Tuesday, September 14, 2021

poem

 Swish

After school I’d race home from the bus

Chuck my bag in the foyer and change.

Harass the ol' sisters a bit, grab a snack

And then I’d get my old leather basketball,

One of the panels worn down 

To black rubber, and start to shoot.  

I’d shoot as long as I could,

Self retrieving shot after shot

Until mom came home and had to nap 

Until it became an effortless knowingness

The moment it left my chapped fingertips

Back-spinning through gray October sky

Cresting the front rim and cradling

For an instantaneous moment 

In a swaddle of stiff nylon before 

That sudden reverse churning deceleration

That snapped and echoed out as a whip-like swish

Of reproducible absolute attainment. 

That’s the best damn sound in the world, I tell my boy.

No it isn’t, he says.

Well, what is then?

It isn’t that Dad, he says.

He double dribbles and heaves

From his hip the way I used to.

Well you better find what is, son

You better find out what is.


9/14/21


Monday, September 13, 2021

poem

 Poem #27

Someone asked why.

It may have even been me.

Usually I assume this warrants

The scribbling of a few lines.

But maybe not this time.

You could turn everything off,

Put your pencils down and 

Look at your middle aged hands.

Rediscover old fading scars that

Once flashed bright red.

Pause at the top of a stairwell,

Grip the railings, lean forward

But don’t begin to go down.

Look how far you’ve come.

Think how thirsty you’ll be 

Waiting for next week’s rain.

I get asked a lot of things 

And poems like this are just replies,

Not answers or expiations.

You could always leave the page blank

With the sharp rebuke of silence.

Or you could try to speak. 

Some say Om,

Some say Amen.

Inshallah

Ahavah

Clouds of unknowing.

I prefer to whisper why.

I go to waterfalls

In the daytime

And write a few words 

And wonder why.


9/13/21

Sunday, September 12, 2021

poem

 Metaphysics

What is the meaning of all this,

Why are we here.

Why am I here.

Let's get down to it.

It’s simpler than anyone thought.

It’s not an inscrutable game,

A cosmic battle for every last soul.

All you have to do is look.

Pay attention to everything that is.

The cobwebs in your closet

This spinning electric ceiling fan

The cool smoothness of clean bowls in the morning

Flowers wilting in Indian summer heat.

How could they exist without you?

Find an empty room, a vast fall field

Of long grasses and Queen Anne's lace.

Seek out the the abandoned places

Where things can only be as you see.  

It’s up to you to bring them all alive.

This is no time for dwelling on your silly life

And all the illusory railings in your mind.

It’s time to stop looking inside

The emptiness of imaginary boxes.

Name and catalog all the rest;

Mammals, bones, moods,

The varieties of rain and snowflakes and socks.

Even tears will wink with gratitude.

Here’s a marching row of dutiful ants

Black squirrels scratching up trees

Whisperings of September breezes.

Who but you is there to translate?

Your life is its own esoteric fluency.

Eventually you’ll find it---

Bold strategy or fate

Or blind stumbling luck.

You'll find it in the

Quiet dark places,

In the unmarked forests without paths.

It doesn't try to hide.

So don't give up

Keep going

Keep conjuring that world

And you’ll narrow it down

To a few things that you 

Can’t stop gazing at;

That girl you must love

The young boy you will guide.

They’ve been watching out for you 

This whole goddam time.

There’s your answer.

That’s why you’re here;

You’ve already been seen.


9/12/11


Saturday, September 11, 2021

poem

 Cusps 

Here we are again

On the cusp of this 

Melancholic season 

Of transient fullness.


Hustling, racing around,

Gathering our harvests

In bundles and bales,

Tallying a tenuous abundance

Before the first frosts.

Shipping it out, selling it off

Before it all just rots.


The cusp of anything good

Is a bittersweet celebration


Even my heart is swelling

Beyond its assigned cage 

As the temperature dips.

You sense it intuitively,

Reaching for your sweater

Before you even start to shiver.


Threads must unfurl

Seams must burst


Trees blooded with color

Have reached the inflection point

Before they themselves 

Must empty themselves, drip by drip,

Until knock-kneed and naked 

As the saplings first sprung from earth.


I like watching them sway in the fierce,

Freshly awakened North wind.

Their roots must clutch at the soil

As they stand swaying

Amidst widening pools of maroon.


9/11/21


Monday, September 6, 2021

poem

 Pluto

Since Pluto is no longer a planet

I’m worried about the implications

For people like me who

May no longer cut it.


Too small, too cold, too distant,

An irregularity of orbit

That brings me back round again

Ever too unpredictably.


Upon further review I may lack

The qualifying criteria for human-ness.

Crossed off all the lists for the crime

Of being insufficiently luminous.


Just a frozen rock hurtling through space,

Always on the fringe of the consensus grace.

I may try to tack toward the Sun soon

But who knows if that will even be enough


Yes, you still have Mars you still have your Moon

But the Moon will never love you back.


9/6/21


Saturday, September 4, 2021

poem

 Toys

I never really had any cool toys because we were poor.  Free lunch token poor.  Some years we got hand me downs from the Burgess boys for Christmas. A Simon Says, a talking robot that went silent by New Year's Day.   I always wanted those big Lego sets so I could make a Millenium Falcon or an X Wing fighter and put it on my desk.  Maybe a full-ass set of action figures instead of my one-armed Han Solo. But I’ve been a bucket of assorted Lincoln logs and random Lego pieces ever since.   Nothing but a mass of mismatched pieces. The instruction manuals were long tossed out with the Thursday trash.  Sure, there’s potential there.  But it takes a bit of effort and ingenuity.  Some people just have to work harder. Some have to earn even their smallest joys. But someone was always stepping on the pieces.  Mom screaming, plucking sharp plastics from her heels. It stops being fun when all you’ve made is just a mess.  So I drifted away from toys.  You have to.  Everything breaks.  You lose interest after a while no matter how much it first shines.  There’s better ways to occupy a mind, so I tell myself.  Now, I’d rather be the giant bucket, gathering up all the discarded flotsam of lonely children everywhere.  Somehow I’ll find them all and go door to door, asking if anyone would like to play, for old time’s sake, once again.


9/4/21

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

poem

The Trouble With Stars

The trouble with the stars

Is that they are so

Damn far out and sublime.

They give a sense of out there

That over-humbles the here,

Unmooring it from the present time.


These arbitrary constellations,

Like seeing camels in clouds

Or Minotaurs in Rorschach blots

Are just parlor room tricks,

The thick mascara of a wink

From across the ochred brass bar...

Nothing but frivolous temptations.  


Better to stare into a dark void

Than blast off into space

And spend a lifetime

Racing toward an icy rock

That burned out 

Long before its light 

Had a chance

To make you feel alive

That one lonesome night.


We fall in love with bonfires raging 

Across the summer valleys at dusk,

That burn down to embers

By the time we finally arrive.


8/31/21

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

poem

 Bath

My 10 year old son lies supine in a bath without bubbles. His lithe white body like a mullet fish in the lagoon floats fragile in dull gray waters. His shins are like champagne flutes.  His wiener sways and strains for the surface like a blade of ocean kelp.  Here’s your towel, man, I say.  He’s dipped his ears beneath the surface so he can’t hear what I’m saying.  Or at least plausibly deny. Underwater we only hear with our skull.  Everything echoes.  Each sound takes its turn.  What did I even say.  I’d forgotten the towel.  I’m not even there.  He’s already asleep.  He’s driving away.  He’s loving a girl.  He’s sending me ties for Father’s Day. He pats his hand on my head when I die.  What he hears is just a faint echo. But he never forgets. He plunges his head underwater. He emerges clean but I must wait until the morning to shower.


8/24/21


Monday, August 23, 2021

poem

 Saint

I’m no hero, certainly not anyone’s idea of a saint.  That twisted bowel was dead and needed to come out.  Didn’t take a genius.  I know the steps. I’m merely well-trained. Capable of following instructions. Dozens are clamoring to replace me.  Anyone would do the same.  No one is irreplaceable. This is the sudden recognition of the inescapable anonymity of moderate accomplishment.  


The real heroes are more like my seventh grade science teacher, Ms. France.  (Her name was either Ms. France or Mrs. Krantz.) She told me I had a “terrific personality” just in the nick of time.  I’d almost taken a vow of silence and fallen into retreat.  She wore garish blue eyeshadow and mascara like wet tar and had big electrified hair. Her voice boomed and trilled.  I figured she knew what she was talking about. Within a year I’d notice that sometimes people looked at me when I talked.  


There was also Christine Cleary, my 4th grade friend. Maybe she wasn’t really a friend.  More like, assigned to the seat next to me at lunch. She was small and mousy and liked sports. She always packed a brown bag like me, hers neatly folded at the top, mine crushed up like an embarrassing scrap of verse.  Sometimes she let me trade my smushed oatmeal cream pie for a real cookie or two.  People didn’t offer me things.  Christine, whose dad lived in NYC in the same way mine lived in Tucson.  Who used to gently tease about why I was always blinking my eyes so rapidly and hard. It looks painful and awkward, she said. Like someone squirted acid in your eyes.  Embarrassing, to say the least.  She didn’t say it mean. She was just curious. But at least someone noticed.  I didn’t know it was OCD.  I was just a kid. But I figured it out.  I quit cold turkey. I stopped counting them up. Stopped synching them with the beat of some nursery rhyme ditty. It didn’t change anything. Nothing ever changed.  She was the one who first saved me.  I didn’t realize kindness is a power.  That you can be nice even when you’re all twisted up and raging on the inside and need it all cut out.


8/23/21

poem

 Poem #26

I keep writing these poems to draw attention.  So desperate to be seen.  Maybe if I paid more attention to myself I wouldn’t have to write so loud.  I’m making a scene, so many verses about cachectic trees with cracked bones, the wind searching for marrow.  Oh well, there’s nothing there.  I’ve looked. I’ve shattered all the mirrors.  I keep setting cacophonous alarms but I don’t wake up.  In a certain dream I never get home.  I keep pulling over and scribbling down lines on half sheets of paper. The hospital is always in my rear view mirror. Feeling needed is a way to stay alive.  I don’t want to miss my exit.  Last rest area for a million miles.  I have plenty of gas.  I’m laying on the horn and lighting flares.  But I don’t want any help.  I leave the engine idling. I’ll figure this out.  One more stanza without a single damn rhyme.  The wind is picking up. That might be the growl of distant thunder. Or a gathering pack of wolves.  I’ll have to shout.  Maybe just drive. I'm running out of time. When I arrive I slam the door so someone will hear. I recognize the place by the sound of my own voice.


8/23/21


Thursday, August 19, 2021

poem

 Badlands

So this is where all the broken hearts go.

Charred land of the withering

We’re surrounded by summer pines.

There’s a bonfire raging in the middle

But we never stop shivering.


They’re in the plaza

By the turquoise tiled fountain

With a child not their own

Tossing nickels and pennies

Into shallow pools of blue.


They’re playing well with others.

They’re actualizing their potentials,

Cheering each other up, quietly playing board

Games and putting away all the pieces

 When the games are done.


I know this is the place for me.

The second you wonder whether you belong

Is the instant you will be asked to leave.

There is no solace here,

Only the absence of loneliness.


8/19/21

poem

 Doppler

August is the heaviest month.

Everything is just too much.

You can haul away the languid air

By the wheelbarrow load.

Everything moves slow 

Like we’re all caught in a

Rapidly coagulating clot.

The Massillon train moans its departure before

Rumbling on like stratospheric machinery.

You’re always bent over,

Hands on your knees

Panting like front porch dogs.

Everything is so stifling and heavy.

The universe is sitting on my shoulders

But the Doppler effect would suggest

Otherwise, that it’s actually expanding,

Not falling in on itself like I tend to do.

Unburdening is red-shifting

Away, weightless and free,

Crystalline chill of morning dew,

But someplace far from me.


8/19/21

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

poem

 Depth

There isn’t much beneath my surface.

I’m Chagrin River creek deep

Baked almost dry

By sultry suns of July.

I’m not who you think

Fooling you hasn’t been fun

All I can do 

Is make you wet,

Stomping and kick-splashing,

Stirring up clouds of silt

So you can’t fathom the true depth.

Plausible deniability.

You can’t tear down what never gets built.

When the sediment settles 

The water clears liked a dusted mirror

That only shows a dissolving face,

First the reflection and then your own,

Just before the glass cracks

And hints at slivers of life

Shining through from the other side.

The sandy bed of the creek trembles,

Shifts and gives way to gravity,

To absence, to you falling,

The only thing you can do

When the ground gives way.

You are the one who can't stop falling

And you're falling all alone,

And you're falling all alone

But I’ve already left the river

And my feet are firm and dry.

That’s me, over there,

Silhouetted on the opposite shore,

Skipping stones across skins of water.


8/16/21

Saturday, August 14, 2021

poem

Going Through Something

We’re all going through something.

Half dead trees with hollowed out limbs

Bracing for the gale force winds.

Flowers are sweltering in the sun

While, later on, their roots

Get washed away in the deluge.


Some of us are perpetually waking up

While others fail to fall asleep.

We’re all going through something unique.

We’re all on permanent spin cycle,

Wracked and wet and wrinkled,

Trying to pass our laundered selves off as 

Lightly starched, ironed shirts.


I counter your grievous losses

With a litany of frivolous obsessions.

Your anger and her mystification

Are just enough to balance

My deflective prevarications.

Your here and now present must level up

With my understanding of the past

Minus the mourning of an unchosen future. 


Everything I eat ends up

Dander in my own pillow.

My lonesome childhood laments

Get remitted in the rush I still get 

When the gallbladder is finally out.  


Every time I feel good about myself

I’m soon reminded by the face

Of the impostor I chose to become 

That I never stood a chance 

Of being anybody, any good.


8/14/21


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

poem

 Divining

I’m divining sources of moisture

Deep within the ground,

Patiently waiting for mystical sticks

To waver and then cross.

Fossilized rocks beckoning

With secret magnetic solaces

Telling me where to stop,

When to grab hoes and picks

And start to hack at the earth.

These ancient porous aquifers 

Can sense the earth shifting

The way I start to tremor

When I sense you’ve divined

Some rich vein deep inside me;

I'm left trembling in anticipation,

Wondering what it is you’ll find.


8/10/21