is a widely published poet, fiction writer, teacher, and former music journalist. He champions the underdog while negotiating life’s absurdities. He has three collections, Small Consolations (Aldrich Press), Worth the Candle (Five Oaks Press), and Rocky Landscape with Vagrants (Cyberwit); and two chapbooks, Memory Marries Desire (Finishing Line Press) and The Covalence of Equanimity (SurVision Books), a winner of the 2019 James Tate International Poetry Prize. Another collection, A Careful Contrition (Shanti Arts Publishing), is forthcoming soon.
That first year they spoke about the river,
how it carried dead, abandoned things,
delivering unexpected surprises through
force of rushing flow after rains in season.
She remembered when it had been deemed
unreclaimable, horribly polluted by corporate waste.
It did not seem like that had been so long ago.
What neither of them realized was that every time
they spoke about the river, it was a secret code:
they actually had been referencing themselves.
It is a four-word title, a popular movie.
As his hands gesture wildly to guide those guessing,
she imagines those same hands touching her
in a shared shower, gently conveying something
beyond a title, in fact a whole plotline. The water
cascades in warm droplets that blur expectations
and offer no apologies, erasing social boundaries
that keep them safely apart, the hierarchies of
culture, race, age, and wealth swimming to survive
against ineffable curiosity crashing like waves.
He was a little boy when his parents took him along
for that ten-day cruise, he can’t even remember to where.
Every few days, a new stop to disembark down a long plank
to a dock of weathered locals selling jade trinkets on blankets.
One old native just stared, trying to relate some important message.
Each night he would sneak out to the deck where he could spy
that young man and the married woman, hugging and kissing
as if these acts could change time or their current predicament.
He remembers thinking, if their fervent passion does break reality,
let me stay close enough to jump into the fray.
The enormity of eternity strikes terror in her heart.
Already the inadequacy of a lonely childhood wrought change;
she feels happiness is only granted to larger crowds.
On a chilly New Year’s Eve, she finds peace within the chaos
of the thousands of tourists braving snow and low temperatures
to see pretty ball drop, the comfort of one number folding
into another, a logical progression offering false solace
and the brash liberty to randomly tongue-kiss strangers.
For her, it is temporary escape from the weight of expectations,
the disappointments that time has rained down in torrents.
Again he’d been submerged by the tide of an idea.
He rode the ferry in, pockets all filled with flat stones.
Then walking in one direction, he kept going until
encountering the falsely named saltwater estuary.
From the cement walkway he skimmed stones as though
each jerky hope and skip could erase life’s mistakes.
Then he headed west for as long as it took
to repeat the same ritual upon the choppy Hudson,
sidearm skimming until every last pocket was emptied.
Only then could his waterlogged heart begin healing.
The ocean liner’s journey lasts almost a month.
It is a slow-motion method to run away from scandal.
Holding handrail against headwinds, she contemplates
similarities of departures, repeated insincerities,
promises soon broken, prayers gone unanswered.
Here their sea love first sailed beyond sunset,
then desire had saved their ship from certain peril.
Tonight she knows his ghost will be there to greet her,
serving up welcome embrace within icy wake of wild waves,
pulling her under to where she’ll finally rise above it all.