Monthly Archives: February 2019

Goth Villanelle

Poem from 1996.

This night of stars that have tunneled through the dark
has kept me up so much later than I should have been up.
A cloud across the moon fills my eyes with tears.

Watching the sun vanish opened up a night of dread.
I sat by the river fearing the dead approach of
this night of stars that have tunneled though the dark

and thrown a wink of infinity against my hope for closure.
I wish I knew who to call. I wish I knew what to say.
A cloud across the moon fills my eyes with tears.

If there were distance to travel that would take me past the lights
to places where I could not see the open sky, I could say less of
this night of stars that have tunneled through the dark

and kept me up so much later than I should have been up.
In an hour the sun will rise but it cannot dim the memory that, like
a cloud across the moon, fills my eyes with tears.

Night, day, the cycle repeats with no hope of a change
until the day the fist of God slams down upon
this night of stars that have tunneled through the dark.
A cloud across the moon fills my eyes with tears.

Jeffery Lee And Skin Guitar At The Open Mic Part 2

mixed into night Jeffery Lee
found he was more everywhere than distinct

as he had been formerly and now 
that skin guitar had dipped

he saw he had been more music than flesh
abdicating his song had reduced him

he had lost his hands
nothing to grip the old salted wound anymore

missed that possibility
looked up to see star and perhaps skin guitar

if it was there it was no longer visible
Jeffery Lee dissolved at last away

back in the bar where he’d fallen into such disrepair
things went along swimmingly 

mistakes were sung
now and then someone played their entire skin 

host said clap and wow and blues and love
crowd said ooh and wow and where was I before that happened

at the star heart of what Jeffery Lee had bled out for
all was noted 

fool said skin guitar hanging there
should not have taken life so seriously

Jeffery Lee And Skin Guitar At the Open Mic

he carried it in like a wound
he had learned to live with

sat with it infantile
wondering at untutored wisdom

then struck it 
and drew forth unfiltered stream

as he played Jeffery Lee
changed himself to be Jeffery Tree

then Geoffrey Spree
exposed his nature first in slow touch with wood

then how reckless with speed
Jeffery Lee and skin guitar a blur union

the listeners sat before him in chairs
and talked of elsewhere and otherwise

Jeffery Lee stepped out from behind the mic
went outside into the night 

at that point the host paused the list
for short applause and beer 

no one went after him or saw
Jeffery Lee dissolve or his skin guitar

rising away
to the star

Shrug It Off

Amid the shock and awe at the final arrival of the long-inevitable,
at burn patterns already veining surfaces, at cities that smell like mistakes,
at villages cowering, at collapsing sea walls in hot rising surf, at isolated farms
where life’s winking out as flames consume…you’re here

where deep down you believe all that mess can’t bother you. You’re here
where you can feel the heat and think it’s…nice. You’re here
where you can watch and shake your head in time to the crackling
and you’re here where you can tell yourself that at least the art

may soon be as good as it always is under such stress.
It can’t be helped, you say.  It’s the way of things, you say.
Forget the bucket brigade, forget the hoses, forget
pulling livestock and children from the flames.  Their owners

and parents should have known better — but they aren’t yours.
You now may wring your brutal, soft hands. You need do nothing more.

Starving Artist Whimper

When at the end
a summary of my life
came down to a soft trumpet flourish
as I fell away from it,
a quick tattoo
on someone else’s marching drum,
I felt no disappointment, no
deep pain; more an appreciation
for how artfully drama may enhance
a simple, nearly-squalid demise. 
All I kept thinking as I sank was

where are you,
choir of disapproval?
Where are you,
angels of warnings unheeded?
Shouldn’t this be your moment?

Nothing came of that.
I fell away from this life
with no mass requiem. I dropped
into ooze below like a stick,
sat on top of it held up by tension 
for a while until I finally sank
and vanished into near silence.

Man Without Qualities

Originally posted 2013.  Revised.

There is a man
who has 1500 friends
on Facebook.

When he counts his friends
he has to use

everyone’s hands to do it.

Of the 1500 people
this man calls friends

he has met approximately 800 in person.

Of those 800, he’s had
more than passing conversations

with maybe 200.

Of those 200, he’s had longer
and more intimate conversations
with perhaps 40.

Of those 40, there are perhaps 15
who are “friends” in the sense of the word
that existed prior to the year 2006.

1500 friends — 800 he’s seen,
400 he’s spoken with in meatspace,
200 he’s connected with,

40 he would tell this story to,
15 who would agree that they are friends
if they were not vanishing into a cloud.

He no longer sees friendship
as a solid object. No rock upon which
to build. No seawall against which

the ocean can pound. He stares
at screens where all he can see
is a storm on the way.

One day he decides to read
a three volume unfinished novel
titled “A Man Without Qualities.”

He opens the first volume, closes it,
opens it again. He struggles to understand
how there could be

a story three volumes long
of a man who is nothing
beyond what 
he is asked to be by others.

The book sits on his bedside table
unopened for long spells
as he talks to 1500 friends online

where, if there is a Quality to “friendship,”
it has been absorbed into a cloud.

It is being absorbed. It shall be absorbed.

1500 friends — 800 he’s seen,
400 he’s spoken with in meatspace,
200 he’s connected with,

40 he would tell this story to,
15 who would agree that they are friends
if they were not vanishing into a cloud.

If he desires to hold on to those 15 friends
he will have to learn a new word with which
to draw them forth from the hurricane.


White As A Ghost

they said to 
a frightened man

you are as white
as a ghost

he said nothing
but thought

about the paradigm that after existing
in the skin

he was born to 
for an entire lifetime

the fear of death
would render him as white as the ghost

they thought he would become
after dying

thus negating at last
all else he was and had been

in this notion of the afterlife
fear and death bleach all

and the goal of total assimilation
is thus achieved 

but the frightened man
did not say any of this

instead silently resolved that
when at last his term was ended

if he could come back 
he would come back

the wraith he would become
would haunt all of this

and his ghost
would be dark

Indoor Weather

no one ever speaks of
the weather inside buildings

people pretend
they’ve come inside from weather
to no weather

they misinterpret
the sensation
of a single drop of water
landing on their skin 
from an invisible source

call it a phantom
call it imaginary
dismiss it

in fact rain happens indoors on a small scale
what you felt
was a monsoon in the break room
or spring shower in the kitchen

we are never told this when we’re young
among all the mysteries held back
this may be the greatest of all

that we cannot escape

the cool season of the closet
the mutable climate of the front hall

the terrible inevitable
that is the dark freeze
of the bedroom


Waves lifting silt and muck
from seabeds,
darkening surfaces enough
for certainty 
to become elusive
even as all is refashioned
from their endless beating
upon land.

So many mornings
I awake so exhausted
from dreaming of surfing, 
sailing, or swimming
that I cannot rouse myself 
to ride those waves 
while awake.

I tell myself
my Work is done
at night, in darkness, in sleep,
beyond light.
All I do after dawn
is recordkeeping.

Waves under sunlight, though;
there is something to be said
for how diamonds
sting from spray, how glimpses
of shadows in those waves
may spark visions
and offer other truths,

but it is not something
I have learned to say,
I cannot stay awake
long enough to learn,
and how long it may take
to become fluent in that tongue
is more uncertain than 
what shape this shore will take
when these waves at last subside. 

Forty-Five Minutes

minutes lying awake
after rising briefly 
and returning to bed
where nothing happened

so I rose and
sat with water and smoke
waiting for pain to subside
for another forty-five minutes

At forty-five
I would have brushed off 
a broken night like this one
as merely a test
of the preservation
and evolution of my energy

but at fifty-nine
frozen in the living room light
wanting nothing more
than oblivion temporary or

it is hard to imagine
that once upon a time
twice forty-five minutes ago
I had it

as it feels like I will never
have it again


After he’d rolled 
for a full lifetime

between fear
and anger 

driving always
through shame

to try and get
to where he was going

hoping to end up
at peace

his jalopy body
finally failed

Then part of him laughed
at the possibility of dying

between the poles
without reaching

what he’d thought
would feel like home

while part of him wept 
at the same thought

But a larger part
went still and began to steel

understanding at the root
that this was home

and he could park
or wreck there

but this was where
he’d stay