Which Darkest Hour

featured in the poetry forum February 14, 2024  :: 0 comments

the day the sun rose twice.
did it change directions. was it a different sun.
what time did my phone think it was
or we all just passed out for several hours and missed night
maybe only part of the world had two sun rises
and did all those places also have two sun sets

if the last to leave didn’t turn off the sun
if here, windowless, maybe buried, had its own sun
and day length, clocks tuned to 48 minute hours
or 48 second minutes. how would our hearts respond.
would music just slide into the new tempo, moments of
perfect stillness where even the clocks hold their breath
no one is born or dies, all souls joined in blank, anxiety-free hesitation.

certain corners I always stop on, certain lights are always green for me
open one door and two windows close, look up the time
and miss a message fluttering by the window, I’d set an alarm
but it sang somewhere else. on time but undressed

to notice the gaps and stutters in time
out of rhythm with everyone else oh so slightly
in denial, maybe paranoid, why me, what difference
can it make, never quite on time as others define
and if time is off what about location, never exactly here
always something askew when we meet, as if setting a new time
would make any difference, bring someone else,

will doors open before I can’t stay still, before the mirror-walls
re-costume, mistranslate, add the mystery ingredient
an echo with edges and intent, shadows unsure which way to point

editors note:

We need a minute to figure time out, a shadow to point the way. – mh clay

Evidensity

featured in the poetry forum August 5, 2023  :: 0 comments

wouldn’t let me out, couldn’t find me. who else could it be,
hands that size, more momentum than muscle
a car so anonymous no one remembers a driver, whether the sun
shining or clouded, who was going out, who coming n
a door in the street, ladder from a low cloud
get to almost running speed then stop and slide
on changing terrain, from mud to ice, linoleum just below the dirt

i can read the writing on the wall cause i wrote it
with a strong black marker taking three coats to cover.
the less i’m wearing the harder i am to see, not shivering
but vibrating like a bass string, not sweating but slamming
oxygen and hydrogen together to make not quite water
whether it dries to a powder or evaporates with a smell
no one agrees on — fresh lumber, forgotten fish, roses soaked in vodka

when you’re wind there’s always a way in
but so many choices can paralyze, doors and windows
in every direction, passing by, materializing then gone;
not footprints but swirl marks, like slices of fingerprints
like soft hills water’s gone through so many times they’re a comb
or a set of strings to slice things with, whether soft or hard
daytime or night, had to do something while i waited

look at anything long enough it changes, maybe becomes reflective
maybe its molecules spread a little further apart, movement
where there was stillness, faraway becoming close.
i see the sounds rather than hear them
feel colors rippling on my bare arms
time to go where i’ll enter as if already there
contextual deja vu, a dilute but palpable aha
less than a minute to receive enough sparks and tinder

editors note:

Feel like I just chased a rabbit with a pocket watch… aha, again! – mh clay

Keyless

featured in the poetry forum December 7, 2022  :: 0 comments

doors open out, close in
windows open up, close down
jars open clockwise, close counter

I choose the right key to unlock the kitchen door
90% of the time, the other nearly identical key
is for someone else’s house
I don’t have a key for my front door
the garage door hasn’t come down since we got here

that time I put my key in the passenger door
opened it, and realized it wasn’t my Subaru
now as long as the key’s in your pocket or purse
doesn’t matter who you are

some homes in Chile (& elsewhere) are built on stilts
when a couple splits up, often one person gets the land
the other gets the house and moves it

could you build a house under an existing house
a house inside a house, a house without foundation or flooring

looked so hard in the living room window
I heard it sigh. no doors, no house number
I couldn’t see past the lawn

editors note:

If no house, no matter what key you carry. (Congrats to Don on the release of his new collection, In the Word Shed! You can get your copy here.) – mh clay

Unpredicting

featured in the poetry forum May 4, 2022  :: 0 comments

on my way from the suburbs
non-linearity waiting around the corner
organic teleportation, quantum cotanglement
like an electron spreading its wings
the sweet blossoms of passive neglect

how today the usual tastes off, the half & half curdles
days before the pull date, what’s on the label isn’t in the can,
a hundred dollar bill is waiting on the doorstep
an orange sky, a cloud with square corners

i dreamed of emollient beauty and woke
itching all over, i turned the page on the calendar
and it flipped itself back, i get to roll again
pass go and collect a large pizza
with gluten free crust and cauliflower cheese (sausage)

other days everything goes as planned
i must change clothes for no reason
find a window that will open, go outside
and check the house number
every car that drives by is white

i cast the shadow of a 20 foot sculpture
fifty or more crows gathered across the street
one walks my way
my arms are wings
i fall backwards from a high ledge
wondering what i’ll do, how far will i glide
how do i pay for lunch
will the bus doors be big enough

i get off just when things turn around
a sun emitting cloud, shit too valuable to flush
which weather con/com should i bet my savings on
for Christmas the earth will show us next spring’s fashion
so much wrapped in viral plastic
as we saunter into the past
knowing what probably won’t happen again

editors note:

Spun up in this span when there ain’t no plan. – mh clay

How Could So Much

featured in the poetry forum October 9, 2021  :: 0 comments

how could so much
become never before
this quick and suddenly

if the window came to me
if i opened myself for the door
i’m naked cause it took all my clothes
to roof

what kind of heap am i
magnetic or smoldering
parts from something never fully designed
like starting with 3 non-consecutive letters
for your true name and no one to ask
how to get more: winged letters
i can’t catch, growling letters,
letters in another’s pocket

can’t go back to where i just was
as it’s nowhere to be seen
the kind of distance jump
requiring at least 4 hours unconscious

or just leave one body behind
& get a new one on arrival
like i do in a restaurant
choosing the first thing on the menu
that catches my eye–what will it taste like
will i have any idea what i’m now in

stripping back to blue-prints and diagrams
recycled gift wrap from another planetary culture
as if my hand was the Ouija planchette
drifting along the map of this area
that engulfs the floor like a rapid summer
of drying grass, seed pods, squirrel rejects

like a bicycle that some days won’t move
no matter how i pedal, other days
i have to mount it as it rolls out the yard
toward hills so high

a night of cheap vodka & deep-fried meat
is waiting in ambush to inundate and in-debt me
my name’s on the invoice, my face can be drawn
using just the stain of a signature, virtual skin,
imaginary calluses

instead of taking my temperature, i put on a watch
and see how long it takes to stop this time

editors note:

Alphabetical disorder achieved in record time. – mh clay

My Heart Cries out for Obstruction

featured in the poetry forum March 27, 2021  :: 0 comments

My Heart Cries out for Obstruction – Nathaniel Mackey

my twitching fingers know the air’s too thin
to climb or weave, my feet reluctant to leave the floor
but town is closing soon and the highway needs its quota

you can only buy so much time without worrying where to put it
exchanging interest for growth, an unstable stillness
the momentum of a sentence untethered by breath
my lungs steadily changing pages, uncertain

something yeasted then forgotten
a fermented state of mind stoppered with cheekbones
hesitation reduced to lard, rendering in charcoal squid blood
and tar sands the inevitability of stars, more error than margin
too much space for a line, too much rumble for a bag

keys keep turning in my pocket but nothing ignites
my deodorant smells like gasoline, my mouthwash
from a forgotten river, no industry without dust,
no progress without rogues, out of the blue and into the grey

always leave a couple spoonfuls for the next meal
if the knife’s not used for cooking something else will be cut
on Thursdays, the cooks pick the music and the plates are glad
to wash themselves, my appetite’s in a minor key

when my earworm is a bass jam i was playing last night
while the garlic i smell from the kitchen won’t be peeled and chopped
for a couple hours, on the brink of an almost lethal brilliance
eyes cropping what the windows allege, a 20-foot shadow
rolls slowly down my street looking for an address

editors note:

Post “No Soliciting”, pull the shades. – mh clay

Broken English

featured in the poetry forum September 2, 2020  :: 0 comments

When culture takes wing
trailing fluff and flakes suggesting
mayan runes melted into asphalt
lead letters, teflon letters, mercurial vowels

Throw a stone into a dictionary, photograph the ripples
playing back in slo-mo to translate, to blend
elastic letters, porous consonants
plosives without timers or fuses

Since yeast can produce alcohol
can alcohol help our words rise
punched back down and left in a dark dry corner
focusing the spotlights for baking without smoke
the open mike vacuum draws in the friction of crows
mumblings of 5-cylinder engines

Few can handle manual transmission any more
gotta be automatic, cellular, so many tones
tween first and second, all solos, no harmony
spilt beer revealing invisible ink
whether the paper’s from tree, hemp, rags, papyrus
eventually, the archeologists realized that ziggurat
was a novel pressed in clay

I read the words on the screen with conviction
output without input, context-free text
a few new images and a misheard phrase
burst in me with a malthusian froth, muscular riptides
dancing with under-currents that just escaped

I know there’s a set of traps and cymbals around
I’m ready to unroll the scroll disguised as a steel string
pressing the pickup into my forehead
to amplify whatever’s left in there

Will our earbuds sprout in spring
always somewhere in me green and damp,
the sunshine of my love for the next unexpected
enjambment, the myth reduced to a sonnet,
the cliché about to remind us how it got that way

editors note:

Constructed from the secret codex we all want to crack. There is more than words at stake… – mh clay

On the Wing

featured in the poetry forum March 30, 2020  :: 0 comments

I only eat bird meat, bird eggs
not letting the wind control my appetite
for several years i migrated
my clothes never big enough to smuggle much

As few want to eat the fine-, fragile- boned fish
trying to breed a featherless chicken
sauce is the reward for eating wings
as ladles of gravy help the gobbler go down

Feeling rich when we have the whole thing
like roasted pigs, anything on a skewer over open flame
the smell of burnt fur the opposite of hunger

Muscle for muscle, bones for bones, feathers
to fly in our minds or just rise an inch or two
internal teleportation, swimming in stillness—
not to bathe but to float, just a few ways
to relieve gravity, to pretend it’s escapable

If the world was flat how many would jump off the edge
invent ways to release into space, like an astronaut
who’d cured the addictions to oxygen and pressure
or mountaineers who summit, strip, and glide to the nearest cloud

As the air thins, so should we;
as the air thickens, will our lungs adapt,
will 98.6 become a debunked religion
our relationships with clothes will be revised, revealed
more than comfort or protection, less than skin but more than muscle

Everything i wear has flecks of me on it, i’m more defined
by what i drink than what i don’t eat, walking like whoever’s
around me, flying when no one sees

editors note:

A case where we eat what we are. – mh clay

The word not said after 4 dry weeks

featured in the poetry forum August 1, 2019  :: 0 comments

I knew the drain brain strain
the sssiss of tires on wet streets
the highway seems half volume or twice as far
wading birds, fishing birds, birds that can drink a gallon at a time
eyes like aquariums, ponds of something thicker than water
with the busiest possible complexion

If I let my hands out in it they might not want to come in
till they lost all sense of direction and body temp
a sky so thick it begins to show cracks, loss of cohesion
even in times of surplus there’s no fair distribution

Do I dry my hair or my feet first,
these rare days my arm pits stay dry
times when looking up is losing focus, increased risk
no matter how regular the surface,
times when the smoothest are the biggest threat
not a time for dancing shoes, breathable shoes, exposed socks

When our driveway becomes lake country
when people move quickly with tunnel vision
mornings I’m unsure where I am or how I got here

editors note:

In a drought dither; hair or feet, no matter. Hydrate when you can. – mh clay

In a Beginning

featured in the poetry forum February 7, 2019  :: 0 comments

No matter how many trees we peel, how many cars
we turn into mosaics, i know this isn’t my city
though there’s a house with my name on it
overcoats for curtains, faded maps of imaginary nations for floors
how do you hang a one-way door
no matter how many mouths i open water refuses to enter me

First the scab, then the lake
still water brings algae brings fish brings birds
brings a sky to fly in, clouds for nightly shelter
we have no word for sun, no word for walking—
i either fly or run, with or against the ever wind
the traffic in my mind looking for places to work or eat
listening for a name i heard only once,
an accent no song can contain

Once let in
once without rain
the first fire can’t be stopped

editors note:

Home-boy or stranger, there’s fire in the danger. Get out while you can! – mh clay