Monthly Archives: January 2016

Deserter

Everywhere there’s
a war, anywhere
there’s an enemy 
there’s war so therefore
anywhere, everywhere
is war.

Find your front
and stand. Find your flank
and stay wary. Find your 
rear guard and stay flexible
so that doesn’t become
a second front, the enemy 
is everywhere, anywhere. 

You’re so tired. It’s all
tired. Nothing is
keeping you here
except fear and fatigue
and the knowledge that
there’s nowhere to go where
you won’t be surrounded
by enemies including
past comrades as tired
and as ready for an end
as you are. Everywhere’s a war,
anywhere there’s an enemy
there’s a war so everywhere
there’s a war — everywhere but here

on your path, under your feet,
wherever you lay your body down
after walking away. 
It’s a hard choice —

they’ll hate you for making it —
it’s all you have left to you —
choosing where you’ll be buried and
not letting someone else
choose your boneyard. 

So, in the middle of the battle,
you go, you’re gone, 
but you were gone long ago,
truth be told. Most of this war
was epilogue, truth be told.

Most of this life, truth be told,
was about wanting to walk away
from a war.

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The Joyful Denial

some are in
joyful denial,
saying there can be

no more space for metaphor.
no more mystery play in the words.
that we must say it all plain,
not in riddle 
or picture
or otherwise carried

on a sensate back —
that we must
stay 
in the head
when we talk heart,
live by the slogan

and the obvious. it is

a joyful denial

of what it once meant
to do this — to be this;

a joyful denial

that there is a music 
to be made along with the
a meaning to find, that one
can do the latter better
through the former.

the joyful denial is

a stone in my shoe
as I walk this walk
of talk, forcing me
to worry and wonder:
am I

an extant mistake
or a 
cooling discarded body?

then the most
joyful denial:

that any of this

is worth doing. is worth
living. that regardless of

how, why
matters. so —

blade of grass
in mouth, pen

near my hand.

a different joy.


Death

I wonder what it’s going
to be like.  

Will there be a path like a 
trail over a mountain pass?

Is there a darkness
that will be lifted, or

one that will fall?
How will I know 

it’s happened,
how do I know

it has not already
happened once, twice,

a million times
in a million years? 

I want to know
but am scared to learn

although I expect that
when I do learn, it will be

as if nothing has happened
and I’ll shrug it off, say

I wonder if I’ll know
when the next thing happens

after this one, or will I 
remain as always

in this state,
this bewildered push

through the mist around
Truth and Understanding

until the Wheel stops
and I stop as well

and stand there, quietly
waiting for Someone 

who may never come
to explain it at last?


It Went Wrong

It went wrong from the start, part
of a white batch should have been 
brown batch, could have been honorable
but slipped into shadowed intent, would have been
mistake but instead was evil deliberate
and thoughtful, long hours working out
how to be wrong, devotion to the mess-up
as mask for the getaway plan, give up 
the fess-up in favor of the caught neck deep
in an excuse: it went wrong from the start
and once that goes on for a long time, a lifetime, 
the trip out of the wilderness where it ends up
is long and thirsty work, lonely work
with no comrades to buck up the pace,
work best done alone and even when done
it will be at best only a sloppy poultice
on a gash where blood may drain away
but still there will be hideous visuals for all
who care to see; it went wrong from the start
and the bones of the error are exposed
for all to see and stare upon or shrug at
as dismissal and shunning and forgetfulness
cover the Mistake, the white batch
that should have been brown, as if 
that would have prevented any of this
from happening.


Prayer For Poets

Whosoever is born to
the pain of being a poet

let them sooner rather than later
be dissolved in their own tears, let them

ape their monstrous peers
until they fade into them,

let them be eaten by 
appetites for language

made duplex, false incentives,
a rogue belief in themselves

as beings of consequence.
Let those who call themselves poet

escape it however they can.
Let those who call themselves poet

live to fail their own tongues
and thus become,

if less complete, more
at peace if only in the short term;

if they are sometimes troubled
by the verses they have not written, 

let that pain be transitory as they sink into
the dull comfort of routine and simple life.

Let all of them find their way clear
to the moment of freedom

even if the only way out
is with gun, noose, or pills;

a quiet death in the arms
of a life unsullied by that calling

is the best
they can hope for.


My Dog

Originally posted 9/22/2012.

The pup comes right up to my nose.  

When I look him in the eye and say
shushumsmooshumnomnomnom pretty puppy,
I realize I’m actually praying, saying

I recall you stealing meat from my fire
when you were hungry,
when you were young 
and alone. 

Roll over on my back and let the pup
drown me with his face, his wash, his tongue.
I laugh and gurgle through it.

The pup turns
his belly to the air.
I am saying

I recall you barking, I recall
my understanding of the nuances,
the rough snap of those calls. So much has changed.

There is a book that calls this “dominion.” Another
that calls you “unclean,”  another that calls for you
to be skinned and boiled and eaten as a delicacy.

Pup, you don’t have a book, do you?  That’s a shame.
I want to know what you think of us
beyond the easy slurp gospel you’re preaching

now that you’re pure wag, unfiltered unspeakable joy.
Shushumsmooshumnomnomnom, who’s a good dog?
That is what the wind says when it whistles

around the throne of heaven.

 


The Eighties

Imagine a video, grainy, herky-jerk
in the style of the day.  
There would be music —

ambient cheese,
machine dribbles and drip-drops

behind a voiceover of a poet
intoning something trivial.

The visual would be of a person in a crowded reception hall.  
Celebrities honored and infamous slapping them on the back.

Come-ons, sly glances,
hero worship.

The person walks home, accosted by random passers-by
insisting upon artifacts, autographs, posed pictures —

everyone’s got a camera, not a cell phone to be seen —
it’s a tourist town. The person is an attraction.

Gets home, climbs stairs,
sits heavily down amid squalor. 

Buries face in hands, or tries to, but the face passes through the hands
and now the person finds they are behind the neck,

as if there were cuffs to be applied
or a bullet is coming to the skull soon.

Outside, a crowd gathers,
looking up at the window, all of them holding candles.

Dissolve to seascape. The person walking, translucent;
the ocean can be seen through their twinkle, the moon above it all.

The person leaps into the surf as the shot dissolves again
to the crowd, the candles, the fade out.

If this were the Eighties we could get away with this:
the music dripping, the poem droning,

the air glimmering, the crowds desperate
for the Touch Of Meaning. The open ending, the after shrug.

And the Person, who exists in the video
for the sole purpose of being a patsy for the Director

who cannot be bothered to explain any of this
in later years when asked about it.

The Director waves an airy hand, says, 
“It was the Eighties. We got away with murder.” 

Didn’t everyone alive then
feel that way?
Didn’t it seem
like one big crime scene?
Didn’t it feel like
there was a concealed weapon
under every jacket? A body
in every trunk? There was a mystery
to be solved upon waking
every damn day and we all
were trying to solve it,

and we never did. It became 
the Nineties and then the Aughts
and now everyone can smell 
the bodies left unburied and 

everyone left has their hands up,
waiting.


Nothing Special

You keep at it 
as if being a poet is special.
There’s nothing special about it —

you see a thing you need to survive,
chase it down, catch it, consume it,
spend hours after cleaning up after yourself
and the mess you’ve made of it, then
sleep until it’s time
to do it again.  Any cheetah can do it,
does it without a lot of thought.

Or you roam constantly foraging
and now and then break into a full run
zigging, zagging, leaping. Looks like fun
to the world watching but it’s complete 
terror on the hoof and maybe (eventually,
probably, certainly)
you die at the end; nothing to it,
any antelope could do it, does it
without a lot of thought.

Yet there you are, doing it
and straining to do it
and pouring angst about it
into a cup fashioned for blood, 
and you want
some kind of award
or some kind of book deal
or some kind of video ranking
or some kind of love for doing it —
God, look at yourself;
could you even survive
if you had to? Could you cheat death
multiple times, or even once?

You want fame for how hard
you’ve made this? You want joy
for being what you have no choice
in being?
Get running or
get gone.
Nothing to this
but that.


What You Said

What you said to me —
not what you said, but how you said it,
in a voice like bees drowsing around the sill,
a murmur one hair above whisper; with
enough volume to pause me in mid-kiss
and make me pull back and see you
newly, wiping the sweat from my eyes
and re-opening them to see you again
as you were when we first met;
what you said
held me in a cloud, a mist of suspension,
slightly afraid of touching down and losing
this rising, this hovering as if by angels 
above the warm but finite earth, 
what you said
that is only recalled as tattoo upon my back,
as being there always but requiring a turn,
an effort to see it;
what you said.

Oh, what you said —

all I need now and always
is in what you said that day
that pulled me into you,
into my life that I call now

us

we two

the two of us 

one.


Don’t Write When Listening To Music

don’t write when listening to music
in case you get stuck on a phrase
and have to listen to more to get unstuck
and don’t know if you should re-listen
to the same music or perhaps
change genres completely, maybe switch
from swift stream jazz to more angular
metal or a blues stomp that releases you
from expectation because
so much could come from that
but then you’ll have to live up to it
and maybe the best you can do
is try to live up to it knowing you’ll fail
because all you have is a box of nested words
and the music has all the sun and moon and stars
and blood and pulse and if you have to ask what else
it’s beyond you
and with it being contained in one note
it’s beyond you
and without you being able to respond
without song yourself and you can’t
SING
it’s beyond you
so don’t write when listening to music
you’ll feel your fool coming out
you’ll feel your frail coming on
you’ll feel and have to stop
perhaps for good or perhaps for ill
but you’ll have to stop
you feeble frail fool
you’ll have to stop
and maybe not write again
until you are silent within
and with this song being
as large as the
supermoon stars and 

galactic sun drops on 
icy blue paths through
whitespace

that
won’t
easily
happen


The Last Goddess Catches The Bus

The last goddess
sits on her suitcase
waiting for a bus 
to take her away.

The people here
are mad either for no god
or a sky god, and she’s
been mostly forgotten

in the salty war around
the existence or non-existence
of a Big Guy; here,
everyone’s a partisan

for either Phallus or Fallacy
and when no one bothers
to offer worship or sacrifice
to a goddess 

she moves on,
ever practical,
seeking a temple elsewhere 
that needs a new occupant. 

The last goddess
is getting gone while
the getting is good. Not for her
the second class status

of an also-ran, a decorative
memory, a pocket full of 
quaint.  She was made for war
and wisdom and this place

wants one without the other now;
she was made
for grace and mercy
and neither is well-honored here.

She will catch the bus
and go where she will be welcome.
Some here will miss her
when she goes, but a goddess 

never settles for diminishment.
The ones who love her will go with her;
whatever is left behind
will be forever on its own.


Restoration

No axes,
no hammers
on the pegboards
in the basement.

No kitchen knives, no
rolling pins smoothed and
patina-clothed from meals
without number
in the drawer
next to the stove.

No guitars in the closet
with their necks so worn
in certain spots 
upon the back and
up against particular frets
along the front 
that the seasoned eye 
could tell you, swiftly,
what each instrument
had played — 

this old house has been cleansed.  
Someone’s gone through it.
It’s all new wood and
updates — empty basement
walls where the pegboards once 
hung, empty closets that once held
costumes from Halloweens past,
shoes forgotten in the corners,
those infernal guitars.

A delightful period Colonial
updated with all the modern conveniences
where it used to have inconveniences —

scarce wall plugs, shallow cabinets,
drafty windows, a peculiar rattle
on nights when the wind came from 
exactly the right direction to cause
the eaves to whistle and shake —

it used to be able to talk.
It used to be full of stories,

but now there’s all that new wood and
all those tight and noiseless floors
and doors and heating ducts.

It’s silent, longing to begin
its inevitable fall 
back into wear and want and 
clutter and disrepair, back 
into chatter and clamor
(through stain and splinter)
about those who live here;

it awaits 
restoration from
house
to home.


Looking Back

I twisted away
from the comfort my life
was supposed to hold

toward unknown territory
where this Work was all.
I chose Love over Ease.

I could have stayed the course.
Could have hung with the good people
at the money job and

kept my spare time
for the good people 
at the art job,

but I tried something else and
now it feels
like no one knows me

based on what I am in total
and on my not being willing
to move one way or the other

if it means negating all 
dichotomies within me.
Such a choice would leave

the best of me behind.
Leave me wanting, unwanted.
Leave me only my own bones

to pick,
seeking myself
among my scraps.

I ought to be whole.
I try to stay whole.
Whenever I am split

I try to stitch myself. Days like this
all I can see of myself
is seams ripped and rewrapped

and mended with a million
different threads, blood
dotting the edges, swollen 

from the constant repair
and so fragile I burst 
routinely. I hate this

patchwork me, this 
once-beloved stuffed
bear still cherished by a few

mostly because I’m here
and apparently known to them;
I could do without myself as I am.

Still, in looking back
I can say there were moments when
it all made sense. It was more than

just hard work. It was more than
just work, more than just hard.
I can recall the touch of

loved ones, the touching.
Can recall that there were answers 
to unvoiced questions, even if I 

cannot recall them now. I know
they were there and I had them
and I was satisfied

for a few solid seconds. 
I can recall the seams and blood
becoming invisible in the right light

that briefly illuminated all.
I recall and recall and recall.
A voice re-calling the past

is all I hear — was it enough,
were those moments
enough? The same voice

responds, they will have to be.
I sit with that a while, then realize
that voice is not my own,

and I feel the stitches pull.


Let Us

Let us now detain
an empty hand.

Let us now arrest
common sense.

Let us now place it
in a box of steel.

Let us now arraign
our commonwealth.

Let us now remand
the pleading glance.

Let us now bring to trial
this asked-for mercy.

Let us now convict
a simple demand.

Let us now deny
one last appeal.

Let us now execute
final hope.

Let us do it
again and again until

one day let us 
stop, let us stop,

let us stop before we
are devoured by an appetite

for order untempered
by justice. Let us

release ourselves
from ourselves.


The Directionless

On the first morning
I am content to 
step away from my daily practice
without context or pretext

(no illness,
no pressing engagement, no need
to flee a disaster natural or man-made
or handmade)

and feel absolutely no
guilt or tug back
toward the Work —

that morning, I will look up
and keep looking up
and rise until
there will be no up
left to see —

only Surroundings,
the Directionless, the place

I was meant to be — place
where the Work ends. The place
the Work describes
and explains to me,
patiently,
one morning at a time.