George Payne

Lake George
(Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe)

I want to exist
as these clouds do.

These ribbed, lukewarm,
timberwolf gray clouds, sweet
and luscious as Jacob’s biceps
when he wrestled the archangel, Gabriel.

Or were they simply holding
onto each other for safety?

Like the horses of Roman chariots
accidentally strangling
themselves the harder they pulled.

What Carries No Weight

Miltonia orchids swaying
the way planets orbit  
and the Moon
shining on the spine of 
Whiteface Mountain.

Clothed in briny ash,
Black Willow and Douglas fir.

The Mourning Warbler’s
song, when the sun is nearly
in the soft spot of the palm,
weightless like
a grenade exploding.


is a silverback cleaning
its own ears with sticks in
the sand; or the way a nine-
month-old sleeps head first. 

Both have ears to hear the
sermons in the stones — that pure
experience of big, bright bursts
of Congolese rainfall in May.

The feeling of a phone losing
reception. And knowing that
it doesn’t matter.

The last drag does. Alive somehow.
Like a snorting boar looking to mate,
we are alive.

A cigarette by the campfire is alive,
Feet touching the grass, and death, 
so similar to everything, is alive.

Stopped without notice,
it no longer needs anything 
and has nothing to do.

George Cassidy Payne is a writer and social worker from Rochester, New York. His work has been included in such publications as the Hazmat Review,  Barnstorm Journal, Cholla Needles, Chronogram Magazine, Adirondack Almanack, the Mindful Word, Allegro Poetry Journal, Kalliope, Teahouse, Mohave Review,  River Poets Journal, Ampersand Literary Review, and Califragile. His blogs, essays and letters to the editor have appeared in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, the Havana Times, the South China Morning Post, The Albany Times Union, The Syracuse Post Standard, The Buffalo News, and more.
When not writing he works as a domestic violence counselor and part-time instructor of philosophy at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, NY.