I Will Be Content

Originally posted on 7/5/2005, without a title, as a section of a larger essay.

I ride this world as if Ganesh himself
had plucked me up and placed me upon his back.
I am grateful, but did not seek this. Eventually
I will surely fall just as I have risen.
I will be content.

If I were nothing again,
the nothing before something,
just my parent’s desire, strong enough 
to come forth, too weak to do more; if I were
that nothing, I would still be content.

Some of you understand how a tree falls
when the elephant straightens. A leaf falls,
and the tree lifts itself higher.  
What will happen if I fall? Nothing at all.
I would be content.

Exam Questions For The Next World

Originally posted 7/12/2013.  

Section One:

Explain intersectionality
as it relates to
systemic oppression.
Include in your essay
the following terms:

blood dugout. 
pitted bone.
rape shop.
sharpened stone.

Section Two:

If you are assigned 
the role of scapegoat,
how will you survive
your turn in the wilderness?

Show your work.

Section Three:

What five words
ought to be erased or respelled
in order to lift their magic?  
Defend your choices

without attacking others.

Section Four:

Define a process
for removing
the history
in your own eye.

Section Five:

Will there be any room for any mercy
in the next world
that has not already been shown
in the present one?



On Privilege

Originally posted 7/25/2010.

Definition: an oil,
a thin clear oil,
that gets on everything.
When it clumps in dark corners
it is obvious
if you put a light on it,
when spread around
it becomes invisible,
until you try to grip something.

If you’re born coated with it
the ones who came before you
teach you how
to work with it,
how to forget about it
as you make it stick
where you want it to stick.

No wonder you’re insulted
when people
calls you “slick”
as they try
to make you see how
it shines so evenly on your skin
while on their own
it’s just a mess of smears and blotches.
No wonder that when you try to touch
those exposed patches,
it comes between you.  

The wells that pump it
are deep.  Pulling up the pipes
is not like pulling teeth.
More like pulling roots,
long roots, nearly infinite roots
that cross lawns, 
that have spread under roads;

pull them and the world splits above them.

The depth of their reservoirs is like unto

the Hell you’ve heard so much about:
there is fire, there is ice, there is
the Adversary who rules it

and oh, he says he loves you, his slick

bastard.  How could you hurt him so
by rejecting his slippery gifts?

If in spite of that
you start scrubbing and pulling
because that is what Hope requires of us,
you should know the truth:
no one really knows what a dry world
would be like, but at least
we would be able to touch and not slide apart,

and could hold on to each other as we are learning.


Prayer For A Sound Sleep

Originally posted 1/11/2010.

Please, no earthquakes
or supervolcanoes tonight.

If the world is going to end in my lifetime
I want to be awake when it happens.

There will be something to see
in those last seconds

before the curtain tumbles around us
laden with stone and flame

and I’ll surely be one of those 
compelled to capture it

and cram what little sense
can be made of it

into words 
no one will read.

I would like a good night’s sleep 
before I face that, a good night

thinking of good things
to do in my good future.

So please, no asteroid collision,
no planetary conflagration tonight.

It’s not much to ask,
I think,

to want to be awake and at my best
when the worst happens.


Originally posted 4/3/2014.  

If you choose 
to remake yourself 
as a dead man, 

when you have done yourself in,
whether you do it yourself
with a tool or weapon
or whether you do it yourself
with food or drug or antic mistake,
everyone will know it was you

and you will learn
(while you are newly disembodied 
but still able to hear everything 
they’re saying about you)
that your people
will get as angry as picadors
when a bull escapes 
its obvious fate. 
They will rage on about it
for a time,
wanting to stick that dead bull
till it bleeds anew. Bull-boy,
they’ll be really angry with you
at first

but after a time
you will be forgotten.

People prefer their bulls to live or die
by the hand of 
a matador
who stands and fights
with a bull who stands and fights.
No matter who wins 
the winner is loved,
no matter who dies fighting
the loser is loved.
He who does not die fighting 
is always forgotten,
win or lose.
Just another animal,
another meal,
another heap to be carted offstage
amid cheers.

Bull-boy, it’s time: 
time for that cape, 
that suit of arrogant and foolish lights;
those darts in your hide, 
the blood running down;
the lusty crowd calling for your charge.
Time for your best, or your worst.
Time to trample time underfoot,
to render it flat, to trap it
by crushing it forever 
under some body
that will never move again.

Godwin Revisited

Originally posted on 3/2/2010.

Your opinion
seemed right to you.
shit started. Soon,
it happened:


says the anonymous poster,
you’re a
for suggesting
such a thing.

By now, you’ve forgotten
what you actually said so 


you respond,
you’re the
for bringing
into this. 
Trying to scare me
into shutting up
by invoking
that’s a
thing to do.

Nazi Nazi!
chimes in a
supporter of your enemy.
What was this about again?

Nazi Nazi Nazi!

Damn, doesn’t it feel good
to bring them up in connection
with anything at all?
Baseball card futures, Area 51,
that Palin woman, hairstyles,
the latest incarnation
of garage rock?

It feels good
to hear that marching
in the world outside, 
as if your blood
demands it from you,

as if it doesn’t matter
where you were headed
as long as you eventually
get to a point

where that word
can roll off
your outstretched fingers.

The Light Through The Pillars

Originally posted 1/17/2013.

In late spring,
almost at the solstice,
far outside
my own home city,

I sit alone and eat a bowl of oatmeal
in the kitchen of a house
with a model of Stonehenge
on the coffee table in the living room.

In the back bedroom
a tired, tender woman feeds a fawn
whose mother was killed by an 18-wheeler
this morning before dawn.

If any of those who built Stonehenge
were to appear here right now
they would at once recognize this light
as what they’d once seen through the pillars.

The Blue Whale

Originally posted 3/30/2013.

Amid the conventional people
and everyday happenings
on my street, something, perhaps

a blue whale, has passed
through the air
behind me.

I turn
once it has gone
and see only

conventional people and
everyday happenings.
I sense something

I have been missing for decades
has just brushed me,
and I want to weep,

but only with someone else
who felt it as well.
I cannot weep alone for this,

because one man
weeping alone
is no way to offer praise

to whatever has made
such things,
to whatever

has seen to it that things exist
which, though unseen,
are nonetheless deeply known.

Thomas Behind The Wheel

Originally posted 11/29/2011.

Open the car window at
eighty miles an hour. 
Cars peel off behind me

until the highway’s
empty. No one 
is going my way. 

The city forty miles ahead.
The sky, orange
over deepest black.

Rumors of riot and fire all day.  
It’s the end of the world, some say,
but no one wants proof except me.

How foolish, how
odd that is — to
just curl up and die

or hide in the boondocks
without seeing for yourself?
In fact, how can you even flee

when you consider this world?  
Maybe that’s the best of all possible
pyres up ahead.

Stuck my fingers
into wounds once, long ago,
to prove to myself

that the world wasn’t ending
after all.  Why wouldn’t I
do this? It worked out last time so

I gun it.  I go.
I’ve always been the one
who has to know. 

tommy hope

Originally posted on July 4, 2005.   Formerly titled “tommy l’esperance.”

tommy hope
was eddie hope’s brother

eddie hope
was my friend

who died at ten
when a big dodge caught him
tipped him ass over head
dragged him from here to ramelli ford
and that was pretty far back then
pretty far to us at ten

tommy hope
eddie’s brother
had two other brothers on smack
a father on the bottle
a mother who looked sixty at thirty-five
they all died early too

tommy hope
eddie’s brother
got killed a week ago
shot by a homeowner who caught him
falling out of the second story window
onto the back porch roof
trying to hold onto a microwave
during a half-assed burgling

i went to tommy’s funeral
there were some fat guys
with stringy hair
and short ties
a couple of tommy’s kids
all snotted up and whining
while his girlfriend kept going out
for a smoke

when i was ten no one was my friend
the way eddie hope was my friend

so i went to tommy’s funeral
because tommy was eddie’s brother
and eddie would have wanted me to go

i looked into tommy’s face

if when alive
he’d passed me somewhere
or robbed me somewhere
i would never have known him
all i remember of him 
was that he was a sometimes annoying
little tagalong
who hung around me after eddie died
until they moved to woonsocket
and i never heard from them again

after the car dragged eddie
his face remained intact
he looked like himself
when they put him in the ground
thus rendering him 
the only member of his family
to remain forever
uncorrupted and
beyond my judgment

World Record In Japan: Largest Orgy

Originally posted on 10/21/2009.  

Amusingly enough and perhaps not surprisingly, this is the single most visited poem on this blog. I would imagine a LOT of those who find it on a search are surprised when they get to a poem…I suppose I owe it to myself and those countless mystified seekers to do a revision.

Yes, it really happened.  Here’s the link:

World record in Japan: largest orgy

“Synchronized positions from oral sex, 69 action, girl on top sex, zoom ups on various individuals and ejaculations on the breasts to complete the production.”  — from the ad for the DVD of the event

Only the untried imagining
is ever truly perfect
so it seems safe to assume the actual event
was as awkward in execution
as it seems to appear from the photos
of two hundred and fifty couples
in normed and scripted unison,
all allegedly getting off
in dry anticipation
of commercial gain and worldwide
as the cameras whirred.

No doubt somewhere
out in that warehouse
someone was thinking of the past,
and someone else of the future.
At least a few
were likely looking elsewhere,
those lovely bodies
moaning on the next mat
urging them on
in the name of
achieving individual goals – 
bragging rights,
the honor of having been there,
a jump start for fading lust,
a rocks-off jazzing of a minimal life,
a fantasy of visibility
amplifying the personal moment.

What happened afterward
is unrecorded.

It seems safe to assume
that some left together
and some did not.  
Some surely went home
and did something
that hadn’t been in the script.
Some have since 
tried to forget
that it ever happened.
Some thought about 
making it bigger,
grander, introducing new elements,
new positions and toys.
Perhaps they called up 
a few friends
to rehearse.

Somewhere out there
beyond the synchronized acts
and the documented proof of said acts
perfection remains 
and it will still be there
when we get up tomorrow 
from wherever 
we’ve laid ourselves down

William Stafford

Originally posted 10/22/2012.

The last poems
of William Stafford
fill this room with light
when I open to them.

There are
poets who noun verbs
and verb nouns,
who never met
adjectives they didn’t
absorb, who know mostly
how not to be themselves
when they write; they praise themselves
endlessly for their own cleverness.
I can find their poems anywhere.
I often trip over them in the dark.

Reading the last poems
of then-dying,
William Stafford, searching
for any darkness in there
that he certainly
would have been allowed
to express, but
it’s missing.
All that’s there is
light and
William Stafford.

At The Reunion, Joe The Hammer Buys Me A Beer

Originally posted 10/29/2009.

When you’re a hammer,
said my high school buddy
Joe The Hammer,
everything looks like a nail.

When you’re a hammer
facing a problem

you do one of two things:
you bang on it or
you pull it out.

It works, mostly,
but sometimes I wish
that I’d been born
a precision screwdriver.
I wish I’d been made for details,
like you were.  But I wasn’t.

I was a hammer, did
framing twenty years,
had my own business the last ten.
I slammed and yanked
and banged my thumb
a lot.  It was
a good living for a long time,
it’s been up and down lately,
but I don’t complain.

You, he said,
you, though. 
You write, you travel,
make stories come out the way
you want them to be.

I’ve read some of it, and damn, man.
Damn! What that must be like.
What is that like?

The Hammer
slapped me on the back

as I peeled the label
off the bottle,
studied my unscarred hands,
thought about stories coming out
the way I wanted them to be;

tried to figure out
what kind of tool I was
that I wanted to be
anywhere but there right then.

The News From Whipsmart City

Originally posted 9/28/2012.  

My neighbor’s standing naked in his window
singing a children’s song
Licorice stick, licorice stick, gonna eat one pretty darn quick

Somebody get that man a robe
Off to another dense start
to another dense day in Whipsmart City

Last night flung me around my bed
lodged between sleep and wake
Oh my aching back and sides, oh my aching heart and mind

I wish I had a river of sleep
to drown my aching heart and mind
But it’s too late for sleep to do me any good at all

It’s off to my day job on the morning drive time
describing massacre victims with a sweet vocabulary
with a hey nonny nonny and a robot chip

(I almost said “massacred innocents”
but then I had to laugh
because if I thought any of these stiffs were innocent I’d go insane)

Two pills for breakfast two more for lunch
and a fifth mid-afternoon
I get no kick from God or Country, no kick from going along

After work a beer
or a blood and Jaeger cocktail
I drive home and wrestle my guardian angel to a draw

Soon enough I’ll be off to bed
which I’m fond of up to a point
Gabba gabba dead man gabba gabba flay

Thank God or Some Bigger Monster that I stopped dreaming long ago
My neighbors took my dreams away
which explains their children’s songs

Next morning the guy next door is once again
standing naked in the window with those stolen songs in his mouth
Sweet land of liberty of thee I loudly sing

I can’t get too excited about him
being obscene or crazy or maybe some kind of performance artist
when there are so many corpses to talk about here in Whipsmart City

It Gets Better

Originally posted 8/10/2010.

Colonial dentists
advertised for tooth donors

when they needed to make dentures — offering
half empty mouths
and fuller pockets for some.
The ads read, often, “White Teeth Only.”
That didn’t refer to their color.

Some white folks back then
didn’t want African teeth in their faces, but
George Washington, denture wearing
father of his country,
didn’t care. Teeth were teeth
no matter where they came from 
to George Washington,
even if they came
from slaves he always saw
as lazy and unwilling to work
in bad weather. 

Suck it up, 
he told his slaves.  You’ll be free
when Martha and I die.
That’s a promise in our will,
right there in black and white.
Until then, smile and get going.

In an act of generosity,
Martha Washington freed all the slaves
George had brought to their marriage
upon his death,
keeping in bondage only those
she’d owned before the marriage.
124 slaves out of 300 got an early release –

an early example of how things get better.

They banned the slave trade here a few years later,
leaving the breeding of existing slaves
as the only source of new sweat.  No more ships
full of anguished cargo, no more immoral raids
in Africa, no more need of the Middle Passage
for resupply.  

Things, again, were getting better.

There were all those years of conflict
and finally a war to free the slaves
once and for all,
replacing human bondage by law
with human bondage by money,
but at least
no one could be called a slave,
at least the dentures
all came from free men. 

Things kept getting better.

Say it with me: it gets better.
It’s what we always say: 
don’t worry, it gets better.
Just hang on, it’ll get better,
suck it up, it’ll get better,
we know it’s cold but it will get better,
just ignore it and be strong, it will get better,
how about we wear a bracelet 
in solidarity till it gets better,
a T-shirt till it gets better,
chin up, it will get better
don’t know how fast
it will happen but it will get better,
just look at history – 
desperate teeth became pearls of honor,
the mouths they were torn from all became free,
those who suffered because the circumstances weren’t right
suffered on the future’s behalf
and see, it did get better – 
don’t die now
or cry now
or despair now,
it may not feel like it
but it will get better.

George Washington, father of the country,
must have known what he was doing back then –
full medical care for his slaves,
would not break up their families,
kept them marginally happy
while still enslaved
till he had no need of them,
after which it was perfectly OK for it all
to get better.
It’s the American way

and it’s how we look at you now,
you pained, you pushed,
you bullied, you edged out
and crushed and murdered and starved
and regulated until you are 
and say it again:

it gets better. 

Who are we to say it?
Who are we to say
we are not 
the better
that was intended back then,

the better that is always intended?

Maybe better isn’t just a word.
Maybe better
is the choice to put ourselves
between the bully
and the victim, between
the system and the fodder

not tomorrow.

It’s up to us
to shut our empty mouths

stop smiling
stop comforting the sorrowful

after the fact,
stop giving up our bite
and put all the teeth
we’ve got
into the moment before us.

Stop waiting.
Step in between

predator and prey.
Take a blow
before we take a bow.

It only is better
if we are better.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,044 other followers