dan raphael

No Comparison

Shall i compare thee to 40 mile per hour wind on a wide sandy beach,
to a young black bear sniffing the 6 year olds swing set,
how the hills and streamlets have long stopped negotiating, trying to compare wind and light
with minerals and worm news, how my zen memory can remove 30 years from your complexion,
back before you were born, when the sky was only gray on Mondays
carrying light to the sun, letting the faucet stream til i could taste the vitamins,
see the tiny crystals sparkling in the flashlight defying my budget-imposed black-out.

nothing compares to falling 30 feet when the shale gives way,
i keep climbing back, stomping to sheer off a new edge but am sprung to safe ground by
muscles protecting bones. i yearn for what i’ll never have without breaking three or more laws.
you cant give a puppet all of its strings at once, like learning to write with the other hand
by watching a mirror, saying “won og ot evah I” before entering.
hold my hand up to the lit window and see the shadow of gloves,
everyone in winter clothes this 80 degree day, as tires melt from cars,
as squirrels start marketing walnut, buckeye and acorn butter.
beneath the sidewalk are yards of polished stones.

you say my skin is as smooth as a freshly made tortilla, my eyes are the color of blue jay feathers blended into a paste, taking a cubic inch of meat and letting the fryer decide if its pork or salmon.
i practiced til i could reassemble a potato from a plate of french fries, as potatoes grown in sterile dirt tend to have sharp corners, as the reason to change clothes regularly
is to keep the dead skin from taking over, since we don’t think a million windmills
or a whole county covered in mirrors will change anything but the electric bill.

whats the opposite of derived? what if nothing new was made for the month of july
and no one needed to eat? instead of glaciers we have slowly moving mountains of trash
unsure whether to creep toward water or the accumulation of wealth.

i am still in your eyes; in your mouth is the floor plan of a three room cottage
balanced where the forest meets the edge of gravity. no matter whos listening
nothing will fall today. my satellite dish wont speak until the games over.
a third team shows up on the field with a keg and portable barbecue.
how can leftover bones not lead to juggling.

i didn’t believe prostrating across 3 miles of shopping mall would lead to summer
but no one will give me credit for today’s all encompassing beauty.
stare in the mirror til you see a moon-faced stranger, hair so thick alpaca genes are suspected.

when the old hotel imploded the dust reminded me of 40 years of room service.
a large underground chamber filled with unclaimed left behinds:
do not disturb, for a good time call. trying to set the table that keeps changing size.
the fifth leg is in case of earthquakes.

i wont put a roof on my head cause the gutters would make me look ridiculous.
imagine i'm adobe in new mexican mountains. compare me to a butterfly with blank wings
migrating confidently cross borders about to fade away.

Sky Too Close

cell phones can look like anything—a glass of water
a piece of toast, a sleeping cat
you don’t hear the ring as much as feel it
like an acupuncture needle in a doll with my name
when i miss the meridian and fall into a flabby, dryer sheet scented world
how to divide and arrange my necessary organs—
the manifold, the incinerator, the blender, the black box doorway
under a slowly metamorphing couch
a desiccated globe in my shoe could get bigger than this room if saturated

the door to outside gives me new roommates, a carpet awake with cats,
crossing a personal date line so every time I visit the bathroom its Thursday
on the cusp of
the moon a distant insomniac eye
unsure if we’re dreams or a tv screen with a long lost remote
still in its wrapper
like an aquarium where part of me seems to frolic
as todays biography is 40 fish of 17 species
yellow keeps forgetting which way is up
the gravel is a trap
yearning to be asphalt
merging all colors into charred sugar
all the birds dressed in black but the hummers
who are too fast to not be naked and lovely
unable to resist tunnels and open veins
we’ve been kayaking inside this garden hose for hours
til the smells changed from grass clippings to garlic bread

in this song the notes swoop like waterfalls in zero gravity
like I don’t know which cliff is the hot plate
seeing how many layers we can remove from the canyon walls without collapsing them
one layers a mirror, another a display case of what to not make beads from
like lead and poison oak leaves
the skin doesnt know how to refuse pressure
as if a child we brought into the world
before the sun set for several years
and all food was either overcooked or impenetrable
a knife would get you banished, not eating would get you banished,
cute names sometimes help digestion, molding wooden roots into supple flowers

the back wall collapses and i must venture out
the back wall collapses and i have to hunt paint and sheetrock
hunting paint and sheetrock, foraging for motivation,
asking my compass to show me where the butter flows like excuses
when the air always smells like bacon i want alternatives, injectable flowers,
a muddy orchestra to wallow in
don’t let the water get still enough to reflect
an insistent tornado inside, as a worm becomes a drill bit,
as the mosquitos paperboys spread the news through danville
i need more windows to open, astringent memory,
seeing the past in just 4 colors like a map with long scabbed borders
geological tattoos
as if bird migrations didn’t effect the land below—
deeper ponds, spontaneous fertilizer

if i could set the nozzle inside me and wash things out
get back to the original manuscript illuminated by the vortex heart
all chopped together yet still distinct

dan raphael's Impulse and Warp: The Selected 20th Century Poems has recently been published by Wordcraft of Oregon. It contains work from his first 13 books and 30 years of writing.
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