Tag Archives: poetry

You Are Going To Be Fine

You are going to be fine,
they tell you; you are going
to find the bridge inside you
and cross your gaps. You are
about to see stones in the stream
before you and perceive all at once
that there is a path across
with only a few scary leaps. 

You are going to be fine,
they tell you; between
the appearance of the bridge
and the revelation of the stones
your agony must stem
from a choice you made
to have it in your life
as a lesson, as pain for gain
to help you find the path.

You are going to be fine,
they tell you; they say
you are in all the right places
at once: on this side of the stream,
with the bridge and the wet stones
between you and the far bank;
already through the worst of it
and on the other bank, weakly
dancing; with your pain holding you 
tight as you make the journey
no matter which way you choose.

You are going to be fine,
they tell you. You fall down
writhing on the cold floor
of your bathroom. That’s it,
they say. Dance it out. You roll
over on your back and stare 
at the peeling ceiling. That’s 
the way of this, they say. 
That’s the joy of the struggle.
You freeze there and can’t move.
That’s it, they say. You are
going to be fine. You hold on to that,
they say. No pain without gain,
they say, as you try not to cry.


An American Poem

This is an American poem;
I should insert
a nature image here.

I should purple
the mountains up,
like a god. Then I’ll chew

the scenery
until there’s nothing left
to suck from it.

This is an American poem;
it contains a rigged dance
of myth and cynicism.

In here we
we step on 
each others’ toes

then apologize nonstop until
the pain becomes so strong
we cannot help but lash out.

In every true American poem
there should be exuberant
ghosts and the sound

of babies, crying, screaming,
playing. Doing all the things
American babies have always done.

If you write it, they say:
Not the babies, please. Leave
the babies out of it, they are precious

and innocent. Bah, humbug,
you say even though it’s 
the Fourth of July. The Fourth

of July is built on dead children,
uses fireworks to justify 
a war everlasting.

In every great American poem
should be an America over half
of its readers do not recognize.

What’s that about ghosts? Don’t you 
recognize yourself in there?
Still cheering, still writing,

but reversed. A good mirror
shows you your other side.
A better one shows you more than one.

This is my American poem and if it’s any good
it’s chafing you like the dish on the table
with the turkey and all those sides

while the country, the nation,
even the purple mountains above it all 
look at all of us wondering

where they went wrong
that this is how it feels now
to write an American poem.


A Being In A High Wind

— for Robert Bly

On the side
of a Maine mountain

while walking toward
a bare stone summit

a high wind storms up
out of nowhere.

I know how to walk
against this sort of nuisance

when I’m on level ground, 
but this feels 

different. Moss underfoot,
and if I slip I may fall — 

non-fatally, but far enough
to be in pain, to perhaps need

assistance or even rescue
afterward. But I’m so close

to the highest point I’ve ever
reached on my own — this

high wind out of nowhere,
it’s nothing. If I fall, I might fall

or I might fly, I might rise
even farther. If I call out

for aid upon falling?
Whatever being might answer

might choose me to let me fall,
or might elevate me — whoever

or whatever makes the choice,
I should be grateful 

that I was here
upon this mountain

for as long as it took 
to be chosen. 


Across The Street

Across the street
Joe has hung
an American flag
with one blue stripe
out the window.

Calls the cops 
on the Black folks next door
at least once a month
for “looking in his windows”
or “parking too close to his driveway.”

It’s a narrow city street
in a low down part of town
and no one’s got room enough
to park their cars without being
on top of each other,

but Joe still blows the snow
from his driveway
against the windows of 
his neighbors all winter long
in an expression of his displeasure.

Loudly calls the folks next door
“the monkeys.” The cops
always come when he calls,
never do a damn thing,
but come out every time.

Joe likes to complain out loud
to everyone about all of this.
“What? I’m not supposed to have
property rights just because
I’m a registered sex offender?”

Joe’s son has a daughter.
I see her now and then
on the porch
sitting on Joe’s lap when they
come to visit.

At least, 
I assume it’s his granddaughter.
There can’t be any other
explanation. There just
can’t be. 

One time, someone
put a brick through
Joe’s windshield. He
called the cops and blamed
the next door neighbor.

The cops came 
and talked to everyone.
Kept them separate,
said they could 
prove nothing, did nothing.

I wish there was
something just and right
to say here,
but all I’ve got is that 
I’d move

but where is it going to be
any different unless
you go so far away you can’t
be found? Until then, I take comfort
knowing that I still have

more bricks in the backyard
should it come down
to that again, and 
the cops have yet to cross the street
whenever they’ve come:

the same cops who told me
that I should have known better
than to live here after the break-in
a few years ago, that things like that
never get solved in this neighborhood;

the same cops who took four hours 
on a Saturday night to come look at
the totaled cars when the stolen car
sideswiped half the street and was left
at the bottom of the hill in pieces;

the same cops who came through
our backyards with assault rifles
and dogs looking for a killer who
(we later learned) walked right by them
in drag down the sidewalk.

I could go on and on and on
but it’s all happening across 
the street right now, and 
I can’t move, so here I sit
on my bricks without a flag to fly.


To Desire

to desire is to have
a hand full of 
smoke, 

wisps slipping 
between 
fingers as they

disspate. to desire
is to be ready
to close 

a hand upon
what may never be
seized although

that smoke seems
thick enough to
be held. to desire

is to understand 
nothing but 
a need to hold smoke

as it rises from
fire around your feet.
hold it like a staff.

hold it like a handle
for rake or shovel.
better to desire than

to hold what you desire.
to hold is to require
action once it’s in your hand.

to desire is 
to play with
smoke as if it were

more than 
ungraspable scent
and obscured vision, 

is to ignore
how fiercely 
you are burning.


What You Can Get Away With

What you can get away with
in here is

at least three murders a day
depending on your
choice of food and 
drink and how much
electricity you use and
where you drive and how far
and for what purpose

What you can get away with
in here is 
tossing out a storm cloud
of sharp words for fun
as we used to do
with good old
lawn darts
(c’mon, you never met
a soul damaged by lawn darts
after all
must be one of those 
legends the weak tell
to shut the strong up)
and then laughing 
when they penetrate
someone’s head

What you can get away with 
in here is

cartoons on sports jerseys
and high school recreations of 
important-to-the-infrastructure
massacres by bullet
by oil and steel and a hundred
paper cuts from lethal treaties

What you can get away with 
in here is

blinkered messaging and 
whistling for hunting dogs
for some moonlight or daylight scramble
after prey you don’t even know but
once you corner them you can decide
you know enough
to pour blood out on the soil
(not to spill it
it’s no accident) 

What you can get away with 
in here is

blindly misunderstanding
who lets you get away
with all this and why
it serves them to have you
become what you are

and remain here laughing 
and tossing and shooting and 
buying and selling and 
what’s a little blood anyway


The Back Room

No matter what the front room thinks,
the back room knows this business stinks.

The front room puts its smile up front.
The back room’s smile is kept covert.

The front room just assumes it’s safe.
The back room knows it’s all a cage.

Whenever the front room goes to sleep
the back room fortifies its keep.

No matter what the front room thinks
what’s cooked in the back room always stinks.

 


Can’t Stop

Every animal in the house 
asleep except for me.

Maybe there’s a mouse at work 
somewhere in the walls,

but not to my ears.
It’s quiet enough that all I hear

is the warm air rising from the grates
and a plane headed for Boston,

or from Boston, forty miles
east of here. Soon there will be

the sound of the early train
passing the bottom of the hill;

traffic on the highway ramp
will pick up and after that

the apartments above me
will come alive and telegraph

busy mornings through
their floors to my ceilings.

We call this place a city
but unlike some others,

it definitely sleeps.
The animals here

take their need for
unconsciousness seriously,

as do I and I sit here acutely aware
of my own desire to fall away

and forget where I am 
for a few hours, yet here I am

watching the cats sleep
and thinking of my lover

asleep in the next room
while I pursue yesterday

all through the night
and into today,

hoping to catch it and shake it
until, somehow, it changes.


Blessings

You stood by his bedside
the day you left, offering
blessings for the life
he would live without you.

He lay there and sobbed
and reached out for you to 
stay and talk and stay and love
and stay, just stay.

You walked off in a cloud 
of blessings as if you’d sprayed
the room for bugs or to leave
some floral camouflage.

Understand that your blessings
by themselves healed nothing of wounds
the boy did not even see
until he became an old man

and lay back in a different bed
understanding at last how the damage
inflicted back then was neither your fault
nor his own, but that regardless 

the scent of it lingered
in every bedroom he’d been in since.
The stinging in his scars
was the burned-in message

that everyone leaves, eventually;
it might as well be him leaving, even
if it’s not today, even if he is alone
at the time, even if the room

is stifling with blessings 
and protection and love.
Nothing is forever,
his wounds have said at every dawn

since you walked away, applying
a serum as protective
as any blessed potion, 
if not as sweet.


Things Broken

Things broken
from long fruitful effort,
too shattered to be repaired,
shout more loudly of triumph
than any fanfare ever could:

a desiccated tendril of
a wild grape vine clinging to
a wooden fence after
the vine has died and fallen away;

an egg case 
for some insect or
spider, empty
on the back porch;

a pair of once-strong boots,
soles worn through, peeking 
at sunrise from where
they were placed neatly
inside a trash can on trash day,
as if ready to be worn again at once.


Sixty One

Look, friends:
I’ll be dead
sooner, not later.
Will never make it to
one hundred twenty two; 
stop calling this
“middle age.”

These are 
gateway days, friends;
I’m at peace, why aren’t
you? I am upright under
a lovely arch twined
with vines and blooms.

When I look back into the 
long valley I’ve come from
I see a view I can
adore; when I look up
to the Divide above me
what I see is glorious with 
the rays of the same sunrise
I came from, as it barely feels
like it’s been a day
since I was born. I still feel 
new, but know I’m not; friends,
is that not perfection?


One For The Brothers

Here’s one for the brothers 

in drink and sports fandom
whose cars have kissed telephone poles
more than once after hours

One for the boys

who drive along old roads
daydreaming of their well deserved
post high school comebacks 

One for the men

who swerved into careers
after head-on collisions with a payback
for mistakes and accidents 

Another for the boys

who dance awkwardly around
how good it felt to hug and slap asses
after the win in the Thanksgiving game

Another for the men

who say not a word about all of this
who shrug it off then sink
into stained recliners or basement shops

One more for these brothers

who may not even understand
that what hurts them
is demanded of them

from the backseat wherever they go
on whatever roads
they end up driving


The Dirty Afterplate

This is
a freshly washed dish
in a drainer

Later today
it will be full
of food and then

will be washed again
The cycle will repeat
until the dish breaks

sometime in the future
when my hand loses its grip
through some illness or injury

I know this because of
how often it has happened
How often something

has been destroyed
because I lost my grip
through injury or illness

or inattention
to detail or how much care
I should have been offering

but I was hungry
Couldn’t wait so I grabbed
for a plate and then

crash
Pieces
Rarely I was cut and I bled

all over the clean dishes
I’d rinse them and
do it again

This is a freshly washed plate
in a drainer and
oh my appetites are

so wild for it that I must consider
that it might be the dirty
afterplate I want most


Armor Song

To be openly ourselves nowadays 
too often feels like resisting an assault:

routinely forced to learn
muscular new love songs, forever

bulking up for the strain
of trying to hold on to each other.

Daylight comes up
on another round of attacks, snipers

watching for us to dare
to be openly together and say,

beloved, here we can sing out loud
to each other, 
here we can be safe.

At night, assassins roll up on our homes
where we thought we could leave

the curtains open at least through dinner
so we could watch the city twinkle

or see fireflies grace the neighborhood
as night took hold. We dare to say

beloved, even in darkness there’s light,
however small, however fleeting;

then, too often, comes the shot
or the knife, the fire on the lawn.

Somehow, bewilderingly so,
so many still hate us here

who smile and pat our backs 
in public, then slink into corners to plan

how we might be removed or 
erased completely from our own lives.

If we ever escape the need to be
this perpetually strong, this might be

a good place to hold on to one another
more loosely and engage the softness

we keep behind armor now; until then
we flex, we watch, we love, we guard. 


Apology

In the decayed eyes
of the recently dead
sparrow

(who likely hit my window
when I was not home and fell
to the mulch below and lay there
unnoticed until
I went out to replenish
the swift-emptying feeders
tha brought it here)

is everything that is coming:
vision sinking into the bones
that supported it
that will disappear
in their own time and 
feed whatever is next

I felt deep sorrow
and offered my apology
for making it so easy
to indulge hungers that
in the end it led to
your unexpected death

then I
refilled the feeders