Monthly Archives: March 2018

One More Before I Go

We all think 
it will be obvious that
it’s coming: a disease with
documented progression, 
an increasing need to escape
rotten biochemistry, proximity
to a deepening war zone, 
risky behavior rendering us
so top heavy we’ll clearly
topple very soon. Instead 

the moment comes
in an accident beyond
the sciences’ ability to predict,
an aneurysm previously hidden
from view, a random bullet
or stray blade slipped in
when we aren’t looking.

I pray to have a lover’s name
upon my lips when it comes,
or some poetic circumstance
to frame it if I am silenced before
I can get a word out — and of course,
I pray that whatever art I leave
as a last utterance or imprint
says something worthy of it
my last.

I pray like that each time
I sit down to the Work, as if 
I only ever have one more to offer
before I go. It humbles me
that I never feel I’ve been right,
never good enough to be finished. 

Maybe I stay alive because of that,
though I am not
so vain as to think
I am kept alive 
for it by Something Larger —

no, not me. But I do believe 

there’s an organ inside me
that knows this, and as if it were 
another person within — sure, 
call it a Muse if you must — it keeps
shaking its metaphorical head, saying,

not yet,

I’ll let you know. You’ll know 
when I know, and when I know
it may or not be too late to be perfected,

but whatever the one before you go
will be, it will have to do;

so practice, practice, then let this go.

A note to the readers of this blog…

Dear folks,

I’ve decided to cut way back on my poetry writing and posting for the next month.

It’s important, I think, to lie fallow now and then and recharge. As it is, I’ve posted an average of one poem a day on the blog since 2010, so taking a bit of time away from it all doesn’t seem too outrageous an idea in the pursuit of better poetry.

This decision is also prompted by a really, REALLY busy work schedule for my business in April, including a fair amount of travel to handle multiple sessions for one client. I’m taking next week off for vacation and then plunging into the mess.

I hope my hiatus will not drive you away, especially those of you who are new readers.  Plenty of poems here to read!  

Thanks, and see you soon,


Patreon site…

Just wanted to call out the fact that of late, there’s been a MASSIVE influx of interest in the blog, with hits jumping from 20-30 a day to the 130-160 a day range.  Thank you if you’re part of the new surge.

If you like what I’m doing, you can support my continued efforts with a monthly contribution to my Patreon site. For as little as $1 a month, you can gain access to exclusive behind the scenes posts on my work, critical essays on the work, and special collections — chapbooks and eBooks for the regular patrons.

While I guarantee that all the content here will always be free and available to all, I think the extra, curated content is a valuable extra.  

If you’re interested, the link for that site is here.  Patreon site

Thanks in advance, and as always, thank you to my readers whatever your choice here.  Knowing you are out there is very comforting to me.

Everything I’ve Learned

Originally posted 2010.  A Duende Project staple from the duo days. Probably something we should look at for the full band…?

This is everything I have learned:

that I am nothing.

That as nothing, I am exalted
to be nothing. Deliciously
inconsequential, a part of the Machine
of Stars/Necklace on
the Throat of Creation.

That I
mean so little, anything is free
to hold me.

That I am peer
of leopard and dysentery,
of coconut palm and stray wrapper.

That the pattern of rejection/containment
is the warp of my woof. 
Woolly headed 
and slubby
as a pilled cardigan 
on a grandfather’s back. 
Only here 
for the warmth.

That I am song
under shower breath.

That I will be forgotten,
and this gladdens the non-ego
that fights my stick-wielding
caveman heart.

That love and robbery holler equally
in the alley of my elbows as I grasp
the always coming always receding days
I bore through in anger and dread and joy.

That joy itself
is a movie written by another
but I imagine myself
as grip and gaffer at once
upon its set.

That the skin I’ve stretched
and the blood I’ve pressurized
will look awful when I go,
my bowels a roaring ghost 
of past indiscretion,
my face a sagged charlie horse
in the leg of a loved
one long after my burial,
putting a hitch in their walk.

That every barking tree limb
in a forest 
laden with ice
knows its place better than I do,
and I am happy to listen and learn.

That a man’s
no more human than a tin can on a heap of worms
and that the whine of a bomb is a natural song
of the city of God.

That I am happy
and I am nothing, and
all is nothing,
and since all is nothing
and everything at once

it must be so
that nothing is important and
nothing stands out,
importance itself is nothing,
is the Ganges of my fierce greed
where I will burn myself to ash and crackle
in the consummation of The Wheel

as the last thing I say to another
is swallowed in the Great River
and I am lost to the sun and the voice,

and the Necklace that hangs
upon the neck of Creation
will be my shade against
the long night 
of what comes after
this life, 
this night of knowing
how small I was
and how much I offered to Completion

by simply being what I was:
a petty, magnificent animal.


There is a delicacy to the question
of how we are going to move forward
from this moment — at least for those who see it
as yet another vagary of politics, a moment
up for firm but cordial discussion.  

For me the delicacy of the question
is drowned by the blood
from those being butchered
to feed both sides,
and how it pools ever deeper.

The ones who think it’s time
to find common ground and strive
for mutual goals are terrified
that someone might choose instead
to point out the red footprints 

they’re leaving behind 
on their way to the conference table;
to say that the words in their mouths
form the echoes of death sentences;
to say that agreeing to disagree

is equivalent to agreeing
to sharpen swords and load the guns
of the butchers. For me,
the moment for fear
of plain talk is long past.

Nothing in this moment
is delicate. Look at how the blood
runs. Look at how we hunker down,
hollow-faced, pretending. There is
nothing to be said. Now’s a time

for something that is not talk.
I don’t even want to give it a word
because it doesn’t demand expression.
Talking, we save for listeners. Listening
is a delicate art. This is not the time for it.

Considering The Moderate

The way he stood,
with a sharp agenda
up his ass.  

The way he smiled,
broken gray spoke
in an old wagon wheel
on the roadside.

The way he spoke,
a butter-tongued dance
of slick and smooth
couching a dagger.

The words he used:
some benign on their own;
some with their own
long poisonous tails

The way the air smelled afterward:
gentle, fragrant, warm; ashen
from countless bonfires,
house fires, church fires, and pyres.

Facing You

You say to me,
“don’t eat those foods, 
those chemicals
are nasty and artificial, 
your body is not made
for those…” and I eat them anyway
in full knowledge of how true
all of that is, simply because
I’m going to die anyway
and I have grown to like them.

You say to me,
“the bosses, the workers,
the system, the nature of
oppression, the means of 
production, how can you
participate…” and I agree, how
I agree from years of being
in that vise of steel, I can see all that
but I’ve still got to get paid
as long as I can because the rent is due
and I’m in need of a doctor,
because the vise
has crushed my willingness
to be afraid for righteous causes.

You say to me,
“the whiteness, the white talk,
the ignorance, the cluelessness,
the easy links between capital
and racism and patriarchy and
how can you still be here…” and
I agree, I agree, I have the arteries
and broken mind to prove it,
the slipped joints of incongruent action
and thought creak constantly under my skin
but I’m simply trying to get all the way
to death and oblivion
with as little pain as possible now.

You say to me, 
“how could you? how could you
do this, all of this…” and I agree.
I agree with your condemnation.
I do not avoid it. I do not 
defend myself from it, and 
part of the reason I’m bowing 
and laying my neck on the block today
is because the little I have left
in my power to do and say
is only going to be enough

to hold my own loathing of myself
at arm’s length for as long as it takes
to allow for my own death to be
clean and swift, a relief of burden on those
left behind to do the hard things
that I should have done back when I
was still deluded enough to believe
that working from within the vise
mattered in the slightest, and still able enough
to break free once I knew I was wrong.

The Path

When the edge seems close,
step up to it. Take a long view
over the land below. See waters,
trees, deserts, stones. Look hard
at the distance from your feet
to the bottom of the gorge 
that you must travel to reach
the paradise you can see.

You can choose to turn away
or choose the leap,
you can choose to climb down,
you can try to fly.

You will not likely get there

but the fact
that it’s still going to be there
whether you abandon
or die in the attempt to reach it
is all you need to know
to understand why this feels like 
the only worthwhile moment of choice
in your enfeebled life,

and that thin, crumbling edge
where you stand
suddenly looks like 
the Path.

Emergency Back And Forth

An emergency game
of back and forth
as I try to fix myself.

How much I depend upon
the vanity of thinking 
such things.

I still imagine I’m
repairable. I still put it
in writing.  I still put it

out there. An emergency
back and forth, a triage
disguised as tug of war.

Everyone who can see
knows the game i’m playing
and how played out it is,

how I have played myself.
There’s no real emergency
in this back and forth.

The tug of war as always ends with both sides
sprawled and defeated yet
I imagine tomorrow will somehow be different.


My smartwatch says I am
at 1492 steps for the day
and because I can’t stand seeing that number on my wrist

a symbolic commemoration
of the year when things went epically bad
I get up at once

and start walking around the house like mad
raising and raising that number as high as I can
past 1523, 1607, 1609, 1620, 1680, on and on to 1890 and beyond

until I slow down when I hit 2018 and drive myself past that
to 2020, 2100, 2200, 3000, all the way to 3712 
when I stop myself and ask out loud the dreaded question

will that year when it comes offer enough distance from 1492
and all the rest of bad history 
Will that be enough time to repair us back to health

or perhaps to have created
something new to shine upon Earth
in the way that we’re told  

in every myth and legend we have
that the Earth once cradled us
Or will 3712 be desolate and messy

A forgotten grave tonsured in sparse grass
like an ancient scalp shedding its last hair
as it crumbles into undifferentiated dust

At the moment all I have to go on
is the memory of how I felt staring down at 1492
while thinking of its symbolism as a placeholder for pain

and of 3712 as a different symbol indeed
of how pain can drive you into hope
and how it all will begin again tomorrow from 0

when I will certainly come upon 1492 again
In fact I’ve got many more steps I could take today
I rise again from my seat and go ahead

Moment Of Truth

It’s OK.
You don’t have to survive all of it.
You have to fight, yes,
you must resist, yes. But survival is for
those who believe in a future
with them in it. Get free of that

and let your self-importance go;
do what you can and must. 

Don’t worry
about the ultimate triumph of your own
ideology when poison needs to be
ameliorated and 
removed from the suddenly broken veins
of the dying. Don’t worry if in the effort
you suck more death than you can handle.
Spit out what you can and keep moving
as long as possible. 

You’re expendable, always were, old man.
You were part of the problem long enough
to be suspect.  If you go, you go.
After all it’s not going to be
your world afterward. Move on with a smile.

You’re ancillary at best, a well-meaning nuisance
at worst.  Get out of the way of what must follow
once you’ve done your bit. Individual

survival is unimportant. You are 
not worthy of exception.  Move on.
This is the moment of truth. Live 
in it, not in the one that follows.

Four Scenes From A Weekend

Revised from its initial publication in 2014.

Originally, this was three separate poems written over the years 1976-1980.  Found in my ancient archives from that period.

I was a kid then, a teenager, and my reach was often far greater than my grasp.  I had an essay and a whole theory about what I was trying to do with poetry that when I read it now (of COURSE I kept it!) makes me giggle and blush.  But I was aiming at something, something larger than the individual Poem, even back then.  

Didn’t have the life experience or the skill back then to make it work.  Not sure I do now either, of course, but I am far more clear on my small abilities and my large ambitions than I once was, so…let’s say I think it’s worth a try.


Overheard from a dusk-dimmed driveway:

“Basketball’s simple — 
you take the ball,
you dribble it,
then you 

Father, uncle or big brother speaking.
There was no second voice.
After that, the flat notes,
rhythm of rubber on asphalt.

Two worn men on the sidewalk ahead of me.

One says, “Every time I get my check
I try to hold on to the money.
They rob me at the bank
so I keep it all at home
but they rob me at home
but now I got them all fooled — 
I give all my money 
to the man behind the counter
at the liquor store.” 

His companion howls 
and slaps him
on his age-sloped back.

On the bus
another old man, taller than I
by a head and a half, lighter than I 
by a body and a half,

again and again,
“…had a big 
fat fat 
fat fat 
fat fat 
wife, seven kids, forty years, 
I’d know her face now I think
but not her name…”

By myself, in bed alone,
diving into sleep, into a prayer

that I never forget
the innumerable ways 
to get from one end of the court 
to the other;

that I never 
scorn a journey
for where it ends.

The Bank

Late last night I heard someone calling out in the street. 
Heard someone come down the stairs from the second floor.
Heard the door open, someone came inside,
and more people went upstairs than had come down.
There was talking and loud stomping for an hour,
then someone left quietly and I went to sleep

imagining backstory, drifting in and out of anger,
picturing someone hungry, someone thirsty,
someone done in by cold and impending snow,
someone done in by a longing to end a longing
by buying or selling themselves or their drug.
I kept myself awake far longer than I needed to
wondering and raging and reproaching myself 
for wondering and raging. It was no business
of mine beyond the nuisance of being roused
from two AM to three AM.  All the fear
and righteous thought I soaked in
for an hour after that

was a stale old problem I borrowed
from the bank of pain I keep
and owe and curse,
where I cannot seem
to close my account.

Waiting Out The Storm

To remain asleep in this storm,
waiting it out while the snow piles up,
is a white comfort in a whitening landscape.
You can lie there and think about

what you are going to do
when what’s outside
no longer matches up
to what you think you’ve been seeing.
When you find it’s all been a cover up,
will you die or explode? Or will you
step out and see the green and gold light
on the brown earth? When spring comes
will you allow yourself to be happy?

You think about that now while you’re seeing
the whiteness covering everything.
You think about that and stop pretending
it’s never going to go away.

The Older Artist Looks Over His Shoulder

I’m beyond the depths now,
at least beyond the ones
I’d always thought were my home.
I’m a skimmer now. I never dive.
I can’t imagine the pressure there
and know I would not survive it.

I watch the younger ones go there.
I do not always love how they go,
do not always honor what they return with, 
but that they can go at all, fearless and 
sometimes wrong and dumb but still
willing, is enough sometimes almost
to kill me when it does not make me 
swell with envy and pride for the work itself.

Now and then I stare back across
the surface I skimmed to get here
and tell myself that someday
I will go back for one attempt
to go deeper than before,
and then I look down at my feet
and realize I’m too often terrified
just to stand here
and hold myself upright
on the solid earth, and I know
that descent is no longer mine
to make, so I turn and watch 
the younger ones taking my place
and see them coming back up
holding what was never meant to be mine.