Monthly Archives: February 2022

Birch

I’ve been the birch, the
definition of bent. Look me
up and see how weight 
falls from me. It is 
how I’ve been able to hold
myself as lovely despite
my pock-scarred
inconvenient bark. Pure
arc, an icon of resilience
when seen from afar.

I’ve been the oak, 
stubborn unhollowed
pillar. Despite the rain
of acorns denting what’s below,
seen as somehow
admirable for my strength
until I fall and crush others,
or until someone else
falls and is broken
while trying to pass
over what I have left behind
year after year. 

I should have been
sawgrass or perhaps
wild oats, a purslane
closer to the soil. Some
weed I cannot name now,
less obvious, more or less
scarce or extinct. I still
would have been more alive
in your imagination, but 
fixed and unavailable to be
downgraded. Less metaphor
than good memory. Beloved
in a static way.


Last Clear Spot

Waking up
Song in my heart no one cares to hear

stick a gun in my mouth
put a razor on my wrist
pile the pills by the bedside
pick them up
clench your fist

A song like black mold closing upon
the last clear spot on my white wall

stick a gun in my mouth
put a razor on my wrist
pile the pills by the bedside
pick them up
clench your fist

Everyone’s sure I’m insane
I’ll stare at the spot till they stop wondering

stick a gun in my mouth
put a razor on my wrist
pile the pills by the bedside
pick them up
clench your fist

It’s a way of pinpointing hope in darkness
when the rest of the song is drowning it


Midlife Gothic

To relax and
let my mind wander
is to trust it will 
eventually find its way
to a bright somewhere
instead of 
becoming lost
in this darker wilderness
where I started,
marveling as whatever
path it takes 
dips and reveals 
creatures in my shadows
who are unfamiliar and 
whose motives are unclear;

yet still feeling certain
that this journey
will be worthwhile even if
it merely affirms my desire
to soak in as much gloom
as I can find before I go,

preparing me to be comfortable
should there indeed be
only a void beyond this life.


Done For The Day

Done for the day
with trying to choose 
how to hold this earth
safe. The only world
we have is in danger
and I need sleep. I’m

a failure, I guess.
I should be burning down
a factory or torturing
someone who makes 
plastic straws but 
I need sleep. I’m 

a slacker, I guess.
I should be beating 
a beef farmer
or stepping to a guy 
at a gas station
waving a piece 
of my mind in his face
while he tries to fill
an eighty gallon tank
in his work truck
but I need sleep. I’m

a hypocrite, I guess. 
Staring at screens when 
I ought to be enraged.
Spending money 
when I ought to be 
foraging. Refusing
to dance to their music
but I need sleep. I ought
to be abolishing work

but I need sleep. I ought 
not to participate, I ought
to withdraw. It might be
why I sleep as well as why
I always wake up
longing for sleep.


Closer To Ghostliness

if you ever wake up one day
more transparent than the day before,
closer to ghostliness than the day before, 

you may feel at first that this is 
the ultimate tragedy toward which 
every act in your obviously broken timeline

has pulled you (or pushed you depending 
on whether it was in your dreams or your past
where it all began). you shall look through 

the formerly corporeal palms of your hands
down at your shimmering feet and see
they are no longer concealing the ground

upon which you walk. you shall sit down,
frightened of sinking through the floor, sifting into
the basement like sand through a sieve.

at least, I did. of course, you may find a difference
between how you disappear and how I am
disappearing. I will just say there was no need

to be so frightened at first on my part because 
I soon realized that little had changed
since I’d never left much footprint behind me

before this, having always trod lightly,
never leaving a mark. instead I found myself
floating, walking as I always had

through the same rooms I’d had for years,
touching common things so casually
it was as if I wasn’t feeling anything as I raised

the coffee cup. from elsewhere in the room
any onlooker would have seen me as not 
entirely there as I sipped, and that

would have seemed entirely normal. I am,
I think, the only person surprised at how little impact
I’ve had on things around me. a see through man,

a whisper of a human, touching but never fully holding
anything. now, at last, I am frightened.
again, your mileage may vary. at least, it should.


Nostalgia Is A Death Cult

Listening to today’s
pop music:
how comforting
it is to hear

music not written
to privilege
who I am, who we were.
How glad it makes me

to be at last
completely comfortable
with being un-affected
in any strong way

by the hits.
To be able to
decide with no sense
of being dragged

by the emotions
into debates
and passion
about this one’s 

merits and that one’s
evils. I can listen and say
that arrangement is 
interesting, how do they

make that sound, 
the production on this
is wonderful, is boring,
is cluttered, is clean;

then I walk away
back to my own guitars
and songs, taking
what I need

back to the forge as fuel.
When now and then 
something new does
set its claws, does

dig in and seize
the means of emotion,
I count as a late-life gift.
Sometimes I even discard

something I used to love
to make room for it
in my chest where
favorites live. And

the next time I reach for 
my guitars and my songs?
It’s there. I am open for
new business. I’m alive.


Line On A Blank Page

A line on a blank page:
now is the time to recover. 

Whose fault it is
that you never became
the artist you thought you’d be

is unimportant. Unless
it’s your fault. After all, you took

the meds that kicked you over
like a traffic cone and now
conventional wisdom says

you’re too okay to make art.
Then you took the courses and now

you make enough money to live
paycheck to paycheck. School
got you here and art stayed behind. 

You lie nightly next to your partner,
screw enough to fall asleep, share life

and love and ease enough
to make the art seem dimmer
every time. You did it all.

Here you sit before sunrise
with one line on a blank page 

in front of you. The house is quiet
but for the grinding of teeth.
Now is the time to recover.


The River, The Stone, The Sand, Your Name

An ever-moving stone
at the bottom of a stream
rounds itself into sand,
loses itself in time. 

The stream loses itself
as it cuts into stone
to make more sand and thus
becomes a river in time.

Sit beside it a while.
In time you’ll also lose
enough of yourself
to become a new thing.

Will you carry the same name
you’ve always used
back from the riverbank
into your former world?

Do you believe
that world,
alone among all others,
will be the same when you return?


The Orange Peel On The Stairs

You will now hear a story
with the usual opening
and closing words,
but in between? There is

a stairway in there.
We see the stairs
and hear the emptiness
of the stairwell and how it echoes

when the climber is done,
but none of that is in 
the space
we call the story.

The story tells us just enough
of the climber’s life to feel 
we know them but of name
or face there is nothing in the story.

We find a single orange peel
on the landing between floors
and all we know of that
is that the story was written

to hide the rest. If there’s
a moral, it’s unknown. If there’s
a lesson, it’s hidden except for
what we already know about how

what we are told conceals
the why of the untold parts: why
the sweetness of the orange and
the strain upon the body of the hero

are left unremarked. Why we are allowed
to see so little and yet become
so engaged, to pretend that once 
upon a time we all lived happily ever after,

even the people in the stories we tell
who lived mostly in the gap between 
the seen and the unseen and did not in fact
tell us anything they did not want us to know. 


An Untold Garden Story

We never learned
this story of the Garden:

how someone whose name
is unknown now,

whose existence itself
has been erased,

stepped up after the Expulsion
to steal a kiss from one leaf

of the Tree.  Did not gnaw 
on the Fruit or lick 

the smooth hard Bark;
simply laid one small kiss

upon one Leaf. Wanted to be
able to say that they

had tasted the source
of Knowledge and then went on

through their life without
any consequence for knowing

just enough to get by;
to have a hint of Truth

linger on their lips without it changing 
anything inside them. Then they’d sneer

at Adam and Eve for being
so willing to go so far in on the Truth

that it ran them out of Paradise
and into the Wild.

We never learned this story of the Garden
because it was kept from us

so we would never dare to question
if they were right

and so we would never know enough
to be sure they weren’t.

All we have is a view of that sword over there
and the genes we carry that

keep us afraid
even as they tell us to try

and get by the flames
to see what we might be willing to do

for even a small taste of something
that will assure us of the way home. 


Elemental

Fire, also known as
an expanded demonstration
of how quickly things may change 
when exposed to the right spark.

Water, a case
for how slow wear carves
such canyons that anyone
could lose themselves in awe.

Air, remonstrance
of solidity, the case for
flitting to and fro instead
of hanging on for dear life.

And earth, where it all
happens. Where blaze 
and flood and hurricane close in
upon your well-planted feet.

The mission? To live
as part of this elemental,
ancient, startling world, buffeted 
and altered by known and unknown.

To maintain or fall stale.
To factor damage into
the swinging of your intimate pendulum
and shift as your time shifts to match its pace.

To adapt or die
before your physical life
stops altogether without you
having known what it means to live.


Wheelchair

Got to where
we needed to go
but no farther.
Satisfaction wasn’t there
when we got there; neither
was peace nor any other 
abstraction.  

What was there? The rattle
of an empty wheelchair
in the wayback of the SUV
and bags upon bags of clothes
never to be worn again.  

Knew we’d get there
hoping for denial,
anger, bargaining,
depression, acceptance;
all those long-debunked 
phrases, all those pseudo-
scientific words.

What was there, what is there instead?
Numb awakening every night at 2:35 AM
to images of the wheelchair rolling
slowly down its accustomed hall
with its customary passenger
dressed in all the usual Patriots finery
he could wear;

nothing else.


Left Of Tired

From where I am
I can see tired
far off to my right.
I am well beyond the left of tired

and all I want is to go home,
but where is home?
Cannot see it anywhere.
Maybe it has moved and is still 

farther to my left. My father
might be somewhere over there.
I know he is no longer to my right,
back in the well rested world.

I have just come from there; it is 
emptier right now than I would like
so I remain leftward bound,
with no sense of what may be there.

— for my father, 9/15/1932 — 2/3/2022


Notice

My father passed away this morning at the age of 89 from advanced Parkinson’s disease. I will be away from writing here for several days, at least.  

I will be back. Thanks.