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[The following poem is a response to--not an ekphrastic of--an untitled, oil on masonite, painting by Kayla Antiel Plosz.]


it is almost at the harbor when we strike a precarious
balance on the brink of a surface we call cliff
and then again we play it safe and settle inland
and wait for it initially in its wake a bit
of an idea scribbled into waves cracks
us open a slit it’s like we’re paper it’s that easy
to tear into us in time after our little pas de deux
with denial even its vapor
can obliterate us it’s a catalyst for remembering
at last every repressed memory of what
hasn’t happened yet it bids us
to travel as if over hills and seas to a different
self so we aren’t at home and that’s how we know
what we felt before it’s in the itinerant glow
in the transformative
oh the way the smoke
proposes at once to several shades of gray and brick
it’s common sense we insist to believe
in a shared reality that reiterative imitable
systematic illusion of certainty that’s only the tip
but it’s not a foregone conclusion
in anyone’s prefrontal cortex that curiosity actually
is precarious a risk akin to the contrary and comparing ships
we arrive in the end with this it isn’t
really like anything it’s neither in the least a harbor
nor even a brink but is everything it is
estranged from anything but the exiled
and for a while we welcome it

The Riven House
A Doubtful House; appears in Spittoon, Dec. 2013)

Even the floor boards are so dry

they draw back

from each other for that ironic view so long now

they shrink into themselves leaving

gaps like slow digs

to China surrounded by gradual cliffs

tipped like the great and natural

geographic forms splinter first with a single blade

of fake hay from a storebought broom you flick

grains of sand and toast back to the surface

vacuum distilled matter till

the soil of geologic larger rifts breeds a need

for a spoon to lift

evolutionary flint the dust of domestic realms

gone environmentally unstable

upheavals raise mountains out of molehills

chasms part for water falls down precipitous

stone into arroyos where coyotes bay

at fluorescent moons

where you could pose to take another shot

of this grand canyon landscape and send

a postcard home with uncharacteristic interest

you reach scraping against scree your hand down

past the inner laval place of quakes the board

just to feel

in the cooled stream of things the golden carp

nudge what you can’t catch

voices lilting upward from the buried

silt down there the scent

of brewed herbs ceremonial fires leaves

an aftertaste a faint

glow from below at night tints the house

as if from far cities’ lights

obscure the stars

Variation 22: Equivocator
(from Interval: Poems Based Upon Bach’s Goldberg Variations, 2015; first appeared in Slice Magazine, Spring 2013)

Say that love
is a love that cannot die.
So that if it does it is not a matter neither

created nor destroyed and isn’t love.
Or was it? So that to have loved and lost

is never to have loved at all: Can love
never die with impunity? Is suicide

love’s only way out? Say love is molecular,
pheromones, phoneme, idea: Can’t it have two

or more sides? What if the loved object dies
and the love is without object, then what

is the object of love? Or if the object lives—
I know, I know, I know but let’s just say—

but the love takes another subject to love.
Can love not translate, multiply, commute?

Can love never be pluperfect nor plural,
would you have it be censored, suppressed?

Say love
was a love that died.
Say love never loved, did what it pleased,

made its own choices, got a cat. Or that
a love unloved was nevertheless itself

a love, and could. If it wanted.
Say love is a love defined by love itself,

loves itself, knows nothing
but itself, is always one

and the same: Is love a mirror, a point,
spiral, sphere, a line? What? So say love

could wait for us to die
to die. Or could wait forever to love

its true love, who’s waiting, so that in waiting
to love it’s still a love, although

true, unloved, and so perhaps is dead,
unless that isn’t love.