Fish Bait

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

If I could ask the writer one thing
it would be this: what bait did you use?
Was it a simple hook and worm
impaled with your usual deliberation?

Or was it a fly made from a feather
plucked with due reverence
from the wing of a dead neighbor?

Perhaps you preferred a bait more primitive,
crouching like a raccoon next to the stream,
attracting fish to your hand through sheer will.

For sure you would not have used
one of those shiny metal baubles
favored by today’s fishing dabblers.

No, yours was the direct approach.
I see you not waiting timidly as the stream
passes by, but diving deep beneath
its rippled surface, meeting the fish head on.

First published by Poetry Quarterly summer 2015  http://poetryquarterly.com/poetry-quarterly-issue-22/

Shades from the Chasm

Gazing down At Bright Angel Trail, I see no angels here—
only shades from the chasm: hikers dutifully descending
into hells of their own creation, then plodding upward again,
as in a Doré Purgatory; naked terraces laid down long ago
like the backbones of ancient sea creatures; swallows darting
across the layers like thoughts too fleet to recall; splashes
of red in the receding scarps of canyon walls
like wounds of a bleeding earth.

Originally published July 2015, at Wilderness House Literary Review   http://www.whlreview.com/no-10.2/poetry/GeneTwaronite.pdf

Writing Small

It was one of those
early grades when they
still taught penmanship.
I envied the girl
next to me who
wrote in tiny script,
neat and compact.
I copied her style,
made it my own,
writing letters
ever smaller
as the spaces
between blue lines
grew emptier.

One day my teacher
put her foot down:
I can’t read this,
write bigger!

Not wishing to fail
penmanship, I did.
But that girl with her
Lilliputian words
still remained
inscribed on my brain,
leading me to seek
ever more compact
ways of viewing life.
Like the cursive
I copied, small things
seemed more
appealing, whether
a house or a car.
Less surface
to clean and
less to care for.
Economy and
sparseness of form
I preferred
above all else,
extending this
feeling even
to my lovers.
Why not when it was
complete control
I sought in my
dominion of space?

Now I write
in script neither
small nor neat
but in a wild scrawl
that winds across
checks and documents
with a will of its own.
I try to slow it down,
show who’s boss,
but it ends up
looking mangled
and disrupted, like a
watch spring
suddenly sprung.
And in the checkout
line I see at last the
phantom ghost of
control mocking
me from the screen
while my artless
swiped signature
dissolves into
cyberspace.

First published June 29, 2015, at Turks Head Review  http://turksheadreview.tumblr.com/#sthash.SvKDIsQM.dpuf

Selfies

The word burst upon our lexicon with
all the subtlety of a Playboy centerfold.
In a snap our clever devices provide
puerile portraits of our daily antics.
Yet only the technology has changed.

Ever since we first scrawled images
on the social walls of caves—
here I am stalking my prey
have we thrust our portraits
into the popular ether.

Whether it be the self-mocking
image of a Van Gogh or Picasso
looking back at us from the canvas or a
Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man,
it is all of the same mold.

We don’t need a new word.
It is the same game of fame.
But now all that will remain
of us as we pose triumphantly
in front of the Eiffel Tower
while cuddling our crotches are
shifting images lost in the cloud.

First published in BLACK HEART MAGAZINE,                                                                September 2014, Quarterly Issue #1.14    http://blackheartmagazine.com/2014/09/30/september-2014-digital-issue-1-14-now-available/

 

 

The Handshake

In the market we meet,
soldiers of civility.
I see his arm rise,
fingers unfolded.
We clasp and engage,
hiding behind
our small talk.
Worlds apart, we
might just as well
squeeze rocks.
So much to ask
of a handshake
but it’s all we have.
For one more moment
we press and touch
the thin skin
that binds us.
Then silently
we step back
from the other in
ever widening circles
to fortified trenches
we left behind.
This and two other poems first published in 
Wilderness House Literary Review #9/2.   
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