Thursday, May 25, 2023



You’re not lost

You’re right here

Look— your stack of unread books

Your pile of old scrubs

If you feel lost

It’s usually just because

You’ve haven’t the words

To describe where you are 

The act of naming 

Is always orienting

Adam was granted this power

So he would know he'd left the Garden of Eden

You don’t have to force 

Old tongues on new worlds

Take a deep breath 

And let your tongue twist the air

Make a list 

Of all your neologisms

Construct a grammar

And a world emerges you can map 

In old growth forests

The trees and mosses

Already know what to call you 


Wednesday, May 24, 2023


A Good Death

The old lady seemed surprisingly stable the next morning

Given her age, the physiologic insult 

And what I had to do to her. 

She smiled wanly and reached

Out a soft alabaster hand 

Not to reassure me so much

As making sure I was real

That her rapidly spiraling demise

What not just a dream

I saw: it’s not your fault, you did the best you could

In her eyes but probably 

Her eyes were just being nice 

Then she closed them and drifted off into 

A dream where I was an old man, on my deathbed

Surrounded by everyone I loved and those who loved me 

(A Venn diagram approximating a near perfect circle, I hope)

And some were telling old stories

While others were saying goodbye

A few leaned in close

And whispered things only

The two of us could ever know 

Things got fuzzier and fuzzier

And then quiet and more far away 

And then there was a soft blurred lightness 

Suffusing through the named and I was floating in the midst

Of a bright white cloud

Shining with all the darkness 

I had once stumbled through 

And I was surrounded by a deep silence that had been 

Hiding in the cacophony of this life all along 

Soon I was the cloud itself, then myself again,

A brief flicker of recognition just before 

I lost all the words to describe it 

Only the cloud could say anything else

It gathered strength and grew dark

Then it rained down hard upon the land 

For many weeks, all day and all night 

Until one morning the sun burned through 

And the infinite sky was once again an unblemished blue

And all the clouds were gone 

And in the old lady’s dream

I had died peacefully in my sleep

And this was her way of conveying

Both forgiveness and gratitude 

For all I had done to help

On the night she died in her sleep


Tuesday, May 23, 2023


 Kentucky Derby

You’ll enjoy a day at the derby with me. I'm the guy always growling and down the stretch they come! whenever you return from the bar or bathroom. Pantomime galloping on a broom I found in a closet like I'm on a filly exhorting her to find that extra gear win place or show it’s a great time, everyone gets paid. I’m the guy without a sophisticated hat, sans bowtie, dressed like a beachcomber because I prefer sea horses to thoroughbreds, the five o'clock shadowed jockey four juleps down the tubes, whipping at thin air with the sinewy thread that wends his whole life together, you’ll feel the sting of the gust in your hair. You’ll forget you placed a bet. You forget that only one horse wins.


Monday, May 22, 2023


 Poem #46

The poem is the intimate conversation 

You wish you had with anyone

You ever loved every time 

You ever saw them

Instead of all the mindless prattle

The poem is the deepest, truest connection

The only link between the living and the dead

Between hope and despair

The past and the present

The surrender and the battle

The poem scorns a future 

That tries to kill it 

Every failed relationship, broken friendship,

Inexplicable estrangement is founded

On a fundamental jealousy

A yawning regret that it never became a poem

Or maybe it once was

And stopped



 Penitent Rounds

Sometimes I’ll block out a little time

At the end of the day to round

On all my demented patients.

I wait for nurse’s shift change

When everyone is distracted, 

And then stealthily slip into the rooms

Of the lost and forgotten, the actively forgetting

Close the door behind me

Dim the lights and then I just

Start dishing dirt, spilling my guts

Like the unchewed beans caked to the front of their yellowed gowns

I don’t hold back—

About how I’ve always been 

Such a liar and a cheat

A puffed up phony who 

Who isn't worth the paper

My fancy diploma is printed on

(Although it is a nice cotton rag)

I treat it like a Catholic confessional, 

Without a priest, sans screen

I hit them with everything I know

All the lousy shit I’m mixed up in 

All the ways I’ve dishonored my name 

Then I ease up a bit—

Every round of penance does have its limits 

Prattle on about the weather

Scold them for wasting the panoramic view 

From their seventh floor window

Lying in bed all day, wink wink.
Most of them take it rather well

Some of them just lie there smiling

Like little dysenteric mute saints

Some widen their eyes in wordless joy

Some gape in horrified terror

Then there are the moaners, the agitated sundowners

The ones that surge to life with any stimulation

Aroused to a ravenous hunger for all the things they can’t remember

Scratching around in shadows for the very light that might kill them    

I whisper in those rooms, to be on the safe side,

Which makes it easier to pretend I’m actually speaking to God

Which, to be honest, is just a word for the desperate hope

Of the forlorn and lonely 

That someone is maybe listening 

I know better, of course.

This doesn’t count as a sacrament

It’s more transactional

I tell them everything they don’t need to hear

In order to feel forgiven

And they get to remember, however briefly,

That trying to live with the gnawing feeling of slowly dying 

Isn’t any easier than dying with a seizing sense

Of still being alive 


Sunday, May 7, 2023


 First Responder

I went to check a pulse

And when I turned her head

Her face was gone

Instead of a face

There were a million wordless thoughts

And thousand sacrilegious prayers

Instead of a little girl

We’d become a body

In the bushes, gunned down 

Without a face

No one smiles

You can’t even a frown 


Thursday, May 4, 2023


 Op Note XXXIX

It was starting to get ridiculous. I’d remove a gallbladder and then another would appear. So I’d take that one out too. Blink of an eye and there’d be another. Same place too. Cornered right there between the liver, heart and a hazy kind of darkness. It kept growing back and growing back, over and over and over. But that’s just your life, she said. You’re always working. No, I said. You’re wrong. It was the same patient. The same gallbladder. Eternal recurrence and all that. She shook her head.  You’re getting confused, she said. You’re working too hard. The lack of sleep is causing delirium. You’re no good to anyone like that. I’m worried about you. You’re going to get yourself hurt, or someone else. Please listen to me. I’m the one who loves you, she said. I didn’t hear the rest. I felt it coming on again.There it is, I said. Look! Such beautiful light!  What a blessing to be the one who gets to take it out. That’s what she said, she said. Then I reached in through her heart and pulled it all the way out. 


Monday, May 1, 2023



He woke to familiar surroundings

This same bed, at the usual time

In the stygian hour before dawn

A quick confirmation of name and age

Date of birth, identifying sets of digits

Making sure the numbers match 

Then to the bathroom

To wash his hands

He washed his feet, his neck

His back and his face

His whole body glistened

Half wet, naked in jaundiced light. 

Before dressing he locked eyes

With the intractable apparition

Holding his gaze in the mirror,

That enigmatic innermost onion peel

Who never looked upon anyone else

And by no other eyes was ever seen 

And, once again, he accepted the fact

That this dead-eyed avatar

Of the real thing 

Looking right through him

And back again

Would, for another day, have to serve as himself.

Well, that was fun

But now everything's settled. 

This moment of truth would pass.

A long day of cases waited

In the theater of operations

Wounds to tend to

Holes to fix

Absences to fill

Abscesses to lance

Bad news to bear 

One thing at a time

He donned a gown

And tied on his mask

Sheathed his hands in latex gloves

Slashed the final “x” in the last box

Of the surgical safety checklist.

Are we all still alive?

Do we agree to pretend to understand

The mystical glyphs written in this book of collective life?

The antibiotics were given

A tincture of illusion

Scented our tea

Everyone had a “name” and a “place”

Some even came with “purpose”

Either received or seized.

We simply ask for focus

Stop what you’re doing and listen

This is a team effort

It takes a village

Everyone was in agreement

We could now safely begin 

Knife please, the surgeon whispered

Into the original silence 

Aching at the core of the mirror