Monthly Archives: December 2014

New Year’s Eve

Originally posted 12/31/2009.

They’re working on race cars in Charlotte, 
baseball bats in Louisville,
beer in breweries coast to coast
and logo T-shirts in Singapore.
It’s the day of New Year’s Eve
and not much is going to change
in the world tonight.
We only think

we write the music
time dances to.

Someday a hibernating creature
is going to wake up from the winter
and we’ll be gone.
It won’t notice anything different except
an increased freedom to be itself.
No engines will roar, no baseballs will soar,
and the only drunkenness will come
when wasps suck the fermented sap
from fallen pears. 

Everything left alive
will be naked, nothing
will happen as a result,
and we’ll be regretted

only as much
as Creation regrets
any other extinction,

which is to say,
not at all.
Something still alive
will begin to dance
on the melody-free earth.


Love Poem For The New Year

Originally posted 12/31/2011.

Any day can start a year.
Any day can end one.
Every day starts a year.
Every day ends one.

Any day can be celebrated,
any day regretted.
Regret one day for one day,
let celebration of the next begin.

All I need for any year or day: 
one with whom to celebrate, one with whom
to commiserate, one with whom to share
the New Year of every single day.

Just one
with whom to straighten up after the labor,
one with whom to soothe
and be soothed;

one to whom the calendar
is merely a suggestion,
one with whom to start anew
each daily New Year’s Day.


The Imaginary Fable Of The One-Legged Flamingo

New Poem.

Pretend there’s a fable
about a one-legged flamingo
(born with one and only one)
who somehow survives
the vagaries of indifferent
and unrelenting nature
to grow to adulthood.

Pretend there are passages explaining
how a one-legged flamingo
grows easily tired of standing still
and so must fly more often 
than its counterparts.

Pretend it’s not all farfetched and pretend
that such a bird could truly survive. 

Pretend there’s a moral:
to those from whom much is taken
much is also given,
or 
unending fatigue in living may draw out
an urge and capacity to soar,
or 
perspective and vision may come to one
as compensation for grievous wounds;
pretend that it matters 
which words are used. 

Pretend like mad
that the moral
is strong enough to hold the bird back
from drowning
as it is exhausted tonight,
descending though there are no
shallows in which to land.


Ripple This Age

Originally posted 10/31/2011.

Ripple
this age
Throw
yourself into it

not for that instant
when you will be
target or 
bullseye of target

but because 
as others join you
the circles will
turn to full disturbance

Then what you’ll be
is immersed
What you’ll be
is in it

for the long swim
Part of the stream
the flow
the flood

You might drown
You were drowning anyway
Make of your body
a best chance to survive

if not for yourself
then for the one next to you
struggling
to breathe


Highway Graves

New Poem.

Highway signs that
flash and warn

“LAST EXIT ON HIGHWAY”
and

“HIGHWAY ENDS 1500 FEET”

thrill me

Beyond that last turnoff always
a wall
a barrier of yellow and black boards
some mound of untended concrete 
gone to brush
saying

here is where it all ends

It intended to go further
but exhausted it stopped

You should too or
take that last turn if
you insist upon continuing

People say the road goes on and on
always on and on
You can go forever if you want
Keep turning off and you’ll never stop

When they say that
it just makes me even more
want to crash into those highway graves
just to prove
a point about the desirability 
of limits
and satisfaction
to offer a definition of 
far enough

There I’d rest

without regret for that last missed exit
and filled in my last moment with joy at avoiding
the collapse within me (had I turned)
upon seeing more road ahead
and more of the unrelenting boredom of
endless gray below me
above me
and within


Brown Heart

New Poem.

brown heart

color of august
arms race
sweat singers

try not to think about this too hard:
did you want love? did you come here
for love? did you expect 
love?

sorry
brown heart

but love’s not

here — white heart’s broken
today 
sad face can offer you nothing
today
sorry

white heart broken
in westside bin
by garage door
wedged open so
breath and air
get out and in
sorry it says
SORRY
at least I
sly and shaky
stay alive this way
SORRY
no time for you
brown heart

today nothing
from white broken heart
for brown heart

love is
not there ever
brown heart
no matter
its stolen beats
and its claims
to love you
white heart is never more than
guardedly there
and never there
for you at all

love you
brown heart
that’s your song
you love you
you love you
for white heart knows
the same song too
you love you
you love you

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Want to hear it as a recording with guitar?  


Blues

Originally posted 12/19/2012; original title, “Blue Sex.”

This early,
this warm.
This dark
singing,
a tangled
blues;

lemon squeezing, starter mashing,
rolling, tumbling,
juice runs down our legs blues;
“can’t be satisfied — ” 
challenge, not lament;

slide ice cube
stinging it,
gliding it
fast between mouths 
and bellies;

sun will barge in
soon enough — 
how humid it’ll smell then,
our hair torn up along with the room,
‘Sweet Home Chicago” in the background.

No matter how Mississippi 
it gets in here
this warm,
this early,
this dark,

we always end up
asking each other,
“baby —
baby don’t you
wanna go?”


Season’s Greetings to all…

Whatever your spiritual or family tradition, may this season be one of reflection, increasing light, and love.  Thanks for reading here over the last year; hope to see you all in 2015.


It Is Wartime Now

New Poem.

“We have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ Police Department…We will act accordingly.”
– from an NYPD internal email, Dec. 2014.

It is wartime now,
exclaims the badged blue army.
We stand up. We hear:

it is wartime now,
wartime — as if before this,
they were not at war.

It is wartime now,
as it has been for more years
than there’s been a flag.

It is wartime now.
They want to call us killers.
We will not be moved.

It is wartime now —
our weapons are the strong tongue
and the sharpened eye.

It is wartime now —
smokescreens, deceit, far flung lies;
what we say cuts through:

wartime now?  Let us
see how that differs from how
we’ve lived until now.


Solstice (Empty)

New poem.

I wish I had
a forest inside me
speaking only
through leaves and wind,
but I do not.

I wish
the whistle and squeak
of the branches
rubbing together
had been my only
soundtrack from birth,
but it was not.

If only I’d been
filled with ocean
or cave-song
or the howl
of blizzards
in far mountains,
but I was not; instead

I am today as empty
and as silent within
as I have always been,
as always
am waiting
for my own song
to rise from that void

and fill me
and the air
and the sky
and the rest
of this whole 
damned world.

 


Crossing The Bridge

New Poem.

May it be said of us
when the time comes to write history
that we crossed the bridge
we were faced with.  We crossed it

though it was not the bridge
we’d hoped for — not the genteel arch
over a clean and narrow stream
with little but discomfort to face if we fell from it,

and not the steel artifact of a golden past
teeming with millions crossing it with us;
for us instead that archetype of peril,
swaying and crumbling one slat at a time,

with so many working to kill us as we crossed,
bullets pealing like bells as they struck
the stone all around us. May it be said of us 
that we never turned our gaze

from the other side to the drop below;
that we held onto each other all the way over
and clung as long as we could to those who fell
along the way, and that when we were across we turned

to the task of putting a better bridge
where the rotten one once had hung.
May it be said of us when we are gone
that we did it the way
it should always be done.


Dust Storm

Originally posted 2/11/2012.

the distraught parents
don’t know what to do

their children
have fallen in love
with dust storms

they reach for a bible story
with which to chastise them

god is coming soon
come in
out of the grit

but the kids
otherwise enthralled

aren’t waiting for a tardy god

they start a faith
based on watching the wind
bore holes in rock

with a gospel
of how sand
gets into everything
without trying


Grief In The Smell Of Brass

Originally posted 3/31/2011. Original title, “Chastisement.”

First time you noticed
that 
brass smells of dirty fingers and ozone
was the day you learned your mother had died.

The keys were in the hand
you bunched up to your face
upon hearing the news.

You could smell and taste them
mingled 
with tears and dust from the oak table

upon which you laid your head to weep.

These days you dust the furniture frequently
and whenever you handle your keys
you wash your hands right after.

It’s been years
since you thought about
that day.


Shuggie Otis Sunday

Originally posted 10/12/2008; original title, “Hearing Slapbak On A Sunday.”

Invitation to Sparkle City.
The bass a friendly hand opening the door.
The groove shuffling me along to comfort
with a shout to someone unseen
to break out sweet tea and a good meal. 

It’s not much — no,
it’s everything. It’s church
softer than any formal pew,
warming me top to bottom 
on no more 
than an ember. 
Big pillow for a sad head,

holding me like a cradle I never had;
this is no offer I can ever refuse.


The Next Country

Originally posted on 4/29/2013;  original title, “The Unimagined Country.”

Yet-to-be-fully-imagined
next country,

country where we let our own blood
into the garden soil to feed it,

where we sing in our own tongues in the front yards
and kneel silently in the back yards

under the open sky, seeking
guidance or a little rain;

country yet to be founded,
already rich and storied,

abandoned, rediscovered,
abandoned and found again and again;

country, not nation, not state;
country, not homeland, not seat of empire.

Country yet to be ours, country
ours to define — country

for us to defend against the poisons
of borders, flags, anthems, suspicions.

When we come to that country
we’ll look into each other’s eyes

and we’ll know what to name it 
without a single politician’s speech.

We’ll know how to run it
without a single task force.

We’ll know how to love it
without a single weapon.

We’ll know we’ve truly settled there
when we look into each other’s eyes

and see a neighbor, a cousin,
or a self, no matter what else we see.