Monthly Archives: July 2009

Detour

Avoiding the traffic ahead
I turned down a road
I knew I’d traveled before

and soon recognized landmarks
and even individual trees,
was able to anticipate curves

and frost heaves, knew I’d chosen
a direction that would lead me
to where I was originally going.

All that said, I was still unsure
of exactly where I would come out
and was thus amazed when I found myself

facing a crossroad I had left
fifteen minutes before I deviated
from my appointed path to try this route —

and so I began again, resolving never again
to make another unexpected choice in response
to traffic jams, accidents, road work, or delays.

It did not matter what I had learned
on the path through the detour,
I told myself.  It does not matter what we learn

on a journey if it takes us back to the beginning.
Progress is measured in efficiency and time saved,
I tell myself as I fume in the car

in the sunlight,
in the summer,
with the radio playing a once-forgotten song I love.

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How Sondra Dies

Sondra, you don’t know it
but you’re now officially dead.
You could have avoided it, but now
it’s too late.  You just ate the egg

containing the specific cholesterol
that will break free from an artery,
block your heart and kill you
a couple of years from now.

None of us avoids the end, and none of us
really knows which of our many decisions
get us there long before the moment itself.
Even the gun toters, the leapers, the razor children

get there long before they choose their weapons
for the duel they are going to lose.  It’s the way
of things: every choice a final choice, no matter
what we actually choose.

Whether your Eventual Stairway
leads up or down,
you’re on the approach now, Sondra,
walking briskly toward a handrail not yet in sight.

Don’t strain yourself, not that it matters really,
certain consequences are certain now
and while you don’t know exactly
when they’ll be felt, they will be, and it won’t be good,

Sondra, it won’t be good…but lucky for you,
you don’t have a clue.  You can’t hear me.
I can only watch tenderly and never let on.  If you knew,
you would call it cruel. Imagine how I feel before you judge…

but that’s unimportant.  Anyway, I will one day let you know
that it wasn’t all for naught…see,
earlier today,
when you sang “Hotel California”

in the shower for the third-to-the-last time? 
Next time, I promise you’ll be in tune.  And the time after that,
you’ll be even better.  And when you sing it
for the last time I will make you feel better

than you ever have felt.  You’ll step out wet
and reach for the towel.
You’ll dry yourself off
and turn toward the sun-filled window.

What happens after that, I cannot say. 

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Life Of The Party

This party’s a bore.

Slink away unnoticed.
That’s the plan.

Sneak away from the bonfire
past groping lovers,
across slimy rocks
toward your car.

You slip.
Rings of ripples spread out
from where you fall in.

Everyone’s running,
pointing and laughing.
No one tries to help
as you duck below. 

For the last time
you lament
that all the good stuff happens
after you split.  You drown
thinking you should have done this
long ago.  No one will ever forget it.

You’re a star at last. 

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On Your Skin, It Shines


— for Henry Louis Gates and James Crowley

It’s an oil,
a white oil,
that gets on everything.
It clumps in dark corners
where if you put a light on it
it’s obvious
but
spread it around enough
and it becomes invisible,
almost intangible
until you try to grip something.

If you’re born coated with it
you forget it’s there.
They — the ones who came before
and know the stuff —
teach you how
to work it, how to make it your friend,
how to hold things.
You don’t even remember it’s there
once you get the knack. 

It’s no wonder
that you’re insulted when someone
calls you “slick” as they try to seize you
and make you see how on your skin,
it shines so evenly and on theirs,
it’s a pattern of smears and blotches.
No wonder that when you try to touch
those exposed patches,
it comes between you. 

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The Desert Island Question

I’d take no vocals with me
to the desert island
and no music of the moment:

just water sounds looped endlessly,
birdcalls,
heartbeats recorded at various times
in utero,

at moments of stress and serenity,
on the occasion of slowing down and ceasing at death.

And movies?  Why bother?
With all that sky above and
a global ocean before me,
I might learn something at last.

As for books:
well, there’s one cliche
that makes sense: I’d bring
ten thick blank books —
but just one ultra-fine point pen.
The ink might run out
long before the pages did,

or perhaps not. Perhaps
I could devote the time
to conservation: placing one
small, perfectly printed word
in the center of each creamy leaf.

When they come for my bones
they will puzzle over them —
why they are the words they are,
why the last word of all
on the final page of the book
is “saved.”

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Half-Breed/Half-Awake

A lovely
and gently dotty man
with long hair and longer memory
is trying to break into my house
to steal my money
or to maybe to burn sweetgrass at my feet
while I am sleeping.

I’ve got
a Louisville Slugger
behind the door,
a Bowie knife
in the nightstand drawer.

I hear him trying the locks
and murmuring to himself.
It’s not a language I understand
but I recognize it, something I hear
every time
I go around pontificating
on my nature
versus my nurture.

One move,
and I can pull that knife.
Two steps,
and I can have
that bat in my hand.
Two more and I can be
waiting behind the cabinet
where he won’t see me
as he enters,

but I’m still lying here
with choices hovering above me.

I can easily snatch the right one
out of the dawn
at any time.

There’s still time to choose.

I’ll give it another few seconds
and then I’ll decide…

oh, hell:

Grandfather or Stranger,
please come in, I’ve got coffee
and tobacco.  I don’t need to be
a warrior of any kind
right now.  The morning smells
too good to care this much
about which one you are.

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Everything Is Being Repaved

— for Gary

Everything is being repaved.
There’s no easy way to get anywhere.
They promise it will be easier when it is all done.
They promise a smoother ride.

While you’re waiting, your hair will grow back.
You’ll take a lot of bubble baths.
Apples will bloom, lose face, harden into fruit.
Countries will go through changes.
Jobs will be lost and found and cursed and ignored.
Traffic will wax and wane like a moon full of cars.
You’ll spend more time at home.
Music will be eagerly sought and soon forgotten.
The radio will explode from the weight it is holding one Sunday morning.
You will neglect the clean up in favor of painting with the splatter.
You will throw a party so everyone can help.
Everyone will figure out a way to attend in spite of the repaving.
It will be loud and go on into the night.
The police will be called.
The party animals will scatter.
The cops will knock on your door and ask if you saw
where everyone went.

You will cross your fingers
and say yes
but because everything is being repaved
the roads are shut down
and it’s pointless to chase them.
Besides,
you could not be disloyal to the road crew
who have worked so hard
to ensure that no one gets through.

They will shake their heads and let you off with a warning.
You’ll go back to touching up your walls.

Everything is being repaved.
There’s no easy way to get anywhere
until you make one. 

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Two Bluebirds

Two bluebirds,
male and female, settled next to me
on the walkway rail of my father’s house
tonight, just before sunset.

These were the first bluebirds I’d seen
since I was young and looked for them
in every open pasture, never seeing them, thinking them
elusive and rare.  Now, here they were

perched beside me, regarding me calmly.
If this had happened back when I lived here,
when I hated it here, when I cared so much
about finding them, I might have called it a sign,

and where would I be now?

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Dream A Little Dream Of Me

The car veers left,
hits the curb, ascends,
arcs down heavily into mud.

I sway out from the wreck
across the small street
into a gold house. (The car
is also golden, from the heyday
of muscle cars, once blocky-build solid, now
a folded mess behind me.)

There’s an engagement party going on —

and I am incoherent, my speech
broken into honest chunks
that do not connect to each other
once they’re out of my mouth.

Solicitous at first, the staid white people
soon shuffle me outside and sit me down
outside on the step. 

Suddenly, the police
are all around.
They want to know my name,
look at my license,
call me a liar.

I try to explain — look at the car!
Look at how messed up it is, look at
my sloppy feet, my speech full of holes,
how hard this all is for me.  Can’t you see
the wreckage?  I’m not myself, no wonder
you don’t believe me.  Call a doctor, an ambulance,
I have to get home…

The bride to be watching
from her fiance’s arms
is shaking
more than I am.  The whole family
is frowning, uncertain, terrorized.

All the cops want to know
is why there’s a knife in my pocket.
What am I doing here?  Why so far
from home?  What’s my intent?

No one’s shut the music off, and the soundtrack
for all of this is Mama Cass crooning
as I slowly move from anger to fear
in time with my clearing head…I don’t know
the answers, why I was driving so fast
in such a torrential rain, why this road,
how I know these people I’ve never seen before…

they’re twisting my arm as they lift me
from the step…

And I am awake.  In my own bed,
my name in my billfold beside me on the table.
I look at it to be sure.

I get up, go to the couch.
I’ll make coffee a few minutes from now
and then get ready for work,
once I figure out

why there is always a knife in my pocket,
who these people around me are,
what I am doing so far from home
and why I drove so fast to get here
to a place I do not recognize
only to end up wrecked
in a cold and steady rain.

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irritation dog

barking
barking
irritation dog in my head–
go stand in the road —
go die

you make my throat hurt
i don’t even like talking

so stop stealing my voice

go die and let me be
silent
unless I can be sweet-toned
and no dog
yelping unimportant excitement
at the smallest thing
worrying every bone

shut up
i won’t feed you
get out
i won’t house you

i’m not going to say it again

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The Left Handed Woman

The left-handed woman
makes love to a right handed man.

Another man, more ambidextrous
than the first, steps forward.
He says, I can offer you more!
And he does — for a while.

But eventually, the woman grows tired of the men
entirely, and while they sleep,
cuts off all four of their hands.

What can you offer me now, she asks?

When no reply is forthcoming,
she goes to the beach and swims alone —
content to simply kick, her arms resting at her sides.

Look, she says to them, coming up out of the tide
to where they sit wailing on the sand.
Immersion, progression, emergence.
It can be done.

And I don’t need you to do it.

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Exciting

Grow excited by the possibility
of pure belief — belief being
the state of not knowing something empirically —

the possibility of never having to “know” anything
ever again! 
Imagine waking to a day without
having to be smart

about the things you’ve always known.
Imagine taking a baby’s delight and terror
as your only guide for how to live.

There in the trees — don’t call it a robin —
you don’t know a thing
about mating calls, territorial marking,
communication among others of the same species.
Call it a song, a ghost, and perhaps
a deity speaking only to you: oh, for
the chance of a personal, naive experience
with the universe!

Treasure it, the baby’s mind,
it will not last long enough to matter
for a moment past this one —

you’ll translate, ask questions, frame it
immediately, become smart again.  But imagine this moment,

this innocence — imagine that
it could last. That emotion by itself
may carry you over the hump
of becoming human
right into a new being.

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The Spare God

I lift the blind one last time before bed
and look out.
Nothing’s moving as far as I can see,
but I know

there’s a teeming,
an orgy, a war raging
among the microorganisms
in the yard.

Life doesn’t stop
because I imagine
nothing
when I sleep,

no matter how hard I pretend
that sleep is like death.
Nothing is like death except death,
and I’m not even sure of that,

which makes me smile as I turn off the lights.
“Fight and fuck,
divide and conquer,
my friends,” I say before I go,

realizing that right now
I’m as unnecessary to them
as my God is to me
whenever I am doing the same.

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New chapbook is out

My chapbooks arrived today!

The new book, “Flood,” is now available.

I only have 20 to start, so if you want one and you’re not nearby,  I’d suggest you get it from Pudding House Publications.

The Website is a little hard to navigate…so here is a link to the order form. The chap is ten dollars US, plus shipping and handling.

Thanks in advance, if you decide to order…I’m excited.


Control+Alt+Delete

Highlight, select, cut and paste,
delete, drop and drag, and all before
I ever turn on the computer.

Decisions upon decisions —
what shall I attend to, discard,
move up in my queue?

Was it always like this, and now
we just have the proper metaphor
for how it works, or has it changed?

Was it ever a longhand world
with carefully considered strategies
and long pauses before scratching out

what was written in favor of the new,
and even longer ones before we tossed
the whole page and started over?

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