Monthly Archives: November 2019

Cold Guitar

She’s on your mind

as you struggle
into the club

with your gear,
coming in from cold

that will bust your guitar’s finish
wide open into something like

a road map if the case
is opened too soon.

There you sit with a beer
staring at the case,

thinking of songs for her
you haven’t written

that you promised yourself
you’d write, and now

would be the perfect time for it
if only it would warm up.

Then again, there’s tomorrow
to consider, and spring eventually,

and the right song takes time
and heat and more time; and 

the thought of her is receding now,
the previous urgency diminishing

even as the time comes
to pull the guitar gingerly out

and play your songs for strangers,
songs you wrote for her

in warmer days. Songs
you are selling, if you can,

to anyone who will listen.

Morning, November 2019

A corrosion of our shared faith
in how sunrise should feel
to a night chilled face.

A wasting disease
of our individual hopes: failing, wilting,
drained of heat and blood.

An injury to the bones.
An insult to the stones
below our feet. A consummation

of historical tangles
of wrong paths and missteps
and mythic levels of stubborn denial

leashed to pure and wholesome
Evil. It puts words
into our mouths no one

fully understands,
but we speak them
anyway. In this ending,

all words trend toward
inscrutability. Confused,
sunrise stumbles on without us.

Rope, Knot, God, Ground

When you get to
the end of your rope,
tie a knot and hold on. 

By which is meant,
you’ve got to let it go
if you are going to tie it.

Which means of course
you’ve got to let go
and let God.

Which means
you have to have faith that the same God
who created and established gravity 

will suspend it just for you 
this one time just so you can tie that knot
and hold on.

Which means
that if it really pleased God,

you could just float there 

without needing the rope 
or the knot
in the first place.

That God must want you
to die of absurdity, must be
a capricious entity;

you are
a joke
to them.

Why don’t you just let go, 
forego the knot,
see what happens?

Maybe there’s a God,
maybe there’s no God.

Maybe you’ll float

or maybe you’ll fall;
maybe the ground’s
not far at all.

Look at the end of the rope up there,
growing smaller and smaller
as you descend.

Bye, bye, rope. Bye bye, knot.
Bye bye, God of caprice
and mutable law.

Something’s rising
toward you
from below.

Hello, unknown landing,
soft or hard. Hello, 
place where cliches end.

No rope, no knot.
Solid ground, 
all the solid ground you need. 

Thanksgiving Eve

Revised. From 2008.

Yes, I know the first official Thanksgiving Day 
was ordered to celebrate 
the massacre of 700 Pequots 
in 1637.

Yes, I feel accountable
to those dead 
for joining the annual amnesiac rush
to hide behind the lie
of a feast 16 years earlier in Plymouth 
that is used these days 
to screen us from how we cruise 
upon an ocean of blood.

Yes, I annually balance 
that shame on the end of a fork.

Yes, yes, to holding tight to the memory
of death in the fields around villages
burning like candles on the shore
of Long Island Sound.

Yes, yes, to the horrid past alive
in every bite of every American dish
eaten every day.

Yes, yes, though,
to days off and family
and people unseen since last year;
to knowing some of these faces
will likely be not here next year,
perhaps not even 
my own.

Yes, yes, yes.
Yes to our own remaking.
Yes to surviving the remaking of others.

Yes to the remaking of myths
through truth applied more as lesson,
less as bludgeon.

No Light

Trying to enjoy the odd last light
of the odd last days of our empire.

Trying to see past the dark beyond
into the expected tomorrow morning

exactly as I’ve waited for it my entire life.
Dreading my entire life. Praying against it

for my whole life, though it kept on coming up
and pouring through. I did what I was told

and tried to love it, to find the beauty in it.
Here I am today where the light is shade-odd

and I’m trying to love it
and the beauty as I’m told to

and all I can think of is 
light ending to bring me the night

and let it be that I need not
wait again to leave that dark

for a beauty
I can’t find at all anymore.



a point can be made of anything
if you grind it long enough.

any point can stick you, or pierce
another. any point 

can be used to draw blood
or break a hide whether tender or tough.

you say, what about that warrior who said
“be like water.” what about water, you say,

water has no point? but direct it tightly enough
and it cuts through anything from stone

to time — any canyon shows 
how sharp and durable water’s point

can be, how much past is laid waste
behind it.  air, you say, air has no point?

tell me, what word that has ever torn you
was not at first a reworking of air?

a thought well sharpened can kill. anger
comes in spikes. temper, temper,

harden, hone; pull all we are
into the service of the spear. 

a point can be made of anything
worked hard enough, ground down enough —

even us, softened with fear;
even us who think we could never, could.

Heads up

Sorry for the reduced output of late.  Dealing with an attack of something stomach related, possibly pancreatitis, and it’s knocked me for a loop.

I’ll be back in form in the next day or so.





On All Fours As Predicted

as has been predicted
we are down on all fours
eating sand — smooth

pink, hard graveled, 
laden with plastic and glass,
oil-caked: whatever we find

we swallow because we must
eat or die. we are down on all fours
drinking sewage or other foulness

because all we have left is foulness.
drown in scent and hard swallow.
this is how we see ourselves now.

as has been predicted on all fours,
understanding slightly more
of what that’s like. there were so many

who told us it would come to this
and now we semi-get it but we still think
we will rise up in a bit and things

will return to normal. we only semi-get it
as was predicted. this is normal now.
we will have to be down a long time,

longer than this, if we are ever to rise.
those who’ve lived here on all fours longer
stretch and prepare. as was predicted.

as their time down is done. if there will be
a rising at all they are ready. we remain
on all fours though they will lift us.

if we let them.
if we can vomit that poison.
if we take note of what has been predicted.

I Have No Metal

I have no metal.
I have no funk.
Lost my folk, my jazz,
almighty punk.

I sat my guitar back
in its case.
Laid the strap 
over its dimmed face.

Easy now. The down.
The slide. 
Rest the music.
Close the eyes.

I know one song
from start to end
and here it is.
I recommend

you play it slow
and soft to start.
Crescendo till
it breaks a heart.

Need not be yours,
need not be mine.
Just count it off
just one more time.

I have no metal
and crashed my punk.
My funk and jazz
have run to junk.

I have no song
to offer here.
Close the door.

You Done Good

After all
had ended,
the only thing 
he lacked was

“you done good”

from the one person
he’d never heard it from;

when it was clear
that it would remain
forever unvoiced,
the air filled with ash

and ever after
he would choke
on any accolade

Whatever Happens Now

It won’t happen, my fantasy
of finding my way from here
to a perfect off-grid palace
in a town of peace and care
for all who come there.

It won’t happen, my hope
of song as everyday speech,
music as deeper connection
of all who join in song, mutual
current running among all.

It won’t happen, my dream
of somehow all of us
pulling out of this tailspin
and soaring, swooping over
open land with joy and freedom.

Whatever happens now
instead of all this, I must trust
that a person exists who holds onto
what I cannot. Someone with stronger
dreams, less ready to fail.

The Mine

Could you tell the difference between
a suicide note and a poem 
in enough time to intervene?

Should you even intervene
with a poet on the verge?
Should you stop assuming metaphor,

instead presume the imminence
of poison or pistol? When a poet
offers pain or joy,

who knows
what’s being served?
Is it live or is it

memory, descriptive
or prescriptive, hot or cold,
raw or cooked or even

not a poem at all — 
not that it matters once
you’ve gotten your fill.

Have you gotten
your fill? The poet
is not supposed to care

as long as they’re empty
when they’re done.
As long as they have been

of some use. Or so
they’ve been told, over and over:
the unacknowledged legislators,

the news others die for, etc., 
etc. To be of some use,
even as they are consumed,

is all they should expect.
You read it, you dig it, you mine it;
they write it, it buries them, they die.

A Ghost Talking

A ghost walking, hands clasping daggers on a rain-dimmed afternoon.
Too much on my mind; too little mind with which to hold it up.
I’m not a man anymore as much as I am something glimpsed and incorrectly identified.
A blur in the foreground of an old photograph. The viewers ask, in near-perfect unison:
Who is that rushing by, now almost out of frame?

A ghost walking, carrying captured rainwater in two buckets: galvanized metal squeaking as they swing and slop over.
A vinyl album playing on a modern turntable in a second floor room, music in the wet air.
I don’t know this song but that is unquestionably Coleman Hawkins’ tone singing against the rest of the world’s noise.
A wide chorus hovering over the sidewalk five feet up, at near ear-level. Listeners in the vicinity ask:
is there a break in time that makes this so, and who is that ghost, whose water does it carry?

A ghost who glides or floats cannot be described as a walking ghost according to strictest traditional guidelines.
If there is a ghost carrying water, holding knives, or simply floating empty, that’s something to be understood differently.
You ask: what am I not seeing, what am I seeing and not understanding, what am I missing about you?
I say only that I truly don’t know. If I am a ghost, I’m not a restless, disembodied entity as much as something transparent
I cannot fully explain. You see through me, past the love I encompass, past the life I could offer to you.

the American din

words you’d expect to use
are hereby banned

for the duration of
this conversation

instead of nation
we will say blanket

instead of cacophony
we say rust

instead of chaos
we shall say engine

for scream
instead we say the language of love

which is like a blanket 
over rust

flaking off from the rough shake
of the engine that propels us here

to the carnival
which we say instead of saying

which we say instead of saying

a civil debate
which we say instead of saying

what we mean which is 
a way of saying we don’t know

what we mean when we insist upon
speaking of the language of love 

while the blanket
bursts into flame

the American quiet

in the American quiet
a voice that 
in other countries
is plain and 
becomes a nuisance,

an unnecessary
trumpeting of what
the American quiet claims
is so obvious it is
unnecessary to say it:

that people 
have a right to 
redress and 
even the rudest hint
of protest is still
to be honored

but in the American quiet
all you hear
is that the rudeness
of the hint negates
the gaping scream
of the sacred cry 
it portends

you could drown in the American quiet
and no one would hear you scream