For Breath

What is this body but a spool to reel the blue
skein of vast sky down from infinity;
or mirror scanning space until it brings
a silver mist, a slivered cloud to view,
captured one moment by that flickering eye;
or cup of gall; or mayfly with no wings;
or puppet bent on severing all strings;
a cloak spun out of atoms, illusory
as dew and dense as clay; a meteorite
sparkling the dark across a star-drenched sea;
a shadow, doubled, stitched–then sheared in two;
a taper thinning round some wickless light;
a ladder for the earth-bound’s climb toward night;
an instrument of bone the wind plays through.

2016 String Poet Prize Second Place

The Yoke

Imagine Diana singing, waiting to bring
the instrument that harnesses her will
up, shoulder-high. Then poised, then set to spring,
the plucked string quivers and the stag must fall,
still quivering where her arrow found his heart.
In silence, bending down on silent snow,
the hunter feels its ebbing pulse depart.
Joy’s bound to sorrow as the hand to bow.


Stroked like a lover, curved wood and fingered string
release sweet cadences: they rise and spill
from the moaning cello so enticed to sing
the very air around glows warm until
a second passage, mournful, played by heart,
reminds, in a final dark adagio,
the song’s half true without this counterpart.
Joy’s bound to sorrow as the hand to bow.


Joined in the moon-bright night, their bodies cling,
making one humming chord before dawn’s chill
wakes them to hear just spent notes echoing.
And though the full moon swathes them in chenille,
the crescent scythes, dividing every heart;
those lovers’ knots, undone, lay bare grief’s shadow—
threads, woven tight, now fraying, split apart.
Joy’s bound to sorrow as the hand to bow.


On the hand transforming all it knows through art,
on the hand of the beloved letting go,
on the lifeline lingering long or soon snapped short—
Joy’s bound to sorrow as the hand to bow.