Monthly Archives: August 2019

Movement

Anywhere I go
I see movement from 
the edge of sight —
live dark blurs shooting by
across the floor or ground; 

nothing I can ever name
although indoors I sometimes fear
I’m seeing roaches, or mice,
or other beings shamed and shameful
by reputation; outdoors 

I’m less afraid than curious
although that’s ridiculous —
potentially what I’m seeing
fleeing me or speeding by
out here is possibly less familiar

and offers a greater threat.
Perhaps what I’m seeing
regardless of where I am
is something else again,
beings without name trapped here

and running for their lives
to alternate dimensions
where they are kings and queens
and heroes for their bravery
in facing me who for some reason

is privy to all this motion; also
I consider the likelihood
that there is nothing there, that I am
seeing things that don’t exist
and the landscape’s a mythology

of my own making. Maybe
what is moving is within me,
nameless and furtive, scuttling
like the memory of long-ago mistakes 
through my view then disappearing

until such time as I can capture them,
examine them, choose to hold them
or end them or release them.
I should be wary of where I step.
I cannot tell how hard they might bite.


Drive It Like You Stole It

She showed you the road
Said let’s go for a ride
Got the car right here
Got the time so let’s just go

Turned it over once
Started a little rough
You said I’m not sure about this
She said there’s nothing to it

Just drive it like you stole it
Drive it like you stole it

Blinker ticking like a broken clock
Tells the right time twice a day
This one moves in spite of itself
Ticking like a broken clock

Just drive it like you stole it
Drive it like you stole it

Nothing broken about this love
No matter how hard it might get
Runs as loud as a Model T

Rough as a backwoods road
She said let me drive
You gave up the wheel

Pulled over by a lake
You said my heart won’t quit on you
She just smiled and said
I’m not the kind to let that go

Heart ticking like a perfect clock
Tells the right time all the time
Ticking like a perfect clock
Clicking on all cylinders

Drive it like you stole it
Drive it like you stole it

Come sit beside me while we drive
Drive it like we stole it


Scenario

for the end 
we took with us
what we had
even if it was not
what we needed.
we walked or crawled
toward light, or toward
darkness. some went
alone, some carried
another, some were
carried. we suspected
that once we got there
it would be a bad place
but we pretended
it would be heaven
in order to hold
the desire to keep 
moving and not meet
the end in the same place
we came from. such a failure
would tell volumes 
to those few who might
come upon us after.
what a waste, they’d say.
it is as if they never lived at all
or even tried to survive.
did they think they were
stones that would not break,
would just continue being
after the end had come? 
to have others think
such a thing of us
would be unbearable
so we gathered
what little we had
and moved for the end
as if it might offer a new start
or at least amnesia.
we moved, thinking
at least what we left behind

would speak well of us.
our legacy would be
that when we knew
the end was near

we moved toward something
though it was too late
and had been too late for years.
thinking that in
the best case scenario

maybe no one at all will be left
to speak ill of us.


Legendary Animal

I once was
a legendary animal
without reservation. Could
savage a body
to a near-mythic level,
offer fierce
teeth to my enemies,
feed on the weak
till I burst open;
you don’t know
who I used to be

once upon a time,
back before I woke up
my inner humanity
and turned away from that

so long ago
that although I need
my animal back
to face what is ahead,
i cannot call it up;

my left hand
can’t feel anymore,
the right one
can’t close enough
to grip a hilt or throat.
I admit to atrophy
of the fighting heart.
I confess 
to aged weakness
and, at last, 
to fear.

I want what I once was,
long to have the teeth
and claws I once had,
but I am old, and sick;
and now can feel other animals
closing in upon my bed,
can smell their drool and 
my own sweat and piss —

let them come
by dark or night.

I will die but I swear
they will not walk away
unchanged.


Safecracker

Your tongue’s  
a burglary kit.

Your language
spins and steals. 

Everywhere,
cracked safes

and opened rooms,
and all you did

was speak.
I take inventory,

trying to decide
what is missing;

nothing, it appears.
In fact some things

long thought lost
are in fact here now.

In fact, the rooms
are rearranged but full,

all the doors
still close when needed,

and all the dials on all the safes
still spin, endlessly

creating new combinations
for you to test and try.

You are forever breaking
all my locks, all my little codes. 

The sound of your voice
picking its way in. Your hands

turning and turning upon me;
then, the sound

of the heavy door
swinging wide.


Gandhi And King, King And Gandhi

From 2017. Revised.

“Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defence or for the defence of the defenceless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“The principle of self defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gandhi and King, you say,
King and Gandhi
Though you never quote them completely
or well

Please stop selling me
hippie shit
about how love is all
I need

and trying to convince me
to unclench my fist
in favor of kissing
the face

of someone who has said
they want to kill me
for my parentage
and my wish to be

left alone to live a life
unlike the one they think I should have
under their god and their sexytime rules
and all their ancient proverbs

So miss me with your
quick spouted peace talk 
If you don’t want to swing on one of them
stay out the way

Some folks have lived generations
ducking their fists
It’s time at last
to swing back

Gandhi and King, you say,
King and Gandhi
You never quote them completely
or well


Not Over

This isn’t over
although it appears to be
almost beyond repair.

It is not over
although the bears
are falling into pits
and not rising up.
Not over although
an eagle dropping from the sky
misses the intended target and 
seizes a scrap of human
instead. Not over although
smoke is filling eyes
and lungs and discourse.

It’s not over
because this morning 
someone stepped out
groggy from heat and 
lack of sleep and 
filled the feeders before
making coffee,

and then waited to see
who would arrive first,

and recognized 
the usual downy woodpecker
and said good morning to her
as he turned from her perched
on the log full of suet plugs
hanging not three feet away,

the nonchalance of the bird
in his presence suggesting
for once, the possibility of
a future, offering a chance
at small, tentative relief
that maybe it’s not over,
not yet.


Ism Schism Game

Originally posted 2015.
With acknowledgments and respect to Bob Marley, whose words inspired this piece.

Dictionaries
tell you with authority
how words are used

to do work
on behalf
of Authority

If they mention 
when primary meaning is 
in dispute

or when primary meaning
is a cornerstone
of a prison or when

that cornerstone
rests firmly on negated
backs and necks

If they do tell you a meaning
came from a definition 
written repeatedly in blood

with pens
made from bones
plucked from slain infants

they wink it off with
a bandage label such as
“colloquial” or “obsolete” —

trying to chase 
unquiet ghosts of struggle into 
forgotten fields of rubble

left over from 
construction of 
their order

The dictionaries
have no words
to sing of those who

having come up from under boulders
having come free of rejections and crush
having come from understanding

to see this ism schism game
for the death match it is
and then sing new words to win it

Words of how stones refused
by builders become soon enough
cornerstones and

keystones of
aqueducts to carry fresh water
to those who still thirst

and they do so
by any definition
necessary


Troll

Hoots and jeers,
big noise from a cheap seat.

His name is Ken or Chad
or something just as obvious.

He likes the old ways,
his team’s stank mascot,

his Blue Lives Matter 
refrigerator magnet,

his right to bear
grudges. There’s 

a blanket-size flag
mounted in the bed of his Dodge

for him to suck on, thumb
in his mouth any time

he isn’t yapping about
patriotism or his other

idols. Always quick
with an LOL or J/K.

Maybe he’s a rich man or maybe he’s
a poor man but either way he’s certainly

as pale as his liquor
and just as light and stingy.

Lets you know he’s been through
his own tough times and 

whining doesn’t cut it with him
though talk of bootstraps

and increasing gunfire
sound like a whine from here.

How does he miss
the glitter of rich eyes behind him

and the manipulating hand 
up his ass?

Does he even know
he’s fodder for what’s coming?

When the puppeteer
pulls away, he still won’t

understand. Will stand by,
staring at the Flood,

uncertain if it’s fake
but sure that if it isn’t

there will be a place saved for him
on the last island.


A Door That Leads To A Fight

Before us, a door
that leads to a fight.

We’ve been afraid
to open it for too long.

Hand on the knob, 
hesitating, stepping back

to wipe our hands so dry
no sweat remains, no blood,

no tears. We deny
what we’ve lost by not 

opening that door
to engage what’s there.

We can hear it. We can smell
smoke and iron flavor. 

Ghosts of past massacres
slip underneath to shake us.

Hints of firelight
and snickering flame

offer us a sense  
of the horrid delight

the enemy is feeling.
It’s a thick door but

not thick enough
to hold that all back — 

and yet, and yet there’s
our own hand on the knob

and the start of the turn
and the growing readiness

to become 
smoke eaters and 

water for the blaze
even if we fail;

though we shake and cower
and hesitate,

to fail from cowardice
means so little now

when what’s behind the door
is coming through

no matter who
opens it first.


What’s Missing

Was it in the last place you looked,
that tall shelf

of obscure mementoes
laden with dust; or was it

in a flag’s ripple, obvious
but ephemeral; 

does it live in the wind
or in the fabric? It’s not there,

though. What is it, even? It feels like
what’s missing can’t be defined.

It should be a simple act 
to first identify what is missing,

explain where to find it,
then go and get it.

But something’s missing.
The news has been emptied;

each day seems paler,
no longer suffused with it.

It’s not joy. While that’s grown scant,
it still appears from moment to moment.

It’s not contentment;
some have plenty of that. They

hide behind it, show it off,
their coat of complacent arms.

If it has a name it might be
hope, or even the promise of hope,

but to call it that and declare it absent
is so cold; seems 

counterintuitive in such heat.
To say that hope’s gone missing

seems so nearsighted; can’t see it
right in front of you and the horizon

has grown shady
with smoke from guns and pyres.

Maybe it’s buried under rubble,
in pipeline trenches or mass graves,

and that’s why it seems elusive.
Maybe planting a telescope

in a sacred place
and using it to seek hope

while trampling
the site of a desecration

keeps us more ignorant
than wise, and that’s why hope

stands apart from us, hiding its face,
shaking its head. 

But what if what’s missing 
isn’t hope at all? Perhaps

what is disturbing the flag
is another thing

entirely. Perhaps what we can’t find
on the shelf where we keep our treasures

is integrity or righteous anger or
the will to move against

the evils of this time. We lend
no color to the world. We offer

no tangible proof of being 
a vital part to all of this.

We are in the last place
now. We are sitting on a high shelf

that’s ready to collapse
and the flag can’t save us.

We thought it could,
thought we could take it

for a blanket
and not a shroud,

though it has always 
been both.

Maybe that illusion
is what’s missing. 


Traitors

Revised version of “My Body The Traitor”

Ahead of me I see my body,
moving faster and faster.
I’m one clumsy step behind,
maybe two or three steps;

we’re slowing as we move tandem
toward an inevitable destination.
It makes no sense
to see myself as not being 

my body, people say.
I say they don’t know.
They can’t see how far I am
from being in there, how

my whole intention is stymied
by the distance between
what the Self wants and needs to do
and what the Body will allow.

This betrayal tears at me,
rips me, pushes me sobbing
into my pillow. I don’t want to go
where the Body is going,

don’t want to put
head and heart
into that mess. Don’t want
to die on the Body’s terms.

I find myself longing to betray the Body.
Let the Self decide the route
and the speed limit.
Drag the Body kicking to the end

to fall apart when the Self is done.
Not before, not one day
or second before. Let the Self rejoin
the Body, then leave the Body behind;

betrayed, but at peace or at least
no longer in pain, no longer
in failing, no longer in free fall
to the hard face of the road.


My Body The Traitor

Up ahead of me
my body the traitor
is moving faster
and faster while I’m

a clumsy step
behind, maybe two
or three steps
more days than not;

slower and slower
toward an inevitable
destination. Some days
my body’s every step hooks

on a stone in the road, puts
a big toe in a crack, breaking
its back; I’m closing the distance
though in fact I don’t want to go

where my body is going, 
don’t want to slow and settle
head and heart into that 
jalopy for that junkyard lap.

If I could I’d pull the body back
to where I am and say, rest.
Take it out of gear
and rest.  Let’s step aside

from the chase; let’s park and idle
before the end of the road
and talk about what we’ve seen
and loved and feared and passed

and forgotten; then,
betrayal forgiven, 
once we’ve gotten enough
out of that talk, then

let me strap in
and we can go
together, coasting
to a full stop.