I don't write.
I skim
the surface of
dark waters;
I hover
over a sea,
contained and
bound, that pulses
against my skin.
I imagine a skiff
skimming the sea,
blowing its hair
back in its wake.
But I don't write.

Nothing feels quite beautiful
(like the yellow waves
of early morning on open waters,
free and flowing
like mermaid hair).
Everything here
is driven by an undercurrent
beating against a shrinking shore.

I don't write
because I can't see to.
I see desert
and evaporating salt water
and a dark always evening
and a tiny boat
that will soon be resting
on the floor of a sea
that once was brimming and full
but now is sand.

"Sand is easier
to walk on than water,"
I say.
"No one sinks
in sand anymore."
Better to rest my bones
in the sun
than sink silently
into a quiet black sea.


At My Kitchen Window

From where I sit, Autumn is beautiful:
By every shade, by every scent dappled,
And shrouded in a mystery distinct from every other earthly mystery.
The seasons all stir in jealousy in her presence,
For she encompasses in all of her mysteries all of theirs:
She sings in the citrus flavors of summer,
The oranges hot and sparkling like globed fruit against her gray sky;
And burgundy blossoms fill the air with the scent of new life,
Hanging from the trees and assailing the ground in a shower,
Fallen yet triumphant;
And the brown crunch beneath the feet of all her jubilant children
Prepares the ground for winter.

Nature, all your seasons surround the Autumn thrust:
They crawl before her, stand in awe
And clamor to be nearer to her encompassing mystery.


In Memoriam R.M.R.

You, German panther-author,
You who grabbed in wide white fists the Truth of the thing,
You with great eyes racing over images
To make the image eternal, and the eternal ours:
You were struck down in your haste for a flower,
Struck down to touch the beauty of the artifice.
You bled its crimson color and died there in the soil
To gather in your body all that is life:
You, the teeming silt of flowering earth,
You, the eternal Truth of the thing.


To the Elegant Woman Whom I May Resemble

Everything elegant was in her hands--
Your hand, for instance, was there;
A flowered plastic cup or a flower from the ground;
Her glasses, round and graceful, fingered delicately.
And it is in those memories of her (of
The two of you when first in love)
That quickens my pace for something elegant of my own.
Do you know the glimmer behind her still eyes,
Even now? Do you
Remember a set of still eyes veiled behind
Porcelain lace?

And it is those images of her
That startle and stun me:
That you see a bit of her--in me?
The place I'm standing is the place I'll never leave,
Because it is where she planted me
Like a flower in her ground,
Springing up
And safely grasped and fingered in her hands
(Which only hold all elegant things).


The Way to Love, Like the Sea

There is no other way of loving but the way I love you:
Unreservedly, with loud voices, with laughing;
With arms flung wide to encompass the oceans
And then to circle back ‘round to touch together the fingers;
And thus to encircle the world
And every love and every laugh
And to hand it over in a spectacular upheaval
As an eternal gift to the beloved one.
It is the way of all loves, the way
Of a little girl flinging her arms ‘round the neck of a stranger
And saying is a voice as petit as her frame: “Ah!”, the way
Of a broken woman who flings her body ‘round another strange body
And cries out in passion she does not understand: “My love!”, the way
The dying lover buries her lover and flings her spindly arms ‘round the casket that closes him
And announces to his open grave: “My life, I love you!”
It is the way of the poets who express
But have not the words to do their expressing;
It is the way of a doctor or a lawyer forsakes their work
And lies down beside his woman
And sighs in a contentment that dislodges the day
Of every misery and unlovely disaster.
It is unutterable, and so I scream syllables to the silent surf;
It is uknowable, and so I close my eyes to my pounding veins;
It is untouchable, untasteable, nonsensical,
And so I fling my arms wide to it, swim in the sea of it,
Scream in the absurdity and in the fury.
It is the depths of peace, the love of loving you.
It is the look of longing in my eyes as I think of your large eyes,
Sparkling like sunrise over all the oceans
That I offer you, gathering them into my arms,
Encircled by my deep, by my sea, by my soft silent surf.
There is no other way of loving but the way I love you.



If I am a lighthouse,
Are you the storm or the sea?
Are we two constants, you and me?:
One tall tower of light shining
And one deep swell
Moving moving against me.
Or are we two separate, one from the other?:
You a passing frenzy, a stacatto dance
And me that same tall tower of shining light.

Or am I the tower, tall and empty,
White and charming to photograph,
My face turned upwards to the sea;

While you are the pillar of light that is in me
That comes vaguely and brightly
To light up the sea upon which
I turn my wide eyes?



Happiness is your arm's length
And the width of your large hands
And the density of your smiles.
It is the light of your hair turned gray,
It is our moments together,
And the moments compose our years
And our laugh lines and gray hairs.

Happiness is my flowered gown
And the yellow of the sun
Under which we lay in the solemn quiet
Of our vows.

Happiness is the quietness of our glances,
The gazes we know,
The anger and penitence,
The sorrow and the moments unending.

Happiness is the devotion of our knotted hearts
Tied in inextricable bands
Stronger than gold or death.



Yours is the song I hear inside me, a prayer:
Your voice is the cry of many saints,
Your lines are the words of all poets.
The song blows through me like wind to lift my head,
And I feel in it all the warmth of your summer breath,
Your breath of grasses and wildflowers and breeze.
The song echoes like hymns sung in giant, solemn cathedrals
And like chants flung across open fields
Surrounding great monasteries on ancient mountains.
It calls down from the hillsides in me,
Casts itself in surrender over my seas,
And rises and falls in symphonies through my valleys and vales,
And I chase it along the path that it travels.
It thrills me like eternity and echoes along its length--
It is pleasant and soft; it is hope,
And it fills me.


I looked the city in the eyes.
I saw a squalor started there,
Undending through the ages, old as wind,
And ripping through the startled streets.
From where I stood upon the pinnacle,
I saw every set of eyes and
Every secret pain there living;
And I saw the angels like bright flashes,
Saw the angels gliding silently,
Saw the angels with upturned faces.
They were weeping, and so I wept.

I traveled through the streets to know them all,
And I felt in my insides a split of pain.
In each set of eyes that I knew,
I saw poverty and poetry and joy and good striving;
I saw the desperations involved in living;
I saw the languid infusions of light;
And in each was the gentlest reflection
Of the angels gliding gently over.
And each eye was weeping, and so I wept.

I met an angel, and her hair was dark and long.
She smiled at me with brimming eyes.
We did not speak, for our tongues knew separate worlds:
She spoke with the tongues of angels,
And I spoke with the tongues of men.
But our eyes shone together in a glimmering haste,
And we understood our eyes in the moments we had.
"Here," she said with her bright laughing eyes.
"No there," I said aloud, but she shook
Her head and touched my chest,
And I shook and split open.

From my belly, split, I saw all my heart,
In pieces tiny as the smallest seeds:
Saw them spill over the city
And thud solemnly to the earth,
Where they sprouted up like great trees.
I saw them spill over
The heads of the people,
Saw them land on the rooftops,
Saw them land in the great rivers
And swim downstream.

And then I saw them, caught up
In a great hushing rushing wind
And scatter across to the edges of the earth:
Saw them land in great laughs in tiny villages,
Whose starving people gathered them up like scraps of bread;
Saw them strike the oceans in great splashes
That made the cooling waves crack against the steaming shore.

And the angel spoke, and I understood her:
"Go," she said, "Collect each piece;
Find each shard; grasp each bit;
For here," she said, and touched my open chest,
"Is all life's mysterious good."

And we looked at each other,
Her bright eyes filling my eyes.
They were weeping, and so I wept.
They were laughing, and so I laughed.
She was dancing, and so I danced.


To A Potted Plant Outside My Window

A Sonnet
You bloom at mid-day, petals soft, exposed
To elemental changes in the sky:
A bird alights upon you, from you flies,
And then alights again. The noons expose
And beckon you to open in transposed
And brilliant symphony. The rain denies
You not your entrance to the grand reprise
Of day; it only grants you brief repose.

And to these all, oh flower of mid-day light,
You open in exotic scents of noon,
You open in your pleasure and delight;

But every evening close again, too soon
To see my transformation in the night:
To one who looks so very like the moon.

To My Potted Plant, in His Nakedness
I walked out onto the back porch this morning
and there you were just sitting there naked
and your flowers were strewn about you the flowers
I so admired just an afternoon before.

I was caught by surprise because I suspected
that your flowers would just keep blooming and
that they would take over the back yard until
I would not be able to see the world for you.

I glanced down at the flowers dead wilted
in the light of a new morning and wondered
in what universe would a flower
I saw the day before in lavender now be brown.

I wondered at your nakedness, your nakedness,
your utter lack of propriety you should cover up
your nakedness and take a lesson in decency because
I was just so surprised to find you sitting naked in your pottery.

I suggest to myself that the new purple flowers
mean new life or they mean the death of the old or they
mean a transition to something better but
I can't seem to see them for the dead ones littering my porch.

And Upon Your Fallen Petals
And upon your petals lies a look
Of utter shock that such a fate
Should befall you, you with your
Beauties unfolding in midday.
The shock is in their translucent
Shell, is in their clear brown
Muddy stream color, is in their
Sense of grief at being now unlovely.
You just bend against the wind
And wind yourself up toward
The midday sun that brought you
Life. Upon your new buds you
Shower your attentions,
And upon your petals, fallen,
You may once or twice raise
A pitying glance. But past
Is past, you say with a smile,
Purple and green glimmering
Up at the sun. Past is past.

On Disfigurement

The boy, eight, looks up with bright eyes shining,
Shining for his father's eyes,
Electrified by the same deep chasms of earth-toned eyes.
Mirrored and mirrored and on into eternity,
They stare, and they shine.

There is a hole where his cheek should be,
And his father's eyes, wet with intensity,
A deep fire burning in the bottomless chasm,
Run over and over the contour of flesh.
The boy grins: The lines of his lips fold up
To the left and end abruptly to the right.

He will have surgery, and then he will be beautiful.
That is what the doctors say.
He will have the surgery, and all his beauties--
The myriad subtleties of the shining eyes,
The line of his abrupt and constant smiles--
Will remain intact.

And his father tucks him in
Beneath a blanket with the letters of the alphabet.
The father points to the A (by his right cheek)
And down to the Z (down by his leftest toe)
And says, "I love you from here to here."

And says, "Are you scared?"
(The boy trembles underneath the blanket of letters
And the blanket of his father's hands spread across him.
The boy shakes his head, "No.")
And says, "It will be hard at times."
(The boy trembles, a shining tear cresting over
The great peak of his lid, caressing his contours).
And says, "We don't have to go through with it."
(The boy stops abruptly and smiles.
"Yes. We do.")

His father takes his child's face in his
Large, large hands,
And says, "I love you from here to here."
And he kisses his son on the left cheek,
Perfectly shaped and smiling just like all others,
And he kisses his son on the right cheek,
Where the contour glistens with a tear and is beautiful.


The Absurd

Could I tell you an equal merit is found
In something I find quite absurd:
A lady in giant, parade-like garb,
A child dressed up like a man--
A business suit, top-hat, and shoes?
And, simply by being absurd to me,
Is it made a universal absurdity?
Can no one find laughter in what I scorn?
Can no one feel pleasantness in the windstorm?:
One at which I scoff or mourn
And say, "Oh, what nasty weather,
What a waste of a day!"

There was a time when I was foolish,
Sitting up in a tree
Making branches into giraffe-necks.
You called me silly;
Does that make me
The universal absurdity?

June 2, 2008

I want to write a poem about you—
That sings the same way you sing,
Unabashed, sun hitting your dark eyes,
Singing with you in the same tune.
I want to scrawl upon the page of summer your name,
Or a word as strong and as suitable
For you; for you
Are those pleasant melodies
And those full words.
You are the sound of the sun
Making music with the likes of me.
You are the better parts about this mortal coil;
You are the loveliness lying in the soil;
You are the scars and healing balms;
You are all that chases away, like the sun,
The threat of coming storm.
I want to write a poem about you,
For you.


In Sickness, In Health

Who am I
To howl, to
Grieve? Who
Can stand in
Such desert sands
And howl to silent
Golden expanses?
Now who am I, here,
Alone and howling?
Who am I to howl
In the quietness of crowds,
In the quietness of many?
I am a wilderness myself,
I say, I am a wilderness
And the winds that blow
Through me are the winds
That blow through many,
Many sands, and the age
Of my body is the age of
Many howling bodies in
The sands. Now who am I,
Here? Now who am I, I
The one with howling bones,
I the one with desert sand?
I, the one whose hands are
Full, cupped and full, of
Waste. I, the one whose
Many thoughts are only
Thoughts of dimming
Night. I, alone, am
A howl and a desert.
Now who am I, I
With my whimper?
Now where is my
Bread? Now, now
Where is my fish?
Where is a stone
To crush my head?
Where is a snake
To knip my heal?
Where, o Death,
Is your quieting,
Sweet silencing,
Sweet, quiet



I was standing on the front porch
Looking, looking
Into the trees to catch a sight
Of lightning bugs before they blinked away.
And I thought how they looked like stars
When stars stream quickly through
The quickly-passing summer clouds
And blink for just a second, and then blink away
And you have to catch them with your eyes,
Unblinking, you must be fast
To see them.
So I stood there,
Wide-eyed to catch the blinking lightning bugs of summer there.
A wind blew, soft.

And then I, standing on my porch,
Looked up,
And, what a shock, I breathed out
As I caught a glimpse of ageless stars.
They did not peek from behind summer clouds;
They did not blink away when I blinked.
Each, cemented in the sky,
Streamed unfalteringly and always.
They did not blink at me,
And the lightning bugs did not distract, no not this time.
This time, this
Lovely time,
The stars stood out against their dark
The way they are meant to do.

And with what pleasure did I then
Remember that stupid metaphor I had in my head
(That lightning bugs resemble stars
And could be quite as beautiful);
I closed my eyes, still feeling those stars,
And sat down in my rocking chair
And fell peacefully asleep
In the quiet, still, good, kind face of the stars.

There are Rivers Between Us, Wishing Us Ill

The summer runs too slowly:
And in between us lie many hours spent on living
And many labored breaths unbreathed in rhythm
And many mouths forming voided sounds
And many rivers also flowing flowing
And many towns full of folks all living
And many mothers clothing naked babies
And many men full of wars and stories
And many countries full of histories
And many continents quick approaching
And many galaxies forever spinning spinning
And many heartbeats quietly quietly yearning
And many fingertips searching vainly searching
And many lashes firmly closing
And all this I would say to you oh you who remains separate you:
The summer runs too slowly.


Stones For Bread

I keep asking you for stones and expecting some bread,
And now there are snakes nipping at my toes and knees.
Something howls through me, an emptiness
(Because I cannot eat stones, cannot eat snakes,
And I have gone hungry for many hours, many days).
What was it you said that time when I knelt down
And the sand ate at my skin and threatened to swallow me?
I thought I heard you offering bread,
But perhaps it was the desert wind.
Sorry about the time I got distracted and annoyed;
I struck one of the rocks you gave,
Struck it so it oozed with water, struck it instead of me.
Now I am unbruised, unoozing, and alone and howling.
I am the one sitting in the glittering sand,
Thousands around me, snakes edging up to me,
Nipping my ankles and toes.



Compelled my imagination many days,
Many days and many hours:

Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers.
-T.S. Eliot

I see you, and you are standing
And there are orange blossoms
Up in your hair, and everywhere;
And everywhere is the scent of summer,
And everywhere is the warm, good scent,
That clean smell of your neck
And your hair when it was done just right.
(I remember when the woman came in.
She did your hair over the kitchen sink
Because your bones were too brittle,
As thin as strings of hair,
As thin as strings of pearls.)
I remember also the kitchen sink
And bathing there: your soft, warm hands
Caressing my pink baby arms;
The water flowing, and your laughter
And your hands, and all of you
Was all over me and my baby pinkness.
That was when, I think, I began
To look like you and to smell like you
And to laugh in that warm, pink way
That you laughed. You are the place
That I learned to laugh and to be beautiful,
Warm by the hearth of your beauty,
Safe by the home of your bosom.
You are standing now, sweetly,
By the sink, and you are cooking,
You are cooking for your man,
And for your halfdozen children,
And for your thousands of grandchildren.
You are singing, and then I began to sing,
And you would stop what you were doing
And you would look up at me
With the same dark eyes that I fixed back on you.
Your hands in the water, covered in laughter
And covered in song. You are the place
I learned to be stronger than
Any dry, hair-thin bones. You are the smell
Of aloe leaves, all comfort and soothing
Like being wrapped in a cool summer breeze.
I see you, standing, your arm through your man’s arm,
And your arms full of flowers, pink and beautiful
And strong and kind and good.


A Tree of Life

My hope deferred,
I crawled out of the house
To sit in the moonlight alone.
Together, the moon and I,
We watched the cars drive
And wondered who they were
Who drove such fast cars.
Soon, you came quietly out,
Sat beside me and brushed
My shoulder
But only with the very tips
Of cold fingers. You said,
"I'll be seeing you"
(And you were looking at the moon).

So now, we are sitting, the moon and me.
We wonder who you are now,
Who the many months have made
You to be. We joke and say,
"An architect, maybe, or a communist."
The front porch is cold by me.
There is still room for you.
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
--ee cummings

You are everything lovely of my life:
You are first-discovered loves (of little things,
Like simple cloud days and
Reading in the sunshine and
The scent of fair-skinned laughing children;
Of poetry and art and song
And little words--that sing in quiet moments).
You are all the loveliness of my world,
You are All To Be Loved and All Worth Loving.
You are color and vibrance.
You are my days,
And your children are my hopes,
And your laughter is my dreaming,
And your sorrow is deepest heartache.
To you, I give my best years,
My all-of-me years, my years of knowing
And of not knowing.
To you, I give my best words
And all the best smiles (because now
You will be in every smile
And in every moment I love).


“I’ve seen you, you know,” he says, “walking around the way you do.” He runs his fingers over the white column under which they sit; they cast a dark shadow against the brilliance of it. His fingers are rough and rugged, the column smooth. Everything is alight with contrast. “What is it that you whisper to yourself?”

“Oh. I… well, I suppose I just get some things…trapped, you know? In my head. It’s like a vault. I guess the things that are trapped up there sometimes escape through my mouth.”

Sometimes, she felt as though the thoughts, rhythms that circled around in her for days, were like many sparrows confined in a wire cage. They bumped against each other, bewildered—their eyes filled with the little fires of those who are bewildered and confined. They circled and circled, raging against the wires, bloodying themselves until they gave up and lie motionless in the pits of her, dead. Maybe they were like phoenixes, she thinks; maybe they burn themselves up with their eye-fire and then, smoldering, rise up from the dead. The ashes sat heavy at the bottom of her, waiting for a resurrection.

“There. You’re doing it now.”

She was mouthing words silently to herself, tracing the lines of her yellow dress with the very tips of her fingers. The sun began to set, alighting itself upon the white column. It glowed with the colors of the sun. His eyes followed the movements of her pink mouth, and he thought of placing his mouth over it, breathing in all those words, letting them escape into him, pushing them violently back and forth between their two bodies, mixing with his own breaths, his own thoughts, for all eternity, for all of time. He thought of covering her mouth. He decided to cover her fingers instead.

“Goodness. I’m such a mess.” She runs her fingers through the spirals that have fallen out of her up-done hair. “You must think I’m crazy.” I’m not crazy, she thought, she mouthed. A bit eccentric. A bit absurd. The sun was setting now in full force. A rhythm jumped into her head, a rhythm she had long since forgotten.

“Did you ever hear that poem, Pied Beauty?” She asks without caring for a response. He nods. His hand still covers her fingers. She has not noticed. She wonders why would we praise God for something not quite beautiful, for something only half-way good. He wonders why she does not hear their praises, why she does not hear him speak to her. The wind blew a chill over them, and the sky turned bright purple. Clouds swirled across them, painted their faces with lavender shadows. Now his mouth is moving; she sees it but does not hear. The phoenix rises and falls in her, rapidly, hurrying. It mimics the movements of her breath. Her chest rises and falls. He is yelling now. She only looks at him.

“I’m not crazy.” She is whispering. “All this time, I thought there was a bit of the absurd in you. Perhaps it was me. Or maybe you died a long time ago, maybe you are shadow that sits beside me. Maybe you cannot be grasped—anymore than that lavender cloud may be grasped, or the yellow sun now setting.”

He is not yelling anymore. He is standing motionless before the sun, his body like the hands on an ancient clock. A shadow bisects her dress. She touches the shadow with the tips of her fingers. “I must leave you,” he says. “Goodbye.”

A wind blows. He is gone, and she is sitting, still, against the column. It is taking on the colors of evening: the yellows faded to lavenders and then to the deep blue-black of night. A streetlamp comes on. Its eerie light falls over her like the center of a flame. The outer edges of the circle of light quiver when the wind blows. Her chest rises and falls. All around is the gray tinge of night: the column gray, the sky gray. A deep beating she can hear in her throat, growing louder and deeper. All at once. All in a rage. Bursting up into flames, and then she is filled with ashes.


Lines Composed

"...little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love."

She moves like nature, by nature seized,
And in her wild eyes spark all the fires of
Undead stars. She drifts like never-fading
Oceans, deep in deepest blues; she, quiet,
Exists, excites, in intercourse of clouds
Sucked in upon magnetic sun.
Her voice
Is in the burbling of the summer brook,
Is in the whistles calm within the wind,
Blown swift through quiet leaves of autumn. And,
In starless nights beneath the clouded sky,
Her voice is in the cricket's calling cry.

In her is life and light, all twirled in dance
(The way the twirling of the birds does dance
When they are high above the wanton sights
Of gloomy city, dark in all its breadth);
In her is dark and deep, all speckled, bright,
And clear against the shapes of empires grand.
In hours when, by shade of towns instead
By shade of lofty trees, the gloom assaults,
I think of her deep eyes and her twirled dance
And can again feel deep her pow'r in me.

She is the pow'r of rushing sea, and in
The brevity of all her graceful choice,
The pow'r of that rushing stillness moves
The very inner sea of me.

On Her Passing

I have an aching in an archway of me
Produced by your passing, my dear,
Like a train.
You rumble over it
And shake
The surrounding night;
Charge with
A fast flurry of light streaming open
Like a welping wound, open, open;
Then, in an
Wave, you are
Gone, and the
Archway is once again


An Island

Perhaps I should move to an island
To be alone beyond the sea,
To do my penitential labor,
Where my only harm is done to me.

The sea will give her coughing sigh
At the evil I have done
And eat away at the beach's dust--
Contrite I and the dust, one.

And on I'll pass away my days
'Til my penance is complete:
No one there to distract from my shame,
Prostrate at Divinity's Seat.


I see in your life all that which is alive.
-Pablo Neruda

I see you standing in a grove of things you paint:
Apples, nectarines, funny pears,
Dots of bright color filling up a canvas and a sky,
Colors that fill you and shine out
Like splotches through kaleidoscopes,
Filling the canvases and skies.
You, who are unaware of all your color and beauty
And the effect of you on the world surrounding,
Dance--across your groves, your apples, your funny pears,
Your days--with pointed feet, arms exposed,
And all the more lovely for their ceaseless motion.
You, who fill the days and make them,
Who wrap each moment in the splendors of your living,
Are unaware of all your color and beauty.



I cannot stand in the midst of this grand parade anymore.
You, so sure of your transience, so obscure in your fear,
Pretend to hold me dear as you hold your colors, bright.
Your costumes, your epic light, your painted faces
Glow in the spaces of my mind. A carnival of shades,
A spectacular parade that oozes through my mind like oil.
You, so quick to spoil my revenge with your grand act;
You, who lack the courage to attack or stand down;
You, now crowned in your jesters’ hats and bells;
You, who cast a festival of spells that blind my eyes.

Your spectacular is quick, and then you fly.
Your eye meets mine but briefly, and you leave
As I cleave to the spectacle you leave behind.
Where can I find a color so great and so sweet
As meet within the hollow of your cheek as you pass by?
What eye could be so decorated in the day?

I must, I must find a way to keep the temporary gleam
Of the dream of your parade through my insane head.
Instead of following blindly, I become a part of the absurd.
My words are confused, my face is painted bronze,
I don the garb of clowns, I dress in a spectacular array
Of colors gay and bright
Until the temporal parade is the moment of my life.

8 June 2008

Things That Remain

Your shoes are left, untouched, beside the bed,
With socks still tucked inside like a cocoon.
Your hat hangs on a rack, and I know soon
You’ll use it to adorn your chill-ed head
(Though it is only August; all, instead,
Are walking, naked-headed, as in June).
I walk beside the lake where, every noon,
You’d take your coffee and your toasted bread
And write ‘til evening, mind and belly fed,
And then return to me and our dark room.

I have a letter your wrote to me last May
Of magic words, your words, that did express
That, once you were gone, as you are gone today,
Of all the joys you had, I was the best.


A poem should not mean
But be.
--Archibald MacLeish

Oh, you wondered poets, you have crafted me—
Have made me into a variegated symphony,
Have clothed me in colors blue and green and gold,
Have writ me with your pen, have made me bold.
I am your beauty now; my every notion
Is one your words delicately set in motion.
I stand alongside your masterpieces, mystified
To be among the feastings of your eyes.
They dwarf me now, those words that once expressed
Your feelings; and now me have possessed
In their deliberate beauties. I know not how
I became a part of your written vows.
I am your poem, a mastery yet unmastered;
You make me lovely even in my disasters.
I’m made to inspire, just as your ethereal words
Inspire me, make me less absurd,
Acknowledge me, and make me look alive.
It is the very point at which I strive—

To make my wasteland a pretty how town,
To make my carrion a song of love.
And make one soul’s lostness found
And seat them safely in an olive grove.
Through ages and ages our words to advance
And come alongside them in our ageless dance.


Study the way the light scatters
As it scorches the trees;
The different times of day;
The effect of the seasons on a single branch;
Different depths of green
In a solitary blade of grass;
A dead bird that died flying into a plate of glass
(Thinking foolishly that beyond it,
There was more sky);
Study words, and study how to speak them;
Study what they mean;
Study what they could mean
If another word were chasing it.

In the lonely times of night,
Have their blankets;
Have their pens.


I watched the dead bury their dead
In the graveyard of the fallen city.
In the churchyard, desecrated, stood a tree,
Once high and lofty (just like me)
But now bent over in solemn prayer
Without a pitiful cry to escape its lips.
I watched as the city of tall buildings,
Tall as trees, reaching to God,
Crumbled beneath the weight of heaven;
And casket after casket, full,
Tottered past. I watched,
And the dead buried their dead.

I stood on a narrow road, alone.
The same cold wind that blew
Through the broken windows of the crumpled city,
Laid low like a widow weeping--
The same wind blew across my face
And covered me with the ashes of the beloved city:
The people, the buildings, the trees,
The generations (just like me)
All lined up inside caskets.
And I, on my narrow road, alone,
Watched atop a hill as the dead buried their dead.


Romans 8:28

"All things are for your good
And for your better you."
Our pocket watches, like time bombs,
Tick wildly against our chests,
Mimicking the rhythm of our
Caffeine-induced palpitations.
We sit across from one another:
You smoke a cigarette,
And I feel modern with my cigarette-smoking friend
With a side of coffee.
Billboards glare down at us with urgent intent
To make us into a "better you."
You praise the barista.
I praise the sun,
And I praise the cigarette for its thorougly modern look.

If I went looking
For a better you,
I wonder what I'd find.
A few years down the road,
With gray on your hair and under your eyes,
You will say, "Old friend,
Remember the time, and remember the time..."
And I will say, "It changed me, too."
And we will go happy along our ways,
Hand-in-hand with coffee cups.

But now, we wait
For the outside one
To bring it all together for us.
We sit in the sun
(You flirt with the barista, and I smile
As you gently tap your cigarette into the brimming ashtray),
Enjoy our coffee, decaf in a few short years,
And wait for the outside one
To bring it all together.



The priest entered to dispell the scent of sin.
It was high noon.
"These days are numbered," said he.
"Do you think you are ready?" said he.
"Do what you must," said we.

The stage, set, looked gloomy.
Windswept. Cold. Dead.
The memory of a thousand violet orphans
Flooded his mind.
He took out the props. He lay them aside.
He began to recite:

Praise God.
Father God.
(As though He forgot his cue, he repeats).
God defends. Violet orphans flee.
All is not lost. All is again good.
Praise God.

The curtain falls.
The people were not people any longer.
The actors were not acting.
The children all were weeping.
The priest, head bowed in desperate surrender,
Took a swig of whiskey
And exited, stage right.

"These days are numbered," said he.
"Do what you must," said we orphans,
We dead folk, the exorcised.


Winter calls from the next room,
Sitting quietly with cigar and brandy in clenched fists
(After the children are sweetly, warmly in bed),
Singing dirges by the roaring fire pit.

She is a cold bitch, the winter.
She is qualified, from practice, to rip the freckles
From our sun-kissed backs,
And to steal our blooms of April away,
And to rend the plump harvest from our fertile grounds.

I stand naked in the kitchen—
The heat blisters on my skin,
And I remember the hot, hot days in mama’s kitchen
When the air would break and stop,
And we would open the windows and doors
To hear the summer sounds
And to taste the summer sweat
In sweet, hot days.

I sink in my teeth down to the seeds in my apple.
I dip my hands down, down into the deep water.
I sink my teeth deep into the fleshy center of life.
I capture in my cupped hands the fragrant waters of life.

While that bitch, that winter,
Sings her simple song by the roaring fire pit
That threatens to tear the whole house down,
And you and me and the children warmly sleeping with it.

She sings to me to gather my rosebuds, gather them good;
To hang them upside down ‘til the petals crumble in the fruit.
The fire and the song merge in symphonic destiny
And threaten to burn the whole place down—
Me, naked in the kitchen,
The children, warm in their beds.

April 27, 2008


No Chapstick for the Guilty

There is no chapstick in prison.

I am reminded of this
As I stare down at your still mouth,
Cold and pale
Under the harsh yellow light of the funeral home.
They are ragged, your lips;
They have lacked the necessary moisture;
They have been licked to a noiseless death.

It seems cruel, I think,
To deprive the common criminal
Of such a small delicacy
As soft, supple lips.
What does the state gain
By depriving the common criminal
Of chapstick? Is chapstick
A menace, a culprit, a helper
In the crimes of the common criminal?

Your hands are rough, too.
No lotion, either, I suppose.
Nothing to make you seem human
In that absolutely American way—
No lotion, and no chapstick for you
Where we so prize our smooth hands
(the best for touching and preaching)
And our smooth lips
(the best for kissing or breathing).

I bite my bottom lip and wring my hands
As I stare down at you, cold in your casket,
A prison where there is
No chapstick and
No lotion.
It seems cruel, I think, to deprive you
Of something so absolutely American.
What does death gain
By depriving the common man
Of chapstick?

19 April 2008


If there were words as pure as you, Love,
Your simple goodnesses would never be enough,
For we could name them all:
We could call them names like “dog” or “John;”
We would not stop to try to write of you,
To talk to you, to seek you out
For the ineffable qualities that you are, Love.
Or if, perhaps, some word was
That scorned me with its truth of my depravity,
Would I seek for more morality?
Would I try to overcome those syllables?
Or, would I with those Indian untouchables,
Accept my arbitrary untouchableness?
For what f my ugliness was called a scavenger
And your purity and goodness called a sparrow?—
Would I not, with ugly eyes and a good heart,
Look at the sky and see them both, twins flying,
Both specks not to be distinguished?
Would I not stand amazed as they,
So far from my eyes and heart,
Flew far above me, and might I say in gasps and murmurs—
“My, how far they fly, how far!”
And then, returning home to shade from the sky,
Eat my food, feed my dog,
And greet John each morning with my “Hulloos”
And fall asleep each night
In bed, near stars, by darkness lying?

10 April 2008
This city has a charm or two
Still alive to offer us; though not as bright
Or exhaustingly good or stirring
As in our precious previous years.
Still this city offers, still to bring us joys,
However tepid they appear
In the light of histories
That burned so much brighter in the surrounding night.
Still, still, the large city burns,
Embers only, but embers still.
The dark shadows on the streets
Cast o’er the grimacing faces
Tempt us to despair—but still we see
There still exists an ember here and there;
Not all good light extinguished—
If it only be enough
To see the shadows by, it is still
Enough to see the face of the kind child,
Granddaughter of granddaughters,
Turn up in a spontaneous smile!
No, we do not despair, though cities
Sometimes fall into disrepair,
We are not utterly ruined, yet.
Still this city offers, still, still it calls to us
To draw our faces upward in
The childlike enthusiasm of spontaneous smiles.
See, there in that corner no one knows,
The city offers us new laughter and joys.
The embers still embark—the embers glow!
10 April 2008



The lady lay with whispers hanging in
The silent night. Her broken body sprawled
Upon the ground, the crowd stood un-appalled.
And each supplied the whispers, deep and thin,
That was the mirthful dirge. No violin
Played somber melody; nobody scrawled
An epitaph; the gravestone, grey and bald,
Lay by her body, painted by their sin.

They all were guilty; no one was accused,
For all participated, all felt glee
At raping her frail body. All, amused,
Watched as they tied her to the blossomed tree.

Her blood flowed free upon the springtime ground.
They all departed, free, without a sound.

5 April 2008


His voice cries out sometimes
"Love me!" as I sleep--
Warm bedding encloses me
Like the cold winter encloses a rose
(That will not blossom, enclosed in such a tomb
Until the winter passes and grants her room to breathe.)

His tiny eyes, betraying his somber face
With a gleam and a smile,
Peek out at me from this still life picture--
He by a graffiti-laden wall
Searching the lens to find my eyes
Or any other anonymous gaze.
I say in my sleep--"My heart is for you!"
But blankets betray every vow.

My heart says aloud, audibly weak,
"You will be loved."
I drop my warm blankets, a secure rest
To fly to him in unceasing dreams.
My dreamland is his graffiti wall,
My dreamland is the lens of his thick glasses.
But the blankets fall away,
And I sink.

My treasure lies in a small Mexican town
Proudly standing beside a graffiti-rimmed wall;
But my heart, my heart, my heart,
Lies bundled in a warm blanket in bed.


They packaged up autumn in their big black plastic
To save for insulation when winter months came in
Like a deep white chasm, unsearchable and unknown.
They saw each fallen, sullen leaf
As an array of each of fall's variegated mistakes--
Rather than a drop to celebrate the ground in a confetti dance
Or to celebrate the air in independence explosions.
Each leaf fell in a surrender to the Way of life (that says
To the Wind, "You blow here," and to the blossom,
"Spring up here whenever it pleases your pretty head.")
And as the life that calls
Spring into waking and wind into a brilliant craze,
So it calls this autumn's leaves
Into a dance of death to a suicidal ending, rivaling
The suicidal dances of those long dead, of Romeos.

So we sit on the crest of a hill
Overlooking the valley surrounded by long gray limbs,
A sharp shock against the cold blue sky;
We sit and watch them package the leaves--
Not to commemorate things past as autumn lived to its end,
But to stuff in ugly black plastic
And use as insulations and comfort
In colder months.


Very, very not done with this yet.

Contemplations on Spring and Death

The winter made you crystal white and clear,
Transparent ‘neath the sparkling streams of light
That shattered open silent sleep and frost
That covered eyes like ice nymphs poised to strike.
The Spring will treat you kinder: make you laugh
And wake the silent stupor of past months;
Will spread its warmth across your glistened skin,
Grown cold from snowy nights. Spring welcomes you
With bows and songs of mirth to sing you home—
Come home to grounds you never knew before,
Come home to chocolate clumps of earth. The Spring
Is one violent wash of color in your arms,
Spread far apart like open fields of blooms.
Color covers like the scent of rain. Blossoms
Now strike the sky like children’s vibrant kites
Or like a prong that calls concertos, light
And warm, to play their gleeful songs of Spring.
Now, when you sleep, with dark eyes closed against
The temperate hold of rain-stained earth, the sweet
Lavender scent will fill your empty lungs.

Worries are portable,
But death never moves:
Death doesn’t choose
To gain or to lose
Or to be adorable.
Worries are portable:
They sting and accuse
And then, like a noose,
They leave you to choose,
But each choice is deplorable.

So give me some land:
A plot would be fine.
To call some grass mine,
To not be confined
By some immovable hand;
Just offer me land.
To cross over no line
And fill all my time
With sky, cloud, and rhyme.
Would make life more grand.

Years ran away,
But I’ll lie, like a queen,
With the grasses all green
An emerald sheen;
I’ll dance in the day—
The calm and the fray
Alike are a dream.
On branches I lean,
Embracing the gleam
Of glorious day.

The winter lay dead…
No—living a lie.
Though nobody died,
They gave no reply
To new blooms, all red,
To grass laid like beds,
To Spring’s brilliant cry!
They, like those who die,
Only echoed goodbyes
When Spring sang instead.

Spring casts down her rose,
Her brilliant cascade
Of promises made—
She promises Day!
She stands in the throes
Of a glorious repose
And offers a shade
And a cool place to lay.
She offers to say
What the Spring alone knows.

So lay your hand down,
Down soft on the earth.
Let Spring mean Rebirth,
A Renaissance mirth.
Awaken to sounds
That lie below ground.
Do not fear its grand girth
(An actual dearth).
You know not the worth
‘Til it has been found.

I feel your breath blow soft against my arms;
It carries all the scent of lavender
And roses. I, a quiet bystander,
Soak in all your golden breath and charms.

My arms, outstretched, were shaking far too long—
They shook beneath the mighty weight of ice
And the twirling winter that cannot entice,
Not half as much as your dear, sacred throng.

“Remember not the cold,” you, breathless, say;
“Recall all blue and red and gold of Spring—
Recall all voiceless shades that mildly lay

Upon the softest grasses; and so you
Might lie amidst your burdens, you might fling
Them all about you in my grand debut.”

Lie upon my shoulders;
Release your ancient boulder.
Your head is burdened so
And lays your body low.
But my shoulder’s firm and sun-kissed,
And my shoulder hates to be dismissed.
These arms have born a thousand griefs:
A thousand ancient tears from penitent priests,
A thousand tears to grant a new relief
To a poor lady doubting her belief.
So lie in their good company
And quit your penchant for blasphemy.
Lay your clothes and worry at my feet
And jump into the river—jump waist deep.
Lie upon my grasses in the shade,
Lie within my open fields and glades,
Swim within my crystal sky and sun—
The blissful time of Spring has now begun.

You closed your eyes to kiss the budding sod;
The dirt just sighed to draw you to its breast,
To welcome you, to say that you are best,
And send you on your merry way to God.
No cherubs song, no great angelic laud
Could sing the songs of one sigh from that chest,
That dark expanse that beckons you to rest—
You the lamb, and it the shepherd’s rod.

You step upon the ground with angel’s feet
To hear the gentle voices of the earth—
An, in the space where sun and warm land meet,
Song shelters you and calls you to new birth.

And when your eyes are filled with a spring rose,
You’ll know what only each new flower knows.

To get to warmer air,
One only has to cross the violent River.
From the edges, the Jordan calls,
The water cold and swift,
Ready to fight you all along the way.
It thrusts ahead,
To fire off a dozen waves to swallow you.
A thousand men were grieved this way—
At this crossing,
Many a valiant men died—
Men who had fought
Their grand goliaths,
Had chased the wicked from their lands,
Had grabbed the devil by his cloven hand
And barely stopped to blink.
But swift and
The River washed their future down the current
And so dissolved their histories.

But if you want warm air,
Here is the only place to find it.
Here you are—
It opens wide to you,
Calls to you,
Beckons in soft, dulcet syllables.
But the dissonant clash of the Jordan cries out
Her discontented warning—
And again her swift waters threaten.

Do not fight her, oh you valiant men.
Do not threaten her with your demon swords.
Do not rear against her,
For she rears back with waters gray and black,
And she does not lose.
Lay quietly, and cross in stillness and grace.
Lay a hand against her wind-swept face.
Lay your body down in her
And let her dissolve
Your valiant spirit and violent histories
Along with your tomorrows.

That is how to find the warmer air.


Dead Poets' Society by Steve Brooks

And all of us at the Maple Leaf
knew that he would come to grief.
Some folks live so close to death
That you can swear you smell it on their breath.

Yes, poets dream, and poets drink,
And poets live life on the brink.
Poets smoke, and poets die,
And if you ever ask them why,
They'll tell you, they don't have a clue.
They'll tell you,
It's just what poets do.



The Beauty I Spend With You

The beauty of this evening is not
The way the sinking sunlight dances on the tops of ancient streams
Or a gleam of light from an antique star.

It is not
The age of a perfect stone worn down by rushing waters
Or the reflection of galaxies through some modern lens.

It is not
Dreams dreamed by thousands in a thousand years
Or hopes hoped by the sleepy eyes of now-dead children.

The magnificence of this lovely day
Is in the breathing of this air with you.

It is in hearing your golden voice
Burble like an infant stream;
It is in the sparkle of your laugh
That shocks the world like the new light of the morning's yellow sun;

It is the warm belly of yours
Jiggling with humor like a warm patch of soft earth;
It is the simplicity of a town full of lights
That you drive me to in your ugly car;

It is your eyes while they sparkle your thoughts,
And it is the daily plans to make and break.
The glories of this most lovely life
Are in the nows now I spend with you.

11 February 2008



Propriety is not a line etched upon your fair face,
So how could I know it?
Each of your words, which move the lines of your face to speak,
Are reminiscent of so many lines already writ—
They are a breath away from the lines of an England Abbey
That lit the fiery soul;
They are the rhythmic beat of stone against stone
Yearly mending a hated wall;
They are the gentle pulsing of the sea’s great waves,
Charging along murderously in the belly.

And in these all, none speaks propriety to me,
So I ask, how could I know it?
Or if, perhaps, tomorrow, you are some lines of grammar,
The most loved semi-colon
Or an ellipsis that continues a thought…
Or the long strand of a dash
By which to complete the thoughts of the lonely poetess.
Or maybe there is a curve I haven’t yet seen,
Here by your ear, and there by your chin,
Or here, to furrow your deep brow.

So what is propriety
Compared to some such sacred line etched upon your face?

7 February 2008


It’s like that great Canon that moves me—
The way Scripture should move.
But, rather, it’s that death of missing you
And not those sacred wounds
That draw my eyes on up to the hills.
I wonder, do you rest your large, still eyes
On hills as I now do?
Or do you rest your arms, strong and warm and burnt
From the heat of many warm, red, carefree afternoons,
Upon the heavy mountains?
Has distance made you the Colossus
My thoughts create?
Has it made you a god-like apparition
Whose very words can make the mountains crumble and melt?
Or are you the psalm that echoes
In the valleys of such great mountains
To which I lift my large, still eyes?

6 February 2008


White Washed

This near-white shirt--
Tea-colored from age and dots of invisible grime,
Islands in the midst of a vast expanse
That sing of the pretty, dirty places it has visited--
Is covered in a quiet sampling of white, white paint.
I feel them before I see them
As I run my fingers over the dots of dry white-wash paint
And I dress in the dark crevice of early morning.
They are barely there--
Invisible to the naked eye
(The way of the children who inaugurated them to their place
From that time until now);
Invisible unless you get close enough to see them wholly--
Not merely a part of the greater whole, the greater shirt;
Not merely a part of the tea-toned canopy of dirt and grime,
But flecks of white-wash paint,
Each original, unique, and pure,
As bold as innocence,
As untouched as an ivory tower.

29 January 2008


We may well drown in our grand things--
The things we will to be and want to be,
The things our eyes cry out when we look at pavement spots,
The things our heart finds in a piece of poetry.
We may drown in our many, grand things
Were we to have time.
Were we to have time,
We could visit these great oceans in twenty years,
In far-away distant years.
Were we to have time,
We could look in the placid waves and see
All that we've gained, all that we've missed.
But we have no time,
And we are pleased to drown.



If I could write a poem--
A poem as divine
As the poem of your face and of your soul--
I would never grow tired of reading it.

The poem of your life
Is like the sweet taste of peaches
And the scent of the season's first snow.
It is like a calming rustle
Through the tree-less field
That shines and shimmers in all the brightness of the summer.
It is Leaves of Grass;
It is Langston Hughes;
It is Dorothy Parker (on a good day...);
And maybe a light sprinkle of cummings
(when he was in a mood.)

Your poem has no beginning,
And there is no good place to end it--
Because no one would want to say "goodbye" to you
Were it to end.


There are four of my by street lamp light--
A parade of shadows dance by
So that no one knows their own lonliness.
When I raise one arm, when I take a step,
Four arms and four feet all stride or reach
In a holy unison--yes, almost divine
(almost a Trinity, give or take a few).
The people, the people in the cold street lamp light
All open their arms to their shadows around,
But where can they go? Where can they go?
There are only more shadow-crowded streets
And thousands of street lamps
Whose light rends the shadow from the feet
Like the soul from the body.
Let us walk, and let us talk
Through groves and groves of olive trees--
Whose silver leaves, like silver strings
That tie so many presents closed.
Their whispers float in biblical pages
And set the rage of nations at peace
With one easy, slow, whispering breath.
The winding branches sing of shade
That made the hearts of warriors pound;
And oh, the sound, the sound of death
Became breath caught when they saw one branch.
So can we speak of silver branches
And leaves that glitter silver promises?
Can the beauty surrounding be our speech,
And our peace bound up in a leaf?

To a Sister

Sister of my childhood! I write
To poets of old through your eyes.
As my words or another's words
Or my unsteady pen or unsteadier type
Reaches your lovely lids and lashes,
I feel the face of cummings warm my eyes.
I hear the echo of good Sylvia,
Laughing, and dying as she laughed.
I taste the peaches, I feel the wind-swept sand
Linger between my freezing toes
As Eliot shouts out his, "hullo!"
And a lonely girl sits in a bedroom,
Rolling up her poems into tiny balls--
And I see her, and she sees me, so neither me nor her
Are quite alone any longer.
Sister, were you to leave or die some death,
These great giants of words--lonely
And lovely and all long-dead--
Would be worth nothing at all to me, nothing at all...
Except that they would all sing
A chorus of your name.


This Blanket is ironically white:
It covers me as I drink my coffee;
As I write my words to God;
As I strum that lovely guitar
(The one you tuned with elegant,
Green-stained hands
That smelled ironically of ivory
And of earth);
As I try to go about my dreaming.

It does not dirty, though smeared;
It does not stink, though rotting;
It does not warm, though a blanket.

Its winter white shade illuminates the air
Like a shocking flashlight in the dark--
I can see it through walls and ceilings,
And I always know where it's been.

This blanket is so ironically white,
Though dastardly things go on beneath it.
It shivers in the night
And wants to be dark, as it feels.

It knows its irony
And embraces its fate like a champion.
But underneath, it smells like sex,
It tastes like quarts of vodka,
And it sounds like the reviling of a Corinthian.


There are just some songs that sing of you--
Like one of those summer nights,
Alone and quiet and quite happy
(In that purely Summer way
When bee buzzes and bird hums
Turn into a dialectic of our memories).
A song holds fast to my ear
From a place far away--
It finds me in the breeze
(The breeze that is older than Rome;
And, I assume, if this particular breeze
Did not echo through some Ancient Roman ear,
It may have blown through yours
Earlier this evening).
I sing the song is eternal,
And it sounds lovely in my mouth
And feels delicious on my lips
(Because it tastes like you).


The Atlas

The atlas knows that heroes and lovers
Go all over and around the everywhere
To find who they are or will or want to be.
Odysseus sings to sirens, and the sirens repeat:
“Take your arms, and take your men,
And scourge the seven seas with me!
We’ll take our time to find no less
Than the best the world can ever offer.”

And so, from history to history and sea to sea,
Impassioned lovers and dreamers and poets
Go find themselves in distant continents
And they wonder as they wander:
“Does victory belong to the strongest of men
Or to the wary likes of me?
Will wanderlust and woman lust and words entwine
To make a pretty poem or a pretty love?”

And when the Grecian gods came down
From Olympus with royal decrees,
Their spirits and their flesh would lust
For lands and loves and women’s songs:
“Oh, god, your hands are lovely, firm,
And so adept to grope and craft.
We’ll give you our hands and give you our lands
If you will give us all that you have.”

Helen bore her heroes, and she bore them well—
Her bosom and her beauty both were ripe
For hero-making and lovers’ rhymes.
And so she stood beneath the godly mountain and sang:
“Your love and your songs are quite far from my bed
And your poems of my gold-spun hair do upset.
Is it so hard to see from your distant lands
That my hair is black?”

And Atlas stood firm with the world on his back,
And unbearable burden to offer to women
To try to win their love.
And he pondered for poetry to describe his desire:
“Your hair is far fairer and your lips are much sweeter
Than every rose whose thorns make me tender
And every continent upon my back
That makes me know more and see more and feel.”

Aphrodite had her choice of fine suitors,
But she chose her best and searched her heavenly atlas
To find the land and find the loves that befit her best.
She found no love, and so, alone, she sang:
“Oh, where can dearest love be found
When already I have so much?
What can they offer that I can’t afford,
And what can they give me that I couldn’t get?
You heroes of old and you heroes of now,
Please cease in your quest to win woman’s sad heart.
You do not know the sorrows I see
Alone with the worlds and with the gods.”