Monthly Archives: September 2015

More Than Boards And Nails

Originally posted June 10, 2015.  Revised, 9/30/2015.

More than boards and nails
will be needed 
when the ashes cool
and it’s time to start over.

I must not relent
from my dutiful masonry,
the bricking of word
upon word.

When we’re all weary
from the work of rebuilding,

people will call for something
preserved from the past 
to freshen the present
and speed the future,
to remind us all 
of fragrances
that preceded
smoke and ruin:

of roses,
clean earth,
unpoisoned rain,
infant hair,
a lover’s neck;

of what we had once,
what we’re again
building toward — 

the stuff of poetry.

A Thief Of Rest

I once,
as a boy, 
owned a cane 

with the ball
from the top of a femur.  

Grew sick inside,
once I was grown,
to learn it was human;

from its age and provenance
was likely taken from
a Native grave 

or perhaps sheared fresh
from one fallen in battle,
massacre, or misadventure, then

turned into a trophy like a necklace 
of dried ears or a tobacco pouch
sewn from a tanned scrotum.

When the cane was stolen 
not long after, I was at first
relieved, then soon enough

unsettled, thinking of how
heads and scalps were stolen
and traded and monetized

in those days of first conquest.
I imagined it in an ignorant hand — 
or worse, in the hand of one

who knew exactly what it was
and traded it for crisp bills 
to another who knew it too.

There are nights I wake
with my hand outstretched
seeking — absolution? redemption?

a chance to bury it
in the earth where it belongs? No.
I fear sometimes

that if it were
to return to me
I would hold it and claim

it had come back to me
because I am the unique
and rightful keeper

of such things,
though I know
in my own bones 

such a thing
to be horrid
and untrue.

How lovely it would be
to lie to the dead
and allow myself to think

I am any less 
a thief of their rest
than any other

who would take it, 
have it, hold it,
keep it as if it were their own.


New Flag

on field 
of the usual hues

silhouette of pistol butt

rocking an angle from narrow cowboy hip

bulge in outlaw jacket
black leather belt badge and cuffs
khaki or 
camo dusty holster

in the hands

of patriot or rebel
villain or 

glimpses of long guns in black hands in news photos 

feathers floating from barrels of rifles raised from horseback in western fable

shadows of men with guns feed America
feed America its young
feed this starved 

all those bullets
so little bread


Up the street, a white house
(not a metaphor
for the White House);

a hawk above it in the air
(not a metaphor for war, or ambition,
or foresight, or predation);

I’m having my daily
 morning oatmeal
(not in fact a metaphor
for suffering for my art, or for
the thick pain
of the morning news — 

I’m just not a fan
of dying sooner
rather than later and
it helps wipe sugar
from my blood).

Someone will not believe me
when I say

that everything spoken of here
is exactly what it seems:

thick man with his eyes open 
choking down thick gruel, a bird
circling a nondescript house
in a small city on the verge of 
cold season, yet I guarantee

that someone
will not believe me

when I say

this world
does not exist

solely to be
a revelation;

thinking that
means that too often
we miss what’s real

and in front of our eyes
while looking for
the Illuminati
in all things.


In libraries there are so many words
like so many feathers saved
from so many flights remembered, 

and so many still ready to fly; so many
drowsing wings barely fluttering
with impatience,

longing to be released
by librarians who wait like falconers
for you to approach

so they may unhood and loose those words
to seek you out, swoop upon you 
and settle, sink in and take hold. 

Soon enough
you find yourself raised
from your own sleep,

to the rustling of feathers.
You may drift back to sleep

to dream of flying,
dream of being
carried to freedom by free words,

and in your sleep
as you rise into some grand sky
you may catch a glimpse of a falconer

turning from you toward
the next earthbound traveler, ready
to help them soar just as you are soaring;

if you do, turn back. Circle
for a moment. Nod your head to the one
who helped bring you here; pay tribute 

to the tenders of saved feathers, 
liberators of wings given once again
a chance to fly.

The Cosmos Of Riddles

Blue green riot
beyond the bridge,
weeds and pond under
noon-strained light.
Farther on,
dark-bound trees;
farther still, of course,
ocean, desert,
blocky stone
and blinding ice.

Every vision the sum
of all its varied confusions.
Every confusion a union open
on all sides, itself
a new cluster of visions
and confusions.

Your feeling before
each vision:
consider a nest of eggs
about to hatch.
You don’t know your birds;
these stones contain birds.
Open your eyes
and your heart speeds into
something less beat
and more flutter,
a cymbal’s shimmer
and not a crash.

An understanding of this
isn’t for consumption
through sale, barter,
trade.  This isn’t meant for
the dank music of ease
and packaged wisdom —
not this glimpse
of the blue green riot,
the warring perceptions
telling the whole wrenching story
of this whole wrenching world, no;
you’re going to have to work
for this one.

No Apology

It used to sting my bones
when someone called me “selfish”
for not having had children,
and it has taken me years
to learn how to say
what I have always known.
Now that I am
this far from the beginning
and this close to the end,
I will say it and be at rest.

Wherever you are now,
you who were unborn to me, 

my unknown child or children, 
I say this:

you are blessed,

for our absent, never-was bond
would have been a mistake
made of lightning:
fire consuming all,
ever after.
No one
could have survived.  

Be glad forever, wherever you are,
that you are not my children, that I am no
father of yours; that my storms were not yours,
that my slow burn-down was not yours as well;
that whatever tenderness 
we may have felt for each other
was not wasted into ash. Be glad
that while I did not know how
to speak of it,

I understood it well enough
to keep it from happening again.

The Business Of Profiling

– for Ahmed Mohamed, all who came before him, and all those yet to come…

Excuse me, Mr. Chimera — won’t you 
smile for the camera?
Won’t you please smile, Mr. Chimera?
How many beasts strong are you, 
Mr. Chimera? How many beasts 
do you harbor inside?

We must deconstruct you 
like a problematic sentence,
ensure that every word
is analyzed for bullets and grudge;

is it tick, tick, tick
or tick, tock, tick, tock
we are hearing, Mr. Chimera? 

Are you bomb
or timepiece, timepiece or bomb?

Your outside makes us fear
what might be inside…
what’s inside you, Mr. Chimera,
what’s inside?

Are you angry enough 
to explode now,
or are you just growing toward fire
later on?  

Two choices, Mr. Chimera;
two choices, no in between, no 
alternative. It’s beyond our imagination
that we might not be right
and if there’s a chance we are right
we must act as if it is a certainty,

no matter how odd or angry
that seems to you. 
We’re not sorry at our lack of remorse:
the forms must be followed, Mr. Chimera,
the forms must be followed…

So won’t you smile, nod, 
dress right, Mr, Chimera;
won’t you stand with your hands
behind your back in your natural stance,
Mr. Chimera?  Why won’t you smile,
Mr. Chimera? Why don’t you smile?
Why can’t we get you to smile? 


I beg on the street:

May I have a moment?

Given one, I say

Thank you.
Thank you
for giving me
this moment.
I will take it 
and pocket it
and hold it close 
until I need it.

Perhaps I will never need it
and if so I will keep it
until the end of my life.
I might want it again then,
or I might not; if the latter is so

it will become my last will’s
only bequest: 

.” the matter of the moment
I was given freely
by another to use as I pleased, 
I am pleased to pass on to… “

Some folks will say this is ridiculous;

those are the ones
who have likely had
a life full of moments
in such abundance
that they spent them foolishly.

Still, they always seem to die
still rich in them, flush with them, 
enough moments remaining at the end
to line their caskets with time enough to waste,
even in the grave; meanwhile

the rest of us who have had to savor
the lean banquets of our days, our stolen
slim margins, our nails bitten to blood
waiting for checks to clear and bills
to hold off one more day; those of us
without many moments of our own — 
I speak for all of us when I say that

if I may have a moment
it will be golden to me,
if I may have a moment
know that I will not spend it foolishly.

And if it goes unspent
I will offer it to you, my love,
heir of all my stolen moments.
We never had enough time together
between hard jobs and long commutes 
and worry and famine and struggle.

If someday we can no longer share
stolen or begged
or borrowed moments, rest assured 

that I shall leave all I have
to you.

Just an FYI for readers here…

I’ve been busy with a number of projects, so my output’s a little off right now…That said, I did want to let you in on the new Website for my poetry and music band, The Duende Project.  Still under construction, but getting there…with links to videos, places to hear and purchase tracks, etc…

The Duende Project

Leftover Child

Back in what’s left
of home turf
among abandoned houses
with lawns long ago
taken by tall mullein and
brittle brush.  
Tan faded curtains askew
in flyspecked windows — 

is that a slight movement
behind one? Did it stir?
That one, top left window in
that roof-to-ground shingled
gray house? Is it possible
that someone
lives there still? 

Someone alive in Her House?


Childhood stories
of Her House, house
of Old Lady Shady
come sifting back: she’d be
close to 130 by now
if she were alive
so it’s probably not either her

or her son, the Hog,
he’d be
long gone

which is good, good because 
those aren’t good stories. 

But someone’s in there,
now it’s certain;
there is a face
that’s not bothering
to hide itself,
a child’s face
looking out.
A thin face.
A blue face —

or instead, moonlight
playing on shadow fabric
and dirty glass.

definitely moving,

but inside or outside?
Can’t tell; too many 
bad stories,

too much
too much
filth makes it 
too easy to call up

a leftover child
from those ruins.

Drowning In A White Man

Originally posted 9/12/2011.

I’m drowning in a white man! Can’t breathe, 
my chest is caving in; 
no one can see me drowning

for I’ve gone down, down, and down again;
I’ve sunk so deeply into him.

What I wouldn’t give right now
for a pipe and some cold air,

a fire, a circle of singers
around a big, solid drum.

What I wouldn’t give for firm tradition
and family to hang onto,

stories and cousins to pull me up and out.
Not likely. Not anymore.

Instead I’ll grow
thin white gills and survive,  

but I won’t thrive — no.  
What I would have to give to thrive, I will not give.


Originally posted 6/16/2010.

Reading news
of black widow spiders
in supermarket grapes,
lightning that burned down 
a statue of Jesus;

looked at the stories 
with a practiced eye
for meaning,
sought connections;
was at a loss 

until he saw a third story
of a miracle cure in a remote land: 
a blind child touched
by an electric eel 
awoke from a coma with full sight. 

Recognized how to spin it all
into a narrative he could believe:
the sky’s fire stroking down;
the poison in the seemingly safe fruit;
the girl opening her eyes to see

a circle of incredulous doctors
straining to understand
pride stumbling 
against nature, then
nature laughing.

Congratulated himself
on figuring it out.
Congratulated himself
on besting God
at the Great Game Of Dice,

at getting the Win; then
turned and died
before he could
explain it all  
to everyone.

The Razor Beauty Of Things

Originally posted 12/26/2007. Formerly titled “Still”

I’m not sure how they happened
but there were times in my life
when everything 
and each of my moves was perfect, 
no wasted effort,
arms synched perfectly swinging 
as I turned toward the yard
away from the screen door closing behind me.
My vision sharpened at the edges
and deepened at the center of the field of view;
a jonquil stood out dead still from the lawn, its petals
cut into the green behind it.

There was a time I could stop the world
but I didn’t understand how useful that could be.
I have forgotten how. I have learned
how to think instead. 
Instead of
making the world stop
I stop myself and sit ass-heavy on the couch
thinking of 
good times.
Whenever I leave the house
I close the door behind me carefully now, never
letting it slam, making sure of the lock; I don’t know
how good times 
happen anymore
and I don’t want to scare them off.

I step out of the door
I don’t see much color

out there, which is fine;
I’m e
xcited now mostly by monochrome — 

marathon television viewing, the relief
when a cigarette is finished and I can breathe
something that’s not
grey fire in my throat, the relief of

the fire that lights the next one,
the ice cubes in 
the whisky,
the longing for a long dead sleep

because the only time the world stops now
is when I am not thinking of it,
when I cannot see it at all,

when the dark eats my dreams
and at last for a while at least
I’m not regretting 
the nagging poisonous hope
that one day I’ll remember the world,
recall how I used to see
the razor beauty of things 
growing without thought.

The Tangle

Originally posted 11/24/2013.

This tangled mind 
takes the word “mouse”
and transforms it
to “rocket” or “dagger”

or “fishing shack”
when I hear it spoken;
the thought of vermin feet
in my walls becomes

a space race,
a war,
a life
on the sea.  

Hear mouse, realize everything. 

This is something that is Wrong with me
according to the arbiters of Right, 
but I’ve learned to live with it.
I’ve turned into 
a poet, though.

I mostly call it blessing and not curse,
though when I thought

the word “blessing”
I admit at first I heard

“California redwoods” and then “magma”
as “blessing” became a vision
of forests jumping into blaze
along rivers 
and roads of liquid fire.  

Blessing is fire here within me.

Any one word leads me to another
as fire leads to ash, as flash flood
leads to canyon, as mouse
leads to dagger rocket fishing shack,

as blessing leads
to volcano-sparked trees
lit like candles
along the coast… 

Shh, says the Universe,
by which I mean

the dying willow
in the backyard.