Monthly Archives: January 2017

Crisp

“The air is crisp.”

They always say that
when it’s gotten colder. 
It seems right sometimes
but then the question:
how so? Does it
shatter when
someone walks through it?
Small flakes of it like
smashed potato chips
littering the ground? 
If enough people
walk through crisp air
will it eventually be
too broken
to sustain life? 

It’s gotten colder.
The air is beginning
to shatter from all
these people marching
under orders, all those
marching against orders.
Some are struggling 
to breathe. Some have
already stopped.

People also say
that spring 
always follows winter,
but it’s hard to imagine 
hearing the approach of
any warming breeze 
over these sounds of 
choking and breaking,
the crackling
of shards of frozen air.

They say the air will 
get softer soon. They say
wait and see. They say
a lot of things.


What Did You Do In The War?

I wrote poems,
a lot of poems.

At the time
it seemed to many to be
an indulgence.

But now it seems
I wasn’t writing poems
as much as I was 
making bullets and 
planting seeds: bullets
for the moment, seeds
for the future.

Sometimes
one poem would be
both — those were the times
I think I was at my best. 

I do not like war —
I am not one of those
whose blood sings with it.
But there were times,
I admit, 
when I’d look
at what I’d written
and say, there’s one
that will hurt, there’s one
that will sprout later,
and I would sit back 
and say, there. There
it is.  I mean,

why do you fight a war
except for the chance
to hear poems
when it’s over?

(Which is why they killed
some of us,
you know.  It wasn’t
safe — not as dangerous
as some things, but still,
they killed some of us
not because
our bullets hurt them
but because our seeds
terrified them.)

When you ask me
what I did in the war,
I tell you this: it wasn’t
as much as some did,
but it was everything 
I could do — an indulgence,
maybe, but I did it with
my hands and it took
all the strength I had on
some days, some nights,
when the firefights came close
and I thought I would or should 
die but nonetheless I
kept the lamp on above the paper
as I tried to make a better world
with my pen.


Ouija

I can’t sleep here
now.

I look
into it.

There was 
an accusation.

There was a hot iron and
a burned arm.

Death
of infants. Death of
a wife and mother.

He’s like a stalker
in
his own house. He

lived here and
followed anyone who
came in.

I know the man killed
the girl. I think he

killed the dead girl.
She was a living person
and

he was acquitted.

He is dead and refuses
to leave.

He is 
disowned and refuses
to leave.
He suffered terribly
and 

angry guy moved
to the basement.

Pretty private.
It hurts here pretty bad.

His intentions
are

pretty bad.

I don’t really believe in ghosts
but.

I don’t live in the basement
or go there
at all.

I lay my hands on the
planchette

and invite. I am

pretty private but
this needs to be

heard to be 
believed. I don’t

want to live here.
I am

pretty. I am

a living person.
He

is following.

He.
All about the angry
he. 

All about it.
The ghost.
The angry guy,
like a tough guy.

He is always in
the basement
(leave me alone).

Leave. Leave.

It’s a warning. 
She’s
a living person.

Leave. Yes.

Yes.


Perspective

Remember a time when
there was so much
fierce debate about
what was music
and what was not
that you could barely stand
to look upon those from
the other camp? Remember
when you flew into a rage
over which variety of noise
made the most legitimate
entry into the human soul?
Remember when
the brand of jacket you wore
was a passport into 
honor and legend
and if you did not have one
you felt utterly defeated
by the scouring waves
of disdain that followed
your poor choices? Damn,
remember good sneakers
and their cults,
remember when the way
you wore your hair 
called your kindred to your side?
Do you recall
what you thought was revealed
by the trivia
of style and flavor? Do you recall
when these were your most
important questions?
Do you remember
when that was?

 


Sinatra Miracle Vote

“In the wee small hours of the morning…”

A Sinatra song on his mind. Commercials for 
Miracle Prosperity Spring Water on his TV, and he’s
tempted to call. It’s not worth it, he knows, but what if?

“While the whole wide world is fast asleep…”

It’s the wee small hours of the morning of Election Day.
Does it matter what he does now? Vote one way, 
vote the other; will it ever be 1955 again? 

“When your lonely heart has learned its lesson…”

Whether or not he votes, he loses. Whether or not he 
wins, he loses. Perfect time to buy what they’re selling.
Perfect time to croon, sip, and try to go back to sleep.


Among Killers

I was born into killing,
into loving the killers,
I lived in a killing. I 
breathed murder, I slept
on a pillow of carnage
and gore, but because I knew
nothing else, I never
slept so well in my life.

I woke from that
and lived among those
who gentled me.  I learned
of something beyond
easy blooding,
and when I slept 
I stirred often in my sleep
now and again for fear of
the killing’s return.  

Now, after small sleep,
I am back among killers,
born again to the circle
of slaughter. I recognize 
the scent, the thick, sick
air; this time, though, I have
a taste of what it could mean
to know nothing of this, 
and I thank stars and moon
I will never be able

to sleep again.


Otherside

My only fear 
about death is that
it will be merely
a doorway into
an existence 
much like this one

but devoid of 
all the relationships
that made this one
tolerable. Afraid I’ll
wake up after death

in a room with
a one-channel TV
and a bed, a microwave,
no telephone, no way
of communicating,
plenty of Pop-Tarts
and Hot Pockets, 
running water, 
no door. Maybe a window

and outside the view is just
fog, dim outlines of buildings
too far to shout at and make contact
with those who may be
behind those windows
feeling like me. 

On the TV?
Reruns. Nothing but
reruns of 
the news on the last day
I was alive.  

No one to argue with,
no one to love or hate,

no one at all but for 
the smarmy head of 
the anchor
smiling past me
at someone I can’t see,

someone I don’t know, 
someone I somehow
madly desire.


Shambles

Blinds drawn but skewed,
broke down trees around
the back, a trailer’s load of
thin scrap metal in the yard,
stake and dog chain in a circle
of bare dirt, no dog, no car
in the driveway; nothing to show
who was here except debris
and junk and none of it
odd enough to connect to 
a unique person. Anybody
could have left this stuff here
and run and no one would be
the wiser, could have been
you, could have been me…

closed my eyes, remembered
that shambles, opened them and
looked around at these shambles,
re-shuttered my eyes; it remained 
clear that I am the shambles, I drag
the shambles 
with me. Scrap and mess
all over and too old to run from it now.
Got to sit with it. Got to sit in it
and examine hope and lethargy
and my lazy, lazy living. Got to choose
to clean it up or leave it, head to
the next world with none of it, 
its utter inanity a perfect epitaph.


quick note to subscribers, regular readers, etc.

I’ll be checking in only sporadically over the next week or so as I’m working on a number of time-intensive projects, both for my creative work (a couple of new band recordings) and for my consulting business.  

I deliberately completed and posted a lot of poems this month already — 31 to be exact — to get ahead of the curve, so to speak…

Please go check out any of the approximately 3500 poems on the site while you’re waiting for new content.  I may post one or two more in the short term and will be back soon enough.

Thanks,
T


Inauguration Day, 2017 (Alright)

Just to taunt my dread and doom
the cat did everything
she did this morning
the same way she always does.

She tore things up.
She knocked things over
and walked my chest
until I was awake

and got out of
my torture bed

with the same back pain
as yesterday,

my feet on fire
with the same nerve pain

as yesterday. In the bathroom
I learned

that somehow I’d lost
three pounds 
in the last week
and my glucose reading
was
near normal,

two points lower
than yesterday.

Overall my body
seemed better than it did

a few months ago —
but no time to cheer as the cat
twined and threaded through my legs,
softly biting my ankles as always,

until her dish was full so
she could, as always, ignore it
more effectively. She jumped
from the floor to the window seat

to see what was outside:
birds, of course;

my neighbor Irving
banging around inside his car

before work;
gray skies, no rain,

last of last week’s snow
disappearing.

Just to taunt me, just to taunt me
and my haughty opinions and full-on
fear, the small things of the world
insisted on their importance: Coco

worked her diva magic, Irving
got on with what needed doing,
and my body reminded me

of its primacy

as it pulled back a little,
for now 
at least,
on its relentless march
to the End. So

I’m not going to say
we’re going to be
alright,
because we’re not.

I am going to say
that someday
it may happen that

it’s all going to be alright.


No Win Assured

Thanks to age and illness
I can’t close either hand

upon a bottleneck,
a lighter, or a hilt.

Two open hands that tingle
with no grip. 
Two dead feet
that feel just like that; one hard knot

in my gut; still working to be

ungovernable
to my limited extent
I stumble forward,
hands out for balance.

If nothing else works at least
they’re always open; even if
my scant capacity shortens my reach,
stunts my ability to hold what comes to me,

to push off what attacks, to signal
to all around if there’s danger,
these hands and feet
were dealt to me, are what I must play with

in this game for as long as I can, so
I keep playing for stakes higher
than I can afford.  That’s all 
I’ve got —

no win assured and
none expected 
in what remains of 
this life.


Thank You

Thanks, he said, for playing along
with a rigged game
for as long as you did
and pretending that it was fair 
from start to finish.

Thanks, he said, for being
a good sport, a tough competitor,
a worthy adversary.
Thanks, he said, for giving it
all you had. It was a good run.

Thanks, he said, for your rise 
to a challenge, your grace
in falling short. Thanks, he said,
for stepping aside when all
was said and done. 

Thanks, he said, for not
kicking up a fuss, for 
lying down and taking
a fall, for high roads and 
all that.

Thanks, he said, for being
so understanding, for not getting loud
or making a scene. Thanks,
he said, we got this and
don’t let the door hit you

in your loser ass on 
your way back to the back
of the back of the back. Dark
as it is back there I hope
you don’t fall and break your neck

or something. Hope
you stay upright. Hope
you hope and pray. Hope
you learn some manners
back there in the dark. Next time

you’d better say “you’re welcome”
when someone thanks you, when someone
lets you off this easy.  Next time someone
beats you like a drum, chum,
you’d better dance.

 


Stompbox

You have a right to say what you say
but you shouldn’t expect to get away with 
saying it in a clean, clear voice.
I’m here to help you change your tone.
I’m here to push delay. 
Here to offer a bright streak of distortion.
Here to force one big happy echo.

You have some small leeway to twist the dials
but rest assured that I will do what I’m built to do.
You have some freedom to turn me on or off
but rest assured that I’m going nowhere
and will be underfoot or in your head
as long as you are putting yourself out there.
Even if you believe my claim
that I can be truly bypassed
I’m still a hunk of brutal you’ll have to deal with,
taking up space, limiting how far you can move.

You can decide not to deal with me of course
but nobody’s likely to hear you. Everyone else 
who plugs in will drown you out.
I’ll make sure of it.

If you’re lucky
you’ll talk yourself into believing
I’m here to help

and pretty soon you won’t know how you got along without me.


Here Be Dragons

This story isn’t even remotely true;
this is myth on a skateboard
rolling through. It has streamers
and smells like fresh bread but
it’s as fake as a tail wriggling
in a predator’s mouth as the skink
escapes to grow another distraction.
But that taste…you want more, of course
and you’ll get more as long as you
keep your ear to the ground, your nose
to the grindstone, your shoulder
to the flat tire you are trying to make
round. Meanwhile all around you go 
the fast stories faking their paths
and drawing merry millions behind them
with tails in their mouths
while scaly little truths 
get away into the underbrush
and continue growing into
dragons.


Overheard Lament

It would have been better
to have been born now
rather than earlier.

There would already be rules
for growing into this.
This horror would be normal
and unhappy would be 
default and somehow 
there would be love and
silliness seeded among
thorns.

Daily news
would be a stream
of heartbreak
as it is today but kids
could shrug it off and 
slowly accept gray as
a perfectly acceptable
color for lawns and 
flowers. Someone

would make a game of
bullet casings and 
police tape. Any songs
would be written
around the wail of
a siren,

and children would sleep
at least now and then
immersed in dreams of joy
fit for their times, dreams

that would seem
wounded and dim
to us today.