May 11, 2018

Three Poems by Jeff Burt: "Tense," "A Little Unconscious," and "Walking a Fallen Redwood"

Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife, near a two-lane road wide enough for one car. He works in mental healt, and has published poems in The Monarch Review, Spry, LitBreak, and Psalter & Lyre. He won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Poetry Prize.


The neighbor told the checkout clerk
she was having a hard time getting caught up

and I wondered why it was so important
to be caught in the first place, ensnared,

tagged, captured, especially by time, in time.
What she appeared to need with the two kids

perched upon one hip, the other with a bag, was release,
she meant she was having a hard time being released,

releasing, as in catch and release, joy,
not in holding, but letting go, but perhaps

she needed to be caught, not caught up, needed
to be held herself to be released,

perhaps had no break to release from,
no interruption from time itself, no timelessness,

no time for mindfulness to focus on the present
because the present was all she was presented

all day and all night, she was so in the present,
so fully mind, so actualized, that she had no dream

to get caught up in, and that’s what she needed most,
to get caught up in the hold of another,

a book, a dream, a person, mindlessness,
the present perfect, lazy future without intent

A Little Unconscious

Standing on the final rock
of the last spine
on the farthest island
of this long archipelago,
sea swallowing sun,
terns on a last turn,
a solitary pelican searching
for a like-billed bird--
this is difficult, standing here,
still building lives in our children,
rocks being ground
into sand at our feet,
caught in a consciousness
that captures at once life,
death, and the cry of dying.
My daughter comes with a tiny crab
wrested from its shell by wave-thrash
and my son comes with a shell
the crab could use—
put the crab in the new shell
is my children’s request,
and knowing the crab
can neither use the shell
nor live more than a minute
battered by waves,
yet I tuck it in
like a child in bed,
I place it back
into my daughter’s tender palm.
A wave comes as waves do.
The crab rises with shell
and then falls into the water.
The crab has been saved they yell,
blessed, and by them blessed,
I am blessed as well.
A little unconscious
can be a good thing.

Walking a Fallen Redwood

The harder you try to walk
just the middle laying one foot
in front of the other

toes to heel in elaborate safety,
arms in steady rotation, the more manic
the gestures become the greater chance

that only air will support you
and never very well
but if you can walk with legs

apart and cup the soles inside
to grip the slipping bark
then you can nearly run

there is no other lesson
in walking a fallen redwood
no adage about life

no koan about the journey
Taoist way
monastic insight

this is about the redwood
lying horizontal
your body’s wish to stay vertical

~Jeff Burt

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