Monthly Archives: July 2022

The Unaccustomed Sea

o my people
hear me when i say

do not fall in love with
a poet. a poet will learn

nothing of you unless
it directs them back

to the cosmos and then
you will be left to wonder

if they are in fact
with you when they

lie with you or are instead
attempting to understand

the language of stars
through your cries. to fall

for a poet is to develop
invisible parchment over your wounds

only to have them write 
all over you without acknowledging

they are sustained
by your pain. if they speak

of love know that they are
worn from love and too wary

of the word to know how to use it
in any way without slanting it

toward themselves. 
o my people — may i say

to fall in love with any poet
is such a disaster — and if

the poet in turn falls
into a true love with you

understand how much of a tsunami
it will become before you can both

come up for air and try to find yourselves again
in the unaccustomed sea

that has swallowed you both
and (if you are lucky) has 

raised you to high ground
and kept you together.

The Warm And Fusty Air

NOTE: I would just like to apologize for my absence for the last few days.  I’ve been a little under the weather and simultaneously very busy.  Not a good combination for a writer.  


It is a not-small thing, maybe just
a man-thing. I don’t even know
what that means, not anymore,
it may be wrong to say it, maybe
I’ve always been wrong and it’s
more of a white-thing or a consumer-
thing, a privilege-thing made
for Americans by Americans —
an agreement-thing, consensus
enforced by having grown up and 
made to live by immersion in its
warm and fusty air — 

that sense of competition
with whatever that is scurrying
behind you that is never there
or visible when you look back
to see what’s catching up,
the perpetual echo of shoes
dropping, doors shutting
back there you should have 
walked through instead of
plodding along this way,
forced through the warm
and fusty air — 

the sound of your weight
pushing past regrets into
this brainless way of being 
whatever you have become
today, now, being yourself
having come to mean 
unconscious respiration,
gasping in the warm and 
fusty air — 

where it’s always
the national anthem
on the stadium speakers and always
the same accurate deploring
of the lyrics by some
and always fighting immersion
in the vastness of the masses
who don’t care much
about the song
as long as what follows is
a good game or race, where always
the provocation to a fight
is present and part of the 
attraction, where it’s a 
man-thing or not, just
a human thing to be this
deep in the struggle to breathe
as one treads water, the fetid
water we have no choice 
but to struggle in as we struggle
to draw in what we need
from the warm and fusty air. 


The Fuck Up

We have not discussed this 
but you should know that 
there are specific ways 
in which I can be easily 
moved to impulse;

for example,
let’s say you tell me
something about myself
that I know is true
but refuse to admit:

something pleasing
or desirable will do it
most strongly
as I tell on my mistakes
and flaws readily,
almost glorying
in the one-sided frankness
of agreeing with others
about my faults and failures. 

With this admission
and your compliment
I am now moved to create
a disaster of myself
that will end my appeal: see,
I told you I was a problem
and you didn’t listen. That’s 
not on you but on me.

What a world 
you live in
that you encountered
me and thought I was 

From Moroccotown

Letter found
under the newspaper
lining the bottom
of an old box: illegible 
mostly, faded from age
and attic heat;

ink gone brown
and paper gone crisp and 
the only clear writing
above the body of the letter 
seems to say it was written 
on a blurred date long ago
by someone whose name is unclear
from a place called “Moroccotown,”
state not specified. 

I go hunting for information
and learn there’s one town
in Indiana that’s called
“Morocco” but no listing for one
called “Moroccotown” so perhaps
the ink is lying and it says
something else, or else this town
once existed and has vanished
as have the writer
and the equally unknown reader
as well as any explanation 

for why a letter was mailed
from mystery Moroccotown
or why the recipient hid it deep
in the yellow flakes of the lining
of a box in an attic as hot
as a desert. It must have been
important once. It must have
meant something strong enough
to make it worth holding.
I put the letter in an envelope
where it will sit in a drawer,
vibrating, until it either 
crumbles, explodes,
or turns to sand. 

My Accustomed Cup

my accustomed morning cup
into pieces
so I may never drink from it again

not by accident 
but with serious intentions
and careful attention
to avoid jettisoning

sharp ceramic flakes
so small they may be 
unseen until they enter
a finger or toe and draw blood

therefore wrapping it all in a cloth
in which I will safely discard it
after I’ve taken the hammer
to the beloved cup

what shall I drink from now
that I have done this
in an effort to make
my life over

or should this be
just the first step
should I release myself 
from all need for a morning cup

and when will I grow tired
of taking so much care in starting over
and instead let the shards
land where they will

should I just
get used to the blood
and the pain
of stepping on

the small knives and regrets
left behind in the wake
of my abandon and
my new morning chant

let me be
as I am
let me be
as I am 

let me be
this far gone
let me go
where I must

let me leave
only blood behind
to let you know
I was here

Do The Math, Become An American

You have been born
into a palace. 

Carved into
the walls of the palace

is an equation
that is itself a palace 

all its own, a palace
made of directions

to enter a farther palace
beyond all mathematics

where you can live forever
instead of staying 

and eventually dying
here in this first palace

where you are only
allowed to be either

spectator of, or specter for,
the immortals inside the

palace of math, the ones
who have figured it all out

or were born into it;
that’s all they will ever know

of you, your struggle 
with numbers,

your mad scratching
at the walls trying to 

figure out how to have
what they have.

You are to them
either specter of the disastrous

life outside, or spectator for 
the luxury of being inside, 

and while you do the math
to figure out how palaces

may be entered by command or
fortune or breach, they keep

watch.  There’s math
to be done on their side too:

the simple arithmetic 
of how to raise the walls,

no matter how close
you or anyone may get

to solving for
the key,  for zero;

for the red white and blue
on the other side of the x.


those who proclaim 
that all bodies are beautiful
all the time
have seemingly never assessed
the truth of their own grossness
upon waking
or the gross processes which follow
rising grossly from a gross bed
and entering into gross mornings
upon gross mornings through rituals
designed to make themselves 
slightly less gross for a time

I am tired
of proclamations
and affirmations

much of the time I walk grossly 
through the world aspiring
to a level of balance between
my reality based grossness
and my ideals for where I would
like to be and woe unto those
who will tell me I am never grosser
than when I do not know reality
for what it is

the number of days
and in fact moments
when I feel less than gross 
is a small one but
the number of days
and in fact moments 
when I accept the nature 
of the body in which
I carry myself is immense

if that’s what you mean
by saying we are all beautiful
at all times then I beg you

say it plain that we are often
gross and disgusting and to say
otherwise is to paint over
rot with bright colors
from a discount store bargain bin

they won’t stick for long and
when they peel it will be grosser 
than if it had never happened

you do not need to be 
anything other
than what you are
and you are a spectrum
a continuum 
a span which is not always lovely
but is always real
and thus often gross

the real is the enemy 
of the lie
language counts as a weapon
in that war 

to say that all is beautiful is 
an electromagnetic pulse
knocking out the power
of embracing the gross
and moving ever forward
toward tomorrow morning

Never Trust A Muse

Try to start,
it says, 
from something 
outside of yourself.

Find a way into
the edge of the picture
once you understand 
how you fit, fill in
an empty place, tell us
what you see and hear.

You fit somewhere
in the everything 
out there, one with the 
orcas, one with the squirrels
and the sphinx moth
clinging to the wall
inside the front porch.

It’s simple, really,
it says.
All you need 
is to become
part of everything
and the whole
of everything 
will become obvious.

Nothing, I retort,
is obvious
and never has been.
I’ve been looking outside
since I was too young 
to truly see the difference 
between outside and inside
and now, now that all
is on fire no matter whether I look
within or without,
what is supposed to become clear
through all this smoke
now that I am also smoke?


Hard, too hard:
the punch down
once again. 

If we mean 
to stop this,
we must punch up 

and not with words
alone, not with boycotts
or shame. 

Punching up
punching. They know

how not to hear,
how to drown our
voices. It’s the base

under their
whole monumental
world. To break free

will demand
breakage. The less
we accept that truth

in the name of 
peace, the more they will drive us
before them with their

punching, slashing war.
To punch back is
to admit that war

is upon us. To punch up
is to admit we may have no choice
but to steal back weapons

they have stolen in
punching down always, 
snatching up our strength

and calling it their own
as they have from the beginning
of what they call history,

the time we know only 
for its endless hammering 
from above. 

Bad Furniture

— for The Klute

I’m alone with my furniture early on
The forecast heat of the day ahead
already barging through my windows
even with the shades down

Screw July I say as I read about
the death of a friend
who maybe was helped to death
by heat as he hiked the desert

as if his too-often torn up heart
wouldn’t have done the job 
well-enough over time — the big finger
of Something Bigger always pressing him

to hike in the desert in July
or dive upon sharks every time of year
or tease Nazis and their friends
with a funny sharp tooth of his own

in rooms where they laughed and said
this cat’s no poet even as he poemed them
back into their holes muttering
why the long coat year round no matter the weather 

Screw July for this news and his passing
and this heat that won’t stop crashing through
windows and walls and borders and these hot tears
None of my furniture offers any comfort today

Junkie Questions

suppose the junkie on the median
with the cardboard sign and the leg tattoos
screams out that they love you
as you drive away from the brief encounter
where you passed a dollar into their hand
and made a left hand turn toward the highway — 

is there any need to shout it back at them
if you do not indeed love them as well? did your
act of small charity represent love well enough?
does their addiction disqualify them
from hearing it spoken explicitly? how long
should their cracked voice echo inside you
after you are far away?  

Birds Feeding In The Street

In the street, 
small birds pick
at something left
from someone’s lunch.

There are 
similar birds on 
feeders here and 
in the neighbor’s yard.

I wish I had 
more solid ground
under me than this
couch provides. 

I wish I was less inclined
to be a spectator 
and had more of the ease
with which these birds

stay in the street,
rise when a vehicle
comes through, return
to their feeding at once.

I’ve become
just another coddled old man
hovering at the window
from behind old walls.

The world exhorts me
to get out,
be part of it,
be not afraid; but

I am afraid. 
I am afraid I’ll become too wild,
soon enough be like the birds
eating from right off the street;

I’m afraid I won’t rise
from feeding when
the car comes through
and will just let it take me.

This is the way of things today,
I tell myself. Either 
lose your mind stuck to the couch
or lose it along with

the rest of your life by
getting out there and being
dirty-sad in the dirty sadness 
of a city street. 

If I die out there
everyone will know at once
that I succumbed to the hell
within. If I die here,

sitting very still,
no one will know for sure
how the last days were for me
and maybe I will go so quietly

that the birds 
will chirp my story when I’m gone:
he watched us from the window.
He did a good job of sitting there

just watching. People 
will make up their own stories
about me, picking at me
as if were posthumous trash

in the street which holds 
something to nourish them.
He saw a lot from the window.
He must have seen something that killed him.

Everything Is Fine (12/19/1977)

If I had died
younger — say, in 1977
as I once thought I would;

on the 19th of December
as I once was sure I would;
at 7:19 in the evening

as a hard, solid dream at 13
convinced me I would,
then all this that has happened since

would not have been, at least not for me,
and maybe not for anyone else
either. Maybe if that premonition 

which haunted my teenage years
had been correct and unassailable in its truth
(even if no one had ever known of it

but me) then perhaps this deadly current world
and all its mad brinksmanship would have been
avoided — not because I was or am

central to the universe’s design
but because I hope this is even now
another figment of a fevered imagination,

and when I pass no one else but me
will ever have in fact been hurt
by the horror I see around me now.

I do not recall waking up on the morning
of December 20, 1977. I would have been
freshly home from college and likely in shock

that I’d woken up at all. I’ve barely slept
since then: that much I do know. Every day
has been a sad mix of betrayal and resignation

to daylight. I distrust it, I should not 
be seeing it; perhaps I am not seeing it
but am only looking back on it

from the next life, the next world, 
or maybe I’m still having
the same damn death dream

and in the true world of the living
this is fine. Somewhere there
on a perfect winter day

they’ve mourned me enough
to have moved on by now,
to barely recall me and thus,

everything is fine.


Consider the underbrush
around your home
The tangle that should be cut
to save the trees in case of fire
Been growing for years 
Rome wasn’t built, etc.
This took ages to grow this thick
and underneath
this dark

Consider now your town
The messy underpinnings
of its civic life and how
the citizens long
to smile through it all and
above it all saying
Rome wasn’t built, etc.
Go slow, take time
to consider, etc.

Consider the proximity of history
Consider the new bite of old smoke
Consider the fresh taste of ancient heat 
Rome wasn’t built, etc.
but it burned in a night

Consider that 
the emperor is said
to have played through that
and now consider
the underbrush again
and at last consider
a machete


They show us pictures of space
to remind us that our problems
amount to nothing at all
even as the problems are killing us.

They show us pictures of space 
to make us wonder
at how far we could go
if we can exist long enough.

They show us pictures of the depth of space
as if no painted rocks or shamans 
haven’t been clear about that
for tens of thousands of years. 

They show us pictures of space
to reassure us of how much is left to colonize.