WITH THE BREATHERS

featured in the poetry forum March 17, 2024  :: 0 comments

Fourteen anxious men,
fourteen pregnant women,
sit on the floor
in a bare room
on the third floor of the hospital,
work on their breathing.

Inhale, admit air,
feel it load up the lungs,
press against the ribs,
then let it go.

A woman stands at the open door,
toting her child,
comfortably, cozily,
as if having a baby
is as easy as applauding yourself.
Future first-time parents look up at her
like nervous college seniors
in awe of a recent graduate.

Then they return to their exercises,
more forceful, more deliberate,
than before.
They’ve just seen what can happen
when you breathe.

editors note:

Baby? Breathe to the level of your hands. – mh clay

YOUR SLEEP-TIME COMPANY

featured in the poetry forum October 1, 2023  :: 0 comments

By day, we’re mere dust
but, come darkness,
the past grows in us.

We relearn what we have done,
why we’re strangers in heaven
but our names are known in hell.

In light, we pause.
At night, we arise,
become our life stories.

We are not avengers.
Nor are we a warning.

We float across the room.
We stretch our bodies
and our mouths open wide.

Our words are nothing more
than what you can’t help thinking.

editors note:

Drown out that din; think a “la, la, la” to lull yourself to sleep. – mh clay

THE NOISE IN THE BARN

featured in the poetry forum March 27, 2023  :: 0 comments

I hear a noise at night coming from the old barn.
Too loud for mice. A raccoon maybe.
Or could it be the ghosts of horses.
Phantom cows are another possibility.
Years ago, there was a herd that spent its winters here.
Could be a homeless person also.
Ever since the city founds its way
to what used to be nothing but farming country,
there’s been stuff stolen, a window broken,
some spray paint on the rough brown walls.
So why not the ones who have no place to spend the night.
A roof over the head is not to be sneezed at
despite the heaps of ancient hay.
There’s always the wind as culprit of course.
It loves old tottering buildings.
Nothing like getting under the eaves
and terrifying the roof.
Or whistling through the door
and shaking some rusty bolts down.
I’m lying in bed and listening,
this thing I do before sleep.
I’m taking a measurement of the world
before I leave it,
my ears putting everything in its place
from traffic to the ticking of my clock
to my own shallow breath.
An odd noise holds up progress:
like a fire-cracker, thunder,
neighbors scrapping.
A barn rustles even more so because it’s my barn.
There’s even a chance that I’ll get up to investigate.
A noise in the barn is me throwing on
slippers and dressing gown.
It’s the ping of a mattress,
the creak of a floorboard and stair,
the turning of a key,
the clip-clap of feet on a cement path.
The noise in the barn is the noise I make.

editors note:

With self is source, imagination investigates. – mh clay

WEDDING REHEARSAL

featured in the poetry forum September 28, 2022  :: 0 comments

The couple fought.
One set of parents
shook their heads.
The other threw
up their arms.
The best man got drunk,
didn’t show.
The maid of honor
was off somewhere
proving she was neither
maid nor honorable.
As a wedding rehearsal,
it was a total failure.
As a marriage rehearsal,
it got everything right.

editors note:

And all those thank-you notes to write. – mh clay

THE MISSING OBJECT

featured in the poetry forum April 9, 2022  :: 0 comments

Nothing’s ever where I left it.
Order defies its name,
prefers discrepancy
or misdirection
or time warp.
But never absentmindedness.
An item in its place
can dissolve,
its surrounds melt,
become shapeless,
ooze through apertures,
creep across the floor
like snails.
It is the unspoken mission
of an object to go missing.
My assignment is to look.
Not where it is.
Only where I’m sure I put it.

editors note:

Wishing we could just call, “Olly olly oxen free!” – mh clay

DIRECTIONS

featured in the poetry forum October 18, 2021  :: 0 comments

You said, watch for the dirt road off the highway
a mile or so past the gas station
and before you get to the big red barn.
The road has no name, you added, but take it.
And keep going, mile after mile,
long beyond the point where you feel as if
you’re not getting anyplace.

Best turn off the radio, was your instruction
because with the thick forest trees and granite cliffs
you’ll pass, the best you’ll hear is static.
So be your own radio, sing every song you know,
commercial-free. But watch out for deer.

Then it was, take a left, a right, a kind of left,
then a right at the fork: (if it still is a fork:
what with the last storm taking all those trees down)
until you reach the rickety wooden bridge
over the creek.
Say a prayer for your tires, if you haven’t already,
and then bump your way over it.

You should start to see occasional houses then,
okay, cottages, but these are the hardy folk
who really do want to live as far away
from civilization as possible.
Ignore the satellite dishes.
And the four-wheel-drive tanks of course.
Mine is the brown A-frame
without the giant satellite dish on top
and no four-wheel-drive monster
in the makeshift driveway.
Come on in. I’ll be waiting for you.

These are the kinds of directions
love often lays out for me.
I’ve a lot of miles on me.
I haven’t got there yet.

editors note:

Not even Google Maps can direct us here, but go we must. – mh clay

TRIAL BY BUS STATION

featured in the poetry forum May 8, 2021  :: 0 comments

It’s 2.00 a.m.,
and I’m stuck in
a bus station.

It’s curfew time
for cheap interstate transport.

No buses are departing.
None are arriving.
The dispatcher has
long since gone home.
The café is shuttered.

It’s hard to sleep
in this cramped seat,
even with my backpack
for a pillow.

And there’s a cop
does the rounds,
pokes stomachs
with his blackjack,
snarls, “Have you got a ticket?”

It’s another five hours
until the next bus leaves.
The red-eyed coked-up guy
sitting opposite me
looks like he’s been waiting
years for his.

A baby screams.
A homeless guy recites
the alphabet loudly.
Another smells like
a distillery at one end,
a sewer at the other.

It’s the kind of company
for which solitude was invented.

editors note:

Cramped crowdsourcer seeks solo stint. – mh clay

BILLBOARD WOMAN

featured in the poetry forum November 29, 2020  :: 0 comments

I was thirteen
and in love with the woman
on the large billboard,
that the bus passed on the way to school.
I had no interest whatsoever
in girls who were my age.
My billboard love
had long wavy blonde hair,
bright blue eyes,
and lips as red as the plums
that showed up in my lunchbox
come summer.
Girls had pigtails.
Their eyes were brown.
The only time
I noticed their lips
was when they
opened their mouths
to give the teacher
the right answer.
Billboard woman
also had the right answer.
I was thirteen.
The question
suddenly occurred to me.

editors note:

Seeking a credible source; truth in advertising. – mh clay

THE HAND

featured in the poetry forum June 20, 2020  :: 0 comments

I’m hunkered in a kitchen chair,
head half to the table,
bottle of cheap booze,
my only companion,
when a hand grabs mine.

Just a hand.
Nothing else,
No arm. No body.
Severed.
But with a grip like a wrestler.

I’m thinking,
maybe it’s my conscience
taking a different tack
from all that fruitless
whispering in my ear.

And it wants me
to stop with the drinking
that’s rotting my gut,
water-boarding my brain cells.

But then it could be the appendage
of someone I’ve wronged,
the surviving grasp of revenge
while the rest of him
went to the grave.

Or maybe it’s my own hand,
my vision so blurry,
it’s hard to make out
where I end
and the rest of the world begins.

Then the hand grabs the bottle,
pours some more of that hooch
down my throat.

Conscience, avenger,
or the clasp of my undying thirst –
I know which one
I’m stumping for.

editors note:

Seeking a hand up, or hands off! – mh clay

A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME

featured in the poetry forum January 31, 2020  :: 0 comments

The breakup may have begun with
that couch we bought at the Goodwill store
and hauled back,
strapped to the roof of the V W,
to our rented rooms in a roach-hotel.
The springs poked through the fabric
which stunk nastily of mold
and it was too big for the tiny parlor.
took up half the doorway into the kitchen.
Having to squirm and constantly shift
while we sat together watching television didn’t help.
If comfort was no more than chimera
then what about our relationship?
At least that torture implement
went with the lumpy mattress
and the mismatched kitchen chairs
and a refrigerator
that hummed like monks chanting for the dead
and heat-pipes as cantankerous as your mother.
But instead of laughing off poverty’s absurdities,
our feelings took on the tenor
of Goodwill and coils digging
into the butt and lumps
and furniture at odds with its setting
and your mother – that was the last straw –
a strange thing for me to say
when you consider the stuffing in that unholy couch.

editors note:

Person, Place, or Thing; which does damage most? Thanks, Mom! – mh clay