Monthly Archives: April 2010


We breathe on average
23,000 times a day

but our things each breathe
over the course
of their lifetimes

We do not notice
that it is happening
their respiration
does not depend
on our noticing it
the guitars and horns
in their cases
and weapons in holsters
are in perpetual stir around us

We imagine the anima of the graphic crucifix
inhaling and exhaling
on the nail on the wall

but now contemplate the original wood
flavored with his blood

Did its breathing speed up and slow down
as he struggled upon it
did it remain
steady throughout

and do the remaining
possibly false remnants we revere
as relics of that moment today
breathe still?

The things we think of
as not alive
do not care what we think of them
do not care how we use them

23,000 self important breaths a day
Vibrations in the larger sacrament
Flavor and no more

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In Love

The bloom.

The flower of the vein
that I opened in the neck.

I opened it
and the dog moaned
before it quaked and folded down
upon the flowerbed floor.

I put the knife under the tap
and watched the tendrils
slip across the surface
of the steel into the trap.

I sat by the dog and stroked it
as it died without understanding
that I pursue beauty wherever it hides
and that the bloom from its throat
was my lovely, lovely gift
to myself.

I am in bloom myself,
I told the dog,
and it mattered to me
that this was true.

How it mattered —
I was learning what it took
to raise a bloom
from its hiding place.

In love.
In love with the sweet ribbons.
This flower is my decoration,
my day of fantasy and slippery play.

In the sleep of the moment
a last shiver, then nothing.
Nothing, like the scent of this iron bud
opening, its trailing petals.

Thinking already
of the next cutting I shall take
from the garden of all skin
that stretches before me.

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Just a Note To The Regular Readers…

I’ve recently completed a lot of new poems and am taking a little time away from posting new work to revise and pull together a full manuscript for submission, as well as another round of sending stuff out to journals. 

My own pay-the-bills work is picking up over the next week or two, so that’ll also be keeping me busy.

If you’re at all interested in seeing me read some of this new stuff as well as older work in the next few weeks, I’ll be in a few venues in the CT and NYC areas….

this Friday, April 30, at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe (3rd ST between Avenues C and D, 10 PM);

with Duende at the Cafemantic in Willimantic CT on Monday , May 3rd, at 7:00 PM;

and me solo again at the Peekskill NY Field Library and White Plains NY Public Library on Wednesday, May 5th.  Peekskill show from 3:30 to 5, White Plains 6:30 to 9:30. 

Would love to see you there.

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That day, the doctor came in
looking serious.  “Mr. Brown,
you’re becoming a limousine.”

Evidently I’m carrying
passengers, and not necessarily
ones I’d choose on my own.

“Will I at least get to wear
something special?  I’d even settle
for a good hat,”  I begged.

“No, I’m afraid not,” he said in a puzzled tone.
“You don’t get to drive the limousine,
you are the limousine.”

Well, It’s not a bad life.
I’m getting used to it.
I’m comfortable

and when the noise in the back
gets to be too much,
I raise the glass and forget it.

Once in a while
a voice will catch me right
and I’ll listen longer than usual,

maybe repeat what it says
to a friend or two
when I get a rare moment off,

changing the names (of course)
as confidentiality is key in this job.
I’ve seen some wild things so far

but the strangest moments
have come when only one rider
is present.  Sometimes

they’re filled with chatter,
other times they ride silently
absorbed in their own concerns.

When that happens I make up
stories about them, stories
where I’m a player for a change.

The person gets out of me,
I turn back into my old self,
we sit on the curb and talk.

But I know that’s just a crock.
These folks don’t care about me
as long as they get where they’re going.

I sit in the lot
and wait for them to come back
for the ride home from their gala nights,

their weddings, their funerals. 
I am nothing until they board and settle in.
I don’t know what to call myself

when I’m not filled:
a car, a box,
a shadow in an unlit space.

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In half my body
I keep hold on you.  In half
I fear you. When we spin in place
or twist in our sheets
I quickly lose track of where
my feelings for you are.

Did I leave the wanting
in my hands, or is that where
fear is resting now, and I
should push you off?
Do I turn my head to the right
to be near you
or to keep from seeing you?
And if perhaps the divide
is in fact between
my upper and lower halves,
well…it is no wonder
I can’t remember
where I put what.

When I see your eyes,
that’s the moment when
I can feel the two sides at once,
soap bubbles pressed together
yet unjoined…

and I hold my breath
in anticipation of how
they will mix when
inevitably, they burst. 

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It was the song that brought on
this urgent insomnia
and now you can’t stop humming.
This long after midnight
the city is finally quiet
but for the occasional siren.
You have known that song
for a long time.  It rises,
it slides down, it wails
of a disturbance somewhere.
You might dare to call it romantic
if you’re listening, knowing it may mean
that somewhere passions
have run over the brim
of one or more lives.  No matter
that it may herald death or anger;
when you’re not the target,
in the middle of the night
it’s hard not to stop and strain
to hear it, try to figure out
where it’s going.  It’s not hope,
exactly; instead, a curiosity
about how much is happening
elsewhere in places more alive
than where you are.  As close as you are
to sleep, your eyes on fire, your back
hard and heavy, your breathing
slow, your throat raw
from smoke and fatigue,
when that song starts
you jerk forward in your seat
and are drawn into the night
that is growing longer,
longer, even as it fades.
It’s not the right time for this.
It’s not even your business to care
but you do, somehow,
and that is what keeps you up at night.

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This Is Just The Trailer

This is just the trailer.  Wait until you see the film.
from a message delivered by the Mumbai terrorists to the Indian government, November, 2008

classic film


define those things ever after
by referring to the movie

“it’s like when she
turned and walked away
and then he falls to his knees
in that movie…”

classic film

the trees are
perfectly shaped
there’s snow that doesn’t go gray
with road filth

“it’s so beautiful,
I feel like I’m in a movie…”

classic film

there are guns
and clearly horned enemies
to be slain

“it’s like in that movie
where the buildings exploded…”

in here there are answers

everything is enormous
and significant

details are just nails
holding banner importance fast

in here light is a dog
to be walked
leashed and guided
along scents
to known targets

from in here
come out and stare into living
seeing instead the light on the screen
twenty feet high

eating the apple that is offered there

learning everything
whether it’s true or not

in the classic film
they walked from set to set
no trailers
no limos

walked outlaw
through shanty towns and elegance

extras earning their lines

they took direction well

“he told me I’d receive a reward,
be a big man, blah blah,
all that stuff…”

straight from the mouth of the extra
captured after
the walk though the city
the station
the hotels
the hospital
placing bombs in taxis
bullets and fire in guest rooms

the prisoner
sold by his father to the terrorists
with the words
“look at these guys
they have money
a good life
your sisters can be married”
and his response

blah blah blah

just a bit of business
between the good scenes

“what did we ever do to them
that they hurt us so”

said a boy
thinking of how he’d sheltered beneath
his blood soaked mother and father
on the floor of Victoria Terminal
in the heart of Mumbai

how cold he had been
it felt so damp and cold

the handler
for the Mumbai killers
told them where to strike
and rated their performance
based on what they saw
on the news

whenever a gunman
took an order
from his handler that day
he responded with
“god willing”

when I saw the towers fall

when I saw the first plane
full of my friends
enter like a spoon into soft serve
or a hand into popcorn

it was like a movie
I’d seen a thousand times
in 3-D

they had shaken me
with surround sound
a thousand times before

but on the day
I went there
I was unprepared
to wonder
who this was
bitter and sweet
present inside my nose
right under my eyes

now we watch them on predator screens
solarized and polarized to enhance a target
god willing

and they watch us on television screens
clipped and closed to interpretation
god willing

dying easily far away
god willing

how it looks
is in the script
for a classic film

how it smells
is not

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Poem For Steve

The ex-skateboarder
is a current cook,
thinks about cooking
a lot, cooks all the time,
in fact cooked his way
all the way
from Rhode Island
to Virginia
by way of Michigan.

he stops thinking
about the lead line
for two minutes
and wishes for a night listening
to New Model Army
after eating something good
someone else had prepared
in the fifty-first state
of the union,
the one that only exists
as the hypothetical next stop
on his road.

he thinks,
is a good grind,
today is a good day,
or at least
it’s as good as it gets.
I can live with that
even if now I have to walk
where I used to glide
until I get there…

and eats what he cooks
because he knows where he’s been,

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How I Know I Am An American

If i can pay a price
and receive
what I ask for,
I do.

If I can delay payment
and receive at once
what I ask for, I do.

If I can pay and then receive
at some near date,
I may;

if I can pay now
and not be assured
of delivery, ever,
and there are
long odds
against getting what I want,
I may not;

if I can pay now
and maybe my children
will get what I’ve paid for,
I will not.

Form or function?

Black or White?

Right or left, red or blue?
Some purple in between.

Excess or right fit?
Are they different?

Answer or question?


Answer or question?

That it is possible here
to have one without the other
explains everything.

Refrain from the song
I just heard
echoes for a while after hearing. 
Whether it is
or Scott Key
or KRS-One. Whether there’s a flute,
a bugle, or a cuatro in the melody.
Whether it is loud
or soft, or can be either.
Any lullaby encourages
sleep when it’s sung.

I am proxy
no matter where I go.
I will bleed symbols
when stuck or shot
here or there, by someone
who denies or affirms me.
I lost the deed to me an age ago.

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The Johnny Jump Ups

Front yard covered in
Johnny–jump-ups, flowers
too small
for their name

which reminds me
of a crew of riff-raff soldiers
on a suicide mission
in a late 60s movie trailer:
“…they were expendable, they were
unpredictable, they got the job done
when no one else could…
and then you’d get a list
that would certainly include
Alejandro Rey and Ernest Borgnine
and maybe Lee Marvin, and some young
macho male looking for a name for himself…

and the flowers,
small as mentioned, tiny even,
variegated and pansy-violet faced,
they’re forgotten entirely
in favor of the association with
something artificial.
All of the other flowers get the treatment too:
I’m sure the Daffodils
are a pop band, the Poppy
describes their music,
I see the Grass
and at once I’m reminded
that it’s April 22
and two days past 4-20…
and Earth Day, too…
I’ll bang my head against something
if I think about this long enough.
If I were to bang my head against something
it would be a wall, not a rock.
Not even a rock wall.
Something made of sheetrock,
paneled in faux wood grain, or covered in earth tone paint…

Anyway, in that movie there would be a scene
where a young woman, not an American,
asks one of the soldiers what he calls
the flower with the pansy face in his country. 
“My ma used ta call ’em Johnny-jump-ups,” he’d say.
“She used ta say they meant spring.  She loved ’em.
She died in the spring a coupla years ago…
seems like a long time ago, now.” 

A little later the same guy,
not James Coburn,
someone younger
but like James Coburn,
would hear the Germans coming,
and light a cigar.  Then a fuse,
lit from the cigar.  Then he’d fling
the dynamite.  Big explosion!

He’d come up shooting,
all Tommy gun and cigar,
take a bullet
and fall into the flowers,
close his grimy lids as he died
with them under his head
and all around his face.

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Out On The Town

two for one ridiculous

finger dancing rejected
diggers of energy in clubs
and cafes, they stroll the South Side
arm in arm, resting their hands
for the night ahead

lick a glass rim and hop to it

charging around the circuit
looking for pals and the unmet
possible pals of tomorrow morning

there is cocaine and rationalization
that this is how the heroes rolled
and one of the sumbitches
is crying for some paper reminder
he can’t create for his inebriation
tearing his garments in mourning

slinky doormen
keep out the impossible artists
no shirts without ironed collars

blue blind doctors of unspecified ambition
looking for pals and patients

two for one
take one, get the other

romantic night in memory
but tonight it’s already
blank and ready for scribbled cleansing
ego repair

they’ll leave out
the puke on their shoes

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Save your voice,
Tom Waits;
there’s not enough tender gravel
in the world.

Save your shades,
Bob Dylan;
what you see under the bare land
needs your filter.

Save your hat,
Leonard Cohen;
something unrusted might yet escape
through the top of your head.

Save your battered guitar,
Ellen McIlwaine;
something remains to be drawn
from the funk inside.

We sleep in the ore
you smelt for your needs.
You mine our beds
for your raw materials.
We sit at the forge’s door
and gasp at the heat.
You bring out the work
and we hustle to touch it, still warm
from the fire.

Save us, sidewalk
blacksmiths, alchemists
of dark iron.  We’re always
in need of a little steel
and your blacksmith’s marks
upon it.

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Ten Point Buck

A cross-fox
bears black bars
upon his shoulders
that demand attention.

One red squirrel
glimpsed at the park
means more
than all the gray ones.
Let a black one show up
and someone will call the news.

The white skunk
(not a scent of black
on him but for the eyes)
comes through the yard,
and it’s as if a yeti walks among
the trashcans and weeds.

When Maggie, the new girl,
raised her hands
on the first day of high school
and defiantly showed us
her twelve fingers,
we shuffled in our seats
and communally resolved at once
to shun her.

I am sure that in
the years since, at least one
of my classmates
has been deer hunting,
looking to to hang
a ten-point buck or better
on his wall.

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Regarding White Privilege

Walk out your front door
and into the street.
Look up and there it is:
your sun, won
on the last hand last night; the jerk
told you it would be yours in the morning
as soon as he could get to the bank
and the safety deposit box;
now he’s gone and there it is
hanging over you, out of reach.

At least you know it’s yours
even though it’s beyond command;
you can always trust the word
of a fellow gambler, after all.

This sun of yours
crosses over myth
as you watch.
Do you own the myth as well?

A street’s only as good
as its sidewalks:
having a pair of solid paths to parallel the main line
is crucial.  Places
to walk safely, more slowly
than the primary traffic.
A curb against which
to butt tires,
or crush jaws.

Take your rabid imagination
to the street, stare
at your possession
and decide to own everything
it illuminates as well…

In fact, this sun
belongs to no one,
lights everyone’s road,
warms every face.

Your deed to it has only the weight
of a shared perception
that it’s a valid deed.

The paper burns when the rays pinpoint upon it.

Night follows day.

You made no bet
regarding the moon.

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How To Overcome Writer’s Block

You have no excuse
and there’s no absent Muse
to blame for it.  It’s either work
or waiting in this, no in between
and when you invoke
the Muse like that it tells me
you don’t understand the work
or how blood must be spilled
in every place we make meat
from life, for life.  This is not to say
there are no walls between you
and what you desire, but there are sledgehammers
too and that’s how
the walls come down
and the calves get dead. If you’ll
just turn around and pick up a hammer
you’ll note it is heavy enough
to break what stands before you.
Are you enough? The old question,
oldest one, the one Cain asked
even before he stooped for his own
tool.  Think of that:
we revile his literal take now,
but his moment still offers a lesson
that something has to go if it’s between you
and your target God.  Pick up the hammer
and stop waiting, we’re all
hungry here, and the excuse
you’ve named the Muse?
When she gets here
footsore and dusty, she’ll be
hungry too.

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