Category Archives: poetry

Columbus Again

waking again surprised to be
still alive this far out to sea
so far from the shore
and grounded living

awake same time daily
then fall right back to sleep
upon seeing and feeling
the same old drift

you have to wonder
if this started with Columbus
thirty five days into his voyage
not knowing the next day

would change all forever
you have to wonder how
he expressed his hope
to land somewhere he could plunder

to his men and to himself
and how many today
are rolling their hands
over and over against each other

with the same hope
that the new world on
the other side of this long drift
will offer them good luck and fortune

(no matter who else dies for it)
once this rotten ship
scrapes bottom upon
a yet unknown shore



The Last Postal Worker On Earth

If I were the last postal worker on earth
there would be too much left to deliver. Instead
I’d make a deep pile of all the unread letters
and bury myself in its dead center.

I’d find a way to breathe through mounds of junk.
I’d go tearing through the backlog trying to find
enough food and clothing to survive
in the packages. Of course,

someone out there would be waiting for me
to bring them what they wanted, what they needed,
what they’d been waiting for; longing to hear
from someone, yearning for the sound
of the lid coming down hard on the box
or the sight of the red flag raised upon its side.
I’d have no choice. No room for any of that.

Call me selfish or insane, but if I were
the last postal worker on earth
I’d have to stop being a postal worker at once
in the face of the mountain of need
that had fallen upon me. I know
I’d have to revert to relying on myself
for the most basic needs,
ones I’m not sure I can meet even now

as I wait for the mail carrier to come
and bring me, with no malice of their own,
nothing but dread, temptation,
and the searing murder of, once again,
not one damn love letter.


Excruciating Detail

Into excruciating detail we go.
We approach any fire focused on the embers at the edge.
We can describe the craquelure of each coal.
We can say whatever we want of shades and gradations
as long as we don’t speak of how close we are to being consumed.

Into excruciating detail we go.
We see haze and make up numbers to explain its depth.
We see smoke and metaphor it as dragon, as mushroom, as column.
We can say whatever we want of thickness and color and height
as long as we don’t choke on the constant approach of disaster.

Into excruciating detail we go.
We smell every singe on each hair currently on fire.
We speak of sweet and sour and acrid and my God, no words.
We can say whatever we want about the length of any given flame
as long as we ignore how bright and how hot we have become.


Aubade

Start the day by greeting
all the creatures in the house: the people, cats,
ferret, fish; the ones in the walls
and the ones in the cracks;

the ones who come out at night
and the ones who sometimes scurry past
at daybreak; the ones we do not even know
are there who would chill us into screaming
if we could see them.

This day brings so much to deal with.
Every day brings so much to deal with.

Start with acknowledgement of all the good and terror
that lives within our walls. Take that as your banner
when facing the burning world beyond them.


Cage Songs

Birds don’t sing
for freedom they already have.

Birds sing
for what they desire.

Imprison someone long enough
and they will learn to sing.

Prisoners who can hear birds
will offer cage songs in response.

Any prisoner who learns
how to sing cage songs

will eventually learn
how to make them beautiful.

The warden wants to keep them
from being free.

They will take
the cage songs from the singers,

sell them to the world,
call them freedom songs.

All those freedom songs began
as cage songs rising

in the throats of those
who have been locked down.

Listen to them, the warden says.
Listen to them singing like birds.

The warden might be telling the truth
but you would have to ask a prisoner

to be certain, and no one
wants that to happen. After all

your own chains
might be at risk.

You might feel
a powerful need to sing.


Dropping

Most mornings —
hell, every morning —

are for staring straight up
at those dots
stuck like pinholes
into the clouds, dots
growing larger against
the once-blessed sky.

Waiting all day
and long into the night,
shielding ourselves from
them —

all those shoes
dropping.


Tiny Movements

I keep catching tiny movements
in corners of the house. I look more closely
and find…nothing. But I’m sure of what I saw.

Something is here that stays only enough out of sight
to be elusive and yet comes into view often enough
to make it impossible to ignore.

Perhaps I’m losing my mind from seeing
all the demons we always knew were there
in the outside world coming out from under rocks

and crawling out of the garbage. Then again,
I’m assuming bad intent here. Maybe these are
benevolent? Then why hide? I could use a friend.

Maybe they came here
to hide from the demons
only to find me, and that is why they hide.

All I know for sure is that I’m getting used
to the idea of the unseen appearing in corners
I never used to look at

and in spite of myself, I’m beginning to think
that it might not be safer to keep my eyes closed,
but it might be more comfortable in the short run.


The Liquid Inside Stars

There is a fluid inside
at least some stars,
I’m certain. I can feel it.
I can feel it falling onto me
from on high on clear nights
with no moon. I raise my head,
startled by a drop
from the dark above. Can feel
nothing on my skin afterward
but the pinpoint of impact shines
for a few seconds and I am
temporarily celestial as well.

Once back inside
when I fall into darkness again
I stare at that once star-bright spot
and remind myself that all I need
is to go back out there and lie down
(perhaps forever) naked under the sky
and eventually I shall become
a pointillist testament to an odd hope
that might be based in illusion but
then again, there I would be to silently refute
the doubters from death as I could not
from within my life, saying

look, I did shine; look, I am shining now —
whether from the soaking of stars
or the drenching of the sun, I shine.
I told you of the liquid in the stars
and here I am: proof.


Someone

That was never a border
until Someone made it one
in your name whether you cared
or not. Once it was there
you were expected to agree
with it and with all that it took
to keep it a border, from a wall
to a law. You were expected to be
fine with how those coming this way
were kept out, no matter how badly
the starved or sickened or died of thirst
or bullets. You were expected to forget
about their children and those cages and
those tinfoil blankets and how illness took them
and takes them and how Someone
takes them and trades them out
to terror homes and no one will find them
but they get to stay here since they’ve vanished
already and for Someone that counts as compassion
even as they call bottles of water left for future crossers
on this side of that made-up line
a form of treason. You are expected to forget
all Someone did there in favor of new outrages
upon which to focus your outlaw compassion —
but, do not forget. Do not forget that
Someone started there and
what you see there will be done over and over
here there and everywhere until you are unable
to focus and you surrender just as Someone
is waiting for you to do.


Shabby Time

none of us expected
a time so inflated
seams expanded almost to bursting

no longer a flow
instead as shabby
as a failing bridge

distance between seconds grown
nearly insurmountable
far side less and less certain

our history seems
more and more a series
of false supports to a span

over a gap
where those on each side
believe their ground

is all that is solid and
crossing it is folly
unnecessary madness

time being
at its essence beyond us
will eventually deflate

pull itself together
once we stop waiting for it
to tick just for us

instead let us stand
dead center upon that bridge
and whether we fall or rise

or hang suspended
let us accept what happens
in that perfected time

with full understanding
that from there truth
may look different depending

on where
you choose
to stand

but never is
in fact anything
more than truth

like time itself
forever beyond our belief
of what it should be




In Memoriam

When light was snuffed. When we
couldn’t see in darkness.

When wind took our power. When we
lay there like infants.

When storm was voice, was all we heard, all
we could hear. When we
waited for other sound: water
rising, trees tearing free, rising on wind
or water.

When fire loomed beyond our vision. When we
could feel heat from such a distance
it would have been as far as fantasy
if we did not know it was real.

When more was clearly going to happen,
then it did. When it happened, and
again when more happened. When we
grew old, grew tired of it happening,
grew inured to it happening.

When it happened at last;
hugely, completely. When we
became exhausted from witness.

When we chose
to move in darkness, fire, storm,
wind, and flood.

When we
did what we could far too late
but did it anyway.

When we
grew up at last.




The Road Taken

Now we are at remarkable.
Passed intriguing and interesting
long ago. Deep into ourselves
we’ve gone and look at the time:
how we marvel at the long run,
at how we fascinate ourselves with ourselves.

Around the corner is obsession.
Around the corner is a track that will take us
off into the trees on the hills above the lake
on the down side of the road. There will be
no turning back once we’re there.

We took this route not expecting we’d be
so into ourselves that we’d be unable to see
others. That we’d be stuck on a road
between drowning and tumbling over rocks
and have to follow it right to the end
into whatever abattoir might be sitting there.

If you sniff the wind, you can tell
how close we’re getting. You’ll call it
perfume, of course. In your head it will smell
like the colors of the flag. Like an eagle
not tearing at your back.


Stuck Inside

Like they woke up trapped
in a Bob Dylan song
between a stack of rickety rocking chairs
and a small band of musicians playing
sad accordions and clarinets

Like they fell back into the Sixties
as if it were a tie-dyed mattress
upon which they’d learned
to screw and sleep with select randoms
Like they can’t get up without groaning
from the broken springs
but that’s the bed they chose to lie in

Like they hoarded money
Keeping it in bags woven from hemp
trimmed in beaten-up motorcycle leather
then crawled in and forgot to come out again

Like they put their hands over their ears
and said it was all alright

Like they heard some fancy blues
and said it was authentic tonic for the times

Like they’d
once upon a time
traveled the whole white world
seeking redemption
found a facsimile
called it good
and stayed stuck
in a rocking chair praising St. Bob
to the sound of wheezing
as they began to drown
in the new morning flood





Fractures

Fractures
are natural
after a fall
from a height.
Putting pieces
together again
is also natural.
Letting them remain
separate, also
natural. Scattering
them about, also
natural. There is
so much history
for all ways of
dealing with fracture;
when confronted with
breakage there is choice:
knit, spread, or let fall
to ruin, let others
find shards years from now,
try to reconstruct
what happened.
They will get it
mostly wrong, hit on
some sharp edges
and snag some small truths,
but never take it all in.
What it once was
will be called broken
and what it will become,
a new kind of complete;
some knitting of
disparate parts
into new pictures of
what is natural;
some discarding
of what is inconvenient;
some fragmentation
into what they will call
a multifaceted world.


To The Summit

This is only one of many paths to the summit.
On this path the journey is all,
and all the work put it is work
toward the highest point attainable.
Rest is a step, detour is a step, falling
to the rocks below is a step.

This is only one of many paths to the summit.
Steps taken along this path are not counted
unless they advance progress; minimal dawdling
and meandering are welcome but are considered
time wasters when overindulged in spite of
lip service given to the importance of
dream, fancy, and inspiration.

This is only one of many paths to the summit.
On this path one must climb and only climb;
the only thing worth noting is the upward motion;
the calculation only runs upward and one wrong step
resets the count to nothing at all. There are masters
along this path who keep track of the track,
endlessly repeating the mantra: grind, grind, grind.

This is only one of many paths to the summit.
On this path, one turns each corner expecting
a sage will materialize to announce your arrival.
Even now, you are expecting someone to tell you
you are already there no matter where you are on the path.
That someone will not be me. I’m in the mist off the trail
myself, waiting for directions or at least for a sign
that I’m near to my path, or that I should keep sitting
for a while or an age, as if there is still time
or any summit at all ahead.