Category Archives: poetry

In Despair

Revision.  Posted originally in April, 2016. Original title, “I Wake Up In Despair.”

I wake up in despair most mornings
that the day will again slant uphill
and it will take everything I have to climb it.

I wake up in despair most mornings
but find comfort in doing things
no Pharaoh could ever do:

for instance, picking myself up
without an entourage to help me;
getting by with no entourage in celebration

or sorrow; falling down back-broken
and getting back up again next day for another round
with nothing but what’s in me to pull me up.

I wake in despair most mornings.
Each day bores me: sometimes a dull drill,
sometimes a chisel striking same and same and same again.

I wake in despair most mornings 
but find comfort in knowing
things a boss can’t know or has forgotten:

how to do the dirtiest bits of a dozen jobs;
how to take the next step when it’s time, how to 
fix the broken piece, how not to fail

from seven AM to lunch, how to stay awake
from lunch to three PM and longer
if three PM becomes 5 PM or later.

I wake in despair most mornings knowing 
how little of my life is good for me, based on 
the time I have to spend recovering from the rest of it.

I wake in despair most mornings
but almost get to glee knowing
what a king does not, what they may never know:

how to run riot in the streets to spite my aches and pains;
how to run riot in the streets with all the others aching and pained;
how to run riot in the streets knowing how little time I likely have.

I run riot knowing that ahead of me, somewhere
cowering, somewhere hiding behind their walls, 
a king, a boss, and a Pharaoh are themselves in despair,

filled with the knowledge
of their lack of knowledge
about anything that needs to be done.

In spite of the odds and the guns
and the war any of them could muster,
I no longer share their despair.


A Rumor Of Light

There is a light
that never fails

in a safe house
somewhere,

one that lights
the way home

for those who seek it
from dark places; as dim

as it might be from 
some places on the path

it always comes through
the trees eventually,

is glimpsed from 
the ship on the rocks,

shimmers on the edge
of sight when seen from 

a distant ridge; it blinks
of home and safety

to the long absent
traveller. At least that’s

what I’ve
been told.


What Is The World Now

Am not D and D
Am neither Magic nor Minecraft
nor even Pokemon Go
Not anime
Cannot speak in manga
Cannot read emoji
Am not EDM
Am no Internet troubadour
When new songs are mentioned
I am bewildered by them all
From behind these changes
I am asking

what is
the world now

Cannot stand in cipher
or freestyle
Words slip by
faster than I can hear
Though never shy to stage myself
As heads turn from what I do and am
I puzzle over how and why and

what is
the world now

I squint to see gray today
Was born to black or white
I strain to see gradation
from pole to pole
Was born to see either heat or ice
It turns faster
than I was raised to move
Was born to claim either here or there
Male or female
Right or left

I am being changed but

what is 
the world now

Stood so long
where ground seemed strong
So little need
to shift my weight
Footing changes below me
I maintain
but not without fear
Mind unclear as scramble
becomes routine
Body sore and incomplete
as pace rises and

what is
the world now

Am not made for this
Was made for a slower climb
In fact was not built to climb at all
Was expected to float and rise
by nature over nurture

What is
the world now 

A rock shuddering through changes
impersonal and fatal

People who are proudly not
what they were long forced to seem

And as for
shrunken, straggling, uncomfortable me

Am not D and D, am not shibari
Am not EMD, am not Fall Out Boy
Am lost old man
Zigging in panic to try and keep up
Increasingly unsure if I want to or should

for what is the world now

but a growing rejection
of all I was built for

Ready for my self-demolition
of which it will take little notice

as it moves in another direction
from where I shall rest in its dust


23 And Me

Revised, from March 2018.  Original title, “23.”

Somebody give me two imaginary things:
a top hat dyed dark with noble blood
and a statue of me wearing the hat.

Then, call me
lord and ruler; a statue
of the imaginary me

is enough of a vessel
from which to sip
the red juice of privilege.

If you give me the bloody hat 
and the statue as well, perhaps
I shall be regal and in charge,

so go ahead and give me
the title as well. Something good,
something recorded on parchment,

for I want to choose who I am 
and discard what I was raised to be:  
that matters less, it seems,

than what a scrap of me
has to report. 
All that history

we used to wrestle 
once could exalt or damn a person, 
and now all we have to do

is check a box or stuff one
and we are what we claim.
Easy enough for everyone. 

I’m enjoying the sticky hat on my head.
I’m enjoying the hell
out of my pale marble face.

I’m dreaming of what it all must mean
although all it truly means
is that I’m dreaming. 


Runner’s World

When running up
to a finish line
you will feel 
swords
in your chest

You must decide then
whether to ignore them
or stop to draw them forth
to either die there
or recover and finish

or even win

No choice is wrong

but what happens
to your swords

after you choose

That’s a puzzle
with its own sword hanging over it

Leave them in 
and push through and perhaps
you die or turn cold
and twisted in pain

Pull them out and contaminate all
with your blood as you fail
or finish or win
without them

but leave them behind
so others flay themselves
as they approach you

standing there
laurel-decked and
whistling from
all your holes

Aftermath is where
right and wrong
come out to play

Aftermath
is everything
in this race


The Diamond Horse

End this

and the diamond horse it rides

Blow the bridge behind and before it
Bring fire to it where it stands bewildered
between the two

But it has come so far, you plead
Not far enough we respond
and how long must we wait for it
to come the rest of the way it should go

Blow the bridge to the past behind it
that it may not return
Blow the bridge to the present before it
that we may be safe from what it brings us
from that past

End this and its platinum blonde warrior locks
End this and its steel hoofed steed
End this with a song or a sword it does not matter
as long as it ends and ends hard and finally

let it not leave a thing behind it
when it goes
Let the diamond horse
shatter and melt away

Let the rider
fall into the shadows
and be gone


Neuropathy 2

My hands 
began to lose hope 
somewhere around two PM
on a Tuesday. 

On Wednesday I looked
at what they were doing
on my guitar’s strings;
familiar songs,
songs I’d written,
did not sound the same.

I sit with them in my lap
often now: invalid limbs,
kin to my feet
that lately burn and prick 
with the same disease.
They sob out loud 
at times but mostly
fry in silence as we watch 
the world itself
attempting suicide.

Hopeless, failed hands;
stinging, failed soles
of unsteady feet; heat and
drought everywhere and
a tingle within
that whispers both personal
and general doom.

When I tell my hands
there is no easy end to this,
that this is no longer
a crisis, but a state of being,
they flutter up from my lap
and then fall still. 
It is hard for hands like these
to see all that demands to be done.
Hard for feet like these
to see how far there is to go.

As for me: in this body,
nothing is solid. Nothing
stops shaking. My hands
lose their grip. My feet fall out
from under me. I end up, daily,
staring up immobilized
from endangered ground,
ashamed that somehow,
I keep breathing.


Immigrant

Where you come from
the people speak the language
of eyelids: all messages, direction,
and mission revealed
in hints of motion visible
behind shuttered faces. 

You can usually 
get past the noise level here,
but some days, you come home
and lie in the dark wishing
for someone to read
what you’re thinking.

Such a loud land
you’ve landed in: news
a broken set of bells
echoing every minute, opinion
half screaming angry,
half screaming in sorrow.
You wonder if it will ever
fall silent, then fear that moment
is coming soon and no one
will know what to do, 
except explode.


Chosen

World outside is greasy
with nonsense 
today; that wind
has some throat to it.
Had to get up early; no sleep

to be had with that voice
slipping around corners, 
through windows, along eaves.
Anyone would prefer

to stay in bed with that
chaos blowing so hard; rather
keep sleeping, keep screwing, 
keep blank and dark and quiet

pretending it’s going to end
as quickly and silently as it began,
but it doesn’t work that way; this same
scouring windstorm has blown

from first day to this one
and all that changes is who is here
to confront it and build new shelters
among its teeth. No matter how slippery

life gets, someone always finds a footing.
No matter how loud and dirty life gets,
someone always whispers
something clean enough 

to break through it. It might well
be you: uncomfortable you,
frightened you, present 
and dawning and perfect,

born in this time for this time.


Feeding The Birds

He’s feeding the birds
before putting out the trash —
making sure they’re fed,
making sure the recycling’s done
right, making sure of his own little circle.

He will not watch television this morning
because they’ll be showing the funeral
of a villain, and after all the funerals he’s wept at
he does not want to see 
the weeping at this one.

He’s feeding the birds
before putting out the trash,
before anything else he might do
to avoid the prattle and rattle
of ceremony.

He will not stop thinking
“rot in hell” today
because it’s the only way he can assuage
the horror of knowing the funeral means
the bastard got away with everything.

He’s feeding the birds. He’s putting out the trash.
He’s amazed he made it this far
and after all the funerals he’s been to,
he’s glad he lived to see this one although
he’s sorry it took this long.


Prayer To The Daymaker

Let there be one moment
exactly like the last one.
I dare you, Maker of Days,
to repeat yourself. To copycat
time, plagiarize yourself 
just this once — or twice.

It wasn’t perfect, I suspect,
although I was not paying attention
all the way through it; still, a perfect moment
isn’t perfect if it’s recorded, I suspect.
It has to live memorialized, static
in its recalled context. So even if it
had been perfect, there’s truly no way to know.
Only you, Maker, can in theory recall it entirely
and could in theory reproduce it. 

So I dare you, Daymaker: 
give it back. This was a learning day
and that was the capstone. I’m 
nearly educated to the point of tipping
and I need to be sure of what happened
to be sure of graduating into
the next unknown moment ripe
with potential perfection.
No one beside us will know it’s a glorious
rerun. No one beside us will know
I begged you to slow down and let me
have more out of the day than I strictly
deserved. Let me have the chance
to savor it or fear it correctly. Let me
be anything other than a man in despair
of aging into the dark.


Rough Ride

Been a rough ride: all
these broken spokes
in my wheels.

I have blamed myself
for never stopping
to repair, blamed 
myself for letting
myself rattle into
ruin, blamed myself
for how long I denied
that there was anything
wrong —

and only now
that I’m terminally loose
with damage,
starting to fall
finally apart
to the point of 
obsolescence,
only now

do I regret 
not doing my part
to set myself aside
from my damage
and help fix the road
for the next rider,

though I knew well
what had happened,
why it had happened,
and how many of us
it would take to fill the ruts
and potholes
that were designed
specifically

to slow us down,
break us,
and eventually
kill us.


Wedge Setter, Swinger Of Weight

Dear settler, dear pioneer spirit:

once the log is freed
from the rest of the trunk,
look at the grain, look at 
the potentially stubborn 
knots.  Pick your

spots, set the first
wedge, tap it in lightly
with your sledgehammer
till it’s upright and ready.

Step back.

Raise that hammer high –
your hands sliding apart,
then together, letting the natural
gravity bring it down

onto the hard, mashed-up
flat of the wedge, driving it
into the natural faults of the grain,
tearing it open until that piece falls away.

Reset, repeat

until it’s done,
until it’s all 
stacked and waiting
for its time to burn.

Dear settler, dear
pioneer spirit. Dear 
all-American sense of destiny
made manifest in brawny moves:

this has nothing to do with the wedge
and everything to do with the fire.

 

 


The Trailer

I have fretted
over not recalling my dreams 
until tonight
when I had one in which

two magazine-handsome white boys
laughed as they told me
they were going to steal the trailer
I was dragging up from the ditch
where it had rolled after detaching from the car
when I took that too-fast turn

up the hill;

this after I’d done all the work
of searching for it in the autumn brush
of the ruined industrial park
where it had rolled long ago

into near-invisibility
among the bittersweet

and wild grape vines
whose color almost matched

its rust and dents;

I had not yet decided how to use it
or even to scrap it or sell it but
I had had a small vision of it becoming 
the basis for a small side business to help me
survive, no clear plan really, just an inkling
that something this usable and abandoned
shouldn’t be left to rot;

so when the laughing little men
in polos and good jeans from some
ungodly expensive store laughed at me
and said they were going to take it, and what
could I do about it against them, and how did I think
this was going to end, I did not bother to ask them
why they were doing it;

they were doing it because they could, because 
they had money, because they had family to back them,
because they were whitely empowered, because nothing
had prepared them to hear no, to believe in no, 
to even understand no; this was just a game to them —
to steal the most broken thing they could from someone
as broken as the thing they were going to steal
and to laugh as they were doing it;

and as American
and as low-down
and as modern

as all this was,
as much as I wanted

to walk away
from the trailer and the boys

and maybe even my car
and go drop my shame

into the nearby river
and drown with their laughter

in my dying ears,

I could not.

The knife from my pocket
was now in my strong hand.
The pepper gel from my pocket
was now in my other hand.
I had enough, enough, and I sprayed first
intending to slash right after —

and then I woke up
wringing wet, lying with the covers
kicked off as if this were still
the Fourth Of July, as if this were still
August the sixteenth

when it was still warm in the outside world,
when I wasn’t yet fighting for scraps,
when it seemed like I might yet win.


Full Stop

I sit more and more
with my
diminishing
presence
as the 
long-predicted end result
of a long-game genocide.

I feel like a full stop.

The Tribe doesn’t want me.
Why should they? I am only
a member by history,
not by presence,
not by physicality.

The Whiteness cannot understand
why it feels like a slap
that I’m seen as a full member.
Why should they? Who doesn’t want
to win, they ask?

I don’t.  Not that way.
I’m not, I whine. I’m not.

Dumbass. Of course you are, 

everyone else says:
the Tribe, the Whiteness,
all the individuals within and without;
even the chosen family,
even the ones I thought I loved and honored.

I think they are more right than I am.
Something in me doesn’t know how to listen.

I am the full stop.
The end result. This is what
the founders,
the original sinners of the nation
wanted — my simple

surrender to the default
once I’ve been 
denatured. 

What should I say,
what should I write
about wholeness in a place
that cannot use my wholeness?

What should I say that offers 
my entirety
when I do not have any evidence 
of it being real?

I sit more and more with myself
as a ghost to myself. Someone else’s 

proof of concept.