Tag Archives: meditations


Almost one hundred per cent
of the time I have spent
in doorways was intentionally
transitory. I was moving 

from one place to the next
and the brief time in the doorway
was not a time I saw
as significant. 

There were moments
where I hovered between
and those matter more now
than they did then. 

I look back and see how
the time between spaces
should have held me
tighter than it did.

It would surely have prepared me
for more wonder.
Might have prepared me
for dispassionate scrutiny

of my options, exposed 
views of possibilities: past, future,
most of all of the moment:
the chance to lean between

and think. I might have
moved on, I might
have retreated, 
or I might still be there

thinking about
passages and how they are framed,
how I fail when I do not
stop to consider that.

Here is another doorway.
Rooms on either side.
Up to me and only me
whether or not to pass

unless the choice is seized 
from me and I fall
forward or backward or 
collapse in a heap where I am.

If that happens, friends, push me through
to the next room and let the people say
it was my choice to go that way. It might be
the truth. No one will ever know otherwise. 

Why Poets Are Always Lost In One Way Or Another

Let me come to the point:
I can’t remember the name
of the particular door I open
whenever I step through into this

from that 
where I daily make a cup of coffee
and scratch my various itches
before sitting down to this Work. 

If I ever knew the name
I have forgotten it, or 
let me say instead I feel
more often than not 

that whenever I walk through,
coming or going, the name of the door
changes. I’ll puzzle over this
each time. What is the name

of the boundary between where the Work is
and where living happens? I pass
back and forth wondering
about such foolish things. 

Waking Up Before The Alarm

To slide into morning
grumbling about light
through the blinds
is to be reminded that someone
who fell asleep last night
will not be doing this today.

To get up and pad to the kitchen
on your distressed feet, stiff
with age and nerve complaint,
is to do what last night’s departed
will not do again, with
or without pain. Imagine never again

disliking how early it is,
or never again bemoaning
the hour of sleep your body
is refusing to allow. That’s where
the other guy is this morning.
It’s OK to envy him briefly

but to be mundane, to make the coffee 
instead of giving in
to your agonized fantasy
of being able to postpone living
for a while yet? That is where
you are for a while yet,

so: open the blinds
in the front room. Be pissed
at being awake before the alarm.
Be pissed at the dead, who know not
what they aren’t missing, what you 
will have to deal with today. 

Be awake, then, and be angry
with the dead. Just make the coffee
before you go and do something stupid
like die or crawl back into one more
half-hour of not quite sleep. You aren’t
getting away.  Not today, anyway.


This doctor
brandishes the same map
of a head’s interior

that I’ve seen at least
eight times before and it looks
even older than I do.

Before she gets in
she reassures me she knows
where she’s going.

I close my ears and eyes
to her. No, I said,
I don’t see how that’s 

possible. I live in here
full time and I’ve never
seen you. Trust me,

it’s really fucking weird in here
and your map won’t help.
I’m not even sure I can help,

never mind anyone else. Let me try,
she says; I know how you feel
but it’s a very scientific map

and I have done this before. I know
there is always something new
and unexpected but I’m prepared.

She wore me down, waving that map at me.
I’m so tired of thinking I’m going
to die from this, I let her in.

She comes in and leaves now
at regular intervals.
I sit with that.

Yes, it’s tangible; the soft touching
of weak pink knots, the occasional kneading
of what must feel to her like wet dough,

a relaxing vacancy when she leaves
that fills back in when I get home.
I don’t ever know if I’m better after

or just more ready to face
the edge of the map
when she gets there

and we both fall
into the margins
where the dragons are.

The Huddled Masses

They slimmed themselves down
to fit under the door
between you 

They thought you’d let them in
but they needed to become 

and flatten themselves
into the dust on the floor
to slide on in

Once it became clear
the door would never open easily
They would never be a given

Would never be granted a pass
Would be forced to starve
and crawl dirty to you

And then would be criticized
for sneaking in 
Filthy from the effort

Slimmed down
to almost nothing
and thus became all you wanted 

All you ever wanted 
was them outside your door
Dirty-begging for entrance

from the door mat
where they can be pointed at
and praised for the longing

that convinces you
of your desirability
as a destination

You have always felt your best
when you are looking down
at the tired and the poor

This Particular Window

Big vehicle
grinding by 
on the street

Unfamiliar racket
brings me to my feet
to see

a truck
delivering worn furniture
to a neighboring apartment 

that a week ago was emptied
just as early 
with just as much noise

I’ve become
a senior settler here
I never thought

I’d make it 
this long
Never thought I’d have to

Expected to be 
Or at least not make it

as far as “senior”
here in this part of town
where old timers have typically

stared out their windows
and wondered
when everything quiet

and familiar shifted
toward racket and fear
without their permission

Does this mean
it’s time to die off?
I never thought

I’d be asking this question
while looking out
of this particular window

June First

Barely past dusk,
first of June: today pitted
sweat and fatigue
against joy at the light
pouring down and joy won. 

Something tells me there won’t be
a lot more days like this June 1st
in my future. No reason to 
believe that to be true
except that following

the story of my body
suggests I’m old enough
to say confidently
there’s no reason to believe
I’ll beat the odds;

no reason not to sit back
and soak in June 1st
as if tonight I’m getting
to attend my own funeral feast
No one’s sad. No one’s crying

and I’d be fine to call it right now.
Let it be this good, this shiny.
Let it end this warmly,
this full to my brim for once
and for all. 

Something Like Grace

There was a robin
under the feeders this morning 
as there has not been in 
I can’t recall how long — 

They prefer to be in the backyard
on the ragged lawn under the giant maple
where the raccoon is raising kits
who may be gone by now — 

They prefer to feed in the scrub grass
among the pesky dandelions
that make up half the green back there
and all the yellow and then the white — 

To see one upfront under the feeders
that are customarily occupied
by sparrows and starlings
woodpeckers mourning doves and cardinals — 

suggests nothing or everything or something in between
That my powers of observation are growing
or that the robin’s in need of new vistas
as am I — 

Maybe this one was just lost in flight
and stopped to see what the fuss down there
was about before moving on
to its ultimate place in the world — 

Yesterday I found a dead kingbird
on the edge of a supermarket parking lot
lying softly in its ultimate place in the world
next to the tall windows of an empty bank building — 

I looked up from death  
into those mirrors so black 
Saw myself looking back
Empty as a body on pavement — 

I think about all of us staring into dark windows
Thinking about how we go and where we end up
We worry about finding out sooner than we’d like
That robin made the most of it without worrying I trust — 

That kingbird I hope felt nothing like my fear 
as its reflection loomed before it in mid flight
As it fell from flight to Earth
where it was received with something like grace


You expect
every morning
to be different,
and it isn’t.

No one coddles you
in any way
you desire.  There’s no
long-awaited recognition

that you are a gift.  Instead
you move slowly around
your shabby rooms trying 
to be quiet and minimal.

You don’t even bother
to wrap yourself in festival
colors as you used to. Ancient
T-shirt, ratty sweat shorts,

beat shoes or none if you’re staying in.
Usually you are staying in.
Coffee then the desk if it’s a work day,
and since it’s usually not off you go

instead to what feels like
your real job:
looking out dirty windows
at your leveled world

and wondering how far
you’d have to go
to find a better one,
if there is one out there.

To the desk, anyway, 
as soon as you can tear yourself away
from your captivating despair.
Make a record of all this. It might

do someone some good.
It’s done nothing for you, true.
You never became the gift
you longed to be. Maybe this will.

Here Endeth The Lesson

The point is to live so widely that
something more is left behind
than tiny paper cups on your bedside table;

laugh so fully the hospital linens
get up from where they cover you
and stagger away in fits of giggles;

and love so thickly the whole staff 
comes running when you code
to applaud and wipe their tears.

The point is not to leave a hole
when you pass, but an entrance
for others to walk through.

The Sight Of Blood I Drew

Revised.  Older poem — from 1999 or so?

Right after I turned eleven
Joe Frazier’s left hooks
were constantly on my mind
so, although I was a natural righty,
I threw one unprovoked
at Jeff Maxwell’s jaw
while we were goofing around
in the middle school gym
and laid him out
flat and crying.

I admit it felt OK
to see him there, sliding
on his ass away from me as I tried
to explain it was all in fun
to Mr. Tornello
as he shook me and dragged me to
his sweat-soaked office to await
my parents.

I learned something that day.

Right jabs and Muhammad Ali
were on my mind a few years later
when Henry Gifford
got dropped, this time in anger,
on the shores of Thompson’s Pond
for cussing me out over my being angry
because he’d broken my switchblade.
This time there was blood on his mouth
and I admit it felt OK
to see it shining moonlit black
on his face and I was shaking glad
that I hadn’t had the knife in hand
at the time.

I learned another thing that day.

Kung-fu movies and Bruce Lee
were much on my mind a few years after that
when it felt OK to deliver
a straight-arm open palm blow to the side
of Joe Peron’s nose in a work dispute,
and there was blood again
and the gentle snap of his bridge breaking,
and he knelt holding his nose in his hands,
and that felt even better than OK for a minute;
because we were men
we just shook it off
and told no one of the fight,
but Joe steered clear of me after that,

and I felt fine,
and I kept learning.

How good it felt then,
and how good it would feel again
if the opponents I have now
could be dispatched that easily.

I stand in despair
of unpunchable bills,
bloodless banks, ravening for me;
I’m helpless before
the creeping sense
of having no enemy now
I could beat. 

I can’t fight
what I am today:
old and body-broken,
weak and endgame poor;
obsessed with overthinking 
how much harder
I could hit today
if I could still hit,
now that I know
how it feels to be hit.

I stand in the kitchen
thrashing the kitchen air –
cross, jab, hook, uppercut,
palm strike, temple strike,
slash and stab, icepick grip,
sword grip, kick a support
off a rickety chair.

I was such a bully once.
I had such narrow eyes,
fixed always upon the easily defeated.

I’m learning.

I once again narrow my eyes.
The urge to admire again
the sight of blood I drew
is almost more than I can bear.
I don’t know
how much longer
I will want to hold on.

Procrastinator’s Ghazal

Waiting for coffee to brew. It’s been bright out but I’m a snoozer. 
Lying here guilty, nothing is done. I’m such a loser. 

I usually do at least one thing before coffee. 
Start a poem, balance the books — but not today. Call me loser.

So far? I opened my eyes and I fed the cat. I showered and opened
the living room blinds. Nothing else. Not much to say but “loser.”

Some folks would tell you it’s enough to chop wood, carry water,
let impressions lead to enlightenment. Keep it simple, loser.

Tony, you may say, it’s just a word. To fight is to win. I may say:
this is not your path and I’m not on yours. Stay your tongue, loser.  

The Head Of A Pin

I’m out here dancing on the head of a pin
I’ll keep on dancing till I swell
And fill right up with sin
I’ll be large enough to see
But small enough to spin
Like a razor balanced on the head of a pin

I’m out here dancing on the head of a pin
Angelic when I started 
Becoming demon under the skin
As the dancing grows more frantic
Limb over limb, limb over limb
A cyclone set upon the head of a pin

Hear the band that’s playing
Hear the rhythm of the drum
Hear accordion and violin
There’s a keening in the background
And a flute beneath it all
Hear a mystery of dark and light revolving

I’m out here dancing on the head of a pin
I’ll keep on dancing till I swell
And fill right up with sin
I’ll be large enough for you to see
But small enough to spin
If you choose to dance with me on the head of a pin

And I Would Not

Come to the table
and I will serve you
all you’ve asked for:
look, it all awaits

on formal china
with proper silver
set beside the plates
in proper order,
all laid out upon
the best linen,
and soft.

I promise this to you
in the name of propriety
and all I have tried to do
to explain my faults away,
at which I have failed
in spite of decades of 

You tell me 
I should have just tried harder
to not have the faults
in the first place
and we would have been fine
eating little but bread 
with our fingers and cheap wine
from old jelly jars
while seated upon stones
in a ragged ring around a fire.

I look at this table,
think of all
I’ve spent upon it.

I look up at the vaults of heaven.

I am not at all sure
I’d be the same person today
if I had done what you asked.

Perhaps that is your point:

if I’d been welcome
in the house of your God
all along I would have been

a different man;
you would be here,
and I would not.

How Are You?

Not having an answer
when you are asked how you are
makes you ruthless and honest
or maybe a little bit dumb.

The door in your chest 
flies open and you rise, 
hover above your chest
looking down at your body

which is still somehow trying
to figure out how to cover
all your bills. You’re outside of that 
calculation right now. It goes on

while you are hovering. Maybe
you have died and the bills 
will now be covered by your
not being present. If they ask you

later today how you are, 
you won’t have a real answer 
even if you fall back into the body.
How are you? Revenant. How

are you? Insolvent. How 
are you? I’m behind the door
again so let’s say I’m fine.
I can’t complain. 

Don’t let them know 
you’ve been smothered
by the math. Don’t let
yourself know

you don’t want to be
a person anymore. You were never
that good at it. How are you?
I’m fine. And how are you?