Sixty One

Look, friends:
I’ll be dead
sooner, not later.
Will never make it to
one hundred twenty two; 
stop calling this
“middle age.”

These are 
gateway days, friends;
I’m at peace, why aren’t
you? I am upright under
a lovely arch twined
with vines and blooms.

When I look back into the 
long valley I’ve come from
I see a view I can
adore; when I look up
to the Divide above me
what I see is glorious with 
the rays of the same sunrise
I came from, as it barely feels
like it’s been a day
since I was born. I still feel 
new, but know I’m not; friends,
is that not perfection?


One For The Brothers

Here’s one for the brothers 

in drink and sports fandom
whose cars have kissed telephone poles
more than once after hours

One for the boys

who drive along old roads
daydreaming of their well deserved
post high school comebacks 

One for the men

who swerved into careers
after head-on collisions with a payback
for mistakes and accidents 

Another for the boys

who dance awkwardly around
how good it felt to hug and slap asses
after the win in the Thanksgiving game

Another for the men

who say not a word about all of this
who shrug it off then sink
into stained recliners or basement shops

One more for these brothers

who may not even understand
that what hurts them
is demanded of them

from the backseat wherever they go
on whatever roads
they end up driving


The Dirty Afterplate

This is
a freshly washed dish
in a drainer

Later today
it will be full
of food and then

will be washed again
The cycle will repeat
until the dish breaks

sometime in the future
when my hand loses its grip
through some illness or injury

I know this because of
how often it has happened
How often something

has been destroyed
because I lost my grip
through injury or illness

or inattention
to detail or how much care
I should have been offering

but I was hungry
Couldn’t wait so I grabbed
for a plate and then

crash
Pieces
Rarely I was cut and I bled

all over the clean dishes
I’d rinse them and
do it again

This is a freshly washed plate
in a drainer and
oh my appetites are

so wild for it that I must consider
that it might be the dirty
afterplate I want most


Armor Song

To be openly ourselves nowadays 
too often feels like resisting an assault:

routinely forced to learn
muscular new love songs, forever

bulking up for the strain
of trying to hold on to each other.

Daylight comes up
on another round of attacks, snipers

watching for us to dare
to be openly together and say,

beloved, here we can sing out loud
to each other, 
here we can be safe.

At night, assassins roll up on our homes
where we thought we could leave

the curtains open at least through dinner
so we could watch the city twinkle

or see fireflies grace the neighborhood
as night took hold. We dare to say

beloved, even in darkness there’s light,
however small, however fleeting;

then, too often, comes the shot
or the knife, the fire on the lawn.

Somehow, bewilderingly so,
so many still hate us here

who smile and pat our backs 
in public, then slink into corners to plan

how we might be removed or 
erased completely from our own lives.

If we ever escape the need to be
this perpetually strong, this might be

a good place to hold on to one another
more loosely and engage the softness

we keep behind armor now; until then
we flex, we watch, we love, we guard. 


Apology

In the decayed eyes
of the recently dead
sparrow

(who likely hit my window
when I was not home and fell
to the mulch below and lay there
unnoticed until
I went out to replenish
the swift-emptying feeders
tha brought it here)

is everything that is coming:
vision sinking into the bones
that supported it
that will disappear
in their own time and 
feed whatever is next

I felt deep sorrow
and offered my apology
for making it so easy
to indulge hungers that
in the end it led to
your unexpected death

then I
refilled the feeders


Chrysler

I cannot believe this isn’t on the blog. From 198 —?

I hear his Chrysler
crunching up the driveway and I toss
my cigarette into the gravel, since we are
supposed to be quitting.

As we load the scatterguns
into the truck we both lie
about the day before,
boasting about not smoking,

saying we don’t even miss nicotine.

 All morning long we lie in the blind,
blasting and rejoicing
when we kill. When the hunt is over
we go home

and my girls come running out to meet us,
calling first his name and then mine,
hanging off of our knees as we
carry the quarry to the front porch.

We sit for two hours with Martha and Emily
while he plays my guitar, I think,
better than I ever will. Once the girls
have run off we have more coffee and he says to me:

 ‘So is it all you thought it would be, now that you’ve settled down?’

And I say
nothing, until I can come up with
some half-obvious ghost of a facsimile of
some half-obvious half-truth, and then I say:

 ‘Sure. Best thing I ever did. I feel right about it.’

We sit for another half hour,
watching each other not smoking,
while the morning’s blood is drying and old habits
crust over the distance I half-believe lies between us.

 We keep silent, thinking of the children.


Magma

in the correction
of faults there is
an opportunity
to diminish the
need to repeat
the behaviors that
led to the faults
but since so often
a fault is just 
the side effect of
an overused strength 
one must take care
not to weaken
what you are at core
in an effort to create
perfection where none
can exist

take for instance
a volcano bleeding
flowing rock and hot ash
doing what it was
made to do 
when it stops for good
the people move in and 
make a life on top of
its scars and skin as if
its seeming extinction
was purposeful and good until
when it shifts 
in its sleep
the people scream as if
betrayed when all that’s happened
is what has always happened

see
when a man falls apart
he may well fall
back into himself then
double down and surge
into the same forms as before
he cracked 

magma is magma
no matter when
it finds its way
blows out
of the cracks


A Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Cone

If a dark chocolate
ice cream cone
appears in mid-air
between you and a child 
in danger, you will 
no doubt push the cone aside
as you rush to the child’s
salvation.

If the sobbing child
is comforted when you
turn back to seize the cone
and give it to them,
you will eventually convince yourself
this has all been 
preordained and that you
were indispensable here. 

You will cease questioning
the appearance of the cone
in the crisis moment, assuming
a divine intervention or
alignment of planes
created this, and you
will feel no horror
that a child
may have been endangered
just to help you feel special,
that magic was forced into service
just so you could feel heroic,
and that the anti-gravitational nature
of the final piece of the scenario
was a conjuring that had a meaning
beyond the moment; that you 
were in fact a means to an end and
as much a mere cog 
within the situation
as all the rest
of its elements were.


Thirsty

Thirsty

used to have something to do
with how your tongue
gets thick
and the top of it turns to
cellophane — all crinkly and
hard to talk like that

Thirsty

used to mean that
close by but
not within reach is something
that will make it better and
all the anticipation is making it worse

Thirsty

comes
before satisfaction but not
if you go by any old
dictionary and its rules

Thirsty

used to be
just the prelude
to wet


Dare

Say “that’s not music”
often enough and someone
will soon enough
sing you wrong.
You don’t have to agree,
but you’ll still be wrong.

Say “that’s unnatural”
often enough
and soon enough
someone will offer you science.
You don’t have to like it,
but you’ll still be wrong.

Say “that’s un-American.”
Go ahead. I dare you. 


The Question In Your Sleep

On your walk home
after dark last night
you were daydreaming
about the future
when you were
confronted:

she stepped out
from behind a pillar
on the outside edge of
a decaying parking garage
and looked into you.

She appeared, this time, 
as a little girl dressed
in distressed clothes
from a fantasy frontier era.
You saw the gingham,
the dirt, the torn hem. 
You thought something
was off but you couldn’t 
put a finger on it
until you saw the pillar 
was a tooth and the garage
was a mouth and you 
had to run from being swallowed
by whatever
had coughed her up.

At home, you sat
and slowly ate
cold canned soup
while catching up
on the news and did
a spit take
when she showed up
in the background of
a story about 
something unrelated
to her — a crisis tale
wedged between
atrocities.

She cradled a puppy
in her arms, a puppy with
huge teeth, a lolling tongue. 
A mouth you recognized at once.

This morning, waking up
from a question that lasted
all through your sleep:
asking yourself
how long has this been going on — 
torn clothes, betrayal,
innocent fantasy masking darkness
and the devouring behind it.
The beloved dog that becomes 
the vulpine Other. The pleading eyes 
fixed upon your own. 


On The Inability To Feel (The Dike)

In order to stop snickering
at the humor lurking
like vermin in 
each of the growing cracks
in the dike of Empire

I have to think of all
the innocents and
roughly crushed folks
already barely surviving
in the flood zone below 

and remember the quote
about comedy and tragedy
in order to force myself
to pull up short
of a belly laugh

while thinking
of the rumble of stones
and rubble that will come
with the cleansing
when that wall explodes at last


Tale of the Rejected Being

The rejected being
was appointed to
a special committee
examining the status of 
healthy creatures. 

The press photo of them all together
in their meeting room was
lovely enough: everyone smiling
broadly, any tension in their eyes
probably a result of bad lighting.

The rejected being took it as
a small step toward acceptance
that the camera
picked them up at all 
as there had been periods

of utter invisibility
in their career. Times when
they knew they’d been at the table,
had done good work, been acknowledged
in the group, and then disappeared

from view almost as soon
as the work was wrapped up
and tied in a neat bow.
(Theirs was the finger
in the center of the bow.)

When the rejected being
suggested early on that the alleged health
of healthy creatures was
in many ways a confidence game, 
the others nodded as if

a nod was better than the wink would be
to a long-dead, well-beaten horse. 
After that, the rejected being could smell
dead horse permeating the meeting room
so often it seemed that

there must be mountains of them
somewhere nearby, invisible
as the rejected being had once been.
They began to speak less of the stench, 
spent meeting time staring

at the press photo
hung so prominently 
behind the head of the table,
where the chair couldn’t see it
at all.


Bird/Watcher

Raptor alone on high:
dull-black speck

against sky
a shade of deep yearning.

Somehow both bird and observer,
I am seeing myself up there:

alone, seeking,
soaring, desperately

not looking straight down
as if seeing myself there

so far away
from what I desire

would initiate
a dive to solid death

for both
seeker and watcher.


An important note

Just letting everyone know that my output these days is low because we are dealing with multiple health crises in my family at the moment, and I’m the only member of the crew who is (crossed fingers) on my feet most consistently right now. 

I’m trying to get things finished and posted but…

Be patient. I’ll be back soon.  

Thanks.