Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Poem

 Van Gogh

At the Van Gogh exhibit she 

Turned to me and asked why

All the great artists seemed to succumb 

To madness or suicide.


Bruised swaths of despair swirled 

And looped into skies of trembling flesh.

I saw that her forehead had coiled 

Yellow into a writhing full moon.


Everything was vibratingly alive,

Walls melting into the floor

And I was now part of a screen

Where everything played out.


Every color

all the forms

that Thom Yorke song


I recalled the dive bar

Packed with squinty-eyed derelicts

In scuffed boots and flannel shirts

Where we’d stopped for a cheap drink.


We felt like interlopers

Trespassing on burial grounds

Traipsing around in the frontier slivered 

Between debasement and transcendence 


Between the broken and the healed

The limp and the lame

The sadness and acceptance 

The imagined and the real


I whispered back that some whorled 

Souls experienced the world

Exactly the way the Creator 

Had always intended 


But the world pushed back

And made them feel weird,

Taught them to believe such

Whirling visions were things to be feared.



6/29/22

Monday, June 27, 2022

poem

 Reunion

By a fluke of circumstances I was able to meet up for lunch at a trendy downtown brasserie with my past self and future self.  We didn’t know what else to do. Neutral territory, I guess.  Have a few drinks. Break the ice. The comfort of knowing there would be a well defined end. Split the bill, I assumed.  I certainly wasn’t inviting them to my house. Act like they owned the place. Drink all my wine. Make fun of my shoes. Try to fuck my wife. Golf was out too.  Past self played to a 10 handicap but I hadn’t swung a club in years.  Future self didn’t like his chances, given current trends. We thought about meeting at my old childhood neighborhood.  Walk around the black top streets like three weirdos, shooting the shit, cracking a few jokes, getting all caught up, remaining reasonably sane. Future self lagging slightly behind, unfamiliar with this terrain. But past self said that wouldn’t work either.  The closer he gets to his beginning the more unstable he becomes. He starts shape shifting.  One minute a 10 year old boy sniffing the leather of his old hand me down baseball glove, the next a lonely 19 year old calling dollar a minute singles want ads from his father’s office phone, turn your head for a shake and then he’d be a 4 year old boy lumbering around a yard with a giant yellow plastic bat bothering all the adults at the party to pitch to him then transforming into a 23 year old ex-frat boy with a copy of The Sun Also Rises in his back pocket at a bar, hoping by chance some cute razor witted girl would notice and want to strike up a little friendly conversation vis a vis what he really thought of Lady Brett Ashley then getting sucked into the mind of the 34 year old man fully resigned to a future he'd have to fake his way though.  So distracting.  Old me and me fell into an easy rapport, though.  We had a lot in common.  He was a little worried I’d be mad at him for a few things but it was funny, the things I was angry about he couldn't even remember and the things he was worried about I just started laughing. That girl? You didn’t even know how to spell love then.  Besides, she had a lazy eye.  She was from Missouri. And she was obsessed with Koi ponds.   It would have never worked. And that time you turned your back on writing the Great American Novel?  No worries. I ended up a surgeon. Which is pretty good, not spectacular, but not a bad consolation prize. And that manuscript you were working on really sucked, man. I mean, unreadable sucked. First thing you use for kindling on a desert island sucked. Out of paper, need to print this somewhat important document oh here's a stack of pages someone left we'll just print it all out on the opposite blank side sucked. Future me seemed a little standoffish.  He didn’t speak much.  Sort of a cipher. To be fair, he technically wasn’t really quite there.  His time had yet to come.  But we always knew where he was.  Always aware of his impending presence. His future judgment. Of course, I'm future self to past self. Past self doesn’t even know there’s someone beyond me. I promised not to tell.  Of course I got stuck with the bill.  Past me pleaded inflation.  Future me didn’t have a body let alone a wallet. At one point it was clear he had gone.  We knew he couldn't be far. I left the tip and we went chasing after him again, spilling ourselves headlong out into the darkest of nights. This time we were guided by stars. 


6/27/22

Thursday, June 23, 2022

poem

 My Son

When a young dad says my son

He means it mostly in the possessive

Self enhancing sense:

Fruit of my loins!

Continuation of my name!

            unbroken chain


Bombastic bellow of the man in full

Just before a predictable fall:

Behold my boy!


But the older dad whispers

It with a whiff of apologetic 

Ruefulness.  It’s not solely your fault,

my son, for all the errors of your life.

Why should shame and regret 

Alone be borne by you

Many of them belong to me 

And are mine to be borne too.  


6/23/22

poem

 Lost in Translation

I can’t sleep anymore

Tormented by the possibilities

Of what Bob whispered to Charlotte

At the end of Lost in Translation


There’s a theory he ad libbed the line

Told her he had to be leaving

But wouldn’t ever let that come between them


But that doesn’t resolve anything

It’s a platitude

He’s speaking all sideways 

Tangentially

Too much like poetry


When we ask what he says

What we really want to know

Is what he ends up doing.  


I know what he should have said:

I love you and cannot leave you

And need you always here

From now until the end of my light 


While he folds her into his embrace 

And the curtain drops

Or the movie ends  

And our life begins 


You can tell from the look on her face


6/23/22


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

poem

 Love is the Guide

Love is the guide that takes us 

Deep beneath uncharted seas

Past the white skeletons of coral

Past the sunken Clipper ships

With their holds of briny treasures

Beyond the penetrance of light

Where the only non darkness

Emits from the bioluminescence 

Of undulating alien creatures 


Stay right here, love instructs us,

I’ll bring oxygen and masks.

And we do.  We like it here

We like this sinking feeling 

Of a world pressed tightly against us

A pressure that could crush us.

Love always looks back once

On its way back to the surface 

And smiles at our trusting faces

As we exhale the last bubbled

Burst of air left in our lungs 


This is the point where doubt creeps in.

Was it love that brought us here?

Or a crinkled smile, or your eyes, or your lips?

Many falter here and simply drown 

While others discover

They were always fish 


6/21/22

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

poem

 Op Note XXV

After a while it starts to seem unreal. All this putting to sleep and prepping of flesh, this cutting and excising of tumors and organs. Some come in too late.  They die.  There’s labor and delivery down the hall.  Replacements on the way.  But then you wander one night on the upper wards, alone.  Dead, dead, dead, soon to die.  You feel like you're someone else.  No, not someone, something else.  A different form of being.  Not like this patient or that.  Not like the GSW in bay 2.  The rigid belly in slot 14.  They all have medical record numbers.  Look them up.  Digital code to an entire life.  But you get detached.  It’s only natural.  You just want to be good.  Empathetic but professionally distant. The wall begins here.  You don't even see it.  But then you get nightmares.  Cold sweats. Getting chased.  Losing your soul. Running in mud. A voice in your ear that sometimes sounds like a lover in the throes of passion. Sometimes like the wails of the deepest suffering. You never hear words. You can’t tell. One morning on rounds you finally get it. You’re not alone. But it comes at the cost of realizing deeply, for the first time, the inevitability of your own demise.  Just as all the others.  If you didn't, who the hell would you be?  Where did you come from? And who abandoned you? I can imagine Christ’s surprise.  Waking up after three days in the ground, staring in astonishment at the paleness of his soft palms. Father, who am I now?

6/15/22

poem

 Tired

There’s tired and then there’s tired

Dead tired

Dog tired

Tongue wagging 

Bags under my eyes

Beat as a whip

Out like a light 

Ready to drop

You lose your focus

Like half way drunk

Or just deeply depressed 

But no, it’s just tiredness

Fuzzy headed, brief

Lapses of consciousness

Overtired, my ex-wife 

Used to call it

Sure, whatever.

Miserable as fuck

I’m tired?

Asleep on my feet

Dreaming I was in another life

With urine all over the tables

I was laughing so hard

Tears on my cheeks

Exhausted

Taunted by nagging suspicion

I’d wake before sunrise

Unrested


6/15/22

poem

 Men in Shorts

I don't want to become

That old man in shorts

Pale legs like crustacean claws 

Black-dyed hair middle-parted

Combed back and blow dried

Bounding across the parking lot

With a self satisfied lope

That wilts the dandelions nearby 


You don't need to see my legs

When I’m old and senescent 

I'll be in pants, in comfortable shoes

Sitting over there on the bench

Crew cut gray, black glasses 

Pretending to read a book

About ecological catastrophes

Watching the the world go by

All the young men in suits

Strutting with leather attaches 

Whistling brash tunes

They’ll someday call Regret 


Whispering to myself

We’re all going to die

As a matter of fact

And I wasn’t that

Nor that 

Nor that


6/14/22

Sunday, June 12, 2022

poem

 Cursive

Old mom sent me a card for Father’s Day

She never does that, how nice!

Telling me she’s proud of me

How good of a dad I am,  

She’s sweet.

She used to write so beautifully

In a lovely looping cursive script

That ought to be its own font.

You could wear her written words

As jewelry or decorate your kitchen curtains 

With complex repeating patterns

Of her Dear Jeffs and Love Moms.  


She’s older now and her hand shakes a bit

And that elegant penmanship 

Yaws with a tremored wobble

Like a dodgy arterial line tracing.

It makes me sad, how all beauty 

Eventually begins to tremble,

Dampening down to asystole.


I still have the book she gave

Me for Christmas when I was sixteen—

Shakespeare’s Complete Works

The inside cover filled with an inscription

She had carefully written

In her humble but confident calligraphy,

Hidden like a secret medieval codex,

Telling me the best was yet to come.


I used to think her writing

Was the prettiest thing about her.

I should have paid more attention, I guess.

I’m sure there were other ways she was beautiful

So many ways I must have missed.


Life is full of illusions.

I’m always getting disabused 

Of this notion or that.

Even words lose elasticity

Flatten out into rigid meanings 

Or oscillate into wavy split ends

Plucked and flicked out a window

 

I have always exclusively printed

In a sharp angular chicken scratch,

Slashing into the paper

With a sequence of hashes and dashes, 

As if I were writing with numbers—

Fast and mechanical and perfectly clear.

Above all I wanted to be understood

Aesthetics be damned. 


But who cares what I ever meant.

I don’t even understand it anymore myself.

Just look at Mom’s gorgeous capital L’s and J’s.

Those lowercase f’s and g’s

The perfect vowels of uniform height

The mathematically precise spacing;

I get it now. 


I thanked her for the card

And asked her to try to write

Me more often, anytime she’s bored,  

Even when the letters start vibrating 

With such turbulence they begin to unwind,

Slackening as a sine wave function

Of progressively dwindling amplitude,

Not even letters anymore

But crafted all the same,

Losing energy with the passage of time

Eventually collapsing into a straight line

That runs off the page

And out the door and down the road

Finding me wherever I am


And there it will be up to me 

To make it curve again

For I still believe

Our best is yet to come

Even when she isn’t there to see


6/12/22

Sunday, June 5, 2022

poem

 Op Note XXIV

It took some hunting but there it was.  Dangling from the liver almost taunting us.  Whenever I got close enough it would dart right or left. Frisky little sucker.  Finally I secured it, clipped it, extracted it through a small aperture.  We put it on a blue towel and cut it open like someone displaying a kill from an African safari.  Instead of an ivory husk or a jade stone there was an eyeball, lolled back in the lid of the fundus. Oh my god, what is that! the medical student exclaimed. The eyeball looked both terrified and rapturous. Even without the rest of the face. That look of sex death or deepest love. Have you ever seen anything like that? she asked, backing slowly away from the sterile field. She had not studied this in any of the books. Oh it’s not as unusual as you’d think, I said. We see this kind of thing more often than people realize.  But the student had already left. It was just me and my patient asleep on the bed. One of the few who saw herself all the way through.  Now she won’t.  

6/5/22

poem

 Coagulation

Blood dries so fast

Like mud spattered against

My pants, the opposite

Of water or wine

Clotting even after 

It's been shed, trying

In vain to save us

Even when it’s too late 

And we’ve run out of time.

I like to think my heart would

Continue to beat, at least

For a few agonized seconds,

Fibrillating on a stone slab

In the secret place 

Where I decided to take it out

And show you 


6/5/22

Friday, June 3, 2022

poem

 Not Quite

Even in the shadow gray just before it rains 

There's always a small smile on your face

Thinking how nice it will smell

Once the sun shines down again


Even when you’re all alone 

You always appear unperturbed

Knowing how good it will feel

To be cuddled on a couch again 


Or sitting Buddha-like

On the bottom of the pool

Chest burning and turning blue, you’re

Bursting with a joyous will to breathe 


You wallow in filth

Knowing how refreshing

That hot shower will feel

When the grit and grime run off


And after, shivering naked, 

Dripping tap tap on a tiled floor

There’s a towel tumbling in the dryer

That will wrap so warm and soft


I’d rather be there with you

Always on the verge

Of small inevitable pleasures.


Here, I’m held and warm and loved

But it isn’t quite the same

As almost warm

 nearly touched

and not quite alone 



6/3/22