Tag Archives: poems

A New Color

Originally posted on 10/28/12.

How to explain a new color?
How to define it beyond calling it
a crisp, refractive purple
only visible behind my eyes?

I sit in my driveway 
thinking of two women
panhandling in the rain at the end of our street
at the start of a hurricane, 

and of how
to explain this color 
I know I have
never seen before.

I asked them 
if they had a place to go.
One smiled and the other said,
“Thank you, bless you sir.”

I’m sitting in my driveway
looking at a color
with closed eyes, 
resting my head on the steering wheel.

Looking at a color I’ve never seen,
a clear and crisp refractive purple
in the crazed, urgent, irregular form
of a paper flower or a crumbling gem.

This is the color
of a blessing or a mercy,
the color of driving back down the hill
to take them to a shelter,

the color of shame when they refuse
to get in my car,
the color of understanding
why they refuse;

the color of a subsequent prayer
for them, the color of feeling
that I have not given enough,
to them, or maybe to anyone.

Grief (Mountains)

Some days
we wake up
atop a mountain
of bones.

We settle 
upon the summit,
snow caps waiting for
the full sun of hoped-for

If the mountain
is tall enough
we may never
melt free
and pour back down
to the green lands;

in the mountains of bones
some peaks remain
frozen forever.

A day will come
when we pass and become
bones waiting
to be grieved
and covered by those
who loved us once;

for their sake and my own
I pray I shall not end up
part of a mountain
that will never thaw.

Three Cats

I think too often about three cats
who some decades ago

forced their way
into my bathroom

and came close to me there on the floor
and walked around and around me, tails

an unrelenting massage, not speaking
but nonetheless not allowing me

to finish what I’d started. Staying with me
until I put down the knife 

and got up and wiped away
sweat and snot

and tried to look
once again like a willing survivor

before I left the bathroom 
to reenter and face the kitchen

and take myself back to bed
where I woke hours later

crowded off to the edge
to find all three still with me

as they apparently still are,

Deep Fake

I saw the edge of my world 
in the face of a border-trapped child
on a screen, and shut it off at once.

Someone’s going to blame me
for doing nothing,
for turning away. I feel the same

or at least I used to
until the images
became so familiar

I could tell at once they were not current,
that the borders in question
were not my own, the child 

in the scene died in a camp
or on a reserve decades before my birth
and I needn’t care anymore as they were

beyond my sympathy. I am beyond
my sympathy now, for that matter.
I admit I’m garbage who happens to be

alive in the now
on the right side
of the barbed wire fences. What a time

to be alive, in fact: the powerful
have made it easy to deny such hungry eyes
the courtesy of simply looking back.

It’s not real, I tell myself. It’s deepfake,
photoshop, propaganda. The sound
of the rumbling gut, the stare — all 

pulled from history, remade
for today’s eyes. It’s not as if
nothing ever changes

on that side of the barbed wire.  That kid
will be alright and pain free one way
or another, one day, no matter how I see them today.


They say it
all the time
on the serial killer shows.

Say the latest bit of mayhem
shows “the unsub is
decompensating” and
“we may be moving
toward the endgame.” 

By which they don’t mean
a person of interest
is throwing up his hands
and looking at his bills
and trying to decide how to pay
or escape them.

That person’s so common
they can’t be by definition
a singular person of interest.

No one needs to have
that drama onscreen
when it’s right there
in the kitchen 
and it’s them

the brain not working, hope
down the drain, any blood involved
barely contained within
and so sky-high pressurized
a pin prick would turn into Vegas fountains… 

Vegas? Card games or dice?
Lottery tickets bailing them out?
Online sports betting to the rescue…

a whole broke-ass country
pretending to hope, 
looking for its endgame.


I eat all the words in my head
as soon as they arrive.

I surge from skinny to fat then skinny again
ten thousand times a day, ten thousand times

a minute even. I’m a pulsar, not a man:
huge for a flash, then vanishingly thin again.

If they ever stop I suppose I’ll become normal.
No more extremes. No me to be found. 

Doorframe Theology

To have been here as long as you have
and seen so much without seeing 
how little you have mattered 
in the ways you were taught you would matter

and at the same time not understand
how instead you were of the utmost importance in small ways
to the continued spinning of this Rock
where you have lived your whole life

is to prop yourself against a grand doorframe
and insist you are in fact in the room where you truly belong
as it dawns on you that you are truly in neither room
and you’ve never lived anywhere that wasn’t Limbo

Let me assure you that you look just right standing there
Let me assure you the doorframe understands your confusion

To see how bifurcated you feel 
when there is no need to stay that way
is to miss a world defined entirely
by existing under a door frame

If there’s a single God it is one with the doorframe
and not in either room on either side
You are there to be a part of that divinity 
and to be serene in seeing how all rooms are one room

If there’s no God you may do as you wish 
and move between rooms or stand between 
and if there are instead a multitude 
ask for a tour and come back to the doorframe refreshed

Let me assure you the view from there is genuine and complete
Let me reassure you that you may lean there as long as you wish

Siberian Iris

In the corner of the front yard
Siberian Iris are preparing to bloom:

flat blades, oval buds. Every year,
I imagine a ship with that image

blazoned on the sail. I am waiting for
the ship to launch — but how it will go

from solid land into deep water,
I cannot say. The iris whispers

one thing, logic insists upon 
another. It’s a mystery,

of course, how to move
from one world to the next;

how to trim the sails, 
how to set the course.

Say Nothing

It’s not about keeping
your mouth dumb. 
Not this time.

It’s the notion
that one can speak
and should speak
a vacuum into existence
and let it suck meaning
from what’s around it. 
It does seem like
that’s how you succeed,
you know — by aiming
a void at the world
and letting the world
fill it. Think of it:

all those philosophers,
politicians, spiritual
leaders. Your teachers,
your parents: 
they spoke, you filled in
the blanks.

Some of it
was nothing but blanks:
a kid’s game gone adult.

Make it make sense
if you think
I’m wrong.
I’m cynical,
but tell me
I’m wrong.
Look at
how it’s going
and tell me I’m wrong.

Tell me something
to help me
convince myself 
I’m wrong 

and I will say out loud
that I love you
and I will promise to follow you
into this void we both know
can be filled so easily
once we refuse to accept
that we are all
most likely wrong.

If (Mother Of Moons)

revised, original post 2016. revised 2023 prior to setting to music.

If a window opens in a wall
where there has never been a window
and you are standing there at that moment
and watch it open;

if you cannot afterward
describe how it happened, since no bricks
appear to have been displaced
by the appearance of the window;

if no sound accompanied
the appearance of the window, yet
you showed neither amazement nor fear
upon the opening of the new window;

if the opening of the new window seems as normal to you
as the breathing of your newborn;
if you hold your newborn up to the window
to let them see the moon

as if you are holding the moon itself
up to let it shine;
if you look out the window
and observe a maze of walls, windows, light from other moons;

if you recognize that none of the walls and windows
look anything like your own and
the light from the other moons
then changes you;

if you then begin to call yourself
Mother of Moons, knowing at once
you have always been this
yet are naming this for the first time;

if you go out
to seek other windowless walls and
stand in front of them
until they change

then every examined wall shall grow a window,
shall become an entire window,
and the walls will fall as all the windows
spring open at once.

The Snake Looks Back

It has been long since I was last venomous
Since I snapped off my weapons striking at mortar 
Biting at walls to get myself free
I spilled my poison and let it burn the ground below

Long time since I was animal enough
To hold myself justifiably savage and turn myself loose
Upon the right target to do what was needed
Even as the earth bubbled and blistered underfoot

I fail toward an end I would prefer to avoid
Someone must fail if others are to win 
It’s black letter law written with a poison pen
Made from a fang that fell to the ground

From out of my shattered mouth
When I broke my own power
Trying to be what I never had been
I’ve come back to my own as I come to my end

He Was Alone When It Happened

It’s so hard,

he said and he
was right — look at him,
there is a visible toll
there, he doesn’t look
at all as he did
back when he made it look

it did not have
to be so. 

Old friend,
as softly as I can
I must say
that there were ways around this
you did not take,
and you know it.

He looks at me.
He thinks he is water worn
and not hammer broken,
pretending to be soft 
and edgeless as if he’d
never once flung himself
onto a stone floor
and cracked, never mind
doing that on the daily
for decades.

I used to know you,
I said. You look
so different now,
iteration of smoke
in a broken mirror. 

You need to tell the truth.
Just acknowledge that
you are your fault. 

It is so hard, 
he repeated, 
looking down.

So hard, he insisted,
his voice already darkening.

So hard, he whispered,
hoping I didn’t hear him, 
knowing I could never agree. 


Stray corn plants 
in the flower bed
from birds
who shit feeder kernels 

random tomato
in an empty bed,
likely from last year’s
crop, variety likely
to remain unknown
until near harvest;

what’s this
sunflower doing here,

what even is that
growing there?

Where to begin — 
what to do with the volunteers
once you understand 
their origin; to see
how they grow,
let them stay or to
replant or cut them
mercilessly down
because they do not fit
your designs and desires.

What is this sunflower
doing here
by the front walk?



An Actor Prepares

Originally posted 12/16/2009.

No one photographs him
more than once
after they realize

that the only pictures
that show him happy
show him onstage.

All other images
make him look like
a pillar of salt.

What’s his motivation?
He gave up everything
to gain a spotlight.

That smile you see up there
is genuine, if fleeting.
Stick with that.

Next time, use no flash.
Catch him standing there
in his natural setting:

darkness all around
as he pretends like mad
that he is the sun.


I bought
a stove top percolator
to replace my broken French press 
which replaced my messy single cup maker
which replaced
my unrepairable
12 cup programmable drip machine

People on the street
stared after me as I walked to work
as if they knew me
for an eccentric
and how I had filled the stainless steel pot
with fresh cold water
and measured the tablespoons
into the basket
as it sat upon the hollow stem
and put the basket lid on and then
replaced the top of the maker
with its glass dome 
and set it on the gas flame

How I’d waited for the first sound
of the perk and watched 
the good brown bubble up

How it smelled in the sagging kitchen air
How it tasted with my eyes closed
How I’d tried to figure out
how long since
I’d last made coffee 
in a percolator — forty years?
forty five?

Is that long enough
for this coffee to be retro? 
Am I hipster now,
Luddite so far behind
I’m now ahead?

I don’t care
I must have needed to do this
for I remembered something
about myself when 
while measuring in the coffee
I covered the hole in the stem
with my other thumb
to prevent grounds from falling in
and getting into the water
and getting into the cup

It’s the care
my father taught me
to take
when you make coffee 
in a percolator