Category Archives: poetry

A Bowl Of Strawberries

Right now, 
somewhere not here,
there must be
a bowl of strawberries.
If they were here

I’d split them with you —

all I want is the tips.

You can have the rest
as long as

I can feel the
gentle rasp of each point
when I push my tongue
across them all
one by one

and then 
consume each tiny peak
slowly, individually.

You 
can eat them as you wish:
forkfuls, spoonfuls,
handfuls at a time;

soak them down in nectar
or powder them with sugar
from crimson down to pink
before you begin;

they’re yours now,
do as you want, take
your own particular
pleasure in them;

I will as always
eat mine straight 
and pure without
enhancements;

slight bitter
under sweet,
sharp as the knowledge
that what I gave
was just as good
as what I held,

and both of us were satisfied.

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Our Nation Is A Concert Hall

The acoustics in this place
are fabulous — drop a dime
and it reverberates like a 
cop’s Glock in an alley — 
snap your fingers
and the echoes celebrate
like snobs in a gallery of pretense —
say the word “No” and 
men for miles beyond
will hear its glassy clarity
and be able to ignore it
as if it were uttered directly
to them. The sight lines leave

much to be desired; every seat
has an obstructed view although
you can’t see that until you sit.
From every seat
every other seat looks better
(and then the whispers start and
groaning starts and muttering and
the acoustics kick back in and
you can’t even focus on what you came 
to see because you’re drowning
in sound). Whoever lights the stage 

washes everything in such a 
hot white glaze that desperation
and passion bleach into hokum
and mistaken identity — imagine 
artists looking so blue-white 
you and they are blinded — the tech crew 
stumbles over them as they scramble
to keep things on track — and when it comes

to the season, the schedule, the booking
policies — well, it’s hard to tell an opera
from a mosh pit these days so perhaps
all can be forgiven as long as the public
is happy and buying tickets and 
not hurling pounds of their own flesh
at the performers singing their hearts
right out of their chests while 
blinking up there in the brutal light
that makes the stage blood look like
sheet cake frosting smeared all over
after the wildest party in the entire wild history
of the whole entire damned and damning world.


Larval

Shelving for now
my overarching fantasy of becoming
a mastermind of some esoteric
discipline to be held in secret
until it becomes necessary
for survival; mothballing

my own need
to be of some use and
turning instead to
pupation ahead of
a destined transformation 
that may or may not happen: after all
cocoons and pupae may still die;
even at that penultimate moment
of incipient lives, nothing
promised is ever certain. Stepping

back from the personal edge
in this moment of grand, worldwide edge
to consider the folly 
of my belief in my own indispensability
and to marvel at how final 
it all feels and yet,
even so, I long
to break out and get free

of those larval virtues and vices
of my past; hoping that instead
when I do emerge, all those old marbles
will tumble out of my once-child hands
and all these games will end and then
whatever I am in that real instant
will be adequate at the least, more 
than enough at the most, ready to be
valued, to extend time, to ground
a future where before there had been
only a flight, a vision
of improbably perfect wings.


The Golem Song

This darkness
has pushed me to sing

because if I do not
it will drown me.

So I gurgling
sing the murk,

the murder,
thick burdens

laid upon
head and lungs.

I strangling sing
my fight to get above it

though I feel 
no hope

of light there and anticipate
no whisper beyond my own

to offer me
harmony. No, I am

Golem and I
don’t know who

raised me or why,
or how against all lore

and odds I am singing
when there seem

to be so few
to listen and by law

and story I should be
silent by now. I am

not, though. I am
not though it is dark

and these words
carry not even feeble light.

Still, I am  — and I flop about
and sing this glug of mud.

I must have been made
for some cause. Nothing

could be so cruel
as to have drawn me

thus forth
for nothing.


A Bouquet Of Lies

I wrote a bouquet of lies
and handed them out
at intersections.  People
seem to like them, so
I’m making more. 

People seem to like them.
I’m making more 
of that
than I should, 
perhaps. Perhaps I’m
made for this. Perhaps I’m
just a born liar.

A born liar, but perhaps
people like a born liar.
Better than a made one,
perhaps? Who gets made
into a liar, anyway?

Whoever gets made as a liar
ought to stop lying and
get away from what made them
lie. No one’s born to it; ask
any kid about anything. You’ll see.

You’ll see: if you ask a little kid
a question, they will tell the truth
with simple brutality.  We teach them
how to lie — first by polite silence,
then by lying to them all the time.

Then we lie there, all the time, 
knowing what we’ve done to our kids.
No wonder everyone seems to love
getting blooms from the bouquet of lies. 
It’s funereal out there. Here is something

to take the edge off. To make you feel
perhaps better, by knowing you aren’t alone
in the lying business. Here’s another
pretty one. I see you smiling as you 
take it from me. We know what’s at stake.


A Simple Plan

Engaged, enraged, and exhausted:
the first gets me out of bed;

the second keeps me upright and moving; 
the third lays me down

and also reminds me that
there will be an end to this someday.


The Garden

Here they are:
the fruits of 
our long and dirty labor

falling from their trees,
hitting the ground as rotten
as the heartwood that fed them.

When they break,
they will split, expose
their mush, stink.

It’s up to us
to rake them all up,
burn them, salt the ground

where they grew,
cut down sprouts,
end this. Of course

there can be no promise
that no missed seeds
will fall to the ground

to grow again
into a poisonous
stranglehold

on what we hold dear,
but we must put hope aside
as a luxury until

we’ve fulfilled the hope
that those who came before
put into us. This 

is our job.  These 
are our fruits, reeking
of us and our inattention

and lax oversight. Until
we atone and set our garden 
right, what right do we have to hope?


Our Burning City On The Hill

A thick blanket of chaos
falls upon the holy fires
consuming our city on the hill,
seeking a way to extinguish them;

we wake to mouthfuls of
robin feathers choking us
as we struggle in a bath of scalding air,
tortured by unbearable skin; we strip ourselves

of all objects metallic right down
to ancient fillings in our teeth;
we shift our church altars to the worship
of ice; we love each other from afar

in an effort to stay unmelted; watch
our unknown neighbors swell
with superheated air 
and rise,
sky lanterns celebrating 
immolation,

falling to earth in unknown places,
setting new fires 
in distant towns;
we can’t bother 
with those screaming beyond us;
we can’t bother to pick the stems

of those feathers from our mouths so
we swallow them as we do so much
else, knowing they will pierce us
like our bigotry from inside our deepest guts,

setting us to bleed boiling 
into our farthest crevices; a thick blanket
of chaos like a wool combed with spikes and 
the nails of dying children; in all this

the only hope left is that we drown soon
or suffocate in the steam of a rising ocean
that will bring the birds back in with it;
swooping over the last scraps of the old

conflagration, their feathers
coated in both mourning
and morning, exalting
as they grieve that our flesh

is no tender feast,
that we’re roasted to leather
as they swoop, seeking places
to nest in the wreckage

of our city on the hill.


If I Could Explain

If I could explain
why I listen to gospel services
on Sunday morning radio
though I am no Christian or even
much in sympathy with Christianity,
paying nearly the same attention 
to its content

as I do to a stray episode
of “Law And Order” on a barroom television,
though I am not at all a cop, neither
am I at all a lawyer, and am
slightly less criminal than many;

and slightly less attention
to either of those than I do 
to distant salsa tunes from two floors up,
though I am no dancer or singer
in Spanish or anything else,

then perhaps I could explain to you, 
and to myself as well, 
how I became a poet. 

Maybe I could explain why Jesus
and Lenny Briscoe and
Marc Anthony rotate through
my firmament on some 
indecipherable yet certain timing;

or I might be able to explain
why I feel like life barely grazes me
most of the time, 
though I feel all of it 
at least lightly;

I could even maybe explain 
how when I am nicked by living 
I bleed out everything 
I’ve ever felt
and call that art 
once I’ve run my fingers
through the flood
and tried to make patterns

in what lands and dries 
in front of me, although
it never does the job
quite well enough;

so I go back to cursory church and 
peripheral crime and loving music 
I can’t understand
just for the sake of listening

while waiting for the next barrage
to brush me, the next wound to open me, 
the next opportunity
to play in my red.


A Revolution Will Only Come

A revolution will only come

when our children can kneel
among trees and remain still
as they are pelted from above
with falling acorns, nuts, fruits,
and cones, chanting the beat
of the earth upon them.

It will come when
they can kneel on shore,
shivering, soaking
in the rush of surf, shouting
the ecstasy of the sea upon them.

It will come when they can kneel
before each other,
look into broken eyes
both like and unlike their own,
saying nothing, rising
to embrace their opposites
and weep in their arms.

It will come
when they can
disown us utterly. 

It will come
when we are unable to stop them
from stepping away from us
toward the greater good.

It will come
when they fail us more joyfully
than we have failed them.


Copy And Paste

You must demonstrate
your devotion to The Struggle
through copying and pasting

You will bring down the State that way

Perhaps someone will be moved
by the words
Begin their own path forward
through your furious impassioned mashing
of keys

I won’t deny that there is a place
for some of us in those clicks and strokes

I won’t deny that sometimes
I feel less timid
after sharing

after seeing who liked it
after seeing who shared it

I have a spreadsheet of justice
shorter perhaps
than Santa Claus’s

Mine says
naughty nice and dangerous
at the top

It has columns
and pivot tables

I keep track of shares and likes
and originators and sometimes
I make a little mark about those
who never do anything

My spreadsheet of justice
tells me who I should love

Copy and paste this if
you want to end injustice
or stop cancer

Someone is always
watching and 
listening

Demonstrate
or be suspect


Johnny Loves Tech

Johnny loves tech,
say all of his work friends. Knows a
shitload about it. They ask him
to fix stuff all the time.  Just a week ago
no one could print, Johnny
figured it out before the help desk
ever got here. They don’t even call the help desk
any more. They just ask Johnny.

Johnny says ah, it’s nothing.  He learned
a while ago that all there is to tech
is sitting with it and thinking, asking
a question or two, following up, being patient.
He learned that from his mother. She knew nothing
about such things but would
solve everything else that needed solving
by asking a few questions
and then sitting with the answers, and it always
worked for her, so…

Johnny still lives in the house he grew up in.
His mother’s long gone.  It’s still neat
and clean there, the way she kept it, would
have liked it.  He sits at night and never
touches a keyboard at home. Sits and
asks questions, sits with no answers,
sits and sits and falls asleep sitting up
in her old chair. 

Johnny loves tech, they say at work.
Johnny thinks that’s nothing, loving tech.
He sits at night and loves his mother
who didn’t love tech at the end, the beeping,
the steady pump of the machines, the knobs
on the consoles, the way it all looked so clean
and foreign to her body as she melted away.

That’s what Johnny says to himself
while he’s sitting and sitting and sitting:
it all worked perfectly and still, 
she melted away. 
Some tech
isn’t worth loving. Some tech never
answers a single question. Johnny 
sits there in front of an error message
on a screen and screams inside
about how easy some people
must think this is for him.


These Are Days

These are days
when before going out
you ascertain that
you have
all you may need
in your pockets.
 
Keys and
phone, ends
of threads you’ve tied
to others;
 
knife,
pepper gel,
tools you carry
to help you stay unentangled
with others.
 
You do not leave the house
without carrying
contradictions.
 
Those things are not
themselves
magical. They must
be in learned hands
to work
 
and you are learning
more each day
of what your hands
may have to do:
 
untying certain ends,
tightening others,
cutting others off,
spraying others down.
 
It’s a healthier
approach
no matter how
it sometimes feels
these days:
 
learning to trust in
and strengthen connection
while being suspicious
as needed and
ready for what may come.

Possessed By Golden Hearts

I have been 
possessed by golden
hearts and owned but

let free to roam and
I have been a mistake and
a good try.  Left alone

I may have been empty
and dirty, a bottle
in the gutter.  But thanks

to those, worthy of
all my praise and thanks,
who lifted me.  Even when

I was of no obvious value
to anyone I was picked up 
and held and now

I am the mistake that worked out
and am not wrong for existing.
Even when I seemed

most evil.  Even when
I stank of wrong, I was 
held as all should be held

as capable of redemption
and golden as any who held me.
Lift me, my saviors.  When I land

I will do you proud.
I will shine, light the dark,
be your hope incarnate.  I will 

offer you a place
to mount your pride
and let it stand.


The City

From ten miles out of town to here
I pass a half-dozen donut shops,
two smoke shops, one
liquor store. You get what
you pay for and clearly
there are those ready to pay for
some form of altered state
just to enter this town,
never mind to stay here,
to live here.  

As for me? My mind is clear.
I do not need a cloud 
of sugar or fat,
of smoke or drink,
to be here. 

I admit to stopping
at one or more of those
stores, but only now and then
is it anything more than
a small enhancement 
that I chase,

for here’s a view from my porch
of nothing but more porches,
a view from my back door
of nothing but more back doors.

There are times when I long to see
tree or stream with no one near them,
or hear surf, the smash of sea
on shore or rock — of course,
I’m human, there are moments
like that when I want to climb
back through the past to 
primacy.

But the view from here
is people and more people
and all the variety sings to me
and all the street sound is symphony
and I cannot want to blunt that
when so much worth knowing
is there within my reach.

Keep the donuts, the vapes
and pipes, the sips and nips
and bottles in need of draining.
Drunk and stoned
and stuffed on the city,
I am at peace.