Category Archives: poetry

ICBM

is what 
we thought 
was most likely
to kill us 
when I was
a grade school kid

and why 
we believed
it was out of 
“stranger danger”
that the End and the Evil
would come

all the news
all the way
through USSR and PRC
to PLO and ISIS
initials that stood for
the Other

till one day
it became as clear to us
as blood
on a forensic slide
that MAGA could kill
without pressing a button

that without
a single ICBM launch
it had been war
against us from back
when it was called
KKK 

which I learned 
as a kid
we’d crushed or
relegated to history
with a hey nonny nonny
we shall overcome

what we learn 
out of school these days
is that nowadays and always
look next door instead of overseas 
for the End and the Evil
as your neighbor’s face

might hold
a loaded silo
a bastard flag
an LOL and a J/K
waiting to open
and let the Great Death fly


Good As It Gets

as good as it gets

you living warm
and yeasty fresh inside 
a big new loaf
of soft white bread

crust on that bread
light brown almost like
a much-laundered 
faded bloodstain
on cotton 

sitting in
your ancestral backyard
the sheets smelling sweet
heirloom sheets hung on 
old rope lines
grandad’s sheets
you grew up with

washed as clean
as they can get

you cut a slice of that 
good fresh bread
slice right through
the crust

lay
mayo
on thick

as far as you know
this is as good as it gets


In Fire There Is Light and Truth

I will say
before anyone else does
that I know
I’m a bad god. Not
evil, not malicious,
not even The Adversary.
I’m just nearly
incompetent.

Can’t do
most of what
I’m called on to do,
even what’s in
the actual job description,
which you would no doubt
be confused to read.
I can’t let you see it. 
You’d think at least there
I’d be omnipotent
but no. No god is,
I’ve asked around.
For instance none of us
can beat a full house
with a pair of sevens,
but I digress.

I digress
all the time which is
part of the problem. 
People want
a directed deity,
one with focus,
with clarity. 
In fact they really
want one, the One.
I’m not like that.
Nothing is. No One
can do all that is asked
of Them.

I’m especially
bad at it. I fumble through,
drop as much
as I carry. You call on me
and I am startled, 
every time. Incompetent
at nearly everything I’m 
asked to do but oh
my darlings,

if you could see me run
ahead of a wildfire’s
leading edge singing
the song I was made to sing
you’d fall down and know
what I was made for —
and then I’d take you
and you’d call my name.

It’s one thing I’m good at,
one thing. I’d pick you up
from the ashes and carry you
home. Just know that 
I drop as much
as I carry. 


Ghosts Of The Ancient Lake

At the dried up lake bed
from the end of prehistory

you stand looking across the flat.
You can’t believe what you see

is former as it feels like an overflow
of now. Look at that, you say

to a companion no one else can see.
That’s where we are headed, 

into a flood of memory
that neither dries up nor cries out. 

That is right, the Other says. 
No one but us can see it, of course.

They call us mad for thinking
we can swim across. We won’t be,

of course; how could we?
How we get to the other side

isn’t for us to choose but we  
must get there. 

We drift into the space
hoping not to drown.

We drift out over the ghosts
who fill the ancient lake.

On the other side, a small banner:
“Here Is The Start Of History.”

We can renew and refresh there,
you say. Do it right this time.

That’s what they all say,
says the Other. 


How Broken Can One Heart Be

Long-ago mapped
fault lines diminish, 
become invisible
from space, vanish
from the surface
of the earth
in the aftermath
of your sundering.
Your chest
opens from within,
spews lava wind;
the forest tumbles
outside the blasted doors.
Fire becomes you
as well as a suit of armor
fits an obsolete warrior —
you are an obsolete warrior.
Unfit for battle.
Reckless, easily 
withered, you
will dissolve
to ash before you can
remove your armor
and run.


Workshops…

I recently ran a live workshop on “The Poetry Of Place.” I think it went well.

Converting it to an online workshop, probably broken into two Zoom sessions.

Questions:
— Would you take it?
— What is that worth to you?
— What’s a good day/time for that (in general)?
— If I were to develop another one or two of these types of workshops, what would you like to take online from me as the facilitator?

I’ve got 30+ years of experience as a trainer/instructional designer, 4+ years of experience doing online Webinars, and reasonable amount of time as a poet with some skill.

Help me out, folks. Trying to shift gears into more kinds of work…I’ve always kept my trainer skills separate from my poet skills, and I think I’ve done myself a disservice…

TIA


At The Bar In December

One deep inhale
in the cold and I’m thinking
I need to go back inside
and punch this guy. I’ve lashed out
in rage before, but this is not that:
this is calculation, this
strategic punching I’m contemplating.
I’m following a path I endorsed
long ago and now I’m at the point
where I have to take action
if I believe I’ve done right.

One deep inhale
of the cold and I’m ready 
to stop overthinking.
I need to go back inside
and punch this guy. I’d call him out
to the sidewalk but too many would see
the next thing and the next thing
and whatever came after that
and then where would I be: giving him
a chance to prepare, a chance to get armed,
a chance to win? I need to just do
for once what the body tells me:
punch him with as much cold in my hand
as I have in my lungs (after of course

one long exhale)
and then say yes.
that was right. All fear
will fall off me
like broken scales.
Punch him, punch them.
The consequences
are so much gentler
than the consequences 
of self-betrayal.


Beauty And Entropy

Beauty
on the interstates
searching

comes to an off ramp
Imagines that this will be
the last stop

as in that old TV series
where the main character
is always hoping for the leap home

Beauty
always gets back on the highway
after a night or two

Remains the same
Not a leap as much as a trudge
Next ramp like this one

It’s a grind
Everyday physics suggests
entropy is setting in


Shooter

I turn to
the monstrous, 
fearing monsters.

I’ve become
Animal. Humans
pledge not to,

but too often fail
in their promises.
Betrayal of trust

is endemic among us.
Memory and
documentation

be damned; reaction
is truth. Fear is
health. Who are

those in the wood
or alley that are more
terrifying than I am?

Stand ready, says
the spirit
of the ravenous; Animal,

your time has come.
Take off your watch.
There’s only now. Go.


Big Stan

Listening to space
for secret messages, David
simply is, and that’s enough. 

Asking a tree
for directions home, Sheila
simply listens. This is plenty.

Big Stan is an ear and 
an eye who points out
the other two are “nuts”

when he leans into your car
to tell you you’re alright,
not like those two.

You give everyone
a dollar. Everyone
gets a dollar. It won’t help

but it’s something. God Bless,
they tell you. God Bless.
Which god, you wonder — 

the one in space, the one
hiding under the bark
of the tree? Or maybe

Big Stan’s a god,
or the God, or
there’s no gods at all.

That seems like bullshit.
Even if they are nuts,
all of them, something’s

talking to them
from somewhere else.
We are all nuts,

Big Stan. David’s
disdainful of the tree
Sheila talks to, and Sheils

has been to space
and knows David’s 
hearing nothing.

I give everyone
a dollar. I do what I can.
David’s closest to the truth.

Big Stan is only half right,
and I wish I knew how
to get the tree to tell Sheila

how to go home.


A Look To Die For

Fire in your sleeves
when you pick up the sweatshirt — 
how are you supposed to wear this?

It’s as if
this entire blazing society
has settled in your clothing.

So hot, so uncomfortable and 
dangerous to have your home and clothes 
burning from the inside at the same time. 

All day long the mass shooting
itches you. The killing is 
next to your skin and won’t stop.

When the news announces
the inevitable fatalities 
are at a Walmart, you calculate

the distance to one from your home.
Maybe there will be a clearance sale.
God knows you need a new sweatshirt

to replace the one that’s burning you.
Regardless of the source, 
you have to wear something.

It’s not your fault this is all
society offers and anyway,
disaster is all the rage these days.

Every one of us walking around
reeking of smoke and singe.
‘Tis the season. ‘Tis the way of our flesh.

 


Goober

I used to be
such a goober
when it came to
how I acted around
someone I was drawn to
(although it was I gather at least
somewhat endearing to most except when 
it became clear that I did not understand
how far off I was in my estimate
of the level of interest the other person had
in my attentions) — regardless of the reason
for my interest — hero worship, attraction, 
a desire to learn,  general admiration seizing hold —
I used to be such a goober, stumbling through
conversations, asking all the wrong questions 
in even more wrong ways — touching subjects
that should have been left untouched, oddly breaching
spaces personal, professional, social, cultural, even now and then
spiritual — I used to be such a goober, addicted to the excitement
of finding someone who sparked me until after years  of corrections
and shaming I became silent before the mystery of such attractions
and now, now I’m not; I have become calmer, stiller, socially acceptable,
and far more numb within. 


Ghost Of Sweetness

Waking in darkness
to do…what?

Walk around the house
thinking daytime’s near?

Pretend this
was intentional

and go sit on the couch
in the living room

where all the light comes
from electronics

and think about yesterday,
all you did and didn’t do.

Daylight is a long way off,
it seems.

Mark this as night, still,
not early morning.

Rectification
for what was badly done

and what was undone
will have to wait until sunrise;

any wisdom that comes 
from the struggle

needs time to be born,
and this is not that time.

To sleep now, with a spoonful
of honey on your tongue.

Morning will offer
a ghost of that sweetness.

As always, you should begin again then:
lay the ghost to rest, grant it 

passage from dark to light
in tandem with your own.


A Purr And A Hiss

The big cat in the window
with a little bowl of catnip
poured from the bottle that sits
next to the bottle of Jameson’s.

In the next room the big man
sits next to an emptied glass.
He’s used to big Scotch whisky.
Irish whiskey barely touches him.

The big cat comes in, sits down,
stares at the big man. “You looking
for more?” he asks her. She walks away.
He knows she’s not. She knows when to stop

but it gives him the excuse he needs
to go back to the kitchen and pour
something into his, something into hers.
“Don’t mind if I do.” The big cat is gone,

probably to the bed.
He should do the same.
But now, a second glass
as the first barely touched him

and he wants to be touched.
“Here’s hoping,” he says.
It comes out somewhere
between a purr and a hiss.


Inconsequentials

Like a bite of lettuce 
drenched in oil
on a salad plate
that’s about to be taken away,
or an irregular corner torn
from some unknown paper
blowing through the yard
fast enough
you can’t catch it so
you don’t bother
to try. Not to mention
those people
on your supermarket corner
for whom you feel
twinges of regret
that it’s so difficult
to rescue or clean up
after them. Must have had
a purpose once. Must have
been good. Or at the least
shouldn’t have been left behind
to litter the place.