Tag Archives: meditations


If there was ever tenderness
I have forgotten it.

I do recall
how honest you were,

telling me not to go
the route you went,

and here I am now,
somewhere else entirely.

If there is a rationale
for your advice,

I have become its
embodiment. I indeed

ruined everything. Indeed
I am myself a ruin:

a mystery, an unexcavated
burial chamber waiting

to be bulldozed and regretted.
Hear them revving their engines

now. You are still here and will
be here after they pass — no one

guessed that would happen.
When they finish the road

over where I was, you will
take it to wherever it goes.

I’ll be in the blacktopped
earth, still underfoot.

I did not go the route you took.
I instead became that route

and look where it got me: if ever I had
tenderness to offer,

it remained unoffered. It remains so
today. Here in the sealed earth it all ends —

for the best perhaps, considering
what I was, what I might have been.


I call myself “old” because I am past middle age
and feel every breath of it inflating me to breaking.
You say, “no, you’re not,” as if those facts were false.
I call myself “failure” because what I have broken,
let lapse, and left undone are ballooning so greatly
in all the rooms where I find myself
that there’s no room there for anything else. You say, “no,
you are no failure,” as if you cannot feel the balloon
continuing to inflate and crush everything. I call myself
“useless” because of all the utility I’ve lost recently
and all the half-started goals that will as a result
never even get to half-finished. You say, ” you are NOT
useless,” but what I have done lately looks like a scant pile
in a dirty corner you can’t even seen for the growing balloon
of everything else that I am and loathe myself for being.

I look at these words and see a decent explanation.
That, I suppose, is something. I look at you
and you look right back as if there is nothing between us
that’s ready to burst. That is something.
I look out the window and the walk is swept clear.
I did that, I remember. That is something.
It is something, I guess, that I can get past the fear
of a looming explosion and still look out the window.

Live Here

Last night you were kept awake by the sound
of whatever you thought this country was
fleeing like geese from winter.

All that harsh honking: the sound of illusions
soaring, diminishing, flying away.
It kept you up fretting and polishing your weapons.

When you raised the living room blinds,
on the ground below the window one cardinal,
one squirrel, three chickadees,

two mourning doves. Less sound than before
but this is your country in daylight. This is where
you are. Feed the birds that have stayed.


Under the skull’s top and
buried in the wet jelly
is where I live in the reptile neighborhood.

I lie on a flat rock
and imagine the sun is piercing
all the way through to warm me enough

to strike back
at the pain and danger
all around me.

Then you say it’s the jelly
that’s making all the horror
real, and that I’m as much

the jelly as the reptile raging
within it. I am unsure — it feels
more and more that I am living

somewhere else, not in the body
or the brain. That I only inhabit them
as needed and my true home is elsewhere.

I am unsure if I have ever been the reptile
now that I consider it — it is possible
all I know about myself

is an overlay of myths upon mystery.
I only know I am scared tonight, my teeth
on edge, slightly bared, waiting to tear free.


These junky feet
suck. Neither big nor small,
invisibly broken since I was young
and now the damage is catching up —

I’ve been places with them, I admit,
some places I do not regret,
but now I can’t stay upright on them for long.
The long stumble of the past few years

led me here to a seat on a broken couch
and here my ass is going to stay.
I’m looking at my feet, good only now
for kicking — buckets, rocks, myself.

I’d cut them off — but then, why stop there,
and if I dulled the blade while cutting them off
I might be unable to get to the sharpener
and continue up the body. I suppose I could

bring all my knives out
and have them close so I didn’t have to waste
time sharpening this one? I’m glad I thought of it
before I started sawing away, before drowning

the carpet with blood and the air with screams.
Glad I can put these feet to a productive use
one last time. One last journey ahead of me:
a short one but one I should have taken sooner.

But it’s so nice here on the couch
that I might wait a bit longer. See if things
change. See if I change. See if the pain fades.
See if anything at all presents itself anytime soon.

The Black Cat

The black cat lies on my chest
and demands attention. She doesn’t care
about civil war or climate change —

just wants what she wants,
what she always wants. I’m not certain
love is the right word for her part in this.

I’ll call it that for the moment.
For the moment it feels like the right word.
Love holds her to the simple path

of touch and feed and sleep
and while it won’t stop my world
from dissolving around us both,

it will do for the moment to keep me
from despair for the future
that I know is short (for me at least);

I have no illusions tonight —
just the cat, the comic films,
love’s promise of a full night’s sleep

erasing the day, the week,
the year, the era, and all the sick air
I’m so tired of breathing.


Admit to yourself
that at least some part of you
has at least now and then wanted to be
full-on mediocre —

that you longed for a living room
with matching recliners
and cheap Van Gogh prints
on beige walls,
an endless string of Sundays
of mild chicken dinners
and football, always football afterward.

If you can acknowledge this
you can then go on
to admit your utter fear
of the thrilling days
where you find yourself now,
this moment in history
that pushes you outward,
finds you attempting to burst
from your public skin into
some new and unfamiliar form —

it would have been so wonderful
to have been unremarkable,
to have been comfortable,
to have had the luxury of banality,
to have been able
to be part of the weak scenery,

but here you are.


I’m not looking for death,
just acknowledging it when I say
lately I’m striving
for great last words
to leave behind.

It would be so, so good
to push back
from the desk and say,
“At last.”

Every poem’s been
an attempted epitaph
or suicide note
that wasn’t good enough,
so I had to stay alive
to write a better one.

You’re going to moan,
“how morbid,” I know.
Call me goth or melancholy,
tell me I’m obsessed to the point of
mediocrity —
I have heard it so often
I take it to heart now and then

but I have no other way to be fully alive
than to look the inevitable
right in its deep dark maw
and try to stuff something down there
that it will choke on and
be unable to dissolve.


There are up days and down days
and then there are days of up and down
where you do not know which is which.
Where both are true of you at once.

You keep those days in a sealed
and resealed box you’ve labeled
NOW AND THEN in block letters
with a black permanent marker.
It’s under the bed
where you can reach it quickly if need be
in the middle of a rocked night or
catatonic afternoon or terror morning.
You tear it open and tape it back up
after each addition and it never seemed to get
full. That was then. This is now

and you can’t even move it out
from under the bed anymore,
not because it’s heavy —

it’s not heavy,
you practically have to tie it down to keep it
from floating out into the middle of the room
during a party or while you are making love
or washing the dishes —

but because NOW AND THEN
has stopped answering to that.
It’s all grown up now, well-fed,
a bruiser in your room,

and it wants to take your name.

The Egg

you’ve had
a long needed
full night’s sleep

upon rising
try not to lament
this daybreak as a literal
fracture in the good mood

all the fears of yesterday
remain of course but

instead for a few minutes anyway
enjoy the gentle crack
of the beginning of weekday
routines in your neighborhood

an egg must shatter
upon fulfilling
its purpose

I Had To Leave The Room

I had to leave the room
what with all
that yipping and yapping
How does one decide

how to sort through it all
How does one choose
what and who to save
and who and what to toss

After a long season of noise
that seemed to miss
such obvious points
about the terms of the argument

and since all in there are still committed to
a belief in the creaking house
they’re standing in
that seen from out here is clearly

about to crack and fall
I had to leave the room
and kneel on the earth itself
that is patiently waiting

for the walls to crack and fall
thus returning to the depleted soil
the gypsum in the drywall
the limestone in the cement

all the wood that frames the walls
and all the bickering flesh they hold
I had to leave the room and come outside
Listening to the screaming inside

while kneeling out here on the ground
I began to gain patience from seeing how
the earth has suffered so long
from screeching humans and yet

survived more or less so well that
even with all the depredation
it will take only the Collapse and
a subsequent century or so

before it heals itself well enough
that all this yipping and yapping
will be forgotten
It will not be the same but

the world will be quieter and that
will be a huge step forward
I had to leave the room
for a minute to see it is too late

to save the room and to resign myself
to how much pain there will be when it implodes at last
I kneel on the earth bent with fear and joy
knowing the weight of what is to come


Certain people
have stories
about nights
they couldn’t sleep
for the wind whistling
in the crabbed trees
outside their childhood
and how the sound
masked the steps
of the bad parent
coming up the stairs

They tell them
every chance they get
the rest of us
are condemned sailors
and this is our part to play
in their lives

One of them
is bending my ear
almost double right now
with the weight of
that long ago inflicted
still acute pain

and I’m chafing
at the telling because
I’ve got my own
long rehearsed story
queued up and ready to go

and there doesn’t seem to be
an opening for it here

We’ve all been there I know

Don’t you hate how
that weight
hanging from your neck
gets heavier with
their every word

That Deadly Angel

Simply stated, tonight
I have looked at my life.
Where there should be

terror and misery, I find instead
the face of peace and
a sliver of beauty,

what Rilke called
a form of terror
located this side of terrible.

Maybe I’m not far enough in
to see the far side tonight
and fall to my knees in fear.

If so, then this is as far
as I care to go right now.
I will allow myself to pretend

for an evening. The horror
in my life can remain beautiful
tonight. Let me sleep till

the broad light of day.
I’ll deal with it all then,
and at least have the memory

of this peace to steel me
as I turn to face
that deadly angel.

If Your Shadow Hatches

If your shadow ever
breaks open before you
and a shinier you pops out
like a fresh chick from a dark egg

what you should do
is eat the shell at once, swallow it whole
(because nutrients, y’know)
then shoo that newbie away into the forest
or desert or teeming city streets —
wherever you find yourself —
to fend for itself.

Swallow enough of your shadow
and you will change for the better,
we promise. Look
at how that new you is doing,
for instance. Whenever its shadow
hatches a shinier child
it sucks up those fragments
then mothers that new bird
all the way, every day.

You wouldn’t do any of that, of course.
You wouldn’t have a clue.
You would drink in front of the kid
and kick it and call it names
until it wilted or rotted clean through
and dulled itself right back to being
just like you —

which is why we’re telling you,
don’t do it. Don’t try.
It will hate you for it
but be infinitely better off on its own
even if it doesn’t survive,
and the rest of us will be, too, because
no one needs another just like you.

Another Stumble On the Ring

A joint smoldering in the ashtray.

I’m breaking my own rule
about trying to write behind smoke.

It hardly matters other than
as a break in my routines,
my long and stubborn tradition
of disliking the way I write
when I’m smoking.

I come back to it,
usually the next morning,
look it over and moan.
Then, it’s gone.

I wonder where I’d be
if I’d ever grown to like
the looser words
I too often saw.

I will have
another chance to reject
this. Another step upon
the ring around the sun
I call my control.