Tag Archives: poems

In Fire There Is Light and Truth

I will say
before anyone else does
that I know
I’m a bad god. Not
evil, not malicious,
not even The Adversary.
I’m just nearly
incompetent.

Can’t do
most of what
I’m called on to do,
even what’s in
the actual job description,
which you would no doubt
be confused to read.
I can’t let you see it. 
You’d think at least there
I’d be omnipotent
but no. No god is,
I’ve asked around.
For instance none of us
can beat a full house
with a pair of sevens,
but I digress.

I digress
all the time which is
part of the problem. 
People want
a directed deity,
one with focus,
with clarity. 
In fact they really
want one, the One.
I’m not like that.
Nothing is. No One
can do all that is asked
of Them.

I’m especially
bad at it. I fumble through,
drop as much
as I carry. You call on me
and I am startled, 
every time. Incompetent
at nearly everything I’m 
asked to do but oh
my darlings,

if you could see me run
ahead of a wildfire’s
leading edge singing
the song I was made to sing
you’d fall down and know
what I was made for —
and then I’d take you
and you’d call my name.

It’s one thing I’m good at,
one thing. I’d pick you up
from the ashes and carry you
home. Just know that 
I drop as much
as I carry. 


Ghosts Of The Ancient Lake

At the dried up lake bed
from the end of prehistory

you stand looking across the flat.
You can’t believe what you see

is former as it feels like an overflow
of now. Look at that, you say

to a companion no one else can see.
That’s where we are headed, 

into a flood of memory
that neither dries up nor cries out. 

That is right, the Other says. 
No one but us can see it, of course.

They call us mad for thinking
we can swim across. We won’t be,

of course; how could we?
How we get to the other side

isn’t for us to choose but we  
must get there. 

We drift into the space
hoping not to drown.

We drift out over the ghosts
who fill the ancient lake.

On the other side, a small banner:
“Here Is The Start Of History.”

We can renew and refresh there,
you say. Do it right this time.

That’s what they all say,
says the Other. 


How Broken Can One Heart Be

Long-ago mapped
fault lines diminish, 
become invisible
from space, vanish
from the surface
of the earth
in the aftermath
of your sundering.
Your chest
opens from within,
spews lava wind;
the forest tumbles
outside the blasted doors.
Fire becomes you
as well as a suit of armor
fits an obsolete warrior —
you are an obsolete warrior.
Unfit for battle.
Reckless, easily 
withered, you
will dissolve
to ash before you can
remove your armor
and run.


At The Bar In December

One deep inhale
in the cold and I’m thinking
I need to go back inside
and punch this guy. I’ve lashed out
in rage before, but this is not that:
this is calculation, this
strategic punching I’m contemplating.
I’m following a path I endorsed
long ago and now I’m at the point
where I have to take action
if I believe I’ve done right.

One deep inhale
of the cold and I’m ready 
to stop overthinking.
I need to go back inside
and punch this guy. I’d call him out
to the sidewalk but too many would see
the next thing and the next thing
and whatever came after that
and then where would I be: giving him
a chance to prepare, a chance to get armed,
a chance to win? I need to just do
for once what the body tells me:
punch him with as much cold in my hand
as I have in my lungs (after of course

one long exhale)
and then say yes.
that was right. All fear
will fall off me
like broken scales.
Punch him, punch them.
The consequences
are so much gentler
than the consequences 
of self-betrayal.


Beauty And Entropy

Beauty
on the interstates
searching

comes to an off ramp
Imagines that this will be
the last stop

as in that old TV series
where the main character
is always hoping for the leap home

Beauty
always gets back on the highway
after a night or two

Remains the same
Not a leap as much as a trudge
Next ramp like this one

It’s a grind
Everyday physics suggests
entropy is setting in


Shooter

I turn to
the monstrous, 
fearing monsters.

I’ve become
Animal. Humans
pledge not to,

but too often fail
in their promises.
Betrayal of trust

is endemic among us.
Memory and
documentation

be damned; reaction
is truth. Fear is
health. Who are

those in the wood
or alley that are more
terrifying than I am?

Stand ready, says
the spirit
of the ravenous; Animal,

your time has come.
Take off your watch.
There’s only now. Go.


Big Stan

Listening to space
for secret messages, David
simply is, and that’s enough. 

Asking a tree
for directions home, Sheila
simply listens. This is plenty.

Big Stan is an ear and 
an eye who points out
the other two are “nuts”

when he leans into your car
to tell you you’re alright,
not like those two.

You give everyone
a dollar. Everyone
gets a dollar. It won’t help

but it’s something. God Bless,
they tell you. God Bless.
Which god, you wonder — 

the one in space, the one
hiding under the bark
of the tree? Or maybe

Big Stan’s a god,
or the God, or
there’s no gods at all.

That seems like bullshit.
Even if they are nuts,
all of them, something’s

talking to them
from somewhere else.
We are all nuts,

Big Stan. David’s
disdainful of the tree
Sheila talks to, and Sheils

has been to space
and knows David’s 
hearing nothing.

I give everyone
a dollar. I do what I can.
David’s closest to the truth.

Big Stan is only half right,
and I wish I knew how
to get the tree to tell Sheila

how to go home.


A Look To Die For

Fire in your sleeves
when you pick up the sweatshirt — 
how are you supposed to wear this?

It’s as if
this entire blazing society
has settled in your clothing.

So hot, so uncomfortable and 
dangerous to have your home and clothes 
burning from the inside at the same time. 

All day long the mass shooting
itches you. The killing is 
next to your skin and won’t stop.

When the news announces
the inevitable fatalities 
are at a Walmart, you calculate

the distance to one from your home.
Maybe there will be a clearance sale.
God knows you need a new sweatshirt

to replace the one that’s burning you.
Regardless of the source, 
you have to wear something.

It’s not your fault this is all
society offers and anyway,
disaster is all the rage these days.

Every one of us walking around
reeking of smoke and singe.
‘Tis the season. ‘Tis the way of our flesh.

 


Goober

I used to be
such a goober
when it came to
how I acted around
someone I was drawn to
(although it was I gather at least
somewhat endearing to most except when 
it became clear that I did not understand
how far off I was in my estimate
of the level of interest the other person had
in my attentions) — regardless of the reason
for my interest — hero worship, attraction, 
a desire to learn,  general admiration seizing hold —
I used to be such a goober, stumbling through
conversations, asking all the wrong questions 
in even more wrong ways — touching subjects
that should have been left untouched, oddly breaching
spaces personal, professional, social, cultural, even now and then
spiritual — I used to be such a goober, addicted to the excitement
of finding someone who sparked me until after years  of corrections
and shaming I became silent before the mystery of such attractions
and now, now I’m not; I have become calmer, stiller, socially acceptable,
and far more numb within. 


Ghost Of Sweetness

Waking in darkness
to do…what?

Walk around the house
thinking daytime’s near?

Pretend this
was intentional

and go sit on the couch
in the living room

where all the light comes
from electronics

and think about yesterday,
all you did and didn’t do.

Daylight is a long way off,
it seems.

Mark this as night, still,
not early morning.

Rectification
for what was badly done

and what was undone
will have to wait until sunrise;

any wisdom that comes 
from the struggle

needs time to be born,
and this is not that time.

To sleep now, with a spoonful
of honey on your tongue.

Morning will offer
a ghost of that sweetness.

As always, you should begin again then:
lay the ghost to rest, grant it 

passage from dark to light
in tandem with your own.


A Purr And A Hiss

The big cat in the window
with a little bowl of catnip
poured from the bottle that sits
next to the bottle of Jameson’s.

In the next room the big man
sits next to an emptied glass.
He’s used to big Scotch whisky.
Irish whiskey barely touches him.

The big cat comes in, sits down,
stares at the big man. “You looking
for more?” he asks her. She walks away.
He knows she’s not. She knows when to stop

but it gives him the excuse he needs
to go back to the kitchen and pour
something into his, something into hers.
“Don’t mind if I do.” The big cat is gone,

probably to the bed.
He should do the same.
But now, a second glass
as the first barely touched him

and he wants to be touched.
“Here’s hoping,” he says.
It comes out somewhere
between a purr and a hiss.


Inconsequentials

Like a bite of lettuce 
drenched in oil
on a salad plate
that’s about to be taken away,
or an irregular corner torn
from some unknown paper
blowing through the yard
fast enough
you can’t catch it so
you don’t bother
to try. Not to mention
those people
on your supermarket corner
for whom you feel
twinges of regret
that it’s so difficult
to rescue or clean up
after them. Must have had
a purpose once. Must have
been good. Or at the least
shouldn’t have been left behind
to litter the place.


A Grand Stone

A grand white stone on the bed
of a familiar pond

seemed to be
in shallow water

but then you remembered
as you reached for it

this pond is clear
but deeper here

To retrieve it
you had to plunge

your arm in almost
to the shoulder

So cold
you were disabled

for a while
in terms of being able

to feel and hold 
the desired stone

to heft and bounce it
in that hand as you tried

to understand better
the reasons why it drew you

which had seemed obvious
until the shock

of seizing it
snatched your breath

It seemed so close
and easy to grasp

It looked
so perfect down there

Now all you’ve got is
this cold rock and

a longing
left unexplained

swiftly drying 
into mere memory


Being Neither, Being Both

from 2013, revised.

Being Indian
and White
on Thanksgiving

means being tired
of plowing the six weeks of stupid before this day.
Tired of explaining. Tired of walking on Pilgrim shells.
Tired of having to justify marking the day
as painful or joyful or neither

or both. Being Both on Thanksgiving
means I get to give myself the ulcer
I richly deserve. Means being hungry
in every sense of the word. Means
I want to give thanks for something
I stole from myself, or perhaps I did not;

being Both on Thanksgiving
means nothing is simple. I am thankful
for the tightrope, thankful for the mash-up
problems, thankful for looking like
I ought to be oblivious, thankful for
a good talking to. Being Neither, fully,

on Thanksgiving means I ought to give me
a good talking to. I am angry enough
to ignore much and fantasize more
over the boiled onions only my Dad eats
and the meat stuffing with chestnuts only my Mom eats,
angry enough to lose my appetite in public,
angry enough to be redder than the damned canned
cranberry sauce. Being Me on Thanksgiving

means I sit down to the table and eat like a fat man,
a continent’s worth of overkill, filling my dark gut
till I have to shed something to be comfortable
by the fire in the too-warm house of my parents
who are long past caring about anything but making sure
that the peace holds till night falls and we all go home

carrying the leftovers with us to feed on
for another whole year. Another harvest festival
passed, no guarantee of one next year, maybe
we’ll starve over the winter while being Indian, being White,
being Neither, being Both, being the kind
who thinks it matters when you are choking on
so many bones.


Yellow Apple Skins

Long night recalled
only in fragments.

Yellow apple skins glimpsed
in a refrigerator drawer.

A voice as clear
as cirrus clouds in sunset.

A remnant lust
fading into regret. 

What needs to be
retold for a different world.

Instructions on
how to be old. 

Sickness and health
interchangeable. 

Hard words: love,
damage, porcelain. 

The same old “used to be” 
shifting: is memory

credible, imagination
no more than a broken cup?

The pattern on the tablecloth.
The tablecloth on the floor

and whose eyes are those
watching from the pantry?

Fatigue in the form
of question marks.

I had better get home
before answering any of this.

Want to lie down
silently and let doubt

slide away like a kid giggling
in a downward mountain stream,

all the way into an icy pool
then coming up for air. 

A yellow apple for breakfast.
Afterward, cleaning up

the broken cup. Afterward,
memory kissing me back

to just after childhood
and the eyes of an early lover.