Monthly Archives: August 2020

Families

1.
Inside a classically
tinfoil-windowed apartment

Armand sits and broods
over tangled news,

teasing out threads that lead
to other threads, pointing out 

omens that predict
future omens.

Armand, his family says,
has always had the gift and the curse.

Which is which from day to day
they never know.

There’s not much distance 
between the two.

2.
He’s two animals away
from having a full zoo,

is what the family
has always said about Erik

who can’t seem
to hold onto himself

for very long, thus
establishing a pattern

of strange footprints
left behind in an odd 

and broken path. It’s not
even clear that

Erik has always been alone
on the journey if you 

examine the tracks closely,
which the family thinks

is not at all
a good idea.

3.
If only there were
clear reasons for Daryl’s 

monosyllabic insistence
upon standing so close

to the table
at Sunday dinner

that it becomes hard
to set and serve. Almost as if

he thinks the family
eats too much or

that he must block
their formality or

that Sunday dinner itself
could still be as deadly

as it was when he was
a youth.

4.
At eight AM
a baby skunk runs by

my front windows
with a yogurt cup on its head.

I try to catch it and yank it free
but my fear keeps me

from investing too much
in that effort to care;

I think maybe it will bite or
I will end up stinking 

and blinded. It runs around
like madness itself trying

to get free
of what has happened

through no fault of its own
as it attempted to find

sweetness, sustenance;
as it attempted to live.


From The Bottom Of A Slot Canyon

I feel like I owe the world some explanation
for the breakdown where I live.
In truth I owe it nothing more
than to live as if I was whole
while not forgetting I am not,
but the feeling remains.

When I tell my story in public
I don’t mention feathers or powwows
or drums. I don’t speak of my old regalia
still hanging stiff with age 
in my parents’ basement,
or of my memories of a late night fire
that was never left unattended. 

These things are not for you to know;
they are all I have
and living here and now
has left me unsure of holding even those
long enough to take them to my grave.

When I tell my story in public
I do not speak Italian either.
Raised with that tongue till school 
erased it. Much as my father lost his
when they took him away to school.
That is all there is to say to you
about Italian and my tongue;

there are more things to say
but they are not for you to know; 
living here and now has left me unsure
of holding even those
long enough to take them when I go.

I feel as if an explanation is owed to someone
for the breakdown where I live
though I know there’s nothing owed to 
anyone, really, on this side and possibly the next;
the feeling is strong nonetheless
and it drives me to speak in riddles such as this one
so let me say this:

when I tell my story in public
I am forced to shout it from the bottom
of a slot canyon.  It does not carry well
to the top of the opposing walls. 
I hold back more than I release
to keep from bringing the half-informed
to where I am, knowing how seldom
they arrive ready to listen.

In spite of the isolation here,
I believe I’ve done 
right by myself.
I feel I’ve done right 
by myself,
as right as I can,

but I still feel like an explanation
is owed to someone.


Play By Play

Tune in twenty-four
seven for the melody
of the moment. Explosions

and big deaths,
laws broken and hard weather
all get sung the same.

The newsreaders sing
the cadence of sport, sing
like play by play reporters.

They throw it to the sidelines 
where generically
handsome people
add touches of color to

their black and white
depictions of struggle
made simple and easy to

swallow. Every
story reduced
to winning and losing,

even if all there is
is loss. There is rarely
any story where

all are winning. That’s
not American enough.
Can’t be number one

without there being
a number two. They sing
that song in spite of

the fire behind them:
lullaby, fight song
for the last quarter.

Enough to make you turn it off
and go wail in a corner
waiting for silence to take over

and make you forget.
Make you want to stop caring
for any of it. Almost

as if 
that was the plan from
the starting gun.


This Sudden Rest

This sudden rest is
unexpected:

so used to being agitated
and unable to relax that 

the collapse, when it came,
was almost as welcome as it was

frightening. After all the wailing
from the floor, all the rolling

back and forth in anguish,
I’ve ended up feeling almost

as if I have been reprieved from 
the weight of living, though

my body’s a bruise journal 
from the hard surfaces

where I’ve flung myself
so many times. The pains,

reminders
of what has ended;

my scrapbook
of what I’ve survived.

I wouldn’t give them up 
if I could. I have tried.


RV Nation

Going
as a lifestyle
has its perks.
One needn’t 
be transfixed
on “home” if
you carry it 
everywhere.
One needn’t 
fret about
the changing
neighborhood
or how the
property has
depreciated
since, you know,
all these people
moved in. And
one needn’t worry
about all those
stationary problems —
sinks backing up
and the like. One
may just go and
buy something 
house-like on wheels
and go, go, go.
It’s historically 
healthy too to 
regain the pioneer
spirit — open road,
living off the land,
campgrounds, blue
skies, see this big 
country at last before
it’s overrun with
the Others. Maybe
one could outrun 
it all. Maybe one
could even
cross a border
the right way and 
keep going. No place,
after all, like home,
home with a range,
a pump out bathroom,
a pull out bed,
and all the gas
one can guzzle. 
Keep going until
the end and then
be burned and scattered
wherever the end is:
keep going a little while longer
on the wind,

end up soaking into 
the soil somewhere,
the green grass

of home or something 
like that recalled from
the past before
the call of the karmic wheel.


Red Onions

The red onions are trying to kill us all
with germ tricks they learned from the lettuce
the chicken and beef
and poisonous canned shrooms
The next door neighbors are in on it too
They’re nasty people 

Everything is trying to kill us
I ate a whole pizza by myself last night
The pizza made me do it
It is trying to kill me

It’s scary out there
and in here too 
I took my blood glucose reading this AM
and it wasn’t as high as you’d expect
after a whole pizza
and a night of sloth 
It’s killing me slow
the bastard disease
of my bastard pancreas

Not like the neighbors who want me 
gone quick
those 
diseased bastards

I wear the mask of the moment
but it’s more so the killers don’t recognize me
in some unexpected moment when I am alone
than in the belief that it will save me from anything
in this place where everything is trying to kill us
even the red onions and the bad fats in the good food
and the sugar and the Nazis and my own head-sauce
full of bad things and all the flags that mean anger
is going to win today instead of any single moment of joy

I never trusted the chicken I admit
My neighbors keep chickens
so I’ve seen them in action
The eggs are suspect as well
but it is the betrayal of the red onions I feel most 
How I once loved their transparent skin
and the full bite of the first bite in my mouth
I loved that more than I have ever loved my neighbors
I expected the worst from them but not you
my produce my food my sustenance my flavor

I will hunker down with Oreos and pure white sugar
I will maintain my diligence
Keep a watch on my neighbors with new glasses

At night I will eat white onions in spite
Rip off my mask and breathe on their doorknobs
Smear red onions on their car seats when they are asleep
I will die before I let them not die as I am dying
Betrayed by the food and the air
and the eyes peering through the near-closed blinds
of all the neighbors watching to see who will fall

You can hear a recording of this piece with music here: https://soundcloud.com/radioactiveart/red-onions


Words And Guitar

I wrote my first poem 
when I was almost too young
and marked by that
went on to write only poems
for an entire lifetime;
that was music to me.

It was always music I sought
in words, how they butted up
to song, slope of one line into
another, beat of syllables
against my teeth and tongue.

When deep in later life
I touched my first guitar
I thought of all those poems
and as my fingers built chords
I recognized what was happening;
it was the same.

All of that is vanishing now.
The need to play is slipping
from me. I sit and think
of my dusty guitar
on the far wall. I sit
and think about the dust
on the seams of this poem.

There’s fantastic music,
clouds of it in fact,
still playing clearly 
outside somewhere;

none of it 
is meant
for me to play.