Monthly Archives: March 2019

Home Cooking

Suet back in the feeders
and three days pass
before the birds find it:

first the downy pair,
then the massed sparrows,
then at last the bully jays.

It takes time 
to reestablish faith 
in abundance after

a season of scarcity.
Birds know this. 
Some weeks ago

they grew weary of
homemade suet and seed
cakes and waited 

for storebought
suet dough heavy
with peanuts.

There were no peanuts
in my homemade cakes.
I had saved those for myself

to gnaw in small handfuls
when there was nothing else
upon which to snack. 

How It Will End

If only it could end
as a bad dream ends,
with no resolution except that waking
reveals that none of it was true.

If only it could end
as a fairy tale ends, with all of them
swallowed up by something improbable
that sweeps them out to sea for good.

If only it could end 
as a good movie ends, with heroism
and vanquished villains
and a sunset bright as dawn.

It won’t end that way, 
of course. It’s going
awry and sideways and
no one is going to win.

It won’t end that way
because someone is making
a different movie, telling
a different fable, scaring us from sleep.

It won’t end that way
because we can’t imagine those stories
are ours, because we like to think
we’re awake; because they own the night

it won’t end the way we want.
Not in light. Not in sunset
or dawn. Not unless
we steal the night from them, and soon.

Say No

Say no
to the poisonous dead
who run this world
from their mausoleums. 

Say no
to killing rules determined
by the tyrannical dead
in other times.

Say no 
to how our language
was etched by the venom
of those savage dead.

Say no 
to boundaries that cast out
those living beyond those limits set
by the narrow stinging dead.

Say no 
to the rotten dead
who built this world
they do not have to live in.

You are alive.
Why do you allow yourself
to be changed and molded
by the venomous dead?

You are alive.
They stole your birthright.
Why do you bow and scrape
before the impotent dead?

Say no
to the dictates of the dead,
their corpse dominion, their 
insistence upon tradition.

Say no
to the insistent dead. That’s all
it will take to upend society.
Stop living as if they still ruled.

Say no
to the vainglorious dead.
Leave their bodies below ground.
Leave their ashes on the ocean.

Say no
to taboo and stricture.
Say no to the frantic dead
who still long to hold you down.

Say no 
to the decomposed dead 
who should
nourish, not govern.

Say no
to the stubborn dead
who have been stuck in memory
long after they should have melted away.

Peace In The Shrug

Revision.  From 2016.

Peace in the shrug
as you pull the first two red tomatoes
from your garden only to notice

they’ve been consumed
by bottom rot, at the chagrin
you feel at not catching that

earlier, the casual toss into
the base of the fence, 
the sudden awareness

of the nearly ripe 
on that fence.

Peace in the shrug
at choices made, choices
that failed to pan out, choices

that went south or north or
every direction not on the compass
without an ounce of malice from anyone

involved, at people living lives
that did or did not intersect with 
your own, at the failure 

of will, the utter failure of
all your will — at the memory
the twenty dollar bill on the ground

at the foot of the pay phone where
you’d just spent your last dime, and that
was thirty years ago; 

you remember it, 
it still pays you 

Peace in the shrug
at the end of this world, end
of order and justice, at the plodding

of the long-awaited Beast,
the pseudo-shambolic walk of the
Giant No, the edible flesh of 

Harmony, the smacking of 
thin jaws around the bones of
All You’ve Held Dear, and now

at the very close of the last snap
of those jaws the silence
of the sunset, and the dawn

beyond your own experience
that will come, that will surely
come even without you.

Peace in the shrug
as you pass, at your last thought
forming around how the seeds 

from the tomatoes you tossed
will grow there in the dirt along the fence 
as long as rain falls and sun shines

next season, with or without you
there to moan, or wail,
or shrug such miracles off

as too little, too late 
when they were never meant 
to feed you.

This Nation

this nation has 
so many chances
to blind a person

from how
land and sea
appear gemlike 
whether up close
or from afar

to how staggering
ideas of its mythology
can become

from musical blessings
bestowed upon
those passing by

to how a random smile
from a stranger
might shift perspective
ease pain
offer comfort

this nation has so many ways
to indulge in camouflage 

blood in its soil
is easily missed
is sponged up quick
used to paint flags

No Muse

I wish I had a Muse who could do for me
what some of you claim one does for you.

Oh, I do not doubt you
when you say it; I only know

that I have been alone 
in this work. Nothing whispers in my ear

or comes to my bedside
to shake me awake in the dark

and say, “now then…now then,
here is the pen, and there is the book;

all you need do is take down
what I telling you.” Not me.

I have to scrape it up
from the desk while battling

fatigue and neuropathy. 
I have to drag it out of me

myself. I have to, have to,
have to look at every word

like a nail in my eventual
coffin or more like one

that needs pulling from a board
I need to cut to make that coffin.

If I had a Muse I could farm that out.
I could lie back and laugh

at their cruelty in the name
of art while waiting for the glory

of seeing my name alone
on the Work. Instead

I’m here between the gas bill
and the rent scratching in the dirt

to free a sprout from a seed I planted
thirty years ago and forgot to water

until now, and yet it’s coming along
pale and proto-green and maybe

if I worry enough about that and
forget the bills it might have a chance

but I’m hungry now, and angry-handed
and in pain, and money’s tight

and I’m old and this is Work
I’d love to lay off on a Muse,

but per usual I’m in this alone
and if there’s a stray Muse to be found

anywhere, I’m sure
it would offer too little and too late

for me to even bother with a summons;
back to my stubborn

scratching, worrying, and
digging in the dirt.

” Ce n’est pas un poème sur un balai”

To be a broom is to be —
if you’re lucky —
old school,
built of wood and straw;

of course, you could be
metal and plastic and 
still get the job done
but somehow I suspect

you’d be yearning
to bristle naturally
at the cobwebs and grime
of the world.

Maybe you could
hope against all hope
to be a pushbroom,
industrial in size

and scope, heaving aside
the remains of work
with great arcs and strokes,
guided by a professional hand?

To be a broom 
would be an odd dream
come true for some
who lie awake wishing

to cleanse, 
to remove and leave behind
only shiny and new and
devoid of all except what you

countenance as useful
and needed. It would be
the perfect manifestation
for people like that —

people yearning
to empty great spaces
of those they see as dirt;
once they’d transformed

I could take them and put them
into a corner or closet,
forget about them, leave them
to gather dust.


It’s gonna be OK,
new awakening,
new birth,
gonna get it all
figured out,

some say.

It’s a puzzle
how we got here,

some say.

who could have guessed,

some say.

those long suffering masses
grown tired of screaming it out
sit on their worn hands
and aching legs

and say:

stop just reacting, 
proving as we suspected
that you’ve never listened 
to us;

an insult and a 
crime to see your 

did you think

we were just frogs
croaking on cue

from the swamp,

background nature, 
seasonal messaging
to be heard but never understood?

May this swamp rise.
May your ground sink.
May you learn to hear
what we say

before we drown together;
most of all,

some say,

may you
(pretty please

with a strychnine cherry
on top
if that’s the only way
you can hear this)

shut up.

The Body

To pass through an abstraction of emotion
one must think about the body.

To control reaction to hate,
step into it, confront it, then guide the body.

To bring self into love’s wake,
pass into the body.

To manage the fluff and haze of self-loathing,
settle with it by praising the body.

To steel the self while offering a hand to justice,
imagine a breeze within cooling the body.

To name whatever shame calls up inside,
kiss guilt full on then fling all coverings from the body.

To pass through grief whole and safely renewed,
bathe first in sky and then the body.

To expand and take comfort in joy,
sing loudly of what surges in the body.

To be at peace with self,
do not think of self as a helpless rider in the body.

To be at peace with self,
be one with the body.

How To Thrive

I salute the dog
who would not greet me
until I removed my hat.

I honor the long look
granted me by the cat
from across the room.

I think of the snakes and lizards 
unconcerned with my face
peering through their glass.

All those creatures wary of me,
happy enough without me
or my attention, disinterested

in my approach or my retreat,
have the proper attitude
toward random human behavior:

if it does not meet
their needs or wants, 
they are serene without it.

Those who flee
if I come too close — say,
the sparrows who fly

when I come to the window
to watch them at the feeders?
I assume they know

about what people harbor
within, and that I myself do not
wish them harm is irrelevant

in the light of that knowledge.
To be wary is to live. To be cautious
is to live. To live 

in spite of threats
either obvious or hidden
is to thrive.

Lazy Man’s Lobster

I shall honor today 

by eating lazy man’s lobster
out of a silk lined top hat,

butter slopping
aristocrat’s felt,

swigging leftover sherry
from the bottle.

I will honor today

by setting my feet 
on an autocrat’s skull

and sighing contentedly;
the smell of blood thick upon me.

I will build upon today

when I get my fat ass up
and make this mansion over

into shelter for thousands,
although right now I’m too full

of lazy man’s lobster
and sherry and port and bloodlust

to do more than acknowledge
how easy it would be

to just move in and take on
the mantle of the master.

I will honor tomorrow

only after I vomit
the greasy richness

that seduced me
onto the marble,

push myself away from
this bad table,

a Who song

about a boss as I 
walk away from the pyre

of this old world
toward something

terribly different,
differently terrible.

As For Me

As for me,

no one cares
except within the context 
of how my life
and experience
validate or enhance
their own.

It’s the first day
of spring. My body
likes that though my mind’s
still wintry.

It’s below
freezing but the burst 
of crocuses in the back yard
stand like middle fingers
to that stubborn season.

Forget I told you this.
Take it for your own;

as for me,
if you go outside
to look, I’m safe
from your erasure.

In The Club

Pretense of
black turtlenecks
and sunglasses.
A cult of jazz dogs
barking assent
to massed noise,
dense mist
of scramble
and note salad.
Deep analysis and
bullshit among the 

the musicians smoke
in the back alley
between sets,

and talk
of baseball.

What I Should Have Said At My Exit Interview

I should have said
“consider me”
more often.

I should have cared less
that they did not.

I should have
made them feel at least
some small pain
upon attempting
to change me.

I should have considered
myself more often, earlier,
less shamefacedly, less
amenable to their molds.

When they said, “We want you
to just be your best self,” I should have
looked around and realized
who they thought I was
or could be. I should have known
that I was too odd to be myself
for them, since when I was myself
I was too odd
and uncomfortable for me.

I should have just seen
the short care they extended,
the impatient worry, the limits of 
the grace they could afford me
as I made my way sputtering
and thrashing through.

I should have just said that — 
maybe I could have avoided
those nights alone at conventions,
in business hotel rooms
at three in the morning,
unable to sleep, air conditioning
turned up to sub-zero level,

how the hell I would handle
five meetings tomorrow
when I couldn’t even get up
and turn the Arctic away
from my skin,

if this is how my body would feel
next week, after I finally did it,
after I was finally dead.

They told me leaders
and managers needed to be
less moody. I should have said,

yes, I know.

I should have said
at the beginning of this
that you should not think of it
as a poem of regret,
or sour grapes;
rather, this is
published research

on exactly how a system
built for narrow health

can and did
without a malicious thought
by anyone
who fit inside 

strangle someone
broken wide open
at all seams

who still cannot fathom
a return to anything
that anyone inside
might call “normal.”

Chastisement Jazz

Morning ride radio.

decorating air,
opening depths,
rarefying light, 
coming at existence from
guru angles, and 
socking in a

News reports: 
bodies on 
street corners,
in mosques,
churches, and temples…

then back to
music standing
up to death — 
all the players having known 
such casual killings
in their time, too.

How dare I claim
to be so broken
that there is nothing left
for me to say?