Monday, July 31, 2023


 Poem #47

If you fall in love with a poet

It's too late

He's already fallen in love

With you 

If you say something clever

When the waiter brings the tiramisu

The poet will smile politely

He’s etched your words into his white plate 

The poet will remember things 

You’ve long forgotten

The feel of your foot against his palm 

Your cheekbones straining against the silk veil of ecstasy

You have to be prepared for heartache

The poet lives for this

Everything he’s ever wanted 

Are the words pulled from a black abyss



 Dick Tricks

In college I knew a guy named Cochran who could do dick tricks. You had to be well endowed, obviously. Late night, he’d whip it out in front of everyone—fraternity brothers and sorority girls alike—and go through his catalog of phallic machinations. There was the “Sad Turtle”. The “Basset Hound”. The “Gentlemen’s Curtsy”.  He had one called the “Watusi” which I couldn’t ever bear to watch. “Grandma’s Tongue” was a perennial favorite. He would unfurl his redundant scrotal skin into a flat, dry, slightly hairy flap of dirty pink, sort of like your grandma’s tongue when she’s trying to lop up the last of her Sunday peas. The pièce de résistance, however, was a little gem he called the “Heart”. And not the Valentine's Day version. Somehow, via a series of complicated maneuvers he could recreate the precise anatomic configuration of a human heart—the bunched up balls a reasonable approximation of atria and ventricles and the looped shaft a proxy for the emerging aortic root. I was pre med at the time so I could appreciate it. The problem for many such contortionists is that once you finished, it wasn’t always so easy to untangle. So they had to live out their remaining days with heart shaped dicks. As you can imagine this had a deleterious effect on both function and self esteem. Couldn’t piss. Lovemaking was out of the question. You end up afraid to ever ask anyone out. All you are is a late night party trick. A gimmick to roll out when the party started to flag. The psychic damage is off the charts. How could you ever think about anything else? You start to forget you have arms and legs and hair and face. Your mind reels. An entire body distilled down to pure heart. And not even the one that beats. Just the one that feels. 


Tuesday, July 25, 2023


 Op Note XL

The first case I took an intern through a hemorrhoidectomy. Second case was mostly me with a third year patching up a tricky scrotal hernia. Third case another hernia. Same resident. Fourth case I guided a chief through a low anterior resection. She sees it. She’ll be pretty good someday. Fifth case I walked my son through a multivariable algebra problem. Sixth case I sat and listened as my daughter cried. Seventh case I worked on a poem I thought was dead. Eighth case went all night. None of the sutures held. Kept having to re-do it and re-do it until the birds began to sing and I figured out another way. Ninth case was a quickie. Drank a cup of coffee with my mom. Watched her mug trembling in her hands and pretended not to notice. Tenth case felt like a dream. Nothing but downhill spiral staircases and the ghosts were all smiling and sheet-less. Basic blocks of color. Swaths of red yellow purple. Basic shapes. Triangles like how a child would draw. Dumbass squares. Better circles. Because circles are for adults. Muscle memory pulled me through. Otherwise I’d have never woken up. The eleventh case was a beast. Let’s not talk about it. The ache started in my thumb and worked its way up my arm to burrow in the crook of my shoulder. I held on as long as I could. In the end I got a little lucky. Saw something I may have missed ten years ago. It all just fell into place. I forgot about the pain. Or maybe it it just stopped hurting. I’ll take it either way. I pretended not to hear the pissed off ghosts hissing in rage through the tip of the suction device. It would have been a great case to end on. But there was one more. That’s the way it always goes. I’m never one to end on a high note. Something something desultory and humdrum. Not that it didn’t need to be done. Somebody has to do it. That's me raising my hand. For these we don’t bother with music. Adrenaline all gone. Pizza two hours cold. A perfunctory performance we all could have done without. The thirteenth case was the brushing of the teeth the long stare into the mirror the quiet acceptance the not quite giving up the reluctant fade into 4 hours of sleep.  Then you go back to zero. Thirteen was a record but the slate just got wiped. You have to start all over again. 


Monday, July 24, 2023


 Somebody Dies

When you love somebody

Somebody dies
You are that somebody.

You are now dead

You become the person

Somebody else has fallen in love with 

That’s who you are now 

An object of love

It's a tragedy

All those years of hard work and grit

Carving out a sense of self

From a slab of heavy stone 

Now a statue in the rain

An empty cathedral on Sunday night 

Not the tree anymore

Just a warm nest

Waiting for your morning song

Not an ocean

But this little boat buffeted

By the swells of a black sea

Nobody drowns

Nor is there thought

Of retreating into safe harbors

Of former selves

In the morning we wash up

On the shore of an undiscovered island

First thing we hear is the cannibals

Beating their drums 

But I’m the one who is loved!

We both shout at the same time 

Over the churlish din of waves crashing 

Then we begin to fight

Fists and scratching

Rocks and gouging 

Vengeance for the dead

We mourn


Tuesday, July 18, 2023



I bring you a bowl of nuts

I come back later and eat

The ones you’ve dropped

In the transfer from hand to mouth

I devour everything you thought

You once wanted. It tastes fine

Just as the others

Probably did for you.

Peanuts and almonds

Salted cashews

All scattered and nervous

Under the eave of the bowl.

People who worry about me

Say you do it on purpose—

Some weird, fucked up way

Of sharing 


Saturday, July 1, 2023



There are two kinds of surgeons

Those who say “cut to cure”

And the ones who prefer “heal with cold steel”

The difference between them is dispositional

One brings the cheese to the cracker

And the other the cracker to the cheese

One cuts the Swiss so thin 

You could use it as a shroud

The other shreds a hunk of mozzarella

Like a woodsman whittling at a walking stick 

One says who cut the cheese?

When he smells flatus 

To make his kids laugh

The other one rolls his eyes

While spreading Camembert 

Across a toasted bone.

They are also very much alike

Both will end up divorced 17 times

And all alone

Both have a soft spot

For self estrangement

Both “forget” to lock the front door

Out of respect for the karmic

Spirit of surgical misadventures,

In case she decides one night

To visit him while he sleeps

And cut his throat.

There is a third kind of surgeon

The one who says 

“Never let the skin stand

Between you and the diagnosis”

This one is a real bastard

He drives a Bentley

And stiffs the caddy at the club.

Your job is to choose the surgeon 

Who stands alone in the twilight

Surrounded by weeds and trees

Pinching a scuffed white moon

Between his finger and thumb

He never says a word at all



 Date Night

You make reservations 

And I’ll bring the night

Wear that black dress

With the matching heels 

And I’ll arrange the stars

We’ll show up late

Forget to eat

Dance on the arc 

Of the moon

Like northern lights 

To the funk swing

Of galaxies spinning

We’ll pay the bill in fireflies

And then serenade the kitchen

On our way down the black hole

To an infinite density

Where all love that matters

Is reduced to a singularity

Beyond time or extension

In the morning 

You can make the coffee

And I’ll bring the sun