Monthly Archives: June 2022


Unseen bird thumping
against glass
then flying away

Bursts of clacking
as downy woodpeckers
hammer their beaks
into bricks of seed

Fanfare of chirps
and wings flapping as
next door’s hunting cat
charges and fails as always

then inevitably
the sound of them
all returning together

and that damned squirrel
at it again — probing
the cages to see what
could be gained there

They say you should
take your feeders down
in summer or never put them
up at all but truly

I would be lost and crazy
if I did as this is how
I make myself want 
to look outside

at something other than
the red black backs
of my eyelids shut tightly
against anything but myself

Poem To Be Poured Into A Musket Barrel

This is a poem
made to be poured like
120 grains
of gunpowder
into your musket barrel

as the advancing lines
of the enemy king’s
soldiers come
within range of
the deadly aim
you are sure
you possess
in your fantasy
of stopping them cold
before they overrun
your position
and force you
into surrender
or death;

this is a poem
for when your weapon
misfires, a poem
to be remembered
as you prepare to fall
to your knees or
upon your sword
in desperation
because nothing
in the legends
of your people
taught you how
to lose

and now you have
no choice but to learn
how to go low
now that the high ground
is no longer safe.

Poem To Be Etched On A Knife

This is a poem
to be etched
on a knife.

It does not deal
in wide scale acts.
The Statue of Liberty

will not be made to vanish
this way — this is instead
made for close-up menace.

This poem 
on this blade:
talisman upon talon

for intimate
Can serve as well

as kitchen tool or
freeing good news

or payment due message
from its envelope 
after a wipe-down from

the work of sustenance,
the chore of making do;
still, when gripped and swung

correctly in the 
right moment,
it can do enough

well enough. Even after
you are done this poem
shall hold enough blood

in its letters that it
will never forget when you had
no choice but to cut.

This is a poem
made to carry that
for you. Go then, eat,

then rest. You’ve done enough,
and well enough. You have time. 
You remain alive. You are still you.

Poem To Be Wrapped Around A Brick

“i don’t want to see a poem unless it’s wrapped around a brick.”  Madeleine Roux, on Twitter, following the Roe v. Wade reversal. 

This is a poem
to be wrapped around
a brick

Because the sound
of breaking glass
swells a crowd 

which then surges
in the direction
of the shattering

Because a crowd 
is necessary for what comes
after the glass is broken

as reading a poem
out loud only does
so much in so much noise

Because so much
needs doing
So much glass to break

This is a poem
to be flung
through those windows

Because paper
has proved itself

Rewrite this poem in 
gasoline then stuff it
into bottles also full of fuel

Because a good match
held to the poem
before launching

will turn it 
into a fire anthem
agains the now-sunless sky

This is a poem
to be hurled at
the sources of darkness

it’s not their war
to win

Returned as projectile
As remonstrance  — as reminder
that this cannot stand

against the fire
this time
next time

This — bah!
No more poems unless
they are written in blood

The Dimming Of The Day

My legacy
will not be one
of honor and fame,
I know. No 
easy rest for me
in the knowledge of
a lasting memory
what I’ve done.
I suspect instead
that there will be
for only a few years
a flurry of 
brief, vague 
comments upon
who I was
and what I
left behind
and then
the forgetting
will begin
and that
will be all,
will have to be 
I’m practicing
for it now: blending
into the curtains
drawn across
the windows
that look out upon
the bright bright
world. Soon enough
I’ll be pulled back
so people can see
how it shines.
Maybe a few 
will learn to love
what I left behind:
tales of how
to take shelter
in the dark
that inevitably follows
the dimming
of the day.

General Strike

Somewhat broken.
Frayed. So-called
Dinged up and 
flagged for
made ready to go
to highest bidder.
You know us. You 
think you know us.

Been here
under your noses
long years passing. 
Folk-song old, 
obvious, not
pop-tune insinuation
incessant; more
embedded, part of
vocabulary — you 
use us unconsciously,
need us but cannot
bring yourself to see
that we as aggregate
cannot be bought,
not completely.
We rent ourselves
to you. You
owe us what we
are worth and we
are worth everything
you have.

If we 
just hold tight
to each other. If we
do not fail along
our faults. If we
sing as we are born to 
sing, stay as your
base layer, keep you
warm until we melt away
and then stand by as you
shiver. We hold 
power over
temperature. We
know how to make you 
freeze, how to
stand by singing
as you do.

Coal Tar Blues

From age
and diabetes and its
attendant conditions
as well as a long term
mood disorder
and who knows what else,
I’ve fallen into 
a human sort
of slow rust,

I daily
soak myself
in coal tar
for what’s on
the surface,
my rotten skin,
take tinctures and talk
for what’s wrong
within, disrepair
with unlikely odds
for repair. 

Nothing about this
is temporary or
acute. Chronic
is my name,
now — speak of
not illnesses;
talk of status quo or
not progress.

Coal tar and skin creams — 
odors of one failure
to treat myself
correctly, or so
I tell myself. Others
say buck up, it’s not 
a fault or a
punishment, you
needn’t club yourself
with that one,
no matter how good it feels
to feel that bad at times.

Indeed, there is a sort of
blessing, a relief 
in the hours after
I step out of the shower
as though
I’ve found a path
to normalcy but then
I lose my way as I start
the day and I tell the others,
you think so? Then
come live in here
and tell me
I’m not right.

See, I’m being
hollowed. I need
something to take up
residency in
my old center, to build
upon the dust falling 
out of me until I’m
gone for good,
which could be soon
or so what’s left of me
assumes, based on
the way the air around me
smells whenever I feel
as good as it ever gets.

Comes a point
when everything done right
is still not enough, and hope
becomes not a right but
a privilege your mind
has never allowed you
to exercise before, and now
is just a way of passing time
before time laughs
and then kills. 

Not Kids

“Hi, kids,”

is how I greet the cats
this morning
while threading my way
between their passive-
aggressive body thrusts
against my legs as I 
try to get to the bathroom
before feeding them, my priorities
not focused on their needs
right now, leading them
to decide I must be
shrooming or something
to be so out of touch
with the nature of reality as to put
my urgent need before theirs.

By which I mean to say
that I do not subscribe 
to the notion that pets are kids
for all of us childless people
of the world, and that I am glad
these two
are direct and gentle enough
in their opinion of me
not to force the point so far
as to carve me with their claws
or make me trip and fall
until I cave in and feed them
before I can get to where I need to go,
later to crumble in shame and fury
simply because I must put myself first at times,
and I am forced again and again
to understand that is not allowed.

It tells me that I did not absorb
all the lessons of my family
and transfer them to how I love
these two. 


playing musical chairs
with people who are told beforehand
when the music will stop so they are
always ahead of you in getting to
a seat. 

playing double dutch
with people who can tie a noose
in the rope and catch you by the neck
in mid-air before you
touch down.

pretending life 
is no longer grade school. 
it will always be
battleground recess, 
every day. 

thinking that bully and bullied
isn’t the name of the big game
we start playing early
and are made to play until
very late.

have choices. pick a side
or walk away. play the role
written for you or 
write another game for yourself
to play. but

you choose, stop pretending
the streetlights are not yet on
and it is not time to come in
from the dark before it gets too dark
to win.

A Star, A Particular Star

As a child,
I loved a star,
a particular star.
Did not know
its name, just
where it hung
in the sky all spring
and how it moved
over time and 
I would look for it
there, then
over there. Now
I cannot find it 
anywhere. Do not
even know where to
look. Forgot directions
and orientation
and when it
shows itself off
to best effect. 

I am old and live
in the city now
where there is
so much light at night
it is not worth trying
to find my star or
any other. Pollution,
light pollution,
they call it. My brain
is smogged 
night and day and 
if I could find that star
it might help
or it might not but
what I miss most
is seeking it across 
the sky, finding it
among the others.

Pointless now
to even try;
instead I sit by
looking to the flow
of myself into mess, hoping
to see something there
(glint of sunlight on a 
foul wave, tumbling bit
of trash caught
in an eddy)
to help me recall
how to find 
a star, a particular star.

Contrary’s Prayer

If I am chosen
or doomed to this

then let me be it

Let me make and sling
the necessary fists

for those who will not raise their own
to strike back at their tormentors

Let me roil the rising water
with my anger

for those committed to calm
when there is truly none to be had

Let me walk ahead 
of those willing to be slain

despite their calls for peace
and let me bring the sword they will not carry

Let me long for a different fate
even as I fulfill the one I’ve been given

Let me go wrongly 
among the righteous as they cannot

Let me die if I must
doing what others cannot or will not

and if I must die that way
let it be said of me

that balance was my only aim
and while I was willing I was not joyous

in the role I was assigned
I longed for an easy life and death

but it was not for me
Nothing of it was for me

Civil Unrest

They so smug
and stinky
with attitude

unearned power
inability to think beyond 
their own Stench

Worry up the people
saying there will be
civil unrest oh no

if and if and if oh no
this that
and the other oh no

oh no
oh no
oh no no no no

No to
sword and scales
doing as designed

They so smug 
and ripe with
a hey nonny nonny

hey derry down
Singing the one song they know
Always ends with don’t even go there

One hand on a big damn gun
One on some fat book
or another 

They so tremendous
Gaseous cloud making
national poison sunset

They so wring handed
They so rolling eyed
You don’t want civil unrest do you

Talking past us
born Stench sick
Talking past us 

song sourcing
land naming
world molding

choke throated
chest burned
child missing

grave stained
school tortured

compressed but
never small or beige enough
to hide or fit among them

They so right
We don’t want unrest 
to be at all civil

when — blessed paradox —
fire and smoke
can clear the air


To prevent being robbed
in a push in, secure
your AC unit with screws
and window locks 
if you are close enough to the ground 
that a would-be thief could get to you.

To prevent being hurt
in a street crime, give up
your valuables at once and
don’t try to be a hero no matter
what you carry, no matter
what movies you’ve seen. 

To prevent being victimized 
by online predators, scammers,
and trolls use firewalls 
and private networks, stop taking 
quizzes and playing games,
stop being so certain you’re doing fine. 

To prevent being wounded
by family, friend, or lover
stay sharp and ready,
set boundaries early, require
consent explicitly, expel toxicity
whenever it becomes necessary.

To prevent being torn apart 
by your country? Would-be
thief lured by your cool, 
red-white-blue sneer of a thug,
voice in your ear suggesting
blasphemous surrenders?

The advice remains the same.
Never become too surprised 
that the distance between
two criminals of any stripe
is slim, and the only thing
different is that sometimes,

heroism may be required of you. 


Supper’s Ready

The city, gracious and
grievous at once, 
stares at the plates,
rocks back and forth
with longing, with ravenous 
tradition to feed;

that today will call itself
a melting pot with all its flavors
blending into one,
glorying in the mashup
and saying.
this is good;

that tomorrow
will call itself a salad 
whose flavors are distinct
and identifiable, whose 
least desirable ingredients
can always be plucked out and set aside;

that deep down prefers
its plates regimented, this not 
touching that; that will sample
of course, try everything
of course, then wash it down
and away with coldish tap water;

that certainly 
welcomes you to sit at the table
(if you will use only the preferred condiments)
and eat as much as you can 
until you are unable to push away
when you’ve had too much;

that will say this is good again
when you tumble off your fragile chair
to the ground; the city
both gracious and grievous;
melting pot salad city, wash
it away later city, pointing and laughing

at you on the ground where you recall
the city’s ravenous traditions, 
where you see that when all
is done someone’s going to be made
to do all the dishes and if the city
doesn’t get up to help clear the table

it is only because 
it still has room for dessert,
some kind of pie, you know
what they say is in it
but the way they look at you reminds you 
that there’s not an apple tree for miles.

The Text

Overcome today with the understanding
that if there is a meaning to the universe
I’m merely a period closing one routine
sentence in the owner’s manual,

and if I’d been left out from the beginning
the meaning would still be clear from context.
My absence would mean nothing at all
except to the most nitpicky readers.

I am not absent
but I am minuscule in comparison
to the broad sweep of the text.
It’s a comforting thought. Nothing

depends on me, you say? No more
than on anything else? That’s 
a cold lick of freedom indeed, 
and as I fade into the invisible background

I’m thinking less and less, 
feeling more and more, and 
more or less invigorated by this,
I turn toward the light with a smile.