Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Poetry  ➡  American poetry

Brainstorm on Black Velvet

Brainstorm on Black Velvet




Charles Hibbard




Shakespir Edition


Copyright 2016 Charles Hibbard




Shakespir Edition, License Notes

Thank you for downloading this book. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied, and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form.





1. Beach Evening 1970


A red sun grazed

the ragged edge

of the world.

Those were waves

driven green

before miles of wind,

old voyagers deep

with uncensused life

and poised to tumble

into white teeth

that tore harmlessly

at their own feet.


That roar was surf

not applause

prayer or gunfire,

drone of lies

or rumble of rolling heads.

And that was only evening

even-ing. A proper

temporary darkness






2. Any Theories?


Something called the birds.

Abruptly they were on the move

northward, in tattered clouds,

thrushes, warblers, scoters,

straight back into winter.


The sea was a green grove

of diving sunbeams,

November light

gentled by smoke.

The birds disdained all this

and simply took flight.


It was done by noon

“as if someone had slammed

a door” – subsumed

in the earth without a trace;

though later, after dark, a few

stragglers fled across the face

of the crumbling gibbous moon.





3. Carpe somnum


Given that the alarm clock

shoves an icepick through the brain,

does consciousness shadow our dreams?

Walking that silent stage

do we dread the death of waking?


Rejoining you in bed

I barely sense your breath

beside me in the dark.

But I trust your warm back

and the grateful drop into sleep.

Should I check the clock’s

bloodshot eye? It can tell me only

that this downy other world

has an end, and when it will come.

Do I want to know that?





4. The Sixth Extinction


In their dark distant plane

between Jupiter and Mars

asteroids hurtle.

That’s their nature,

what they do.

And every dumb rock

has its will and ego

of energy and speed

bestowed by careless gravity.


Now and then the blind

play of forces turns one

toward our blue world.

It may believe it plans;

but no, it simply Must.

Though even a stone

may feel a twinge as it

takes aim at a trillion lives,

and our wisp of air begins

to melt its ancient skin.





5. Reunion


Side-saddle, the old lady

reclines, half on her couch.

I hear you’ve been sick,

my father says.

They eye each other,

third-degree initiates

in the guild of old age.

He’s sober and swollen,

grimly tamping his pipe.

She’s gaunt but steady,

blanketed to her waist,

his cousin and childhood friend:

sprite of woods and water,

small-town princess,

Olympic equestrian,

mother of a judge,

grandmother of a crowd,

doyenne of that same small town.

In later years a lone rider

coaxing her giant steed

through silent woodland,

somber, dark-eyed, straight.


Diverticulitis, she says.

My father watches her,

his girl of the glimmering lake,

now too old for surgery.

Everybody gets something,

she says, watching him back.

This is what I got.





6. 20th-Century Chemistry


In his day the rulebook read

only: No maiming or killing kids.

He was a madman at the demo bench:

belly, hairpiece, and giant head,

eyes ballooning in heavy glass;

lord of phosphor, fume and fire,

smoke and stench, flash and boom.

Finals done, every June in the lab

he threw an all-day bash,

potluck noodles, cake and crab.

That was a class you’d never forget!


One of those Junes he left the scene.

In a year his name was dust.

Focus shifted across the chart

from left to right, reactive

to inert, as drowsy scholars

dribbled drops in tiny hollows,

wanly hoping for signs of change –

light or heat or wisp of flame

or something caustic to consume

the hardening plaster of patience.


Thus the elements periodically repeat

but always with variations.





7. Cottonwoods


If these cottonwoods

could follow their dreams

I know what they’d do.

Transpiration tells me

which way they’d go –

from the ground up

to join the breeze.

The billow of their crowns

betrays their yearnings,

and the silver stream

and clatter of their leaves

as the cumulus sail by,

rootless and fancy-free

and never short of water…





8. Dark Matters


We’ve learned that dark matter

is nine-tenths of everything

or so the scientists say.

I’ve been glass half-empty

for decades, but now I guess

that makes me an optimist.

Maybe it’s time to raise

darkness to its proper place –

rich black batter

the cosmos bakes,

with sprinkles of stars

and a thin crust of puppies

lovers nightingales

singing barking hugging.

We’re forced to take that cake

but allowed to praise

some offhand god

for the frosting.





9. Nature Sanctuary


Three growling diesels haul

a black line of tank cars

toward a horizon piled high

with evening clouds

yellowed and still as though

they’d never dream of change.


I think it’s summer still.

A redstart, a vireo

still singing their claims;

a vortex of midges

and squadrons of mosquitoes

scrambled at my passage

and the cotton wind.

Deep in bending grass

the conversation of crickets

and at the end

of another hungry day

the boundless patience of ticks.





10. One Way of Looking at It


Two nestlings on the sidewalk,

baked, dead, one crushed

by a careless step.


Two weeks in the nest

in green shade

shielded by a song.

Two weeks

from egg to concrete.

A dozen quiet nights

and then the street.





11. Dechambeau Ranch


Ringing the silent house

the tops of old poplars

are bare finger bones

imploring the dry air.

The sun crosses another day

and the twentieth

generation of owls

(the last ten undisturbed)

float from tree to tree

vanish among the boughs

and peeling bark, their gaze

on the sagging stable

stacked with tumbleweed,

awaiting the twilight

and their long-time partners

the bats and mice.





12. Mouse


I step up on the rock

and out of his house

in the dust pops

a gray cork of mouse

a streak of fur sprinting

he’s sure for his life

over sand and stone

skitter scramble

into the gray-green

matching sage

where he freezes

to listen watch wait

every fiber electric

with wasted fear:

I never eat mice.


I went on with my hike

had a salad for dinner

with tofu and rice.

I called my wife.

I wonder what the rest

of his day was like.





13. Moon Sets




This morning, before the sun,

it’s more the moon than the rising wind

that owns the worried lake,

scribbles its red wake over jostling waves

and sinks like the stone it is

behind black hills, where there waits

some still dark unknown.





The lake was still, polished flat,

the guileless moon sat white

on the hills in a sky that would soon

be blue. Sunlight to come

already lit the dark edges

of the world. All was real

nothing concealed.





14. Used Horses


How horses are coddled these days!

Their arrogant gleaming butts

sashay grandly down the trails;

braided manes and shining coats,

Rapunzel tails sweep the ground,

wildeyed, snorting and tossing,

gods in helmets and jodhpurs

barely hold them to earth.


It wasn’t always that way.

Naturally there were always

pet horses, Beamers and bays,

chestnuts, Audis, with stable boys

to polish them and rotate their shoes.

But back when horses were things,

there were used ones too – dusty,

tattered saddles, rusting trim

and tangled manes, bumpers sagging,

mufflers dragging, treadless hooves,

hanging heads. And grinning salesmen,

lying odometers. Horse doctors.

Tow trucks. Glue.





15. Fall Migration


Tidy perfection

of your plumage:

that white throat

gold spot

behind your bill

black stripes your crown.







tiny feathered pendulum

I wonder where you’ve flown

dangling from my hand

by one pink foot

upside down

feathered pendulum

your bright eye lately

hauled away by ants.

I wonder where you’ve flown.





16. Mineral Point


Turkey day small town

improperly warm rain

mist and dripping trees

historic sandstone houses

stand already winter bleak.

Looming old Methodist church

streaked blocks cut black

from the heart of the mines

ignores the neat brick

Episcopalians next door

to frown down High Street.


Ahead of me in the fog

jog two young blondes

escorted on tiptoes by

a springy white poodle.

Sleek thighs and dayglo jackets

fade puzzlingly into the haze

of a future – theirs, this town’s,

this planet’s – in which I

will not be present.





17. Greenland Is Melting Away

…but no worries;

for every stream we spray

into the dry air of Vegas

or splash over our cars

to ripple away

and sink in a sewer,

a brand new river will rise

heavenly blue in Greenland,

tumble a mile or two

on the snowblind dome of ice

and spin down a moulin

to the sea – to the sea

that can never be full.





18. The Martian


Just as round as our own

and even more helpless,

it hangs out there, a red

brainstorm on black velvet.

Of course it’s not home;

but still – valleys and hills,

rivers (just add water),

empty sightlines, sky

almost blue, improved

by two speedy little moons.


Our ancient modus operandi,

tried and true:

Leave this midden to the old

and slow! Start fresh!

Much simpler and cleaner

than cling to a used-up world

and try to muck out the mess.





19. Amendment II Rosary


Autumn Sunday morning; the trees

in this park are nearly bare.

Sunlight fills the spaces

left by falling leaves.

I’m alone in the drifting air

and what would be silence

if not for sparrows

and the faithful at the nearby range

blasting their prayers to the breeze.





20. A Dream of Unassisted Living


It’s not so much the fear of losing you.

I’ve slotted that now and learned

to make it fuel whatever will glow

in today and tomorrow.

But despite the memories

of Rome and Bergamo,

the shadow grows of a final trip,

when, never mind our vows

and even though I hold your hand,

I’ll know you’re traveling somewhere

alone and beginning not to care.





21. Sensing the soul’s departure, the cat


Eventually I had to give up toys and Santa Claus The Boogie Man

wizards square-riggers talking animal guardians and being read to

soda cottoncandy amusement parks fudge chocolate desserts

four bicuspids and one incisor virginity hair not eyebrows

orangejuice football passion baseball eggs meat

cigarettes pipe weed squash basketball parents

aspirin sleeping all night twisting bending

stooping walking burritos orgasms

wine anything that tasted good

enemies friends reading

sandals lifelong lover

sleeping waking going

to sleep waking up

politics clothes

nakedness music

hearing seeing


standing up

talking tears

being read to




caring pain










22. The Doctor


Seventy odd years ago

a man was intimate with my mother

and with me, as with so many others.

She’s only dilated that much

he told my father, making a circle

with thumb and finger.

My father went out for coffee.

Much later the doctor laid the damp mass

of me on my mother’s breast. My father,

thinking he had a son, went home

and, for her, painted the kitchen

the wrong color.

After that brief conjunction

my deliverer went on about his work

of piloting tens or hundreds

of my sisters and brothers

to the open sea, and then went under,

decades ago, unknown to me.

Today, somehow, I feel his touch

on my wrinkling skin, and wonder

who where he was and went

and how so much space

and time contrive

to wedge themselves between us.





23. Life Companions


First, I hasten to say,

it’s not her job. But my PJs

emerge from the dryer

with pockets inside out;

they’d hang like hounds’ ears

on my hips at night, useless

for holding kleenex

if she didn’t patiently

tuck them back in.

It’s only a few seconds.

I could do it myself

without even thinking.

But seeing the pockets

corrected, I know

exactly what she feels.

And it’s not my job to peel

my avid socks away

from her nylon panties

just out of the dryer.

So much for the job description.





24. Glass Mountain


Half the height of Aconcagua,

a third of Chomolungma

but still, eleven thousand feet,

a two thousand foot climb

in a couple of panting hours.

OK, there won’t be a word

on the news or in the press

but now my name sits up

on that peak with all the rest –

one more dry leaf

in a weathered can –

a lot lower than Tensing’s,

but about where it should be,

I guess, on the scale

of human striving.









You can find other titles by Charles Hibbard at Shakespir.com:


Retirement Projects – https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/352093

A Burned-Over District – https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/395039

Your Hand, Please. Let’s Walk. – https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/385390

Among the Mandolins – https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/418523

The Inelegant Universe – https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/435779

The Popcorn Dance – https://www.Shakespir.com/books/view/541182


Comments are always interesting and welcome, but please reference a book or poem in the subject line, so I don’t trash the email: [email protected]

Brainstorm on Black Velvet

  • Author: Charles Hibbard
  • Published: 2016-01-02 18:50:06
  • Words: 2174
Brainstorm on Black Velvet Brainstorm on Black Velvet