Tag Archives: poetry

Signs Of The Next World Arriving

Dragons originate
in cones of fire,
hang lit and glowing 
low in evening sky.

Some people
fancy themselves
warriors on
worn, dank couches.

Others reach
into their chests
to pull actual weapons from
long concealment.

The air
becomes so warm
no one will be able to recall
any dream ever again.

Ash on every tongue 
except for those 
used to licking
boots and gold;

their starvation
will take
a little longer
to commence.

If there is an Angel, 
no one will know it
until its last trumpet echoes
are almost faded out.

As for our children,
they will surrender 
themselves to fire,
to ice, to flood,

to earth cracking,
to the ravenous
remainder of us, and some will 
certainly die. Some will no doubt live:

learn to ride dragons,
how to bury the past,
how to bury the dead
so they stay dead

and do not come back:
no resurrection,
no glory for what’s gone.
No letting it up from its grave.


White Smoke

the pale-faced
standing around

crush and grind
brown art then

roll it up and
burn it down

they’re high on 
theft

they don’t see it
that way

at most they’ll claim
it’s about admiration

any appropriation
an innocent mistake

but make no bones
about it — certainly

not the bones
they flicked aside

before they lit up — 
they know exactly 

what they have done
high on stolen lives

they create
what they call

a vibrant multicultural
experience

that from this angle
just looks more like

more of the usual
white smoke


Gardner Street

Gardner Street,
where the cobblestones
no longer hide under
asphalt, axle-breaker
road, commonly used
when cutting from Main South
to the faster route to downtown, 
the one not as direct but with 
fewer obstacles once you get past
the hard historic rumble
of Gardner Street. Then again,

even though driving down Main Street
offers a straight shot there,
it’s never been easy to get to
our shiny downtown
from Main South, even before
the rebuild, the driving out
of the old tenants, the tear down
of the old church, the ripping
of old fabric in favor of something
artisanal and pure and much more
wholesomely rough; if they haven’t
paved a condo courtyard down there 
with vintage cobblestones yet,
they will. 

Back on Gardner Street, right near
the new Boys and Girls Club

(located off of what they used to call
Kilby Street until someone decided

that name reminded too many
of those who ran the corners there;

GPS still calls it Kilby Street
though all the signs are down and trashed)

drivers not already
in the know
keep slamming into that open pit of cobblestones
and hard brake
or break down hard.

Townies know better

what’s under
every shiny new surface.
Know what will render
your shiny ride useless.
Know what it means
to be shined on. Know
what their streets 
used to hold. Know
real people live
on Gardner Street

and they don’t always 
just pass through.


The Root

The root,
leg grown
for depth and protection
against standing
so loosely on the surface
that one could easily fall
in any stiffer wind;

who has these now?
Whose roots are not 
shrinking, pulling free
of the earth?

Soil cracking, air
hardening. One good storm
away from toppling
for most of us.

Way of the world,
some say. Nature
is a cull, a cull is
a cleansing, a cleansing
makes new.

Holes left behind
preach a different sermon:

the drying out,
the crying out,
the soil holding
nothing

even as we dig in our toes;
a vain scramble
for purchase
we call

putting down roots.


This Place

This place:

messes and 
deliberate fractures,
victims strewn far and wide,
their hope crunching underfoot
like broken windows.

Also this place:

geological beauty;
light, color saturated through;
deep songs for the easy grace
of unstressed human being.

Not hard to understand
how one can look
at the entirety

and burn though
with the urge to stop loss
and fold the wounded
into an embrace and
turn oneself
into a shield, 

then explode with lust for
punishment
of the guilty, 
death rage against
the wreckers.


Home Cooking

Suet back in the feeders
and three days pass
before the birds find it:

first the downy pair,
then the massed sparrows,
then at last the bully jays.

It takes time 
to reestablish faith 
in abundance after

a season of scarcity.
Birds know this. 
Some weeks ago

they grew weary of
homemade suet and seed
cakes and waited 

for storebought
suet dough heavy
with peanuts.

There were no peanuts
in my homemade cakes.
I had saved those for myself

to gnaw in small handfuls
when there was nothing else
upon which to snack. 


How It Will End

If only it could end
as a bad dream ends,
with no resolution except that waking
reveals that none of it was true.

If only it could end
as a fairy tale ends, with all of them
swallowed up by something improbable
that sweeps them out to sea for good.

If only it could end 
as a good movie ends, with heroism
and vanquished villains
and a sunset bright as dawn.

It won’t end that way, 
of course. It’s going
awry and sideways and
no one is going to win.

It won’t end that way
because someone is making
a different movie, telling
a different fable, scaring us from sleep.

It won’t end that way
because we can’t imagine those stories
are ours, because we like to think
we’re awake; because they own the night

it won’t end the way we want.
Not in light. Not in sunset
or dawn. Not unless
we steal the night from them, and soon.


Say No

Say no
to the poisonous dead
who run this world
from their mausoleums. 

Say no
to killing rules determined
by the tyrannical dead
in other times.

Say no 
to how our language
was etched by the venom
of those savage dead.

Say no 
to boundaries that cast out
those living beyond those limits set
by the narrow stinging dead.

Say no 
to the rotten dead
who built this world
they do not have to live in.

You are alive.
Why do you allow yourself
to be changed and molded
by the venomous dead?

You are alive.
They stole your birthright.
Why do you bow and scrape
before the impotent dead?

Say no
to the dictates of the dead,
their corpse dominion, their 
insistence upon tradition.

Say no
to the insistent dead. That’s all
it will take to upend society.
Stop living as if they still ruled.

Say no
to the vainglorious dead.
Leave their bodies below ground.
Leave their ashes on the ocean.

Say no
to taboo and stricture.
Say no to the frantic dead
who still long to hold you down.

Say no 
to the decomposed dead 
who should
nourish, not govern.

Say no
to the stubborn dead
who have been stuck in memory
long after they should have melted away.


Peace In The Shrug

Revision.  From 2016.

Peace in the shrug
as you pull the first two red tomatoes
from your garden only to notice

they’ve been consumed
by bottom rot, at the chagrin
you feel at not catching that

earlier, the casual toss into
the base of the fence, 
the sudden awareness

of the nearly ripe 
cucumber 
hanging 
on that fence.

Peace in the shrug
at choices made, choices
that failed to pan out, choices

that went south or north or
every direction not on the compass
without an ounce of malice from anyone

involved, at people living lives
that did or did not intersect with 
your own, at the failure 

of will, the utter failure of
all your will — at the memory
of 
the twenty dollar bill on the ground

at the foot of the pay phone where
you’d just spent your last dime, and that
was thirty years ago; 

you remember it, 
it still pays you 
today.

Peace in the shrug
at the end of this world, end
of order and justice, at the plodding

of the long-awaited Beast,
the pseudo-shambolic walk of the
Giant No, the edible flesh of 

Harmony, the smacking of 
thin jaws around the bones of
All You’ve Held Dear, and now

at the very close of the last snap
of those jaws the silence
of the sunset, and the dawn

beyond your own experience
that will come, that will surely
come even without you.

Peace in the shrug
as you pass, at your last thought
forming around how the seeds 

from the tomatoes you tossed
will grow there in the dirt along the fence 
as long as rain falls and sun shines

next season, with or without you
there to moan, or wail,
or shrug such miracles off

as too little, too late 
when they were never meant 
to feed you.


This Nation

this nation has 
so many chances
to blind a person

from how
land and sea
appear gemlike 
whether up close
or from afar

to how staggering
ideas of its mythology
can become

from musical blessings
bestowed upon
those passing by

to how a random smile
from a stranger
might shift perspective
ease pain
offer comfort

this nation has so many ways
to indulge in camouflage 

blood in its soil
is easily missed
is sponged up quick
used to paint flags


No Muse

I wish I had a Muse who could do for me
what some of you claim one does for you.

Oh, I do not doubt you
when you say it; I only know

that I have been alone 
in this work. Nothing whispers in my ear

or comes to my bedside
to shake me awake in the dark

and say, “now then…now then,
here is the pen, and there is the book;

all you need do is take down
what I telling you.” Not me.

I have to scrape it up
from the desk while battling

fatigue and neuropathy. 
I have to drag it out of me

myself. I have to, have to,
have to look at every word

like a nail in my eventual
coffin or more like one

that needs pulling from a board
I need to cut to make that coffin.

If I had a Muse I could farm that out.
I could lie back and laugh

at their cruelty in the name
of art while waiting for the glory

of seeing my name alone
on the Work. Instead

I’m here between the gas bill
and the rent scratching in the dirt

to free a sprout from a seed I planted
thirty years ago and forgot to water

until now, and yet it’s coming along
pale and proto-green and maybe

if I worry enough about that and
forget the bills it might have a chance

but I’m hungry now, and angry-handed
and in pain, and money’s tight

and I’m old and this is Work
I’d love to lay off on a Muse,

but per usual I’m in this alone
and if there’s a stray Muse to be found

anywhere, I’m sure
it would offer too little and too late

for me to even bother with a summons;
back to my stubborn

scratching, worrying, and
digging in the dirt.


” Ce n’est pas un poème sur un balai”

To be a broom is to be —
if you’re lucky —
old school,
built of wood and straw;

of course, you could be
metal and plastic and 
still get the job done
but somehow I suspect

you’d be yearning
to bristle naturally
at the cobwebs and grime
of the world.

Maybe you could
hope against all hope
to be a pushbroom,
industrial in size

and scope, heaving aside
the remains of work
with great arcs and strokes,
guided by a professional hand?

To be a broom 
would be an odd dream
come true for some
who lie awake wishing

to cleanse, 
to remove and leave behind
only shiny and new and
devoid of all except what you

countenance as useful
and needed. It would be
the perfect manifestation
for people like that —

people yearning
to empty great spaces
of those they see as dirt;
once they’d transformed

I could take them and put them
carefully 
into a corner or closet,
forget about them, leave them
to gather dust.


Frogs

It’s gonna be OK,
new awakening,
new birth,
resurgence,
gonna get it all
figured out,

some say.

It’s a puzzle
how we got here,

some say.

OMG,
damn,
sigh,
who could have guessed,

some say.

Meanwhile
those long suffering masses
grown tired of screaming it out
sit on their worn hands
and aching legs

and say:

stop just reacting, 
proving as we suspected
that you’ve never listened 
to us;

it’s 
an insult and a 
crime to see your 
shock;

did you think

we were just frogs
croaking on cue

from the swamp,

background nature, 
seasonal messaging
to be heard but never understood?

May this swamp rise.
May your ground sink.
May you learn to hear
what we say

before we drown together;
most of all,

some say,

may you
(pretty please

with a strychnine cherry
on top
if that’s the only way
you can hear this)

shut up.


The Body

To pass through an abstraction of emotion
one must think about the body.

To control reaction to hate,
step into it, confront it, then guide the body.

To bring self into love’s wake,
pass into the body.

To manage the fluff and haze of self-loathing,
settle with it by praising the body.

To steel the self while offering a hand to justice,
imagine a breeze within cooling the body.

To name whatever shame calls up inside,
kiss guilt full on then fling all coverings from the body.

To pass through grief whole and safely renewed,
bathe first in sky and then the body.

To expand and take comfort in joy,
sing loudly of what surges in the body.

To be at peace with self,
do not think of self as a helpless rider in the body.

To be at peace with self,
be one with the body.


How To Thrive

I salute the dog
who would not greet me
until I removed my hat.

I honor the long look
granted me by the cat
from across the room.

I think of the snakes and lizards 
unconcerned with my face
peering through their glass.

All those creatures wary of me,
happy enough without me
or my attention, disinterested

in my approach or my retreat,
have the proper attitude
toward random human behavior:

if it does not meet
their needs or wants, 
they are serene without it.

Those who flee
if I come too close — say,
the sparrows who fly

when I come to the window
to watch them at the feeders?
I assume they know

about what people harbor
within, and that I myself do not
wish them harm is irrelevant

in the light of that knowledge.
To be wary is to live. To be cautious
is to live. To live 

in spite of threats
either obvious or hidden
is to thrive.