Tag Archives: poetry

Binge Watch

I’m sorry
it didn’t work out,

says a character 
in the television

through the mouth of 
a dead actor. 

If the character remained
in the television after

it was powered down,
it’s undetectable. The actor’s

remains are probably
real enough to find

if one were
to seek them out,

but those words
resonate long after

the driving breath
has dissipated.

I’m sorry
it didn’t work out.

Nights
marathoning shows

with dead actors speaking
live words. Days 

spent restless
before the TV 

with no idea what to do 
besides that, other than to dread

the moment the shows
ended and the TV shut down.

Lost character,
dead actor;

the fiction
is over.

 


Countdown

Ten more or
fifteen more
hours, days,
weeks, months,
or years: someone
offer me
one more hand
to give me
an outside chance
that I will need
more fingers
than my own
for the countdown.

Luckily for all of us
looking for hope, 

it’s nearly spring. Daffodils
poking up. Downy
woodpeckers are
constant and frenetic
upon the feeders —
have been all winter,
really, but it’s nice
to see them taking
turns upon the suet:
gorging for tomorrow
but so solidly in the moment
that ten or fifteen more
of whatever units one uses
to break down time
matter not at all to them;
there’s only now.

I will try to emulate
their joyful presence
though I’m compelled
to count down:

fifteen more,
ten more,
five more;

bathing in sighs,
buried in breakdowns;

two more,
one more,
now; the whole time

praying more
for the birds
than for myself.


Another

Sowing joy
for another.
That’s the life.

Who was I
to think I should matter
more than another?

Bag of fragrant seeds,
soil, sun and rain —
planting for another.

I’m nothing but someone 
else’s another — is it 
the person I am working for?

Does it matter
if it is not, as long as
another lives because of me?

We carry water
for one another. Stop
to sip from offered cups.

The fields we work
for one another
stretch to the far line

bordering sky and earth.
We can never know another
field than this one. 

So: out across the waiting rows
we go, laden with possibilities
meant for another.

We are more than vessels, though.
In the Other we see who we are,
who we can be if we turn to one another.

See how far we’ve come 
together even if we never meet?
We are one another; that’s our only hope

against famine and drought.
Sowing for one another,
we become joy like no other.


A Pair Of Boots

misplaced
confidence
in the process
will lead you
to camps

undue
trust in your
leaders
will bring you
to blindness

minimized
disruptions
of the underlings
will obscure for you
how your comfort is warfare

trivialized
aggression
toward those oppressed
will lead you to
a pair of boots

buttery boots
broken in
as if they were
made for you

you will put them on
you will step out in them
you may draw some stares but 
you will explain them away 

as all you have to wear
just a pair of boots
like many others
like all the others


Fault Lines

Fault lines
and other wrinkles
more or less 
shaking me 
more or less daily
until I can’t see
the mirror reflecting me

What’s there
is more like refractions 
or fractures 

I’m trying not to speak ill
of my face in the mirror but
some of those cracks are so deep
I can see other people in there

I don’t like them


Last Apology

So much to apologize for
and soon enough,
no one left to accept the apology. 

No one to care
about good intentions
or consciousness of impact. 

A shrinking crowd
in the graveyard waiting
for this funeral to end

so they can go home
and wait for the next one,
whispering “sorry” the whole time

until they are silenced
and buried. When the last one
is ready, they’ll say it a final time;

after, the word will no longer exist
and the long stubborn dialogue
between us and our damage

will be over at last. It will be
a relief; it may serve 
as acceptable penance.


Buzzcut

“I got debts no honest man could pay”   — Johnny 99, Bruce Springsteen

Months since my
last haircut

Money’s so short 
that a few dollars means so much
I stay shaggy to save what I can

but how I long for a buzzcut again

so I won’t have to fret
over care and time
when I’m on the hunt
for scraps

Also if I could have no hair at 60
at last I wouldn’t have to listen
to my mother at 92
praising my curls as she
has never praised
anything else about me
not a word I’ve written
not a thing I’ve done
or my father at 87 
asking me
back when I wore it long
why I did not braid it
as he used to do his own

How I looked
occupied so much of their time
for so much of their time
a competition to see how close I could get
to who they wanted me
to seem
to be

A friend of mine once shaved
twenty years’ growth of locks
I asked him why and he said
all that time and weight 
locked up energy
he needed for other things 

Man I wish a buzzcut
could lift my load
from the top of my head

Put a dollar in my wallet
against these debts
no honest man could pay

If I’m to be an honest man
I think I was born
to pay my parents’ debts

I know I could lie a bit
and get free of all this

Let the wind flow
over my scalp
on my way out of this town
to anywhere else

But where would I go
where their debts wouldn’t follow
Not Italy
Not New Mexico
Neither Rome nor Mescalero
Not Providence

Not NYC

Run your fingers through my hair
All you’ll feel
is what’s underneath

A memory
of the rare times
I gave loss
nothing to work with


Bread And Circuses

my bread
and my circus
are better than
your bread
and your circus
are better than
foreign loaves and
alien balancing acts

better than 
beignets and 
jugglers
better than
croissants and
tiger tamers

I’m mesmerized
by my nacho chips
and quarterbacks
while you stare
at clearly inferior
donuts and
metal bands

to hell with all the bread
and all the circuses
in the world that aren’t 
mine —

despite how similar
the bakers
and the ringmasters
appear


Good Morning America

Here’s a lifestyle report
about grocery stores
that serve liquor to shoppers.

It’s so civilized, smiles the reporter.

Here’s a spokesperson 
for one of the stores in question
who recounts the story of a customer
who bought a crown roast of lamb
and then had to find room in her freezer
because she bought it
with no idea of what to do with it
and didn’t want to throw it out.

Here is everyone
smiling and nodding.

Somewhere
in a very stuffed freezer
sits everything
you need to understand
where we are now. 


Scanning

Endlessly scanning
the car radio
seeking music
I don’t recognize.
 
Roll the window down
near every food cart
trying to guess what
they’re serving.
 
People ask why
I would ever want to do these things.
Why listen to music
you don’t know and like already?
 
Why allow the smell
of something foreign in?
Such an all-American
trait to assume
 
that the air around you
should only hold
your favorite scents
and sounds —
 
and while we’re at it,
to hell with your earbuds:
let the world in,
you cowards.

Dissolution

To become as small as I can get
in their presence. That’s my goal
for when I see them at last.

I want to stand before whatever survived
the slow dissolution of flesh and bone
and look up to them.  I want them 
to feel like the giants they are to me

as I kneel 
and fold myself up
and call them grandmother,
grandfather;  

other names beyond those,
names for the distant ones.

I want to know those names
so badly I would 
give up my own.

 


Terraformed

Do or stop all doing,
be dead or be changed into
another’s expectation;

I’m in awe of how far
they’ve pushed me
into their pattern.
They’ve killed part of me, 
believing death will spread
and give them life.  

I’ve been made
into something useful 
to another…yet

under the alien soil
where they’ve buried me,
I’m still alive, opening space
around my feared body, and

soon enough
will come raging out
into their smug faces
and remind them

that the surface
they prize so much
is just that.


BigDumbNoise

The lure of 
that which is meaningless
to my larger concerns

is that there could be 
relief
available for the
weight:

a jack to lift
what’s crushing me
off my chest

So therefore bring on
the dumbest TV and 
the loudest three chords
you’ve got

as now and then
the Big Dumb Noise
is all there is
to ease the pain

of complexity 
ambiguity
and the solid leaden
grays 

that seem to be 
my ruling principles
my heavy core


Neuropathy Blues

A guitar neck just feels
like more of my nerve-drunk hand.

The strings burn graves
into my dead fingertips.

The volume knob turned too far
spikes my fear of exposure.

If I sound insecure to others
about how it feels to play,

it is because these raging nerves
are what I know of my hands lately,

and lately my guitar is where they go
to fail and (soon enough) to die.

The pain on the day after:
history informing the future.

Music comes from
the place between those things.

All my apologies flow
from how every broken arpeggio

climbs a ladder leading 
to a day when I will have to stop

all of this, or when I am
at last stopped. 

Till then, though?
Till then, I am yours.


Grain Of Sand

I have so little 
to give

except my life

which I do not
routinely consider

large or of value

although in its current size
and worth it may serve

as grain of sand in a precision machine

as killing germ or worm 
as parasite in an evil host

You grab me by the arms
and shake me
and your own head
saying no no no
you have so much to live for
and so much more about you 
is golden than you know

Hush
Be still 

As sand or virus
I take part
in cosmic order
in a time when stopping
the Machine or slaying
a Host bent on death
is truly all
we all have left to do

and you say
no no no
to my being
even a nameless piece
of how that happens

Try to be serious

It would be an honor
to be forgotten
to be anonymous
in the future

for that would mean
that I and the rest of 
the nameless who say

let them take me
if it stops them

made the future real