Category Archives: poetry


The news is all red
in spite of the daffodils
butting in with green.

All of the new buds
by the lake, showing red first
before they go green.

Old mulch by the walk
is not as red, and it’s cracked —
coming soon, the green.

The news is in red.
The window differs: make room! 
Consider the green.

Do you look for red
when you wake up, or do you
only see the green?

Spread red over green,
or hide the red with the green.
The news is on. Choose. 

Sitting Around

Originally posted 2012. Revised.

Mostly, people are sitting around waiting for it. 

It’s not going to be like a tsunami, or a war. 

No one wants to admit that we peaked at Lascaux. 
No one wants to admit that we were pretty much at our apex
right before the first grain was planted, the first lamb was tamed…
that it started to fail with the first surveyor who confidently said

“this plot’s yours, this plot’s not…”

No one wants to admit
that we were OK about the God thing
right up to the moment we shook God loose
from a particular geography,
the one outside the hut door.

Get up every morning, yawn, stretch…hello, God.
Turn another direction, there’s another God.
Say hi to that one, too.
It kept them small. No one wants to admit
we knew something back then we don’t know now,
and we don’t even know what it is that we knew.

I have some friends — oh, I cannot call them that
as it’s untrue now and will be even more so after this —
there are people I know who are activists.

They think they’re doing something.
They think…I like them because they move now
that everyone’s mostly sitting. But do they do what’s needed?

No one can do what’s needed now.
Not on anything but a small scale,
no matter how grandly they practice.

Because when it comes, it won’t be much different than it is now —
a slew of abandoned houses, a lot of rootless people.
They’ll leave because their wallets betrayed them;
they’ll leave looking for work;
they’ll leave looking for food.

The lawns will recall their heritage
and swallow houses while making jungly noises.

We don’t know what we’ve lost.

We peaked at Lascaux;
all those hunter-gatherers knew it.

We sit waiting for what’s coming. 
We ought to be moving though it won’t come
as tsunami or war, not at first.


It will be as it is now.

Tiger’s Way

With apologies to John, Michelle, Cass, Denny…and all of you

All the world is curds
and the air is whey
I hopped on a bus
and ran on Guy Fawkes’ Day
I’d be under fire
if I’d chosen to stay
Surrealists are in charge
This is the tiger way

Stopped to drink a beer
along the way
Shoved my face into the glass
and sucked those suds away
Ordered up another
No point in sobriety
When everything’s infected
in the body of society

The milk of kindness curdles
The blood of caring clots
If I go for a walk
I won’t attempt to pray
because I think it’s pointless
expecting to be saved
We wait to be devoured
as we walk the tiger’s way

Peregrine Falcons Of Stone Mountain

Wherever the edge was 
a decade ago, a year ago?
It’s just ahead, almost
underfoot now. 

I was born for the edge
of the edge, to hang my toes
over the great fall
to the bottom, and look down.

My friends say it’s dangerous
to be here. They are afraid
I’m still who I was a decade ago,
a year ago. No fear that I’ll jump;

they just know how much I love
the edge of the edge. Love the stage
it provides. To tumble in the last act
would be just my way, they think,

but I’m not the being
they think I am, not even the one I was
a year ago, a decade ago. I know 
if I fall into that, I’ll just float

and no one, not even my friends,
is ready to see me hovering like
the peregrine falcons on Stone Mountain
updrafts, not plunging to earth.

I know who I am now. I don’t
stumble over the edges where I find myself.
I sit there in mid air high above disasters
and catastrophe. Maybe someday. Not today,

not a decade, not a year hence.
I’m not done with the earth yet.
I’m not ready yet to fall, to fail. 
I’m too light to know how close death is. 

Wall Of Darkness

For the love of the wall of darkness
in the mouth of the bedroom
that is the door to the bedroom

that has been created by the light in the kitchen
that will soon be turned off leaving only
one small nightlight left on to make it easier

not to trip over the black cat if there is
(as there always is)
a need to walk from bedroom to bathroom

in the few small hours between
my late bedtime and early rising
that have become my old-age norm

I offer praise for what lies 
beyond that wall of darkness 
in the mouth of the bedroom

as I stagger with my old knees
and dead-nerve feet from bathroom
back into the bedroom

so warm and easeful
after fitting my CPAP mask 
and settling in for the few hours between

falling asleep now and then rising
into the insatiable orders 
of dawn and food and work

This is for love of the darkness
that promises a little forgetfulness 
if only I will come in and stay 

and now I realize that here is the black cat
sleeping on the bed itself 
so I needn’t have worried

I could have done all this
in darkness had I wished
without nightlight at all

It’s not far from here to there
An easy walk easily completed
if I only had had faith in my own steps

I tell myself next time to listen
for the purring in here
before I step out into dim and useless light

Hen And Chicks

It’s a neighbor with a bad car
parked on the street
without plates, the cops
hovering around then having it towed.
It’s the couple screaming at 
each other on the sidewalk and 
one of them tears a rock out of your wall, 
raising it overhead, and now
it’s your concern. Did they screw up
the succulents that grow there,
the hen and chicks? You yell down from
the bedroom window to put it back.
That breaks the anger spell.
They leave after tossing the rock
onto the top of the wall.
You will replace it later
now that all is well and after
the tow truck leaves with the bad car?
It’s almost as suburban out here as it is back home
where high school friends live who say
“the city is a cesspool” and trot around
boastfully shaking their heads at me 
from their beautiful yards 
where the hen and chicks grow from holes
artfully cut into the sides of barrels 
transformed into planters they bought
at the hardware store down the street
from the place where that guy 
stabbed another guy in the back of the head
at a lazy evening barbecue a couple of years ago,
an isolated incident among isolated people,
insulated people who choose to turn away. 
To those high school friends I say:
welcome to the cesspool
where I see my shit and name it
while you hide yours.
In the longest of long runs
it all smells the same. 
It all spills out eventually
just like those tough little plants do when they 
bloom, long translucent stems and flowers
drooping out of barrel holes and stonewall cracks,
trying to make the best
of wherever they find themselves.


Wish I could take back
everything I’ve ever said —
each word, ill timed grunt,
sigh in passion, moan of distress.

It’s language that has cut
all my crops down, set the fires
in each of my villages.
If I’d just been silent,

things would have been different.
But I just had to do this. Had
to open my big fat mouth. Had to
make a whole series of noises

and call them art, say I was 
seeking beauty, truth, that 
folderol; forgot that a stone has beauty
on its own without making a sound,

reveals truth when hurled through
a window; the noise you hear then
doesn’t come from the stone 
that lands mutely on the castle floor.

Wish I’d stayed silent. It’s done me
little good not to be. It’s made me
want to sit with a glued-up mouth
on my scorched earth till I’m gone. 

People say I owed it to them, to the earth,
to be this, to make noise, to rumble
like a damn volcano, tweet like a bird.
What I owed myself, they tell me,

is unimportant. It’s the artist’s just fate
to disappear into their hollering,
happily or not. I say no, then say
no more. Be here that way till I’m not.

Dad’s Close Order Drill

Revised, from 2009.

The five purposes of close order drill are to:

1. Provide simple formation from which various combat formations could readily be assumed.

Look for their fear.
Slip your hand into it, make it
your puppet,
pull it close,
make it rigid,
make it dance.
The dinner table provides
the ideal setting for this, so

2. Move units from one place to another in a standard and orderly manner, while maintaining the best possible appearance.

speak to them
with great attention
to their faults. Do not fail
to hit the same notes again and again:
inadequacy, failure, shame at heritage
denied and betrayed…and ensure
that nothing of the conversation
will be heard outside that room.

3. Provide the troops an opportunity to handle individual weapons.

If you are focused
soon enough the words
will come from them,
tailored, well-pressed,

4. Instill discipline through precision and automatic response to orders.

and when they cringe
you won’t even have to watch
to know it’s happening.

5. Increase a leader’s confidence through the exercise of command by giving
proper commands and drilling troops.

Won’t you accept the salute,
the hands above their eyes,
shading themselves from the heat?
You have earned it.

* close order drill objectives, in boldface, taken from USMC Website

It’s Not That Simple

I don’t have an answer
Don’t know the right questions
to get from one end of this 
to the other

It’s not that simple
Not an equation

Stuck in my head with
A jumble of words
that feel like maybe
Might lead somewhere

It’s not that simple
Incorrect directions

I turn from one to another
I turn from the certain to doubt
I turn away from the road
with the well-marked signs
To the dense darkness under the trees

I don’t have a sense of direction
Can’t make any sense of the landscape
Don’t know the right way
to any destination

It’s not that simple
Not an equation

It’s not that simple
Incorrect directions

It’s not the arrival
It’s the journey they tell you 

No, it is the arrival
They lie as they’ve lied for all of my life

They Are Yelling At Me

I don’t know who they are
but they keep yelling at me:

Enough, enough! What’s with
the moaning, all the doom-poems?

You are sitting in a warm-enough room.
You are still warm to the touch.

Look out the window at that one cardinal.
There’s the woman across the street

starting her Jeep. There’s so much going on
that isn’t the direct result of some tragedy.

Write a damn love poem,
they say. An ice-cream poem,

cool and sweet. A feather pillow poem,
soft and easy to clutch. A poem with 

a roar-shaped kiss. A metric ton
of roar-shaped kisses, in fact. Why

the constant scream of pain and 
anger at how the worms of money and hate

twist through all our guts
all day and night? Write us

out of that with a love poem,
a bird poem, a stars in your eyes poem

or two or three hundred, Mr. Prolific,
Mr. I Got Words For Everyone, Buddy?

All my poems are love poems, I answer back.
I wouldn’t stand for them if they were not.

I would not be here with them clustered around me
if I did not think they held love within.

The poems with the guns will do what’s right
for love.  The poems full of moans are the echo

of wishing for better. Every word
may taste like rocky road

to a parched and bitter mouth.
And why is there roaring at all in these words

if not to speak of love for the world as loudly as I can
in the face of so many teeth and such greedy claws? 

They don’t answer. They never do.
I wish I could do anything else but this.

This morning I shall settle at the keyboard
to put flowers upon all the unmarked graves.

It’s not a living. It’s a life.
Shh, I tell them. Enough, enough. 

As American As Petting A Bison

Some context for this: 

How To Lose Your Pants By Being Dumb

If I were to become a bully
I’d do my business
righteously, historically.

I’d fill my raging belly
with ghost egret flesh,
drink nothing but spectral bison’s tears,

grow horns
the size of a railroad car
and start looking around

for a bison-petting tourist with 
jeans and blood to spare.
Watch them run away after trying 

to pet me. Thinking
I’m tame. Believing the 
schoolbooks they’d seen.

You’d think I’d have learned
about how such behavior
tends to pan out over time.

You’d think that — and you’d
be wrong. This is mild. It isn’t about 
replicating their history of violence.

There’s a whole country out there
the wants us lovable enough
to keep on a shelf in the living room.

Someone’s got to set them straight
in the name of survival. Put them
pantsless on the hook

for everything 
they never learned in school
or subsequently.

It’s not their fault, you say,
that they bought the myth they were sold.
But it is. It’s not like 

they haven’t been told.
Anyway, I’m starting small.
No need to panic yet. 

Your jeans 
don’t begin to pay off
what was stolen, but it’s a start.

What Drives Me

Bags filled with
broken promises and
hands full of random illnesses
and injuries: that’s where I am
in this late middle age.  I have
the residuals of bad choices
to weigh me down
and of course
the words, the Work,
always and forever
driving me.

To feel better
I’d give up a lot, 
but not the drive, not the Work.
I’d let blacktop cover me,
let the city take my home, 
let me fall on a sidewalk
outside the library.  Let them
use me as a warning, let them
slip me into forgotten history
and leave me there — but the Work

shall remain on my tongue
poised for release
then fight its way past
my light stripped eyes through
frozen fingers into the world
where it will live or not on its own
because that’s my Work 
and I’m not done with my job.
I’m not quitting it just to die
at peace with my body
and my wallet. No.

Looking Ahead

When the end comes 
will you be able to sit with it

and keep telling yourself
it is all going to be OK? 

Are you willing to find a park bench
upon which to sit by yourself

in the last green grove on earth
and tell yourself this too shall pass?

Think about how you are trying
to make the best of this, of how

everything you’ve known till now
is coming to a point:

all existence squeezed into a dot now,
a pencil mark

on a dirty scrap of paper;
the world compressed to a period

at the end of
a sentence fragment,

and it’s harder that ever to recall
what that sentence was.

It made sense.
That’s all you know. 

It was uttered by someone
you loved, or could have loved. 

All you’ve got to go on
is one faded period and 

an illegible word
to puzzle over. Same as it has been

for most of existence: broken puzzles
are offered with great authority

and finality. No answer, no clues.
All you have to do is figure it out

and speak it for it to be real. Are you willing?
Are you ready to have this be the way it ends? 


When you look outside
expecting trumpets and fire
and all you hear is the drone
of photo opps legions seeking 
clicks and likes and affirmations
from the devils or angels they prefer

Peeking past the blinds
into a gray morning with no
distinguishing features beyond 
unseasonable weather and more 
humans signing on the street these days
jerking drug dances for survival

When you turn with a headshake back around
to the relative warmth of shabby rooms and rugs
and your yet to fail walls and aged thin pipes
it all doesn’t seem as bad as the trumpets
and fires you expected at this point
since you are warm and for the moment aecure

You raise a shout and toss a dance move
A wipe of the forehead and a raised glass
A song to whatever lord you think has saved you
from the trumpets and the fire and the nights in the cold
Forgetting the imminent snuffing of all candles and lanterns
You exhale in uneasy and unwarranted relief

Thank you.

Thanks to all, patrons and non-patrons, who came out to the Rip-Up Reading last night. At one point we had 29 people in the Zoom Room.

I’ll be writing up a more formal recap later today or (more likely) tomorrow. I’m exhausted still, as I usually am after doing one of these.

Until then, thank you.