Saturday, March 25, 2023

poem

 Tone

Pick that up you don’t have to say it like that you don’t have to say what’s the matter like that you don’t have to sit on the beach in a chair when the waves roll in like the hands of a clock without any numbers. Just throw yourself on the sand with the rest of the detritus washed up on shore abandoned really if you want to be honest some of it still useful well more interesting than useful like this broken shard of limestone shell pebbled with little bumps radiating out from the focal point probably in some sort of Golden Ratio configuration nature is always finding itself in and you don't have to say it like that watch your tone please it’s so nice when it’s just your skin against the rough sand and the water washing over you in in such predictable cadence it starts to feel like silence.

3/25/23

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

poem

 Triage 

This one has already died

This one won’t survive the night

This one needs a blanket

This one is just sad

This one is fine

This one will live

This one looks ok

But is torn to shreds inside

This one could use a breath mint

A change of clothes 

This one needs a long hot shower

Someone to bring him an extra pillow 

This one it’s probably too late

This one lost me when I tried to look into her eyes 

This one tries to drown you in her eyes 

This one needs an IV

This one just needs held

This one could use a calculus refresher

This one just needs the right book at the right time 

This one needs a mirror

That one is the reflection

Get this one to the OR

That one to a nunnery

This one to the dispensary

That one to the train station

One way tickets to the other

Side of the world 

This one was supposed to be me 

This one is actually me 

As for the rest 

I just don’t know

Let someone else decide


3/22/23

poem

 The 12th Draft

You know what? I can’t go through with it. I take it all back. I retract the apologies spewed in all the other drafts. None of you are absolved. You’re all to blame. It’s all your fault I came this close. I don’t regret the temporary sense of loss I may have inflicted. I’m still here, grinding my teeth, nursing hard earned grudges. Do not go on with your lives. Do not remarry. Cancel the meeting with the estate attorney. Stop trying to be strong in the face of untimely tragedy. Do not leave my room untouched. Stop curating your memories. Un-cancel your holiday plans. I’ve spared you the hassle of fighting with airlines to get your money back. Maybe next time you’ll get trip insurance. You’re stuck with me. I shall spoil your lives for a bit longer. For those who have already forgotten me…. Surprise!  I’m back!  I know now my pain isn’t unique. See? Even my suffering is derivative and unoriginal. I’ll continue to not miss seeing any of you. I’ll embrace my isolation for now on. I don’t need a coffin and a tombstone to feel alone. That’s the way it is. I’d probably screw it up anyway. Wrong dose, poor aim, catch something on the way down to break my fall. End up only half dead, a vegetable that gets fed and watered q shift at a sorry place called Somnolent Oaks or something. Truth is I'm a coward. Weak enough to loathe myself, while lacking the tragic nobility of rock bottom despair. Still, after all these years, with the delusions of grandeur. Besides, the dog kept banging through the bedroom door. You can’t do a damn thing in front of a dog. Whether I do anything or not do anything, whether I live a “long and fruitful life” or careen headfirst into a wet ditch, you will all someday, no matter what, disappear from this warped point of view. That’s what happens. It’s neither fair nor unfair. When it’s over it’s over. I’m only still here because I love you.

3/22/23

Sunday, March 19, 2023

poem

 Lifelong Friend

We spend the bulk of our lives

Alone with the person

No one else really knows


The one who sits with you

As the March snow falls in feathery ash

On the other side of smudged bedroom windows


Over time the distinction between 

Yourself and this person blurs into one 

But it's only an act of self preservation


To ease the pain of always

Having to say goodbye 

To your oldest, truest friend 


Every moment is a secret little death

But he always comes back to life

Before there’s any time for lamentation


Such private farewells are best deferred

Until the final days when it’s obvious

We've both come to the very end 


And even then it’s easy to run out of time

Bidding adieu to the glowing embers of a world 

We both have loved 


What does one say then?

Who breaks the silence?

Who gets hugged?


3/19/23

Sunday, March 12, 2023

poem

 From Darkness

A photon experiences no time

Trillions of years traveling

The vastness of the universe

But instantaneous. 


Light of my life

Tiny eternal flame 

Time belongs to darkness 


Surreptitious moon like a shy boy

Watching you shine from the other room 

Timeless radiance 


3/12/23

poem

 The Funeral Disruptor

The funeral disruptor was at it again. Driving his car through the All Saints Cemetery Saturday morning with the windows down, blasting Gangster’s Paradise. The small groups of people in black gathered around rectangular holes were collectively aghast. He stopped his car at the biggest gathering. He put his sunglasses on and leapt into the grave. Laertes come hither! he shouts, brandishing a broken off broomstick. No one finds it amusing. Hearse rhymes with curse, he shouts. He zig zags evasive maneuvers around a couple of beefy pall bearers and makes his way to his bass thumping car. He does this every weekend. He claps his hands, he speaks out of turn. He slams the heavy old doors of cathedrals. Why do you do this, an exhausted priest once asked. The funeral disruptor just smiles. He leans in and whispers something in the priest’s ear. The priest’s face lights up in sudden recognition. From then on they become partners. They go in halfsies on a souped up hearse with tinted windows and high end stereo woofers. Half the time it’s Gangster’s Paradise blasting from the speakers, the other half Mozart’s Requiem. Sometimes the priest is Hamlet, sometimes Laertes. They take turns. 


3/12/23

Sunday, March 5, 2023

poem

 Scene III

The man is working on an abstract poem. He isn’t sure what it means yet. He’s stuck. The woman is reading a recipe she found online for chicken cacciatore. She realizes she is missing one of the ingredients. But she can’t figure out which one. It will take a process of elimination, trialing the various combinations. Before starting this arduous gauntlet of tasting, she decides to finish a puzzle she had started in the morning. None of the pieces fit. Nevertheless these are the pieces that were in the box. There are no others. She makes surprisingly efficient progress. A picture emerges from the edges that lightly touch. You have to see through the emptiness and imagine the rest. The man dips a spoon into the broth and scrunches his nose. He adds some salt. And a spice he has trouble pronouncing. Stop that, she says, mind your own. But she’s too late. He’s already plunged a flute of cinnamon into the boiling stew. As it softens an idea dissolves in his head. If he releases it now, the meal will be ruined. But the poem, the poem can still be saved.

3/5/23

poem

 Op Note XXXVII

After surgery she had a lot of questions. Mostly to do with eating. Can I have milk? Can I have cheese? Can I eat a salad? What about meat? Fried or grilled? When can I have nuts again? Or fruit? Ones with seeds? Bananas that are still a little green? Should I cut my carrots into dimed slivers? Popcorn without butter? Popcorn with butter? Mushrooms. Beef jerky. Cereals with marshmallows. Cereals that turn the color of the milk aquamarine. Chocolate covered cherries. Chocolate covered strawberries. Chocolate dripped into my mouth like candle wax. A hot candle next to my leg. The taste of tiramisu on a lover’s tongue. The last night of my honeymoon. Knowing it would never last. Can I eat that? After assuring her of the necessity of these dietary modifications I happened to look down and noticed her plate had been picked clean. Except for a thin syrupy sheen. I’d eaten everything else. I can’t help myself. She didn’t seem to mind. Didn’t like hospital food. Nevertheless she complained of a deep gnawing hunger.

3/5/23

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

poem

 Kathy
    -after John Lennon's "Julia"


Every mother deserves a song

Written for her by a son

It’s the least we can do

After all they’ve given up

And all they’ve been through 

Better now than after she’s gone 


Kathy was always my biggest fan

Shrieking go! jeff go! as she 

Raced up and down the touchline 

Of the soccer pitch when I was seven

That first game was my actual christening,

When I heard my given name for the first time

And realized I needed to become that….


Couple of clarifying points:

We called it a “field” back then and “sideline” 

Not “pitch” or “touchline”

We were basic 

We ate leftovers

Did Saturday morning chores 

I wore polyester sweats under my green shorts

With white stripes down the sides 

Orange slices at halftime

Once, mom brought Shasta 

As the post game drink

Even though the coach 

Was a regional sales rep for Coca-Cola

It was a lot cheaper

And we didn’t have shit.

No one would have noticed

If not for the Steven, the coach’s prick son    


Nothing since has changed

She’s still rooting

For me to be my best 

Just not so screechingly.

I haven’t exactly had the world’s

Biggest cheering section throughout my life 

(to be perfectly honest)

And when she’s gone the bleachers 

Will be even quieter;

An empty seat looming

Down in the front row
With the game still on

And me out on the field,

Improbably still playing

Because what else 

Am I supposed to do?


I don’t see her as often as I should

And when I do we don’t talk much,

At least not too meaningfully

The best I can do is hold a seashell 

To her eyes and try to describe what I hear 

Most of what I say to her

Loses half its meaning on the way

Even this poem is only half written


I’ve spent half my life pretending

I didn't notice her expectant gaze—

Playing the part of the very busy good boy

With important things to do.

But I've spent the other half

Slipping out emergency exits 

Of once desired places

I didn’t want to be in anymore,

Running down dark haunted alleys

Gathering enough discarded fragments 

Of unexpressed love to put in her poem.

This is the half I’m still writing 


3/1/23

poem

 Sleepwalk

Lately I have been having

Extremely busy dreams

There is so much to do

I wake up completely exhausted

As if I hadn’t slept at all

Then the day starts and off I go

This place and then that

A series of endless tasks

I get nothing accomplished at all

Sleepwalk in and out

Of shadows hiding from the sun

Saving my energy for all the work 

The daytime moon has left undone


3/1/23

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

poem

 February

Cold dreary February day

The sky a gray ocean above

With a perforated floor

The rain falls in heavy dollops

Walloping my face and forearms

Somehow it's too warm for snow

But my blood has slowed to a slush

I used to see myself  

As a roiling cumulonimbus

Gathering strength to someday unleash 

Upon the ramparts

Of the remaining world left unscorned

But it all just leaks out in pieces

I meant to be the deluge that drowns 

A lifeless parched earth

But instead it’s just death 

By a million heavy drops

As we say in surgery:

All bleeding eventually stops 


2/28/23

Sunday, February 26, 2023

poem

 Rounds

When I’m on rounds I barge into your roomGet up close and personalInvade your spaceAsk you a bunch of intimate questionsLift up your gownPalpate and prodDoes it hurt hereHow about thisHave you shit yetDoes it burn when you peeWhat’s that on your legHas it always been thereHas it changedWhat about your faceThis mark hereThis subtle asymmetryWho’s that in the pictureDid a child draw this dinosaur thing with a human head on this cardDid you take your medicineAre you happy with my careWhat do you fear the mostDo you believe this all gets betterDo you hear the tiptoes of deathDid I do a good jobDid I let you downI’m entitled to it all, for your own well being of courseWhen rounds are over I take off my white coat and go back to how it usually is:Warily circling everyone I see like a wounded wolfKeeping my distance but always watching with ragged ravenous vigilanceWondering about that shirtWhy you’ve chosen that hatWhich book you have in your toteWhy you look so sadWhy you’re half smilingThe source of that subtle limpGathering reams of dataSpiraling closer and closer to an answer.


2/26/23

poem

 Gambit 

After demonstrating a few basic openings 

I asked my son: what's your gambit going to be?

What will you give up up now

To gain an advantage later?


He said he’d give up the King

Because he was pretty much done 

Hanging out with dad and ready for some

Scheduled online gaming with friends 


Of course this meant I was the King

Who succumbs to an early regicide

On the other hand it meant that I was his King

Such is the timeless quandary of our dynamic


After he left I sat for a while with the board

Realizing I ought to answer my own question

For it's never too late to take a few chances 


I’ll let you have the King’s knight

The one always hovering over my left shoulder

In dreams, whispering useless advice 


You can have either bishop

Or both. 

Burn the cassock and the crozier

I lost faith long ago


I’d give up a pawn 

But I recently lost the last one

The only pieces I have left

Are all worth too much 


I’ll have to give up love instead

In order to be 

The elegant Queen Sacrifice

That leads to a mate   


2/26/23

Friday, February 24, 2023

poem

 Op Note XXXVI

I didn’t have a choice.  One of those stem to stern incisions. All of her spilled right out. The assistant ballasted escaping guts while I suctioned out all the blood. Had to inspect every square inch. The things we saw that day. Whoo boy. At least I’ve never seen anything like that. Not kidding. Shredded from the inside like a scythe. Couple cans of spilled paint candy caning together in spiraling maroon/purple swirls. Had to patch every hole. Cut out the unsalvageable. Held pressure on all the rest. The next day she was somehow doing better. Extubated. But in a bad way. Basically just a head pinned to the top of a swollen stitched up body that didn’t seem to belong to her. Seemed in good spirits though. Was smiling almost. Like an animatronic Mona Lisa. Nodded her head at me. Waved me over with a lavender hand of bones. I was going there anyway. I’m the doctor right? I don’t need stage directions. I checked her belly and it seemed to retract as if it were afraid of my touch. The wound looked good at least. Not my fault it hurt. I noticed she was beckoning me closer. So I leaned in and she was whispering. What did you say? Her IV was alarming again. My ear was now a quarter centimeter from her dry lips. What happened? What did you do? she said. I didn’t have time for this. Thirty-three patients on my list.  She wouldn’t understand any of it anyway. If she did, she would never have gotten into this predicament in the first place. I fake laughed at my own joke here. Anyway, it was time to tell her what I did.  I leaned over, my lips now a little too close to a stranger’s left earlobe, and told her everything. Everything I had ever done. The banal, the porno, the hero, the humiliating. I told her about the one thing I had been so ashamed of, for so long. This one stupid thing that impacted pretty much every plot line of how my life subsequently played out, in the sense that I always reached a crossroads with a person I liked or a situation I really dug where I had to either decide to tell them about my hidden shame or continue to keep it a secret. If I chose to keep it a secret it meant I would retreat deeper into myself. I have always chosen not to tell. Like, my very life as lived is a direct function of this one thing I had never told a single person before. Until this moment. That’s fucked! I apologize. I shouldn’t use that kind of language in sacred places like the ICU. Tattooed nurses instead of bishops. Spouses and moms sleeping all night on bedside chairs instead of Christ. She was trying to tell me something again. I couldn’t make out a word. The damn fire alarm. They were always false, though. No one ever had to go outside. We all silently endured and ignored them. I never saw any smoke. I leaned in close to her again. Say it again, I said. How long do I need to keep this damn tube in my nose? she said.


2/24/23

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

poem

 The Mystery of Suffering

The old lady wasn’t any better in the morning. She’d need to go to surgery. I gave her the straight dope; rationale, risks and benefits, alternatives etc. She received the news with fender bender equanimity. Folded her glasses in her lap. Smiled pleasantly.  I trust what you say, doctor. Resigned to her fate. On her nightstand was a religious pamphlet opened up to a page entitled “The Mystery of Suffering”. Pain isn’t a mystery. We know how that works. C fibers and spinothalamic tracts and things of that nature. Straight biology. Teleologically we also know why: so old Kronk, the paleolithic dolt didn’t keep trying to touch that flickering flame or tease the copperhead again. Natural selection. It’s dangerous to feel nothing, to be impervious to physical pain. Suffering is different. It’s more psychological with a dash of ethics.  How is this fair, you ask. Why me amongst all us billions? Shake a fist at the sky. Losing what you once had. Knowing you’ll never get what you really want. Knowing in the end everything gets lost. Wanting something so badly despite knowing you’ll have it only briefly. From the quantum perspective, suffering is the antimatter of love. Not its opposite. Opposites are different. Just as every electron is balanced by an oppositely charged proton, every great love is balanced in space by an equal hate. But love and hate are only linguistic opposites. It’s all just love, either sufficiently or insufficiently expressed depending on circumstances. Just as every elementary particle can be reduced further, into something even more elementary, etc etc, ad infinitum until everything is exactly the same One. Therefore every great love that arises casts a shadow of suffering. Even this is too poetic. A positron, on the other hand, is not the opposite of an electron, rather its necessary annihilatory antithesis always lurking while the electrons and protons swirl around.  As suffering undergirds the battles of love and hate above.  No love arises without it. Not every love requires a concomitant hatred but it does necessitate the existence of the very void to which it must return. The absence of a loving feeling can be described as the human experience of love’s antimatter. The best that can happen is when suffering brushes against love, even if just briefly. Both are instantaneously annihilated, leaving behind a “perfect energy”. For lack of a better term. A worse term would be: “the fundamental principle of the universe”. The second best thing that can happen is the moment just before they touch. In that nanosecond love senses the cosmic presence of its own suffering. Love is injured. Which is the last thing it feels before obliteration.. Let’s get this show on the road, doctor.  The old lady was grinning broadly. This fancy grand dame has got things to DO. She was winking at me. I wanted to bring her something. A warm blanket.  A cup of hot tea. A Sudoku. A soft cat to pet. I’m counting on you to take care of this pain I got, young man. I told her I wasn’t really a young man anymore and that my main goal was to ease her suffering. Oh don’t you worry about that, boy. I’ll take care of that old thing. She winked again. You just do what you do best .The spot right behind my left eyebrow began to throb. It radiated down into my heart. Why this always happens remains a mystery. 


2/22/23

Monday, February 20, 2023

poem

 Poem #45

Do you know that feeling when you finish a poem and you think you may have busted out a banger and it’s cool as hell for a while, you're proud of yourself, you finally did it, you may have made something original and halfway decent for once, something someone else will read and perhaps be moved. But after a few weeks you start to waver. You lose confidence. Was it really any good? Sometimes you never read it again. Afraid to find out it really is shit. You missed the mark and there’s no quick fix. This is what happened to God. He isn’t dead. He made the world as a beautiful poem and then started to lose faith in it. He lost the thread. Couldn’t wend all the disparate parts back together. So he moved on to something else. Abandoned us, in a way. It’s his nature. He has to write Himself into being. And if the lines we’ve inspired falter He has to find the words from somewhere else. He hasn’t forgotten us. He remembers there’s a poem buried somewhere in His stacks called “the rise and fall of man” or some shit title he slapped on it last minute. This occasional flicker of memory nags at Him. It stings. But He’s already engrossed in another project.  A fresh start. Another chance to get it right.  He can’t go back and revise us. It’s too late. His discomfiture with an unfinished poem ripples through the universe and manifests in our stanzas as nostalgia for the past, as the experience of loss, of your heart sinking to the bottom of a black sea, a heart that would rather fall through the ocean’s floor than ascend again to the surface. This is all He can do to keep the poem alive.  At some point perhaps He will gather all his writings into a Collected Works. Reading straight through will be the journey of eternity but by the end it will all make sense even as it peripatetically circles around (again and again) back to the beginning, to the time before anyone ever asked why.  One universe will explain the rest. Each answer will give rise to another question.  Ad infinitum. Which then are all collected into the One from which they came. Until then, just as the singing has to end for there to be a song, new poems keep getting written and written and written until we run out of things to say. When that happens all our voices will coalesce into a single tone that becomes a note in the melody of a larger tune that goes on and on as long as God keeps listening.

2/20/23

Sunday, February 19, 2023

poem

 Courage is a Dead Currency

In this country courage is a dead currency

No longer a legal tender

Accepted in any reputable stores

Its coins and banknotes are counterfeit 

Try slipping a Canadian quarter 

In the vending machine

And nothing happens. No guttural rumble

No churning of inner gears

Nothing falls. The slot remains empty

No matter how hard you pound the red fa├žade

There’s nothing we can do to stop it

So many of us have exhausted ourselves

Suffering the years to accumulate

Now worthless little mounds of green bills

Little nest eggs to draw on

When the time came to be brave 

Some hold on to it, hoping it comes back into fashion

Or accrues an inexplicable nostalgic value

In the new mediums of exchange 

Like a mint condition Honus Wagner card 

Probably best to just burn it

Or get what you can for it

Pennies on the dollar

The wealthiest of us are all cowards

Have cornered the market 

On the only kind of currency that counts

If they want a little courage

Just to round off a collection

They can always go buy some

Like a forgotten Pissarro landscape

From a high end gallery

Hang it on a white wall in a long dining room

For everyone to see.  

A man with the yellowest streak

Will attest to its authenticity

It gains value by the hour

Just hanging there, doing nothing at all

For bankrupts like us it endures

As a work of priceless wonder

But for them it’s only an object of power


2/19/23