September-November 2013

Come summertime in the United States, I often visited my parents who lived in a small, artistically minded town on Long Island. Showing at a local art was an exhibit, The World of Lighthouses, with each piece a miniturized, ceramic replica of its progenitor. “By Design and On Purpose” was inspired by the feat.

Though the locus of  “The Likes of Master Shimu’s Artistry” is oriental, I have never travelled that far east. Only my imagination did.

On one of my  business trips to Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was introduced to an artist by friends. She and I began a relationship which lasted as long as it could. “Museum Pieces” attempts to say in words what I/She/We might have seen in each other.

By Design and On Purpose

                 For Leslie Kingston  

Lighthouses are put there to stay.
In no way should they
at any time, go off fishing,
out for lunch, look forward
to holidays—none on the horizon.
If they did, who’d warn boats
about local currents,
which ones spit shoals
which  braid channels?

Likewise, lighthouses are put there to last.
Above all, they’re trussworthy spines
of steel rolled in concrete—
tons of each—raised to face
sunstroke one day, wind bites another,
no turning away
from whatever the weather wants.
How long should they soar?
As big and bright as possible
without much upkeep:
between seasons
a change of lenses,
lamps nightly,
after blackouts, new fuses.

On paper—technically blueprints—
lighthouses are rendered
with reliability in mind.
From top down, they’re designed
to hold their ground,
stand fast on a cliff
or bluff, be seen
for miles, over and over.

The Likes Of Master Shimu’s Artistry

A stream springs up.
Ribbons of currents sparkle
as they curl around rocks;
turning, by late afternoon,
into the deep water
of a long, dark pool.

There and then, its slowly
moving surface features
the likes of Master Shimu
searching for shade
along the bambooed bank.
Are those his eyes
floating among the green leaves
whisked off by the wind?

An eddy enters the picture
Soon the leaves are drawn
towards it, branching
away on separate waves.
Also, within drifting
distance, the bottom
appears again.

He’s seen enough, though,
for a full day;
between reflections
and the mirror between them…

It’s time
to let the watercolor dry.

First published in The Montserrat Review

Museum Pieces

           for Nora

             1

The art in this room
should share a single statement.
It’s supposed to say something
about belonging together,
though every painting
hangs on its own merits.

Now picture the place without them:
Nothing would stand out.
Not even art lovers
with high standards.

             2

Where do we figure?
Your eyes are searching.
Are they clear about us?
Look at it this way—
as a whole, we’re already
a work in progress.
The problem’s with perspective—
you don’t see us
coming any closer
than walls apart
within the same gallery.
You’re on the side of still lives
while I’m aligned
with moving portraits.
What’s missing is a meeting
space for both genres—
a middle ground
between back and fore.

First published in 2River View

June-August 2013

Feliz Cumpleaños, Feliz Aniversário,  Happy Birthday!  Three by 3  is one year young!

So, for the occasion, this posting is comprised of  poems written after June 2012, the launching date of the site.

“Re-Possessed”  was begun in early 2012 and finished mid year.  A version of  ” This Pawnbroker Is Worth Your While” was written in 2008, revised in 2012, and published in 2013.  “A Cabaret Called Janus” was writtten in late 2012.

 

                                          Re- Possessed

 

                                        By dawn any vampire still prowling around
                                                                                        is as good as doomed.
                                        It’s his turn to run scared,
                                                                              faster than the speed of daylight,
                                                                                         toward an abandoned graveyard…

                                         The name on the gate belongs to a family that lived
                                                                                            high and mighty  in yonder castle.

                                         He’s their last of kin. Has been since the serfs went
                                                                                        on a rampage, breaking in,
                                                                                               looting, armed with knives
                                                                                                                        and scythes.

                                         Hiding in the cemetery saved him.  An angel or devil had them
                                                                                                  combing the forest, until rain
                                                                                                             and darkness finally fell,
                                                                                                                      ending the threat.

                                         Then came the Count’s revenge. On moonless nights he rises
                                                                                               to the occasion: blazing red eyes,
                                                                                                   hand grown claws, fanged like a bat,
                                                                                                             shrouded in a hooded cloak.

                                         Some die of fright, others bled to death. Either way appeases him.
                                                                                                   What the serfs sowed, so
                                                                                                        shall they reap. All of them.

                                         His down time’s spent in a coffin. It lies low, but not buried,
                                                                                                    under a bush by the gate…
                                                                                                              as a whole, beyond suspicion.

                                         Once inside, he can rest on his laurels, sleep off the craving
                                                                                                     that drove him to drink, wake up
                                                                                                             feeling like a new man.

 

                                    This Pawnbroker Is Worth Your While 

 

 

 A sign on the door reads
 welcome in several languages;
 another says OPEN, most of the time.

 Ready to enter?
 Lots of watches in the window:
 silver, gold, old new…
 all ticking it’s now
 or never.

 Neon arrows point out
 where appraisals are done:
 up front, by the owner,
 free of charge, no questions asked.
 They pulse off and on,
 turning white as a halo
 around their target.

                                      First published in sandhill review

 

 

       A Cabaret Called Janus

 

    Downstairs, posters flatter the lobby
    with a wall of fame.
    Highlighted by a chandelier,
    one star shines after another,
    starting from left to right.

 

    The man in the dressing room
    looks like the magician
    among them.
    He’s wearing a white tux, matching
    cape and sash, fake mustache,
    same pearl turban.
    The poster also shows him
    waving a wand of lightning
    over a fiery hoop.

 

     On weekends he appears
     after midnight, prime time
     for a full house.
     His fans watch closely,
     never miss a trick.

      Soon a blinking buzzer
      will upstage the mirror.
      By then he should be
      all made up, or not.

 

 

 

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March-May 2013

Music to one’s own ears may not sound the same to another’s.  Argentina dances to the Tango,  Brazil carnivals with the Samba,  no country can outcumbia Colombia…

During a business trip to Quito, Ecuador, I wrote the first draft of  “Priorities in Perfect Practice”.  My hotel was near an artisan market  where the prevalent language was Quechua  and the music Andean.  I bought a flute called a quena as a souvenir. We bartered in Spanish.

Much of Rio de Janeiro is bordered by water, be it bay or ocean. ” An Octopus On A Blue Note”  made landfall via my imagination.

An executive that worked for  my company was also an accomplished night club style singer. She arranged  “Metamorphosis” in English and Portuguese and recorded the English  version as a track  on her first CD.  Listen to the audio or download:  

Metamorphosis [Download]

Priorities in Perfect Practice

Not only a metronome
plays a key role…

At the piano
sits a virtuoso.
He’ll tackle anything…

Note the ivory steps.
They slope upward,
towards a dream door.
He’s rhapsodizing
over which riff
might make
a break thru.
Also, what will it sound like?

In real life
a living room
houses him.
The walls wear ears.
They eavesdrop
on steady solos.
Likewise, a low
ceiling listens in.

Those are his
full scale critics,
besides a
small metronome
ticking away
on a table.
That’s their measure
for trying out
latent talent.
All he has to do
is follow along.
Whether the door
will wind up opening
depends on him.
As to when is up to them.

First published in Octavo

                         An Octopus On a Blue Note

An octo with a banjo
bangs out just jazz.
He’s deep…two, three
leagues below sea level.
He’s cool—groovy
in a marine green grotto.

But when the tide’s high,
he jams under a jetty.
Currents meet there.
Together they wreak waves
which swinging swimmers
can crawl to, and
“scuba, dubi,  do, man,”
sometimes beat out.

First published in A Little Poetry

Metamorphosis

Night is shrinking
into a colony of shadows.
Awakening,
you feel yourself peeling away
a stranger’s wardrobe.
As the chrysalis cracks,
more  than morning rises.
Marveling
at your latest likeness
you must wonder who
was clinging to the trellis
at midnight, or
whether it really wasn’t a dream.
For a change,
a butterfly
is taking flight.

Singrar, Sailing Songs
©Nicole Borger

 

December 2012 - February 2013

Some critters show up in my poetry. I accept the blame when they behave badly. Hopefully, a closer reading will bring out the good, better, and best in them.

The poems were written in the sequence presented. The first dates from 1998, the last, 2002.

 

A Trial By Fire and Brimstone

                   1

Admit you did it, scorpion.
Now tell why.
Our case shows
that late last night
on a deserted
desert floor
the tumbleweeds
took up dancing.
Partners shook loose.
Down and around they bounced,
backwards and so forth.
And as the sands
shifted, a stand
of cacti started whistling.

               2

We have witnesses
who wouldn’t lie.
They overheard
your cayote cronies
crooning along.
Likewise they listened
to holed up rattlers
joining in underground.
A hot beat sounded
from their shaky tails.
Then their heads
surfaced all around.
like metronomes.

              3

As our only suspect
where were you
when shooting stars
singed the sky?
At sunrise,
the sheriff pinched you
red handed
rummaging thru his boots.
Still, you swear
that the wicked wind
blew you there
after the brimstone
downed our town.

Doom it.
An alibi like that
ain’t worth a dime.
We’re just wasting time.
Anyway, unwritten laws’ll
have the last word.
With squashing on the spot
a sure sentence.

First published in Poetry Magazine

 

    Wolfish

              1

Critters caught off guard —
then, one, two, three…
we’re as hungry as wolves can be —
which should give the shepherd
something to stew over
once it dawns on him
who sheared down
his flock.

Such goodness on the hoof
standing out
oh so soft and white
under the moonlight
makes them clearly
much more appealing
than any holed up hares,
harder to snare, tough to eat.
There’s also a corral around them,
obliging outsiders
to either leer longingly,
or find a gate
which can be pawed open
without raising a bleat.

              2

“Brute evil’s out there,”
the shepherd bellows
while stomping his staff.
“See how it fared
during the dread of night,
disguised as darkness,
invisible to the innocent.”
He calls us sly devils,
even though we’re wolves
specialized in cunning.

Hiding behind a hedge
listening to his mad mouthing,
we’re far too full
to howl out who’s wrong.
Meanwhile, on branches,
early birds’re chirping and singing.
What music for our forked ears —
enough to lull us
into lying low for a while,
counting fewer sheep
to fall asleep.

If the Beast’s Only a Branch

 

See what I’m saying, son?
Look at the thicket — yes,
on the left, near the river,
loaded with mangos…
There’s an alligator in one
of the trees…
Maybe it’s lost, stranded… could
be hungry.
Oh, you’d rather know more
about where than why…
Such a skeptic I’ve raised —
enough, at times, to make me
wish you’d been born after adolescence,
or, even better,
had already outlived it.
How about taking the path
that skirts the river?
The sun’d be behind us,
the trees so close
we could smell the mangos.
They’re my favorite fruit — and
if the beast’s only a branch,
you can pick some for lunch.
The sweetest grow on top.

September-November 2012

Vice versa in verse could apply to the poems “The Last Judgment”  and “Mining”.  The former was written first.  “Mining”  is an alternative version. It was finished six months after the original’s publication.

I often extended my business trips with a  holiday. The Andean mountain regions of Chile and Argentina combined world class fishing with awe inspiring settings. “The Right Time/Right Place?” was written in Rio de Janeiro, my tropical home base residence.  The contrast was no coincidence.

The Last Judgment

 

Now lighter. Less tunnel.
After such a stunning stroke
the miner chisels in his chip list
another smash hit.
What’s in the works is a way out
of a tight spot with too little air,
lots of close calls…

Likewise, he’s steeped the shaft
in so much dust
that its bats are baffled.
They’re stuck to the ceiling
with their radar down.
Some heavy handed busy body
has low blowed them.

Indeed, he overhears wide scale
screeching above and beyond
his loudest footfalls.
On what grounds does it sound-
his heart pounding like a tom-tom,
bloody upset by their uproar.

Yes, there’s been prowess
in picking out a passage
which hasn’t caved in
as a matter of course.
Besides his list
booming with breakthroughs,
a clear cut tunnel leads him
to believe hard times
have had their heyday;
and that nearer than later
his undertaking should unearth
a man-size hole in the world.

But back to those bats…
Where will he stand with them
once the dust settles?
Is it a good move
to hold that might’s right
if they’ve been wronged?
When, after all, he aims
to strike ahead
and not at flying fangs.

Otherwise, he could say, “Sorry,”
owning up to having raised
an awful amount of fallout
along with dwindling darkness.
His impact’s been rough on them-
perhaps more than on the rocks
demeaned to smithereens.
In their eyes, blind as always,
he’s almost guilty.
Much better’d be a fairer hearing.
Let them listen to his lofty
pitch for innocence.
Just enough to keep
a hung jury from rebounding

First published in Kimera

 

Mining

 

Now lighter. Less tunnel…
After every stroke
the miner chisels in his chip list
another smash hit.
In the work’s a way out
of a tight spot with little air,
walls on all sides.

He’s also struck up
so much dust its bats are baffled.
They’re stuck to the ceiling
with their radar down.
He’s been rough on them,
maybe more than on the rocks
reduced to rubble.

Despite booming breakthroughs,
his man-made hole in the world
hasn’t led him to believe
that hard times’ve had their heyday.
There’s still a passage, unbroken,
slightly brighter than before, open
ended, stretching ahead.

But what about the bats?
The harder he hammers,
the shriller their shreiking.
For them the tunnel’s too full
of fallout, incoming light.
Short of breath, going blind,
almost deaf, they’ve had enough
of him and his growing shadow.

 

The Right Place/Right Time?

                    1.

How is he for souvenirs,
after a holiday booked on fancy?
As a bungling tourist that ranked high
against mammoth mountains,
ranging over ups and downs?
Where drifts favored
bumper crops of rocky rises,
stout hearted goats,
and no-go vertigo.

                 2.

In a drawing room’s manner:
mahogony sombered by lamplight,
an antique desk
standing in the corner.
Nearby, a clock topping
the mantle  ticks off the hour,
finding him reading his diary.
On a sixteenth century table
sit four tomes of Tolstoy
and a chip of granite.
The latter now as out of place
as  he was, with the wind
whistling through his mittens.

First published in The Lucid Stone

June-August 2012

Spanning the decades of the 1960s, 1970s, and the early 1980s, an aesthetic movement, Magic Realism, captured the hearts and minds of Latin American artists. Two Colombians, Fernando Botero, a painter, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a writer who consequently won a Nobel Prize for Literature, were icons of the times.

I’d like to believe that these poems were touched by such magic. Not because I consciously copied its style or contents, but because my real world was one of fantastic contradictions. “Long Odds On a Dwarf” was started while I was living in Mexico; finished after moving to Brazil. “Rogue Route” and “Sightseeing Over Scandinavia” were written in Brazil.

 

Long Odds On a Dwarf

 

Ditched in a dungeon
the dwarf looks lowly.
Litter rats
see him as leftovers.
They pick his toes
while  the candle dwindles.

His horizon couldn’t loom much lower:
a small window watches over him.
Bars top it.
Only a little light
fits in between.

Below a tight grate
crumbs show up.
Sometimes a wet sponge.
What isn’t dished out
is the key he keeps
raving about.

Downheartedly, the dwarf
wonders if he’ll
ever face
a sky again.
His shortcomings
have raised the odds
against it.
Every day, they
grow longer and longer
until, eventually,
even their ceiling’ll
be reached,
albeit when
he’s done in.

First published in Warrior Poet

 

Sightseeing Over Scandinavia

 

Not a road around.
Nor telephone poles.
Just deep green miles
of  pines…

Dirigibles make our pursuit
of transcendental truth
a moving experience.
We can cover lots of ground
while floating around, day
after day, at the same height
as any horizon.

Scandinavian forests are supposed
to be full of dwarfs.
So far we haven’t seen any;
only herds of reindeer,
and a preying wolf.

We’re heading towards the sea,
looking forward to the coastline
for a change of place.
There’s where the fjords are, and
maybe a mermaid.
Before running out of tides
or into unfair weather, we’ll
hover over each beach,
searching for a lagoon
that shimmers, sounds like
it’s singing.

Rogue Route

 

Goodbye, old gestalt
the  groom is getting away, out
of  his coronet, head  turned to wonder
after a rogue rider
who has convincingly stomped into no matter
his mind  field of inertia.

So, if it’s on these grounds–
that only a clone
has an inside chance
of a like motif,
then he’s already in the running.

What  a moving pair they’ll make,
now that wishful thinking’s coming along:
The more he imagines, the better off
his latest standing–
as much an eager dreamer
as a peerless pursuer.

Still, he faces an obstinate course, whereupon
high hopes, after sparking a heart start,
may be reaching a low-down.
His onglowing approach should show him
reflecting, beyond fire sighted eyes
about the blazen way he’s opted
for leaping out of a known circuit
into almost a stranger’s.

Further mulling over splits brainwaves
between contending peaks & valleys
featuring, all along, the rogue rider.
His idea of  progress, then,
should concentrate on staying
in sync, neither being sidetracked
by lighter or darker moments,
nor entertaining any motion
that  holds pondering  pointless.
He should be banking
on a learning curve becoming
a complete circle
once  it reaches a litmus ending.
True blue’s the test
in measuring  togetherness, like the sky’s
outlook after a storm,
though the match may be baseless, maybe not.

Likewise, by the last lap,
the  horizon could yield  another mixed reaction:
A spectrum of spectators–
friends, family, even neighbors–
those who’ve always been close,
begin looking away, which,
more than any mirror,
should reveal how they’ve lost track of him.
For them, a grown man
going around flogging a lasso
isn’t all there.
As for him, he’s out on a round trip,
soul searching in stride,
waving when the occasion arises.

First Published in The Montserrat Review 

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