Category Archives: poetry

As They Do

my morning flock
on my freshened feeders.

my starlings, my grackles,
my mated downies, my bully jays,
my seldom seen but much longed-for
goldfinches and cardinals.

I call them “mine”
though they flee me 
whenever I approach

as my family does,
as my friends do,

as my city
and country do.


In there, whistling winds, rain.
Out here, stars are cowering.

You think this is backwards,
contradictory, silly? Learn the world:

a series of twists and folds,
a model of mountains rising

and caves underneath that hold
secrets and paradoxes. You, here,

are meant to learn this,
not understand it: not yet.


Muted as joy is for me
in this now of gray day
and shit-dark news, still
I can see how for others
there is still some hope
that there are paths to it
for their children and those
beyond them in some future
they trust will exist. I see them
holding out their hands
urging these kids to stand, 
to walk, to run toward light
and purpose and whatever
may come after, while all the time
I sit alone, empty on that front,
thinking of what we all will endure
along the way to this Magic Time
assumed to be ahead, thanking 
my genes and my body for holding back
the small desperations and little angers
I would have unleashed upon this world.

Moment of Truth

From a poetry prompt by Andrew Watt: #50wordpoem 

Ten lines, five words per line.

It is our not seeking
the Mystery that pushes us
into the poverty of Spirit.
Wake up before dawn: see,
on the lawn below you
the Dark Mother looks up,
catches your eye, smiles, beckons.
Your choices: deny her and
turn away, or climb down
and go where she goes.

New City

If only a city
could magic into
tunnelled space
above ground,
tree light as found
under leaves;

every street
greenshaded glow,

walkers holding
themselves sacred
as they flow.

A city that could be this
could feel like
a true home and not
temporal temporary.
Forever forest 
of somehow eternal.

Life and death
mix, turn synonym, 
demand new names

in the language 
of this new city.

Your Dead Sleep

When your ghosts 
put their guns 
to your head
as you wake,
chanting your faults,
grinning your fears,
how you slept
the night before
might save you.

Get yourself coffee.
Get yourself breakfast.
Get settled in
upon the couch,

close your eyes,
chant SHUT UP
SHUT UP until
at last, silence.

Still, their guns
press your temples
so don’t relax.
Take heart. Breathe.
Sleep will return
with dead comfort
later. Hold on.

On nights when
sleep fails you
and the ghosts
await you after?
Hell days, those.

You itch and 
nod and snarl
back at them,
or you hide,
head buried away,
if you can. 

You’ll sleep hard
when sleep returns.

You hate them,
those armed ghosts.
They define you,
limit you, exist
because of you.
You lose sleep 
because of them.

Whenever you don’t,
they smile broader,
cock those pistols,
take their time
taking your time
until it’s time
for dead sleep.

Two In One

What others do not understand
when they say they see me as 
“half White and half Indian”
is that it it not like that at all
in here. In here 

it is crowded, no easy match of two
complementary parts;
two stunted, solid beings
instead trying to fit into one
tiny room and make it work
forever. Now and then 

they manage not to tangle;
usually this happens when
there is bounty for a short moment: 

right after making love or
in the presence of some other
exaltation of nature 
they find some briefly held comfort

and then the larger Me
who barely exists, who lurks between them
as mere shadow, feels substantial
for a second, maybe two; 

then again comes the jostling,
sharp elbows, awkward forgiveness,
sad angry damaged voices trying
to drown each other out
and claim the room.

Today when my body
read the news
of Notre Dame burning 

one of the ones within cried
while the other thought
of all the carved
sacred mountains
that have forever gone

and the shadow Me inside
cowered as they drew knives 
forged of blame and guilt,
held them to each others’ throats
as they have so many times before.

My body did not know 
how to hold it all.


Long distance view:
everything we know
is a blip

on a screen. Every

frog, bird’s nest,

automobile, vintage guitar,
handsome face, tender hand
soothing a rough wound.

Up close
our own enthusiasms
loom. We loom back.

They offer us
dominion of our preferences
but long distance view,
cliff top perspective view?

We loom like ants loom
over sand-specks.


Then we

with our things,
our loves, our
artifacts. We

blip into
smoke and 


One Of Many

Sometimes blue,
always thick. Takes
a while to get it;
not everything sticks.

Dark in voice,
light impact, gray
as dusk or dawn —
full-on night and day

mean nothing here.
Stands alone when
together might be 
sweeter, clumps

with others when
solitary would better
suit the moment. 
Low importance,

soft puncher, soft
speaker, really quite inaudible
and numb to consequence.
Any name offered

to mark this one
would be superfluous;
just one of 
out of place. O
ne of too many. 

Portrait Of An Artist As A Dead Man

the public thinking 
that he was 
one of the good ones

his own idea of himself as
snapped bone

and his face at perpetual
with his faith

his doubt
busting out all over as if he
had become

movie musical month of June
as if he 
could be sanitized through

the magic
of popular art bestowing genius
upon monsters

in part because they
monstrosity in their geniuses

because it keeps 
all the people who aren’t monsters 
from uncovering

their own genius

when his ghost
was laid away at last
and the myth
of who he’d been
was permanently
with the truth

when they filed
his work away at last
in a locked drawer
reserved for what was once
thought genius and now
was forensically reviewed
for sinister clues

though he could not breathe 
any longer 

he held what little vapor he still had 
tight within

and told himself it was long past time
to set this right
fade away to reincarnate perhaps
at some better time

To Protect And Serve

Status quo for them is
scraping challenges
to their status quo
off the pavement. 

Par for the course
when one of them puts
a hole in one 
who they’ve decided

isn’t a member 
of their club.
and serve?
They serve it to 

in their way, something
heavy, something
so heavy it stops
the breathing. The code

of silence roars out
loud and 
clear: blue line
offering a cloaked invocation
of infallibility.

Accuse them of being themselves
and they’ll slip away like mercury
across courtroom floors;
lay a finger on them if you dare

and die like the rest. Watch
their lights flashing and think
of flame — blue as a torch,
a gas jet. Watch them smile

at the burning: a sport,
a game, a little bit of play
with a storm of win and lose.
Watch them watching us 

and not caring much
about what we might see.

Red Hole Dreams

I’ve woken up
in recent days
from dreams of fascists
with red holes dead centered
in their dead foreheads.

Whenever I do,
I sweat this urge out of me.
Smoke bathe it away
until all that is left
is a lingering residue:

unholy joy.


…He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. — from the Declaration of Independence, in reference to King George III

It is good to see it. To see it
in print. To see the evidence of
how the mythology was created
from the beginning, at the inception
of the experiment. No wiggle room,
no interpretation can hide it.

There can be no mercy for those words.

“Indians and wolves are both beasts of prey, tho’ they differ in shape.” — George Washington

“If ever we are constrained to lift the hatchet against any tribe, we will never lay it down till that tribe is exterminated, or driven beyond the Mississippi… in war, they will kill some of us; we shall destroy them all.” — Thomas Jefferson

It is good to see it. To see it
in print. To see what mercy
would be afforded to those
deemed merciless by those
incapable of mercy. To see language,
studied and measured, put into
the service of preparing genocide. 

There can be no mercy for those words.

“I don’t go so far as to believe that the only good Indian is a dead Indian, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”  — Theodore Roosevelt

It is good to see it.  To see
those words in print. To see
how casual it all became to them,
how easily the mask of mercy
slipped to reveal merciless humor
behind. To see how far they’ve come
from fear to utter contempt. 

There can be no mercy for those words.

“In recent years, and even decades, too many people have forgotten that truth. They’ve forgotten that our ancestors trounced an empire, tamed a continent, and triumphed over the worst evils in history…America is the greatest fighting force for peace, justice and freedom in the history of the world. We have become a lot stronger lately. We are not going to apologize for America. We are going to stand up for America.” — Donald Trump

It is good to see it.  To see it
in print. To see how it all remains
in force, the myth of a merciless Other
pushed by the truly merciless Among Us
in the name of All Of Us, the story
of the tamers implacable against
the unspeakable wild, the lumping
of all opposition into a bucket
of great evils. Seeking mercy here
is a fool’s errand, and for those unfooled

there can be no mercy for so much more
than those words.

Among Poets

I’ve decided not to be among poets anymore
They smell to me of anarchy and whimsy
amplified to the point of pain till it swamps truth
All their misplaced love of words over action
Their bouquets of mystery obscuring the obvious
I know some who claim poetry will save the world
much as gun nuts and organic juicers do
who make the same claim with far more evidence to go on
Poetry only changes the world as a stiff breeze does
if it moves the people to action you can say it but not till then
So a poet who tells me this or claims it or stands on that hill
is someone whose words I expect to be a hurricane
but more often than not it’s a slight breeze of ordinary
or barely a leaf lifter’s worth of language they toss 
and maybe they try and maybe they fail or maybe the world
is heavier than they ever believed but still they keep at it
as if it could matter what a poet might say
as if poets can’t die for what they might say
though they have and they will and they will once again
because people believe that old line about change
so I’ve decided not to be among poets anymore
even as I sit with a pen and plan fusillades and charges
as I sit with a pen and imagine I matter or what I do matters
I will not be among poets with their spiderweb gossip
I will not be among poets with their ardent machinery
I will not be among poets with their flagrant weak fists raised
until I can look at what I’ve done and say
I belong here beside them as weak as they are
as fragrant with idiocy and self-importance as they are
till I’m just as ready to swing in the breeze
or put my back to the wall
and go to death with them
be gone
and forgotten

Photographs On The Internet

I look for the bodies of people I love or have loved 
in photographs posted on the Internet by our friends
and those who are friend-adjacent, for want of a better term;

I am not one of those who believe that photographs
capture the souls of those being photographed, and I
thank all the myriad gods of a plethora of religions for that;

I could not bear it if that were to be true, thinking
of our deep affections still haunting those imprisoned in paper
and ink or in pixels and sparks, ready to go dark in an instant;

but still there is this small hope that perhaps one of these snaps
will stir a feeling in me that I do not find easy to reach on my own,
that an image of a known body will tweak me in the soul 

and push my empathy out front from where it hides
in a pocket made of armor I keep tucked close to my belly;
that the image of a body I love and respect and care for

might remind me of the days when I felt that
for what once rode within my own body, what I pray
is still there, raging at me from inside this shell, crying out

that there is love and hope and joy and risk-affection
still in the world, that pain and weakness are what a body must yield to
but the spirit inside need not ever yield; 

I seek for images of bodies I have known
hoping they miss me, the me I was when they knew my body
and saw it and welcomed me for what I was inside,

the me I do not know now though I am in the same body
I have had for all my time, the me that has changed 
from how it once was, the me that feels like it has slipped away.