Sunday, June 30, 2019


Most days, the view
from my second story
window is enough—
catalpa leaves flush
against the glass,
with just a dash of
sweetgum, street lamp
tops, blank sky for
light shows, and red
brick in the distance
making up the rest.

I do not need to know
what's happening
down at ground level—
little kids in molded
plastic cars and trucks
pushed from behind
by wearied adults,
joggers and students
lugging backpacks
huffing past, a man in
a business suit or woman
in scrubs, perhaps, and
the dogs—the endless
parades of dogs.

I am content without
any of that—like a
sweet old lady, eager
but hesitant to accept
the prospect of pie
after lunch: any more
than a sliver would
be too much. In fact,
speaking candidly as
a tiny local piece of that
uncountable puzzle,
most days, I'm relieved
to feel responsible
for noticing only a
fraction of the whole.

Saturday, June 29, 2019


From no practical instruction,
I have come to learn

that around seven a.m. is
when the June sun

is angled just right
for its light to become tangled,

momentarily fragmented
and trapped

in the tightly weaved branches of
two sweetgum trees

at the end of my street, just such
that I can linger beneath

and freely observe it
fixed there: halcyon, pacific;

as if standing—like god would,
like the word did

in the beginning
before it could be spoken

or heard—completely implicit,
inconsequent of time.

That I am there promptly
each morning

to see it—makes no difference;
that I am here now

to say it—matters
every little bit.

Friday, June 28, 2019


God, I love dust jackets—
that watery shimmer 
when I flip the book over,
that crackle of actuality
when I pry open the cover,
the arising in the mind
of undiscovered adjectives
like disaster-retardant 
and recent-history-proof.

Sometimes I wish I could
have an extra wrap too;
and that people I knew—
mom, dad, old girlfriends, and
math teachers; the taxi drivers
and waitresses whom, over
the years, I've been nice to—
could condense why I matter
and write it across my back.

Not forever, of course, but
for the foreseeable future—
I could weather abuse with
a little extra good humor,
ooze the self-confidence
of Fonzie in leather, finally
find myself redundantly useful
to someone like you—I'd recline
by your side, a glad initiate

in the first decent
materialistic substitute
for religion: baptized
in matte finish, or anointed
with hi-gloss and beaming
at a picnic reception
by the edge of a river,
in brilliant tandem
with the afternoon sun.

Thursday, June 27, 2019


If Earth had two moons,
that would be a disaster.

Excluding what such
an astronomical discrepancy

would do to pop music
and local weather patterns,

I'd never have known which one
I was kissing you under

that cool night in the park
on the creaky swings,

after we'd dared
to dance for the first time.

It could have practically
trashed the experience—

to have finally actualized
the love I had for you

under a propitiously blue-silver
glow from above, while

privately, you swooned for
the pure whiteness of another.

The whole relationship
could have been corrupted,

likely doomed to failure—
not that it was much better

the way it really happened:
two people picturing

different things—
even with just the one up there.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Lost between the jigsaws of
west side horizons—sparrows
convene parliaments
in its watercolor bushes

and greedy bees haul around
their gold underneath, while the
centerpiece jungle gym's
polished aluminum skin glints

from maroon to bright
red in the afternoon sun.
Near its goofy green water feature,
one child laughs, and another

starts weeping; and a third one's
head begins nodding, like the heads
of those roses out on the fringes
being tussled just a little

by the rakish lake breezes. Now,
conscientious new parents begin
motioning for strollers, produce
snacks in Ziploc bags

or another layer of clothes
for their imminent nappers.
And somewhere out beyond the
decommissioned water tower,

an old song starts playing,
someone in a nearby loft is
practicing the saxophone—or
else running the vacuum cleaner

or just maybe—singing something
about how life is just 
bowl of cherries—or was that
last lyric: a baggie of cereal?

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


     The poets are at their windows 
     because it is their job for which 
     they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon.
     -Billy Collins, "Monday"

I'm fine with these wages,
the gutter flower
and alley cat bonuses
I've been saving in the
401k Of The Imagination.
Keep your view of the
give me the edges
of Midwestern front lawns
which nobody
owns on the 
far side of the walk.
Believe it or not,
Bumble Bee brand canned
chub mackerel 
tastes pretty décente 
both cold and hot—
The only thing which
stings a little
is having to buy
my fromages
in bricks—never wedges, 
not even blocks. 

Monday, June 24, 2019


For better—but, of course
for worse—when I pick up one
of your smart slender books,

it puts a sort of simple frame
made of un-lacquered wood
around the minutiae of morning.

It is—you'd be relieved
to hear, I think—a subtle feeling:
like gravity,

like insects' wings beating
from way out there on the fringe
of your garden;

I find myself
pausing between pages—
to trace with a finger

a certain pattern in the
grain of the table,
to listen more closely

to the sonata
of the fridge compressor,
to gently swirl

this glass of cool milk—
allowing it
to dawn on me

(the way dawn itself must
dawn every day at the
end of a rainy Maui night)

that I wouldn't enjoy it
if I drank it too quickly,
that any second—

this one—or maybe
the one that comes next—
could be

an equator,
some invisible
but significant

prime meridian,
the exact dead
center of my life.

Sunday, June 23, 2019


     This is tantamount to a slap in the face.
     -Cosmo Kramer

Can anything besides
a slap in the face
really be tantamount 
to a slap in the face?

Could any deed meet
or surpass the sensation;
can words
stand-in for feeling?

Me, seriously writing
a poem about this,
for instance—you,
sitting there reading?

Saturday, June 22, 2019


When and wherever I
look at something, I can't help
but imagine I'm
seeing the whole picture.

It's a different problem than
the one you might be thinking:
mistaking trees
for whole forests, calling
nine guys a baseball team, and so on;

it's more
like how I force myself to look
at your face while I'm
talking like this,

because then, I'll believe—that you
are really in there,
that then you can see
and hear me too,

that your head was ever even
close to the house
you liked to call
home in the first place—

it's also like standing
on the edge of this pier
while I do it,

then, gazing out over
the darkening water and realizing
this is me, all alone
on the ocean—

instead of just
on the shore.

Friday, June 21, 2019


It's a beautiful thing I suppose at
first, outside my window

each morning—a hundred or so
sparrows that can't resist singing,

each punching a hole in the
cheap silence, sharpening

to a nice fine point
another one of the universe's

amorphous lumps of potentiality,
spinning one more dull strand

of space—formerly reserved
for something tedious

to occur—into the gold
of what's actually happening

even as I bend
to write it.

But I admire them less
when I descend to street level.

Walking past their lean environs,
it isn't difficult to see

that the price they pay
for their kinetic abilities—

their singing prowess, their
admirable near-weightlessness,

their sleek fleetness of wing
and of foot in the lilac bushes—

is instant panic
at the slightest hint of foot traffic

and an unwinnable war
for territory and resources

against even the least
formidable wind.

Thursday, June 20, 2019


Experience tends
to accumulate gradually—
its little green spears take
their time broadening

into fat wise leaves,
which then rain down
flowers for months thereafter,
with the indiscriminate grace

of a grand old catalpa
tree, anointing as it shelters
everything underneath.

But knowledge is a
much more brutal force—

no cart, all horse; it charges
only forward, carrying nothing
but its own momentum, fast
and hot as lightning

and just as precise—often
pointlessly so: 

only one thing—if it lives
to appreciate it—
is left any different after
it dissipates.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


What if
the Resurrection didn't
happen presto 
change-o all at once?
What if this last
and best trick of all
was the gift
of open-ended process,
if this longest
of long shots was
still going on?
Think of that lesson—
all the little parochial kids
taught to love things
in increments,
not taught
to keep track, not
to count
blessings only once
they've passed.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


They're right when they
say: the world isn't black
and white. But of course,
it's not like it's full-color

either. On the orders
of magnitude which we can
appreciate, everything
is grayscale—the inane details

of the honeymoon itinerary,
each nail-biting second notched
into the shot clock, every
excruciating decision waiting

in line to be made
at every McDonald's drive-thru
on earth—it's all an old photograph
being narrated-over

by a minor celebrity
in a Ken Burns documentary:
before long, a comforting
narrative begins to accrue,

a good little nest egg
of diction accumulates
over this range
of one-to-two options.

Monday, June 17, 2019


It figures—in deference to
the youthful notions of
some warped European, who
then spent the rest of life bent
over his esoteric instruments
in an off-limits laboratory
somewhere in New England,
the whole of space
and time is curved.
Isn't it a little too convenient
to picture—this impossibly
vast and untamable universe
draping itself
all over the earth
in more or less the same
kyphotic posture?

Sunday, June 16, 2019


It seems in life, nothing
is ever quite over
and done with. After a long
yet repetitive week,
Saturday morning keeps
showing up again
with another group-
therapy session, the same
dozen eggs to purchase,
that infernal tub stain to scrub
for the last time, as usual.
We've grown not only tired
but hideous from smiling
so much at this camera.
How much longer, 
we groan, must these same 
scenes keep repeating?
Not that we're in a hurry
to see the movie end—but
we just can't wait until
all the film is gone.

Saturday, June 15, 2019


All you need is love—
which is good, because after
all, love is all you were

going to get, anyway.
Devotion is contagious
(as are smiles and laughter);

it replicates without being told
until it's everywhere
like the spores of a mold.

And hope floats
only on its own notion
(if you ever looked over

the edge, you'd see nothing
but little hope boats
all the way down).

But the same way in which those
positive emotions
just love to build stuff,

there are oceans of other ones
(indifference, doubt,
isolation, for a start)

which love just as much
to come along and
hollow it all out.

Friday, June 14, 2019


Funny—any sunny Friday
afternoon in Chicago,
I'm still able to feel far-off
and murky as the Sargasso.

I can walk by restaurants
chumming with people
clinking bright beverages
on outdoor patios, trying to

find myself in that scenario—
surrounded by mirth,
buoyed by coworkers—
instead of locating

the only sea on earth
which no lands border,
churning circles alone
in the north Atlantic

with algae and muck
welling up from its
center—but no luck;
My focus is garbage,

my rudder stays stuck
on its opacity trick.
Okay, maybe that actually
isn't so funny.

Thursday, June 13, 2019


It's like you've got
an open-ended 
with Sisyphus;
steady work 
designing stasis—
lifting and dusting 
under air pockets, 
dropping rocks 
precisely where they 
were already, and
parting the waters 
for a nanosecond 
with one frothy swab
of an index finger.
It doesn't pay, but it
makes you feel
busy—and trust me 
when I say this: 
maintaining any feeling 
is a full-time job.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


in spite of everything—
is always reconciling.

In spite
of what you did,
then didn't
do right after that

taupe skies lighten, then
clear before sunset,
proceeded by a harvest moon's
copacetic light.

In spite of those things
you said that night
and all the times
you failed to be there

in the morning, there's still
the smell of lilacs waiting,
a sparrow's simple song, rolling
dew-bright sod galore.

In spite of your entire
personal history, every
flash flood and furious blizzard
ravaging your background,

a holiday weekend
keeps nosing back around,
like the wet snout of
some mute little animal

who's decided
it needs you, regardless
of how stony or
deadpan you act.

No matter which closet
or attic you've chosen
to sit in, with index
fingers jammed in your ears,

the three-day forecast
still seeps in there
from a portable radio
on the neighbors' back patio,

and damned if it doesn't
still sound pleasant—
or at least

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Hearing a sentence like this
hurts. But I think
by a large margin, the worse
sensation is the seeing
that which we never saw
again just as suddenly, taking
with it every color,
every outline, every tint or
semblance of the picture
without even giving us
so much as the chance to
scribble a few bullet points
concerning its general
description, in the vain hope
of remembering
it for next time.

Monday, June 10, 2019


I swear I can't look around at this
deteriorated world anymore,
with its overabundance
of chintzy floral prints.

Even at their best, these patterns
tend to invoke a certain
pointlessness—but the problem
only worsens

after they've faded.
Take those bedraggled
poinsettias on your
dishtowels, for instance;

or the mauve roses
in their mauve rows
on the two dusty
armchairs we

found in your attic;
or the discolored daisies
in a picture I'm not
so sure I want languishing

here in my memory
much longer—of your hand-
me-down backless
hospital gown.

Saturday, June 8, 2019


One by one
the burly sun
hauls in
each derelict morning.

and hours later—
pure darkness
and a little moonlight

take their
turns interrogating
the wearied
deadpan sky:

Just like that—
a whole day—

Or perhaps—
gone missing—
by sheer coincidence?

Friday, June 7, 2019


People don't say: All roads 
lead to Rome much anymore—

not because the import
or accuracy is moot,

but because Rome 
no longer means

just one thing to everyone.
Right now, it's more popular

to declare: Love is love—
but I don't think that one's

exactly true either.
I've been there, and believe me

I tried to do as the Romans do.
I stripped nude and called out to you

from the dark Romanesque shadows
cast by that word,

but I felt stupid, which made you
feel ugly and vulnerable. I swear

I tried so hard to love you
every way I could think to;

I explored every avenue,
tested every alternate route.

But it was no use,
when I tried to explain

these strange new directions—
they didn't make any sense to you.

Thursday, June 6, 2019


     Why do the phenomenon and its preconditions 
     exist in the first place? Why not a different mode 
     of evolution not present on this planet that might 
     have produced a different kind of thinking brain?
     -Edward O. Wilson, The Origins of Creativity 

Ingenious though it is
the thinking brain
has the hardest time conceiving
of its opposite:
a simple star-shaped lump
of flesh
which moves around a lot
but doesn't
accomplish much.
To the mind
the blind utility of muscle
is inconceivable.
And it's probably best
it remains so.
How we could come
to love one another
with just the prerequisite
of taking up space
is a hard enough
puzzle to solve as it is.
If we truly believed
these bodies were real
we wouldn't want
anything to do with ourselves.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019


The ego,
I think, must not be
a temple, since

not even Christ—pissed off
though he is

with a little
harmless competition
from local business—

would willingly wreck his
in the name of salvation.

And really who
could blame him? Look at
how magisterial! the thing is.

But then, think
of all the patents—
held in the name of
somebody else—

that must have been needed
in order to erect it.

No, I think
the ego is more like
one of those
tiny pointed paper cups:

a disposable cone
which can never stand up
on its own

and which gets
overfilled easily—

yet it's always
so startling
when it starts to spill over.

On our humblest
days, we might feel

by the sensation
of runoff dripping
down on our foreheads.

On all the questionable

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


In the future—public space
has been banned as
too dangerous 

for nakedly
showcasing the species
at its worst;

without a license, with no
credentials whatsoever,
any creature

in earth's vicinity
who wants to
can observe

the way in which
unfetter themselves

use it
to pieces, like
it's theirs

then—amble off
before the three
bears return.

Monday, June 3, 2019


The last blast of a storm
hurts less
than the first,
the final drops
nourish more
than the torrents that
came before,
herald the rest
and protection and
quenched thirst
which must precede
all concentration on
hunger or sex—which
in turn, are both
needed to precipitate
growth. Thorn bushes,
dirt, even those inanimate
cracks in the sidewalk
would all assure us
from experience,
if they ever got the chance
to talk: no matter how long
it rains, it stops—
no matter how much
it blows, it won't.


Soberly surmising
upon arriving
that he can
never again go home,

the consummate doctor
rolls his old coat sleeves
and proceeds
with his ministry—

knocking with even
greater civility
before entering
each door

in this infinite ward
known as
Public Domain.

So much depends,
he intones over
and over—end of poem.

Saturday, June 1, 2019


     [A hatching chick] can't afford doubt. Who can? 
     Doubt uses albumen 
     at twice the rate of work.
     —Kay Ryan, "Doubt"

I doubt very much
that brawny doubt
would choose to consume

so many calories
from water and crude lean protein.
At least

for me,
worry and concern
tend to feed on the juicier stuff;

not those jittery
bean-pole aminos—
they go straight for the crystalline

confidence of minerals
warmly suspended
in the reassuring bulk of fat molecules.

When I overthink, it's the yolk
of me that shrinks and pales in color
from its former hale yellow.

At length, though
the poet is correct: all this quibbling
only gets harder

and harder to abide—
while all the while, suspiciously
easier to admit.

In fact, by now simply observing
my own hesitation
is such a catabolic process

that, in order to conserve lean body mass
I must try my best
not to look inside like this.