Monthly Archives: January 2020

Know It All

I’m going to assume
that somewhere a couple
is making love tonight 
in spite of all the ways
the world is ending;
going to assume

that they have been and will be
tangled and drenched
and strenuous and motionless
as befits their moods and desires,
and although they know how few days
are left for any chance
at such a night again,
they are fully present now;

assume that past and future
are just hard words
for harder times
behind and before them;

assume in my weary 
know-it-all core
that I’ve missed something
they have found,

and it’s there as well
for me to find
if I choose to seek it.


I heave the suitcase from the hatch
to the sidewalk
outside the rehab center.

My rider thanks me 
and shakes my hand.
I wish him luck on wherever

his journey takes him next.
He wheels the heavy bag toward
the glass doors. 

This place is located
deep among broad fields
on an unmarked road.

Dark institutions in the near distance
might be hospitals, might be prisons,
might be something else again.

I drive out in the dark. No streetlights.
Find I can’t trust my eyes;
what is road, what is not? 

I must not be alone
in my confusion as to
the location of the road:

here is a sign:
“Vehicles must stay on pavement.
Violators subject to arrest.”

They don’t make it easy.
You’d think there would be
lights everywhere out here

but maybe no one voluntarily
comes to this place
at night, and the dark

is allowed
to swallow those
who lose their way.

Behind me,
the lighted lobby
of the one secluded building.

Ahead, my good headlights
and my memory: how
I got here,
how to get home.


Those cats are so full of kindness and love
that they sit at the window and watch over the birds
that come to the feeders to eat unafraid
beyond the glass in the holes in the wall.

They purr and they sleep and they watch the outdoors
for the beauty of nature and the love of all life
that they obviously have when I see how they watch
and watch all the comings and goings not ten feet away.

If the glass were to fall and those cats went outside,
I’m certain all would be well in the yard
as cats and birds would rush together as friends
as I’m sure they have longed to do for years upon years.


I don’t remember it
Ninety percent of it
Has fallen from me

How I was born
How I was nursed
How I started to walk and talk

I’m told my first word was “apple”
not “mama”
but I don’t recall it myself

That memory
might be on the ground or
might have found its way
into a waterway and floated
into the sea and now is part
of something bigger

Important clues are lost
So I make them up

I think of rose lions
darting through purple grasslands after me
Imagine darling swords
swallowed by lean women dressed
as medieval fish from the margins 
of old maps
who then hummed strangled songs
to me as they bounced me on 
their rough knees

and taught me how to grow up

I force myself to believe
these myths of who I am because
ninety percent of all I am
is as unremarkable as it is forgotten

Somewhere someone’s found what I lost
and holds it up to the light on a beach
far from here
closes their fist around it then
relaxes the grip
and tosses it back to the sand
to walk on without a second thought
about that crummy little trash-nugget

Meanwhile I choose to say 
I was a dragon
before I could walk

Smell the burning applewood
Taste it always on my tongue

Giving Notice

will not do this for a week
or a month

or a remainder
of life or so. turning away

to practice instead
my eating skills.

find a way to feed
on less (as there will be less.)

writing’s a bad food,
anyway. texture too papery,

mouthfeel, pure ashes.
adds fat in subtle places.

it doesn’t show
but oh, the weight.

when I stop
some will scoff and some

will wave hands and flutter
and some, some will insist:

hey, you owe me. you owe me
all your gifts. 

you call this agony
of process on display

a gift. I never understood
that. I’m hungry. I’m starved.

look at what I’m giving you.
this is what I owe? you want this?

such a poor menu
I have been offering.

none of this
is good for any of us.

The Barn Door

It doesn’t matter
how many times
you’ve told yourself
not to share yourself
so easily 
and so often;

you cannot help opening
your barn door mouth,
letting the horses out
to trample the fields.

It’s too late to call them back.

The sunset, at least,
is perfect: red layers,
pink layers, fire glow low
to the west.

It’s too late to call your words
back from their wild run,

but at least it’s warm
where you are
for at least
a few moments more,

before night’s cold sets in
and you have to sit there
silent and alone with regret,
listening to them
galloping far away
without you.

It’s All His Fault

A man burning paper in a dish,
waiting for magic solutions. 

The smoke sets off an alarm.
An entity snickers behind the kitchen door.

Damn, the man says, flapping his hands,
grabbing the broom to reset the detector

with the end of the handle. 
Damn it all to hell, he says, everyone’s

going to wake up and know
I was pursuing such foolishness.

The entity in the corner
whispers to him that he should open a window.

He thinks it’s a good idea.  He thinks
he came up with it. He opens the window.

Out with the bad, in with the good, he mutters.
It’s as much an incantation as “damn it all to hell”

and he doesn’t realize that the whole cascade
of what is about to follow is his fault

for listening uncritically to whatever sounds
like a good idea at the time. 

The good comes in
and the bad goes out into the world.

The entity easily absorbs the good.
The man eventually closes the window.

Now he’s got so much complexity
to deal with, and nowhere to go. 

Magic, he mutters;
pointless, perhaps non-existent.

It’s too late for that, though,
and he doesn’t even know it.

Canyon’s Edge

Old saying: cheaters
never prosper.
In fact they do.
They always do.

I don’t know how to trust.
I don’t know why I should.

To ask for help 
is to open my chest
and show all the knives
I’ve stored there —

not in boxes
or sheaths but bare-bladed.
Over time, nicks
have become open wounds
and I won’t show them
to just anyone.

I dream of canyons
the way some folks
dream of oceans:
I want to sit beside them,
stare out over them 
for a long time,
then plunge in. 

I don’t know why I think.
I don’t know why I’ve bothered.

Old saying: what goes around
comes around. If that’s so,
it takes too long. 

What I know of desertion
would empty a book. I know this,
I have seen the library
where they are kept.

It isn’t cheating 
till it comes around
and fills a book
with knives then
tosses the book
into a canyon
and calls it a day.

How does one prosper,
you ask.
One doesn’t,
I respond, all the way

Let It Rock

From the stage all he clearly sees 
is the faces in the first few rows;

beyond that visual fuzz, sightline distortion
as thick as what’s pealing from the amps.

He knows, as well as he knows himself,
that there are kids in that crowd miming air guitar

to every riff he releases, and as he always does
he asks himself: what do I do here?

Do I play what I played on the original,
the same tired run that used to make me glow

the first thousand times I played it? Do I play that
because a thousand or more kids here tonight

have stood before a thousand or more mirrors practicing,
practicing to play it exactly right? Or instead

do I play it the way I can play it now, gifting them all
a liquid swarm of stingers unlike anything they’ve heard

from me before? Do I risk or relax; do I do what’s expected,
or do I stretch it out before them all

and wait for astonishment,
for indifference, for the whispers that might follow?

He hangs for a bar or two between fear and art
then plunges his hand down across the strings,

imagining a sea of mirrors before him,
unseen in the raging darkness.


My ancestors gave me
a belly stuffed with sand:

some from desert north
of the Rio Grande,
some from stony hills
in Calabria. 

All my contortions
to shift this heaviness
led to this sand
abrading me
until it wore me thin, and now
the hole has widened,

sand has leaked free;
all that is left is

the hole.

I have filled it
with all manner of things

from whiskey to 
fire, from bullets
to monstrous tears.
Nothing has worked;
all I take in leaks away.

I’m so hungry now
but all I consume
tastes like sand — 
and not like my sand;
stranger sand. Sand
full of ash and broken glass.

You stare at me and say:

why don’t you get that hole fixed
if it’s killing you?

You don’t see
how large it is.
You don’t see that it is 
all of me. I am a ghost
from my ancestors’ lands,
made entirely of
emptiness and stray grains
of forgotten soil.
You don’t see 
that death, at this point, 
will be simply a gust
blowing me away. 

Note on my page links

I recently updated the list of links on my page, something I hadn’t done in years. A lot of them were broken or vanished.  Added “Bourbon, Cigarettes, and Syllables”, for instance; someone who’s a recent commenter and fellow poet.

Gotta help each other out.

I’ll be looking over more blogs and adding them over the next little while.  Lemme know if you want in and I’ll check you out; or let me know if you don’t want in and I’ll leave you out. Whichever.



Seeking my place
in this new body, 
opening doors to some rooms
I’ve seen before
and some that are new to me,

a few that were locked away
from me by design or mistake, 

and some that I thought I knew well
that have been altered in some way;
small unclear changes that somehow
have broken my unearned sense
of security, my trust in my able grasp.

Here’s a cracked cup lying
where it has fallen from my numb hand.

There, my guitar with its bloody neck
that I long to play but fear to pick up.

fraught with the small dangers
of life — 

I might have a moment later
where I am comfortable here
but right now, all I can do

is keep trying the locks,
turning the handles,

Imposter Syndrome

Whose words these are, I think I know.
They are not mine. They fall out of me
from whatever broken cabinet they’ve hidden in
until now. No idea when I put them there,
where I took them from, what book, what
conversation; whatever gloomy room
they came from, now they’re here in this one,
on page, on stage, settling into another’s
eye or ear, and all can see how deep
my criminality runs. I’ve never had
an original thought in my time. Everything
is evidence now of how little I worked
at anything other than hoarding words
long enough to spit them back out 
into air that would see them as mine, as fresh. 

Sitting here shivering with my plagiarism,
I stare into it as if my thought alone
could shift a solstice and bring a new season,
a warmer time, something truly mine
to offer; enough of these cold stolen goods.
I seek a new thing, but all I have is memory
and lament. Joy in creation is so far from my grasp
that I may fall off into an abyss simply by reaching
for it; yet, I must try for myself if no one else,
and if I fail, I fail. Any husk of mine left behind
will look so much like that of every other failure
that no one will even notice me drifting off
on whatever blizzard wind has been ordained
to sweep such things away. 


your dark-blessed mouth
moving without sound

your hands involving themselves
in matters beyond their grasp


your room glowing blue by burning
all your hardened regret

your screen full of targets
your attack rationale on dagger point


owning your enemy
you’re a pain collector

owning your arguments
tangled web connector

you are top of the pops
you are king and that throne you’re on

is lit

your hair’s a rude mess
framing your face

no one thinks of you ever
till you start to bark


if you had a dollar for
every sneer you’ve delivered

you still wouldn’t be rich enough
to want to let this go

in love with your damnation
toast of the distasteful 


Unopened Books

How many own books
on which they’ve never cracked a spine,
holding on to whatever’s inside
as if these were precious eggs
made to keep their secrets.

One day they become bored
with the look of shiny unread words
on their shelves and they purge.
All those books go to the donation bin.
Someone else will take them in:

me, probably. They all come to my house
in stacks and stay in stacks near the bed,
on shelves, under the nightstand.
One day I’ll break those books open
and let their music and their words free

to slip out and slide around inside me
or hover in the air of the kitchen
while the chicken browns in the frying pan
and I stare at the refrigerator shelves
looking for something to go with it,

something not there. There is often
nothing there, or nothing fresh, nothing
appealing. This is where we are now,
I tell myself. I think of all I’ve let down.
I imagine loved ones, who if they could see me,

would frown. At least I have the words
to describe this, I tell myself. At least
I’ve had the books and the space for the books
and their words and music, learned enough from them
for this poverty dance to be seen and heard

and understood. Wasn’t that enough?
Comfort and joy aren’t meant for some of us.
Maybe I was born to be the writer
of an unopened book, one no one will read
except another like me. Hello, if you’re out there;

get out if you can.