Monthly Archives: June 2016


Very pleased to receive my contributor’s copy of “Delirious,” an anthology of poems in tribute to Prince, in today’s mail.

Thanks to NightBallet Press for including my poem, “For You.”

Here’s where to get it, and its entry on Goodreads.  

Collard Greens, Hummingbirds, And Spider Silk

With my eyes lightly closed I see
a river of red circles flowing on black
from lower left to upper right. 

I clamp down harder;
that river stops its purposeful flow,
begins to swirl.

I try to see detail of those circles,
or of the black behind the river,
but there’s nothing more.

Press a finger to a lid
and the river lights up
as if I was viewing

a campfire’s light
from around a bend
before coming directly upon it.

What’s the point, you ask,
of trying to see
with your eyes closed,

but also of trying
to describe it well enough
so others can see it too?

I respond, one of these days
I may come around that bend
and see that fire.

Maybe it will be a cooking fire.
Maybe there will be roasted meat,
collard greens, people 

at rest around it, songs
like hummingbirds, skin
like spider silk. It would be

a good place to be,
a good place to end up,
but I’d hate to end up all alone there

so this is my way of leaving a trail
to that place you see
when your eyes are closed,

when a final finger
presses them


Ahead, wooded foothills.
Farther ahead, green and gray
mountains. White patches
here and there upon them — snow
this late seems unlikely

but it has been 
an unlikely year. These
may be instead 
well-lit patches of
odd stone recently exposed,
perhaps by rockslides.
I know so little 
of mountains, though;

it’s pointless to speculate,
and now I find 
a longing within
for a companion
who knows more of mountains
than I do.

I find such longing
within me often this year;
this has been an unlikeable
year and to have
someone beside me
who has seen
such years before
might keep me
from drifting too early
into those mountains.
This road I’m on
will take me there
soon enough,
take me to see
if those white stains are 
slides of stone
or slides of snow,
but there’s much country
to cross before then and 

to have a guide,
a shadow partner who 
could say “calm, stay calm,
all will be revealed in time”
whenever I am transfixed by
dangerous considerations
of what’s coming

would make this journey
easier if not less
fraught with fear.

Such Things

Such things

as a neighbor’s
somber face
caught smiling
for a little longer 
than the usual
ghost moment 
she allows
for happiness
to haunt her

or the way
a certainly ordinary
everyday unnoticed
shaft of tree-channeled
sunlight strikes
a backyard bed
of gone to seed lettuce
illuminates the pale stalks and
makes them shine
and appear
(for the first time 
in a long while
since the last harvest)
quite appealing in spite of
recent neglect

Such things 

are becoming
what I need
to get by

Under The Scar

A scar on my thumb tip 
that won’t heal underneath —
current marker of my decrepit
mortality — wound whose cause
I’ve long forgotten, stone scar
pulsing intermittently
with small but constant pain
each time it comes into contact
with anything — guitar neck,
keyboard, another finger — this last
the most persistent as I worry
and rub that tiny round 
into a nearly constant mini-scream —
why do I do this to myself, why don’t I
get it looked at, perhaps removed, 
why do I make it hurt more and more
until the inevitable day
the scar breaks away
from the new flesh underneath — 
so tender, raw, and pink — waiting
for its chance
to harden and mound up
and begin the cycle again —
as I do, as I do each time
I rise wounded from bed
these days, latter days
hard crusting over
raw sense — never 
healing so much that 
I can forget that it hurts — 
even if I don’t know anymore
why it does.

Just a cross post…

I mention now and then work I’m doing with our poetry and music group, the Duende Project.  

Here’s a link to an entry at our Website this AM about some exciting developments.  It includes a sound file of our piece “Trinity,” which may or may not open depending on where you are in the world; not something I can do anything about, sadly.  




Explanation #47

the number of times
i’ve been accused by others
of being absurd or out of my place
is large

the number of times
said absurdity was intended
to be absurd
is not

the number of times
i was out of my place
on purpose 
is also not

i was

being me

my absurdity 
was simply
a way of 

to what felt
to that out of place me
like an absurd situation

where i stand is usually
a little to the left of
the frame and cocking my head
is just trying to see things

the accepted way
anything coming from 
my tilted mouth
that spills wrong

doesn’t have
much of a chance 
of landing well
for Them


They think of themselves
as mere campaigners
in a big, big war.  

They inflame
wherever they sit. Ignition’s
a self-granted wish.

They have hands full of triggers,
are willing to pull them
to get their way.

They opened up this casket 
and now they’re going
to have to lie in it.

They didn’t see that coming.
They never see it coming; it’s why
they never go away.

Look at how scorched the earth is
everywhere they’ve been. You’d think
they’d be longing to chill by now

after all this burning,
but not them, never them. 
They dig the heat out of Hell,

swing it around,
then blame the fuel
for turning to ash, blame the burned

for being burned, blame the fire
for burning the burned and
the fuel. Then they 

whistle their innocence,
and look for someone to hand them
another match.

Broken Edge

I like to talk about
my broken edge the way
every regretful mouth
still likes to form
rotten words
it once said with glee;

I like to talk about
the old days as if I was
some pioneer fighting off
cholera when in fact
I sniffled far more
than almost died;

I like to nod my head
to songs I don’t remember well
and pretend to anyone watching
that every note is a past epiphany
although I was not present
the first time they were sanctified;

I like to claim what I never was
but only for public consumption;
I like to play the nostalgia game
but only when it wins me what
I didn’t have back when; I like
my broken edge the most, 

though you can’t break an edge
that was never there.


Walls Of Bones And Blood

Until you are by law under suspicion
for your face, do not speak too proudly
of the need to obey any other law.

Until you are by law under threat
of becoming slave or slain for walking
your path your way, do not claim

that if you are doing nothing wrong,
you have nothing to worry about. This 
is not a tale of unlawful doing, but one of 

unlawful being; unless you have lived
where you are always at war, or where war
always simmers just under boiling, do not speak

so confidently of the need for restraint,
do not sternly scold broken windows
in a landscape where everyone’s a casualty

by definition. If you live where that
is not the case, you likely live 
in a fortress made of bones cemented with blood

and unless you can see your own bones and blood
in those walls, don’t scorn those who are sick  
of seeing their entire past, present, and future there,

and who then attempt to tear it all down.

A Lie

A lie is a lie is a lie.

Long chains hold us 
to our pasts. We claim
to have cracked their locks
and are now free of them, but 
a lie is a lie is a lie; 

we give our faith to 
such talk, choose not to hear 
those who still bear 
the weight
we claim to have thrown off;

it’s clear that we are not fooled
but are in thrall to our lies,
and a lie is a lie is a lie;

our lies form a base on which we build
those truths which may in fact be true
in the small scope of our own small lives
but which are bitter 
jokes in the lives
of those whose backs hold us up; a lie

is a lie is a lie. We lie with our lies
when we sleep safe and sound
in our safe beds; to lie
in those beds is to lie in and on
a bed of lies and what is safe,
what is sound, what is
a sound sleep

when each breath we take in sleep
is matched by those whose breaths 
are long since — and even now —
cut off, choked off, stopped
by blood in the throat? How is it
that we do not dream
of blood
come to drown us

when we lie down
when our lie is a truth for some
and not all?
If it is a lie for some

it is still a lie,
is all a lie, 

and it’s no lie to say it kills.

The Chastisement Of Christopher Eggplant

Christopher Eggplant — so called because he always seems tightly skinned and shiny, and because in the right light when showing his usual level of vague expansive derision at all things not Christopher appears also somewhat purple in flesh tone — Christopher Eggplant may have just given his final lip to a dangerous man; as usual not knowing when to apply the brake to his wit, he has decided to tease a large and surly pale laborer at the next door construction site, a man who having finished work for the day is sitting in his silver Buick with the door open chugging a tall Colt 45 and loudly singing the hook of a popular song in a surprisingly thin and pitchy tenor voice; to which apparent provocation Christopher Eggplant has responded by calling out to the man his sarcastic appreciation of the tune, calling him by a brutal parody of the name of the heart-throb who has made it a hit; the man’s comrades upon the job are starting to trot from their own cars and drinking spots toward Christopher Eggplant even as his target rises himself from the Buick no longer singing but with a strange blank look upon him, almost as if he has become some kind of machine, almost as if there’s something inside him that has turned off any sense of irritation, almost a contrast — although more of a goad — to those who are approaching with anger on his behalf, or fear for Christopher Eggplant as they seem to know that something deeply awful is about to happen, something that only the most depraved among us would be so excited to observe, and as I am excited to observe from a distance I feel thus depraved but will not lift my own finger to help Christopher Eggplant as none of us who know him from the neighborhood will, as time slows to a crawl, as the danger surrounds him, as we take a deep and uneasy satisfaction after taking years of his abuse at the prospect of watching him fall so awfully, so wetly, to the infertile ground.


You grew up as expected,
fit prescribed dimensions. Then

you met some people
you weren’t supposed to meet

and did some things
no one had planned you would do.

You began to grow in some areas,
shrink in others, shrink

from some others while growing
toward others, toward people 

largely unplanned for by those 
who planned you out.  

Now you’re scared of the flag they revered,
scared of the uniforms they obeyed,

and they’re a little scared of you in return —
or so you’d like to believe. It’s possible

that they don’t see or hear you at all now.
Wrote you off, a failed experiment. Wrote you

into a narrative that preserves their own.
That’s how it started, after all:

with you fitting into their story.
Now you fit into it by no longer

fitting into it. It’s all win for them,
and for you too once you choose

to let their story go
in order to embrace your own.

Sad Player

Does not matter
how many instruments you buy
how rare they are
how odd they are
where they’re from —

if you are
that sad kind of player
who twists fingers
lips and lungs
into knots trying
to transcend
by sheer mechanics
the spirit of the maker
the spirit of their time and place
the blood in that soil and 
the tears and joy that fed it — 

if you’re that player
take a seat 
and learn first to sing
Make yourself over into
Seethe and roil with
your own blood

Then go back
Untangle your parts
from your head

Play now
sad player
See if you have stayed
the same kind of sad

You Could Have Been An Eagle

Suspend for a moment
your faith in the orderly
progression of time.

Discover your first image upon
abandonment of that notion is of
an eagle chick not yet fledged

tumbling from its high nest,
then suddenly sprouting feathers
and flying to avoid the drowning

promised by the lake rushing up
from below to shatter the bird.
Don’t you feel better?

Things, at least in your head,
don’t have to make sense to work. Imagine it
as having left your mother’s purse

in the jailhouse where she died
and going back to find in her cell
baby pictures from the wallet

(pictures of you sprouting wings)
plastered everywhere. In the visitor’s room,
some have been made into posters:

“Have you seen this bird? Have you seen this child?”
It’s got some kick 
to it, this fantasy, doesn’t it?
It doesn’t have to make any more sense than that. 

Go with it, rinse yourself 
in the milk of it,
taste the reminder

that before anyone slapped you dumb
with education and indoctrination,
you believed you could be an eagle

when you grew up. How bitter it is
to have remembered this so late in life,
when your mother and father have long 

passed and can’t possibly soothe you.
You could have flown, been
iconic, been in this all the way.