eBooks available!

I have eBooks/PDFs of my work available for sale to those who might be interested. All were previously offered as rewards to various tiers of my Patreon subscribers (a program I will be continuing there, btw). If you want access to the most recent collections as they come out, I’d go there. Just sayin’.

The titles include:
Five separate annual “best of” collections from 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. I release these annually, so 2022 and beyond will eventually be here, as well.

“Then Play On,” a chapbook of poems about music

Pushpins and Thumbtacks,” a volume about icons and cliches of American culture

“Noted In Passing,” a revised eBook of a chapbook from 2012 that was a limited edition written for a single feature

“White Pages,” my collection of poems related to race and its role in my life

Decay Diary,” a collection of poems about aging

In the Time Of Contagion,” a collection of poems about you-know-what

“The Wrong Flowers,” a prose/poetry meditation on the state of the USA in 2020

Show Your Work,” an eBook version of an earlier, out of print chapbook.

“The Day,” a selection from 20 years of poems about 9/11/01.


Minimal # of repeats among the collections.

All are available as either PDF and ePUB formats.

If you are interested, let me know with a comment on this post. Right now? They are 1 for $5 through Paypal, 3 for $12. We can talk about more if you want more.

Thanks.


Kinder, Gentler

Enraged at unknown others’
words and actions
read or heard about or seen
through a screen, I say
so often to myself,
“May Death take you…”
as a curse upon them.

I walk away muttering, change
the channel muttering,
drive past muttering; I throw
the middle finger, sometimes
I even shout out loud in the car.

Then I grow ashamed of myself:
who am I to lay this magic
like a bludgeon upon these people?
I try and try to change, to say:

may Death take you
as a taxi would, to your
desired destination.
May your ride
be white-knuckled and filled
with obscene commentary from
a wild-eyed driver,
but may you end up
where you need to be.

May Death take you
in a horse cart to
a field of long grasses
and small blue flowers
on long stems that scratch you
as you walk to the center of
the centering meadow,
where you shall lie in the sun,
itchy from the passage,
but where you wanted to be.

May Death take you
in Death’s time
as Death wills it,
being what you are.

May Death take me
when my work is done,
as soon as it is done;
may Death take you
before you can finish yours.

May Death take us both
as we would like to be taken
whether or not our work is done:
gently, with a pat on the back
or the head as we are guided past
the Veil and through the Gate,

and may I not see you there.


A Broken Shell

I knew a broken shell
with a name and a shape,
a solid being somehow
more or less invisible
to people on the street
where they lived.

Some said they had
terrible history,
some said they cracked
in the recent past,
some said nothing. Most

said nothing, just crossed
themselves or looked
away from the thing
rummaging through
the recycle bins once a week.
It was the eyes or the clothes
or the nonsense they spouted
that kept people looking away

and one day they did not
come around anymore, some said
they were the dead found behind
the convenience store but there was
disagreement about that but not about

how much my dog missed them,
how they loved to pat my dog
whenever they passed my own
precariously inhabited building,
long out of code, the unregistered cars
in the driveway, the weary yard
full of feeders and birds; whoever
that cracked shell was, I didn’t know,
but I trusted my dog
for missing them when they were gone.


Consent

To see yourself. To see another.
To reach out to touch when invited.
To be touched in return at your own invitation.
To strip another, then play.
To be stripped by another, then played with.
To strip mutually and play together.
To take on full nakedness and take on all else that way.
To wear the playclothes, to take on all the toys.
To be yourself. To be another. To be each other.
To play with another at being selves or others.
To arch and stretch and turn and moan together or alone.
To do nothing like anything already spoken of.
To find another way to see the Fire and chase it.
To come to the edge of the Fire and run with it as it gallops along.
To run alone or with others parallel to the edge of the Fire.
To leap across into the char behind the Fire’s edge.
To leap back again. To do the great back and forth across the Fire.
To be flame resistant. To be Fireproof. To be unscathed.
To be singed. To be the Fire. To be burned.
To find yourself or another in the burn.
To never cease burning. To live on Fire.


Angry

Advice so frequently given
it’s almost an instinct:
Don’t go to bed angry.

But what if we’ve been hearing it wrong,
forgetting a comma and a capital letter:
Don’t go to bed, Angry? What if

Angry is a being? A trollish
essential worker. Angry’s job is
a work-through-the-night position.

Angry doesn’t and shouldn’t sleep, runs
on maintenance shop coffee and off-brand corn chips.
Chows down on liverwurst on white with mustard

at 2:37 AM. Fuels up to poke your fires
all damn night. Burns off the reluctance
and the civilization you cherish

to keep you warm and alive. Angry
gets a bad reputation only because
they’re working class efficient, proletarian

strong in the face of the Big Bad.
Get up and see Angry at the foot
of your bed holding your armor.

Go to bed, Angry. Thank you for keeping watch.
We should count on you more than we do.
We ought to take a note, stay up, see

what the Big Bad’s been up to
while we sleep. You can whet a blade better
in the dark, at any rate — see the sparks,

smell the burned metal. Angry
keeps us honest, ready. Don’t go to bed,
Angry, as long as there are billionaires to scare.


Pandemic Blues

The clinic at my old university
is a parking lot full of hope and fear.

One odd man in a boonie hat
pacing, obviously talking to himself

or to someone on an unseen phone;
from here it seems like he needs convincing.

Pairs of college kids laughing
and walking masked toward their gym.

The older couple complaining
as they return, unvaccinated,

to the car, that now they’ll have to
get all geared up for it again.

I’m sitting in my car
already double shot and thinking

about whether it will ever seem
like forever ago that we were here —

not wishing to go back to all the chaos
that got us here; more precisely,

that someday we will be in a place
where past as prologue means

that we shall find ourselves wiser,
steeped in a new understanding.


Agony And Equilibrium

The secret to not feeling pain
is to swim in a world of hurt
so thick and profound
you cannot tell the difference between
agony and getting by.

I’m sorry if this
suggests that personal heartbreak
is my job to such a point
that I appear to have tattooed it
on my eyes, shading everything.

Believe me, I wish that were true
for it would suggest that I believed
in redemption, that I believed that
erasure was possible with
work that allows for art’s divine intervention.

I might believe that, if
the right god had ever appeared to offer
a hand. If the art had ever taken me closer
to that throne — bah. There’s no
one throne, no matter what the books say.

I’ve read them all, even written a few.
The secret to not feeling agony
is to make a place to put its overflow.
Art can do that. It can’t erase it completely,
but out there, somewhere: equilibrium.


Hawks and Vultures

Overhead, one bird of prey.
Most likely redtail but surely a hawk
surmised from shape and behavior,
but in truth its identity for me is uncertain
from this angle.

Not a vulture,
of course; those are obvious
from below by the fingered wings,
the circles tightening and lowering.
But otherwise,
no true clue.

I should know this.
Once upon a time, I did
or thought I did. I spent more time
outdoors, from predawn
to deep into the night;
I looked up more often. I was confident
every time I pronounced my
identification of the shapes above.

I was, I’m sure, as wrong
as often as I was right
back then. Am I smarter now
that I just shake my head and say,

“I have no sense of truth
when faced with this, other than
the truth that I am simply thrilled
to see it out my front window
and am relieved to know
that is no vulture out there circling me,
at least not one I can see.”


Shot

In his head, loud
had always meant final

and had been the sound
of closing. It briefly surprised him

to find that his staggering in silence
after the loud was closer to the mark.

The bullets screwed through him
noiselessly on their trajectories.

The sweep of pain throughout his body
did not make a sound

and smothered
all the rest.

Death did it all
with a long white finger to his lips.


Four In the Morning

Up and at it,
four in the morning.

I’m not an insomniac.
I just went to sleep early
and got up early, yet somehow
I am dismayed;

can’t imagine why
I’m being subjected
to such disturbances at
this hour;

don’t get why birds dig singing
in “darkest before the dawn”
time, don’t get the junkie upstairs
rearranging furniture since 2 AM;

do not relish the too-loud scraping
of my bracelet against the shell
of my keyboard — the bracelet
I never take off as it speaks of

what you might need to know
if by chance you find me dying.
I suppose that’s also what I’m typing
at four in the morning: tales

of who I am and what you should know
in case you come upon me alive
or dying or even
long dead;

one of those things is that
I am the kind of man who will get up
at four in the morning, get out of bed
and step away from sleep to ruminate

on the natural order: birds singing
before dawn; an addict unable
to consider others; a small noise,
metal on metal; a slight clatter

I’ve heard so often I only notice it
when I need to fold it into my art
and change it from random annoyance
to a metaphor for life and death

at four in the morning, late April,
spring beginning to spring just before dawn.


Tides

Shocked by the daily news
being revealed as a lie and then being
walked back?

This country is a manipulation by nature.
Why did you ever think
anything that makes that work

would diminish, can diminish?
Expecting truth to come out
is a misunderstanding of what it is.

This country
is liquid by nature.
It tries to drown the truth

every time it opens its trap.
The truth disappears
in the flood. It stands there

under the surface, immobile.
You think it’s dead because
of that? Truth never dies.

It just stands still, hidden
from view, disguised by this country’s
hard, dishonest work.

But it doesn’t die. It holds
its breath. It stands there
in the muck, remembering

the existence of tides.


Ghosted

If you’re going to go, just go,
sneer the seemingly-healthy. They tell you
that announcing your departure from anywhere
before you go is all about seeking attention
and drama. Just ghost the party, the friends,
the community. No need to announce the exit,
sneer the seemingly-healthy. The ones
who feel entitled
to owe no one else a damn thing.

I think of the ones I knew
who just left, ghosting from parties,
news feeds, friend lists;
I count the ones
who then slew themselves
before we knew they were gone.

I think of the ones
who made some gesture
before departure, something
dramatic, clumsy; some outcry;
I count the ones
who are still here
because someone responded.

Don’t hang up, I used to plead.
I’d hang on as long as I could hear them
still there, still breathing.

No one uses a phone that way anymore.
Now I send a begging text, an instant message,
a public post —

You still here?
Why don’t you respond?



The Fool’s Dance

You thought you were safe
from what you had asked for,
you fool, even as you pulled it
toward you.

As the moonlight
fell across you in the garden,
naked from the waist up, carving
the runes into the slab of oak,
saying to yourself that safety
depended on your sure strokes and
not seeing at all that this is how
it was meant to be

it approached, concealing itself
within your certainty, your common
spirituality, your academic slant
upon such things.

You followed all the rules
and said everything right
as you worked

and so it came upon you, chuckling
in spite of itself, hearing from afar
the slight mistake you’d made:
thinking you were in control
of what you’d be summoning.

You look up.

There it is, not looking quite
as you’d expected but eager to begin
the ancient fool’s dance:
the side step, the menacing curtsey,
the too-close bow.

The leap.


Readiness

With no regret for how I have been refined
by the decline of who I long thought I was
into this realization of what I truly am.

With no regard for what others may think of me
in my next stage — whether they pity me or break free
of me, whether they care for or studiously avoid me.

With no clear choice as to how I must plod through
the remainder of this current stage as it becomes
a bog sucking at my steps, begging me to stop, rest, and rot.

With no revelation in the transformation as it unfurls me
into some flag for others to marvel at or fear, the borders
of my territory becoming clear though little within is obvious.

With no usable personal history to back me up as I puzzle through
to whatever is next, and no proven sense of what might be next
as those who might know and pass this way cannot speak my tongue.

With everything I have said being true,
I once again come to the window in the morning
and, as always, raise the blinds to see the sun.


White Whale

If “the Other” continues
to bother you into madness
simply by existing,

by being elusive,
by being
your fixation,

I shall warn you
of the consequences
by reminding you of Captain Ahab,

of how he hunted, how he died,
of how his violence and obsession
changed the whale not at all;

of how the Great American Story
isn’t named for the captain,
but for the focus of his hatred.

Call them whatever
you want, but remember:
in this story Moby Dick

shall also be Ishmael,
at once wounded and triumphant,
the one left to tell the tale.


Look Out Kid, It’s Something You Did

You built a fire
by which to keep warm
and which you hoped
would keep demons away,

a fire you tended badly
and let burn mile after mile
of the earth, let the ash
poison the sea,

not to mention your role
in what it did to the air
and all the flesh and hair
that burned as well.

Now you have the nerve
to fall in love with a song
that insists you never built it,
and all I can think of

is how much you must love
the tale of Peter denying Jesus
and somehow being
forgiven for it.