Monthly Archives: August 2018

Sharks

Near the close-by ocean 
folks are terrified.
It’s brand new,
it’s unheard of:

sharks.

Once in a while
they break surface
in front of oily tourists
and apprehensive natives.

Blood in the water,
the warmer water,
the transformed water.

The fear
is not only about them
killing picturesque seals.
Not any more.

Look at them.
They’re here and that means
we’re all over;

soon the sharks
will learn
how to leap, then fly.

When it happens,
if you look carefully
at the shadow under
a jumping shark
you will see faces
you’ll recognize.

Even if that
particular animal

is not feeding
and has other places
to go, when it lands
upon something you love,
that will be death.

People on the beach
sit in fear of what’s out there
in water that used to be 
ice, their heads tumbling with
movie possibilities, scent
of blood, empty hips
and shoulders, chunks
of identity swallowed
and gone.

Sharks, they know
better. They prepare
to jump, to fly. 

Calling out to all:

water’s poison,
air is fine.

For now.


After The Orgy Of His Ending

he was laid out
like a meal
on a picnic table.
How swiftly he was
torn and butchered!

If you lay a feast
before some folks
they settle right in
and devour it.
I’m certain
he was spoiled,
spoiled early,
spoiled rotten;
I never could have thought
to drag a tooth over him. 
Seeing him
picked clean like this,
I worry most about those 
who consumed him, that they
are what they ate, that they
will turn rotten deep inside
if they were not already. 
It’s not their cannibalism
that shocked me as much
as, knowing how dark
his meat was, how readily
they took him in and made him
a part of their very bones.

They live
right next door
with their bloody jaws

and their endless,
deathless hunger.


A Giant

Long ago,
a giant

somehow
fell out of me.

I don’t have
a face or name
to give you,
but can say
the space inside me
where the giant was 
is specific,
individual, 
and huge.

I can sense
a being in the world,
a being I should have been,
moving 
in a manner as vast

and expansive 
as the planet.

Inside me
where the giant

was born and raised
there is only
a void with an echo
of my own small voice.

I’ve done pretty well
as a shell, I must admit;
have moved the earth
in my own small way,
left footprints,
made some noise,
been a small presence 
nearby and faraway.

That knowledge, though — 

that deep knowledge
that something
dropped out of me
long ago: a void inside
shaped like a larger,
stronger version of me
that I never had
a chance to become;

that knowledge
is a near-fatal wisdom,
a numbing poison
shaped like regret,

a giant named regret.


Write A Continent

Prompted by a misreading of a Facebook field that actually said, “Write a comment.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Start with a mountain range,
or a single peak, or a ridge
on the peak, or a string
of boulders, or a single boulder,
a stone, a pebble, perhaps 
a clump of a few grains of sand.

You could do a novel on 
a few grains of sand.
Multi-volume, intertwined plots,
unresolved conflicts — get these handled
before you move up to the continental
challenges. In your lifetime
you may never get there,

and woe unto you if ever the words
“compose an ocean” swim into
your field of view. That’s how
you die unfulfilled. A recipe for 
drowning. A death sentence
you’ll never be able to appeal.


A Beautiful World

A beautiful world exists;
I believe that. 

I understand that
without feeling it
at all. No connection to it 

beyond that which one 
might briefly find 
for a well done replica
of something beyond
personal taste —

doll house, tractor,
Angora rabbit —

commenting
for the sake of form
about being impressed
by the work involved,
then moving on.

Beauty, truth —
there are those
who have claimed
they are the same;
I cannot agree.

I’ve seen and felt 
so much ugly truth

I have become numb
to that which might be
beautiful and true
at once,

which does not render
the beautiful less true
but it makes me
an unreliable narrator
of my own passage
through this world:

me on a tractor,
chasing a rabbit, 
heading home
to a perfect house;

me weeping 
when I cannot feel
the sunset
painting me gold

when I arrive.


Adjacent

I’ve got a friend 
who weeps when called out
for racist words and actions.

Who sobs out loud
when tapped on the shoulder
with a simple, “excuse me, but…”

Who appeals to the masses
for absolution from
wee slips of the tongue and 
itty-bitty sins of omission or,
sometimes,
commission. 

I feel so bad for them
I’ve created
an easier term to use.

I say,
“You’re not being racist…
friend…
it’s more like…
you are…

racism-adjacent.” 

As in, of course
you’re not,
but you share a fence
with it.

As in, of course
you’re not,
but your apartments 
share common spaces
where racism
plays Kid Rock so loud
you can’t hear
that nice Justin Timberlake.

As in, of course 
you’re not, 
but you work
a community garden together;
racism grows weed, you grow
cannabis.

As in, of course,
racism doesn’t know any better.

As in, of course,
you certainly know better.

You’re not racist,
just racism-adjacent.
Sit near it at work.
Talk to it at lunch.
Engage it in debate
online, listen to it
respectfully, indignantly
at PTA meetings,
tut-tut it in private,
slip into silence
when it’s next to you
in the elevator, 
the supermarket,
the voting booths.

Of course, you
are not like that.
Of course you would never

although you sympathize
with how hard
it must be sometimes to miss
falling into that
what with all the 
provocations
and you know better
but the economy pushes
people and 
you would never sacrifice
anyone’s right to speak —

Enough. Friend, listen:
I’m so sorry I called you
racist. It must have been
the lighting, the darkness,
the nearness of
the real racist
in the room — sorry, 

I meant to say
“racist-adjacent”
of course but somehow
I forgot. Sin of 
omission on my part —

I forgot the word
I’m supposed to use.


Routine

Five days a week most weeks,
I hear a radio

playing out front
around seven AM.

Last notes of a current hit drain
away; another one starts.

A car horn insists from the curb
that someone is late

meeting someone. Hard footsteps
down the back stairs from

the third floor. A soft exchange of
Spanish. A van door

slides open, closes 
quickly with a deep 

chunk. The motor pitch
rises, the tires hiss, and then

all of it fades away
till tomorrow, same time.

It is torture on some days,
comfort on others, depending

on how the day before felt,
how my bed treated me last night,

what I expect from the rest
of this day and the day to follow.

On any day I do not hear it,
I awake as if I had. That is

torture some on days,
comfort on others.

Now and then I only hear
the radio and then fall asleep

again, or wake to the van
pulling away. I wonder then

if I have missed
a variation

that might have
changed my life,

then
I stop wondering

and my life
goes on unchanged.


Plans

If I had died young, 
before high school,
you’d speak of me
as you might speak of a bird call
you hear outside your window 
at dawn in spring
when it’s been a long time
and you don’t know
what you’re hearing but it seems
familiar and you feel 
a tug of joy and sadness
at the passing of time.

If I’d died young but older,
say in high school, 
you’d speak of me
as if I were a storm 
a whole town
had endured
that had torn out
monumental trees
and wrecked landmarks
but all sign of it
having happened
is now gone.

If I’d died 
after high school,
years later perhaps
but before now, 
you’d speak of me
as if I were a flash,
a meteor you heard about 
from people
who heard about it
from other people, 
and you’d regret
not having seen it
when it passed.

If I die tomorrow,
how will you speak of me?
As the unknown bird song,
the faraway, long-gone storm,
the fireball rumor? I’m here still.
I’ve no plans to go anywhere, 
but plans have a way
of manifesting unaided.

Are you going
to speak of me
at all?

If so,
what wild moment
will spill from your mouth
after you’ve said
my name?


Salt And Fire

Originally posted June 2017.

There are places on Earth
so soaked in hate that
the only moral thing to do

(after finding new places 
for people to live)
is to burn every scrap of wood

from furniture
to framing, fill in every
foundation, break up

all the roads that lead 
into and out of town, then
salt the ground sterile.

Every day you hear
of places so poisoned
they should live on only

as a shocked memory
of a country of horror stories
and nightmares.

I do not say this lightly.
Every town is someone’s home and
has at least a modicum

of love clinging to it. I do not
know how to make hate disappear,
and perhaps I have become hate

when I think these things —
perhaps I should
burn myself, 

have a friend
roll my smoking corpse in salt
and bury me in barren ground.

Look around. Something 
has to be done 

and it is hard to believe 

that it will not
require fire
and salt.


Apex Predator

In spite of
His reckless
and eccentric
reputation.

In spite of all the rumors
spinning out
in a wake behind Him
as he proceeds.

With no regard for 
how He steps upon
smaller beings or 
fragile footing. 

With a wink
at His handiwork 
and a smile for 
His damages.

Whistling 
His songs,
reading His books,
watching His shows.

Everybody knows
His name. No one knows
what He does 
behind the screen it provides.

Or everyone knows.
Or enough know and
they keep it to themselves
because He is good

to them. Good for them.
Good enough
that His walk

is its own excuse.

His work
is justification
enough. After all
this is how 

all of this was built.
Built by Him.
Built for hunting.
Built to drain away any blood.


Tired

tired. tired of animals,
their smells and wants. 
tired of the anguish of feeling
I have failed them.
tired of feeling like 
I have failed and failed
at satisfying any need.
tired of sobbing when
I can’t find the remote.
tired of anger at myself 
when I find it
where it should be,
where I thought I’d looked.
tired of my reliance
on this petty wordplay
to hold me together.
tired of white perfume
screaming in my head
every minute of every day
covering the scent
of a brown world.
tired of the shame
of knowing
my very existence
was the end result 
of a genocide
when they lifted babies
from their mothers’ arms
and sent them to their 
erasure factories.
tired of headlines 
and comments. 
tired of feeling.
tired of waking 
then spending the day waiting
until it is safe to become
unconscious again without
anyone thinking me odd.
tired of having to talk
to anyone who would think me odd.
tired of suspecting
that everyone thinks I’m odd.

the belief that
I am a tendril of something
growing all the time
into a new being
is all that keeps me
from succumbing to
fatigue and its mastery
but the stretching and 
cracking of old shells 
and cages is excruciating
in spite of its necessity.

tired of how obvious
and weary the house feels.
tired of my weak garden
and the way it fails under my care.
tired of my body’s vast
and prolific history of mistakes.
tired of animals
and their scents and wants
and how I bury my face
in their fur to weep over 
the lost control I never really had
in spite of all the illusions
I did not see as illusions
until I was one with them
and as dangerous
as any other deep ache
felt by those 
who somehow manage
to get by
while remaining awake.


Bootstraps

Born in a tunnel
looking up. There is
so much
light above. There’s a ladder
that begins
above me, higher than I can jump,
the low rung
shining like a sword unsheathed
against me

and everyone else down here.

I don’t have
the strength to climb to it
even if there
were purchase to do so.
I’m so hungry.
We all are, having built small fires
and roasted 
our bootstraps into tough meat
long ago. 


Awakening With Apocalypse

Dead fish float
on the surface of dead waters.
I wake up suffocating.

There’s a presence
in the room. 

Is this what it’s like
to die? To be alive
as the world dies?

Whatever is in the room with me
won’t explain.  Won’t say why here,
why now. 

I roll over to try and sleep
on my side.  I’ve been told
it’s better for me. I don’t recall
who told me.  It may be a lie.

The One in my room lifts its arms.
All that has died blazes back to life.
Fish swarming silver across
a pulsing sea. Vanished birds

overhead. My grandparents,
their grandparents.

All that has
vanished — or is this also a lie?
Once gone, always gone.

Forget languages,
customs. Viewpoint,
the taste of smoked salmon, 
love-touch.

The Presence tells me

I’m dishonest,
mercury-souled, foul as sodden cashmere
neglected in an unemptied washer.

Is this also a lie? The world is
ending, to be fair. Truth seems to be
going with it, to return at some point
when it matters again.

I roll over
on my side as I’ve been told to do
and try to get back to sleep

in a room filled with
the fragrance 
of lilies
without a lily in sight.


The House Falling

This is a house
falling and 
so many under the roof
will be compressed
into somebody’s unfortunate
consequence

and now
and then an escapee will 
be asked, “wasn’t it worth it
to be out from under”

and they
won’t know what to say
with their flattened faces
grown long and broken from
the trauma of having been 
inside the rotten house
as it fell.

This is a house
falling and
all over the neighborhood
bricks are being thrown into
the yards and through
the windows and

look at all the people
bleeding and calling out
for shelter and protection and
they are asked

“isn’t it nice
to have light from where 
that nasty building used to be”

and they won’t understand 
after being blinded by 
flying glass.

This is a house
falling and 
noise and brown dust
are choking and strangling
people who were hoping
to be heard in the 
stillness after its collapse

and they are asked “are you
better off now that it’s not
holding you back” and

they try to answer in the 
affirmative for those
who were outside already
and missed all the damage
from the moment the damned
house fell, the kids and others
who will benefit in the absence
of the fallen house

while the ones who were inside
and knew it was going to fall
accept death and the weight of debris as
the price of someone else’s hope.


August 16

1.
Too often now I stare at a screen
and try to recall what it was like
when I could easily change blank
into not blank.

Sometimes I’d make
a good thing, more often I would not. 
However it ended, at least there was 
a result. Back then emptiness

didn’t stare at me like an adversary
the way it does now. The challenge now
is to survive, more or less, 
while fighting the whiteness of that void.

2.
Yesterday, Aretha Franklin passed.
Today daylight is still sagging
in the absence
of her possibility. 

Eighty years ago to the day
Robert Johnson passed. The moon
still hasn’t recovered all of the melody
it loaned him.  

Somewhere in between them
Elvis Presley died — same day,
different song; I know people miss him
but what song we lost that day, I can’t imagine.

3.
I’m not ready yet.  If I go tomorrow
the only song I’ll take with me
is a small one, a pebble in a shoe
shaken out after a good day walking,

forgotten once the immediate pain 
subsides. A tuneless whistle 
to get by one of life’s little discomforts.
Right now, that’s all I’ve got.

So back into the empty white I go
to blotch it up then read the portents there,
turn them into full-blown glory. I want the earth itself
to mourn me. It may not happen. I will try.