Monthly Archives: June 2009

business closing, fire sale

there is a fire ready to go here
where the sign reads
“building for lease, business zoned,
great location.”

here’s the tinder:

a manager’s Audi TT
in a parking lot full
of old pickups and beat vans.
the receiving dock empty.
the shipping dock empty.
fifteen minutes between phone calls.

and the sparks:
the few who are left
are still unpacking, testing,
repacking.

a time clock
marks the quiet.

when the last workbench is clear,

here comes the smolder
as they lock the doors
behind them when they leave,
looking around at each other.

later, the blaze:
at night,
in bars and homes,
bursting forth
full force:
danger
and hot fear.

the building is intact;
the people, embers.

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draft in lieu of a poem

When the hard work
of putting one word
after another
becomes a trudge
through mud
while being whipped
by the thin branches
you’ve pushed aside
and then released
which then snap back into
your face,

it is best
to find a perch on
one of those
cutting twigs,

let yourself dry
and rest

until the words
fall from you
as song,

doing for themselves
what you have been trying
to make them do.

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Interview on Eclectica

There’s an interview with me by Write Bloody Press author Lea Deschenes in this month’s Eclectica Journal:

Eclectica

Thanks to both Lea and Eclectica for this opportunity to talk about myself…a poet’s greatest wish.


Celebrity Deaths

since it is decreed
that everyone shall mourn them
I shall write a poem of mourning

in which I say that I do not
mourn them

except as selfishness applies
in the sense of mourning
things they are not here to produce
which I might have enjoyed
even though I did not enjoy
the products they did produce
when they were here
so I do not mourn
what potential they did not achieve
as it was nothing I anticipated

if I mourn anything
in a genuine way
I mourn the connections I have made
with others in heated discussions
of the worth or character of the dead
and their efforts

the memories of the faces of those
who joined me in my opinions
and argued on my side and then
we went for breakfast still talking
of anything other than where we began

and the faces of those who later became friends
agreeing to let the disagreements stand
as no obstacle to respect
so we shared a drink and talked again
of anything but the topic that separated us

what those who died have done for me
is offer me
a place to stand while i determined
my own path

what they did is only as important to me
as to how much it allows me
to make my own stand

it makes me
feel all-american
to use a celebrity death
for my own purposes

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Background

Excited? Passionate?
No.  Not me.  I listen
to sidewalk and kitchen talk,
any sound of my own
veiled in the meter of a slow rain.

There are times I wish
I was thunder, or more: lightning
tearing a tree down and startling everyone
within view of it,  leaving a hole behind,
or splinters; at the very least, my own story.

Instead, I’m the hiss of
a presence sensed, soaking through,
making the ground soft.
Everyone who walks by
can see where they’ve been
because I’ve been there.

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Scrolling Down

Bird with three wings
found in Suffolk.  Infants
born singing
in Sao Paulo.   A ghost,
seen by thousands and identified
as a long dead rock star,
hovering just above the rush hour traffic
on the ring road around Atlanta —
in broad daylight, laughing
and strumming a lute.

In Tehran,
green turns overnight
to red.

The severed arm of a Jamaican wrestler
miraculously regenerates right on the floor
of the ring.  A Swiss man five days underwater
is found alive and breathing through a straw.
Slingshots have replaced cell phones
as the new status symbol for Japanese youth.

A Karachi flower market
reopens for business with a new look
after a car
previously pollinated with C-4
bears fruit.

A new puzzle craze
sweeps the Internet:
people competing
to connect dots
and create pictures
on a screen filled with nothing
but dots.  Winners
will be chosen
at a date to be announced.

In Kentucky, authorities report
a young boy has killed his entire family
because they were demons.  The death
of a middle aged shepherd in Andorra is linked to
a traditional curse of the Roma.  Paris
is now the world capital of sleeping sickness.

The news takes the world by surprise.

Investigations continue,
with results expected.

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To Become A Fish

you don’t want to breathe
today

when each sound is music.
to blow a wrong note

seems criminal.
still, you must

breathe, so you go into
a place you think is empty

and continue to do so,
only to find

hosts of song entering,
ready to drown you.

your eyes are swimming,
your lungs filling with voices

without malice
that are still killing you.

to live, you become
a fish: you learn to live in it

until you can evolve
back onto solid ground.

until you can sing solo again,
no one listening, your voice

slung out on the air
in search of a chorus

that can sustain you;
harmony, not unity.

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Aching

When he hit the ground
after his undignified flight,
with his feet wrenched to one side
and his head surprisingly
unhurt despite the angle of the fall,
his first thought was of all he had to do that day
and of how feared being seen as inadequate
if he was unable to do it.

So he got in the car
and went to work. 
He limped into the building at eight
and figured it would be okay
as long as he stayed off his feet.

By ten o’clock, his leg was fine
but the pain in his back had begun
to bubble and throb.  He could feel
a curve in his spine that wasn’t there before,
a gentle, sinister arch
two inches to the left
of the normal line,
and whether it was real or not

the pain of holding himself up
began to play his head for pity.
He ground his teeth and managed a smile
while doing what he had to do

to keep himself upright,
to get things done,
to fight past his agony
and look like a productive member
of this workforce…

in other words,
to do the same thing he did
every day.

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I Love My Monsters

I love my monsters,
my underbed smoking hobos
with their screwy eyes
and chilled tongues, the burble
of their mangled appreciation
for my tension, their green and yellow
foods!  their angry love of childhood
never over! their dancing, separated
fingers coming up the sheets
to poke at my hip and remind me

I’ve always danced my best
when I’m most terrified
of what happens when I
stop!

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Pruning

Before you cut
that wrecked and twisted branch
free from the tree, note
that while
something made it
ugly,  something also kept it able
to bear fruit:

maybe the same thing,
something we can’t know
without allowing the branch
to remain?

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Another Rejection Letter

Last week I mailed a letter to my alien abductors
casually mentioning that it had been a while
and if they weren’t doing anything
I had a free weekend coming up.

I received a cordial but firm note today
that simply read, “We’ve learned all we can
from you, and do not wish to pursue
further investigations.  Best of luck, Oort.”

I tore it up and burned it in an ashtray.
After all the trouble I went through
to get that address, you’d think I’d deserve more
than a form letter with an auto-signature.

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Choice

Unmerciful evening:

early morning wake up needed tomorrow
for a work day
with little promise to it —
and yet, unable to sleep.

Three cigarettes left,

the wet hiss
of hard rain on warm asphalt
discouraging any desire to go out
for a fresh pack.

Shit on TV, shit on the radio,
and bored with all the music
in the house.

Words themselves
bore and bore again.

So, decision time:

turn in to toss for a hundred hours,
or bore on to see if something can happen,

to strive to find mercy
where none appears to be?

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P. C.

It’s absurd,

how proud I am
of having no friends
who use “gay”
as a perjorative,

as if
such careful speech
among careful friends
is truly evidence
of care, when
I consider

how quick I am
to provide a disclaimer
regarding my own
orientation
during my own passionate defenses
of equality.

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Conversation

Outside in the street
the dense chunk
of a slammed door.

A hard, confident summons:

“Hey pendejo –”

followed by
two men speaking
I can’t really hear.  Then,
the first voice again —

“you never know.
When it comes,
it comes.”

I turn off the light.

When it comes,
it comes.  I live that way too,
waiting for it.

But outside —
nothing more.  Whenever it comes,
it seems,
won’t be
tonight.

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Home Of The Blues

It’s Saturday
at 12:30 AM
in Gilrein’s Steak House and Blues Club
on the corner of Main and Piedmont
in Worcester, Massachusetts:
no showcase club, no fancy fake joint
for polished stars to shine in.  It’s where you go
if you feel your blues in your old bones.   A place where
the sidemen who kept Chicago steady come
to play for people who know their names
without looking them up.

Hubert Sumlin’s been drunk here more than once,
and more than once the doorman’s cleared a path
for Pinetop Perkins’ ladies
as they queened their way in
to hear Daddy roll those elegant ivories home.
Big names come through that door unannounced after hours
from posher places where the blues are just a way for fancy folks
to slum a little
with something they will never fully understand,
come here for the chance to play their old stuff
with their old friends
in an old, old club.

Tonight, the Blue Dogs are on stage to say farewell.
It’s 1:00
and last call is half an hour away
when Danny steps to the mike.

Danny is
35 years old,
been a legend in this town
since he was 14.
Makes a guitar pray.
Makes you pray along.
The Blue Dogs
are his latest band
have a rabid
following
but Danny
is calling them quits tonight
and heading off to Nashville
to play sessions.
He’s headed for the big time
and we don’t know when we’ll see him
this cheap or this close
again.

We know what’s coming.

Danny doesn’t sing much
but there’s one song he’s done
in every band he’s been in
since he was a kid
and no one here is ready to say good bye until
we hear him sing it one last time.
Dobie Gray, in 1973,
had a hit with one perfect slice
of country soul tinged blue.
Danny long ago
made it his own.
If you took a poll
half the folks here tonight
would likely say he wrote it.

The drummer clicks two sticks together
into the liquid opening
of keyboards laced up tight
to Danny’s shimmering chords.
The bass player lays down a
walking line that’s more like a lope
while the crowd moves in
and the song begins:

Day after day I’m more confused
And I look for the light
Through the pouring rain.
You know that’s a game that I hate to lose
And I’m feelin’ the strain, ain’t it a shame...

The fat man wheezing in the corner
through his cancer
starts rethinking his plan to die on purpose
when he gets home.

Beginning to think that I’m wasting time
I don’t understand the things I do
The world outside looks so unkind.
And I’m counting on you, to carry me through.

The woman with the missing tooth
is imagining a bird of prey
that will scar her husband
when she gets home.

And when my mind is free
You know a melody can move me
And when I’m feelin’ blue
The guitar’s coming through to soothe me

A couple forms
in the shadow of the song’s bridge
and tries to decide where they will go
when they go home.

Thanks for the joy that you’ve given me

I want you to know I believe in your song
Rhythm and rhyme and harmony
You help me along, making me strong.

Danny backs away from the mike for the end,
stretches out in the coda, line after line
of startling decisions, choices made tonight
that won’t last longer than it took to make them.
He’s saying farewell to what he knows,
he’s just another listener listening to himself,
he’s just another reason to keep the night rolling
when Gilrein’s closes its doors twenty minutes from now,
building another story on a castle full of stories,
and when he leaves it behind tonight,
it’s not like he he’ll never come home…

but he knows
he’ll never really come home.

What happened in Gilrein’s
is nothing anyone can describe
without a blue note.

All anyone can ever say is

tomorrow night,
next time,
good night,
let’s go baby,
see ya,
good night…

Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I want to get lost in your rock and roll
And drift away…

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