Tag Archives: poetry

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.


Boilerplate

because of
the intense 
social pressure

because
of the wild
speculation 

because of
the depth
of suspicion

because of
the climate
of fear 

we are withholding
the benefit
of the doubt

are reviewing
the situation
from all angles 

will determine
if a measured 
response may be needed 

and will implement
such measures 
with all due speed


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. 


The Work Undone

Five in the morning
has always been my time
though I haven’t seen it
in a while. Sick as
a sputtering candle, 
sleepy as the old dog
I am, I’ve been keeping
less funereal hours of late
as once it gets dark
this body says go, sleep; 
get used to it, soon enough
this is all you will have.

So to bed
after dinner I go, hating
myself for succumbing.
But somehow the graceful lamp
of Work Undone
relit itself tonight and now
before dawn I am here: back at it;
uncertain of the time left;
I am here aroused
into sword time
with the old weapon of choice
at hand. I ask:

what am I supposed
to do now, dimming body —
pretend to joy
while I stare at despair? 

It shouldn’t be a pretense,
retorts the body half-lit before 
the Work Undone.  So much to do
before you drown. You are
out of the dark and joy is
out here, somewhere, waiting;
pretense is for false warriors. Go.
You are not
allowed to fade without 
at least making a stab
at finding it. 


Trigonometry

You thought your life
was going to be deep,

imagined you’d have thoughts
as large as whales
moving sine-cosine through you
all night long, all day long,
from wake to sleep and after death.

You thought that at this age
bills would pay themselves, 

imagined you’d be soaring now
far above dirty and mundane,
that such small things would be beyond you
as you plunged and rose and plunged again
upon thermals, updrafts; flying upon the fullness
of cycles, the vast majesty of understanding All. 

You never doubted that by this age
throngs would look to you for wisdom,

imagined yourself in whale-speak 
sharing the meaning of tender, sharing the falcons’
long vision, imagined yourself
nodding at the seekers, shrugging when
needed to maintain mystery.

You thought this morning
about all that nonsense,

imagined yourself instead no longer hungry
and cold as you sat in your sad apartment.
The whales no longer passing through you
sine-cosine; you have no sky to fly,
nowhere to go. Deep thoughts
you once hoped for have left you adrift.

Instead you think about your empty shelves,
pretend you recall hearing songs in the ocean;
it seems so far from here
to the top of that last wave
but it’s really no farther now
than it has ever been: how simple it seems now:
shallow or deep, high or low, rich or poor,
hungry or sated:

sine, cosine;
cosine, sine…ah.


Graveside

It was sweet of you
to agree with me
when I said I mattered
 
Was sweet of you
to let me lick
your plate

Sweet as
hot candy
on a car floor
Sweet and soft
as shoveled earth

If I could I’d get up
from this shady grave
and hug you and pray
that you wait
until my back is turned
and I start to walk away
before you scrape off

the dirt that adhered to you
when we embraced

the dirt
you put me in

before you shudder