Chinatown

B3_Chinese_New_YearBy night, Chinatown is a forlorn nexus of stumbling humanity.

Transient shades in motion, empty or full of pretense

all are made to wait under awnings

for the passing rain

that slants through street lamps

and beads the hanging wires

to become strings of light

tying together a kind of deranged continuity.

All streets lead back here for me,

caught in its vortex ,

Chinatown’s story a complex scent

of piss, jasmine and sandlewood insense.

Layered between 4 blocks in the deception of memory,

lest we forget the plague and the fire that swept through,

the dispossessed perched on rooftops

watching the blaze erase all they had accumulated

from field to storefront,

a shifting wind took everything.

Tongues of flame from the past relapse

in the shadowplay as neons go on and off again.

Illuminated windows arabesque what’s behind

a vision, a suggestion,

somewhere subterranean in the imagination,

plush chambers red and tassled,

host unseen scenarios in the candlelight.

There’s no moon to feed through pinched alleys,

so we’ll leave the darkness there to hold course

like a muddy river down the gutter

for the losers and winners in hidden gambling parlors.

The lion dancers come out on New Years

to bless thresholds and eat red qing envelopes,

stamping spirit in smoke,

chasing away any evil  Chinatown would invoke.

In a steaming kitchen after the drum beat dims,

gather in the cacophonous din of conversation.

If drunk on an internal dialogue, you can empty it

in the rattle of tea cups looking to be filled again.

Amidst these distractions, euphoria

in this gloriously chaotic quarter,

you can start all over.

Chinatown, a microcosm, degraded yet venerated,

full of deals, cheap thrills,

maneuvering through the streets again,

like a paper dragon

ushering in the next layer of its regeneration.

 

 

photo by Brent Wong

Gee Yung International Lion Dance Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Returning

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The moon, held suspended on a cloud

like a jewel in an outstretched palm

that clenched its fist

over a creative instrument

that prisms the light to beam through the sky.

From this vantage,

see the night thaw into a fleeting image

of my own willingness

to let the past be prologue

and memory become notes in a ship’s log

bound for East Point

painted on the horizon

like a raised birthmark over a darkened skin,

it’s set in its own isolation.

Through the El Greco sky of the mind,

unsteady in the swirl of shade and light,

poles teeter on the edge of each other ,

delicately dancing in the glow.

Where it beckons you’ll follow,

tracing lines to their inevitable ends,

leaving a progeny of words

strung against words

like a procession of lanterns

engulfed by waves

extinguished candles of breath

that craved oxygen,

building up only to give in to collapse.

All the thoughts and differing shades of meaning

shifting the gleam to tide pools cascading

from an overarching theme,

where everything is passing through.

For a moment the moon holds true,

weightless and suspended in a bubble of foam.

A perfect circle, timeless, eternal,

always returning home.

She Stepped out of Time

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A solitary white shoe lies at a fork in the path.  Who it belonged to was nowhere to be seen, not since July of 1941, when at the corner of Chatham and Marianna she stepped into a black car and out of time, leaving only questions in the decades of search that followed a torrent of remorse.  How the image of a forlorn shoe on a forest path can act as a trigger, pulling at the material, smearing it with mud and neglect, unraveling the mystery of an overly active mind as it searches for resolution among the empty bottles and other remains.  Years go by and the story gets drained of its lustre, paths leading only to dead ends. Just off of that road that twists through the pasture, infamous for its bends and with a reputation that lends to the atmosphere.  Thick was the surrounding wood and swamp alder. A solitary white shoe illumed by moonlight on the forest floor, fallout from a black car, like a prop that would suggest much more of misplaced trust than anything else as it tiptoes into time’s tragedy.  Like the dog-end of a cigarette, it is strewn over the psychic wound in the landscape, inanimate object from the distant past still holds a powerful resonance as its cautionary tale is suspended like headlights in the fog.  Keep your loved ones close, or at least hold on to that illusion as that car draws nearer.  It appears ancient and square-backed, what sets its wheels in motion also seals shut the heavy metal doors.  As it passes, all of life get reflected in its windows.  You’ve only a moment to notice the details, half-asleep from the passenger side.  Some roads are bumpier than others, like it or not we go along for the ride.

How many miscellaneous articles like this one are destined to the fate of evidence, that this individual once existed?  Now merely a pine grove stone for remembrance, with no loved ones left to maintain.  While the shoe will remain in a police cabinet or where it was left to the elements, to the corrosive rain.  Memories can live in attics and lover’s lanes, dilapidated sheds and sometimes in plain sight.  We can distance ourselves but they do not disappear.  You can hear their tiny footsteps like frequencies along the webs the imagination gets tangled in.  A white shoe shimmering in a forgotten corner, belonging to the ghosts of fading yearbook photos.  She would have walked with them through the halls of English, spying the tower down Oakwood as you did but in a different era and over the expanse of sea and night, like a coastal beacon casting its light, shortening the distance suggested by time, so there in the forest it lies, a solitary white shoe and who it belonged to subtly reveals something of her essence again.

 

In Memory of Frances Cochran

 

They Come Dressed in Feathers

thumbnail_-facebook_1483738169765That was how the spirit left the scene,

with one feathered wing dipped in the ashen sea.

The moment becomes a window,

the photo an eternity to gaze through

silhouettes

becoming signs, rippling to find

where the child once stood,

so that the saddened would be assured,

as they gathered along the shore

beneath oak and behind shades,

that this was how he made the transition.

The next phase of the journey,

no longer earth bound,

contours cast off and scattered to the deep,

commingling than expanding

to include these wings

and all the moments that are arresting.

We can find you when heavy clouds accumulate,

as the light that breaks through the sorrow,

as the wisdom that all is temporal.

The ways and the means we mill over

must appear smaller from up there,

ant-like and in miniature.

The shadows that surround

can levitate from the ground

when the sun moves them,

when all the white homes

appear like a runway of bones for those in flight,

passing with flashing talons

to penetrate the dreams of those inside.

Clear as the glint in your eyes,

I remember the whole trajectory,

as you cross the sky like an Egyptian deity

with one feathered wing dipped in the ashen sea.

 

Up north the family cottage grows cold.

The once glowing furnace of the potbellied stove

emits no smoke from its chimney beneath the trees.

Yet the floors still creak

and something beyond the elements speak at the edges,

with the spring of your essences.

It moves beneath everything,

even when no one is listening.

The sound of cracked ice on the lake

reminds me that the ancestors will take

the surroundings given and speak through them,

moving the pine’s limbs to shadowbox with the wind,

they make themselves known, if only briefly,

outside the pages of that great mystery

unread in the cobwebbed dust of your library.

Our lives are the layers in the walls they built,

slivers of glass in the windows and lamps they fastened

another stitch in the tapestry,

that which completes me, speaks through me,

through the imagination, peering from a darkened sky,

projecting light on the pillows of the dream’s eye

like a moon wrapped in sheets of cloud

on a winter’s night.

I hear you most clearly in the quiet hours

before anyone wakes,

when the lake would ripple its way to the pier

and two loons draped in mist would appear,

skimming the water’s gaze

over the length of the great Birch,

they’ll materialize and search

through my guise, at once familiar

in white tunic and shoes of leather,

they’ll come dressed in feathers,

dipping one wing in the surfaces of memory,

moving what preceded me,

deconstructing but giving breath to me,

an extension, their living entity,

poised between worlds.

The Wound

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When night finally collapses,

dawn is the wound through which the light passes.

As the great moon, in the trajectory of its swoon,

consolidates to day,

witness its fade into listless clouds

braced for a fall

with only a thin gauze

to soak up the remains of its thaw.

Beyond the slumber of the creator

behind the shear walls of the crater,

smoke fills the windswept precipice,

smoldering beneath the retreat of dark,

the sun was the first spark, the most prominent streak

that flashed across the page.

With a pause to peek over the edges,

it’ll teeter like an illuminated feather

spreading under waves of undulating color

blinding the horizon’s climatic ending.

If words parted the veil of memory,

starting a slow descent from its volcanic cavity,

bright lines would burn from an inner landscape like a vision,

over fields of new growth with regeneration.

Through each entity, no construct spared

nor offered immunity,

it clears every border

progressing towards her sea

where sharks of the subconscious,

sensitive to emotional debris,

encircle the tattered remnants of the past

sinking slowly into shadow,

eclipsing the material

with shades of stained glass in eternity.

Like a prism, the light passes through

even the deepest wounds eventually.

 

Words to Describe Flames

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Arrested in writing

words to describe flames.

A child’s home in Pahoa

starts with a spark

only to succumb to lava fields by dark.

The dry hissing slow progress

of wounds re-opened,

blood readies along the edges

biblical in the silent hedges

of night’s crackling amber

that flares up than cools

like the hardened remains of coals,

who knew it could hold in the heat for so long?

Backtracking over memory’s seared steps,

you get perilously close

to the word that describes it best.

So close you can sense

the full breadth of the fire,

through autohypnosis

it is harnessed by the writer,

like a waking dream

a half state

it baits a tiny voice behind the mind

to mime words

from the lips of its author submerged.

Here, fragments of unfinished poems,

swamp alder and charred wood

become the bones of a story

bivouac  on the periphery

of urban legends that transcend time,

haunting the sense of place,

transfixed on dark roads

behind the village unconscious,

there appears an apparition,

a white lady

who on the island is a manifestation

of the goddess Pele.

The flash of a lighter

brightens the tragedy,

recalling what happened here

from the lips of last whisper

you hear of someone’s daughter

made to swallow fire.

Sinuous details

of cold cases never closed

make themselves known at the crossroads.

There’s a crack in the asphalt

a fork in the path

for the curious to collect light.

There’s a black patch on the contours

for a spark of insight.

A subtle word darts honeycombed

between clouds coalesced by tissue flames,

enlightening for a moment,

you can almost grasp it

though it never remains.

Night Came to Reamore Part 2

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When night came to Reamore the crickets were out.

The scared and trembling trees

crowded in on a pitch black lane

and if there was a moon

it would break through the gloom

and throw reflections

on the surface of a brook rambling through.

How many steps mingled with the tapping of a staff

on that particular night?

In the weeks leading up to his death,

Moss Moore felt as if he was being watched,

over pints and cards he was known to say to friends;

“He’ll be up there waiting for me”

assuming he meant Foley,

“One of these nights at the crossroads there will be a reckoning”

So, when he would stagger home well after dark,

it was always with a protective stick and a flash lamp

whose searching light would cast a furtive glance

at every meandering shadow,

for every twitch and drop of rain became trailing footsteps.

The last night he was seen alive

leaving Mrs Collins’

with the scent of the hearth stamped into his cloak,

he could be heard tapping his staff like a blind man

and with a lantern that bore into the night thick with fog

and into eternity beyond the bog

that receives our darkest runoff,

Moss would soon decay into his own destiny,

a light growing dim and further away.

Foley was presumed guilty of the deed

but no law could punish him.

The rain came, agent of mystery,

destroying any shred of evidence left.

Still, the town’s eyes rested on him alone,

whether fairly or not, he would bear the blame

and become outcast in his own home.

A final four years that would be met with silence and boycott,

amplified in that tiny village, he tried to remain with dignity

but the strain of being a pariah

would leave his body to desire release,

to ultimately give in to the strain

before he also was laid to rest,

death came by way of heart failure

No more today has been explained

about what happened in Reamore 60 years prior.

Conspiracies abound and Foley’s descendants

maintain his innocence, claiming a convenient scapegoat

for those who wanted Moss Moore out of the way.

Not much of it is said these days,

all that remains

is the scent at night on those darkened lanes.

The evil that had settled into that isolated corner

has grown dormant

and of Moss Moore and Dan Foley

there’s only brick and mortar in ruin

marking their former dwelling,

the source of rumor over one man’s felling,

for those old enough to remember

and re-assemble in their minds

the sinking sun

and the shadow on the lines of this tale,

there’s the shell of an infinite sadness,

a gable and a windowless desolation

that knows only a cold wind.

Rain still falls on these fields

and rushes through the ravines,

time passes and closure grows further away

as the last of those living at the time

recede into memory

like the last gasp of enmity a land can possess.

It seems to proclaim, that if anyone knows anything

they are taking it to their graves.