Wednesday, March 21, 2012

First Dance

There are one hundred and twelve seams
along the sidewalk on our block, plus
twenty eight cracks of varying length and width

that you tiptoe around, careful not to let loose
your spiderweb grasp of my hand.

Music plays in my mind sometimes,
random and unbidden,
Charlie Parker or Coltrane,

Mendelssohn or a rare acoustic set by the
Yeah Yeah Yeahs. On a bicycle these

same seams bump out the rhythm to
“Maps,” or “Bessie’s Blues.” Then I imagine
your wedding reception, our first dance,

you are twirling in our spiderweb grasp,
and I will be careful not to let go again.

c. 2012, by Martin A. Bartels (working draft)
Part of my new collection, "Unlanguage" 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

At the End of the Day

(Author's note: This poem was first published at, as winner of her 5th anniversary poetry contest. Thanks, Nina! And congratulations on 5 great years supporting poetry and poets. —MAB)

A simple place to write with a friendly pub nearby.
Land to grow vegetables and herbs for our evening stew.

A landscape of pasture lands, a river nearby for fish,
the cheap cuts of steer or pig, a plucked chicken

(save the parts for stock). A cast iron pan. Good wine.
A quiet place to read where the land stretches its legs,

reminds us that we are humbled eternally by grace and
beauty. To know these moments is our only ambition.

At the end of the day you come home to what you are.
The corporate ladder is climbed primarily to patch walls and

change light bulbs. The serene young blonde at the corner bar
has aspirations. She will either live them or not, both results

equally poignant. The herons defend their twilight, blue-grey
mystics in a perpetual stance of expectation, until their wings

explode in the urgent energy of exploration. Mythic dances
unfold unobserved. These are our first angels. The moon in
daylight pretends to be a cloud. Nimbus or cumulus, I’m unsure.
In daylight the moon is a won ton, cloud-swallowing minister,

the monk who chops wood before and after enlightenment.
Wood chips on the grill smoke white cloud riffs against the sky.

The clouds themselves are thin fish bones; sky soup. The breeze
moves through us at the same pace as clouds. The moon

remains still. The moon is a skull in this light, not threatening but
ponderous. Strange dreams flow out of it that remind you of the

long poem by Harrison. The moon in daylight said this to me:
You are the changing line in the I Ching symbol that suggests

you will be a great man one day. I am buckled by the notion,
having no such pretensions. The old man who told me we are

born with nothing has it wrong. We come into this world
with everything. We leave with everything.

c. 2012, by Martin A. Bartels.
Part of my new collection, Unlanguage

Friday, March 2, 2012

French Onion Soup

Light a candle and sip French
wine so as not to draw tears

Slice onions, shallots and 
leeks thin, patient
so as not to cut fingers

Salt and pepper to balance the
sweet times of life,
Sugar for the heavy times

Dark broth

Crusty bread for your soul and

Cheese for the pleasure, let it
melt inside you

Serve warm in bowls with love.

—from Imagined Recipes from my Grandmother’s Cookbook

c. 2012, Martin A. Bartels,
part of my new collection, ‘Unlanguage’