Tuesday, November 22, 2022


 Shelf Life

I feel bad for the autumn leaves that hang

Around too long, clinging to thin limbs

As the calendar flips to November

Desiccated like the cracked leather glove

Nailed to a wall in a closet 

In Chirico's Song of Love

Some of these shriveled leaves never fall at all

Cradled high up within witch’s claw branches 

Spend the winter clustered in browned banana bunches

Buffeted to a feeble chattering by paint stripping winds

It's a error to mistake this resistance to gravity

For a form of relative immortality

They know themselves they should have let go 

They know themselves the wind was a chariot

All that’s left is a wistful nostalgia for the glossy 

Foreign currency orange flourish

Of early October, glowing with colors

Before ever knowing they had once been green

Exultant from all the attention of

Everyone suddenly interested 

Taking pictures, pointing up at them in the sky—

Fluttering against the deep blue sky 

Feeling beautiful and worthy and whole

Without ever wondering why 


Sunday, November 20, 2022


 Phone Tree 

You have reached my voicemail

If this is an emergency please hang up and dial 911

If this is not an emergency please consider hanging up 

and not dialing 911. If this is about that time I ought

to have done the thing we both know,

in retrospect, I should have done please press “2”

If this is simply a butt dial know that I don’t believe in butt dials

and will go to my grave assuming you intentionally called

but panicked last minute when it came time to say the thing you meant to say 

If this is a solicitor wanting me to sell my soul for the chance

of re-purchasing that very same soul

sometime down the road at a huge discount please press “3”

If you are an uncle or old coach or Dad or the guy in line 

ahead of me at the Walgreens or Corey from Wilkes Barre PA please press “4”

If this is a person who is angry or distracted or murderous

or understandably sad or grinding their teeth

with a ravenous pescatarian hunger please press “5”

If you think you know me please hold on the line

while listening to a selection of noirish Japanese jazz

that has a strong likelihood of lasting all night

If you wish to query about my lack of availability

Please press “6” and, once transferred to that place,

when you are asked to press another button,

Please press “7”. If you would like to just talk

To me you are allowed to ask 10 questions

If you would like one word replies (yes/no, binary codes) please press “8”

If you would like me to ramble on all night

so soporifically that you fall asleep by your sixth inquiry

then please press “9”

If you are pressing buttons right now,

just pounding your long lovely index finger into the phone

driven by a justifiable impatience and frustration

please remember the numbers are also letters

and the numbers create a series of beeping and blooping sounds

and if you love me

you can spell it

you can compose a song 

You can wait for it  



 Op Note XXXII

The patient arrived broken and shattered into a million pieces. She called herself a puzzle and asked if I would be able to put her back together. I think I can.  Yes, I said.  Soon, though, it became clear that she was just a pile of disparate pieces, collected from the lost remnants of old puzzle boxes she’d found in her attic, pieces stolen from the edges of non-existent puzzles she imagined someday completing, pieces that she had carved from her own flesh and bone. None of them really belonged together.  None of them fit, at least not precisely.  So I woke her up and told her she wasn’t a puzzle, that a puzzle always has a final solution. She was a conundrum. An enigma. A spiral staircase to nowhere. The long desert road that dead ends at the edge of a canyon. You said you would help me, she said. I want to be whole again. Everything locking together in crafted precision.  I want to be a finished face. Someone a nice guy will someday decide to stop and look at and want to see every day. I used to think you were the missing piece that would fit into all my fractured fragments and make everything hold together again.  But now I know you are the one who acts. You are not one of the parts. You are the one who puts it all together.  It was beyond my training but given my difficulty with being able to say no, I told her I would do my best. I found four corners. Scavenged enough straight edges to limn the perimeter. Then the painstakingly laborious process of filling it in. Jamming ill suited pieces together. Bending and sawing off a few. Pretending I never saw others. Plenty of glue. I’m no craftsman, let alone an artist. But I am diligent. I do my best. I show up every day. Give me a task and I promise it gets done. When I was finished it wasn’t her anymore, of course. These pieces had never been so arranged. She was a new person now. Unbreakable and complete. I had warned her this kind of thing might happen but she didn't believe me. Sure enough, she was looking at me kind of funny.  Like she had never seen me before and was wondering what she was doing here, of all places, alone with a guy like me. I was exhausted. Had given everything I had. To be honest I didn't expect anything in return. I just wanted to go home. She shot me one last suspicious look, then flashed her first smile and, without a word, turned and was gone. I never saw her again.



 Two Kinds

There are two types of people here. There are the ones, a category which includes myself, who consider there to be two places.  Here and there.  It is crystal clear to them that they have entered a new territory when they come “here”. They arrive from the land of “there”. They recognize their own continuity as a collective lived experience and count the transition from there to here as one such experience, having utterly little to do with the person they were at the beginning of the transition. For them, being is interwoven with experience. They possess a willingness to release a little bit of that death grip on the notion of an impregnable unchangeable Self in exchange for the liberating sensation that they have escaped from a known, occasionally stultifying, reality and have entered someplace new. That, once here, it is a completely different place, and one must learn all over again how to “be” under entirely novel circumstances and when it wears off, ho hum, back to the familiar place where they already know how to be.  Nothing they knew there had anything to do with here and could not be relied upon for any direction or validation.  It was like living inside for decades, becoming intimately aware of all its detailed varieties and permutations within an enclosed defined space and then suddenly someone opens a door and leads you outside. It takes some getting used to. Then there are the ones who are always here.  Nothing ever fundamentally changes for them. They spend every waking minute here, always in the know.  Recognizing each and every place as home. What joy. For them there is no inside or outside. Only here, everything all together. While you are wrestling with the implications of your arrival “here” she smiles as she plays with the chandelier dimmer, watching the shadows ebb and flow across your face.


Saturday, November 19, 2022


 Display Cake

Mid November and it appears

the world has once again

powdered itself in sugared snow

Winter is the shimmering dessert

prominently displayed in the front window

of the amber lit bakery on Main street

It remains there untouched

uncut, untasted, a hunger 

arising for its blank slate

Spring is for the chewing

the unleashing of suppressed devilry

the tilling of crusted modesty

The churning of all that delectable desire.

Now we repose in quiet contemplation:

the marvel of this made thing 


Friday, November 18, 2022


 Op Note XXXI

She kept coming back 

I kept operating on her

Cutting away scar  

Chiseling bowels free 

She said it made her feel better

But only for a while

Then it was back again.  

This time I had nothing left to offer

She needed words 

To heal old trauma

And I exist as a man of action

It’s hard to say no 

When there are things I think I can do 

To make you feel better 

I’ve always experienced stillness

As a form of failure 

If there was nothing to do

How would she ever heal?

But I’m bereft of ideas now

I’ve run out of tools

The only thing I could do

Was to tell her what she felt was real


Sunday, November 13, 2022


 The Prince and the Pea

It’s clear now I’ll have to carry this thing 

to my grave no matter how much it drags me down

How could something so small be so heavy?

I cant put it on a shelf or ask you to hold it

It has infiltrated too deep, 

caged in my chest

a stone in my shoe

a stone in my shoe 

embedded in bone.

I just know I can't let it go.

Can’t chuck it over a  cliff

without the rest of me following.

It’s a dead weight in the center of my being,

the crucial concentrated ballast,

I’m reluctant to admit,

tethering me to this poor gray world 

I feel it boring into me wherever I lie

no matter how many mattresses

I stack behind my back.

What would I do if I didn't feel it anymore?

How much distance would it take?

If I get too close 

I melt right into it

and then nothing else matters

which can be tempting 

but who would ever notice?

I want to take it out and look at it

cradle it, spend quality time with it

leave just a shell behind that smiles

and says thank you very much

says good morning says have a nice day 

shows up for work grins and bears it

tucks it away when the wind starts to gust

When I die it will be

all that remains of me

like the charred keys and rings 

and gold fillings amongst the ash 

after a house burns down

after any small genocide  

I’ll be gone before

I realize it holds

everything worth counting

that I was merely the empty 

space in which it chose to exist 

When you find yourself in 

a situation like this 

one of two things happens:

It either expands into an entire universe

more joyously real than anything you thought you deserved 

or, thwarted, it collapses unused 

into an infinite density

that the afflicted must carry

that the afflicted must carry

one foot in front of the other 

step after agonizing step



 Middle Position

The meaning of the loving perspective

comes often near middle age 

the middle way between

loathing and adoration

hopefulness and resignation 

between the force and the quivering 

the believing and the finally living 

here everything radiates outward

away from the Eliotian still point

illuminating both past and future

here there is no light

delineating any difference between you or me

from this point

everything is seen

neither clearly nor cloudy

from here on out

old as you are

you’ll never be any younger

what arises is a gratitude

for the missing father the lost love

 the never said words the thwarted passion

whose very absence 

codifies the importance

of presence like a hot iron branding 

after the cooling, what emerges

is the wisdom of knowing

in a man who sees the spaces

carved from invisible stone

that only he could ever see

Love is presence in absence 

one demands the other 

love breathes into existence

the space that only love itself can fill

It isn’t the middle

it isn't the halfway point

neither beginning nor end 

it isn’t anything 

it isn’t nothing 

let’s just say—

Everything all at once 


Thursday, November 10, 2022


 Too Much To Know

There are only so many things one person can know

at any one moment. No one has an infinite capacity

For photographic memory, at least not very many 

of us. I worry I wasted near 50 years 

Of neural space on fictional names

strategies for winning silly games

And other complex schemes contrived to keep me sane

Useless facts and listless lyrics

to songs I don't even like 

Phone numbers and addresses 

to places and people I’d rather forget 

I still know baseball stats

of middling American League

infielders (Jerry Dybzinski!) from the eighties 

I know combinations to lockers

Reeking of caged sweat and humiliation

I’d like a reset

    I'd like to forget 

        the order of all numbers

Become a dry sponge

poised above a chalice of holy water 

                a cleansing scrub, wipe away most everything 

The word for sleeplessness, for instance

so I can finally sleep

The various synonyms for depression

so I can say everything is just dark

So I can make 

it less of a blue obsession

My default facial expressions

when you’re searching for words

to describe your own pain 

Forget my name

    and who I’m supposed to be

Forget what it felt like to actually become

    what I thought I was supposed to be

Fall in Love!

    Rafael Belliard!

Give away your heart!
    Onix Concepcion!

Don’t let it go!
    Julio Franco!

Keep the mistakes and failings, though

I need to remember those.

Who wants an eternal recurrence

of embarrassing incompetence?

So clear cut the dead trees

Winnow the chaff

Strain this soup of sediment (yeah yeah yeah)

Just give me the broth, distilled to truth,

While you slurp the meat and carrots 

Save me the crust

And you can have the bread 

Cut your wood and take what you like

I’ll sweep up the dust 

I just need enough bandwidth 

for the elemental knowledges

Give me a few hundred words

that’s all I’d need 

The old and simple ones,

 like old and simple

like hard and soft

light and dark

clear and opaque

either and or 

Just enough to be able to make 

Sense of this flat gray stone I’m about 

To sidearm skip across the silvery shallows of Chagrin River

Into the dark shadows of the mud 

On the opposite shore 

Give me a vocabulary that can handle 

the sound 

of its dull disappearing thud 




The wind caterwauls across the lake

Scalloping gray waters

As it streaks toward shore then

Swaying the trees like sea anemones

You think you’re so hard

Barked around a knot wood core

Of muscle and bone 

But it’s all an act

Sure, sure that invisible howl

Is the force alone

That bends me toward you

Ignoring the fact

We're mostly water


Wednesday, November 2, 2022


 Non Zero Chance 

Math is the language of pure objectivity

To understand the nature of being 

There are three mathematical pathways

First, the default perspective :

You can quantify yourself as magnitude

You can be five or seventeen or six thousand twenty-two
You can multiply or add, factor out the common variables 

But there’s always a higher number

So we shed what used to give pleasure

And grasp for ever higher

Fundamentally it's a disbelief in the concept of infinity

Which becomes a metaphor for "atheism"

Which gives rise to the word “god”

Which is the active participle of all ego 

Which is believed to be calculable

By a series of esoteric numerical manipulations

The second way is to turn from all quantified numericity

And embrace total zero

But there are two notions 

Of zero. The wrong one is a nihilistic nothingness

This is the path of cynicism and suicides

Why go on? You’re nothing with nowhere to go

But who’s that face in the mirror?

Who says ouch when the needle is buried?

Who weeps when the Wilco song plays?

Who grieves?

Who buys the gun?

Who says none of this is real?

It ain’t no one

The best way is the the dark side of zero

Not the decimal placeholder

Or the zero times anything is zero

But the empty set

The undefined, emptiness

Of pure absence 

The answer to any number

Divided by zero

What is a number without nothing at all?

What is nothing at all without the all?

What is love without its lacerating loss?

Take those three statements and write a formula

Take the formula and run it through a shredder

There you go

It falls like large white flakes of snow 

Now find a quiet place and count your breath

Set the timer for 20 minutes

Ask yourself: who’s counting?