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.


Sunday, November 21, 2021


 Cannon Drive

Did you see that leaf
Just now in the windshield?
Big and floppy, translucent cinnamon
Wafting in the blue afternoon 
The way undulating ocean
Creatures seem majestically alive.

Everything slowed to a stop.

Only the leaf was moving.

We’ll be home soon, I thought,

My stomach roller-coastering from 

The dipping hill on Cannon Drive.

It’s important not to think

Of it as having landed

And worse to imagine 

The moment just before its release.

Think of a lousy hotel Bible.

Imagine your mother’s face 

When you were eleven

And you realized for the first

Time how everything

For her hinged on you.

Weak November sun
Dappling thin rippled skin
Of the recently fallen
Like pages of scripture
Backlit by a flickering candle
Just strong enough to get through



 Op Note XIII

You could feel it under her skin. Firm, hard immobile mass.  It hurts sometimes, she said.  She understood the risks.  That there were no guarantees.  Just try your best, she asked.  We carefully opened her up and gasped.  The tumor had consumed nearly everything.  Liver, stomach, spleen.  The essence of her being, hijacked by an invader.  It had commandeered genetic machinery to fashion vessels to feed its expanding bulk. The parasite was now the host.  She belonged to it.  It was too late.  It had become too much of her to risk removing it.  All I could do was slash it with a scalpel to make it bleed. But it was still her blood.  And the pain fibers had nowhere to go but her own brain. We held pressure, gently cradling the usurper with gloved hands, the way we’d hold her head while she slept.


Monday, November 15, 2021


 Op Note XII

He came to me lonesome and broken-hearted.  He didn’t give any background history.  Look at me doc, he said.  Sallow, sunken-eyed, grayed like a forest shadow.  I first offered to excise his bad memories.  But he demanded more precision than I could promise.  There were parts he didn’t want to lose.  I could make it so that everything hurt.  Flood his mind with so much distracting suffering he’d forget.  That won’t work either, doc, he said.  I can feel my loss in the tips of my toes.  Everything agonizes. The one thing above all.  I thought some more, ran some tests, analyzed the data.  Ultimately devised a method for filling human emptiness.  Tears, hair, clotted blood, the flesh under your nails.  But you don’t understand, he cried.  You can’t put that there.  The fullness you offer is only your own. I'm only an apparition. I'll find what belongs inside me. Why did you come here then, I asked him.  He looked out the window.  It may have been raining and he seemed to be dissolving into sheets of gray mist.  Doc, just tell me one thing. If I ever find it again, will there be enough room? Will it still fit? Just tell me that. Promise me that.  


Sunday, November 14, 2021



The heart has one job.

It just beats.

It never rests.

Thankless reliable pump,

Workmanlike, diligent.

I’ll feel your pulse

Or lay my head across your chest

But no one likes to see it,

Strange subterranean animal

Wriggling rhythmically 

Just before it leaves its womb.

Then we imbue it with so much more:

Strength, resiliency

Dutiful in the face of futility.

At some point it has to stop.

We can’t tell it not to. 

I guess it has us in a bit of a bind

when you really think about it

So it doesn’t hurt to pay our respects .

Why does the heart represent love, though?
Why do we say I heart you?

It isn’t true what we draw, 

Those red symmetric silphium shapes.

Our hearts are formless clenched fists.

We ought to be thanking the diaphragm instead.

Similarly muscled,

Less glamorous, more striated,

Flat and ray-like,

Just as unbidden,

The perilous rampart between heart and gut

That drives us to breathe.

To speak

To sing 

To swoon

To say I love...

When I haven’t seen you

In so long

And there you are

Standing right there 

In front of

While throat narrows

Chest collapsing 

Forgetting to breathe

Until I remember that

It was never up to me.

The diaphragm lowers 

Like a drawbridge

And I’m full of air, floating again,

Crossing over again

To the place where I always knew you’d be



 November Leaves

The leaves of November fail to ignite

Fires of wonder the way 

Raging fluorescent orange yellow

Blazes of October always seem to do.

Those still clinging to branches

Of maples or sycamores

Droop browned and ochred

Like brooding men in hats

In old sepia-toned photos

On their way to train stations

 in cold rain.

It’s more sad than anything else,

This grasping at what no longer nourishes.

We over-honor the steadfast,

The ascetic stalwarts

Deluded into thinking they

Need to grind years off a life

To earn the ones already lived.

When the temperature drops

And the wind doesn’t just blow

But unleashes itself in demonic howls

You don’t have to clench your jaw,

Huddled alone in a thorny copse.

The game’s up.

It’s ok to just let go.  


Thursday, November 11, 2021


 Op Note XI

He had been gashed wide open by something sharp and fierce.  We washed it out.  Fragments of metal and lots of muck and dirt and gray gravel. Raw glistening sinews and bone. High velocity trauma.  He screamed not to close it up.  My wounds are my own, he said.  So we left what was there and rinsed it clean and let them all heal by secondary intention.  He eventually filled in the gaps and clefts with what he had eaten. Gradually growing himself back together again.  It took months of painful dressing changes.  We watched them get shallower and shallower, a slow accretion of moist granulated pinkness. His scars would be ghastly; wide and amorphous, dull and glassy surfaced. But in the end, his own wholeness.      



 Poem #33

If not for you

 there would be no need for these words

I am no poet.

Just a worn down hack,

A burned out doc

Half a bottle of Beaujolais

Into a lonesome night at a desk,

Chet Baker balming my headphoned head,

Wasting hours scratching out derivative dirges

About the most conventional banalities

That, immediately upon completion,

                                                        tend to self-combust.

The only time it ever feels good

Piling up stanzas and lines, 

Is when I’ve finished one

That I’ve written just for you.   


Wednesday, November 10, 2021


 Op Note X

They rolled in the next case.  Another attempted suicide. But he wasn’t yet dead. His eyes were cold and blue like ancient ice. Pupils just points without extension.  No light passing in or out.  His body was furrowed with self-inflicted wounds, too many to count.  He was young and pale and tattooed in an Olde English script. Some Bible verses I certainly couldn’t quote.  Ezekiel or Romans I forget.  Once he had been opened we feared it was too late.  It seemed he was just an empty space, like a coffin, a waiting grave.  But we were dutiful.  We explored.  He still had something there.  It was all just shrunken.  Liver the size of an almond.  Spleen desiccated and shriveled like a raisin.  Bowels a hive of squirming lice. A heart that fluttered like a jarred fly.  Everything so tiny.  Such paucity of life.  But life.  I could put everything he had in a cigar box. We bathed it all in warm saline.  We poured and we poured. Until his organs bobbed like apples. And then we stopped.  It was up to him now.  We waited to see if anything got absorbed.



 The Meaning of Birds

What is the meaning of the birds

Beyond dawn chorus

Or swirling murmurations?

It's clear they weren't meant for us. .

Love severs all signifiers.

Dissolver of words,

Shy in the light,

Delightfully devoid

Of all meaning.

Listen.  Look up.

Don’t let her out of your sight.

This is the meaning of the birds.  


Tuesday, November 9, 2021



The worst is when a poem starts to fail.

You could always try to

Sand it down

Cut a few words

Cull an hackneyed image 

Tinker at the edges

Until you can pretend you don't hate it.

Like now.  Your life.  

But you’re not alone.

Phone an old friend.

Find a stack of forgotten photos

Shoe-boxed in the attic.

Pretend you’re a boy again

Armed with all that you now know.

You’ll be ready this time.

When she smiles

You’ll have the perfect line.

Everything will belong,

Even the empty spaces,

This line break,

This far away rhyme.

It’s all a beautiful racket,

Probably, in the end.  

Scratch out a verse

If you can stand it.

Every poem is a failed poem

Otherwise we’d only ever need to write one.

Every life is wild, risible success 

And so we only get one .


Sunday, November 7, 2021


 The Dance

Imagine a world where

Leaves cling to trees

All through the long winter siege.

Anything green gets cloistered

Into the hollows of swaying trunks.

The cure for this unhealthy obsession

Is simply to sit and watch the leaves

Fall, waltzing back and forth,

Drifting in whispering autumn breezes,

Meandering along jazzy paths

In ever downward progression..

We aren’t much different.

We’ve always been free

And falling from the very beginning.

Born into being past spring or summer

It’s always just been autumn here

And all we clutch are rings of smoke.

So many years of wasted white knuckled grips,

We could never stop winter.

But you think you’re just dying,

Caught in a long downward tug,

Hardly worth the effort to resist,

(Even though you’re actually dancing as you do it

Sashaying to and fro

Shaking your hips

Having an absolute ball

Without even knowing it.)

You’re too busy laughing

And wailing your way toward some becoming,

Ebbing and then wafting on gusts

Of lover’s sighs

Of children’s merry cries

Of mother’s last whispered goodbye,

Bobbing along like you’re flying 

Or floating in an infinite massless ether,

Your steady inertial drift

Occasionally quickened by

The inexplicable joy of unexpected lift

Just before another deep dip.



 Moon Needle

The moon has effaced itself into a sliver.

It reminds me of a suture needle

Dangling in the gray matte dusk.

It’s big enough for gorges and gaping 

Canyons and unstable tectonic faults.

But the earth just scoffs

Enduring as ever, unfixed.

We have plenty of walking wounded

Who have spent lives spooling thread

Just waiting for a chance to get stitched.