Thursday, September 28, 2023


 Silence of the World

The silence of the world

Has been winding through

Me fifty forlorn years.

It senses it’s halfway home.

Midnight to the dark side of the moon

A book half read in an empty room.

I hope its passage has been okay,

Not dull or dispiriting,

That I haven’t wasted its time.

When I make myself quiet

I can hear it pushing chairs

And tables up against the walls 

As if it were clearing space

For a ceremony that starts 

After everyone has gone to bed.

I make myself wide.

Open the windows and doors

Then get out of the way


Monday, September 25, 2023



I need an old scalpel too dull for cutting

Drag it across my skin so I know what it’s like

Nothing hurts and nothing bleeds

It leaves a long white blanching

I’m careful not to press too hard

Just knowing what’s possible is enough

I ask the scrub tech now

To pass me a fresh blade  


Sunday, September 24, 2023


 Morning Commute

Driving in to work on the highway

A split-second vision of a flat stone

Frisbeeing from the rear tire

Of the oblivious car in front of me,

Its surface a shiny mosaic

Of onyx black and reptilian green

Like the scutes of a turtle shell

Whacking against my chassis 

And then the sparrow scuttering

Out of the way just in time

As I veered down the off ramp

To a brief stop at a red light 

Where bees were swarming in the swale 

Around lilacs lazing in the late summer breeze

Dizzy in the drunkenness of third bloom

And then, just ahead, passing

Penitential geraniums slowly browning

In stone-cosseted flower beds

Embellishing ugly corporate signs

Before finally pulling into an empty space 

As the engine clicked and wound down 

While watching in the rearview mirror 

A couple leaning into one another 

Outside their car in the parking lot

Of the suburban hospital where I work 

Blanched faces, bodies soft-slumped

Against each other in awkward collision 

Processing some shared affliction

Like two mortally wounded trees

Propping one another up

After a summer cyclone 

Has otherwise decimated the land.

Such tragedies in overlooked places

Unbeknownst to anyone else

Without anyone ever noticing.

The tiniest slivers of love clinging together

When faced with the alternative

Of having to go it alone.

Well, that’s it

I can only hold on so long

That’s all I remember

The rest of the day a routinized blur 

Of charts and numbers and familiar faces

But as I turned and walked for the door:

The wind begins to gust

The grass bends

The hospital stands still.



 Bulletin Board

A flock of birds high up 

Make the sky look perforated

Like a bulletin board

With the tacks all removed

White clouds hang like blank sheets

Of paper announcing nothing at all

We lay on our backs gazing up

Waiting for instructions 



 Poem #49

Poetry is a pointing toward something both inarticulable and fleeting. Yes there are words, which is beside the point, but it’s the best we can do. The actual words for describing it are unknown. All we can do is gesture. Prose, to its credit, also involves pointing. But we also learn about the finger. Why it’s crooked. Who it belongs to. How they arrived here. Where they came from. What they’ve been looking for. Why they feel the need to point at all. It gets deeper and more ornate.  The backstory behind these particular high heeled shoes. How he made his fortune and then lost it all. A love story about a girl who fell for a boy who thought love was just a poem. A murder mystery. Social satire. What happens to some readers is they get too wrapped up in the who, the what, the why. They forget to look. After a while all stories start to sound the same. Archetypes abound. The one about the dead mother. The one with the son who hates his father. They think to themselves, I’m bored with this book. They pick up a poem and stare 



 River Split

It’s best to think of this

As the river that splits.

What was one, is now two 

Keep it a secret

No one will ever know 

It’s always the same river

River is just a word

That describes water falling

While everything else is standing still

River by nature takes the route 

Of least resistance,

Often mistaken for a lazy winding 

But it feels like a ride 

A simile for time 

A metaphor for everything you ever missed

Sometimes you’re drifting forward

Sometimes it seems the shore is lapsing away

While you’re frozen in place 

Either way it takes you

To the end of your life

And then it keeps going 

Obstacles change nothing

Fallen trees, walls of stone

Just another unfortunate gash

And whether the first divergence

Or some 10th derivative branching

It always thinks of itself as the one river 

A man far downcurrent

Sees many rivers but opts

To put in from your shore 

He names you something

From the words he knows

As if you belonged to him 

In fact, many ships may use

These tributaries for passage 

It doesn’t matter. We are the water 

There is a path leading to the desert

Where the sun slowly broils you away

To a mud cracked flat

I’m a dark cloud drifting now 

Hoarding my water

Refusing to rain

Patiently waiting for a breeze 

To guide me westward 

Where ocean is waiting 

It’s too late to become a river again  

Do you remember the word

I used to call you? 

Even the river once lacked a name 


Saturday, September 16, 2023


 Divorce I

I like when the sun and the moon

Share the same ambered sky 

In the hour before night 

My favorite Tom and Jerry cartoons

Are the ones where cat and mouse

Are friends not foes.

But mom and dad

At the same event

In the same room?

I’m two boys in one body

Fiddling with four hands

Eyes so wide it hurts.

What I became in the day

Differed from the man of the night.

They had to take turns.

Before the split, on

Nights of savage fighting,

I was still one boy

Listening to the moon

Whisper its secrets 

To a fading sun 


Tuesday, September 12, 2023



Let’s say God is the space between two lovers and the devil is the time it takes for them to travel the distance. Angels bring fleeting moments of self forgetting. Wily demons whisper in your ear, convince you for the millionth time that the whole world can only be understood from the perspective of your own particular self. Prayer is the GPS app that tells you when you can expect to arrive. There are no words to recite. You just follow the green lines with your eyes, three times. Your lips are moving because you’re shivering. Everything skinny lines and yellow or blue. A hex is the twelve car pile up on the I-480 bridge. One ritual is purifying while the other is pure alchemy. Instead of comforting you while you cry I’m wondering if your tears are molten gold. Meanwhile you’re not crying. You’re happy. You’ve forgotten all about me. You're chucking a cross from a precipice and it’s falling and it’s falling while you’re smiling and patiently waiting for the splash. You have all the time in the world. You can stay all night. I’m the hobo under the bridge cursing god. 




My son is afraid of bees. By “bees” I mean any flying insect that stings. Anything airborne elicits a flurry of flinchings and broken field dashes for shelter. I’ve watched him zig zag away from what turned out to be a small bird. He swears he hears a pervasive sub-audible buzzing.  It’s gotten so bad he doesn’t even like flowers. People who don’t know him come to think he’s afraid of flowers but it’s not the flowers. I’m worried the same logic will compel him to fear the sun. He already has an uneasy relationship with summer. Daytime dread, agoraphobic hermit. Locked in a room shadowed in darkness while everyone else is out there playing. And then people will really start to wonder. What happened to this little weirdo?  Blame the parents, of course. What did you do? But I can’t be held completely responsible.  I tell him all the time; you’ve got to learn to face your fears. Know thine enemy, Lao Tzu, and all that. So we do our research. In the winter all the female worker bees cluster around the queen and vibrate to keep her warm. The male drones die off uneventfully. Maybe one or two will get lucky with the queen but the rest sort of just exist for a hundred or so days. Can’t make honey. Don’t do any work around the hive. Mostly purposeless lives. But you won’t see them complain. Rage is a waste of energy. What are they going to do— they’re born without stingers. In many ways my boy is a lot like me. I used to be mortally terrified of bees. Got ambushed once as a boy on the foot by a wasp reposing under the sheets in my bed. To this day I check under the covers before sliding my feet into that dark caress. Another time a yellowjacket got me on the eyelid while climbing on the jungle gym I had just gotten for my birthday. After that I kept my head on a swivel. Never swung or slid. Watched it get all rusted. Didn’t trust anything anymore. Even home wasn’t necessarily safe. To be honest, I’m still afraid of bees but I’ve reconciled myself to the cold hard fact that sometimes you’re going to get stung. It’s the cost of doing business. That being said, I don’t want my boy to get stung. Not like that, at least. Let the bees come. A swarm when he’s ready. As long as he doesn’t have to feel a certain kind of sting. 




Every word has a meaning

Some words have many meanings

And some meanings belong to many words

Names are special kinds of words

That have to wait to acquire a meaning

There are four Jeffs in my fantasy football group

Each Jeff signifies something unique

None of us ever says the word Jeff

We call each other by our last names

When we gather, the word Jeff is meaningless

Jeff is now the 2394th most popular name

Chosen by new American parents for their babies

Someday the word Jeff will replace the word Herbert

In the dictionary of lost languages 

Its entry will read: synonym for Randy

One by one there will be no more Jeffs

Each time a Jeff dies

A verb becomes a noun

Pronunciation gets codified

And empty spaces fills with pure definition

When the last of us in the group is gone

Jeff becomes a word you may forget.

Yes, you may come across it again in your readings

But if you get stuck, just look it up.

We're all hoping it gets written down in the book.


Thursday, September 7, 2023


 The Bruxist

I'm a modern American man

In all the usual ways

Except for a rather severe

Variant of night clenching.

While sleeping I crack crowns

And grind molars

Down to skipping stones.

My dentist asks 

If I’ve been eating rocks.

Soon I’ll need dietary modifications—

Only softs and purees, nothing to gnaw,

Nothing with a crunch

Anything I can just gum.

I wake with the ache of a spike

Driven into the hinge

Of my jaw.

Mouth guards don’t help

I just clamp down harder.

I’m ravenous for something at night

Driven to feed an insatiable emptiness

Hiding in the hole of the gut.

As soon as I fall asleep a buffet

Appears—steaming serving pans

Full of failure, regret and loss.

For dessert a chilled mousse

Of impending doom.

All night I chew

To make it go away.

Whatever's left rots

In the heat of the day.