Tuesday, October 24, 2023



When we first met we were inarticulate.

Words fell from our lips like the clothes 

Of lovers strewn across the floor

On the way down the hall to the bedroom.

Love was a sock I lost under the covers

Desire a belt that the dog carried off 

I keep finding purple barrettes under my pillows 

Arranged in the strange configurations

Of a sacred lost lexicon.

While I’m sleeping she whispers

The words only I can decipher 



 Op Note XLI

Our diagnosis was never in doubt. It was the definitive treatment that remained elusive. Knowing the well-described occasional efficacy of placebo interventions we offered the patient a procedure of last resort. We were down to our last couple of bullets. A proposition strictly in the experimental stages, we told her. A double blinded study. But what other choice did we have? Unbeknownst to her it was a sham surgery. Nothing would be fixed, nothing cut out. We termed it her “special procedure”, as if she were a child being told that grandma was “only sleeping”. We reviewed the risks and benefits, the long term implications, expected course of recovery etc. etc. and ultimately obtained her consent. When she was anesthetized we opened her up along imaginary incisions from stem to stern. Our technique was flawlessly precise, the field at all times bloodless. We made a note of everything we observed. Ran gloved fingers over the glistening capsule of her make-believe liver, listened to the false beats of her heart, watched her fake bowels undulate in yellow fields of fat. None of this happened except in the digital archives of my own mind. At the end of the case the sponge and needle counts were correct. All the nurses played along. We counted down the minutes until it was time to wake her up— crucial that we gave the medicine a chance to work. Throughout the case the patient remained stable. Her safety was never in doubt. And yet there’s a chance she might feel better as a result. Maybe not right away. But tomorrow? Before she got too old?  Why hadn’t I tried this before? The hardest part is remaining still. Not moving a muscle. Remembering to breathe. Not passing out. Remembering to place bandages on imperceptible wounds. Every case I do should get easier and easier. Someday I hope to master the technique of doing nothing at all.


Monday, October 23, 2023


 The River Chagrin

The river made the sound of audible 

Bleeding as it cascaded down levels

Of shale, unleashed from a rent 

I’ve torn in the tissues that 

Separate the living from the dead


Even here in the shadows of waxing 

Crescent moon I can’t escape

The metallic reek of heme

Dried to a line of purple-maroon

Lodged in the eaves of my nails 

In the darkness blood is the color

Of a bruise

And water is also the color

Of a bruise

If only this river was just water

I wouldn’t have to choose

Between living an ever elaborate lie

And dying straight away

Upon the sharp barb of self-inflicted truth 

Every stone I threw was a finger

Too skinny to plug a spurting dike, 

A stitch placed in a melting slab of ice

As if sheer will could hold together all

I’d set on the course of destruction 

I am the man in winter

Condemned to watch the figures

Trapped beneath the frozen river 

Carried away in currents before 

I can show them the way out 


Here on this tiered stone

I am sentenced to witness

A river roaring from a wound

In the world that I created

It isn’t my water

But the river will always be 

Mine to own  



 Opposite of the Opposite

In the dualist world

Of interdependent meaning 

Love is the only word

Without an opposite.

Its absence leaves

Nothing behind—

No sadness to embrace 

When joy inexplicably expires

No half moon to brood upon

When the sun sets until morning.

It’s our own hate 

We pour in 

To fill the void 

When it’s gone.

Carried to a logical conclusion

One sees that love lacks even

The opposite of its own opposite

Which is why I struggle to say it 

Whenever I most feel it 

And everyone hates that


Monday, October 16, 2023


Sea Anemone

The surgeon pulls on his scrub pants in front of the mirror.

His fingers rapidly loop the orange drawstrings 

Together in a cinching knot.

Now imagine it’s just his fingers—

No scrubs, no hospital, no arms, no body. 

Just fingers cutting deftly through the air in cryptic choreography. 

Now picture a sea anemone in a reef, its tentacles slowly 

Jazzing to and fro in the invisible ocean current. 

Try to imagine what it might be tying.



 Golf Pencil

I always saved the little pencil 

From a round of golf because 

It reminds me of life:

Very short, no eraser

But a perfect conic missile

Sharpened to hypodermic point 

Such a pleasure to wield, at times,  

Even just to scribble and doodle,

Darken in all the D’s and zeroes

On this governmental form 

With a metallic graphite sheen.

As it wears down we

Begin to ration our language

To aphoristic obliquity:

Love is not the opposite 

Of loneliness it is the fog on the stage

When you’ve forgotten all your lines.

You are either a person perpetually anxious 

About becoming who you think you ought to be

Or the dullard loaf of mystery meat

Who knows exactly who he is and will always be. 

But no matter how abridged it is,

Those pencils never last for long. 

So much remains unsaid and we’ve

Already ground it down to the nub.

I keep writing even when 

The black tip has retracted

Beneath the smudged shuttlecock of wood.

You have to look closely 

To see the desperate ruts

I’ve pressed into the page 


Tuesday, October 10, 2023


 Recurring Nightmares

Some speak of the horror

Of stumbling into a loud

Brightly lit ballroom filled with hundreds

Of unfamiliar leering faces 

Or the one where you’re giving

A speech in a packed lecture hall

While standing on stage completely naked 

And your notes are all written in Greek 

Others scoff 

At these imaginary nocturnal travails.

For them, absurdist improv is each

Unfolding second of their everyday conscious lives 

Where the moment after every moment is like waking up

Alone in the owled hours after midnight 

Bare feet on the hardwood floor

Shivering in cold tachycardic sweat

Trying to find solace 

In whispered reassurances 

About what’s real and what’s not—

Maybe it was all just a bad dream 

But they haven’t slept all night

And the sun is moments from rising


Tuesday, October 3, 2023


 New Theology

In the new theology faith is simply an acceptance of the world as it is. Nothing more than that. No complex creeds to wrestle with. No painful initiation rites. God doesn’t play a role in our system. And truth is something only rarely stumbled upon. So one must nevertheless exercise discernment and prudence at all times. Take the emotion out of it, wring it out, hang it out to dry in the warm summer wind, then put it crinkled and damp back in. Many people hear about our teachings and say it trivializes faith, as if it were easy. The sky is blue. That boy is my son. But they’re wrong. The ancient religions demand far less because their catechisms are immutable. God is the Father of the Son who is known through the Holy Spirit. A little mind-fucking at first but once you get on board, you’re all set, 99% of the work done. There’s nothing else to figure out. Show up for Eucharist, go to confession, pray toward Mecca. For us, though, nothing ever remains the same. The dogma is always changing. Every morning we wake and are asked to accept that a sunrise is real, even though today it’s orange and yellow and streaked with purple green. You have to let go of yesterday with its scabbed browns and reds. Memories are our incense. Just to get us in the sacred mood. Everyday it starts all over again. Yes, these are my gnarled scarred hands. My strange face in the mirror, why hello good sir. The morning smell of late September. Once again that ludicrous sound coming from my dark woods is the great horned owl. The holiest of us recognize that our particular life is a uniquely experiential kind of death. We have entire monastic orders who take vows of silence in honor of all sadness and pain. Our rituals include drinking while bleeding and sleeping when dead. Instead of guardian angels we have the nagging ache of everything and everyone we have ever lost. We bring extra blankets to sleeping children shivering on couches. We brush our hard little teeth. We cut our nails and comb our brown hairs neat. We confuse love with the act of breathing. But really it’s just our hearts beating. When we trip we let ourselves fall. We smell the dirt. We taste the salt. Every day it’s something new. Or just a wee little bit different. You have to choose. It’s a leap of faith. Every moment. Even right now. Ask yourself: can you believe you’re actually reading this?     

There are, of course, heresies. The hypocrite professes his faith unceasingly but doesn’t actually believe in this world. He has conjured an alternative reality that only exists in his own mind which has, at best, only tangential connection to our world of faith. In his cosmos he is forever the neglected husband, the unrecognized son, the passed over prodigy. Often his prayers sound like inverses of curses. He’s mowing his flowers. He’s painting his grass blue. In that world, he is the only one who ever gets saved. But his heaven is the loneliest place. The agnostic to our system is left with precious few options. He wanders from sorrow to sorrow. He doesn’t acknowledge this stone, that hermit crab, your hand. He spits in the eye of ocean sunsets. He knows it’s all real but refuses to accept it. His heart is set on another.



 Invisible Friend

It’s ok to have an invisible friend 

Even if he’s your only friend 

He exists as long as you

Continue to be someone

Who can be seen

It’s ok to talk to yourself

So long as you don’t shout.

And make like a ventriloquist—

Only the most anally observant 

Of us can see your lips moving.

It’s ok to wake up early 

Just to commune with alone 

But don't mistake the silence

For your oldest friend 

Pausing before he tells you

The answer to the question

You’re afraid to ask anyone else




Zero is ridiculous, shouldn’t exist

If we skipped right over it

It would never be missed.

Add it or take it away

It’s always the same sum

No difference.

Any temptation to multiply

Leads to fascist annihilation

And no one bothers

Trying to divide.

We all have enough 

Undefined as it is.

So what is it?

Why do we need it?

Zilch nil nought

As if a name could add

Something to nothing

Like the way we refer

To the intractable silence 

Of the universe as God

Or a moment of self forgetting

As an act of love.

Look at all these leading 

Zeroes before the decimal

Point of your actual life. 

What happens when I’m gone?

Will you speak of me

Or not-me?




A bird got into the house

Don’t ask me what kind

Call it a wren

It was my fault. 

Left the sliding glass

Door open while the dog pissed

Now it flutters around from

Room to room presumably

Getting hungrier and hungrier 

By the hour 

It’s an omen

Of big change

Either you're falling in love

Or someone is about to die 

I’ve combed the house 

Looking for the starling.

Someone is running

Out of time