Monthly Archives: April 2009

Closed Set

early call.

it’s a closed set
with no one but cast and crew
and no one’s seen the shooting script
until today.

the leads take stab
after stab but he flubs lines
and she loses her mind
trying to cover.

the Director
is patient
and he keeps it all rolling
but at day’s end
he calls the Producer
and says,
"we’ve got a problem here…"



The Peacock Explosion — 30/30, #33 (revised)

That our organs are colored
seems ridiculous; after all, inside us
it’s always dark.

they are bright enough.
There must be
some reason for it,
some adaptive rationale…

perhaps what we know
of the pink bowel,
yellow pancreas,
and red, red heart
is only a dimmer-switch reality,

and when we are in love,
tossed by ecstasy, enraged, roiled
with any passion, they pop
into more garish neon shades?

I like that thought. Even
if it’s not true, it should be.

I shall decide that it is, and glory
in the image I can’t see: that
all the tension and rage I’ve ever felt
have led to a peacock explosion
of light within me.

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Attending To Mundane Things (working title)

Nothing against you,
crystal skulls and pyramids,
sweat lodges and vision quests,
Tarot cards and Zodiac; you’ve served

your purposes.
It’s just that your creators are long dead
and your current slavish fans
still assume you mean more

than any other option we’re given
for understanding our place among
the things of this world.  As if they couldn’t
find peace and meaning

in the random jumble of socks in a drawer
or the shadows of skyscrapers
knifing across downtown streets
if they tried.  Every jammed closet

is a cathedral if you know
how to pray in it.  Each time clock
offers a mantra in its solid clunking down upon
a dreary card.  It’s not like

the Great Intelligence of the Universe
was absent when those things were created,
after all; the web of prophecy is splendid
precisely because it is all-inclusive,

with the profane and the sacred
being indistinguishable at close range.
When the ancients are called upon
to tell us where we’re heading, they must ask themselves:

Who are these frightened people
who do not understand how to make do
with what’s right under their noses, cobbling together
a peephole into time from whatever is close at hand?

We lifted strange clear rocks from the dirty ground
whenever we found them.  We took a deck of cards
we’d used for gambling and sorted them to see
if how they fell could tell us how we might fall.

When the king died, we cut and piled rocks
until they lined up with stars and sighted along them
so we could see where he was headed.  And in the dark
low dome of a hut covered in skins,

we poured cold water over the hearth,
drew in the steam, blew it out again
to mingle the Inner with the Outer;
something we did every day, anyway,

every time we cooked or bathed.  All we did
to meet our God was add a little attention
to the mundane.  Shape a little something
just a little bit more carefully than normal.

All we did to meet God
was look for God. 
We trusted that
we wouldn’t have to look far.


Since we’re attending to the mundane:  In regards to the 30/30, this makes 52 poems this month.  Not all were posted, so you’ll just have to trust me.

Still not a haiku among them. 

King Of The Mountain (revised)

When I was nine
they dug a hole
in a neighborhood lot
for the foundation
of my family’s new home.

They left the mountain of dirt
next to it and suddenly
I was very popular,
my parents told the local kids
I had to be there
if they wanted to play on it.

No one has to tell
a nine year old boy
how to play
“King Of The Mountain.”
The rules are simple:

fight your way up,
send the other kids tumbling down,
and when you get to the top,

scream your royalty
as loud as you can. Then,
defend it.
I was never
very good at the game.

When the dirt was gone,
so were the kids.

At least two of them died
within a few years:
one when he thought he could cross the road
faster than a car could get to him,
one when he thought he was better on water skis
than he actually was.

My folks put a maple tree
in the corner of the lot
where the mountain used to be.

I don’t see my folks much anymore,
but I like that maple tree a lot.
It was too small to climb
when I was a kid. I could climb it now,
I suppose, but I’m too old
for that kind of thing.

But I think about climbing it,
as far up into it as I can,
every time I see it.

If I could I’d sit up there
all by myself for a long time.
I’d be quiet when I got to the top,
though. It would just be silly
to shout anything
with no one around to try
and take me down.

But God help me,
I’d be smiling.

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In the afterlife, the hearts of the famous
become crusty loaves of warm bread
gold-dusted with cornmeal,

which are consumed with delight
by the masses who gather
to feast.

The famous do not care.
They’ve had their fill.
They sit on their white porches

imagining entire lands without bread
continuing to be satisfied through them,
with no more effort on their own part.

Take our hearts, they say gladly,
we have no more need of them,
too often they were broken at the first,

or were broken again and again
as we tried to keep up with your needs.
Take and eat, while we rest.

The Bend

that first note
rose from the remains
of a broken kora
lying on soft ground
somewhere in the west of Africa
right where it fell
from someone’s hands

faced with what was happening
it did what it could

it bent

the old saying goes that
in the face of the deadly rigid
you survive
when you bend

so it bent

and slipped the bars of its cage

landed in the dank wood
of a porch pillar somewhere

stayed there
a nail driven into the post
to anchor a string
gave it enough room to come out

it sang along that string
until it was free enough

to get out into the moist air
and bend

you can play the blues on anything
if you understand that
the bend
is all there is to it

don’t need a lot of school
to learn how to bend
in fact

schooling can make you

but the bend remembers everything
and can teach you everything

the sacred lesson

all you gotta do
if you don’t want to break
is bend

all you gotta do
to stand tall
is bend

all you gotta move through
moves for you
if you bend

the deadly rigid
has nothing for
the bend

when they strike you
put a chain on you
or a whip to you
put a rock to you
or a gun to you
slap a law on you
or a noose to you
put a break in you
or a shame in you
tell a lie on you
or rip on you
strip a pride from you
break a heart in you

even if you’re the one
doing it to you

when you can’t stand straight anymore

just recall
how far out of line
your spine can go
and still you can manage
to keep your feet on the ground

the blues is nothing
but the sound of how far
you can bend


Likely Duende piece.  I might actually play this one myself…

A Short Opinion On The Election Of President Obama

no more water
the fire next time

sounds better
when you bend it

so it’s
less a threat than
a recognition
of how parched
things may get

even though thirst
is momentarily


note:  something I evidently wrote a while ago but only found this AM.  not sure of the inspiration — was someone singing this at one of the inaugural festivities? 

My Favorite Poets

my favorite poets
are the ones who understand
that they will likely never write anything
to match the power
of a gloriously welcome
stupid song
that has been poured
through a well-funded microphone
into a carefully crafted vessel
shaped to hold obvious longing
and sold through scrupulously fashioned outlets
to masses dying for something simple
that explains the obvious
better than they can

my favorite poets
realize that their job
is to work alone
in the wee hours
crafting a brew of the things
that don’t go down
quite so easily

so that they
(if they ever get the chance)
can slip what they’ve created
to those who don’t know what they’re missing
but who know they’re missing something
in their daily diet

in the hope that
when the work’s
been taken in
some number of those they’ve dosed
will say

"i don’t know what the hell it is about it
but it works for me
on me
through me
in me
and –son of a bitch!
— is me"


There are daffodils and hyacinths and green hostas in the bed out front
that is bounded by black rocks half the size of my head
one of which has been lifted from its place and hurled
through the window of the green house across the street
by a man who is now crouching behind his green Town Car
to avoid the rock being thrown by his baby mama from the porch
as she screams and curses him while her friends try to stop her
and the baby, the baby, is quiet in the arms of another friend
who’s hanging back a little out of the line of fire
under the young tree in the front yard that is just starting to bud

and I’m telling myself
even as I dial 911
because I’m afraid the next rock thrown
will cave in the baby’s skull

that this is why
I never had kids

No matter how hopeful spring made me feel
or the seduction of the scent of a baby’s head
I knew by 25 for sure I’d never have a kid

because by 12 I knew something was wrong with me
and by 14 I had a sense of what it was
by 15 I’d pulled my first knife on a trivial transgressor
and by 17 I’d realized how hard it would forever be
not to pull it again
by 19 I was awash in bad chemicals
my thoughts swimming through what I always saw
as a bile green soup in my brain
by 24 I’d married thinking I had to become whole soon
by 25 I knew I was broken beyond repair

you can call it genetics
or upbringing
it doesn’t really matter
either way
I decided that if I would never have peace myself
I surely couldn’t pass the war along to someone new

so I took the unkindest cut
and became

I don’t blame anyone for the trouble I’ve been
except me
because too many people weather what I’ve been through
with little more than a pill and a therapy bill
and no matter what I throw at the storm inside
I spend more time bailing and sealing cracks
than moving forward
I write poems because
there’s something I can live with
in that necessary falsification
inherent in this obsession
for the making of worlds
I claim to control

I have lived on the margin
between a rock through a window
and a noose in the basement
in the green light of a planet devoted to

and seen that it is not for me

The Town Car squeals off once the last stone is thrown
and the baby’s handed back to the mother

When the police pull up a few minutes later
she stands there telling her story
with the still silent baby in  her arms

I watch from behind the blinds

She is pointing at my flower bed
as the cop hefts the rock
and they both look across the street

I am invisible
and when I look away
I swear I am done with all this
and it’s as if I was never there

which is
all I really want —

but now
hours later
this poem comes like
unruly birth
the hint of green in a rain-black bud
a longing for a legacy

another child I never wanted
and one I am unworthy
to have fathered

The New Promise: Prelude

Before I continue,
I need your word
on something;
come forward
and listen a moment
before you agree
to what is being asked
of you.

Not far from here
an owl is speaking a dead name,
and the sound is like the turning
of a discarded barrel
under a waterfall. In a channel
cut beside the main bed of the river
a trout is belly up.
A tree will fall here later tonight
and no breeze will notice its absence,
but I can tell you now,
even as we see how quickly most things end,
that you will be loved for a long time
after your imprisonment here is over;

there will be meals where you are celebrated
and your name will be used freely
when people speak of the shards
left by the side of the hearth
when a long cherished vessel
has broken. You will be as free as anything can be,
once it is released from its form and function
and re-fashioned as a token of God.

If you choose, we can talk for hours
of that freedom
and the fleeting but sacred nature of a warm hand
laid upon your own,

or we can simply sit together
without speaking and imagine
a land of bread and milk waiting out there,
not silent, but full of the sound
of passages.
But before we do,
I need to know if you are ready

to live as if
this temporary life
still matters, as if we can be comfortable
with how the owl looks at us,
steadily, tenderly,
even as he begins to call…

come now, and answer,
before he can speak.

The Heat

Once the temperature hits fifty
regularly, I scorn to wear a coat. 
It’s bravado
or fetish, really, not about
not being cold anymore, just that
it’s time for winter to go
and I figure maybe if I tough it out
it’ll get scared and back away.

it’ll hit 70 for the first time
in 147 days.  I’m ready.
The daffodils that have been hanging tough
on the end of the walk can’t either. 

I can feel for those first daffodils,
the set on my corner, flashing their colors.  Tomorrow,
they’ll come into their own.  If they could swagger
and tag the neighborhood, they would. 
So would I.  The heat’s
got its eyes on us. 
We gotta represent. 

good night

Still as
the cat
on my covered feet.

Open to whatever
crawls in with me
to accompany my sleep.

Prepared to answer
any question
a rare dream may pose,

or at least to entertain it
long enough to decide
if it’s worthy of an answer.

Good night, 
good night.
I shall hang in the dark sling

till tomorrow’s
first moment,
waiting for it

to swing me loose
into whatever day
may bring.

Fable: The Dead Lamb

Once upon a time,

a dead lamb woke up
in a parking lot, inside
a minivan.  Struggling
against the shrinkwrap
and the styrofoam tray,
she looked up
at the dome light
and thought:

where’s my mother?
and where are my limbs?

Now, it’s old news
that an orphan
will fixate on a dim glow
somewhere above
and demand to know
where its missing parts are,

but what happens next —
the escape, the horror of the shoppers
as the lump of meat bounces bleating
from the car and charges haphazardly
across the asphalt toward the meager grass
on the islands between the rows of spaces —

that’s something else.
We feel hope
under the shiver
running up our backs:
a small chance of salvation

We the
born to be killed,
then packaged and consumed, might have
a chance at redemption;

even if the life
we regain will be short, unnervingly strange,
and red-lined with incoherent noise and pain,
at least it will be
ours and ours alone.

The look
of rewired surprise
on the faces of those who see us rise
will be enough to require the phrase

"happily ever after"

to be returned
to the language
as something more
than just the end
of a story.

Mistakes We’ve Made (30/30, #35)

1. Inevitable

Nothing is.  Not even
the old saw about death
and taxes was correct.  You can escape the latter
through the former, and as for Death…well,
Death is just damn good.  Hasn’t failed yet
on the most obvious level,
but he’s been missing a crucial opportunity
all this time. See,
an amoeba formed
at the dawn of life has managed to keep
some identity, somehow, by dividing often enough
to make the concept of individual death
less clear.  There’s a man or woman,
or maybe a llama or a deer,
somewhere in Peru or perhaps Bonn,
who’s got enough sense
of origin inside to make it plain
that something has always survived,
and that something keeps spreading itself
around.  When it goes at last
into the Big Light, Death will follow it there
and they’ll each have to concede
that if Death is inevitable,
then so is Life, until the day
when they prove each other wrong.

2. God

Boy, did we get this one wrong:
for one thing, God’s neither
infallible nor all knowing, and God’s
got no fingers in anything we care about,
famously saying once through a middle man
that he’s bored with the sound of our assemblies.
He (and I use the pronoun with the full sense
of how he’d snicker if he were paying attention)
spends far more time with dice than we think.
Everything’s a gamble to God — the free will,
the predestination, the mysterious ways,
the whole rigamarole we’ve established
to console ourselves as to what happens
as he pulls back, releases,
and waits for them bones to settle. 
Which explanation we choose for the roll’s result
is left entirely up to us…exactly as we should expect
from a gambler who wears lucky socks
just to watch his dawn catch fire every day.

3. Peace

It doesn’t come from absence
but from presence.
It defines itself better
by commission than by omission.
We expect too much from it —
the instant it’s here, we agitate
for its continued existence, forgetting
that it lives for the moment
when we stop thinking of it
as an unusual, exotic creature
and let it graze on our lawn,
doing whatever it likes as long as it is

God Is a VeeJay (for Bill Campana) — 30/30, #34

MTV2 is playing
as I read a poem about
about a man
eating a live fish.

I look up
to see a heavy metal video
in which someone is scaling
a large fish —

that if I do have
a personal savior, then
verily, He rocks out.