Monthly Archives: October 2022

A Song Too Far

Low enough today
to be unable
to reach my guitar
even though it’s 
right there hung just
above eye level 
on the wall. 
Forget about the amp,
I’m carrying enough
already. It’s not like
I have any place to go
and play tonight
so I’ll sit and think about
how I’ve got
nothing going on
and even if I did
I’d have no reason
to stretch out my hand.

Anything But Fine

I’m dying I say
and you say I’m going to be fine
and I’m dying I say and you say
fine. You’re going to be fine. We’re all
going to be fine. You’re dying
and I’m dying and that’s fine.
Nothing that inevitable
can ever be anything but fine. 

I’m scared I say and you say
I’m going to be fine and 
you are going to be safe. I’m scared
I say and you say there’s no reason 
to be scared. I’m dying I say 
and you say fine. I’m fine, you’re fine.
It used to mean fuckable, now it means
dark is the night and cold is the ground
no matter how fine you are so you can’t be
anything but fine.

I’m cold I say
and you say I’m going to be fine
and I’m dying though and scared and now
I’m cold and you say fine. You’re fine
and are going to be fine. I told you
the ground would be cold and 
look how fine you are even on the ground
coming up to hold you. Your planet
longs to take you in. You can’t be
anything but fine.

The Buffet

Imagine your sins were laid out upon
a buffet table.  Where would you begin?

Would you save the best for last
or plunge your face and slobber it up

first thing? You know if you do the rest
will pale in comparison and you

will lose your appetite. Then what? 
You’d likely sit there wondering

if you missed out on subtleties 
by falling into such gluttony. 

Imagine your sins have been laid out
upon a table short but wide. The dishes

holding them are few but they are vast.
You’ve sampled throughout your life 

but the rib-sticking ones, the ones
upon which you based your diet

and sustenance, are in deep bowls
covered with drip. Where to begin

is the big question. How to finish
is without question. You will finish

eyes open and unable to swallow
one more bite.

Imagine your sins had never fed you.
You still wouldn’t have lived forever.

You’d have sat there wasting away
without one smile on your skinny little face.

You’d have been one clean bag of bones
but you still would have no clue about 

how to eat right. How to digest
the hard stuff. How to add spices,

how to know all the differences between
evils and indulgences,

how to thrive
in the gap.

Neuropathy, 4 AM

Obsessed with what I hope exists
but am too lazy to research:

a method for knowing when this water
was last opened and poured.

A method for determining 
when the bottle was last taken out

of the refrigerator,
how much was in it,

how much was consumed
before it was

put away. How many hours have passed
since the light last went on and then off

as the door was opened,
then closed. If it does not already exist

there must be someone in a lab
working on formulas, testing

hypothesis after hypothesis
for considering the movement of 

molecules, the conservation of energy,
how to know from the state of now

what the state of then was
and how long ago then was. 

It must be measurable. People
measure things. I measure things,

or wish I could: the progress 
of how my nerves are dying, for example.

How pain grew from a tingle
in my big left toe to that full blaze

in both feet as if I’m shoeless on asphalt 
in a beach parking lot

that comes pouring into me
at four AM when I’m just lying there

trying to sleep till the alarm.
There must be a measure of how much

that takes out of me as I lie there
already worrying about money and 

the limits of hope and how clumsy
I’ve become when I wash

a dish or a spoon; how difficult it is now
to pull a shimmer

out of my guitar
with my numbing fingers as I used to.

In the dark I can’t even recall
the state of then. All I have 

is the state of now. There must be
some way to measure the distance,

the decay, the way back to the core
of the memory of being whole.

What if I am the measure? What if 
it’s all been an experiment to see

how then becomes now? I want to talk to
the whoever in whatever dark lab

wherever it is to understand
why this is so. Wasn’t it enough

to see how I was already
damn near empty

before deciding
to change the parameters?

If not, I want to hear
what’s been learned from this;

people measure things
and someone has to know.


It’s been enough
to have been here.

Built my home
on this lot you offered.

Moved here from
a busted shack.

This made me work.
This made me wider.

Gave me more rooms
and all outdoors.

The home is not
a spacious place.

Neither great in width
nor wild in depth.

Either one’s
too grand for me.

It’s been enough
to live this place

and call it home
as I am called

so many things,
though none that simple.

As far as I can know
I’ve been completed. 

It’s been enough
to have gotten this far.

Land Acknowledgment

Wondering what the name for this rock
would be in Nipmuc, or rather

what the name for this rock is
in Nipmuc. I seek a Nipmuc word

for how our daily chatter
aligns with the land’s desire

to be known, to include us in its 
conversations with itself and all else.

What was the Nipmuc word for how it was
between us and the land 

before Whiteness came,
stopped the world

and divided it into two categories:
resources and obstacles?

It’s a gap in me, a failing,
that I do not know. 

It’s my shame
that I want that healing spoon fed to me.

As if the Nipmuc word alone
would save me trouble and give me more time

in time to avoid
the trouble.

I am seeking their magic now,
doing the colonizer thing:

asking for Nipmuc to save me
after all I have done

on behalf of genocide
simply by living as I do.

There are people 
who could tell me

the Nipmuc words for everything,
or so I’ve heard,

but since I’m here and alone
and this is where the rock is

I lie down ear first to listen to it.
No idea of what language it may use

if it chooses to speak to me. No idea
if I’ll be able to pronounce it with this tongue.

Post Service

Time to light the lamps
on the end tables
in the clean, dated living room
and welcome expected guests
to your home for sitting time
where all will talk to each other
in awkward tones as they’ve not sat
together this way for a few years. 

Now to the kitchen to unwrap
the gifted food and the soft drinks.
A few from the other room come in
to offer help and together you move
the food around, the plastic glasses,
the napkins, the paper plates. 
Everyone’s so careful not to spill
a thing and in fact nothing spills.
All remains perfectly placed as if
that’s how the rest of the world
stays intact.

After, you speak out loud
to the remaining guest:
the invisible, the unspoken,
the one they came for.

“It was nice, wasn’t it?”

Living Inside The Boundaries

The boundaries implore us
to keep our heads in the game
and do our jobs.

Keep the homefires burning
but stop short of lighting new ones
if they go out.

We’ll be safe inside
but we should leave a door slightly ajar
for worthy guests. 

Others are going
to try to get in. Remember
that there’s a lot of love here

for when the right ones knock
and want to shelter by the fire. 
As for the rest, that’s what a gun is for.

If you need a penny at the store, take one
from the tray at the counter — but
only one per visit, you common thief. 

Do not mistake 
convenience for generosity.
Pay up or get out or just get out. 

The boundaries come dressed
in dirty white robes that stink.
Could use a thorough airing out.

If you want to live here you have to
respect the boundaries even if they disrobe
and fully show themselves.

We wouldn’t like to see our boundaries 
naked, though. You know they
wouldn’t ease up if they were stripped.

The boundaries thus exposed
would of course look less benign: all crotch,
no knee to bend in supplication. 

Locked in, upright, decrepit, and cold.
Vision out of science fiction or perhaps
a frieze of history fully ossified. 

It’s all you need. You don’t need a future.
The boundaries tell you how it will be
from now on: keep the home fires burning,

keep firing out the windows at the shadows,
keep your resources tight, expect nothing more
than a penny for your thoughts and all the ammo

you could ever need for when the fires go out
and you have to rob your neighbor
to survive.

Denial Resolution Specialist

A job listing in my morning inbox:

“Denial Resolution Specialist I”

for someone who wrestles the gap
between a patient, a provider, 
and an insurance company
that will not cover
a treatment for illness.

I don’t know if I could do this: take on
a full time job as an angel wrestler;
if there are even angels
in insurance offices they would likely 
bruise my hip before they would acquiesce
and pay up; I’d walk out every day
limping, my very name shifting
as I considered
my failures, my victories —
who am I even, my daily question;
the casualties incidentally
piling up and up, a mountain 
higher than the rescues,
neither close to the height 
of the business of healing
and how it happens or not.

I cannot imagine
what a “Denial Resolution Specialist II”
deals with. How they even breathe
under the weight of the title. 

Hank Starling And Henrietta Mourning Dove

I am out early
to put the trash
on the curb and to
fill again the feeders
for my voracious neighbor birds

currently waiting
in dark masses like clouds
stuck to the eaves and 
entangled in the top branches
of the few trees visible from here.

It takes little time for them
to see what I’ve done;
they come in hot
and start feeding before
I am back inside.

I call the birds my neighbors because
as with the human ones I know
individual birds on sight without  
in fact knowing their individual names.
In the city we tend to live like this

until some tragedy hits. We only learn
each others’ names when we gather briefly
with the remaining neighbors to watch as they
are taken away by ambulance.
It’s not the same with the birds, of course;

they tend to depart this life in the mouth of 
the cat from across the street, whose name is 
Crazy. (I call him Tux.) I never say aw, 
there goes Hank Starling, or looks like Tux got 
Henrietta Mourning Dove even though generally speaking

I miss them more than I do the people.
I wonder if the birds feel the same. Will they say
damn, Feeder Guy is gone when it’s my turn to be
taken away? Will they miss me, chirp thoughts and prayers?
The question hangs above me, a dark mass in the trees.


be here now with
a bleak peak outdoors
just before daylight

can you become animal enough
to admit your excitement 
at liminality is not rational

that it lives upon 
a distant cliff within you
where you are holding on by the skin

of your last
inhuman gene
to natural rhythms

and is not the same
as anticipating the alarm
that rouses you for work

be here now in
the space between slats
of these room darkening blinds

it is not bright outside
but somehow even pre-dawn
shines in this second

be here now in 
this second as it is
neither for you nor against you

that you woke before dawn 
that you felt it before you saw it
that you were in it before it started

that it is inside you
an animal stirred from sleep
before light becomes apparent

Living In Halloween

We sit at home
with treats in baskets.
Lights on 

because we fear
tricks committed
by men costumed

in camo, in blue,
worst of all
in pinstriped suits.

We give all we have and
turn the lights out for the night
then sit there waiting

for the late, ominous knock.
For our doors to be kicked in.
For them to tell us they want more.

Every day is Halloween 
now. We know too well
what the ghouls look like.

Why do we even bother 
with masks these days
when mirrors hold terror enough?

Take It As It Comes

Take it as it comes.

The small explosion of joy
when your teeth come together
and the Early Gold yellow cherry tomato —
last of the season — bursts in your mouth,
you are grateful that it’s good
as you cut down its browning parent
before deep fall and subsequent winter.

Take it as it comes.

You don’t think much of justice any more,
so when comeuppance happens
to someone deserving, or when good happens
to someone deserving? 

Take it as it comes.

Stripped of love, denuded,
clothed in loss and neglect.
The least brush of a hand across your arm
raising a specter of possibility
and you dare to let a smile show
as if everything is in fact 
going to be all right.

Take it as it comes. 

The end only becomes the end
when you reach the end
and you at last understand
that you’ve been
walking autumn streets, and only
autumn streets, from birth to death. You see 
the home of your dreams 
set among trees draped in late red
and late gold. Another burst of joy.
Another glimpse of fairness. Another
smile coaxed forth. And then,

whatever comes next.

The Hand Of The Market

the whales to their 
extinction. It can’t be helped.
We have better things 
to do. Bigger, better,
ocean-churning fun
and commerce to ply. Why,
let’s give them up and 
keep going. We can, we

honeybees. It can’t really 
be stopped now, can it?
Can’t run around
catching each one
and cradling them in our 
hands. No fun in that — 
once again give them up
and let’s keep going.

Monarch butterflies — 
who needs them, those 
Halloween handkerchiefs
on the breeze?
We can make simulacra,
work them into some promotion,
turn them into seasoning for the season.
Keep going. We must, we should.

We can
surrender anything
we want. Surrender our
teeth, suck in our lips and 
see what falls from the open corners
of our soft mouths. We can 
teach ourselves to sting and pull honey
from the market as gardens
struggle to thrive. The kids
are going to love the memory
of butterflies, much as they
love dinosaurs. See how
we keep going for as long as
we can, as long as we are here.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

I have to turn the heat on
this morning. The cold floor
is hurting my broken feet.
I’m shuffling in slippers
from place to place. I hear
my father’s voice
behind me again: “Pick up
your feet when you walk.”
I try. He’s been gone now 
damn near a year. He used
to talk about how a teacher at
the boarding school would walk behind them

with a switch cut from some bush 

snapping the boys’ heels as they marched
from dorm to class, the whole time

telling them the same thing. 

I try to pick up my feet. 

On behalf of my dad
I say out loud that I still think
I’ll be better off if I just walk
the way I walk instead of
marching, endlessly marching,
but I can’t just shake it off.
I never got the switch myself but
it’s still snapping somewhere behind me.
I miss my dad. I missed so much.
I say fuck and fuck again and
damn it’s cold in here, but
it is October, so cold
comes with the calendar. In fact
tomorrow is Columbus
Day — I know they’ve changed
the name but my feet still hurt
even when I invoke the new name
and say “no, it’s Indigenous Peoples’
Day. They fixed all that, remember?
Pick up your feet, Brown,
half breed, fatherless man,
as we march into a better nation.”