Monthly Archives: September 2021

Career Counseling

Our work is the work
of becoming complete
regardless of disruption — 
that’s the work we should crave,
or so the career counselors
tell us. They have books upon
books of self-guided exercises
full of words like
“mission” and “vision”
and “purpose” threaded
onto their thick pages — 
needlepoint philosophies
suitable for tattoos or
framing, quaint calligraphy
for perfect, well-washed 
walls in minimalist houses. 
Meanwhile too many of us
stare down grocery and utility 
disruptions as our true work dissolves
into a series of jobs, all of which serve others.
We are battered. We are tired
of being told to just lean in
and do what we love until the money
follows. The money never follows
whether we love what we do
or not. We are tired of leaning;
time to line up, find the wall,
and push. 

If It Is Not One Thing It Is Another

Am not amused by
the condensation between
the panes of the allegedly sealed
double paned living room window,
which is supposed to 

be impermeable to moisture 
yet there the moisture is,
a small cloud dampening the glass
in the space, an oval stain
there slightly off center; 
what am I supposed to

do about such a thing, what does it
mean now in these broke moments
that the windows themselves that offer
the only reliable view of what’s beyond me
are failing in the failing walls
of the house that’s failing
as I’m failing?

Come help with a manuscript!

A few days ago, I posted a poem called “What Are The Rules,” and had a moment of clarity about the fact that after all these years of doing this, I actually do have an understanding about poetry, my relationship to it, and how it works for me and perhaps for others as well.

Which led me to another thought: that maybe, just maybe, my long standing resistance to putting together a full length manuscript needs to come to an end.

I’m 61, and after literally 50+ years of doing this, my stubbornness about adhering to the whole DIY thing is bending a bit. Self-published chaps, eBooks for patrons, the public blog, all those things are going to remain in place, but I think I want something more — a collection out there that pulls together the stuff that matters most to me and that I think will have appeal to the more “mainstream readers” of poetry, who dig the whole “book culture” thing.  Also, y’know, mortality, legacy, etc…

So.  Into the fray with this. And I’d like your help.

On my Patreon site, I’m running a special offer (through November 22) in which anyone who joins, upgrades to, or is currently part of the site at the $10 and up tiers, will see posts, videos, drafts, etc. — not sure what exactly — of the process of putting together this beast.

I’ve got over 6,000 poems to consider; you can help me think about selection processes, ordering of the works, etc.  I need the assistance and the encouragement, so I hope you’ll jump into the conversation about the project.

More as this develops, but thanks in advance for considering this, and feel free to share the offer if you have friends who might want in.


To Stand In The Rain

A good reason to stand in the rain
is so you can watch a bus driving away
for as long as it takes to disappear
and then if you like you can either go inside
or stand there a while longer, wondering
if it will by some strange reversal of your fortunes
and those of everyone on board
come back and restart all your lives
in dramatic or subtle ways
and forever after make the sensation 
of cold-soaked clothing clinging to your skin 
the greatest feeling you could ever imagine.

A good reason to stand in the rain
is when the air has gotten
so sharp inside that to breathe there
is to bleed there or to burn from within
so intensely that as the heat begins to dissolve you
from inside out you can look up openmouthed
into the dark nimbus above
and let the drowning of your pain commence 
as the downpour enters your core. 

A good reason to stand in the rain
is to feel something again
after you’ve been so numbed down 
by attempting to live in the light 
that thoughts of dawn and daylight
have come to mean nothing
and then you hear the water in the sky
coming for you and at last something
corresponds to the wild ocean
you’ve been holding within 
for fear of the shaking heads of those 
who just love you more when you’re on 
their dry and sunny shores. 

A good reason to stand in the rain
is how perfect you feel at last out there
even as the crowd inside waves at you
to get you to come in
and gestures with coats and umbrellas
to get you to come in 
and eventually turns their back on you
forgetting about even wanting you
to come in and be as warm and dry
as they are, even as the rain continues
uncaring for them while it bathes you
as you wish to be bathed,
as you have always wished to be bathed.

What Are The Rules

 You don’t use the word “love”
in a love letter. Instead you speak
of feather and turn and light under
the bedroom door. The curtains
serving as screen for
an independent film, the distance
from the summit of a volcano 
to the ocean’s edge still boiling
from its latest eruption. 

You don’t use the word “sorrow”
in a suicide note. Instead, try to explain
as carefully as possible how the wind
never relents, how peregrine falcons
can hang motionless of the edge of a cliff
for what seems like hours before
they plunge, productively,
to the ground below. 

You don’t use the word
“poem” in a poem. Instead, talk
of anthills and of how all we see
is what’s been moved to create
the truth of the living that goes on
out of sight, deep underground
where the queen nestles in the dark,
the unspeaking engine
for the trains that roll in and out
of the light. 


he said.

Don’t take hold of
this suffering,
this blanket of sorrow,
and pull it up over 
your shoulders
like a cape before you go out
to face the blue-gray world.

It’s heavy, has lead in its hem,
and if you fall off into
the deep water below us
I won’t be able
to pull you up and out.

No matter how I might try,
he said,

the cape
is too heavy;

you have always been a superhero
to me, we both know I am not
and have never been;

the water down there
is deep and cold and if you sink
away from me, I shall follow you
down to the bottom and together 
we’ll drown when there’s
no need for that, we’re not

won’t solve a thing here.
We just have to take care,
watch where we step.

We’ll be alright,

he said. 


Your living room couch
a blank hole.

Your affectless grin 
in the face of televised chatter.

Your bedeviled yard, filthy from
socialization you didn’t attend.

Half the community mourning
the departure of the sun,

half ecstatic in full plastic ghost worship
under the moon.

Your slow blinking apprehension
when you turn away from

this season of cooling and
finale; if ever there will be

rebirth, it seems mythically far off now,
a prophecy like any other:

affirmed only in retrospect,
long after you miss your chance

to prepare for it
and reap its joy when it comes.

You tell yourself there’s so much to do
before the snow, all those things

to be picked up and stowed 
before the first snow, before

the first snow. But
the living room couch is

a blank hole and there’s so much
chatter it’s hard to even think.

Instead you sit with the prophecies,
eyes shut tight, affectless grin in place.

Now I Am Stone

Once I could embrace
everything that had a pulse,
and since everything did, I drew 
everything in and held it
until I pulsed with it.

From plain old dirt to brand new seedlings.
From slippery sweet words of love to
harsh talk in the tongue of ravens,
those slow wrenching croaks.
From brilliant concept to laughing dismissal:

if it could move, and everything did,
I moved to grasp it and take its essence
into my own arrhythmic dance.
I would tell the tale of it, and then
I would run off chasing the next wild pulse. 

I am so far removed from pulse now
that all I know of it is what I recall and the words,
the dance of how it used to feel means so little
I may as well say nothing as I fade. Now, I am stone.
Nothing moves me. Instead, I cleave in place.

Lightning Haired Star

Calling the lone white pine
in the neighbor’s yard 
white pine, but also calling it
lightning haired star;

naming the nightly skunks
Lucius, Stripe Priest, and
the Defiant One;

pleading with
the omnipresent sparrows
to step back from
the young cardinals 
on the old feeder. 

We pray on Wednesdays
to the garbage truck,
the recycling truck, call them  
thunder servants
carrying the worst of us away. 
(When there is actual thunder
we misunderstand and think it is
a train. We say, is that a train?
Where is it going, and why is it  
empty handed?)

In the suburbs or
the richer neighborhoods
call us desolate and poor 
if you must speak of us at all,
scorn us for living here
in our dense little enclaves.

We know better. Close as we are
to each other without knowing 
each other by name, but we know enough.
We call the neighbors
the slow walking people up the hill next door
or green house baby girl’s mom
or stay away from that one.

This morning Lucius 
was dead on the street. We 
call for the city workers 
to come pick him up before 
the day’s heat takes his scent
to new levels, although they
won’t come soon enough,
we know.

We watch as the father of 
the slow walking people up the hill next door
comes out with a shovel,
scrapes Lucius up from the pavement,
and puts him in the ground
at the base of the lightning haired star.

Stands there for a bit afterward, staring up,
leaning on the shovel.

Goes, slowly,
back into the house. 

The Atheists Come Around The Corner

The atheists
come around the corner

and walk up to the scene of 
multiple crimes. Mostly

they’re OK. A little 
too sure of themselves

and somehow they
don’t care, but

when it comes to a choice
between their certainty and

that of the worst of the 
believers, I’ll take them

any day. And most of the believers
are OK as well, of course.

That said, anyone standing here
rubbernecking these

particular bloodbaths
is pointing such a loud finger at

the others that the dead
are probably glad to be rid

of all of them. They know
who is responsible for the way

they’re sprawling crooked
and fly-blown on their own ground:

it was those fingers that did it.
The pointing at others, the creation of 

others. Whether or not God
was involved is irrelevant

to a dead child. To the flies
and their maggots. To the scent

of death on the wind. All you need
to get here is a finger and someone

to point it
at someone else.

Good Vibes Only: The Rebuttal

has to stare back from the dark.

has to volunteer
to hold the keys.

has to open the door and look in
now and then to check on
what’s in there.

has to describe it for us
although the nature 
of what’s within is, allegedly, 
well known. 

has to be there 
in case someone else
stumbles into the dark
while the door is open
and can’t find their way out.

has to go to war
when now and then someone else
calls the dark terrible
and tries to pretend it’s not worthy
of consideration and suggests
we seal the door to it permanently.

has to become what’s within
and the keeper of what’s within
and the guide to what’s within
and the fortress of what’s within
and now and then the caretaker of those within
when someone else needs to stay there
and make a forever home in the dark.

The Search For Meaning In A Storm Of Guitar

To think that all this
could be described as
what happens when
a stoned guitarist
plugs in every pedal available
stomps them all at once
and starts banging away
to create such glorious mud
that no one can hear 
a song within this 
so they invent one 
like a boat on a sea of meaning
waiting to be brought to shore
and toward that end we stand around
looking for the Player so we can ask
for this profundity to be opened
and plumbed in public and help us 
see the revelation therein
when in fact the meaning of it all
is that a stoned guitarist 
just wanted to see
what happens
when everything
happens at once
in a bleeding cacophony and the illusion
of this being a song 
is one imposed by those
hungry for the sound of
one clean line
buried under all
a boat seeking port
while a good old jazz standard
or ancient folk tune plays
somewhere under the storm
but in truth the guitarist
has struck one last blast chord
and walked away
across the water 
to find another place 
to play while
the crude wash of sustain
hangs on and on
and the feedback
is killing us

No Mouse

Inside a box
where I am fated
to punch the walls

for this lifetime.
I can’t see through 
the walls I punch
because they’re walls

and I’m weak; been punching
so long and the holes I’ve made
look small. Like mouse holes

from old cartoons. Inside
the holes mice lived
comfortable lives till

they went outside
but then again
what was out there

was spacious and they had
plenty of room to run
from death by cat.

Outside these walls are more walls
I won’t punch through
in this lifetime, I’d bet.

I’m too weak to run
from anything if I did
break through. So

back to punching
weakly at the walls
before the walls. 

It’s all I know
of all there is. 
I’m no mouse;

there’s so little
in here
that comforts me. 

Surge Capacity

There are some who claim
it’s all going to shit and others
who say everything’s
coming up little wings and 
flowers full of life and tiny song

It’s September and in these parts
we look out the window and
pretend we aren’t terrified of
how bad what’s coming is going to be
so we watch for a few white wings
and black and orange patterns and we say
maybe some good’s going to come of 
all this after all as nature
makes a comeback and we’ve all 
learned our lessons except

we forget that nature is why we’re here now
and organisms we don’t romanticize are
turning our artifice to shit but
whoo hoo for the lessons we are learning
and blessings on the butterflies who are teaching
and meanwhile something is bubbling
in the thawing tundra and that’s nature too
and something is churning astride the Gulf Stream
and that’s nature too and who are we to separate
ourselves from the butterflies and viruses
and claim some lessons we are learning are more vital
than the ones we learn from the shit we are 
leaving behind and no one asks the butterflies
or viruses what they think of us and 

while we are rapidly going to shit
devoured and digested by overclocked
surge capacity
we never think of ourselves
as anything but geniuses who
will get it all straightened out in time
instead of being like the butterflies
sucking the last sweetness out of it all
before falling unthinking down
to decay somewhere unloved and unobserved
as everything does
as everything is

Whales Praying In Secret Places

There must be secret behavior
in the world of whales;
it cannot be otherwise; 
traditions they carry on
that we either do not see
or do not understand

when we do see them;

perhaps a convention they follow
when they begin an ancient song,
similar to saying, “once
upon a time;”
a convention that does not
shift from bowhead to gray to humpback;

do they all slow and stop
wherever they are in any ocean
upon hearing it, as if it were
a supplication to those who knew of
Better Times?

Think of whales praying 
somewhere beyond the discernment
of humans. Other beings
suspending themselves in the deep
nearby, hoping the coming grace
will envelope them as well,

holding them
in a place we cannot see
or know.