Lengthy Poem Contest

Given Night
by Tyson Canale




I long to go where forgotten dreams drift,
Where remembrance collects in streams of mind,
And drunk anew, may depress or uplift
But shall never again be ill-defined.


She came in a dream when I was a child,
frozen in profile, flowing black hair styled
into a bun at top, beset with pearls,
her bangs teased into playful spiral curls.
A faint smile feigned repose. What did she see?
The eye stared dead ahead yet fixed on me.
Pale bangled arms twisted in ritual,
her woven spell rendered habitual
that which in waking would seem exotic.
Even her bared breasts repelled erotic
notion: They were but the upper layer
of a flounced dress, hardly a betrayer
of promiscuous intent―still, my god,
what hash of stimuli impressed so odd
a dream on child’s brain? Was it even mine,
or had Morpheus crossed a switchboard line?


I dreamt her once more at 15 years old.
That sideways eye, all-seeing, aim untold,
seared inscrutable pleas upon my soul.
They burned white-hot and duly cooled. As coal-
black charring chipped and flaked I was reborn,
pink, raw. I saw a moon framed by twin horn.
And I began to understand a word,
just one word, then a second, and a third,
though the pieces did not fit, and the full
message went unheard. Never mind; her pull
was such that the words mattered little. No,
it was the accent that set soul aglow.
Every delicious unfamiliar stress
rose, fell, rolled like the curve of a loosed tress.
Fire…ash…earthquake―I heard it as heart-quake
coiled and quivered down my spine. Then awake.


And you, museum of sacralized youth,
Shall remain in the great domain of dream,
A church of nameless and personal truth
And forever pristine, the bubbling stream.


My apartment door opens to the street.
There’s a smoky odor in the air, sweet
with a hint of rain. Sometimes, when I think
of her, I smell the sea. I pour a drink.
A mower is droning and belching gas
and the geese are pecking at blades of grass
in friendly competition (I favor
diagonals, but know not the flavor).
The sidewalk today is mottled with blobs
of sun and leafy shade.
God, my head throbs.
I rub one eye too hard, bloody the white,
and tug some cords, whirl the wands, for the light
is far too loud. I like gray days the most,
when lightning drips away to unseen coast,
and occasionally bemoan my luck
should a sound of thunder prove just a truck.


The city invites. She always has, from
the time when reed was first pressed to clay some
dusty millennium ago. The proud
open plain fringed with mountain, crowned with cloud
I am a stranger to; the woodland stuffed
with chaos dark’s a thing to be rebuffed.
A grid imprints upon my brain.


is risky for one preferring to hide
from life; still, each city pulls with her own
accent, panting giddily, and I’m blown
by a twilight breath off to random tract:
My car is the vessel through which I act.
The roads now hiss with rain. Seat upholstered
in droplet shadow, I find I’m bolstered
by this alliance of rainfall and night.
Through windshield toward me bend streaks of light:
Guide in communion, o luminous thread.
No need to speed. There is always a red.


That meaning is created is a curse
and a blessing. For better or for worse,
the unfurled universe grants no victim,
issues no punishment and no dictum
(apart from that most inherent of laws:
For every effect there must be a cause);
it gapes as blankly at rosaries kissed
as it does two lovers’ entangled tryst.


I forge a meaning passing the stately
homes of Pill Hill, sampled often lately.
Or if not forged, borrowed? Vicarious
is good enough for so precarious
a prize etching the soul’s texture; suffice
to say mine has become as smooth as ice.
Yet I allow no soul to grow too close
for fear they’d ultimately diagnose
the meager marrow of my being; take
pity how little there is of my make.
A dearth of meaning for wielding a shield,
a shield to ensure the dearth is concealed:
Submitted here for counselor’s review,
one supremely stupid catch-22.


So I crave it, forge it; want to believe
in something beyond what nerves can perceive,
absorbed at some impalpable level,
residual touch of god or devil
by grossest ideation. Let it be,
A morsel of magic I eat of thee,
not to expect enlightenment’s Great Pause.
I don’t need to grasp at the golden straws
of heaving Elysian fields where is traced
the face of Zephyr. I just want a taste.


The rain has ceased. The roads have drunk their fill
and gleam with pretty distortions. With skill
much practiced I split my vision between
ahead and right, the sideways-scrolling scene.


What is a house if not a container
for memory? So goes the no-brainer,
you cannot judge a book by its cover.”
What, if anything, can I discover
in the pediment of a portico,
the spidered marble of the floor below,
the protruding roof above a gable,
or its umbra cast of perfect sable?
They are as perfect as a movie set,
a huff to topple a cardboard vignette.
A script for each house―I mustn’t blunder
in meditation.
Instead I wonder
what’s hidden beyond darkened windowpane,
this hushed domesticity of mundane
bliss, and so a fantasy’s invented
of darling wife and kids, ornamented
with all the minutiae to fill life’s gaps:


Alex got a D+ in math; perhaps
we ought to talk to him. Oh, the furnace
acted up again.” Then with faux sternness:
And Ava has a secret just for you.”


A spire inspires love, lost at gates askew.
Garden gnome gossip is not overlooked
and a sprinkler babbles of dramas brooked.
There in the hedges our Lab ate my shoe.
A dozen lives I’ll never live accrue
on a given night, their sums imploring


How is it the boring
stuff of fluff can hold for us an aspect
most meaningful? I suspect on grass flecked
with morning dew, or under the hat tipped
in bashful adieu, or in the rose-lipped
smile repaying goodbye equally shy,
behind every unintentional sigh,
among a sunbeam’s suspended dancers,
there lies encrypted the Maker’s answers.
In these I see the ingredients raw
for a recipe yielding boundless awe:
I only wish I were a better cook.


Before I quit, I can’t resist a look
at Grandma’s house in the old neighborhood.
Thirteen years abandoned now it has stood
at the end of an oak-enshrouded street
where only hoodlums and U-turners meet,
thirteen years haunted and mold-corrupted,
bleeding into the uninterrupted
murk. Into me.
A house stripped of power
is somehow darker, no matter the hour,
than one which is simply asleep. The light
leaves. And paint, brown and curled.


I miss the sight
of Grandma installed in her rocking chair,
sussing the truth of a Hollywood square.
I swear, if I could forget the wee slight
fact of her crossing the rim, and march right
in through the front door, I’d find her there still.


The past calls its host, and recall I will.
Twenty-two paces from sidewalk to stoop,
half that from stoop to the basketball hoop.


I recall: pilfered cushions piled and propped,
Stonehenge lite, until a clumsy fort popped
up. In our nook, we felt a special sense
of safety encompassing and immense,
my brother and I did, afforded those
closer to the womb. We slept nose to nose
in there, like before.
Closer to the womb.
Ten ticks and counting to clean up your room!”


I recall: Umbrella gripped tight, I leapt
from the roof, a reverie of windswept
Poppins kept in mind. Cue blood and stitches
(“Damn kid’s got a death wish,” growled Gramps, which is
truer than he knew). They poked from my skin
as though some black bug were burrowed within,
probing. This would cause no shortage of dread.


I recall: A mirror held to my head
at the right angle upended the world.
I danced on the stipple, I skipped, I twirled!
But what kind of a sick mind would confine
such a trick to the indoor realm? Not mine.
If I could transform the ceiling to floor,
gutter and eave were the edge of a shore
where cloudy waves with birdie boats climbed high
and crashed.
I sailed the ocean of the sky.


(The grimness of grown-ups confused the boy:
To play is the simplest secret of joy.
He’d never stop playing. He made a vow.
Now, as an adult, he’s forgotten how.)


She threw nothing out. Every artifact
of my childhood is hoarded there, strewn, stacked,
stored. I would pry loose a board, crawl in, act
an archaeologist, dig and extract;
I’d plunder the wares, grave goods ill-gotten,
and recall so many things forgotten―
if not for the mold.


Can a house go mad?
Do its rooms ache for the life they once had?
Does senility rattle the rafter
that dimly recalls the sound of laughter
after it has gone? If these walls could speak,
would they reveal how floorboards miss the creak
that the passage of feet used to provide?
Do the joists turn arthritic when denied
the subtle flex?
Is a haunting started
by calling back the dearly departed
most attached? Is there a choice―what’s the scoop?
Are ghosts but memories stuck on a loop?
Bah. Why entertain this load of utter-
Oh my god, did that curtain just flutter?


This is no place for the living. Revere
the life, not the shell.
Then why am I here?
You are the haunter and not the haunted
for your teasing evocations flaunted.
Through the gaps in wet branches the stars wink.


In her later years, Grandma liked to think
that she was mildly psychic. No visions
came to pass without certain provisions,
but come to pass they did;
well, more or less.
She dropped them like pearls of wisdom; I guess
she had deemed them as being of some use,
and “dadgum ignorance is no excuse!”

You’ll run into a dear friend passing through.”
We creamed a doe on U.S. 52.
That showy niece of yours will be married
in a pink dress.” Instead she was buried.
I’ll die in this house at seventy-eight.”
She did―at eighty-seven, a tad late.


She said of her fount, when politely asked,
The old have dreams of the future unmasked,
if the past weighs light in their hearts.” Her last
prognostication struck quite a contrast
to the others, ignoring morbid twist.
She seemed to spar with an urge to resist:
You’ll meet the girl of your dreams on a small
island. But dear, I fear she- she’s- she’s al-”
She’s already died.”
Grandma, that makes
no sense.”
Don’t I know it, for heaven’s sakes!”


I roam, I roam, by quondam phone I roam.
Streaks of sodium amber thread me home.
A gust scrip-scrapes leaves across the pavement,
popcorn on a hot plate.
I have paid rent
late three months in a row, or so I’m told.
In swings my door. Dampness clings. I smell mold―
climate, a leak,
a synchronicity?


Am I content with the simplicity
of least effort, or is this deception?
I hoped I’d stumbled, since the inception
of the scheme, on a shortcut, or cheat code,
for life―a switching on of noclip mode.
No resistance, no chances, no yeses,
no consequences or second guesses;
no victories won but no losses dealt,
exempt from the burden of feelings felt.
Demons were led to a dungeon unfed,
snarling demoted to white noise in head.
It worked well enough that I, fancy-free,
sold it to myself as philosophy.
Ex marked the spot where the ground was first broke,
where framework emerged from the embered smoke
of a marriage insipid and severed.
Burnished and glazed, from there I endeavored
to savor my new authenticity.


And a last word on synchronicity:
Whether it’s a sign you’re on the right track,
a cosmic prank, a nudge from god or crack
in their flank, apophenic sleight of hand―
please leave me to draw my lines in the sand.
Spare my castle your bewildering touch.
And do not disturb my circles. (Thanks much.)
Mystery―I concede the primal need,
sure as the needs to exhale and to feed.
Maintain one fewer answer than question.
Food for thought: Gorging gives indigestion.


The rare acquaintance while talking with me
may note my hand and be puzzled to see
a continuous flicking of digits
there. Trust these are not neurotic fidgets
(though obsessive-compulsive on the whole),
nor the flesh manifesting Whac-A-Mole.
It’s the count of sentence syllable; then,
a sigh of relief should they add to ten.
I desire the predictability
of beat and rhyme; seek the tranquility
they bring to a scattered mind.
Of late, though,
I can’t seem to find my rhythm. [Ergo.]
Soon as I get into some kind of groove,
the groove has passed on, and I did not move.

In swung my door. Dampness clung. I smelled mold.
I will myself out of recursive hold.


Hello kitchenette. Hello crooked lamp.
We came to blows; you took it like a champ.
Hello coffee stain by the dining set,
shape of a country whose name I forget
(resembles a goat. A -stan, I presume).
Hello claret walls of my living room.
Vertical blinds chatter, conversation
impelled by an old fan’s oscillation.
Metric spikes, lulls; tangents Turing-tested
will attest how badly I’m unrested.
Reflections are studied in a blank screen
from my couch. Nothing but tired reruns seen.
I’ve tanned white in the glow of LCDs,
a figure fit for the Parthenon frieze.
Teeth. Brush. The mirror here repeats likewise.
A thousand reflections, a thousand lies.
Avert the eyes, the aftertaste preferred.
Hands. Cream. Best brand for eczema, I’ve heard.
Mine tends to Velcro when grazing the sheets.
Now sleep. The brain collates the night’s receipts.


I feared, I knew, it would happen this way,
With the bodies in orbit falling till,
My cosmos void, I could finally say
There is nobody left who loves me still.


Thoughts are fabricated: Feel the island.
Conviction ripples: The mighty highland―
if it washes ashore as latent junk.
The bulk is smothered by the sand, or sunk.
We are all shipwrecked.
I quietly ruled
the island of my mind with purpose pooled
at feet. The mountains had been leveled there.


I recall: the first storm of June’s despair
when ringing announced a coup of cancer,
promised to be the last I would answer,
this terminal call that snapped my brother’s
limb. The tree lightened. There were no others.
Softly he died in euphemistic speech.
Funny how instant is death’s distant reach.
What’s new?”;
Did you hear…?”;
Have you seen…?”
all gone;
the sharing of experience withdrawn.
He, my pole, half-woven in my being,
so half of me to abyss went fleeing;
and thus was won, with this last fallen leaf,
the tontine of accumulative grief.


June collapsed. Time abstracted in my tears.
It was the dawning of the snakeskin years,
each one frittered away, molted and gone
with all the fuss of a husk on the lawn.
And whether I inhabited the shell
old or new made no difference. The cell
was identical. I and all my days
folded into one another, a maze
of nested origami. As I rode
the creases, I wondered if at some node
one might chance upon oneself through weird quirks
of time and space.
Here the Minotaur lurks.


A count ran on. Milestones were stuck beside
the fractured highway:
First rain since he died.
Second time I drove past her house where now
he may reside.
Third call picked up, somehow.
But they counted in a vacuum. Five miles
or fifty―who cares? They counted trials;
cruelly marked the distance of a trip
across the plane of a Möbius strip.


The bulk of me lessened. I’d float, I’d sink,
I’d thrash, I’d bob. I thinned with every drink.
They say you come out stronger. Well, how grand.
Shall I flirt with shaking the Reaper’s hand?
He was of the wind. I felt no wind, though.
Nights and I reflected in a window
of caged nature and self. Castaneda,
I think, said it wasn’t leaves that made a
plant; rather, the spaces between the leaves;
nor color but the shadow each receives.
Were my days from the start by gaps defined?
To what symmetry-crazed law was I blind,
that held sunlit peaks may only be seen
relative to the dark of vales between?
What price to hear a happy echo break,
paid in a currency carved from the ache?



And what to do with a pair of boxes,
his belongings, that spoke paradoxes
of life and death? The ephemera tossed
in the course of living has not been lost
like him. These trinkets circle the black hole
to serve reminder of all that it stole.
By them do we indirectly behold
its eternal nature, eternal cold.
They filled a corner and became the wall.
They would speak of dust if they spoke at all.


How much air is there left in my bubble?
(Mulled from beneath a mountain of rubble.)



I miss the mass of my cat on my lap,
condensed there as if to resume a nap
begun centuries ago. Glass green eyes,
black center, olive within olive, wise
with secrets forsaken by younger Sphinx,
narrowed with touch in slow contented blinks.
The right often winked some coded message
wasted on one too heedless of presage.
We dreamt together, head tucked under chin,
one’s breath out synced with the other’s breath in.


A whisker found at my recliner’s base
saw me bent and kneeled
confronting the space
where might dwell the ghost of a feline sort
not wholly content with life nine cut short.
Silly―no eyeshine met my gaze, of course,
whatever the whisker’s sibylline source.
The cranny was not vacant, though. Out popped
a beetle that scuttled, stopped, scuttled, stopped,
scuttled across the carpet. I briefly
considered reincarnation (chiefly
on account of cursorily reading
some New Age-Vedic fusion, misleading
in its placement in the Self-Help section
of a Barnes & Noble); my rejection
came quick. In this case, I wish to surmise
upward mobility follows demise.
Cat-to-insect is patently absurd―
unless, I suppose, mine ate the wrong bird?


I encouraged the thing along the floor
to the track of my open sliding door,
railway to freedom. A lapse of focus,
a sudden shift in attention’s locus,
struck me then with a name, a Wayne―Wayne who?
And why him?
What was I about to do?
The hand acts; the door prematurely shuts
to crush my scuttling friend―who spills his guts
across the groove―and part of me as well.
A minor notch in the tally for hell―
weren’t these things sacred in hoary Egypt?
Wayne Dyer!
How people treat you,” he quipped,
is their karma; how you react is yours.”
His name made me think of carmine.


my friend was just as doomed, yet all the same
I pray I’ve not earned the malefic flame
of any long-spurned and neglected god
who looks both ways, or steers the scarab’s wad,
Protector of Bugs, Respecter of Doors.
A teaspoon retrieved
and stooped on all fours,
I solemnly scooped the corpse and jelly,
interring these remains in a smelly
sarcophagus shared by a half-eaten
one-quarter of a wooly wheaten
and a browning banana peel.
Larval hymns: fruit flies mourning on the steel
brim, supping their respects. And I―I wept.
I wept as my foot on the pedal kept
propped open the lid.
Nectarous decay,
perfumed putrescence.
The closing bouquet.


I wept
or laughed
at the odds that my blip
in this infinitude should also clip
those lesser blips that chanced to bump the veldt―
and so bumped, may never again be felt.
We grope about the infinite without
the means to grasp,
and down the void we shout
until our dying gasp. The best we do
is skirt around and keep the edge in view,
and pray the lid won’t close too soon…too soon…
Shoo, you flies, shoo!


Fragile refuse cocoon.
The chrysalid state.
I know what I am,
he whose weight is best measured by the gram:
I am the monarch that tears up its wings
in the gentlest of breezes summer brings.



I was in the city, but she had changed.
I was of the city, two souls estranged.
She no longer seduced. Past the black glass
of an oriel, a shapeless black mass
convulsed and fell. Today, the fitful glints
off a terrace steeped in sun bore no hints
of deeper meaning. Mere cars, nothing more.
There was no invention of love or lore.
That ineffable magic, the allure―
this I assumed would forever endure;
no vicissitudes of fate could spoil it.
In a dive bar bathroom, astride toilet
gilded in a decade’s worth of missed piss,
I heard Joseph Campbell:
Follow your bliss.”


Appointment with another doc. The gown
funneled clinically cold currents down
my back. We discussed symptoms and effects.
They weren’t presenting; I’m sure he suspects
hypochondria. Why must the car stop
with its clunking, soon as it’s in the shop!
The lack of concern, the confident smile,
did put me at ease, for a trifling while.
Life is cycles within cycles, contoured
by the rhythms of endless time endured.
Detail is fluid: Houndstooth has replaced
the old polka dots that bunched at my waist.


Elevators hummed and dinged in their banks,
conducting their business for filing ranks.
I paused. There was in the adjacent hall
a slanting floor-to-ceiling window wall,
and prior to leaving I thought I might
lean up against it, imagining flight.
The monoliths crept higher than before,
steel and stolen sky. The 24th floor
view let me down. The day may have been gray,
but so was I. The glass resolved a play
of fate, as through this lens I noted tomb-
stones planted in the smog. Beneath, a bloom
of headlights streamed; the stream split off in two
at the tombstone ending Sixth Avenue.
One fork to ferry the souls of the saved,
and the other whose road is brimstone-paved.
Which could be which?
Then I plotted the route
home to my own stone
and removed the doubt.



How much air is there left in my bubble?
(Mulled while stroking the silvery stubble.)

Each day is the pulling of a dry sock
over a wet foot. Though I tick, the clock
has slowed. I stopped counting, but gauge my age
by the length of time needed to assuage
the parading onslaught of novel aches
and pains (the result of such grave mistakes
as sneezing too hard or sitting up wrong),
if they even heal. Those that don’t, belong
to me now, accessories to sorrow.


Somehow, there always comes a tomorrow.

I make little progress with the mirror.
Nevertheless, little brings me nearer
to truth than none. A forced gaze will induce
the first lie. Unfocused eyes introduce
a range of exaggerated features
morphing into chimerical creatures.
It is an improvement from the old wraith:
vacuum-pack skin over bone and bad faith,
itself an improvement from the walking
skeleton I had been, bleached and gawking
from orbits hollow. My one misgiving
as I seek some semblance of the living,
as I stir to break a zombie’s slumber:
I do not much care to know the number
age has done on me (though I have a hunch).



One afternoon after eating my lunch,
scraping knife to plate under scalding tap
in an effort to unglue the last scrap
of Alfredo-fastened ravioli
for a span of time I’d judge unholy,
the realization dawned: Wet the socks.
It was time to open Pandora’s box.


I handled the items as if they bit,
held out as far as arm’s length would permit.
Gradually they would be drawn in near,
studied one minute per atom per tear.


I held in my hand a booklet of checks:
log of last days, as the ledger reflects.
Appointments, specialists, consultations,
drivers paid for rides and food; frustrations
implied in scribbling racked with uncontrolled
spikes as the hand in vain fought cancer’s hold.
The hieroglyphic end credits. And scene.


I held in my hand a green time machine,
terminus fixed in a pocket of night
stretching a lifetime ago: I was quite
surprised he’d kept our trusty night light. Green,
chipped, a poorly-molded Slimer last seen
plugging the bedside socket of our room,
when the lurid lime cone searing the gloom
began to flicker―movement in the light
shade. Oliver sprang off my bunk. The sight
stayed with me ever since: I’ve never spied
a thing so enchanting as a wide-eyed
cat struggling to make sense, with plaintive call,
of a spider projected on the wall.
A fart from the top bunk broke the spell. Lord,
Oliver ran and the two of us roared.


I held in my hand a hallowed relic:
photo of Mom, sun-faded, angelic.
Silhouetted in a window, she’s kneeled
to kiss my brother’s brow, one boo-boo healed.
I couldn’t know her mortal wings were spread
to full extent back then, half lived; half dead.
The black smudge of the back of dad’s head hung
on the left edge. A bug.
Go roll your dung.
And there was me, this stranger connected
to the present by a thread projected
through time. A carrot dangled from my lips,
mock cigarette.
I cannot come to grips
with the idea of replenished cells;
cannot shake the feeling this only tells
that I am a copy of a copy
ad infinitum, imperfect, sloppy
when compared with the original form.


I miss my ignorance, a blanket warm.


The pastor told me, “Remember to laugh,
For to laugh is to share a godly breath―
So laugh on waking, on Spirit’s behalf.”
Did he mean when I wake from dream, or death?


Nightmare, nightmare! A nightmare, my brother,
the kind that screams for solace of mother!


I had determined the sensible choice
for the Maker to know Its truest voice
was reincarnation indeed; a most
inclusive type: a single soul, no host
too elusive, all at once. At my desk,
idly tracing the entwined arabesque
engraved upon a drawer of polished pine,
patiently awaiting the rhyming line,
I dozed off to this thought. The hand would fall
(Dalí would lament the omitted ball)
and with it fell the phantasmic vision
limned with an unexpected precision.


Glories that be of the mystic adept―
here was the theory proved correct! Except―
I, as the sole viewer, was now aware
of every existence, every affair
regarding every thing that ever was.
It all distilled to a dissonant buzz,
static encroaching on alien band
till a channel was tuned on my command.
From the vapor of birth’s amnesia freed,
down the shoots of the Source’s sprouted seed,
the singular essence diffused anew.
I was me, I was Mom, and Grandma, too.
I was beetle and cat. I was the oak,
the sand on the beach, the fire and its smoke.
I was the planet that rolled in the dark;
I was the gravity holding its arc.


Yet―where were you, my brother? You were missed
in this animistic brew. Twist, twist, twist:
The channels would cycle back to the first,
where I at my desk sat fully immersed
in the task of finding you in the verse.
Umbrella, stitches, Grandma, sense, reverse…
No. You are of the wind. So here it blows.
Swish. Whoosh. Swiiish. Whoooooosh.
Aha―there in the Os!
Is it you?
Brother, a voice answered out.
It sounded like you, and yet―I had doubt.
Close your eyes. Know the word. Tremble. Amen.”
You-who-were-not-you then guided my pen:


It is not fated that time never ends.
There is a limit to which it extends.
Once it is reached it will halt in its tracks,
everyone frozen like sculptures of wax.
Then it turns backward and with it, its prey:
All you do, backward, and all that you say.
Tender, the child who will soon be unborn.
Dead are revived and you needn’t now mourn.
Rains to the heavens defiantly rise,
summoned to skies that recapture their prize.
Suns amble eastward to reset the day;
all are oblivious to the display.
Mind is not spared from the retrograde blitz:
Thoughts are dismantled to nebulous bits.
Shaped by the flotsam, emotion, the junk,
how does it feel as a thought is unthunk?
Earth is undressed from her crust to her core,
scatters her nakedness, then is no more.
Galaxies spin in reverse and close in:
All of the universe fits on a pin.


Thus we have come to the start at the end.
Time to the future its way will now wend,
bound to recur, as a film is rewound,
played and rewound, so its actors go round.
This is your destiny freed from the lie:
This is the breathing of Maker on high.
Every breath inward It unmakes the whole;
every breath outward It re-inks the scroll.
You are the byproduct flung from its maw;
so you return in the wash of your awe.
Round and around and around you will go,
chasing the arrow and slave to its flow.”


I opened my eyes; the secret was read.
My lips let slip an expression of dread.
The last line of verse would show I was cursed:


.desrever nettirw d’I ,nettirw d’I sdrow ehT


Attachments lost, opportunity gained.
I am more than the sum of legion flaws.
How pure is hope through my lethargy strained?
Can it carry me through the frosts and thaws?

Those were summers, falls, and winters. Now spring.


The bubble bursts when I hear a wren sing.
I do not suffocate. I breathe out, in.
Pain as the author of change: I begin
to understand. The nightmares quenched with sweat,
starring the same cast on revolving set,
evolve into a wistful nightside chat.
Grandma howls at a square; I stroke the cat.
Mom justifies why dad left. Mom, that’s crap.
She stretches, purrs, and jumps off of my lap.
Brother knows he’s dead; says it doesn’t hurt.
I nod okay and pluck worms from the dirt.
Even the beetle has surfaced to say
he forgives me in his own beetly way.


The city returns in fits and glances;
betrays by degrees its new romances.
How long has that lamppost been sitting there?
Has it not appeared from out of thin air?
The wrought iron flares and spirals―they rhyme
with a feeble flame that burns out of tyme.
From one corner of a parking garage
one can inhale the confluent collage
of Hunan, Italian, and pretzel cart
fragrance, a piece of olfactory art.
I never noticed: The brutalist bent
of the hospital, decked in stark cement
and tesseract shadows, evokes a hope
in permanence which oddly helps me cope.
A visual haiku the eyes strive to scrawl.


I venture as far as the coast, the wall.
When and wherever land and water meet,
wonderful, terrible things happen. Eat
the bitter with the sweet. Receive it all.
How noble the bridge that sutures the sprawl.


I should like to surmount this wall, I think,
and prove to myself that I will not sink.
I should like to know ye cities of yore;
to visit the forebears that came before.
The past stands ever enticing, proud, tall,
as if to proclaim existing at all
is achievement in itself. The sea bears
the ancient lure to the shores of the heirs.
I would skim that wine-dark with starlight rife.
It will be the night of going forth to life.


The static charge is nursed and grows, but not
too fast. In the meantime I read a lot
(and blame this fact for any reference
stirred into lines without due deference),
write a bit; splatter worlds across the page;
find comfort in words from another age:
Outer voices to quiet the inner.
I botch a crossword with every dinner.


(A divagation for a distraction,
if I may hail a quirky attraction:
I found, too, a particular liking
for lipogrammatic craft: How striking
a triumph, what A Void and Gadsby did,
to spit at King Fifth-Glyph, “You I forbid!”;
to go without for 50,000 words,
withdrawn from a bank it fills by two-thirds!
I try my hand at composing my own,
and damn, is it tough! And oh, how I groan
for a constant want of obliging mark.
Folly? Futility? Fatuous lark?
To what hazards might I plod unwitting
if I am in fact a fool committing
a turgid act against lucidity,
carousing in his thick turbidity,
rupturing binding of synonym book,
sick as a sadist and low as a crook
who pounds poor syntax to mutilation,
sin akin to linguistic castration?
Ah, but data-bound psychologists say
that with a containing constraint in play,
a brain will stray from normal cognition
to a conundrum-solving condition
which, as it works to spur inspiration,
boosts in addition imagination.


But circling back to signification,
its custom-built initial formation:
Can I impart much at so high a cost;
add worth as I go, ignoring what’s lost?
If stuck in a box with a fizzling match,
what am I solving? To what do I latch
for light and for warmth? I had A to Z,
but now I miss B; I miss M and G;
losin so uch that I hardly could C―
loss is an acid that urns awfully.


Huh. Thouht I’d stray for a span to frolic.
This was no dtour. This was syolic.)


Again you enter unbidden my mind
With an eye full of fire and arms of fog.
I ask why mine is the heart you have signed
And await your reply like drooling dog.


I would not scoff or scorn. I’d welcome it,
the thing my reason was loath to admit.
I expected the prank, the nudge, the sign
to go. Itchy feet or a tingling spine?
Proliferation of a certain word,
warbled perhaps in the song of a bird?
Power of Myth, PBS? That might do!
Which is how I booked myself a flight to


Create the meaning. That is the blessing;
Relish the detail. That is the dressing;
Embrace the tempo of a foreign beat;
Terminate the thought on a dead-end street;
Engage with the subliminal. Repeat.


A diamond-cut steward showed me my seat.
The beast checked its footing, wiggled, and leapt
between walls while I in the belly slept.


Greece intoxicated. She drifted in;
jasmine on a salted breeze seeped through skin
and baptized. The tang of blackening fish
to follow, and freshly baked bread; a mish-
mash kaleidoscope of diesel and dung,
garlic and cologne, soaked into each lung.


Palm surfing the sides of pillars fluted,
a rhythm of splendor undiluted.
A voice echoing up to nosebleed tier
of mountain-dug theater crystalline clear.
Whitewashed homes flocking the hillside like sheep
who dream in shades of cerulean deep.
Honey-colored stone in the evening’s fire
and ouzo drunk while a muse plucked a lyre.


From mainland to Santorini to Crete,
where the ghosts of the Minoans I’d meet.
Before Plato, before Homer and Troy
and first inkling of Odyssean ploy,
the Minoans established Atlantis
(shush―many are the scholars that grant this).


Knossos, cradle of legend, a world lost
to us. I approached the palace and crossed
into the unremembered past. This place
in its prime was the sort of jumbled space
that only made sense in dreams. Stepped, stacked, zig-
zagged this way and that, impossibly big
with dizzying arrays of stairs and stores
set upon the footfall-smoothed gypsum floors.
I could well envision the lavish spread
of tapered columns, a forest of red
cypress groaning under the architraves.
In fresco the builders rose from their graves
to leap bulls, chests as broad
and waists as thin
as their columns.


Through rooms I wandered in
and out. The crowds melted. I was alone
where couchant griffins flanked reputed throne
and dolphins swam above timbered doors. One
lightwell had managed to capture the sun,
nestled amid two limestone horns. The rays
still obeyed the ancient rules of the maze,
and like rays did these labyrinthine halls
converge on the retina’s curving walls
to branch again through the depths of the brain.
Passage-drunk I lumbered then off the main
path; eon-sick I blundered to a gap
beside a court unlabelled on the map.

I found her on a half-ruined palace wall.


Your most uncanny prediction of all.


She of dreams,
without a doubt I’d found her,
from out of the gulfs of time that drowned her
and the city she’d called home. The sun sank
down the stone bones as I, dumbfounded, drank
the painted makeup of a ghost. She flaked
in alabaster petals.
My heart quaked.


How had she come to be, lying in wait
for me, a scant 4000 years too late,
a fresco beaming life as it decayed?
The light sloped away; she glowed in the shade.
There were the enigmatic lips, the eye
that looked twice, the pale arms to mystify.
I knew every pearl, every raven swirl;
I knew she airily tugged at one curl.


Though logic would say she was never real;
reduce her to a formal ideal,
a fuzzy frame
of some history show
lodged in my head and obscured by the snow,
I absorbed her beyond her depiction.
A bliss entered me, a―yes―conviction
that we had met, this archetype and I,
and would meet again
beneath a shared sky.
The strange loop returning me to the start
marked a journey’s coda―at least this part.
I did not in any way feel cheated;
I was peacefully completed.



The city invites. The roads hiss with rain.
The twilight breath blows across her domain.
The beads on the glass that speckle my seat
regroup and retreat, regroup and retreat
as I stalk the streets in my car once more.
But now I park, get out, walk to a door,
and where before I’d assemble a whole
from a part,
the door has retired its role.
It opens. A woman greets me and smiles.
Hiya.” peck
That was real.
A million miles
I have driven to arrive at that smile,
a million warm tears to thaw the profile.
We met in a coffee shop. She read King,
I, Crichton. At the register’s ka-ching
we both turned a page, and both pretended
not to notice. Her hooked nose was splendid.


She hid the timelessness of the ocean
in her heart, that conch that sang the motion
of its waves for an ear against the breast.
Into her animate eyes reached the crest
to break across the cadence of her voice.
To lie in the backwash is to rejoice
in a trace of eternity. I thought
I was caught in the wheels of time; she taught
otherwise. We are the wheels. She was there
all along,
with pearls in her hair.


She came in a dream when I was a child.

“Given Night” continues its publication
on April 16th, 18th, 20th, 22nd, 24th, 26th


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