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

Thursday, February 16, 2023

poem

 Space Between 

Low gray prison mattress 

Sky slowly sinking.

It gets claustrophobic

The longer you’re out here. 

Crawlspace January

Reptile wet and gaspy 

Naked trees

Cachectic men

Arms like broken sticks

Pleading for mercy. 

Pretty soon I’m prone 

On the ground

Lopping up the last

Few molecules of oxygen 

I’ve got left and it’s here, just

Before the terminal blackout,

Where I feel it. The truth. 

The trusted earth rushing

Up toward the clouds.

It was the earth all along

Thronging to fill my lungs 

With its dirt.


2/16/23

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

poem

 The Well

We all have a deep well of love

Supposedly, even me

Or so I once alleged

I dug it myself 

Scratched it out of the earth

With my fingernails 

Choked in the depths

Of its toxic fumes

Fed on the worms

That sipped at its source

Propped the shaft 

With brick and back  

Until I tapped 

Into a vast aquifer 

A fragile hollow bone 

Heavy with sweet nectar

Only then did I climb out

Beside it I still lie


The sound of its waters

Dripping back into itself

As it falls from its walls

Of black stone deep down

In a darkness of my own 

Is romance enough for me 


I never lower the bucket anymore

Afraid my rope not long enough

The pain of pulling it up dry

When I’m desperate for a drink

Afraid to try 


2/14/22

Monday, February 13, 2023

poem

 Scene II

One prepares a pot of morning coffee 

For the other, who just wants a cup of tea


Later on, she pulls a steaming 

Tray of cinnamon crusted muffins

From the oven for the person

Who’d give anything for a plate

Of fried eggs and bacon


As for him, he’s busy arranging 

A trip to the mountains for the girl

Who never told a soul 

About her dizzying fear of heights 


Let’s clean the kitchen, she says

To the man who came from dirt


Do you know how much I love you?

Is parried by a nodding assent 

From the man who believes

Love ought to be hoarded 

Like bars of gold in Fort Knox

In order to ever feel safe 


So he goes outside to weed

The mulch of all that doesn’t belong

For a woman idly daydreaming 

Of a clutch of kaleidoscopic flowers 

Filling her empty centerpiece vase


Before bed he synchronizes the clocks

And double checks all the alarms 

While she slips away from time 

And stays up way too late


In the anteroom of sleep 

One dreams of a happy implacable future together

While the other rues the possibility

Of there ever being a present apart


2/13/23

Saturday, February 4, 2023

poem

 Dr. Parker

It happens a couple times a month. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I don’t enunciate well enough. Either way, I go into a patient’s room and it’s usually some glum-looking old guy hang-dogging about in there. He sees me and his face lights up. Good morning Dr. Parker! You’re here early! Or: Helen wake up, this is Dr. Parker, he did your surgery last night! I stopped correcting them years ago. I don’t mind. I even embrace it. I’ll be Dr. Parker. Hell yes I will. It’s a nice change of pace. Sometimes I get caught up in it. Start acting a little weird. Arching my eyebrows, making my eyes big and crazed. Bobbing my head like a metronome. Literally tsk-tsking if there’s like bubbles in the IV line or jello stains all over his gown. Sometimes I’ll grab a slice of bacon from his plate. Good stuff here, boy. Only heartland hogs for you and me. Yessir. I like it a little crispier, know what I mean?  Winking at his wife. How’s that old belly feeling? I start talking in this odd accent. Like if Joe Pesci was born and raised in West Virginia. Old Dr. Parker. Slinging pearls of wisdom left and right. Get yourself some dried fruit. Big bowl of shriveled cherries. Gorge yourself. And no sex for 6 years. The wife chokes on a cashew. Tears in her eyes. Hallelujah, I say, waving around the bacon, while a con man televangelist on the TV hawks prayer guides for $19.99 a piece. Do you pray, Dr. Parker? Are you a man of the Lord? Oh Dr. Parker, we just knew the Spirit was in you. I make myself right at home in there. Ask the old guy if he has any bourbon hidden under his pillow. Tousle his white hair. We got some celebrating to do. Look at that light streaming in through the window.  Look at all that! They see it alright. They saw it from the very beginning. I knew you’d help us, Dr. Parker. I just knew it. You’re wonderful!  Oh, if only you really knew, I say. I’d stay in this room forever if I could. But I can’t dawdle all day in there. The other guy has work to do. I’ll have to go back to being Dr. Parks or Jeff or no one at all. Just a guy strutting down the hall in funky green shoes. The guy everyone thought they knew.  


2/3/22

poem

Woken

In this dream I’m startled from sleep

By the sounds of someone crying 

Curled next to me in a bed

I don’t check to see who it is

Not because I’m callous 

But because, by the law of dreams,

The dreamer already knows 

So I roll over and fall back to sleep,

Into another dream, one where now

I am the one sobbing, maybe

Because there’s no one

Next to me in bed and

It’s cold and the blankets are thin

And the old house creaks

And there’s no one in the room to hear,

To take pity on me, caress me, 

And the nightstand is avalanched

By stacks of unread books.

The only thing to do now

Is to cry myself to sleep

To cry myself to sleep

To keep crying myself asleep

Dream after dream 

Until I wake into a scene 

Where I’m cuddled under warm covers

With the one I already know, just before 

We both drift into dreamless sleep


2/3/23