Monthly Archives: January 2022


I wish I were barely imagined,
unfleshed, a mere mist.

I wish I could simply float
above a fantastic beast

with rainbow-lit fur.
I could not ride it, could only hover,

doing the wind dance 
among others like me.

Singing along to choruses
with beings I only know

by their voices, voices
like my own. 

Instead I’m here, human,
burping and shitting, 

so embodied I can barely move.
My weight one mighty link

in a dark and silent chain.
Not a dancer, and I am no singer. 

If there is any grand beast waiting
for me to saddle it and ride

I fear for its comfort
if not its life, and 

as there’s no rainbow
to light our way

I will keep it safe.
I will remain here in the dark,

will become darkness itself. 
As heavy as everything would be

if it could be lifted. 
As stationary as if the world itself

were to suddenly tumble forward,
rushing away from its past.

All I can be is present
if I am to save anything.

That Scene, That Song

Think of that scene
in a favorite movie 
where a silhouetted couple
makes love while
the Eva Cassidy version of 
“Songbird” is playing
on the soundtrack.
It’s not as if the couple
is playing it on some
device or sound system;
it is as if it hovers
over the bed of its own accord,
unheeded by the lovers,
unnoticed except by 
the audience who
are not actually there
in the world of the film.
It’s all pretend
except for the sadness and 
the ache you may feel
for the singer’s death, or
the longing for the fantasy
being played out before you 
in the imaginary setting
of a perfect scene you can, 
if you so desire, enter
any time you have time,
pretty much any time
you choose to be, any time
that makes you weep, makes you
lust, turns you into
a chaste voyeur until you close
your eyes and begin to hum
or even mouth the words 
to the song, your eyes slowly closing
as always, yet also as never before. 


Bread slice, damaged
goods, animal logic of
eat what you find

Forgiven arc of meaning
well and truly not doing
good despite that

The same blank book
that can hold butchery
instructions can hold

love letters and wholesome
erotica and sometimes
does exactly that

Someone has a recipe
for security and unified
living by set principles

but it’s so big
Won’t fit in a pocket
Can’t take it anywhere

or anyone for that matter
Anyone can’t go anywhere
but they do try

If it’s incomprehensible
don’t you owe it a moment
to change you

Spread it on a slice
of old bread and chow down
Lose a tooth to it and sob out loud

Survival on a dead end continent
requires something other than
human logic

Dream Of An Uninterrupted Life

How splendid it must be
to live an uninterrupted life.

To be one bird from egg
to last fall from a branch.

To wash up on shore
as one skeleton in littoral sand.

To leave no trace behind
that would prompt alarm or fear

of there having been 
an unnatural break in a natural span.

I think of every being
I have been: ones I lost, ones

I abandoned, ones
I suicided or murdered. 

How splendid it could have been.
I could have been an army by myself 

and won. I could have gotten
older and simply faded away

without leaving a body behind 
except one required by convention

for a final rest. Instead
I’ve left litter for folks to sort through

and bicker about. Who was this man,
they will ask. Which one

of these husks he left behind
should we revile or honor as his own?

How splendid to think
someone will choose one and make it so.

How splendid for me. I await an answer,
hoping I am able to rest.

Room Darkening Blinds

Morning: opening
room darkening blinds
in January, acting
on hope

not that there 
will be light, as that
tremendous gift
is given; 

more that overnight
nothing will have made
what’s outside less

than when they were
closed last night at
dusk. That there will
have been

no ice, no snow.
That there will have been
no casual vandalism. That
something still stands

of what we left to
night and shadow
when we tucked ourselves in
till this moment, hoping

it would happen
as easily as morning
can come in January, that
it would happen at all. 

Speaking Of Collapse

My home continues
to fall into itself.
At least once a week
I see a paint flake
in the bathroom sink
and look up, can’t tell
where it came from, ceiling
looks the same or does it?
The sound of water rushing
through the walls and where
will the leak appear this time?
The wind shaking
the plastic sheeted windows,
moving the indoor plants.
The television talking nonsense
loud enough to drown out
the creaking and the screaming
of the neighbors as they in turn
collapse. A needle on the
front walk. Chore Boy
package in my trash bin. 
Watching how it goes down
beyond the desperation 
bird feeders, where all the sparrows
hang, happy and heedless of how close
the food is to running out for good.
I check the storage under the sink
and calculate how long
I can maintain their illusion
which is my own illusion
that if we make it to spring
it’s all going to work out. 


Thinking of the nicknames I’ve worn
from the first one practically given at birth
to the few I’ve chosen for myself in jest
to the few I’ve been called out loud by others.
Were there ones I never heard, and still have not?

Wondering if any of them were close enough
to being my true name, one I should have worn
with pride and grace. A name I should have held
close and waved now and then as my banner
in battle, grief, and celebration. Wondering

if any of the ones I do not know
are more fitting, are more me 
than any I have gone by so far,
and is it too late to take on a new one?
Would I even be proud to wear

the closest fitting name?
Would I hang my head to know
that this was who I was, or would I 
instead retreat into the falsehood 
of the name I preferred? 

New Village

I’m telling myself
I’m not here
but I am
here in front of
a duplex bearing
on one side
a rainbow flag bearing
a peace sign and
the redundant word
on the other side
that Nazi-sanctioned
thin blue line version
of the American flag
and in this town I’m certain
someone thinks 
it’s a beautiful thing
that they can coexist
but all I can think of
is crematoria and 
my god this is 
the town where
I grew up and
how the hell
did it happen and
how the hell
did I not end up 
here and 
how the hell 
is hell not here

Remembering The Palm Gardens, 1981

from 2008, revised.

What Ed at the door said was true: they were all tired, all the time.
Tired from pushing themselves through double shifts
on behalf of houses, children, better lives —
whatever they had to have.

Half the dancers were former high schoolmates
so there wasn’t much mystery about why they were there.
Half the reason we came was to pay to see
what we’d once tried our best to see for free.

“Brandy” used to dance
to the most radical rock songs she could find.
I saw her dance to the MC5 once. She made me believe
the revolution will be a miracle of taut thighs and dissociation.

You push a commodified body
against the pulse of commodified rebellion long enough,
something begins to happen.
The ones who watch them don’t usually see it,

but I never met a stripper who didn’t understand
the balance of power in any give and take relationship.
What it took to gain power, what was inherent,
what could be assumed, what was the coin of the realm;

all was there in the tall shoes and the soft tummies
of the dancers who didn’t speak
until you’d set them up with a drink or a couple of dollar bills,
who then told you everything in high brisk voices laughing now and then

at some drunk who’d gotten crude with them earlier in the night.
I’d sit there secure in the knowledge that they’d never say that about me.
After all, I only went there for the education and the irony
and I told everyone that, even when I couldn’t stop staring

at Sharon from my math class who whipped my ass in every test,
at “Brandy” and her hip-pulsing anger, at Ed
whose scars and meathook hands welcomed everyone
to the Gardens, even at myself in the mirror behind the dirty bar.


From 2008. Originally published in “Flood,” a chapbook from Pudding House Press. Now out of print. 

All people can be divided into two groups:
those who divide people into two groups,
and those who do not.

We call the people who divide people into two groups
“them,” and we call those who do not
“us.”  Sometimes, we call “them” “the Others.”

Let us say everything we know about the Others:
they are grown fat with their unjust ways.  They
hate us.  They are the source of the Smell — ha,

they are overripe with it.  If you were to crack open
the “O” at the beginning of the word “Others,” it would be
as though a durian had been split in a closet and left to rot.

In fact, the Others
are the splitters of all fruit,
the drainers of all carcasses.

We, of course, are the stitchers of that which is split.
All people, then, may be split into two groups: the splitters of things, and those
who guard that which can be split. We are the Guardians,

and we call the Splitters “the Others,” “Them,” “Those People.”
They are known for cunning, conspiracies, their inability to follow
laws.  If you straighten out the “S” at the beginning

of the word “Splitters,” you see that it is a snake’s spine;
they have been holding the serpent close to their breasts
since the beginning. Venom is their milk; we

are their silent milkmaids, the ones who carry
the venom to their tables.   
It sloshes onto us and we are burned

daily.  All people, in fact,
may be divided into two groups:
those who are burned, and those who do the burning;

or perhaps it is those who are poisoned
and those who live on poison,
or those who worship division 

and those who pray for shielding and healing;
it’s as lamentable as it is observable
that this is how it is: lines drawn between us and them,

them and us, the People and the Others.
In the end, of course, we know that all people
can indeed ultimately be divided into two groups.

and the division falls as follows:
all people can be divided into two groups —
those who divide people into two groups, and the dead.

Happening At 4 PM

Around 4 PM a newish Civic
made a magnificent left-hand turn 
across oncoming traffic. 

The cursing that followed it 
was a stunned music for bystanders
but the driver who sparked the song

rolled on through
without taking notice
of what they had created.

Hours later, everyone
who saw it happen is still
feeling some kind of way about it.

Life for them
is so different right now
from what it was.

They all went home
filled with the spirit and story
of the happening.

That they were fairly numb
prior to the squealing
of wheels and horns

and the profanity
has been forgotten.
Opinions abounding,

hard words flying:
they were so alive then,
Death’s nearby presence

not withstanding. This left
their bodies giddy within.
It made the whole dull day

shine. You’ve got to do something
with this, Death told them. You’ve got
to make something else happen.

The Snail

Snail on
the porch rail.
A friend says,
look, a snail.

I say, no,
that’s just 
a snail’s house.
The snail’s inside.

They say, but
it’s an extension 
of the snail, grown
from its body. That’s
how this works. You
can’t separate the snail
from its house. The snail
without its shell
isn’t a slug, it’s 
a dead snail. 

Down the street,
a snake flag on
a house. DON’T
undulating like
the swirl of a shell.

I stare at it often,
but after this I’ll be
imagining the house
is not a house at all

but is indeed the
odd woman 
who lives in there,
who will not wave
when I drive by,
who is her flag and
is waiting
to strike.

Time (Ticking In My Head)

The time is now
8:00 AM. Shoppers
are already beginning
to shout at the meatcutters
that they’re holding back 
meat to crank up prices
and where is all the hamburger?

The time is now 8:30 AM.
In the checkout line a masked
but angry man is ranting how 
his 11 year old nephew
doesn’t know what the USS
Constitution is and that it’s docked
less than 50 miles from here
and what useless crap are they teaching kids
instead of that these days?

The time is now 8:40 AM.
Someone drives by laughing
as I walk to my car and
I hear the words “mask”
and “sheep” and “idiot”
and my fists tighten
around the loops of
the one overfull shopping bag that
is garroting the hand 
I might need if I have to fight.

The time is now 8:45 AM.
No less than eleven freezing people
between the store and here
holding signs asking for help 
and the only difference between 
them and me is a bad car,
a bad house to call home,
a week or so of basic food,
and the keyboard I use to beg
in place of a cardboard sign.

The time is now
9:00 AM — or never. Time to 
take the watch off so I can be
free of the ticking in my head;
free to surf the Big Wave
as it storms through all these people
waiting for a future End who can’t see
that This Is It. 

Fragment: the word

from 2017

In the middle of the night you wake

and in your mouth is the word
that will save everything
currently in peril,

and you cannot pronounce it,

and soon enough you forget it,
but not the knowledge
that you once knew it.

It poisons your magic for a long time.

The Shame Of Things To Come

Today is January 11
and I woke up before 6
with little to do but
accept that I’m not a man

I know it’s not true 
and that even the words
“I’m not a man” are suspect
and reek of Whitestench

except that when I look at
myself and all the failures
that even I call failures
it’s hard to argue that the ‘Stench

is just covering up a good person
instead of adding its flavor to 
the general reek of my 
utter incompetence at being alive

I mean of course I’m breathing and
excreting and God knows I eat
but how will I escape the way
I fail to prosper and no

it’s not just the lack of money
it’s the utter insignificance of 
my work when I think I’m 
doing so well and it’s brushed aside

without so much as a thought
It’s the reduction of my once-keen edge
to a pinprick the barely draws blood
It’s the shame of slowly recognizing

the mistakes and looming disasters
have not gone away overnight
as they rise to the top like old bodies
in the pool of darkness in my brain

as I wake up daily before six
slightly happy until I see them
and drag myself out of bed into
the cloud of chores that each day brings

And at last it’s the knowledge
that in a better world built
without Whitestench or Manstench
or Moneystench it might have been 

different but in the long run
I’m here now on January 11
already up and regardless of society
it’s still my fault that I was and am unable

to get away from all that smell
breathe some fresh air 
take one deep breath and plunge
back in to do what I can and must do

on January 12 and beyond