Interior Screens

In bed at night
if you close your eyes
tightly enough
your interior screens
turn white

Exactly as hard
as you resist that

is how hard it
will hit you

When you find it happening
in daylight too
you will pull your skin tight
over your hardest bones
and petrify

All that pale light streaming
blanding and blinding at once

makes this a hard place
and making yourself harder
in the comforting dark
will keep you breathing

but in bed at night 
as the whiteness
comes down
comes stifling down
open your eyes wide

to your darkness and
find yourself softening
to something like peace

Land That I Love

Revised.  Originally posted February 2019.

Open air salt mine surrounded by trees,
broken skin broken heart redwood dog pen,
blistered, bruised vending machine jail
overrun with self-guarding inmates,
I sing you my hidden prayer:

burn clean as you burn;
flood red when you flood; 
may you thus be wiped free of old stains.

If you be hell bound, may you hellhound loud;
if you speak ironbound words,
may they scar you dark and long
and thread you with traces of forgotten railroads.

Oil pan, catch basin, heart butcher to the world;
split window fastback hearse;
mistaken, glorious,

I offer you this finback wish:

may somehow you go leaping 
through hardening seas
toward the last places left with soft water;

may you somehow turn
to ice 
and jungle
and gulp replacement air;

may you somehow find safety,
dive deep, stay submerged, 
and learn to thrive in the absence of light.

Dragged Along

It feels, always,
like inside me
there’s a documentary 

about vanilla
playing on repeat: sometimes
it’s at full volume;

at other times
it’s barely audible
under my head chatter;

but it’s always on. There’s
a episode where
a man in a monocle 

purchases an escalator
that no one else gets to ride.
There’s the one with

a princess who gestures
from the top for me to come to her,
but I never get there.

There is that one where
I see myself riding a unicycle
up a long hill.

I’m sure
I have never ridden one before
but somehow in this film

I’m straining and
making slow progress.
I begin to wonder 

this was filmed, is it the reason
I’m such pain here and now?
A spokesman comes on,

a voice over extolling
the wonders of vanilla.
A documentary voice

that makes a compelling
case for the dry factual,
the obviously correct

flavor of vanilla. It doesn’t matter
how hard I drive the sticks
into my ears, how much I bleed,

how hard I squeeze the throat
of the man with the monocle
or cry out my rejection

of the princess; my skin
is caught in the escalator.
I am bleeding;

dragged along, the scent of
vanilla deep in my nostrils,
voiceover yelling my name.

The Summer Squash Promise

Too done yesterday with the state of things
not to put my better time into
trying to forget it all today.

I’ve got peppers to tend
and tomatoes to stake.
Might be a summer squash or two

to see, and from that look I might predict
when ripeness might take hold.
I’ll plan, or maybe daydream,

that first meal with them:
perhaps stir fried in a thick bath
of butter and garlic, tossed loose

and hot onto a plate with 
whatever’s easy
and quick that day.

The summer squash
so long anticipated will be the highlight
and whatever else the meal offers

will scarcely matter
on that night
when the news will undoubtedly be

worse or at least no better 
than today’s news. But
the summer squash will be 

better than that. Better than
the end of the world,
if it hasn’t already come and gone by then.

A Social Construct

Originally posted 6-19-2018.  Revised.

“Race doesn’t exist,
you know.
It’s just
a social construct,”

he said.

I jabbed him gently
in the face
with my real fist.

real men
showed up waving
real guns
and real badges, 

I indicated
that whatever
we all did next

in response
was in fact a social construct —

whether or not I went
easily, whether or not
they took me down, whether
I lived or died or they lived or died — 

none of it was real
and all of it
should be easily ignored,

but for some reason
they did not ignore a thing.

Was arrested, a social construct.
Made bail, a social construct.
Went to trial, 
a social construct.
Pled out, a social construct.

Got probation, a social construct.
Came out marked
civically blighted,

a social construct.

Race is
a social construct

that works better for me than for many.

That’s real.

Money is
a social construct

that works better some days
than others for me,
better overall for some folks,
much worse overall
for others.

That’s real. 

What’s real
is a social construct

unless it’s
a mountain

or a desert
or a robin
or a lion

or the skin
you’re in,
the hair you

grow or do not grow,
the strength of
your pulse or
the jerk it makes
as it slows and stops
in response to a bullet
entering your body.

How quickly it stirs
at the screaming
of a child not your own, or at
the sight of
someone else’s blood
on a cracked street?

That’s a social construct.

On page or screen
I’m a social construct.

I wish sophistry
wasn’t so damn real.


Originally posted 9-15-2016.

Here is a riddle

A clerk at a butcher shop
stands five feet ten inches tall
and wears size 13 sneakers

What does he weigh?

He weighs meat  

Ha ha
good one
we’re supposed to say and
it’s true as far as it goes but

it doesn’t take into account 
the possibility 
that the butcher might also sell
various deli items

and the clerk
might weigh out piles of slices 
of provolone into 
white waxed paper 
sealed with brown tape labels 
with name and price handwritten 
in black grease pencil
or that said clerk might also weigh
heaps of potato salad
into plastic tubs
from a white enamel case 
with huge sliding doors

the way Michael Morelli did
when I was a kid
on my family’s Saturday morning trips
to his dad’s market in Milford
I remember his old man 
would hand slices of cheese
over the counter to me with a wink
when my mom wasn’t looking

The riddle also
doesn’t take into account
that the same clerk might also 
at some point 
have to weigh
a decision set before him

whether to maintain 
this family business
or sell the building to a barber
upon his father’s death
so he might go on 
and do other things

It skips entirely
the possibility
that the clerk might also 
continue to weigh
the consequences of that decision
every time he passes
the now empty and decrepit
storefront that long ago
went from being
a butcher shop
to a barber shop
to an antique shop
to a computer repair shop
to an empty shop
to a broken hole 
on a broken block 
in a broken downtown

The clerk goes home
Weighs himself
Stares into his bathroom mirror
Ssits in the dark
in his clean modern kitchen
at the butcher block island

Ha ha
Good one
he says

This riddle is endlessly retold
for new audiences

more and more of whom
have never seen
a butcher shop
white paper
brown tape
grease pencil

have never smelled
mingled sawdust and blood

never felt the cold blast of air
from the walk-in
where full quarters of beef
hang behind glass
behind the counter

So now
here’s a new riddle

A writer on a couch with a laptop
five foot eight when standing
wears a size ten shoe
at 59 is shocked to realize
he can still remember
the name of a butcher
and his son
who once owned a shop
that’s been gone
for most of his lifetime
and at how much 
this memory weighs

When does this all get funny


Toward A Break In The Fog

Words repeat inside me
as if I had no power:


I struggle to decide
if I should write them down,
sing them, say them
out loud to another or perhaps

just to myself 
while walking deep
into a forest
with self-care
or harm on my mind?

It is not as if
I have volition, 
to be honest. To be honest
I cannot recall
having free will or
an intent to do anything
for some time now: weeks
at least, months more likely.

Like a plant in spring,
urged upward unknowing, 
cresting from soil to sun
and transformed being, although

there’s poison 
and smoke and foulness
up here instead of health:

what I am becoming
as home burns
and stone breaks
and gold dulls from want
to fear is unclear; walking
unsure of what to say
under a fiction
of choice, toward
a place where words
may be mine again
to choose and live by
with any luck and 
a break in this fog.

A Singing Bowl

Dove-hearted lover
of a quiet life,
have you ever understood
how hunger can make you
loud even as it makes you weak?

Flower-eyed changeling,
sure of a place in this order,
have you ever seen how those teetering
on a ledge might rage at you
as they fall?

Moon-captured elf holding on
to mythic peace for blind life,
do you see anyone at all
out there in shadow?
They see you:

like a target,
a singing bowl 
empty of sustenance
by design.

What Now?


Sit back,
watch home burning.

Secret evil
soon be gone;
sigh in relief.
Concealed treasure
soon be gone;
grieve it in secret.
Open wealth
soon be gone;
gnash teeth and wail.
What was ever unknown
will remain so;
nothing to say
or do; so:

sit there 
sit there 
on unburned stone,
flameproof rock,

by one question:

what now,
with so much lost
for good or ill? 

Sit back,

Voice, trail off;
eyes, close.

Regretting All This

Poetry: damn
it for its
storm versus calm,
misplaced lightning
coming down, 
metaphor over all
trench warfare way
of life.

If it weren’t
for poetry, I’d have gotten
more sleep. Maybe I
could have been happy:

a little blinder, certainly;
maybe a tad less overwhelmed
by just breathing on Earth
among all its poisons
and attacks; missing out,

of course, on how to speak
exactingly of what
another’s skin feels like
upon my own;
or of how when 
at noon during a walk I stop
to sit on a stranger’s stone wall
and imagine that the sunlight
is the kiss of some god.

Poetry: this damned art,
this curse of primary sensation
that will not let go. If I had never known
of it, I’d be different — lesser,
yes, and I would have said yes
to that; it might
have kept me safer.

Heat And Light: A Myth

When I lay
my last tool aside

and turn to the West
to see the sunset

I know I will think
of how long it took

for the sun to cross
the pale hot sky.

I will imagine that my birth
brought heat 
and light,

though I was born
in late winter at night; 

I make a myth
of who I am

as any one of us might,
as any number of us do.

The trick is to allow
a myth to be not a lie,

but a story told on behalf
of the truth, even if facts

fit imperfectly, even if
it changes as one lays

a last tool aside
at sunset, at rest.

A Person Turning Into A Broken Clock

While enjoying a meal with friends,
a person turning into a broken clock.

Stuck in a moment, struggling
to be present with each guest

yet only seeing each one as
the sum of past shared experiences.

As time moves forward, 
finding it harder and harder

to move their hands
at appropriate intervals

to illustrate the attention
they are attempting to give

their comrades, each failed
gesture ticking louder and louder.

The hands struggling to move.
Unease spreading through the room,

broken clock losing their appetite,
stumbling to a chair, sitting immobile:

too jammed up
to even speak.

Their House

After the murders and fires
had cleared the land,
I was strenuously invited
by the arsonists and killers
to enter
Their House
and stay.

I looked in through
the back door —
the only one open to me —

at stains,
smoke-sullied windows,
a clutter of weapons
and waste,

then turned back toward 
the ruins of the countryside
where green and gold
were preparing to run riot
after timid beginnings.

From inside they called after me
with hope and threats
as I walked
a good distance from 
Their House
and began to tend 
to wounded land
and water, doing

what I could do,
knowing what was to come
would likely take me
but would still be better than 
how I would die
in Their House.

That Revolutionary Style

Love those social media posts
with the guillotines and shiny blades
With the red and the brown and the clever names

You’ve got that Revolutionary Style

Never touch a gun, never touch a knife
Wave a little banner, paint a little sign
Locked to a front door while they open the back

You’ve got that Revolutionary Style

Gotta dig that T shirt, gotta like your scarf
Gotta get me a whole bunch of stuff like that
Gotta get the right look for the march or the war

Gotta get that Revolutionary Style

Call it out lock him up lock him up lock him up
lock him up lock him up LOCK HIM UP
Incarceration is a crime but there are exceptions

when you’ve got that Revolutionary Style

In the haze of a burning planet
In the haze of a burning city
In the haze of the thickened gunsmoke
over bodies not yet cold
In the cries of the people seeking relief
In the steam of the oceans filling with heat
In the fear of the white fog filling the streets
where the future is bought and sold
In the moments before it all falls down
In the hours before you can’t and won’t
It’s a mystery to me how good you look
as you swing for the whirlwind cross

You’ve got that Revolutionary Style
and there’s gotta be a meme for that


Having been pushed
so many times
as far onto a ledge
as I can go
without hurtling off into 
the quick void before
the dead Void,

I have learned
how to wrap my toes
so tightly onto stone
that I could break it apart
through stubborn will 

learned a little about how
to reach back into evolution
and summon an ancestor,
an animal I need
to help me survive: this is why

as you face me you feel fear
in spite of your apparent victory
when you see I have been pushed
as far as possible, when you see my
yellowing eyes, when you feel 
the ground crack beneath you
and talons in your arm —

ah, I can see
that you see 
my sudden wings.