Wednesday, December 30, 2020



I went searching in the forest of red pines,
And soon strayed off the bridle trail,
All wet, muddied, horse-worn.
I veered off into the frozen matting
Of quilted ferns and leaves.
My boots made a sound of a fist clenching in leather gloves
As my mind conjured its own path through the leaning trees.

Along the way I came upon a lone conifer seedling
Frail and wobbly in the undergrowth.
Who am I? I asked it.
I’ll never see the day when
This little guy joins the canopy.
As my grandparents missed my degrees,
My marriages, my fatherhood, my now.
I am this little tree
In all its fragile immediacy.
I am its regal swaying pine
That I won’t survive to ever see.

The paths I envision always lead to the river.
I pick my way carefully to the very edge
Of a craggy cliff overlooking the rushing water
Swollen with snow melt and recent rain;
A roar of jailhouse escape,
Trench war slaughter.
I sink my boots into the earth
Slippery with pine needles and ice
And then lean out, stanchioned against a thick belly of bark.

Desire must be like the river
That wends its way downhill,
Careening over rocky declivities,
Metamorphosing into an icy waterfall
Which reveals a sudden extraordinary beauty,
A terrifying thunderous violence
That punishes the sharp stone smooth
And leaves behind a treacherous slide
Before the churn and froth coalesces into a river again.
All so the water can get where it thinks it needs to go.

But that’s not exactly my path.
I've gone as far as I can, for I lose my way
When faced with a looming void.
I back away from the edge and return again to the forest,
Scanning the matrix of trees, patiently waiting
For the winding lanes to reappear
So I can begin the slow, dogged,
Always ad-libbed, return back home.


Thursday, December 17, 2020



Some days I want to make time slow down

Like the time you beat me in ping pong

Or the night the amber light of the hotel bar

Filtered through your wind swept hair

And caught the completeness of your essence

As we held hands and laughed

And listened to old jazz songs.

Time is relative like everything else,

Contingent on one’s perspective.

Blast into space and hit the hyperdrive

Or spiral around the outer cone of a black hole

And, from someone else’s vantage point,

Time seems to slow to a crawl.

I’ll never approach the speed of light

So I’ve been looking for something heavy,

An object of infinite mass

That we can circle at our leisure.

Each step will seem to take a thousand years

Each kiss will last a hundred kalpas.

But for us, it will be as before:

After maybe a minute has elapsed

Our lungs will burn and ache

And our lips will have to break

And we’ll return to a world that has long since passed:

The extinguished sun, this frozen dead earth.

Alas, the obstinate constancy of relativity.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020



The best parts of the Bible are the ones unwritten

Like the time Christ was cutting his nails

By the quivering light of dying candles.

Or the divine piss that pooled

Around the roots of trees

While the dawn birds chirped

And the crickets sifted in the grass.

The sweat, the spit, the holy shit,

The rhythmic reverberation of His snore.

I saw Christ Himself today on the surgical floor.

This sunken chested old lady,

Skin like closeted leather,

Colostomy for an obstructive cancer

Bulging with gray sludge and foul gas.

She shook her spindly finger at me

And pursed her cracked lips.

Her yellowed eyes caught 

A glint of the morning sunrise.

Why so early young man?

I’ve just begun to freshen up.

For the first time in my life

I knew exactly what to say

But she’d already fallen back to sleep

And the words became too sacred to speak.



 Poem #18

This poem can’t figure out
Whether it's a distracted daydream
Or the proof of one who pays attention.
It’s both, one cannot doubt.
How can you conjure visions
Without the careful quilting
Of a lifetime of caught quickenings?
My son, my daughter,
Carbon, iron, oxygen.
Even the flights of imagination:
Gryphon, unicorn, fire breathing dragon.
There’s nothing new under the sun,
Just ever more interesting combinations.


Sunday, December 13, 2020



Leave yourself behind.
Be the swirled indigo sunset
No one ever quite forgets.

Don’t wait for your skin to bronze

On the beach while the arching waves

Are accelerating in to shore.

Strike fast, strike now.

Seize not the day

But the thin wisp of what is.

When it’s over you can sleep in,

Eat hot cereal doused in brown sugar

And then meticulously wash all your bowls.

Let your gravestone be not 

A staid resting place for flowers

But a graffitied slab some drunk once kicked over.


Saturday, December 5, 2020



Sometimes you get tired of having to defend

Yourself from a ceaseless onslaught of attack.

Get the puck and chuck it to the other end;

Catch your breath, clear the slate,

A momentary reprieve before the pressure comes back.

I want to find a lake with ice ten feet thick

Surrounded by hills studded with pines,

Away from all the things I hate:

Creases, cross checks, red lines, blue lines.

Give me a frozen void where I can just skate.


Friday, December 4, 2020


 Poem #17

My poems have too many trees without leaves

Like I live in a suspended place

Where it’s always autumn,

Not completely dead but never in bloom.

These poems are too much 

Like day after blizzard slush.

No longer a powdery snow

And the last thing to slake my thirst

Here’s a meal when you already ate.

Here’s a warm coat when the fire’s been lit.

My halfway love is an incomplete verse;

A dollar short and half a day too late.


Tuesday, December 1, 2020


Tension Pneumothorax

Last thing to do before leaving.
You don’t have time for his shit.
A pile of undictated notes,
An appendix waiting at the hospital ten miles away.

You remember striking the jugular flush
On the first stick with a harpoon needle,
A nice blush of fine Merlot in the hub.
Then: guidewire, dilator, catheter sliding into place.
Stitch it to the skin, order the x-ray.

Half an hour later she’s crashing.
Code blue over the PA.
Is that my lady?
She’s intubated, hypotensive,
Absent breath sounds.
You push through the crowd
And ram an angiocath between her ribs
To release a whoosh of air.

Every time you breathe everything gets worse.
You’re injured inside,
A tiny rent in a one cell membrane,
A small gash to the sense of self
Even though you’ve done everything right.
You can’t just walk it off;
Carrying on is an ancient art.
Someone will need a line next week.
Someone will need you, once again,
While you silently fill up
With an unrelenting pressure,
An unobservable, escalating strain
That quickly crushes your heart.


Monday, November 30, 2020



This is a love story.

If the flower doesn’t turn to the sun

Then how do you know it’s a flower?

When the liquid doesn’t freeze at zero degrees

You’ve mistaken the ocean for fresh water.

That time your shoes wouldn't lace up anymore

Was because you were standing still in slippers.

When your dog stops barking when someone's at the door

You're comforted by a cat purring in your lap.

Everything is just happening.

Life is action,

One event after the next,

Even when it seems like nothing is moving

Like this clenched fist on a hypersonic jet.

If my boy can’t chase that puck

If my girl isn’t allowed to be kind

If I can’t finish this unrhymed line

If I can’t go on loving you

Then what am I?

Who have I become next?


Sunday, November 29, 2020


 Bridgeport, Chicago

Someone’s cheap suitcase had spilled open on the baggage carousel.
There were toiletries, hair curlers, socks balled into pairs,
Raggedy frayed panties hanging over the edges.
Around and around it went unclaimed
In the dimly lit ground floor of O’Hare.
I stood there in the terminal holding my bag
Waiting for someone to come 
And frantically shove everything back inside.
I stood there watching until all the other bags had been fetched
And I was the last passenger left.
I imagined an sheepish traveler in the shadows
Impatiently waiting for me to go away
So she could retrieve her things in peace.

The boy darted out between parallel parked cars

In front of his south side home

Chasing a ball or a squirrel

Or maybe chasing nothing at all,

Just running, running aimless like a child.  

The van caught him flush and sent him flying

A hundred feet down the street in broad daylight.

They brought him in to the trauma bay

Comatose, cold and pale, with a wobbly tracing

Which quickly went flat.

We split open his chest and his left lung

Spilled out of his empty chest like fileted pink salmon.

Last gasp, we explored his bulging little belly

Hoping to find something to fix or stanch

But the entrails sprung out in a mass

Of diaphanous deep sea anemones.

There was no blood and we never got a pulse

So the chief surgeon declared him dead

Right then and there, just like that

And then stuffed everything back inside

And whip-stitched his open gashes in silence.

I stood to the side and waited for the void

To be filled with some kind of noise---

Wailing sirens as the ER doors opened and closed,

The searing lamentations of a mother, a father,

Waiting down the hall for the worst news of their lives

Or least the beeping of monitors, the whirring of printers or faxes

But no sounds came.

The parents hadn't arrived yet.

Everything had been turned off.

There was just the rhythmic ratcheting of the needle driver 

As the boy was terminally closed.

Once you’re exposed

There’s little incentive 

To cover yourself back up.

You feel it’s too late;

Took everything you had to hold it all in.

All those lonely years,

Layer upon layer of protective gear,

All for naught.

That part takes love

Which isn’t something 

Anyone can control;

You need help.

The next time the suitcase 

Came round unclaimed

I stepped forward and covered it

With an old white tee shirt I’d pried from my bag.

No one deserves to go round and round

Flayed open, naked and raw and true

For all the world to see.


Sunday, November 22, 2020



The leaves have all fallen
And the cachectic trees
Are swaying in the wind,
Scratching at the gray soiled sky
Swish swish swish
Like witches' brooms,
Impossible to get clean.

It’s hard to get out of bed when it’s cold.

Splash some water on your face,

Run barefoot across the frost

To fetch a package from the mailbox.

A shot of bourbon just before you shave.

November mornings don’t fuck around.

They wait for no stragglers.

Get your boots laced,

Choose a bold tie,

Pick a proper face.

But the deer find a way to disappear

Even in the stripped down

Skeletonized winter wood.

Use what you have;

This broken stick is a wand.

The sky will clear, the sun will come.

Just be patient, just wait.

The haze will burn away.

Soon, arthritic knuckled branches will be flush

Again in green leaves and white blossoms.

When the wind hisses and pierces

Be the one who laughed

While everyone else scoured and scrubbed

A perfectly clean glass.

And that may be enough.

If anyone asks

You'll say it's just witchcraft.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020



I watched a deer dart between 
Southbound and northbound traffic
On the weekday drive home.
The cars squealed their wheels,
Veered sharp right and churned
Up clouds of gray dust
From the graveled berm.
The deer went bounding white-tailed
Through the long brown grass
And never once looked back.


Saturday, October 31, 2020



 It’s October and everything falls.
The trees fall in the forest with an unheard crash.
The epileptic tech in the hospital
Has a fit of the falling sickness

Like Smerdyakov, down on the floor,

Drooling, while his legs and arms thrash.

She’s the first one on the scene,

Kneeling, quiet and calm, she takes his hand.

We should all awake from such chaos

To her almond-eyed serene.

It’s October and everything falls;

Empires, proud men, midnight drunks.

Everyone wants to see the changing leaves

Before it’s too late.

The leaves don’t make a fuss,

They escape like silent thieves,

Like someone trying to slip from a party unnoticed.

You can’t turn your head for an instant,

The branches are bare before you know it.

Winter then comes and the snow falls

And the browned leaves on the ground freeze

In a crusted thatched matting.

The falling never stops.

We never stop falling.

When we venture off the wooded trail,

Crunching across the quilting of dead leaves,

Hidden branches and holes lurk unseen.

I’ll reach for you when you stumble

And you’ll reach for me.

It’s always been better to fall together.