Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Poem


Driving home down South Main from grandma’s in a blizzard

Mom clutching the wheel, wordless.
The girls are asleep in the back.
I’m wide eyed, wide awake
watching us hurtle through black outer space
as the star flakes rush past our hyper-driving ship,
wondering what galaxies we leave in our wake.

Heading for mom’s house
And then off to dad’s house.
Mom’s house and then dad’s house
Every other weekend.
Wednesday night dinners
Summers and holidays
Back and forth along the road
This is your home too, they always say
But home is a singularity
Not a multitude of infinite stars
Dispersed across the vast reaches of space.
I'll never go to Mars
I'll never visit Andromeda

I have always been en route
Traveling from one place to the next.
Going from this home to that.
There’s always been one place I’ve wished to find
But with millions of stars rushing past,
How would I know which one was really mine?
I have been forever seeking a place to rest;
How was a boy supposed to choose which one was best?

Home is always someplace else,
Over there, a place to someday go,
Never quite right here.
Home is a quest,
a thumbtack on a secret map
I had taped behind my desk.
Home is an idea, a wishful destination,
An impossible arrival,
A journey that never ends.

This is my son in his home;
He knows no other.
I will see him tonight again in this house,
After the last knot is thrown,
and the wounds are all sealed.
Winter now comes round again.
The snow is just snow rapping the windshield.
The stars are just fiery balls of distant hydrogen
Lighting cold worlds I’ll never get to see.

But I am still traveling along the road.
Ever the itinerant wanderer,
Ever searching for a home of my own,
Wondering about worlds I wish I had known.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018


The Stakes

So what are the stakes?
What are we even playing for?
Is there an ultimate prize
Or is it just a war of attrition,
A battle to be the last man standing
In a land of sudden silence
If you bother to stop and listen

Was this all a big mistake,
A wasted siege of long
Abandoned castles.
Perfectly executed plan
But the enemies are long gone.
The shadows in the windows were cast
By motionless wooden fakes.

Tell me the stakes.
What will you put on the line?
I have pushed forward my own last dime
While you have one foot in shallow grave
And one toe tip dipped in a frigid lake.
Everything is more interesting when there is something at stake.
Everything is more interesting when you can’t afford to lose.
Everything is more interesting
When you’re down to your last chip
When you're all out of time.

But consider:
There’s nothing at stake
You’re sitting around an imaginary table
With imaginary friends
Condemned to the same imaginary fate.
The game itself will have to suffice.
Your pile of chips is just a glacier of melting ice.
And the cards are shards of splintering trees.
There is no heaven.
There is no hell.
No redemption.
No eternal gnashing of teeth.
There is no final justice,
No pearly gates,
No hounds of hell.
No one is there to tally your scores.
The second you rise from the table
All your winnings disappear.
It's the nothingness you've always feared.

A youngster arrives to play
And wants to know the stakes.
You are now one of the grim grizzled veterans
Nodding your heads with knowing grins.
This is when the game really begins.
The cards keep coming, round and round.
Dry mouth, inelastic skin
Rasping thirst no stream could ever slake
There are no stakes.
There are no stakes.
You remind yourself.
There are no lakes of lava waiting to steam your sins
You say a heart breaks but what is that sound we hear pounding in your chest?
You can’t lose what you never had.
Bet the house, push all in.
Bluffing is the same as playing;
Your full house, your royal flush
Your lonesome pair of smudged black threes.

The Kings are all fakes.
The Queens are all fakes.
The Ace up your sleeve is the only true thing
But it can’t be played here;
Here, everyone is watching.

There is only this moment in time
When you play this card,
When you play that card,
And you play your last card,
Before the earth quivers and shakes,
Before our hearts all start to shudder,
Before this one true heart breaks.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Poem Sunday


Early morning twilight before dawn.
Gray clouds gathered      stacked to ambush a rising tepid sun.
This is the time when the doctor makes his rounds,
Silently stealing from room to room    like a thief.
He takes what he needs,
(The nurses never know)
The history of present illness,
Of past transgression,
Skeletons in closets,
Of all conceivable redemption.

He parts curtains, appears like an apparition
Before half-awake humans in unfamiliar beds.
Whispers queries into their dreams  
(knowing the secrets that hide in dreams)
Whispers, always in muffled whispers.
He casts his questions from a chair.
He rises. Moves closer. His voice the hushed intonation of morning prayer.

I’m going to pull back the covers
Let me lift your gown
You will feel some pressure.
You will feel the prick of this needle.
This one will need the knife.
This one has secrets to tell.
This one has blood to spill.
This one still misses his wife.
This one is pedantic.
This one is lost.
This one sees right through me.

He takes the measure
Of half conscious patients:
Heart rate, temperature, blood pressure.
Presses the flesh of
Bodies nominally solid,
Bodies that veer toward evanescence.
(Resistance must always be calibrated)

He takes he takes he takes what he needs;
The stale smell of sloughed skin,
The faint stirrings of putrefaction.
Samples of pungent ochre urine,
Pus swabbed from festering sores.
Shavings of raised scabbed nevi
Gathered all in a dark bag of unmentionables
He takes  
heads on sticks,
Rings of skeleton keys,
Marrow sucked from hollowed bones,
A stray clump of grayed hair on the pillow plucked.
Vials of fluids, chronic excrescences.
Skin pallid or pasty or yellow
Turgid ankles, blotches on backs
Mottled toes
Bodies bruised blued
Red limned eyes, matted lashes fused.
All revealed now by the pale light of dawn.
All revealed in the aching moan of first sun.
The doctor sees all by the spectral light of dying moon.
These are the treasures of morning plunders,
This harvesting of illness and brokenness

And now there are whisperings
heard from the tangled clots of covers.
The doctor must lean over
to hear words that are not words
but an ominous rattle in your chest.
The corrugated exhalation of fear
that hops unbeknownst
Into his dark satchel of stolen treasures

Hours later, orders placed, notes all written,
(and then the daddy daddy let’s play, honey honey would you do)
when he goes through his secret stash------
The bag is unexpectedly light, unburdened.
This is all that’s left;
That dying rattle in your chest
That clings to the the inside craw
Of his healing broken down being.
All the rest is gone.
Fallen out the flaw in the bottom of his bag

All the rest is gone
Except for this wheezing,
This rasping rattle in the center of his being
That’s followed him all the way home.
It starts as a tickle in the back of his throat.
It starts as a tickle
It starts in the back of his throat

That escapes as a cough
Before he can cover his mouth


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Poem of Weekend

Chagrin Falls

We visit the falls after picking our apples.
Sunny chilled day just on the edge of autumn.
The viewing deck at the bottom is packed with people:
Families and couples taking photos,
Children scrambling from stone to stone,
Some venturing onto thick fallen logs
That jut into the receiving pool.
The water thunders over the edge and
Splays in intricate patterns like lace
But my focus is on the stone face
Behind the meshed sheets of water.
Darkened damp rock, tufts of moss and grass
Sprouting from crevices and narrow ledges

There’s where I would go.
Hidden by transient cloaks of lucidity---
Not invisible, more unseen.
The roar and pomp of a thunder
That’s never really there.
It’s all just a swiftly moving pretension.
I am like anyone who hides;
Patiently hoping to be found
By the one who knows how to pay attention.


Monday, September 3, 2018


Show and Tell

You have to show up every day;
Show your face,
Show your work.
Show you mean what you say.

You have to tell your story,
To a girl you like
Or a man in a tie who shows up late
Because you think they control your fate.

So you sit up straight and your heart races.
You'll have to tell them all the reasons:
About the time when
About the why
About the real, the true
All of the many, less the few.
Pliant and wide eyed
Showing without telling that
I am good.
I am decent.
Hear me out.  

Later on, someone will ask you to
Show exactly where you lost the will to speak.
When the words on the page
Were no longer enough.
When it stopped mattering
Whether spoken or thought
Whether you conceded or fought.
You say, I just ran out of time

Once when I was nine
I wore soccer gear to show and tell
And the kids all laughed;
Not at my clicking-on-linoleum cleats
Or the shin guards or the over-sized kit;
Just that I froze,
Had nothing at all to say,
Thinking then that showing was telling,
That the gaps between the seen and the story
Would always be filled in
By a sympathetic world of order;
Mothers arriving to soothe fresh wounds,
Lovers finishing each other's sentences.

There is a pain in the discovering
That no matter what you show,
No matter what you tell
You can never convey what's in here:
A kaleidoscope of colors, lovely,
Received by the world as black and white.
Your spectrum of light reversed through a prism.
The intolerable lonesomeness
Of the indescribable unseen.

Music without notes,
Feasts without recipes,
Love before kisses,
The connection prefacing touch.

But a lack of it
Is not always inadequate.
There are things you must do
And words you must say
That have nothing to do with it.
The best things cannot survive
When brought into the light.
And there are words that must never be said


Wednesday, August 29, 2018



Everyone gets lonesome.
Just look up in a summer sky;
There’s always a wisp of white cloud
Amidst the sea of abyssal blue,
So slight, it can hardly carry any rain.

Just as the lonely don't see they're in pain.

Within a sea of green
Is a boy with a ball.
His lips are whispering,
Almost as fast as his feet,
As he darts across the lawn.

You think he’s all alone,
Like a June cloud adrift.
But he’s taking on the whole 1st grade;
Dragons and demons,
And Real Madrid too.
He feints right, then a left Cruyff fake,
Leaving invisible foes in his wake.

The cloud is just the water you can see
While sweat beads on your brow,
As you stand behind a window watching
In a quiet, uncool house.
To your left, in a bowl,
Is a fish swimming in water.
And out there, within the summer haze,
Is that boy elapsing his days,
Navigating his own fathomless realms


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Another Damn Poem

Change the Subject

Change the subject.
Let’s talk about something else.
What a lovely arcade of vessels;
But now they’re all starting to bleed.
Let’s change the subject

There, over there, is a lovely fine flower.
But you’re picking up petals
That have fallen to the ground.
Let’s change the subject.

Let’s flip through this old album.
Look at us here, look at my crazy hair.
You’re holding my hand.
Look at us now….
Let’s change the subject.

What shall we have for dinner?
Can the pit in my stomach
Allow for the stalk of a snack?
Have this celery, have a few.
But it’s impossible to look in your eyes while you chew.
Let’s change the subject.

Who’s the President?
Shall we talk about politics, tangentially,
Like John Locke or Machiavelli?
Let’s do change the subject.

Have you heard any new cool music?
I'll put on some jazz fusion and pretend it’s sexy.
But you're out in the yard flinging
My vinyl records like Frisbees
Into a swarm of summer midges.
Do paintings make your head spin or just ache?
I get so close to the frames my eyes blur
Trying to find the thing I hope has been hidden
While you always stand astride,
Far enough away from me,
Finding the beauty you need in the slants and the angles.
When I’m bored at the symphony,
Why, during the Agnus Dei, do your tears
Always seem to fill an empty hole
That bores right past me
And flows out the back exit door?
Let’s change the subject.
Let’s talk about something else.

The sound of the birds in the morning?
But you’re not even awake.
The glint of the sun off the evening ocean?
But you’re already off riding the last wave.
Shall we speak of God and the saints?
Shall we kneel together and pray?
How could we, you won't sit still,
Shadow dancing across a stage
With an invisible form you say is my soul.
Let’s please change the subject
Let’s find something new to discuss.

Or what if we just stopped looking for subjects,
Stop talking, for once.
We can just sit here, you know,
On this slatted wooden bench
And notice the objects
All around us, for once,
And give them all names,
Names only you and I will know.
Everything right here within this once in a lifetime view.
Look to your left
And I'll keep an eye
On the ones to the right.
All that we see, re-named anew.
And we'll save what we've found,
Each and every named object,
Hidden away in a secret place,
(Our own buried treasure chest).

Tamp the dirt.
Let's sit and rest,
Just bide our time and wait
For the moment when our objects become subjects
That can't ever be changed,
Before the subjects themselves are gone.