Category Archives: uncategorized

Pushcart nomination…

Very pleased to note that Radius, an excellent online journal, has nominated my poem “The Patriarchy Apologizes” for a 2018 Pushcart Prize.

You can read the nomination essay and link to the nomination poems here.

Thanks to the editorial staff at Radius for the honor. 


My Morning Face

My unintended
punk morning hair.

Skin minutely flaky;
thanks, Type 2.

Eyes still baggy
in spite of sleep.

The damn bifocals,
the damn need for them.

Mirror, mirror: I begin to see
how I will end

some years from now,
although maybe I will have

fewer than I hope
to have. I will go

waving some sign
of denial

or defiance
in the midst of slow

decline, having
burned myself down

on one more night,
one more long night,

half blind yet
still seeking clarity.

I put myself
in this place

and will not likely
ever be content with it,

but while I’m here
I will look ahead.

I chose this,
now and then

readily and
consciously, now and then 

in error
or without

intention; I will
own the place

I am in and the place
where I’m going,

refuse to comb
my hair

before I step into
the next world.


Trivial Note

Just a trivial note to all:  I recently pointed this blog to a domain that doesn’t indicate it’s on WordPress.com. 

No reason, really; just an option that became available and I said “why not?”

It is now at “http://radioactiveart.blog” for those of you who notice such things.  I don’t think it requires you to change any bookmarks you might have as the old domain works as well.

I told you it was a trivial note.

Carry on.

T


Off The Blade

When I look at the television
and say out loud, “you’re a 
fucking moron,” I don’t mean it
literally.

There’s no one here,
for one thing.  Just the flat screen
and the flat face of the flat-out
fucking moron, as I’ve labeled him.

I know labeling is wrong but somehow
I need this. I need to stare into 
that reddish bloat and call him 
something or other, just to keep myself
off the blade. 

I don’t know his actual IQ
of course, for another thing — he’s not
smart, I suspect, more cunning, more
versed in sneaky, better at bulling his way
through the day than at figuring things out. 

And to disgrace the perfectly good word
“fucking” by using it in tandem
with my other words, by intensifying
my disdain for his cretin soul
through the colloquial use
of that beautiful, hothouse, slick-making
word –bah. 

I choose instead to
stare into the screen
while muttering nonsense syllables. 

I’m a person with better things to do
and better uses for my voice. I shall keep silent,
sharpen all the knives in the house,
dig trenches, stock up on books
soon to be banned, call every vulnerable
soul I know and invite them to build a fortress,
learn the rules of dirty pool, develop codes, 
fight as needed, take it to the enemy,
become as valiant as drama majors
on an empty stage waiting for the house lights
to go down and the stage lights to come up —

that’s how I play the game in my head,
and how I shame the game with the incantation,
once again.  “You’re a fucking moron.”
Staring into the screen, wishing I believed
in magic words, keeping myself
off the blade tonight.


Seed

Inside the seed of this second
is the tree of the entire day.

It begins to grow
when you open your eyes.

It bends as you do,
breaks if you do.

As you fall asleep
it is cut down and made into

furniture in the house
you go to in dreams. 

It holds the dream clothes,
the dream pages of diaries,

dream plans upon dream plans scribbled 
on dream paper.

Tomorrow, you’ll awake
and all this forest will be lost

but inside the seed of that second
waits the tree of a new day.


Private Language

I am trying to explain the delicacy
of our private language
to a sparrow,

hoping the drab bird
will understand enough
to translate it

and let it pour 
across morning
outside our window.

I hope it will mean something.
I hope it will succeed 
in bringing what we say

into fuller being. 
I hope nature draws it in,
holds it close, passes it back.

I want to hear it in the rain.
I want you to hear it
in the rain and wind. 

I want what we whisper
to one another
to become a shout

everyone hears.
Make it a battle cry,
rally chant, holy song,

Love, you know:
what we say in secret 
to each other

could carry the world
if they could
understand it.


How To Repair The Conquest

You want too much, 
I’ve been told. Eagle
dancing in my back pocket,
turtle face peeking from within
my coat, a mist in my eyes
that insinuated itself there
from a pond in deep woods.
You accuse me, say I want a life
like that, a life made of

all that was eaten and spit out
before I was even born, before
I could even understand. You say
I could have born in a time when
it was commonly part
of all who were born here,
but I wasn’t.  You accuse me,

say I want to go back there as if all
that’s happened could be erased;
you accuse me again and again 

and I respond that of course I know 
better, that we can’t go back
and I know erasing all that would mean
erasing me, as I am some
of what’s happened 
since,

and then I stop and look
at that, and think of how
it would shift the world
if I were to be erased

and I say that I need to study
on this one a bit more
before I can fully respond, even though
I am clear about how I’m leaning
and if I disappear after speaking,

so be it.


A note to the readers of this blog…

Dear folks,

I’ve decided to cut way back on my poetry writing and posting for the next month.

It’s important, I think, to lie fallow now and then and recharge. As it is, I’ve posted an average of one poem a day on the blog since 2010, so taking a bit of time away from it all doesn’t seem too outrageous an idea in the pursuit of better poetry.

This decision is also prompted by a really, REALLY busy work schedule for my business in April, including a fair amount of travel to handle multiple sessions for one client. I’m taking next week off for vacation and then plunging into the mess.

I hope my hiatus will not drive you away, especially those of you who are new readers.  Plenty of poems here to read!  

Thanks, and see you soon,

Tony


Delicacy

There is a delicacy to the question
of how we are going to move forward
from this moment — at least for those who see it
as yet another vagary of politics, a moment
up for firm but cordial discussion.  

For me the delicacy of the question
is drowned by the blood
from those being butchered
to feed both sides,
and how it pools ever deeper.

The ones who think it’s time
to find common ground and strive
for mutual goals are terrified
that someone might choose instead
to point out the red footprints 

they’re leaving behind 
on their way to the conference table;
to say that the words in their mouths
form the echoes of death sentences;
to say that agreeing to disagree

is equivalent to agreeing
to sharpen swords and load the guns
of the butchers. For me,
the moment for fear
of plain talk is long past.

Nothing in this moment
is delicate. Look at how the blood
runs. Look at how we hunker down,
hollow-faced, pretending. There is
nothing to be said. Now’s a time

for something that is not talk.
I don’t even want to give it a word
because it doesn’t demand expression.
Talking, we save for listeners. Listening
is a delicate art. This is not the time for it.


Conditioning

Stormbringer, supercharger, 
strong attractor, such memory
of how little I cared for consequence
in their presence. I was young
and loathed myself except when 
I exalted myself, and I had no balance
between.  Stormcharger, super-attractor,
strong bringer of past to present, memory
of what I gained and tossed; nonsense,
these things – storm attractor, superbringer,
strong charger – are words only, things
I mastered long ago, things I made up
for the purpose of raising the dead
from the tombs within me. I was young once.
I killed that youth six times over. I am old now,
still ready to kill that youth, superstorm, charge attractor,
strength brought to bear upon how sick I am
with nostalgia and regret for how I let myself go
and how often in recreation of those forces
I let myself go feebly into their streams again.


The Meaningless Goal

I hit my Meaningless Goal for the year and beat last year’s posted poem total by 1.

328 poems posted for the year.

I’ll try and get to 330 by New Year’s Eve, but I think I’m taking a few days off for the holidays.  

Enjoy your holidays, and thank you for reading.


Three Chords And the Truth

The problem with
three chords and the truth
is always that third chord

When the first one
lays it right out there
where anyone can see it

and the second one 
simply points
at what the first one did

why do you need one more
when all it does
is nods at the first two

and brings you
right back
to them again

Maybe it’s in
the nature of truth
that we find the answer

that it’s not as much about
how three chords fill the void
better than one or two

than it is about
which three chords you choose
to carry which truths

You reach out endlessly
for the right ones
with two or three fingers

on keys or strings
and end up hearing either outright lies
or mere cartoons of that truth

and then you reach out again
and this time you find
a truth you weren’t expecting

which you follow and
there you go with those chords
and that truth 

but the one you started with
gets away and one day
you come back to it

and stare at it and say
was this ever true
You puzzle out three new chords

and try to answer that
until one day that truth
blares out of a car radio

flying in on three chords
you never even considered
and it’s a hit and you shake your head

at how simple it should have been
to do this and then
you crank it up

regretting nothing
of how this mystery passed you by
as you shout and you sing 

and try to figure out
that third chord
that was the key you never found


Getting Past It

Three fractured heads 
in the crotch of a tree.

Dog-torn infant arms
strewn in a ditch.

On a dirt road, 
dark wet sand.

New genocide and massacre
glimpsed on a screen.

You can’t look away
even as you say

“it can’t happen here.”
It has happened here.

Here is here because
it has happened here.

You didn’t do it. You had
nothing to do with it.

But you are here, in part,
because it has happened here.

This is why 
you can’t look away

even as you say
“it can’t happen here.”

You want to know
what it looks like,

want to toughen up.
It can’t happen here

but who knows where
it will happen tomorrow

and if you are there
by chance or design

your today could be gone
when your tomorrow gets here.

You keep an eye
on the screen

and make plans and promises
about what you will

and will not do 
if it happens

where you are:
how you will stay upright

if the road runs slippery
with blood, how you will avoid

tripping over flesh
on your walkway, how you will

get past it. How you
will thrive in the aftermath,

how you will raise a family
there.


Worms

The earth in the front yard’s 
worm-broken as always
after the rain.

So many castings on the surface,
thick red threads squirming
on the sidewalk.

I still don’t understand 
how anything lives here,
myself least of all,

but I do, and they do.
They seem in fact
to thrive somehow.

I don’t, not at all.
I’d go so far as to say
I’m bad at living; 

worse at it than
these worms are,
anyway.

It’s odd
how it happens
that one can end up

envying worms. I hope
some nice ones eat me
when I die. I know 

it’s not worms like these
I should be counting on
for that. These worms

aren’t the right type.
These worms look like
survivors, like they’d know

that you are what you eat.
That’s a good enough reason
for them to avoid me.

It’s raining, I’m waiting to die,
worms have come up from the wet
all over the yard, and I’m watching 

them from the window. If you need
anything beyond this
to understand me, be like the worms:

steer clear.

 

 


Dawn

I said I shouldn’t have to prove
my exceptional nature and skills
to be valued, that I am human

should be enough to make you want 
to care about me and not think of me as
a heap of dirt to be danced on 
like some grave. 

Then I looked around:
when has being human 
ever been enough?

I said that everyone came here
from somewhere except for those of us
whose folks were here already.

Then someone reminded me
of the Bering Straits and someone else
pointed at carved heads and said Africa
and another one laughed
and said Irish monks and let us not forget
the sky people from Sirius or 
Alpha Centauri,

and I realized
how much people
love the colonial buffet.

I said something about
a living wage and
not having to fear that
a broken turn signal 
might get you beaten
or jailed or deported or
killed. I said something

about people who had no choice
about coming here, about people
born here with no voice to be heard
here, about people burning here
and drowning here.

Then it struck me
that no one could hear a thing I’d said
over the sound of locks being locked
and deadbolts being thrown, guns
being cocked and hands being clapped
over ears and eyes.

I stopped talking long enough
to consider the possibility
that perhaps they heard me just fine
and that was why they locked
and loaded and shut themselves away.

I stopped talking.
I looked up.

There was
dawn in the air. It was lonely
but it was new. It might not have lasted
long but it was clean. It might
still have been night
but that hint of sun

felt sacred.