Monday, February 22, 2021

poem

 Drive


Driving is just like living.

Strangers, sheltered in steel

External shells, barely aware

Of one another, following rules

And decorum, getting to where

We all think we need to go.


We’re all conscious of the red light

The orange cones, the yield signs,

The turn-on-green arrow.

This isn’t about mindless activity,

The soulless emptiness of modern life,

Although I can certainly see how 

Such thoughts could arise.


What if there were no roads at all.

Each of us bogged down in mud,

Stuck staring at phones

Waiting for a tow.


Or worse, what if the world 

Was completely paved,

An expansive parking lot

Of a universal store

And we had to nose

Our cars slow, ever so slowly,

Through the honking, tire squealing

Vastness of tar and metal.


You never know when a jackass

Would try to cut across the hashed 

Asphalt grid in a bid to escape.


This is what we have,

What we’ve agreed to.

It could be worse.

It isn’t chaos.

But it isn’t particularly fun.

I laugh when I see 

A guy chuck his fast food

Remnants out the window.

I smile when I watch 

The curls of a singing 

Middle aged mom

Bob like a pom-pom.


I stare too long

And they always

Sense it and shoot

A glance in my direction

But our eyes never connect

Because I've already

Averted my gaze back

To the median yellow lines

And the sign ahead 

Prodding me to merge right,

To slow down,

Not immediately,

But gradually, as soon

As suitable space opens up.


2/22/21





Sunday, February 21, 2021

poem

Listening

I stopped using my stethoscope

Right around the time I stopped

Saying I love you to the ones

Who said they loved me.


I didn’t need to go through

The motions anymore.

I didn’t need to pretend 

To listen to the passage of air.


I can hear everything I need

From across the room;

The gasp, the wheeze,

The rasp in your throat.


I’m a surgeon, it’s what I do best.

I cut you open and take things out.

There’s nothing I can do

About that rattle in your chest.


I’ve narrowed my focus 

To places of expertise.

I find where it hurts

And tell you a diagnosis.


What else do you need from me?

You knew who I was

By the dark stubbled face

And the bruises under my eyes.


You know how I feel.

I don’t need to say it.

I’ll be the one who stays all night 

Whispering that things will be alright.


2/21/21

poem

Scrap

Long ago someone lit

A match and burned a hole

In the middle of my page

Without turning it all to ash.


I wrote around the edges,

Filled it up with all that I knew. 

But you can’t write into a void

Where the words just fall through.


Your own sheet was singed

From the outside in

Leaving just a shrunken 

Central decorticated remnant.


The minute I saw your jagged scrap

I knew it was just the piece

To perfectly fit my empty core

Without a sliver of an overlap.


But paper is a flimsy shield.

Just because something fits

Doesn’t mean you are safe.

The flames are in the fields.


2/21/21


Thursday, February 18, 2021

poem

 Math

You’ve been searching for the proof

But underestimated the number of steps,

The delicacy of the diaphanous threads

Holding it all together.

You can't stand aloof;

This was never going to be as simple

As Pythagoras made it seem.


Some people see it right away

Like Knight to King three,

A Rorschach blot smeared across 

The page which then becomes the thing

That they decide it must be.


For the rest of us, it must be calculated

Step by step by esoteric step.

We want answers.

We want to solve for x.

What is the equation

For the shading of the moon?

When I drop this rock

How long do I have

Until it cracks my foot?

What is the rate limiting step

In this fiery chemical reaction

That consumes my heart

And synthesizes your soul.


Easier to start with things we can count

And tally them all up.

Two and two is always four

And then you can add a million more

Get a few right, get on a roll.

Brute force computation,

It's the only way to keep score.


It starts out simple, arithmetic;

A pad, a pencil, crunch the numbers,

Carry the seven, remainder six.

But the deeper you delve it gets more complex.

You have to come up with new tricks.

Algebra where the variables are clingy and co-dependent.

Vectors veering within Cartesian planes.

Powers of ten, exponential change.

Or calculus which claims to conjure

A truth from approximations

Where close enough counts as finger tip touch.

The limit of this function

When two hearts approach

One always tacks toward love.


It keeps getting more complicated.

You have to multiply by your sadnesses

And factor out the common dooms.

Have at it.

See what it gets you.

Bleed your binomials and integrate

With respect to cherry blossom blooms.

Matrix theory in the context of matrimony.

Lose your son in a sine wave

Oscillating to the beat

Of your sine qua non sin.

But you can't stop, you're too far in.


Suddenly you’re asked the square root of a negative

And you’re stuck until you get creative

And conjure a world of imaginaries,

A realm beyond numbers,

Of orcs and dragons and faeries.

Measurables melting into abstractions.

Quantities as qualitative names.

Eons, manifolds, fathoms.

Teeming infinities.

But one infinity is the same as four

And infinity squared is not a whit more.

Take your childhood hero and divide

By infinite loss and the answer is always zero.

How many infinities does it take to erase you?


And this brings us to the home stretch

Where we've run out of ruses.

Everything spirals down to this.

The linked logical end,

Back to where you began;

Before numbers, concepts or names.

When mom and dad were just the same.

A time before should or ought

When there was no- thing to see,

By no one even there

And never a place to be.


You have to put everything

You have above the line---

All the love, all that's whole

And try to divide by naught.

Give it a shot.

Everyone has to

At some point.

It comes down to this,

For every wandering soul.


Gnaw on your pencil

Gaze at the stars.

There is no answer.

There is no should or ought

Because the answer is not a number

Or a name or a song or a thing.

We have only words, approximate descriptors:

Undefined, indeterminate, the empty set.


But this was always the last step

Of the serpentine equation

That winds through a life.

It demands an answer

That isn't exactly something

Nor can it be written off as a nothing.

Every day it stares us in the face.

This is where it was headed all along.

It was here from the very first. 


We know in our heart it can’t be solved

Just as we know the sun will rise

The rivers will flow and the grasses sway

Without being able to prove why. 

But we, with our pencils and pens

And constants and theorems

Rise to try, once again

           and then    once again.


2/18/21


Monday, February 8, 2021

poem

 Proprioception

When you know exactly where
You're at you don’t need a map.
If you know where you’re going
There’s little reason to look back.
If you’re unequivocally right here
You don't need to consider the over there.

If you aren’t falling there's no
Reason to reach for a ledge.
If you know the answer to the question
Just spit it out, without the stammering hedge.

The answers are rocketing
Up your spinocerebellar tract,
A series of un-ruminated facts
Left from right, up from down
Nails that sooth the itch on your back
Without scratching around.
Sneeze and your hand
Jabs to cover your mouth.
Ambush attacked but
You won't get clowned.
Close your eyes,
Spin in three circles
And your finger finds your nose.
 
Your mind has its ways of sensing space
Before thinking of time or place.
Secret back channel spinal pathways
Where the positional sense always arrives first.
Faster than the wasp's sting
That tells a boy how bad it hurts.
Faster than the sense of loss
That comes before the phone can ring.
Before the shiver that compels you to fetch a coat.
Before you know you're hungry,
Before the bone sticks in your throat.
The first thing is always to know
That at least you're not falling.

We close our eyes before we kiss.
There's nothing left to see
Or hear or smell or think.
We accept all this with a sigh,
Like gravity, like dying.

My head tilts before I'd even decided.
And you'd already angled your jaw
To receive the caress of my lips.
Before we even know
If it's good morning or goodnight,
Whether it's hello or goodbye,
My head is in the right position
Before I even think to say yes.

2/8/21

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

poem

Poem #20


This poem was once a whispered voice

I heard over my left shoulder 

While pretending to work the crowd

Of another raucous lost Saturday scene.


I couldn’t quite make out the words,

No matter how far back I leaned,

Waves of cocktailed talking blocking

The critical buffeted content.

Could only strain to decipher a meaning

While feigning a fully engaged mien.


In these moments I’ve

Learned you can't look back.

You will never seize the source.

The minute you turn your head

Is the surest way to lose the thread.


Pretty soon the whisper is the only thing you hear

As you drift from your group

And sit by the bar

While the music dies away 

And ice cubes melt in your drink.

Only the whisperings remain,

A cloud of words forever unheard.


The poem then becomes the whisper

Itself which stubbornly lingers

With desperate muffled urgency,

A disturbance asking the bartender

For a pencil and a fresh napkin,

A hushing melody demanding words.



2/2/21

Saturday, January 30, 2021

poem

Two 

The dog paws across the crusted snow

While two birds volley a two-note song 

Back and forth between two trees.

Everything is perfectly still and silent

Otherwise and I am afraid to move.

Sunrise has been reticent

Lately and this deep freeze

That frosts me to the bone

Is supposed to last until next week.

Yes, it’s nice to have been present 

While the world put on its two-act play

But it would have been better

If I hadn’t had to see it alone.


1/30/21


Monday, January 25, 2021

poem

Risk

I was playing with matches

When the house burned down.

I was holding my breath

When I passed out cold.

I was saving for a necklace

That had already been sold.

I was talking some shit

When someone split my lip.

I was clutching you tight

When you slipped from my grip.

I was walking on thin ice

When my world cracked

And I nearly drowned to death.

But you can’t lock down and hide,

Watch TV all night, slowly die inside.

Life must be lived, a step at a time,

A forward flinging into the blind.

This is the element of risk.


1/25/21