Saturday, March 28, 2020

poem

Thirst

I denied my desire to drink
Once I realized thirst
Could not be quenched.
Instead I set aside
Small cups of water
To coat my brittle lips
Before they cracked and bled.

Tiny room with a desk,
Small spiral ring notebooks,
Dense with cramped script.
Small portions had always been enough
To keep me fed:
The things I can grip
And carry when I fled.

I dead-ended deep in a forest
Up against cliffs of shale and slate
Sponged with brackish moisture,
So swollen they dripped.
Closed my eyes and and lifted my face
To the water that comes from stone
And the moss cushioned my weight.

I have always been mostly water
And water never gets wet.
All the cups must be tipped.
The beaded puddles that spread
Across my varnished desk
Coalesce, fathomless:
Deep enough to dive head first.

3/26/20

Saturday, March 14, 2020

poem

Self Isolation


It once seemed
So far away---


Wuhan, hazmat
White tents, N95 masks---


But now it’s here,
It’s everywhere,
And not just a meme.


This time virus goes viral.
The numbers trickled in and then popped.
We’re scrolling our phones and laptops.
Small cliques, family clusters
Scattered from great gatherings.


Drink plenty of water
Check for fever
Wash your hands
Get caught up on your sleep.
Read Boccaccio and
Avoid the din of voices.


For the longest time,I guess,
I've been practicing for this moment.
Well versed in the art of social distancing.


Judicious isolation
---- not alone.
It’s always been an act
Of self preservation.

3/14/20

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Poem

Cabin

I dream lately of a cabin in the north woods.
Somehow I had built it myself
Unskilled as I am;
Modest, humble, unadorned.
Gray slatted wood, shingled roof,
A helix of smoke from the chimney,
My dog half awake on the narrow front porch.


I’d have my books, my papers, my pens.
All the time I had left, simply unspooled
In a repeat loop of sighs and shivers.
There was a mountain stream down the hill in back
And plenty of berries and nuts.


One day I’d see her coming through the trees
Not some random hiker but her.
She had pieced together the route from 
Scraps of poems and fragments of life
I’d had left behind in my wake.


She claimed to be seeking me
And stumbled upon this modest sanctuary.
The dog would barely stir.
She wouldn’t have to knock
For I had been scanning the tree line
Waiting, from a rocker on the porch
Or peering through the window when the words dried up,
Hoping for her to just show up one fine afternoon.
Although I didn't deserve it.
Like a naughty boy who gets dessert.


The dream fades at this point
For what follows belongs in a home
Not some rustic cabin in the woods 
Without water or electricity or money or fame.
The dream fades when I am found.
The alarm bleats, someone is shaking my arm.
I wake, I have been found,
Lost no more.

2/29/20

Friday, February 28, 2020

poem

Late Snow


It was a rough damaging winter,
Enough to leave marks
That the warmth of Spring won't easily smooth over.


Sometimes a March snow
Is the soft white salve needed
For the first phase of healing.


All those muddied rutted tracks
In the yard where cars
Veered off course 
And churned the grass.


It isn’t a blanketing blizzard,
Just a light gauze dressing
(Likely to melt by late afternoon)
To cover the shallow wounds


Before the real work of repair begins.
Shovels and boots and rakes,
Sweating under a hot May sun.
I’ll have to run to the nursery for seed.


2/28/20

Monday, February 17, 2020

Poem

Elemental


Dust and leaves swirled around my feet
In the middle of a summer cyclone.
My body was buffeted but I hardly swayed
For even the wind ignores the likes of me.


I went for a morning swim in the big surf
Off an abandoned beach,
After everyone else had joined the evacuation,
But the roiling ocean refused to get me wet.


When the house was burning down
I doused myself in gasoline
But couldn’t feel the heat
While dazed gray ash fluttered against my face.


In the middle of the earthquake
I was the only thing that didn’t shake
While the walls all collapsed
And the sidewalks cracked.


For I was the fault


And the eye of the hurricane


The tenth of a degree before the flash point


I have been the empty void
That flees just as it gets filled,
The vacuum of space that exists
Only when there’s nothing there.


I am the low dark clouds that promise to make mud
Of your finely raked pile of dirt.


Just you wait!


I’m coming for you, to devastate
This bonhomie of false tranquility.


You were the cataclysm that unmoored my ship.
Our thundering hearts remain as aftershocks

2/16/20

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Poem

Orphans

Estrangement is worse than being an orphan.
All the missed Christmases,
The empty seats,
The cards in the mail,
Social media stalking
My how she’s aged.


Righteous rage is always
Followed by a funereal silence.
Ostracization, ex communication,
Exile to the realm of the wronged. 
Church doors locked, 
Keep your hands out of the holy water.


An orphan was never rejected;
His parents are just dead.
A blurred picture of mom in a locket,
Dad’s cologne, that last trip to Hilton Head.

It’s worse this way,
The living undead absence 
Of your mom or your dad.
Maybe you’re just waiting 
For the sad news to arrive.
You’ve already written lovely eulogies 
That your siblings, by god, will never
Let you stand behind an altar and deliver.


When it's over you can write the story,
As the orphan conjures an imagined dad,
A phantasmagorical mother
Wrapped up tidy and nice;
Proud of you boy, good luck, good night.


Or maybe you're just waiting
For your own inevitable fall
Flat on your back
Nowhere to go
No one to expect
Except for them, old mom and dad---
The eternal recurrence of helpless infancy.
At the very last, the real thing,
the old familiar faces looming over you,
Smiling in hopeful shimmering brilliancy.

2/6/20


Poem

Template


Gallbladder socked in like a bullet in bark.
Liver left cupped where I carved it out.
Oozes and seeps from the raw surface
But I have tricks for that.
Put it in a bag.
Pull it out.
Plop it in formalin.


It’s not a story to tell
Around the dinner table when your 
Wife and kids ask, “how was your day?”
(Actually just the wife,
The kids have other things to say).
You can’t take it home
Or display it on the mantel,
Not even the yellowed corn kernel stones.


Rinse it out.
Close her all up.
Dictate what you did
Before the details dissolve
In the solvent of repetition.
You’ll never come round these parts again.


Next case same as the first
Just in a completely different universe.
They’re all the same
While insisting on a silly particularity.
I use a template except for the parts
You have to free hand from memory.


Measure out a perfect box.
Now draw absence.
Sketch your best guess of being.
Then finish it off with love.

2/6/20




Monday, January 13, 2020

poem

Decorative Chair

There’s a lone decorative chair over there
Against a wall, facing another wall;
Flanked by a non-committal table displaying 
A framed piece of objet d’art,
Faux wood etched with a scripted “Love Lives Here”.


But no one loves this chair.
No one ever sits there,
To read, to sip some tea,
To wait for someone to find their keys.
Gray-green velvety skin
Stretched taut over a thin cushion.
Armless, austere, propped on skinny mahogany pegs,
Uninviting, forlorn, don’t bother;
You’d be better off just leaning against the wall.


The back seems to lean forward
As if it were itching to spring up
And bound from this room
Like a deer disturbed in the wood.
It looks anxious over there, thwarted,
Unable to become the thing it was crafted to be.
Not really seen, it accents nothing---
Meta-being alone is thin gruel for anything.

It just wants to get out of here, ok?
Go someplace where it can be a chair.
But it’s trapped, unloved, unrewarded;
It isn't going anywhere,
Stuck in a room where nothing seems fair.

1/13/20

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Poem

The Fence

I want to be in a story where the good guys win in the end
Where the words get smudged by tears
But you can still make out what they mean.


I like when there is a line break between paragraphs,
Wide margins down the sides of text like promenades
Where I can leisurely stroll, leave my scraps 
Of inscrutable insight for whoever reads it next.


Better yet, to remain frozen in a poem
That few will ever read
Like a fly in yellow amber
Buried in the ground
Or lost on a dusty museum shelf.
Either way, a form permanently captured.


In a poem, no one ever wins.
The good guys end up sort of bad
According to the rules of enjambment
And the bad guys just melt
Into amorphous puddles of metaphor.


Unstressed
Unstressed
Stressed


Free verse was always the doom of us.  
The delusion we could create something
Outside the boundaries of rhythm or rhyme.


This is just a blind grasping 
At the unbroken fence of time.
Prose was always just a way to imagine what was on the other side
While all these written verses are the casualties of the clutching:
The scraped knuckles, the splintered hands,


The valorous, timeless attempts 
To conjure a world without a fence.


1/1/20