Tag Archives: meditations

Peppermint Schnapps

This is a very old poem, also a Duende Project track from our “americanized” album from 2007.
Link to the recording below the poem.

August 16, 1977:
it was pissing rain the night
Elvis Presley died

I want the night back anyway

the way I want the switchblade back
I threw in Thompson Pond that night
that German switchblade
with the brass shoulders and ebony scales
I want it clean I want it shiny
and I want the tip to be back to the way it was
before Henry Gifford snapped it off
trying to work it out of the floor
after we’d played drunken chicken for an hour or so

I tossed it in anger
as far out into the water as I could
and then I hit Henry Gifford
in the mouth when he called me a stupid fuck
for tossing such a beautiful knife so far away
and even after he apologized
I hit him again and again
until I saw his sister watching me

I want to take it all back
so Henry Gifford’s sister Diana
can see me again the way
she used to see me
and furthermore
I want to kiss her right this time
I want to kiss her the way I could kiss her now
not like the sloppy teenage drunk I was that night
all on fire with weed
and schnapps
and inexperience
I want her to not turn away from me
without knowing that I had just tossed
my beloved knife out into the nighttime lake
I want her to know what passion can do to me
I want my passion back

because I think I lost it that night
I tossed the knife into the lake
then let Diana run from me
when she saw me beat her little brother bloody
without having a chance
to make her understand why it was all so

and though I have had
many knives since then
even another German switchblade
just like that one
and though I have kissed
so many people since then
in love and friendship
and lust and grief

and though I‘m so much better
at all of this stuff now
because control is everything
and control is all I have at 47

still there are times – rainy summer nights –

when I get up late to use the bathroom
and while I’m standing there
I look out my window across the manicured grass
I can just taste
a ghost of peppermint schnapps on my lips

then I fumble for the light
I pick up a pen
and I write myself back
toward August of 1977
when the radio played the songs of a dead man
while I nursed
my bruised and tender fists
and cried like a baby
for the very last time


The track from the album.

Scratch And Bleed

Buy the tickets,
then dig from your pocket
the lucky quarter minted
the year you were born.
Rub the gray parts, trade
any winning tickets in
for new ones, repeat 
until you win no more.
Having scratched the itch 
you wipe the blood 
from your wallet
and head for home.

On the way you feel the tug
of the bar and stop for one, then two.
This whisky tastes like your own blood
as it stops the tickle within for a moment.
The air here is full of karaoke, 
a night of allergen songs,
happy people who somehow
aren’t scratching. You hope
that joy is contagious
but as your skin is getting anxious,
home at last you go.

Which of the convenience store meals
in your fridge should you microwave?
Pull out that quarter one more time,
settle on the deadly burrito.
This is, of course, a pure contradiction
to all you know about your body.
You’re going to itch inside all night
if you eat this late, as you always do.
At least you are home,
bloody man, itchy bloody man.

You try to count what’s left in the wallet.
The denominations are so red
you’ll have to try again
when the bills are dry. It won’t matter
overnight that you don’t know;
you know that come morning,
whatever happens,
it won’t be enough. They used to call it
death by a thousand cuts. 
Now it’s just called being an American:
scratch and bleed from wallet to belly
to soul or to what replaced the soul
after you sold it while thinking the itch
would go away.

Get Up (The Gardener)

A gardener lies on his back in the late fall stubble
in his suburban garden.
He looks up and begs God for healing.

His hair’s dirt-full from lolling around out there
for so long. It’s been a day or two, you see,
since he first laid back and let the earth hold him. 

So, how about it, God? he asks. Are you willing
to heal me? I’ve broken so many parts 
I can’t do recovery any more. I’ve got cornstalk slivers

somehow in my back, somehow the dirt 
in my hair is coming to life, somehow last night’s rain
didn’t do a thing to clean me or quench my thirst.

God, meanwhile, is listening with only half an ear
to this. There’s a giant gap in Creation
that needs filling and this is just wind whistling through.

When God speaks at last it’s only to say, 
oh me. Oh my. Get up, beloved. You’re mistaken
if you see me in your details. I dwell elsewhere.

If you want to heal, forget about them. Get up and grab a shovel.
Look at the big picture. Pitch in and help re-weave the rip in the canvas.
Don’t blame me for the little cuts, the thirst, your wormy head;

just stand up and stop asking me to do all the work.
Spring after winter, fall after summer; that’s mine.
Tilling, planting, tending, harvest are yours. Get up.

The Hole In The Pocket

To be lost
in a pocket
like a key or
an urgently needed coin
and know that
someone’s trying
to find you

To be right there
between their fingers
and have them 
impossibly fumble you
back into the dark

To be sought
then remain unfound
in a pocket or
a deep bag
riding on the hip
of someone
seeking you
calling for you
although they know
you are right there
with them

is to find
the hole
in the dark
in the cloth
and fall through 
to the hard floor
in the hope
that the sound
of you hitting hard
will serve to announce
your presence to those
searching for you
before they move on

Back When

back when
my summer days
started late

back when
in late morning
I’d leave the house
to go into fern-laden woods
on the other side
of the railroad tracks
sometimes (most times)
alone to write and maybe
(later on) smoke pot or perhaps
make out 
with one or more
neighbor girls
(that never happened
no matter how hard I try
to remember that it did)

back when 
summer was a friend
who had my back — 
cover of foliage
and the heat which kept
sensible and prying
adults inside with the AC
while I roamed between
the river and the tracks
thrilling myself
when I found junked cars
clandestine weed farms
(I never touched a leaf
I swear) and now and then hid
from other kids plinking cans
and squirrels with 
borrowed rifles

back when 
I had one beloved companion
the color of light filtered
through solitude
who had no face or known name
who nonetheless held me
as I’ve not been held since

back when I was
differently alone
than I am now

I didn’t know
how good I had it

Summer Bed

Who needs a reason
to be naked
in their own
summer bed?

A heat wave ought to be enough
to make you happy
to choose the exposure
but here you go again, rationalizing,

telling yourself 
that if you die in your sleep
it won’t matter to you
if they find you like this and

it’s so ridiculous
to think you’ll be forced
to rise from bed and fight
a home invader:

if they kill you naked
you’ll be as dead as
if you were clothed;
if you kill them

you’ll certainly have time to dress
before the coroner
and the police arrive — 
or you can choose to be found

in your just recently savage,
still bloodstained skin,
still clutching the bayonet
you keep by the bedside

or the baseball bat 
you keep by the bedroom door
against such an unlikely 
invasion of privacy. 

Sleep naked, then. You clearly
already have found enough
to worry about and no one’s
here to see or care.

Diving For The Moon

The elders have told us
the moon is not fully at home

in the sky. Whenever it
vanishes it is because

it sinks to its true home
under the waters. 

Ever since I learned this 
I have been throwing myself into ponds, 

seeking the moon on lightless nights, 
but have never found anything. 

I have lately been eyeing
the ocean as a place to look:

the ocean, full of its own light 
at times but more often darker;

full of life, full of death, full of
whatever it is

that makes me long to dive in,
and if I don’t come back up?

Don’t assume I’ve found
the moon. It may be that instead

I’ve found the reason the moon leaves us,
and I’ve made that my reason as well.

Saucy (A Study In Goth)

you were saucy
once upon a time

in love with all
the damned objects

tingling if you heard
anyone mention Satan

forbidding the term
“adulting” from your discourse

except in complaint or
humble brag 

you were easy-wild
once in a while 

sat up all night
cybersexing distant names

with one hand
from a close-up screen

while below you in the family room
you thought of as hell

the others sat feet apart
and never talked at all

you were busy
back in the day

with a life no one but you
claimed to want for you

they almost had you convinced
you were the crazy one with your

black leather and star studs
it felt wrong to them that you brought them

into the chamber of orange plaid upholstery
and something soothing on the stereo

you were something
you were onto something

Bright As Corn

I’d like to see
the world become
as bright as corn
and as sweet

As shiny as
a sword fallen
to the ground
when dropped
by the soldier
running to embrace
their child

I’d like to taste it
and find it
as sharp and thrilling
to the back of my throat
and the front of my head
as a good whisky
after a terrible day

There have been days
where I could see how
it holds itself
above our slash and burn
Where the liquid churn
of the feeder’s many
starling voices
made me forget
they are another part
of the problem
we’ve made for ourselves

It’s too hot already and
it’s barely sunrise
but a good sunrise it is

In the time left
it’s grand to see the ailing world
still able to be as bright as corn
solid as song
strong as a Scotch in the soul
ready to show us
how great it can still be
and will again be eventually

The Warm And Fusty Air

NOTE: I would just like to apologize for my absence for the last few days.  I’ve been a little under the weather and simultaneously very busy.  Not a good combination for a writer.  


It is a not-small thing, maybe just
a man-thing. I don’t even know
what that means, not anymore,
it may be wrong to say it, maybe
I’ve always been wrong and it’s
more of a white-thing or a consumer-
thing, a privilege-thing made
for Americans by Americans —
an agreement-thing, consensus
enforced by having grown up and 
made to live by immersion in its
warm and fusty air — 

that sense of competition
with whatever that is scurrying
behind you that is never there
or visible when you look back
to see what’s catching up,
the perpetual echo of shoes
dropping, doors shutting
back there you should have 
walked through instead of
plodding along this way,
forced through the warm
and fusty air — 

the sound of your weight
pushing past regrets into
this brainless way of being 
whatever you have become
today, now, being yourself
having come to mean 
unconscious respiration,
gasping in the warm and 
fusty air — 

where it’s always
the national anthem
on the stadium speakers and always
the same accurate deploring
of the lyrics by some
and always fighting immersion
in the vastness of the masses
who don’t care much
about the song
as long as what follows is
a good game or race, where always
the provocation to a fight
is present and part of the 
attraction, where it’s a 
man-thing or not, just
a human thing to be this
deep in the struggle to breathe
as one treads water, the fetid
water we have no choice 
but to struggle in as we struggle
to draw in what we need
from the warm and fusty air. 


The Fuck Up

We have not discussed this 
but you should know that 
there are specific ways 
in which I can be easily 
moved to impulse;

for example,
let’s say you tell me
something about myself
that I know is true
but refuse to admit:

something pleasing
or desirable will do it
most strongly
as I tell on my mistakes
and flaws readily,
almost glorying
in the one-sided frankness
of agreeing with others
about my faults and failures. 

With this admission
and your compliment
I am now moved to create
a disaster of myself
that will end my appeal: see,
I told you I was a problem
and you didn’t listen. That’s 
not on you but on me.

What a world 
you live in
that you encountered
me and thought I was 

From Moroccotown

Letter found
under the newspaper
lining the bottom
of an old box: illegible 
mostly, faded from age
and attic heat;

ink gone brown
and paper gone crisp and 
the only clear writing
above the body of the letter 
seems to say it was written 
on a blurred date long ago
by someone whose name is unclear
from a place called “Moroccotown,”
state not specified. 

I go hunting for information
and learn there’s one town
in Indiana that’s called
“Morocco” but no listing for one
called “Moroccotown” so perhaps
the ink is lying and it says
something else, or else this town
once existed and has vanished
as have the writer
and the equally unknown reader
as well as any explanation 

for why a letter was mailed
from mystery Moroccotown
or why the recipient hid it deep
in the yellow flakes of the lining
of a box in an attic as hot
as a desert. It must have been
important once. It must have
meant something strong enough
to make it worth holding.
I put the letter in an envelope
where it will sit in a drawer,
vibrating, until it either 
crumbles, explodes,
or turns to sand. 

My Accustomed Cup

my accustomed morning cup
into pieces
so I may never drink from it again

not by accident 
but with serious intentions
and careful attention
to avoid jettisoning

sharp ceramic flakes
so small they may be 
unseen until they enter
a finger or toe and draw blood

therefore wrapping it all in a cloth
in which I will safely discard it
after I’ve taken the hammer
to the beloved cup

what shall I drink from now
that I have done this
in an effort to make
my life over

or should this be
just the first step
should I release myself 
from all need for a morning cup

and when will I grow tired
of taking so much care in starting over
and instead let the shards
land where they will

should I just
get used to the blood
and the pain
of stepping on

the small knives and regrets
left behind in the wake
of my abandon and
my new morning chant

let me be
as I am
let me be
as I am 

let me be
this far gone
let me go
where I must

let me leave
only blood behind
to let you know
I was here


those who proclaim 
that all bodies are beautiful
all the time
have seemingly never assessed
the truth of their own grossness
upon waking
or the gross processes which follow
rising grossly from a gross bed
and entering into gross mornings
upon gross mornings through rituals
designed to make themselves 
slightly less gross for a time

I am tired
of proclamations
and affirmations

much of the time I walk grossly 
through the world aspiring
to a level of balance between
my reality based grossness
and my ideals for where I would
like to be and woe unto those
who will tell me I am never grosser
than when I do not know reality
for what it is

the number of days
and in fact moments
when I feel less than gross 
is a small one but
the number of days
and in fact moments 
when I accept the nature 
of the body in which
I carry myself is immense

if that’s what you mean
by saying we are all beautiful
at all times then I beg you

say it plain that we are often
gross and disgusting and to say
otherwise is to paint over
rot with bright colors
from a discount store bargain bin

they won’t stick for long and
when they peel it will be grosser 
than if it had never happened

you do not need to be 
anything other
than what you are
and you are a spectrum
a continuum 
a span which is not always lovely
but is always real
and thus often gross

the real is the enemy 
of the lie
language counts as a weapon
in that war 

to say that all is beautiful is 
an electromagnetic pulse
knocking out the power
of embracing the gross
and moving ever forward
toward tomorrow morning

Bad Furniture

— for The Klute

I’m alone with my furniture early on
The forecast heat of the day ahead
already barging through my windows
even with the shades down

Screw July I say as I read about
the death of a friend
who maybe was helped to death
by heat as he hiked the desert

as if his too-often torn up heart
wouldn’t have done the job 
well-enough over time — the big finger
of Something Bigger always pressing him

to hike in the desert in July
or dive upon sharks every time of year
or tease Nazis and their friends
with a funny sharp tooth of his own

in rooms where they laughed and said
this cat’s no poet even as he poemed them
back into their holes muttering
why the long coat year round no matter the weather 

Screw July for this news and his passing
and this heat that won’t stop crashing through
windows and walls and borders and these hot tears
None of my furniture offers any comfort today