Monthly Archives: August 2021

The Lilac Bear

Let the great bear of my history 
come seeking me by intuition
once I have put enough into the world
that my trace is pure, strong, and available.

Let the great bear of my history
come to me some August night
as I sit on my porch and imagine 
the scent of next spring’s lilacs.

Let the great bear of my history
stand before me, stinking of my past
mingled with the past of the world
beyond this one until all smells of the future. 

Let the great bear of my history
raise me in its arms and crush me
into the void, and let my body
be buried and forgotten soon after.

Let the great bear of my history
grant me the gift of the scent of lilacs
as a final memory, sparking the desire
to return by spring. 

Let me come back as a bear
foraging for history since that moment,
running up and down hills
in rejection of myths, flavoring the air.

Let me be the bear for another,
a wonder-filled being on a porch,
thinking of some good thing yet to come;
let me become the Bear, the Lilac Bear.

Not All Boomers Love The Beatles, Man

Regretting time spent considering my teenage years
when I was compiling 
banks of music, art, and literature
the world could use to define me.

Unlike so many boomer peers
I’m mostly no longer
in love with all that. Instead 
I’m somewhere I’m not

supposed to be, forever chasing the new.
I’m a bad example of my peers — 
nostalgia is for the easy
to please and I’m not that,

never have been. But
there are times when by chance
something from ages ago
stirs a new feeling, or someone

from long ago stirs a new pot,
and instead of disdain I feel
small hope that I might have
a final twist in me too,

or will at last be able to unlock
my one true thing, my one
best offering, and all the rest
of why I ever loved those artifacts

might make sense and I’ll at last
be unafraid to reclaim all of it
without looking down on the love I felt
as a relic to be left behind. 

This Man Is A Hospital

He has lived from the start
as a hospital
taking in all
sick arrivals

Lining them up
so deep in his hallways
he can’t help but stumble
between chronic and acute

Rough way to live
he tells himself whenever
the crush of illness inside him
becomes nearly intolerable

Followed at once by
a sigh and a shrug
Reminds himself
it was his choice to let them in

and his fault entirely
that he’s so damn full
of such pestilence that
he can’t walk straight or think 

healthy thoughts
Looks up at the pictures
of his family on the walls
The founders of the institution  

The ones who set the mission
on its path
He trips over an old corpse
and chokes on the facts

It’s not their fault I’m a hospital
he tells himself
I ought to be used to this
by now and the fact that I’m not

is my fault too then he
pulls himself up by the gurneys
and bounces on down the corridor
answering pages and praying

he will code

Around The Mountain

— for Andrew

Looking to the mountain.
Waiting for Her to arrive.

Horses, wagon or chariot,
and Her, the unspecified Her.

She will be coming, the people say.
Feels to me like a set up — 

keeping us all
watching that mountain for

a century and more now
and we haven’t been even told Her name.

Freedom, some say. Salvation,
some say. Or something like

those, or something less cosmic.
She will have news of what’s on

the other side of the mountain,
that much seems obvious, even if

it’s not the principal reason 
for the trip. I want to know, certainly,

what’s over there. If when I ask Her
she disdains me for being prosaic, I’ll know

it’s no place I belong. If She 
shrugs me off when I ask for Her name,

I’ll walk back up the road she just traveled
and go ask Her people what it is. 

Not every mythic arrival is glorious.
Maybe She just had the good sense

to come here to get away from something.
Maybe She will be a fugitive or refugee

and after all the waiting we’ll just expel
or kill Her out of frustration for the long wait.

Or in fact perhaps no one will ever come
and the whole point of the song

is to get us to watch the mountain
while someone steals the valley

from under our feet. Maybe 
She’s already here among us, 

waiting for us
to figure it out.

The Colony As Compost (Yes)

In every delusion is sown
a bit of truth, yes,

a weed that explodes 
cell by cell into a tree
full of inedible fruit, yes,

as the days become misshapen, more dark bulge
than light stream, yes,

as we are deafened by long haunted voices
of those brought to ground by others impressed
by different delusions, yes, 

this is the nature of the new world,
the nature of bastard settler dreaming, yes,

blown out through veins of cold blood,
nuggets of truth run through a fuzz pedal,
a song drawn from disturbance operas, yes,

this is how we learn,
this is how we begin a new education, yes,

if we are to be grown whole from the land,
if we are to be open as we grow toward the sun,
new shoots shooting up and up and here we are, yes,

everything we are grown from has rotted into food
and everything we need is rising from our shame, yes.


It’s Only Wednesday the Fuck

“Wait, it’s only Wednesday. The fuck?”  — MED

A friend of mine posts on Twitter
their dismay at the week crawling slowly by

with a single line, 
“Wait, it’s only Wednesday. The fuck?” 

that seems somehow to add a title,
an honorific, to the dread weekday name.

I develop in my head the image of a tapestry,
a medieval rendering of the cheap and elegant

Wednesday The Fuck, Ruler of
The Slow Lands, Head of The Legion

of Digruntlement, riding a bony white mare
through their domain as we peasants kneel and mutter.

Let’s face it: Wednesday IS a fuck. Too far from
last weekend and also too far from the next.

All Wednesdays ARE fucks. They sit there
on calendars waiting to be filled with Tasks

and Events that will keep us miserable
till we can boot scoot on down past Thursday,

get moshing on Friday, rave on through
till Sunday afternoon and the next go round.

Monday bears all our moaning while patting us on the shoulder
all day; it remembers our recent joy.

Tuesday mainly hurts us by taunting us about 
what’s coming tomorrow right up to the moment when

Wednesday the Fuck shall ride again at the head of
columns of bland, deadly, We-Got-Shit-To-Do soldiers,

seeking conscripts to those miserable ranks.
Don’t do it, I say to my friend. Don’t fall under

the fucking spell of Wednesday the Fuck
and become old and bitter about time;

just keep on getting through it. Time is as arbitrary
as — well, as Fuck. If Wednesday needs to be overthrown,

we are the only ones who can do it.
Let’s plot the revolution right here, right now,  

and start with Wednesday, which can’t even spell its own name 
without adding extra weight in the middle — the fuck?


Scare (Joe The Cancer)

Joe the Cancer
was preparing a hot meal
to eat off my belly, as if I was
his table, or perhaps
a paper plate to be discarded
when his meal was done.

I pushed him off and 
thought I had done
enough for all time when
from the corner near the house
I heard him hooting out
his longing for my lungs,

and now I think about Joe the Cancer
more often than I think about
love or baseball, listening for his
hardly subtle song of yearning

and ignoring the now irrelevant
snap of a ball into a leather glove
that used to be, for me,
the perfected sound of triumph.

Try Or Die

This gargantuan blood stain 
that we call a nation
covers a landscape of long-ago love and sex,
generations working through sorrow and laughter.

By this rock someone once offered a prayer
for forgiveness for the hurt they’d given to another.

That prayer is still here, drowned in blood.
Some of us are trying to clean it off and let it fly
and add our own prayers for what we’ve done
and what’s been done in our name,

using words so browned and hardened
they can barely rise; but still, we try. It’s that, or die.

Coda: An Old Poet Shuts The Door

I have far less time ahead of me
than behind me. Such a relief. 

I don’t need to mess up 
whatever time I have left
trying to pretend I care much about
new birth and evolution.

I’ve seen enough of both
to understand that they lead,
inevitably, to people like me.

You call me out and call me old
and set in my ways and
part of the problem and —

listen: you don’t live in here yet,
and I hope you won’t for a while.

You can’t understand 
all the new things
I’m already learning
against my will, so step back

and let me go on in my choice
of armor. Poor as it is, 
thin and already pierced as it is,
it’s how I manage my terror
of inevitable forgetting
and accelerating decay.

Put simply: when I am wearing this
I don’t care about you being on my lawn.
Stay there. Camp there.
Enjoy it or tear it up
and plant figs or whatever; you choose.

But don’t think for a minute
about trying to enter my house. In here
there’s not much danger from me, true,
but there’s plenty to fear
and I can assure you
it’s nothing
you are ready to see.


Two voices
asking me ordinary questions
at the same time
while I’m trying to check
the status of this
ordinary dinner and keep myself
ordinary till it’s over.

I fail.

Twin storms suddenly
in here with me,
one by each side, beating
blue light out of me
until each breath
tastes like lightning
and sets extraordinary fire
all around. 

Ambulance Ride

To want is to break. 
If you are broken already, 
if you’ve been broken before,
to want is then to seek healing 
through wanting 
and once you are healed,  
to want is then to break
once again.

Don’t you feel at times
that endlessly chasing desire
is an ambulance ride 
taken over and over again 
to a hospital where every time 
a different doctor
just shakes their head 
and mutters about
fools never learning  
as you’re wheeled in? 

To want is to break. 
You’ve been broken before
so often that what you mostly want 
is permanent healing,
but there you are, 
as boringly broken as ever
and once you are healed 
it doesn’t last;
to want is to break
again and again; how often
does this have to be said? 

Don’t you feel at times
that this pursuit of desire
is cutting off your cast
from previous breaks too soon,
pushing recent atrophy 
to its limit and beyond 
until you fall again,
unable to walk,
resigned to your pain, 
just as you always have?

To breathe is to want
and to want, you tell yourself,
is to break, so you break. 
To keep breathing is to admit
you want healing for your wanting.

To catch your breath for a moment
and imagine what it will be like
when you stop wanting permanently
is to break eventually,
gasp, bend back into breathing
and wanting; it’s an unfamiliar
form of healing,
something unlike what happens 
in an ambulance on your way
to a shrug of dismissal 
and your chagrinned ride home
after that.

To break a cycle
of wanting
and healing from want
is to lie down broken
and refuse attention
until you’re alone
with your fracture
and see at last
how far you’ve come
on your once-fragile,
now-bolstered limbs. On your
forever-being-splinted bones. 
On whatever this is
that your desire 
has made of you. 


I fight hard 
against drowning in nostalgia,

but the way she stood 
in late daylight!

The weight of seeing her 
standing in that light

pressed my body down,
was for once stronger than 

what I handle around her
most of the time, 

and I couldn’t breathe
as easily (or as much in denial)

as I usually can; 
time and age caught me 

and there I was sputtering 
to find some fresh truth to tell

instead of muttering, as I did,
“I’ve always loved you in that,”

as if I was some once-famous crooner
in some formerly decent lounge 

repeating some Bennett Sinatra cliche,  
as if I had ever been in that debonair league

and the sound of my voice would be enough
to bring it all rushing back to both of us —

but it’s the next morning
and I’m still there, still sputtering, 

the remembered voice in my head
choking on something wet and salty 

as I slip under 
the surface to stay.

Morning Ghosts

My day begins in the dark,
stumbling from bed to
bath, trying to avoid 
the small ghosts crossing
the kitchen, white streaks
only I can see
as they speed through
on their way to
wherever they stay in daylight.
It’s an old house,
with a tilted floor made
for crooked dancing;
they run past me
with and against
the slant. I suspect
they’ve been up all night.
I used to fear they were 
dread insects until I realized
they were taller and whispered 
as they ran. My two
nonchalant cats never pay them
any mind; I think they are all
gaslighting me and are in 
cahoots to make me see
how silly I am to believe
anything this early in the morning
such as

they’re the ghosts
of all the cats who’ve been here
in the century since this place was built


those are the words
I must pin down today
when I get to my desk at last


to discover something
magical in the wreck of 
living here 
is what I was born to do

but when I come out of the bathroom
to turn on the coffee maker
they’re gone, and now I have to feed
the real cats and begin to sink
toward suffering as I do daily,
eventually ending up on my knees,
blind, broke, and broken,
sobbing over my failures,
wondering how any of this
will get repaired before I pass;
thinking that perhaps
I might become
a shrunken spirit myself,
trapped here 
fighting the tilt
of this ruined kitchen floor
before dawn every morning
till even the building itself
is only someone else’s bad memory
darting through their day
before it begins.


You Can’t Fight City Hall

What is the problem,
what are the rules,
who gets to decide?

Open doors in civic buildings:
dark rectangles with false promises
inscribed above. No light in there.

Parchment overwritten and amended
in secret alphabets that say one thing
and demolish everything else.

What time sunrise,
what time sunset,
who names the hours in between?

Stars no sky ever held.
Stripes as stark as wounds.
Snapping in time to bone music below:

a flag well-suited to become
a tourniquet, a shroud,
a tablecloth for some elite meal

at a table where clumsy speeches
mingle with the sound of chewing, swallowing,
spitting out gristle.

Where is the barricade? 
Where are the guards?
Who is the gatekeeper? 

What tools do we need?
What will it cost us?
When do we begin?


I’ve been burglarized — 
not my house, my Self.
This dwelling has been
ransacked. Even after
a full inventory, I can feel
new empty space and 
have no idea what was once
there. I just know I was stronger
with it, whatever it was, and now
I’m constantly seeking it
or some reminder of what it is
or was — some trace of it
left in the wiring of
my sad electricity, my 
heartbroken pipes,
my grimy corners,
the unfamiliar tracks
in the dust of the bedroom floor.