Poetry from Dan Raphael

Here we Go Again

Most years January doesn’t have to do much—its reputation’s enough, every day

in the 30s, rain with 20 mile wind from whatever direction you’re walking;

sometimes the rain polymers branches, cars and streets in cold hard transparency,

soaked soil and juggernaut wind bringing down trees and lines, increasing the darkness

that should be diminishing:  the suns been up for hours but January wont let it out,

Jan doesn’t look at us at all, knows what we’re waiting for, so becomes 2 weeks longer— February won’t mind, having been the shortest all its life knows what complaining brings,

its only reward an extra day every 4 years like a gold star that won’t stick to its forehead, February’s that long car ride, soon as it begins we’re asking is it March yet.

March marches, mars the god of war showing off its new but familiar uniforms

this month of sideways rain, month of flowers teased into blossoming then frosted brown

by northern winds tromping the calendar line claiming winter’s over

March has no idea how April got here or who let it in, April so caught

in its fashionable reflection. intoxicated by its own promise,

it seldom looks outside—why are you complaining, it’s April—

put on your shorts, dust off your bike and celebrate your way to a terrible cold.

The Universe Started in a Kitchen

Warm bread, cold coffee, basil rain

a medium rare minute

my autobiographical menu

dreams with food around but i can’t get any

Boil before you mash

wash but don’t peel

3 minutes per side

don’t measure, weigh

follow the pilot light

A kitchen off the grid

different sizes of spatulas, flippers, wood & metal spoons

3 knives

great grandma’s cast iron pan

this fork grew an extra tine

Eating steak without utensils

my molars aren’t what they used to be

Red means go, when it’s a tomato

someone tall & thin as a cornstalk

7 bees swim in an artichoke flower

some crops don’t want to be eaten

the only thing that grows in my kitchen
         is the stack of dishes and pots to wash

a stove you can take to any room, any where

Times my stomach rumbles for no reason

if i’m eating, it’s mealtime

wish the fridge and fruit bowl could refill themselves

so when I put a bed in here, i might never leave

Under Cloud Cover

a mani-permeable membrane

four way street, traffic circle sprouting sinuous

combination window mirror camera  and screen

as if I’m one

sometimes particle, sometimes wave

for the tiniest increment timeless

one blade in miles of grasses

between breaths, among heartbeats

my roots go everywhere

no reason to taste me

don’t know what I’ve been holding back til I let it go

like that sleepless, walletless hitchhike across the country

how long it took to convince myself I could sleep now

or the second trail day in Nepal, got lost,

take 20 steps, catch my breath, take 20 steps, sit or lean

resilience    recovery    resignation    reignite

in my current flame of mind

in several keys, several languages, not all of them

voiced or heard, no harmony without absence

muscle rippling bone, pushing while pulling away

how hugs become subcutaneous

each pore can breathe, each hair

can transmit and receive

sun slices through clouds

won’t let my hands touch its light

more motion than heat

places where clouds are illegal but not hard to get a little

places the sun shines through the earth ‘round midnight

Of the Land

How are my territories divided:  the physical, the emotional,

the only borders are my clothes, cat scans looking for

quick passage, hidden benefits, mazes of intestines and nerves

the river going through me can be dammed or polluted upstream

Weather grants no suffrage but always provides consequence

seasonal conundrums, the powers of habit and accumulation

but not what I was saving for which comes when

there’s no longer room or company

How to find a balance point with so many fingers on the scales

the momentum of intent, the inertia of comfort, inherent randomness

when supply demands, an idea made flesh, knowing when to shrink

or vanish, a door locked before i could learn the combination

What lets in wind but not light, a skull so tight not even

whispers can get through, an untranslatable past

becoming smithereens of the future, as it takes a thousand arms

to keep all of a life’s moments aloft, a fluid index,

when what seems chaos are the many ways to tell the same story

as plots cross-breed, as characters become their speeches,

costumes gleaned from the effluvia of closets

When we ran on all fours and kept gaining weight

so nothing could carry us away, earning the choice

to stay out of the rain, be close to a fire

what often happens around now, at this age,

what remains a mystery since no one’s seen it before

the country trying to grow inside me must be cut our or dispelled

Born Under a Vague Sign

particular matter     vague concerns     open seasoning

we need wind to mask the freeway noise

windows to keep out what the wind is carrying

how far this dust has come, a slow migration.

local rebels, taking a chance—you don’t know where that wind’s been

when the wind and rain boycott us, meteorological distancing

the masked sky diffusing the sun

adjusting the dimmer for 12-14 hours of equal gray

every time the electricity hiccups all the clocks turn to midnight or noon

shadows growing from the streets and yards

smoke trees     street trees     family trees     triage

when the windows go blank

when there’s nothing beyond my yard

since the sky’s so vacant the thunder must be manmade, ground pounding

pits and spumes of dust as if slow rain but no rain—

earth burps     soil yeast     foundations too unsettled to not squirm

can we just jump from 6 o’clock to 9, from downtown to road free

rotate this valley 90 degrees to change its relation to everything

the rain’s never lost cause it doesn’t care where it’s going

clouds throwing off water like we do cigarette butts and burger wrappers

as if we wait til sunrise to start and stop soon as dark reaches our ankles

as a compass is not a clock of space, gps is just numbers

and you know how stable they are, how easily 8 becomes three,

take the 1 from 10, when it’s easier to count the commas than the places

even temperature speaks multiple languages and never asks us

for a reference or limit, skin wants its own arithmetic

add, divide or multiply, things get so confuddled

even gravity’s misoriented, light slows to get a better look

after decades of steady friction blood escapes, nerves stop receiving

and only transmit, wirelessly, enough pain or joy at times

to reach a satellite and either bounce or tread

into the emotional vacuum, the place so many causes and effects

hide each other. as if the sun is all we got, as if the moon is content

most of the stars are not meant for us

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