Caving in Altamira

Descending once in sub-
Terranean gloom you notice:
Cold and heat and tall points
Of stone that reach up to
A sky, never seen. Such

Darkness here. Rocks that creep
With moss. Tepid puddles of
Water in distant corners. Then

I imagine a torch in hand, fingers
That grope knowingly across
Rough walls. To a spot to a
Place where chatter is heard and
The stillness of tomb-like quiet.

Hearts beating you can hear
Hearts beating here.

Then you look up and see an
Old man I think with his
Frail hands against the wall. The
Torch lights it up as
Bright colors blow from hollow tubes –

Red. Deep reds that
Emblazon the rock, leaving a shadow
Of a hand that reaches out to us
From across time, from
The mist and madness
Of ceaseless centuries.

Note: At the caves in Altamira, Spain,
Prehistoric hands appear on the walls.
Signatures from the past.

Dry Thoughts, Spoken Aloud

“I can think back on that time as a stay
As a pale thing that tightens and sits
In dark corners, but that comes to play
With us, us who complicate matters with wits
That cramp styles, that lurch in fits
To dances, to songs of long forgotten comedy:
Of ballets, of dancers, of she who flits
Across broken screens that showed us tragedy:
Of people and laughs and… an eye
A yellow eye that gazed out at smart
Scenes of ancient lawns that would cry
Like broken dreams and like the dark hearts
Of things that sit and moan –
That sit like a smooth, soft stone.”

J. Humbert Riddle’s Mountain Letter, Unaddressed

Editor’s Note:
I found this nailed to
A cabin door once owned by
J. Humbert Riddle. The
Cabin, by all appearances, had
Been long abandoned.

Somewhere, lost perhaps is
A sound in a quiet, still
Forest. Of trees. Of words

Whispered to the earth. To
Wind that whips trees and
Calls to black birds that fly

Off to the sun sinking… sinking
On ridges that still cling to
Bits of brown snow. Yes,

An absence shouts. Yells at
Quiet and calm and the smell
Of water melting and growing

Up again in leaves that sing in
Breezes and that
Call to us to come from…

Far away… to come to

Winter Shoes

“As she walks through the coffee shop…”

An old pair of shoes on
A cold, frost-bitten
Day. Lop-sided, broken…

The dry heel leans
To one side. As

The pale, pink toes
Seem to poke out and
Hint at, what I think,
Must be a strange world
Lurking, somewhere,

The dry heel
Leans to
One side. Hiding.


J. Humbert Riddle’s Mountain Dream

Reported to
A hiker who found him
One summer day.

… I seem to see time
In lakes, in a canoe where
We paddle in the very
Middle… in the very
Middle with oars made
From broken bits of
Hollow, silent trees

That fall in mysterious
Woods, with snow covering
The tips of dried trees set
Against blue skies. Yes,

You pointing towards slight
Streams that flow with
A flow with torrents
Of thunder that echoes across
Peaks in the distance.

Fog and rain. Fog and
Rain while

Oars plow through
Waters thick with trees cut
Down and seen somewhere
Deep below. Deep like

The snow I stomped
Through one winter
Day. Deep and
A mountain, a lone

Barren peak I take
A picture of and smell
The snow and blue and
The sound of water on
Dead trees that drip,

That drip and
Drip through

Posted as Part of Poets United Sunday Pantry

The Lost Poem of One “Steve”

Found in Fragments, and
Severely Burned

Fragment 12

Twelve days lost. Rambling.
Wandering through night-
Time to forlorn ruins on
Mysterious mountains. Is

That a voice, somewhere,
In the distance? I hear it
Like the wind that crashes
Against the cave sides I touch
All day. Can I find you there…

… here in [this portion burned]

Fragment 1

I thought of us on that day
When we walked through parks,
Down rock trails that vanished
Into the woods. The way we

Talked of cities in the distance. Of
Storms coming. The sweet
Smell of rain on brittle flower
Buds by quiet streams. You and

I… [the rest unintelligible]

Fragment 23

Then it happened one night
In dry December… fires
On… [the rest is lost]

Posted as part of Dverse Tuesday Poetics

Winter Ways

untitled Used with permission. Kanzensakura all rights reserved.

The way the snow fell we knew the trail would be covered. But we pressed on, past the meadows we’d once see full of life in autumn, now dead. Buried. Then, somewhere in the distance, a lone bird (I couldn’t place its name by its call) cried. Wanting food? Searching? We didn’t know, but we pressed on. I, at times, covered my eyes with my hands to save my sight.

Towards night, we entered the dark, somber wood, the trees speaking and whispering among themselves. Somewhere, again, a bird call, but this time farther away. Leaving us. I turned around and said, “Now it’s time to press on. The cabin is maybe another 20 minutes that way.” I pointed towards a pathless field of white. The trees still talking, creaking, and, somewhere, that bird again, calling. “Let’s go.” I moved forward and wiped the snow from my eyes.

Tall quiet trees stand
In winter white while a lone
Bird mourns through the leaves.

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode, Part V

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode,
Delivered on Vacation
In the Isles, 2010

Editor’s Preface:
A new, extended version of
Perhaps Riddle’s most famous
Poem, written during a time
Of supposed sanity, and ease.

V. Hands Held

Then on hot days
Of summer, nailing
I nailed bent pieces of broken
Plywood. The shaggy beard
Of Whitman hovering
Nearby. I

Would talk of atoms of
Assumptions of sweet sweat
Billowing on frail
Foreheads. Old hands of a poet,
Gnarled. Brutish. Yes,
Knew and knowing,
Seen and held.

Boot-soles I follow. A
Great pulse of life.

As with Hughes, on
Days of delivered dishes.
Sitting and eating. A
Round table of riches –
Herbs, spices,
My plate holding
Wrinkled bits of paper so
Carefully kept from view.

I have known rivers I

Been everywhere and nowhere. In
Solemn and sad services
In pale November.
Tears against deadened walls.
Silent sepulchers.
Churches caught and coughing as
I speak up and say a
Song of an older man who
Vanished like a word never
Quite spoken, but heard half
Heard behind a wall I still
Can’t find. I who

Tap my feet to
Drums distant and
Voices that lift deep
Thoughts so heavy
Heavy for times both new,
And old…

Frontiers gone through,
Washed away like time
Through a sieve of half
Forgotten years as we all
Sit with silent, hard hands

Posted as part of Poets United Sunday Poets Pantry Series

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode, Part IV

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode,
Delivered on Vacation
In the Isles, 2010

Editor’s Preface:
A new, extended version of
Perhaps Riddle’s most famous
Poem, written during a time
Of supposed sanity, and ease.

IV. Snow-Quiet Vienna

Once with Samuel too
In a town ringing
I went…
Towards sounds of fire raging,
Soft ash falling
And falling, churches
I thought too holy to burn,
Burn. Dreams
In that nether world
Of stuff of mists of mirrors. London
Burns, while you
Sleep. Yes,

In a savage land
I walked through days
Of rains and fogs.
Ceaseless wet.
Mud so thick
You sink and sank.

Guards more wild than rivers
We thought to subdue, so
Extreme our dreams
In lands without borders.

I also remember
Last speaking with Mozart.
Time and Death
In noxious rooms.
Silent sounds of
Marching music. While
White and limp
Fingers strum notes to
A death never to
Die. Unable

A body bloated cannot fit
A pale shirt on. Yes,

Dying candles that
Flicker in the winter chill
Let in from a window we forgot
To close. Such
Troubled days such
Rising and sitting, rising
And sitting. Moving
Like shadows on walls in
Snow-quiet Vienna. Songs

Written in the night.
A flourish of pens
By fires of ember
And coal.

Posted as part of Poets United Sunday Pantry.

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode, Part III

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode,
Delivered on Vacation
In the Isles, 2010

Editor’s Preface:
A new, extended version of
Perhaps Riddle’s most famous
Poem, written during a time
Of supposed sanity, and ease.

III. The Tap, Tap, Tap

In that city of passion
And poets, I mixed broken
Pigments for a shadow that
Clung to the walls, clung…
Painting and painting. Him

Dangling and hovering, him
In one hand a chisel while I
In the dark of Sixtus stare
At the impure light
Of candles at
Bare bodies born by quick,
Imperfect strokes.

An eye, quivering. The
Tap, tap, tap
Of paint dribbling
The floor. Also,

With Atahualpa once,
I and dirty and played
A game of chess one
Stormy, silent night.

Breaking over quiet,
Distant peaks. The
Pound, pound of rain
Working on patchwork pavements
Nearby. While I

Stole his queen while the fire
Snapped nearby. I
Slipping pieces to my
Ripped pocket. The

Tap, tap of rain
Outside. Tap like

When walking
Down back alleys in
That tattered town of London.
Seeing a man –
Up against a wall,
Leaning with a broken sign swinging –

A stranger first I thought,
A man out on the sun,
And rain. Yet,

When the light hit right I saw
A beloved, immortal face
Whistling such a sweet tune,
Whistling such a sweet tune through
Puddles oozing up
Cracked, uncovered feet.
“Dah-ta,” “Dah-ta,”
Floating like magic
Through the air.
Symphonies we cannot hear.
Tapping and tapping feet in tune.

Until, on a cold day at Whitehall I
Eyed an executioner
Masked, thinking of
A dull blade, a
Late night fire in forgotten
Forests. Then,
That Stuart of Two Shirts strutting
Out from chipped, sanctified crowns and
Sighing, sighing…

As the crowd gasps,
As the crowd gasps.

Posted as Part of Poets United Sunday Poetry Pantry