Friday, May 31, 2019


     O snail 
     Climb Mount Fuji 
     But slowly, slowly! 
     -Issa (trans. R.H. Blyth)

Slow and steady
wins the race, I guess
but what if the
race isn't real? No slope,
no sky, it's all
a shell we live inside
as a dreamer
whose vulnerable
mind secretes, in defense,
a fortifying dream.
Will it ever be possible
to succeed
at such a climb—or
to fail? And how
could you tell
the difference? Oh snail,
what the hell?

Thursday, May 30, 2019


Every time I said I loved you
was an interest payment
on the truth.

When I told you I needed you
I meant it
as an investment

and investments need protecting.
Every pet name I invented
every darling sweetheart precious

was a password on the account.
And when I'd wax poetic
list all the itty-bitty things I would do

that was me dumping you
out on a table
counting you up like a cartoonish

miser, like a giddy Ebeneezer Scrooge
would do. The sentiment sounded pure.
The aim looked true. The intention

was good—or so I assumed—
as all the gold in the Pharaohs'
airless tombs.

All those times
I'd talk with you, so eager to know
what you'd been up to—

when I held you close
at night and whispered—
when I thundered and roared

like a dragon in a cavern
fiercely guarding
treasures he could never use—

that was me letting you
know I would do
whatever it took

to always be with you.
I was even willing to live all alone
blind as a golem in an

underground cistern
content to bash the brains of fish
against stalagmites every night

for my dinner—if only
I could keep you. I didn't see
how I could lose.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019


In nature, every frill
is useful. Animals' furbelows
go forth and do things;
exaggeration means something
in the discourse of plants.
Guillemots' white bellies
camouflage nicely
against the cloud covered
coastlines of the North Atlantic,
and a certain crazy fuchsia
makes those tropical blossoms
which prefer honeycreepers
inconspicuous to bees.
But indoors, what are all
of our enrichments for?
Quotation marks, arrows, and
huge yellow carets
litter our arid rows of text
like pyramids of fruit arranged
to take up counter space
or fake flowers on the mantle
to make use of the spare vases;
the gaudy color of the
highlighter functions more like
jaundice, signifying the presence
of an underlying disease.
Shiny ornaments on a tree
look pretty, but
they're heavy; and they
stress out the branches.
In my house at least, I think
just make everything
harder to clean.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


     I took the one less traveled by,
     And that has made all the difference.

     -Robert Frost

Actually, after Frost did
or did not get lost,
the road not taken
didn't stay open much longer.
Somewhere downtown, in a

marble building's basement,
it was sold for a
song, bulldozed to pieces,
regraded, repaved, covered-
over like a skin lesion.

There's a better-lit bus stop
and a closer-by grocery store
and a high-rise retirement
condominium's auxiliary pick-up
and drop-off lot there now—

and a few people are sad about this
inexorable honing of our
decision-making process, and several
more are happy about it, and the rest
still can't work out the difference.

Monday, May 27, 2019


I'm sure it's no coincidence
that deep down, I'm a homebody—
yet something invisible
careens around this stable nucleus
and relentlessly screams to go

off on vacations. Not to luxurious 
or breathtaking destinations—but
to the unnamed
and the derelict places
where savagery's bygone continuance

now sits silent and disremembered.
A shagged-over bison path
or an abandoned copper mine, for
instance; or a rifleman's lookout post
ruined on the tip of a limestone cliff

so otherwise barren and nonchalant
that what is observed—or should I say
rediscovered there—is nothing
but the luxurious ongoing
of my own breathtaking ignorance.

Friday, May 24, 2019


As an anxious first-time 
homeowner, it really 
eases my mind 

to surround myself 
at all times 
with a few modern conveniences   

which don't exactly work.
It feels high-end when 
I jiggle the handle—I tend to think

duct tape 
is pretty punk rock, and
that Gothic look 

of safety pins 
also smacks of a certain rebelliousness. 
Dead strikers, fickle 

circuits, flattened tires 
propped on bricks—
all perform beautifully

their manifest function
of making me feel like 
less of a jerk.

Thursday, May 23, 2019


Sometimes the sheer
presence of vertical
surfaces around here
closes in on me like it's
some kind of nightmare.

I vastly prefer
the austere look
of the cleared horizontal—
the sheen of morning light
on a completely clean
coffee table, the seat
of a backless desk chair
with no one with no job
perched on it working.

Peculiar, I know. But
I have my reasons.
These things
calm me down, cannot
hide, conceal nothing.
Quiet and attendant,
they always
hold me motionless,
bear noble gravity, and
don't ask questions.

But it's not just the silence
or the cleanliness—I swear,
the orientation of these objects'
planes in space
matters tremendously;

for even a blank wall,
the spotless glare
of a window, the silence
of doors, each concealing
some latent adventure—
all those things seem
to loudly insist
that I'm at the precarious
start of something,

but a clean marble
counter, an empty
kitchen table, a bare rug
stretched out and
sleeping on a polished
hardwood floor—all suggest
without a whisper
that I'm finally here
at the end.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Since when is fifty-percent
is an F? According to
Zeno, it's the best
you can get. A song
which stalls half-done
is better than one
which never ends. A sun
shining tall at noon
already proclaims the day
a success. And if
no race can ever be won,
once it's half-run, why not pat
yourself on the back, grab
half a banana, and move on.
The only real caveat
to all this, I guess, is
you've got to keep stacking
those failures up:
fifty-percent, then
fifty-percent of what's left,
then fifty-percent of the
fifty-or-so percents
that come next.
I confess, I don't quite
get it myself, and you
may never fully
comprehend it either.
But again: it looks like
we don't ever have to.
At least not entirely.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


These days, it seems like
everything that matters
is actually two things
at the same time.
They say the universe
has two information
states, that it takes two
to tango, and there's
two sides to every story;
but if you look closer
it's even there
in the little things: two
home teams, two
cola companies warring,
two roads diverging
through a wood some-
where, two separate blood
pressure numbers
to remember.

Our systems were built
to process one answer,
but how do we solve
now, for both x and y?
What if, hard as we
try, we can only crack
half of this binary
code while alive?
Do we then die
as we've been living:
crushed by the
shameful weight
of these unattainable
bounties? And doesn't
even that kind
of once-and-for-all sound like
an impossible mix
of definitive
and unsatisfying?

Monday, May 20, 2019


It can only be
our oldest cruelest faith
which has kept us so poor
in imagination
and yet so rich
in the circumstantial evidence
of pure analogy,
in its association of fine leather
and soft lace
with naughtiness,
of pieces of silver
and men kissing men
and purification in the name
of some higher order
with a bloodthirsty old pirate
playing his best game
of double-cross,
with the gleaming green eyes
of her legendary sexual deception,
with all of old Europe
as a plague pit teeming
with every odd bit
of skeleton you could name.

Friday, May 17, 2019


Look at me
talk to you
without even
having to

tap a clammy
tongue against
the backs
of my teeth—hot stuff

and heavy
too if you
ask me: it's like

is a time machine
built out of
a DeLorean—
and then

some skinny
poem climbs inside
that loud suit
of armor—and drives.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


There are days
I desperately
wish to disappear
to transcend the bustling
of the possible
the stodgy furniture of what already is
to become instead
as a huge doorway swinging
open onto nowhere and nothing
an inconspicuous field
a desolate street at midday
a park with neither
pigeons nor patrons
a perfectly empty alley
then I remember—
I live in the city
where there are no such things—
and just like that
I begin to feel small
and somewhat invisible
and I'm pacified.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Apropos of the
cold blank
absurdity of the cosmos

the iron in a
blast furnace
gets hotter than the fire;

a few fragmentary
lines, inscribed
after the fact come—with time

to mean
more than the entire

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Because I love to talk—
to give ethereal form
to thoughts

but can't stand the sound
of the yowling
whelps that come out.

Because I once was lost
and embarrassed to
get directions

but now I'm found
and too proud
to acknowledge it.

Because I can never get enough
of the great void opened up
by repetition

but I'm terrified
of that silence which lurks
inside silence.

Because I have
an avian soul—the itinerant brain
of a bird

but the four-
chambered heart
of a nervous old birdwatcher.

Because—how good?
are those little moments
we take time to notice

but—how much better?
must be all those
we miss.

Monday, May 13, 2019


Underneath the impossible glow
of a million-year-old moon

when language first mysteriously
hatched into being

poetry must have emerged
along with it

but still the best way we know
of saying thank you

is to stop
and say thank you.

Sunday, May 12, 2019


It is a curious thing how
early in the morning
all the world knows
for a moment what it is like
to feel old;

and yet, early in the morning
we who find ourselves
here all together—who rose
or did not rise
who chose or did not choose
to soften in its mild bath of light—

we ourselves comprise
the substance of that new arrival;
we do not flatter the event
we become it—for a second
time, every living creature
every shining thing
is young.

Friday, May 10, 2019


Dear downstairs neighbor,
please cut out that racket—
I can hear your dog barking
the clatter of your boot heels
your little children's high pitched squeals
like the raptors from Jurassic Park. 

I constantly smell ridiculous mixtures
of all the elaborate
things you've been cooking—
the french toast in the morning
mingled with stuffed peppers
from last night's dinner
wafting up here while I'm
trying not to eat anything.

It's difficult for me
to focus on my manuscript
to unleash the power of positive thinking
to brood appropriately over my future
when I hear the muffled blare
of Walt Disney's Aladdin—
not to mention all the laughter and
participatory singing.

Come to think of it—
even those lulls
when it's quiet have become
unconstructive; I'm just no good
to fuss over an old poem
dust the undersides of the blinds
clean the whole oven over again

when I'm so distracted by the silence
of your tuckered-out daughters
dozing contentedly
your wife and you sprawled on the
couch drinking wine
or maybe the whole family

down on their knees together
completing some spontaneous
homespun drawing
of what I can only imagine
from upstairs to be
a very respectable freehand circle.

Thursday, May 9, 2019


Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru—
each morning at seven, I open
a cabinet door, and I visit these places
which I never plan to visit—
whose names themselves
in the Midwest cornfield of my mind
are shaped like tangles of vines
sticky with dew and slung
among mountains of trees, each heavy
with the ripeness of its fruit.
In the chilly spring dawn, i sit
in the kitchen, trying to sip slowly
and listening for the sounds
of those imaginary mountains.
Naively I wander around destitute farms
laid-back cooperatives with chickens
squawking in the background
mechanistic well-fortified compounds
behind walls of concrete, with red
mansions and black limousines
trying to taste the oppression
of a previous season's tyrannical sun
to inhale the totality of time
and space, to smell the weight
of sheer distance traveled
to feel in my mouth the physicality
of chemistry, the bodily existence
of a Maillard reaction
trying to extract hope
trying to provoke awakening
trying to prolong flavor
knowing full-well
but not wanting to believe
I will not recall any of it
one quick swallow later.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Before dawn each day—
high, impossibly far away

savage blast furnaces

just to power
the weak light
that yawns through

the kitchen window
by which you like
to sit and sip tea

and thumb through a few
pages of Marlowe,
or maybe

sketch a fragment
of your own about

before the slightest flutter
of one lid
of one eye

pitiless factories
galactic in size: all working

toward an infinite quota—
completely for free—
just to manufacture

those sanitized
I-beams of time

which later you
will blithely call
small hours.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019


You'd think we'd recall best
all the places we met,
but it's mostly the coming
and going we remember—

not the 1970s smell of halls,
not the bluish blush of instrument
panels in the dashes
of nervous cars,
not the cool darkness
pooled inside the movie theaters
or the satisfying
stickiness of their concrete floors;

but the movement of everything—
the swaying of park swings,
the constant velocity
of driving side-by-side so we'd always
age at exactly the same rate,
the steps between us left to take
across the rattling floorboards
of neon gymnasiums.

And then, there's all the other places
we never got the chance to meet,
their colors swirling invisibly
around the contours of our breaths
like odd remnants of dreams—sheer
but opaque, vivid but silent;

how are we supposed to forget
those memories we don't even possess,
which hover like ghosts
in the black voids of windows
outside the foreclosed
mansions of our minds?

How do we explain to ourselves
all those other times
we seem to have met
before we met
for the first time?

Monday, May 6, 2019


I think I might be
starting to worry
that the only way
to keep moving forward
is to forget about whatever

I believe I need
and to let it sink in
again every day
by listening
to the firm but generous

voice of my body—
just keep swimming 
just keep swimming
just keep swimming 
don’t try to fix everything.

It's like even when you
don't believe him,
the deliberate cadence
of the TV preacher
still sounds convincing;

or even in a bowl on a
shelf in your dinning
room, that royal blue tang
swimming in circles
still looks pretty natural—

this must be why
when I lie down at night
I'm a hundred and fifty
pound sack
of learned lessons

but when I wake
up the next morning, I rise
like a prophecy—
one which is warning me

I'd better hurry
and get this
down on paper
before I forget—I might
say anything.

Sunday, May 5, 2019


You know the one where you're
walking casually
down the street on an early
Sunday and you see
the anointed ones

the chosen few
that narrow crowd
of purple tulips
wet with morning dew—

the strangeness
of those brainless creatures
ethereal tubes that cannot move
and yet have found a way
of bending gently

but intently toward
the Sun, their great master
and silent teacher

that cabalistic healer
who looks without seeing
and touches from afar

that bizarre and monstrous
alien star, burning itself to
complete destruction
a billion times a billion
miles from here—

and for a moment you too
feel absolved
released from your previous
angle of inclination

humbled but exalted
by the braveness of color
the stamina of these forms
of water, the pure white immensity
of light

and all of a sudden
you find yourself
on board, transported
along with this blooming communion
of believers

to a place
where you're not
walking down the street anymore

but climbing
up the slope of a rock

so huge
and strange, it weighs

Saturday, May 4, 2019


Sorrowful how they cower together
each one so afraid to stand all alone
do they recall how they lived before this
do they remember what they used to mean
the ancient throat which first gave birth to them
before toddlers deemed them adorable
and lawyer fathers argued the cash and
put them in cars bound for pitiful yards
worked them and fed them slop and taught them
tricks and left them out all night in cold rain
now they're out to pasture with blank faces
not one of them having ever given
a satisfactory explanation
of the facts—only here and there one weak
little drop from its own sour perspective.

Friday, May 3, 2019


Most vacations are so exhausting
they're hardly worth the trip—
Edens turn to nightmares
and the logistics of wanderlust
are boring as reading
those Old Testament bible chapters
in which staying begot leaving 
and motion begot turbulence

but far and away the most grueling
excursion I've ever undertaken
involved my staying once
in the exact same place
for as long as I could stand
to ignore—everything else in the universe
continuing to move.

Thursday, May 2, 2019


All the weakest sounds
of things—

faint sizzle
of a dwindled candle

subtle breathing of the newborn

tarnished old bell
feebly repeating
the only note it knows—


Wednesday, May 1, 2019


Wild and untamable though this
creature is
I know

I want it
I want it
I want it

I long to hold it
and give it a name

I connive to ride
on its slinky bare back

I'm desperate to own this
one-of-a-kind specimen

I have to show
it off—or no
I need to keep it
locked inside

to feed it keep it
quiet and delicate-
ly reorganize
my whole apartment around it

deaf to its fuming racket
blind to the swiftly mounting cost

how long have I burned
with this ephemeral fire

I feel as though
I've always known it

I'm certain I
will always know it

and in knowing it so long I fear
I've lost it.