Sunday, December 29, 2019



I loved my boyhood unfinished basement:
Gray stained floor, smooth ass cement,
The rising red metal jacks propping up the beams.

Unchanged from the day it was born:
Unheated, unwalled,
The deep dank reek of kitty litter and mold.

The girls would spin round and around the red stanchions
Kid palms squeak ratcheting 
Ring around the rosies ring around the 
All fall down.

We didn’t have drywall or drop ceilings,
No halogenated mother-in law suites.
No slatted registers to keep out the deep damp cold.

I’d make a rink out of the floor
Limned by cardboard boxes and crates
Sliding over a taped blue line in socked feet,
Firing a puck at a broke ass fan I used as the goalie.

The floor joists were studded with driven nail points.
If you jumped too high it was a crown of thorns.
Stifled your cries or it was another tetanus shot
The cinder block walls were blotched with the outside wet.
Mom is calling for dinner but I’m not ready yet.

My basketball court was chalked
Out on the gray floor and a red horizontal line
Scraped into the mortar four blocks up served as the hoop.
The arc and the angle had to be just right
When the ball struck to count for two.
Whether it was a bucket or not, only I knew.

Paucity! That basement was cold and damp
And you couldn’t escape without getting
Snared by a weave of invisible cobwebs
That arced across the dark spaces every night.
The basement was cold and dark and damp
That basement of mine
Was cold and damp
That basement
Of mine

Slatted wooden steps:
If you walked down without running
Someone might reach through and snatch your ankles,
Drag you through into the darkness.
I never looked down, or back.

Chains hanging from solitary light bulbs
Implanted in the floorboards above.
The flippant despair of the water softener.
The thin black pipes that dripped

There were monsters down there
Under the crawl space
Where no one dared,
In the dark spaces of a drafty home
where even the children had to crouch.

I had no friends, really,
No after school redoubts.
I was born, it was home, I had no say;
You faced the basement terror
Or found another place to play


Friday, December 20, 2019



The philosophical sages say a little bit of suffering
Gives those respites of joy a deeper meaning.

But I am unhappy all of the time.
I would like to be unhappy only some of the time
Or at least not all the damn time.

And the deeper I fall into sorrow
The less I even realize
what the word "unhappy" means.

Yin and yang, you see,
Black is only “black” in the context of white,
That regal pine is only “tall” amidst a grove of smaller trees.

Just like if you were happy and content all of the time
You wouldn’t know it, you might even get bored.

Which is why I always thought the theological sages ridiculous;
What with their paradises of eternal blissful consciousnesses.
Is that the best they got?
Don’t swear, fast for a week, pray with all your heart
And the Kingdom of Ennui awaits you.

I’ll take a little bit of sadness, or a lot,
Mixed with an occasional hearty laugh 
Here on earth and call that a heaven.

It may not be very smart.
But it’s the best one I got.  


Thursday, December 12, 2019


Poem #10

All poems are to some extent derivative:
Other poets, better written rhymes,
Real life, just the things I’ve noticed.
We’re all thinking in the past tense
Or deluded by an conjured future time,
Grasping at falling snow,
Mad rush clutching at the last almond in the bowl

It’s not a representative sample,
All these transient things we choose.
It isn’t fair to all the desultory rest, 
The noble, mundane hereness of all the in-between:
This chair I’m sitting on.
The waning moon that looks injured.
That smudged glass holding my wine;
I’ll probably just drink it anyway.
I can’t say that I really mind.


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 the 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, uneven, 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 collages of a life 
Of long hot showers,
Sunday bottles of wine,
Hallway pacings, fingers to lips,
He always plays with his hands,
Back and forth lawn mower laps.
Drop everything and scribble something down.
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, right here,
Everything is funny and just fine.

The first wave of the army is hardened by rows of wry grins,
Belying whites of eyes the enemy always 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 it wasn't your fault.
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.