Tag Archives: poems

The Ghost Upstairs

The guy
doesn’t bother
taking the cover
off his unregistered car
to move it ten feet
down the curb. Didn’t hit
the neighbors’ car which is 
kind of a pity as that might have been
the last straw, 
last act in the ghost play — 
he’s been a squatting ghost
for far more than a year now;
lots of banging, lots of
dragging heavy things,
lots of late night
visitors, lots of doors
left open, not just unlocked,
wide open at all hours. 
Was supposed
to have moved at the end of last month
but something
went wrong with that
as has been the case
for the last three years between
the ‘vid
and the eviction moratorium.
Between compassion for him and 
agony for the rest of us. No, 
I don’t know or particularly care about
where he’s supposed to go.
Fatigue has put a cover over
my compassion. No,
I surely don’t know
where we were supposed to go
or what we’re supposed to have done.
Anger has torn the cover 
from my tolerance. 
All I know is the rest of us
are dog’s-old-bone tired
of living with the ghost
and if we don’t get some rest soon
someone’s going to
rip that cover off his car
and have it towed
straight to Hell while he 
chases it all the way down.

Last Stop

Long road. Decent
scenery. Occasional 
rock falls spilling onto
the shoulders, more often
sheets of gravel across pavement,
left there by runoff.
Careful, careful, you say.
Not too fast, you have
time. A long road
demands time, requires
attention when you
are this far
from one home
and not close enough yet
to a new one. There may not be
enough time left to get there
of course but on the way
you need to be careful, 
careful, especially as you
approach what you think will be
the destination.  Being
too eager is how you slip
from the road and go
over the edge, dragging rock
and gravel with you
as you roll screeching
your resignation all the way
to the silence that will flood 
your stop at the bottom.

One Over

They long to be

People who are not
in their places want to be
anywhere but where they sit

seeming to be

and ease don’t look
the same on everyone

They long to be
elsewhere and

it feels like my duty
to assist them and help
move them along

to their next place
It’s a sacred duty

We have a right
to move the uncomfortable 
to where they belong

and these people
clearly don’t belong

here in my neighborhood
They are smiling but
they look so lost

whenever we make eye contact
They look like they’d be happier

one street over
One town over
One country over

The Approach

The approach is through a field of nettles
on fire, crows rasping away from the woods
at the edges of the field, locusts shrilling
behind them, hunger in full cry 

over all. You must run out among those thorns
tugging you through whatever path
seems softest though no path here is soft
and the noise carries a still-greater sting.

That amplified voice of your choices, soundtrack
of the hard film you’ve made of your life, shall draw 
more blood than the nettles and more sweat
from the back of your neck than the fire behind you

ever could. The approach is in fact likely more important
than the destination and will long burn and echo within you.
You hope the arrival makes up for it
in all significant ways, even as you know

you’ll hear the soundtrack until you have no more life
to surrender to hearing it. There’s hope of a song unlike it
in the air of whatever’s beyond the pain. So:
will you go, lassie, go?




Revised from February 2022. 

I’ve been birch,
the definition of bent.
Look me up. See how weight
falls from me. It is how I am 
able to hold myself intact
within my pock-scarred,
inconvenient bark.

I’ve been oak,
stubborn unhollowed pillar.
Hear the rain of acorns denting what’s below me.
I am seen as somehow admirable 
until I fall and crush others,
or until someone else falls and is broken
while trying to pass over what I leave behind
year after year.

Now, I wish I had been sawgrass or perhaps
wild oats or purslane, enduring, closer to the soil;
or maybe some weed I cannot name now,
less obvious, more or less scarce or extinct;

but instead I’ve been
more than once
one of the trees we lean on
to provide us with metaphors
for falling and breaking,
ending and beginning again
in the breaking that follows a fall. 
Whoever can say it ends here
will free me from a cycle
built from splinters.

Praise Poem Against The Grain

Revised from 2009.

There are people who think we should all write more,
one poem a day, one thousand poems a day,
five hundred fifty five thousand poems a day,
one for every thought that slips along our nerves — 

excepting only poems about poetry.
The belly full of meaning poetry offers should be emptied.
The places it lives should be cut out of us.
We should never write of it or speak of it.

What nonsense — to go into church
denying that church is worth discussing in church. 
To refuse to cry ecstasy when ecstasy is upon us,
to refuse to explain what it’s like to those all around.

I’m ill informed tonight, and half asleep.
I haven’t watched the news for a week.
I’m alone with no one but the cat
curled next to me on a fleece blanket. 

A documentary on Crohn’s Disease
plays unwatched in the next room. 
I could get up, or I could stay here
until spring.

All the poetry I have tonight is the poetry of poetry itself — 
a right whale inside me, dangerous, endangered,
rising island within my body reminding me of marvels
that could slip away and never return.

There may be something else to write about someday
and the poem I write then may be fibrous, luminous,
may hold together on its own
and pass from me without pain.

Tonight I write one poem about poetry,
write it over and over again, 
one poem for the blessing of knowing
that poetry still exists in me,

even if
it’s hanging
by a thread. Even if
it hurts.

Adjusting The Woke Curriculum

They live for 
their children
only through their

All they will grow to know is
how to love a bullet and 
how to scorn what a bullet
can cut.

They say we’re in a shorn world now,
skinned of warmth and softness.
No learning to be found in anything now
but tales of flame and steel.

So what’s with
that sobbing kid 
poking with a stick
at the just killed rabbit in the gutter 

in the front of the neighbor’s house?
Must be queer. Must be damaged.
Get him out of sight, root through
his books, then shoot or set fire

to what ails him.

Cures For Imagined Illnesses

the most common side effect
is nickels in your blood

other side effects may include
eagles overhead

metallic responses to stimuli
wooden responses to the scratch of dug-in heels

the most common side effect
is a darkness flavored dance step

other side effects may include
nausea and irrational amusement

thudding banging on love locked doors
creaking banging on basement couches

the most common side effect
is an inability to love as you once did

other common side effects may include
uncommon scents blowing through the neighborhood

thoughts of kissing a leaf or knife
thoughts of how to resuscitate a Sphinx

Couple At The Corner

Couple parked at the corner, 
lights off, big gestures;
arguing perhaps, speaking of
love perhaps, or perhaps of money, 
talking loudly of how one
may stall the other, how love 
conquers money, how money 
straps down love.

A newer model car,
which means nothing. A younger
looking couple, as far can be told
in this light, in this darkness — which
means nothing.

Perhaps instead
they are older 
and reliving their shared past,
or their unshared pasts.  Maybe one’s 
had the love, one’s had the money
till now and they’re looking toward 
whatever comes next
and not between them.

perhaps — old song
in someone’s head. Old wounds
singing to new ones. The world
surging on beyond whatever
they are gesturing toward.

The streetlight 
sputters, then goes out. 

The Blessed

“then we move like tigers on Vaseline”  — D. Bowie

Guitars waiting on stage:
trees around a clearing,
glorious hazards
waiting there. 

a forest rife with
stealthy predation,
camouflage, danger on ice.

the existence
of a treated 
jungle floor, 

big cats
disturbed but adapting, 
beginning to enjoy
gliding about.

Regret nothing,
pray for no one here.
Sliding about in darkness
is freedom.



Yes, I’m posting it again…

“The Poetry Of Place” will be held via Zoom on Sunday, January 22nd, 2023 at from 2 PM to 4PM EST.

In this workshop, we will look at how incorporating vivid, arresting sensory imagery can stimulate and energize your writing. We’ll look at examples of such poems and at some ideas about why this kind of effort is vital to The Work regardless of genre. (While we’ll be focused on poetry, you can use this information in long fiction, short fiction, etc., just as easily.)

Although the workshop will include some writing exercises and opportunities to share, it’s not primarily designed to be a generative session; I hope that instead you’ll leave with some ideas and a sense of what is possible when you “ground” your own Work in a strong sense of place.


For the record? I’ve got 30+ years of experience as a trainer and workshop facilitator for various corporations, non-profits, and government agencies, but this will be the first time I’ll use those skills for a personally developed topic. It likely won’t be the last…

The cost to the general public* is $35.00 for the session, payable through:

(if asked for a # after that, it’s 4124)



Last day to join up is Friday, January 20. **

I’d love to see you there. Drop me a line through here or at the above email address with any questions.  


*Patrons of my Patreon site in the $10/month or higher tiers may attend for free. 

** For security reasons and to help prevent Zoom bombing, I will send participants the Zoom link once payment is made or (for Patrons) once a confirmation message is sent to me on the site. 

Updated list of available eBooks, January 2023

I have eBooks/PDFs of my work available for sale to those who might be interested. All were previously offered as rewards to various tiers of my Patreon subscribers (a program I will be continuing there, btw). If you want access to the most recent collections as they come out, I’d go there. Just sayin’.

The titles include:
Annual “best of the year” collections. Currently available: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

“Then Play On,” a chapbook of poems about music

“Pushpins and Thumbtacks,” a volume about icons and cliches of American culture

“Noted In Passing,” a revised eBook of a chapbook from 2012 that was a limited edition written for a single feature

“White Pages,” my collection of poems related to race and its role in my life

“Decay Diary,” a collection of poems about aging

“In the Time Of Contagion,” a collection of poems about you-know-what

“The Wrong Flowers,” a prose/poetry meditation on the state of the USA in 2020

“Show Your Work,” an eBook version of an earlier, out of print chapbook.

“The Day,” a selection from 20 years of poems about 9/11/01.

“Ideation,” a short collection of poems old and new about living with depression and suicidal ideation.

“Long Winded,” a collection of longer poems.

“songs for reluctant warriors,” poems for the US political moment of early summer, 2022.

“3 Quarters” released in October 2022. Random and recent.

“Owner’s Manual” released in December of 2022. Poems in the form of directions.

Minimal # of repeats among the collections.

All are available as either PDF or ePUB formats.

If you are interested, let me know with a comment on this post. They are 1 for $5 through Paypal or Venmo, 3 for $12. We can talk about more if you want more.


Activist Chic

I’ve punched up. I’ve punched back. I keep
punching though every blow busts my hands a bit more. 

I don’t much care about direction. All I feel
is a need to punch. Swinging is 

patriotic. Connecting is manly. Walking away
to seek a new battle is as natural to me

as a storm disappearing after shredding
everything, heading off to look for work elsewhere,

as staying home to rebuild is work best left
to those who won’t punch hard enough 

to level a field that needs clearing. I level up.
My home’s a bad place now; no one’s willing

to do dirty work. Dirty wet work is how 
I have become what I am: alone. Advancing

toward the next battlefield, then the next.
Making my way away from what I thought was home.

Out West

I wish I could get back to San Diego
where the breeze is full of distant danger
as it comes in off the waves and warships
sit forever ready, but for the moment I was there
all was at peace and all I had to do was sit and watch
the light and the water and the bright promises
of what was ahead, and put what was behind
out of my mind.

I wish I could get back to Seattle
where I slept on a hotel roof and raised hell
with all my friends on streets in the shadow
of the Space Needle. It pointed up, I lay there
looking up, it barely rained that week, but I had my cot
under an overhang so what if it did? They say
it’s all gone, all I learned to love in a week, all the dirt
that made it lovely, all the night that made it brighter
in the safe corners of the hotel roof. 

I wish I could get back to a carnival I loved
as it was when I was eighteen — 
to any of them, really; terrifying workers
in the booths, terrifying rides in the midway,
a field full of games built to seduce and rob us
of our last dollars under the bright lights —

then I wish I could get back to how it was
in the dark field behind the carnival,
beyond the last slat fence; the field where I lay
on my back, her long hair framing my face from above,
the moon visible behind her and above us both,
as our hearts at last began to slow down. 


People think these are poems
But they are more like adjustments
My bones crying out like
A door’s being shut

People worry my frame
sounds just like a breakdown
When comes the adjustment
You will hear me crack

If they call me to answer
they can call me in Hell
I shall have my phone silenced
for I break when it rings

People ask for more
and then more of the same
From a man who can’t answer
without crumbling within

They think these are poems
I’m stretched to create that
Stretched to create this
and I still can’t stand straight

If pain is a virtue
I’m topmost among angels
If poems are adjustments
why am I still so bent