Sunday, December 26, 2021



After school I used to play a game

Where I had to make ten free throws

In a row or else I’d be shot on the spot

By some black hooded assassin.

The game mutated over the years.

Just a few weeks ago I was hoisting 

A 25 footer knowing that if I missed

Not only myself but everyone I loved

Would be summarily dispatched.

I like to know that everything rides

On me. Not the usual three-two-one,

Beat the buzzer, win or go home 

Sort of thing most kids do.

It had to be life or death.

Everything had to hinge

On the results of a single action.

I wish I could say I was consistently

A hero.  That ice water surged in my veins,

That my heart rate never rose above seventy,

That I was always clutch, rising with an

Effortless flick of the wrist.

But the reality is I had already been

Dead to myself ten times over

Before the ball finally nestled through

The nylon cords of the net.


Thursday, December 23, 2021


 The Great Fire

The sky was a septic ashen gray

As if an entire town,

Somewhere far away,

Had recently burned to the ground 

And this smoky shroud of impenetrable mist,

Wafted here by the collective exhalatory

Sigh of a few hundred survivors,

Was all we’d ever know

Of the sufferings of strangers.




When I’m not there 

We feel the weight of total absence

And when I am fully here 

I feel the emptiness of everything left behind.

What is missing creates space 

For something real to appear.

But no one else shows up here

In this place where I’ve finally arrived.

You can only truly lose 

The things you’ve once had.

How else would you ever know 

What you need to go out and find?


Saturday, December 18, 2021



When I look upon certain faces

(Let’s be honest, the ones I see most)

All I see are the imperfections.

I’m the weird one watching 

Your resting face

Lost in thought face

Tired unguarded face 

All the times you’re a face

Who forgets she’s a face.

Wrinkles, spots, blemishes 

I could freehand a topographical map

And then lead you on tours 

Along harrowing crevasses

Loosening into mudslides of skin.


Everyone else notices 

When you smile or laugh

How you light up a room

Like a flash of summer lightning

When the power goes out.

But I've been scanning the sky for hours,

Before the firmament ever foamed blue

With towering plumes of cumulonimbus.  

Everyone else is normal

No one else is me.

The kind of beauty 

I’m looking for only comes in such a flash

So you have to pay attention

Without trying too hard.

Concentrated gazes tend to efface

All traces of the sublime.

Maybe I only know one rote way of doing it.

Even Aphrodite is approachable if you stare long enough.

Try this:

Conjure your most beautiful verses.

Then write them down in chalk.

Soon, a janitor arrives and erases

It all before a single word can be memorized.

That gutting moment when I realized

The truest meaning of having arises

Only in the context of inexplicable loss.

There’s no perfect way to describe it:

A wide eyed terror,

The blackboard blank and no one left to kiss,

Just me, sneezing in a cloud of white dust.

Seeing is what happens inside our heads

On ghostly blank canvases

Spattered with paints that we

Approach with makeshift brushes,

Hesitant to smear with unwieldy strokes.

Don't ask me what I see.

You’ll know the ugliness

That lives inside of me.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021



There’s always a pattern 

Even when it happens just once

Even as it’s actually happening.

Give it time.

Let it be watched.

Not all things are predictable oscillations,

Some have long looping wavelengths.

Even life is a swooping protracted

Curve, ever bending back on itself.


Tuesday, December 14, 2021



The past is a vast cemetery

Of the finished and the dead.

Plots for spinster aunts.

Mausoleums slotted with memories

Like cold stone filing cabinets.

Cavernous pits for all the rest,

Half interred with cracked bones, locks of hair

Clattering piles of dulled bracelets,

Scuffed shoes, unmatched, without laces,

Crisply folded handwritten letters,

Yellowed soft like lost books of Septuagint,

Feelings you always thought would last forever.


Even my love for you 

Had its own assigned grave.

Names and dates deeply carved.

But we are here, the two of us, alone,

The weather unseasonably warm,

Both bearing bundles of vibrant flowers

To set beside its old gray headstone.


Monday, December 13, 2021


 How to Live

First, you lose yourself.

Then you feel unmoored,

Untethered.  I’ll be the imaginary floor

You walk upon with make believe legs

And the walls that shield you 

From mythical northern winds

Gusting down from legendary lands 

And the roof that shades you

From the only in your head 

Scorching hot white blaze

Of an all incinerating sun.


Wednesday, December 1, 2021


 The Truth about Black Holes

My son read somewhere on 

The internet that a giant black

Hole is hurtling through space

Hoovering up everything in its path.

He’d read that it’s approaching Earth

And if we fall into its trap

It will be a fate worse than death.

You can imagine his distress:

Entombed in a silent lightless 

Awareness without the passage

Of time, like being buried alive,

Only paralyzed and blind.

I told him black holes certainly exist

But they generally don’t move.

They don't wander through

The vast universe picking 

Off planets and moons

Like frogs lopping up flies.

They don't have to.

They lie in wait

In the centers of galaxies

With an arrogant knowing

That all things inevitably return.

They don't have to seek anything out.

I told him about vertigo,

How sometimes we can’t help but fall

When we spend such time teetering 

On the verges of so many brinks.

Sometimes they’re closer than we think.

Anywhere there is absence or loss.

Every single empty space.

All that disappeared time,

Where do you think it all goes?

You're old enough to know this now.

In time you’ll learn to recognize

Where all the smaller ones are

And put them to good use.

Your broken heart,

Your stifled dreams,

Silly iterations of self,

Unreturned calls from beautiful girls,

Unreturned calls from plain, but clever, girls,

Vain failures, every last wasted effort.

All the things that hardly weigh anything at all.

But you won’t ever let them

Suck the true heart of you in.

You’ll stand your ground

And bide your time.

Sooner or later, one will arrive

Perfectly suited to your mass and size,

With a gravitational pull stronger

Than anything you could conquer.

And anyway, when it’s here

Standing will no longer be an option

For the ground is already gone.

And then you’re spinning and spinning

In complicated geometrical

Patterns, spiraling down

Down, down, ever down

To the very bottom of an infinite pit

Where language is insufficient to describe

A mass so dense not even

Light or sound could survive.

Words don’t stand a chance.

Maybe gravity is God’s word for mercy.

A word for the force that always

Shows up just before the ground whisks away,

And guides your staggered, half-standing being 

To a place that is perpetually missing,

Where the noon sun is always in eclipse, 

Where darkness is neither color nor a comfort,

Where it’s fine to lie supine

On a bed of a thousand knives,

Where your heart-pounding terror

Is cocooned by the safe embrace of sleep.

Meanwhile, your dreams, being of mind alone,

Are wide awake

And eager to get on with it,

Unaffected, as they are, 

By such forces of nature

And so they put on quite the show.

Watch boy, kick back and just watch

This flashing elongated looping distortion

Of vaguely familiar hallways and terrains,

Where everything is acceptably strange

And unmistakably real, dream real,

And all the unleashed spirits lift and soar,

Wafted by the westerlies of the ever forgiven.


Sunday, November 28, 2021


 Asking for the World

Life can be pretty unjust,

Let’s admit, for the truest love

Shouldn’t have such a steep cost

Not all my actions are easy to defend.

But is it fair, all I’ve lost

And all I had to spend?

I can pretend to be the man

Happy and content with his given lot,

Who buries his sorrows in a can

In a fetid backyard plot

So everyone knows he’s a good man

Who owns the things he has bought.

But once you’ve tasted true love

All wine is spoiled with the brine

Of your own self-shed blood.  

This seems to be the end of the line,

Where you raise a glass to olive eyes,

Make a toast to everything being fine.

I never asked for the world

Just her eyes, just her touch.

Love needn’t be free

But ought not cost so much.



Op Note XIV

The antibiotics were administered and documented.  She had no allergies, just adverse reactions. Nothing that could kill her.  But sometimes that’s even worse.  Half truths and white lies would water her eyes.  Bright lights sent her scrambling for the dark.  Unrequited love turned her into a flower that refused to bloom. She mistrusted poems. She had rules and expectations.  When she sneezed she accepted no blessings.  Never kiss her without saying goodbye. Or text “love you” without the I.  Her skin was super sensitive.  She couldn’t be scrubbed, only caressed.  She asked that we respect her wishes.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Handle with care. Turn the music down. We bowed our heads before we incised.


Wednesday, November 24, 2021



My toenails have stopped

Growing.  I haven’t had to trim 

Them in months. I’m afraid

To show my feet. An old man

Walking in shoes on the beach.

My hair has become

This ridiculous wig. I avoid

Eye contact when I see

The barber out and about.

Let him shop for 

Peppers and onions without 

The shame of betrayal.

I’m afraid this is how

It all starts. Send in

A mortician now. Do me the way 

They left my Grandma

Izzy, all waxed and ghastly.

Plasticky. It wasn't her anymore.

Everything must stop,

That’s clear enough.

But why so soon?

Let my hair go gray

Let me become a bit nicer 

Learn to play harmonica

Another hour to see what happens

In undiscovered places of wonder.

We’re all changing together

And so everyone stays the same.

Once I'm completely immutable,

And you’ve all passed on

Into third and fourth derivative patterns,

I’ll remain. Congealed into a final 

State of ridiculous grotesquerie

With no one there to recognize me.


Tuesday, November 23, 2021


 American Sycamore

I wish I knew more about trees

Could differentiate an oak from an elm

By sight.  Like a child, I know deciduous

From pine. I know the white bark

Of the birch. But that’s the extent of it

I suppose I could look it

All up.  Get a copy of “Field

Guide to the Trees of Ohio”.

But that would be cheating.  

And all those poems littered 

With sugar maples and chestnuts

Would be pretentious fakes.

I always run up against

The limits of language 

With regard to specificity.

For instance, who exactly

Am I? What phony appellation should

I conjure for proper designation? 

You can’t just answer “human”.  

Without people assuming

You’re being an ass.

All I know of the wind is how

It sways my trunk and limbs,

Sifting leaves loose 

Again and again,

Which I used to experience

As crushing loss until I realized

They always grew back.

All I feel of the sun

Is the coolness of my own shade.

The rain, I simply accept.  

I don’t know that I am like any of the others,

Massed in hushed unexplored 

Forests, pegged to ruddy hills,

Enduring as long as allowed,

Winter lashed by needled sleet,

Summer breezes winding past 

Us like timid women stealthily

Slipping out of a crowded party.

Unseen, unstudied


I can just call myself “American Sycamore”

As if that will change anything.

Or “Heart That Swells and Splits Its Seams”.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s just a comforting sound

That you can hear in the 

Soughing of a thousand million 

Leaves on faraway rustic hills.

It isn’t just the wind, though,

But the desperate whisperings

Of all our wished for names.