Wednesday, December 27, 2023


 Train Station

The game of Life didn’t age well. No one plays it anymore. Half the pieces are missing. The fake money all gone. Its gilded suburbia a Potemkin sham. Besides, it's too much like real life. Insurance premiums going up, escrow shortages. Estate taxes on the bachelor uncle everyone hated so he left it all to you. When life itself is just a game, the game itself stops being any fun. Risk is more of the same. A strategy distilled down to the heaviest gas. Domination, manipulation. Betrayal and degradation. But it’s all just roll of the dice luck. And much less enjoyable when there’s nothing at stake. Tomorrow, and every day after that, everything real goes back on the line. Risk becomes even less appealing. Which gets boring. So then it is again. One minute you see that nothing really matters. The next, you can't let go of a single goddam thing. So you plant your flag in Australia and mass your armies at the border. Every time it’s your turn, you pass.  Attack no one. And then, at the end, when you’re completely outnumbered, under siege and there’s nothing you can hope to do, the meaning of the word inevitable finally becomes clear. Which obviates any concerns, once and for all, vis-a-vis "risk". When this happens everyone still at the table commits hara-kiri. There’s a game stashed deep in the closet called Capitalism but anyone who has ever played it either ends up dead or conscripted as characters in the game itself and can’t ever get out of it. My dad is still there, as a matter of fact. Lots of people are. Sometimes I feel myself getting moved from square to square by giant invisible hands. We had a phase when we all played Charades, the cheap do-it-yourself version where you scribble the clues on torn off scraps of paper and put them all in a plastic jack-o-lantern. I go first, to get it out of the way. I’m terrible, you see, at trying to get people to think I’m anyone other than who they believe I am. Movie. 5 words. Sounds like the polite applause in light rain at the trochaic conclusion of your own eulogy. The silence percolates a rage just beneath the thin veneer of frantic gesturing. In the end I just blurt out what it is, who I am. Clear and direct. Everyone gets mad. Stop speaking in tongues, you freak, they exclaim, chorus-like. You’re supposed to pretend. Only hint. Keep up the charade. Let someone else call out the words to your own life. Fisticuffs ensue. Uncles have to break it up. Then try to change the mood by telling old stories of Christmas carolers stripping down to garters and stockings on East Market St in downtown Akron. While holy roller Baptists in fur coats gamely sang Away in a Manger all the way to its end. We all laugh. The strippers are gesturing obscenely with hands and cheeks. A spinster aunt reaches into the jack-o-lantern for the next scrap. 

The new game is called Train Station. 

Everyone starts at the station.

Outside it is always raining. . 

Faces blurred like pensioners

Waiting at the Gare St Lazare

The men wear fedoras 

While the women hover near shadows

In raincoats smoking cigarettes 

The train you’ve been waiting for never arrives

While the one you’re urged to get on

Never departs. Stranded in a state

Of limbo. Both early and late

Neither here nor there

You spend all game looking at routes and maps

With ravenous envy

Your kids are dangerously bored, scrolling apps

Tearing open bags of chips

Every day you buy another ticket

Just in case this is a real place

And not some elaborate ruse

Everything you have is no longer necessary

Your ID, your passport, your money

None of it is good here

None of it means anything 

The object of the game is the opposite of Monopoly

First person to give everything away wins 

Your houses and hotels. The old brass shoe

Your name, your legacy, that hard earned truce

You’ve brokered with god.

By the time the last scrap of self is handed over to the banker

No one is there to collect a trophy

And where's the fun in that?

The game doesn’t end so much as melt 

Into a shared sense of collective doom

After you’ve finished playing Train Station

Everyone decides to play Airport.

But it's getting late 

Halfway through, you quit.

You put on your shoes

You tear up your ticket


Friday, December 22, 2023



I’ve hidden everything there is to know

In plain site, here in the glass vault

Conjured by the lines of this poem

But I’ve forgotten the numbers

To open the combination lock

You’ll find me on the ground

Ear pressed against its words

Listening for the tiny clicks

Of a clear feeling

I know I once felt. 


Thursday, December 21, 2023


 Backyard Hill

The mystics speak of love obliquely

As one does the recently deceased. 

Gather you around

A black fire 

Flames licking at their caftans

Like the tongues of bad luck cats 

Come closer, they whisper

Eyes like hungry embers

Skeleton fingers to their pale lips

Hush hush  

But you’re having fun playing basketball

Alone on the driveway after school

Pounding the pavement 

With a worn down ball 

Smoothed to membranous thinness

The game clock has ticked down to five

And the next shot is all that matters 

You aren’t ready to sacrifice

Your real imaginaries  

On an altar of abstract mysteries 

Not ready to dwell on the fate 

Of the frost at sunrise

Unprepared for the void

That’s both the heart of the prayer

And its long awaited answer 

For you love is everything 

You ever had to forfeit

Locked away with all the taken:

Love is what’s missing 

So you spend your life shooting

At hoops without nets 

Because when you know the shot’s money

The instant it leaves your fingertips

You don’t need to hear a swish

Meanwhile, mom just got home from work

The hot engine of her used Honda clicking 

In the garage where she’d parked it 

While you were busy fetching your ball

From the bottom of the backyard hill

Which means now the game is over 

And it’s time to put the ball away

So mom can take her after-work nap

Before she heats up the casserole

She’d made on Sunday night 

Tomorrow, the game resumes.

Until then love goes back in its box 

Hidden this time, not taken

Because for you, love is a gift

Best sent wrapped in silence




Morning blushes at its eastern edges

Before the full fledged embarrassment

Of another desultory day

Poetry is no excuse for hiding

The things you would

Really like to say 

It’s winter, what are the trees up to?

Stick figured depictions

Of fireworks explosions

Pounding my fist against the frozen earth

Like I’m buried alive and the ground 

Is the satin-lined door of my own coffin 

Nothing more annoying than people

Surprised by unsurprising things

Chewing when no one else is eating

Only the poet sees you blushing

Everyone else is still sleeping

His job is to tell the world everything 

What starts in shame

Just needs to be seen

Before the glorious end


Monday, December 11, 2023


 A Living Heat

It hasn’t been a mistake, all this living

Isolated acts, sure, there are a few I’d like to have back

But life itself, anyone’s life, is never in error

Regret comes to seem more like a luxury

Affliction of the young and unencumbered 

How could I dishonor my years

By pining for anything else?

You can’t put back the snow

Just be the living heat

Melting the ice at the edge of you


Thursday, December 7, 2023


 In the Fall

In the fall the trees seize

What belongs to them

And the leaves seethe 

Orange auburn and red.

Cling to their heights

Initially, it is said,

Out of pure spite 

But day follows day

And they find common cause,

Band together, decide to fight

And make a season of it.

At sunset the light

Passes through

And everything shines.

Suddenly this world

Is a warm fire

That won’t burn down.

It’s the last stand of anyone 

Who’s ever had everything

Necessary taken away. 

Right here, just before

They start to lose their grip

Is when we first realize

We are beautiful too. 


Tuesday, December 5, 2023



All this after hours effort

Nothing more than a blind burrowing

Each line the tip of a drill

Boring right through myself

If I’m honest I’m anxious

Breaking though and finding out

What’s waiting on the other side  

Each millimeter of advance

Is a new kind of oddness

That someday I’ll recall

With sad nostalgic fondness.

It’s wearying, all this work.

I take more breaks.

Strangely, it doesn’t hurt.

It gets terribly quiet when I rest.

At this depth, I can’t hear a thing

No audible evidence of breathing 

Even thoughts are distant whispers 

I start to get a certain feeling

That where I’m heading

Is the same place I came from 

I only wonder what happened

To all the dirt



 Kingdom of Heaven

If there was just an end

No one would recognize a beginning

Because suddenly everything just ended

If there was just beginning

It means you have stumbled 

Into the Kingdom of Heaven

Because there is beginning and end

You try to find the place in the middle

In order to avoid oblivion


Monday, December 4, 2023


 How to Write a Love Letter 

Don’t ever use the word love in a poem

Don’t smudge the stationary with your rouged lips

Or spritz the envelope with your eau de parfum 

You aren’t a magician

Those things only conjure 

Your holographic form 

What I need is the real thing

What I’m trying to say is:

Come over here and do it yourself

Kiss me

Tell me you _____ me. 


Sunday, December 3, 2023


 Poem #50

This poem is nothing specific

Words themselves are all

The details you will need

If I speak obliquely

It’s because I’m worried 

The world is listening

Do you have enough here

Or is more information needed?

I’m afraid I’ve already said too much

It’s up to you to find what's missing



 Concrete Kingdom

In the concrete kingdom foisted

on dust and soil by driven men 

nothing ever lasts.

Driveways crack. Sidewalks buckle.

Vast parking lots fractured

by weeds finding atomic gaps.

It’s all runway strips and endless tarmacs

where everyone you love is taking off

just as you’re arriving.

It’s the benighted realm

paved over and pocked with holes

that are always getting patched.

But nothing lasts and everything crumbles

in a land of artificial hardness 

that’s never quite hard enough 

Would be more honest 

to build our world 

completely out of glass

We’d see everything smashed—

the matted flat grass,

dirt unfurled like ancient scrolls

Bearing answers to timeless questions

in secret runes and glyphs

that no one can translate.

We’d walk more gently.

Wouldn’t stomp our heels 

or lug around too much weight.

Tiptoe like nervous children

in the shadowed upstairs halls

when the parents would fight.

Take off our shoes.

Listen and watch.

We’d see the start of every crack.