Wilted Words

I like to think that first pen or stylus in Mesopotamia
was used to send something sweet to a lover far away.
A clay tablet left upon the doorstep of a restless woman
awaiting his return. Or, perhaps a dream inscribed on papyrus
about the songs she’d whisper when he arrives, tucked
into his belt – not less important than his sword,
closer to his heart than his shield.

I hope the realization of a need for transcription arose
from a knowledge that flowers would not last
the journey home. A thistle, wilted in the hands
of a kilted warlord, reduced mostly to nothing
once he reached his fair maiden.

Words can’t wilt, however, and, while mysterious
to the unintended reader, can hold so much more
for those addressed. They mark the voice of a distant
love, the mannerisms and inflection of speech
upon lips easily imagined. Or, at least I like to think
they do.

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A Classroom of Gulls

It’s gusty today.
My hair flaps in my face,
unable to follow the course I give it.

The lake-wind never fails to slap me
across the face if I pause
to watch the waves slip out of its grasp.

I saw a gull off the bow.
Thinking she wind-struck as well,
I watched, amused, as she plodded on—
flapping, bullishly head-down.

Then—swoop! She was blown
away, off course, falling, engine
stalling, down towards the water.

A half-second later
she came up with a fish
and swallowed it.

Experiment

I know it’s cold.
Earth’s bones are stiff.

I know because below my feet
and the deep dead leaves,
I feel a crunch.

Not a sodden, padded step,
but a crispness only felt
today
maybe tomorrow.

The dirt pushes up from under
each step
and shrugs
off the needles and grass binding.

She resists the advances
of footsteps and Winter,
in her crusty shell of ice
crystals.

I know it’s cold.
My bones are stiff.

I know because below my flushed
shell and the mist
beyond my face
is a satisfaction.

I know I can enter the cold simply
to question whether
or not
it is.

-A.J.M.

Don’t look for Icarus too long

A rush of wings quieted the technicolor spectrum
and sliding over the grass when I blinked at my feet
reverted the meadow to Kansas,

1939, behind falcon-framed shades and dizzy grays.
The moment shattered belief in Emerald City,
as gymnastic contortions pulled vision

up through a waxy and blurred lens—kaleidoscopic
in its melting flowers and stars released from shadow.
The taloned eclipse keeps rising,

and I smile again through eyes that stole the sun’s blue glare,
though next time I might only glance
at the circling dot.

-A.J.M

The Danish

Somebody I know once said the cold is part of him.
The Danish part,
or some loose remnant piece, left-over
from the Vikings, or some such,
still unsettled
but content
in spring air, always
remembering snow, ice
and winter.

He’s a story-teller, storying
an origin space with a state of mind.
Joy is reaching a stiff finger towards the cold air
to find it warmer,
when the heart roars loudly, riding
on the memory of sails
broken out of winter’s iron nails.

So am I.
I’m proud to be jacket-less
when the day I think is winter turns to spring.

-A.J.M.

“Sun Bonnet Sue’s Antiques”

Old things are wrapped within this moth-eaten quilt
of numbered road-stitches: this barn at mile 29

Signage suggests what glories can be found
behind square doors patched and painted
the same color
many different shades
like the greyscale calico
cement running beside it

How can a blanket excite me so?
Its twin, printed on Kodak
belongs
in grandma’s living room curio

Sun spoke of her
they grew up a county over but I had forgotten

-A.J.M.

Gopher’s door-knocker

Ran without streetlights and fell in the hole
address:
Where Shoulder Blades Touch the Ground, Under the Spruce Bough

Tried to find the tree silhouette somewhere past the pink nosy mountain
disoriented:
sequined black sky-mask sewn shut by pine needle and pitch

Gave thanks for porchlights and celestial neighbors’
hospitality:
because in full moons guests don’t drop as unexpectedly

-A.J.M.