Thursday, December 5, 2019


Poem #9

Some poems punch you in the gut.
Others slap you upside the head.
Some trip a wire that triggers
a trapdoor dropping you into an abyss.
Some are like a dive from a tent pole platform
Into a tiny bucket of ice water.
Some force you to look at your own damn face.
Others just welcome you to the club.

There are nascent poems all over the house;
Scraps of paper, recent receipts,
Cramped, down-veering scrawlings
In the marginalia of half read books, old magazines.
Someday I'll gather them all in a pile.
Strike a match.
Captured afterglow collage of a life 
Of long hot showers,
Sunday bottles of wine,
Hallway pacings, fingers to lips,
Back and forth lawn mower laps.
It all seemed so important at the time.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019



The sound of laughter in a church
Interrupting the silence is the sign 
of a religion I can get behind.
I want to heckle the pastor
When he trips over his tongue,
Confuses his proverbs with parables.
I want the incense 
to smell like urinals,
The stained glass to shatter
So all the air can get in,
Flowers and weeds and trash:
I always have a pocket full of stones.

The sermon is now a stand-up routine
On how not to rattle the bones.
It’s all a busted-up, sinking ship
And you’re clinging to this last raft
Learning once again how to laugh.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019



How do we show courage in a time of laughter?
The same way we snicker before the doctor
delivers his grim practiced monologue.

Before we cough blood there is a rasp of a laugh.
Before we speak ill of the dead there is a tickle in the back of your throat.

I know how to make her laugh;
Under her arms, between her rib slats,
A pantomime of my own unenviable decline.
Falling face down.
Everything is funny and just fine.

The first wave of the army is hardened by rows of wry grins,
Belying widened whites of eyes the enemy mistakes for fear.


Sunday, December 1, 2019



Be good and strong my dear-
This is only one such day.
The suchness of days lends life its strangeness.
Be strong and watchful and pay attention.
Listen to the wind the way you would
When a lover whispers in your ear
At the crowded cocktail party
You never meant to attend.
Cup your cheeks around his chin to hear,
Crane your neck into the shadows of his voice.
Words try to be souls carried along by air.
Listen to him breathe when he sleeps.
Notice his chest rising and falling.
It’s ok to breathe, it’s ok to go back to sleep.
Go running in the frigid early morning.
Every smoky wisp of exhalation is unique,
Like each falling flake.
Flake upon flake becomes snow.
Breath after breath is an entire life.
In the spring it all melts
And rushes toward the sea in torrents-
The utter strangeness of this suchness.


Saturday, November 23, 2019



Alarms are going off.
The lights are all strobing. 
Municipal sirens wailing,
A skein of geese is honking
As they fly low over my back deck.
The warnings are all around us;
It’s a widespread global panic.

That time the engines went out on my plane
Halfway over the North Atlantic.
The flames flickering from the port side wing,
The sudden thousand foot drop,
Stewards collapsed crying in the galley
As we looped around back to Gander
With the sea rising to meet us

Icebergs and not enough dinghies,
It’s hard to get the count just right.
A vast underestimation 
Of the effects of gravity,
Of the full steam ahead on the Titanic.
Shovel another heap of coal onto the fires.
Burn the whole pile of black earth..

The trains are arriving in the east,
Screeching iron on iron,
The women to the right, men to the left.
The gander strut and stick out their chests.
The geese get no rest.
The migration south is now unending.
Too many people go about their business
without a care, without proper sense of tragedy.

I can't see the geese;
Haunted warnings from behind the low gray clouds,
Or perhaps plumes of acrid smoke,
you cant tell sometimes.
The blackened hillside of charred trees,
The shadows thin and pitiful.

Above, the sky looks clawed,
the fading white contrails of attacking planes,
the leaves turning, falling.
October feels like summer.
It's getting warmer and warmer.
The birds don't even have to leave.


Monday, November 18, 2019



Between cases I looked out the great highway-facing windows
To the see my swaying grasses again
In the swale by the overpass.

But there was a stillness instead.
The wind had died.
The world was out of breath.
All this churn and struggle,
The constant motion to and fro.

Lone leafless tree erupting from the ground like a claw
Clutching the exceptional nothingness.
You want to fill its branches with blossoms and nests.

I place a mirror before my face to see it fog.
I check to see if my chest still rises and falls.
It rises and falls,
Yes, it rises and falls.


Saturday, November 16, 2019


The Hernia

How did I get it doc, they always ask.
What did I do wrong?
Hard to know I always say.
Maybe you coughed.
That log you lifted.
Blame the foreman, blame your father.
More likely you didn’t do anything at all.
The ultimate etiology remains in ambiguity
Because it really isn’t anything at all.
It’s just a hole, a gap in your continuity,
An absence that becomes a weakness
Ripe for attack.
Your empty spaces always get filled
Some how, some way.
Sometimes with the things we don’t need,
The things that can hurt.



Poem #8

You always make a note of the benchmarks and milestones
Anniversaries, first date, first kiss
The first time I spent the night.
Dates and times
Places, major events
Your lodestars and handholds
Recorded for your own private posterity.
You write things down,
Make marks on calendars.
I recall them too, with prompting
(I’m not some daft ass)
But you have to remind me. 
You have to tell me the details,
The color of the carpet,
The Cabernet or Merlot,
The broken up guy in the untucked button down
He’s too old to be out with those kids.
The amber glint of light in your hair
In this heretofore shadowed place.
How the corners of your eyes
Crack like struck glass
When you lose yourself in a true laugh.
The purple napkin on a beige table.
The mismatched sock.
The concave shape of the hotel soap.
The faux brass of an airport bar.
You think I'm not paying attention
But I'm drinking in all of that,
The lost trifles, the peripheral filler
The unseen, the unheard.
That’s where all the poetry is,
That's what brings it all back to life.
All those throwaway details and lines
Are the ones I’m always trying to catch.



Still Life

You can be the guy who stares at the walls,
Lights dimmed
Ceiling fan spins
Counting down the visions of wrong decisions,
Who cranks up the AC in summer
With a blanket wrapped around his shoulders,
Looks out the window and waits for the fall.

Orange leaves
Oranges in a bowl
Cezanne still life
Frozen in time
Unmoved by pain or strife.
The only thing that changes is the light
Which changes everything
Morning, noon and night
The frosting of dust
On the domes of softening fruit.

You can be the guy who waits for the shadows
To wrap around the orbs
Drag them into the pits of hell
Like demons.
The guy who stares at the walls
And counts to himself
The missed chances,
Fluttering lips.
1:16 pm, November 13th
Won’t come round again
Not ineluctably like this,
Spinning around this predictably elliptical path.
You are the guy who is here for this.


Sunday, November 10, 2019



The leaves sure know how to die.
They got it figured out all right.
Lighting themselves on fire
In a last-gasp mass immolation,
a conflagration of orange red yellow
splashed across the barren browns of autumn.
The flickering embers of dying fires
Everyone thinks it’s a final flourish,
A man in full near the end.
He found his way
After so many twists and turns 
He found his way
After so many wrong turns

But they’ve been choking for weeks,
Siphoned of life by the trees
When the chlorophyll gets cut off.
They’ve already extracted all the fuel they need
To survive the long winter.
Enough in nature is always enough.

And so they just let go and fall;
Gentle swaying downward de-lofting
Meandering as the wind blows
Quilting the quiescent lawns below.
It’s nice for a while
But everyone soon turns to go
Back inside to their TV's and screens.
The lawn service will come next week
To dispose of the browning nuisance.
The leaves wait until then to decay.
The leaves have some couth.
The leaves know how to die.
Curled like rheumatoid fists
Off stage, when no one is looking,
Desiccated thin potato crisps
Crunching under your boots, beneath the snow.

Fall gave way to winter and now no one cares.
We got what we wanted out of them:
Oxygen, removal of carbon dioxide,
One sublime ride through the rural hillside.
Look kids, I am showing you beauty.
Look at them closely, all you damn kids
Pay attention to the messages they leave.
I still have an orange leaf in a box in the attic
Pressed between laminated sheets,
Second grade science.
Veined lines like ancient
Glyphs on scrolls and parchments
Rosetta stones of our own time
We each get a leaf etched with our own name.
That’s the leaf you have to find.