bikes.

When he came to me, I followed him, through
murmuring air, the wet suck of summer.

Now I wish for turbulence—disturbing, 
evocative. It rattles in the gravel

a broken tube of nickels.

Asheville Poetry Journal
December 2017

After the Fall

No matter what swells
over the seawalls
of your love and buries you, 

the plumbing still crumbles, 
the car still runs dry. 
At night I chew bits 

of skin from my feet, 
catch mice with cracker 
crumbs in the sink. 
We still watch 
the moonrise together, 
an atomic tangerine.  

Looters roam the streets.  
We sit with shotguns 
across our knees.  

Cradle them like babies.

Asheville Poetry Journal
December 2017

Snapping Turtle Nest

All fall you wait for the eggs 
to hatch, for the sight of a small carapace
scraping free. She laid them far from water

in a hole beside our drive. Now when water
from rain carves ruts, you think about eggs
in October earth. How little a carapace

can protect. How bones lie bare beneath,
thin and white as fools. How far from water
we all are, huddled in our tight eggs.

Worcester Review
Vol. 39   Fall 2018