Friday, May 29, 2020


To think—I am now sitting 
in the same kitchen 

in which I 
will have been standing 

after I have deciphered 
my very next words.


These strange loops 
and chickenscratch x's 

may take on a prescient significance 
as imperceptibly 

as a snail 
secreting its shell. 


After the frame 
is in place, 

it's so difficult 
to remember 

It hasn't always been like this.

How do we expect to compete 
with the nostalgic stillframed past? 

Looking back, 
even every failure and deficiency 

was just so easy,
so precious,

so perfect.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


It's hard to resist.
Watching the news 

makes us go stiff—
makes us feel serious 

in the way 
stark poems 

or a Bartók quartet
used to.

but not sober, 

like a sublime encounter 
with the terrifying existential 

power of the ocean;
the post hoc rationalization 

that nothing 
is personal, 

nothing is 

is shocking

shocks us—
shocks us just 

hard enough 
to get off.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Are we not

by the flutters of melody
coming from the 
parks and gardens—

by those peeling-
open faces 
of the peonies, 

the savvy darts of spiderwort
foxglove, lily of the valley, 

by the broad flat open 
palms of red hibiscus 

rippling in the spree 
of late May light 
and breeze—

are we not so
completely relieved

and reassured 
by all of these

that we've 
utterly forgotten 
why it is we need

such a repeated
and urgent

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


I used to think, 
along with most: we were simply 
playing our roles.

We were dynamic characters 
surviving hardships 
and changing for the better.

Lately I have come to suspect 
the work is stranger 
and less glamorous than that—

we are living in the time 
after the movie has ended; 
that moment 

when, up through the field 
of uniform black,
the credits come scrolling.

Suddenly, we are not sure 
which one of these strange collections 
of symbols we were,

and the audience all have different ideas   
concerning when it's appropriate 
to get up and go.

Friday, May 22, 2020


If I'm being honest 
it feels like 
the end game 

has already passed us
but time is still 
of the essence. 

It feels like 
I've never been more 
self absorbed 

or less attentive.
Like, if I'm not 
at least trying

to control 
my own thoughts
I will probably be seen

as more than a little 
in lieu of meditation

I've been practicing 
my penmanship 
in reverse: 

first I write lost
followed by is 
and then all

Later on
I take a picture 
where I'm standing outside 

listening to traffic 
and feeling conspicuous—
it sounds less 

like applause 
than I had expected 
and more like 

the murmuring 
of an internet church—
how many followers do you have?

Thursday, May 21, 2020


On behalf of myself and the rest 
of the crestfallen,

I would like to say thank you 
to the faded sprees of sidewalk chalk 

and the banana-yellow bouquets of balloons 
calmly deflating on front railings.

Thanks so much 
to the homemade posters 
hanging in the floor to ceiling windows 

expressing, in turn, their thanks 
to the others 
with rainbows and hearts and five-pointed stars.

Thanks to the brightness 
of the caution tape on the gates of the park, 

the minimalist art style 
of the new bus ads and billboards, 

and the soothing piano music 
playing in the giant 
conglomerates' internet commercials. 

Thank you for helping us 
come unstuck 
from our hamfisted grip on the statue quo—

because of you, 
it feels like we are finally giving up 

on those cumbersome beliefs 
we had carried around since childhood 

that life was eternal, and we 
were invincible.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


I've been trying to picture
after I'm gone,

a beautiful day—the
sun and wind and clouds,
the boundless light;

a kid 
in a field of 
overgrown grass, 

face knotted up 
in fervent delight,

holding tight to the 
string of a kite.

But it's no use; 
the harder I try, the worse 
it gets. The kite 

is not really a kite. 
The kite is a bird.

And this kid 
is not delighted; 

his face is contorted 
into a grimace, 
as if he's being forced 

in the absurd eye 
of an untamable storm 

to keep holding on
to my burden.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


which scene is this? 
What famous movie 

is it we're recreating
each time we take the stage 

to feign 
such oscar-worthy 
ignorance of our situation? 

In order to succeed 
we each must think:
I am the lead,

and everything else 
is background information,

subject to being modified 
from its original version, 

formatted to fit screens 
and edited for television.   

Over the phone, 
conversation feels safer—
by which I mean

more clandestine:
I quote lines 
as if they were my own creations,

and you quip back 
as if words were 
raw ingredients 

for making 
years' worth of shared experiences 

and not merely 
their bleak 

fermentation containers 
stacked up deep
in the basement. 

Monday, May 18, 2020


When you first looked 
ahead, did you notice? 

The difference 
between being 

and being something 
is enormous;

it's the difference 
between fire 

and whatever it is 
that's burning. 

One is an obdurate shadow 
tightly constricted 

on the sun's surface;
the other is yearning 

to live on 
in perpetuity

as it waves
back and forth

in the noose 
of present tense.

Friday, May 15, 2020


On either side 
of these neighborhood streets, 
the once rag-and-bone 
branches of trees 
are now growing long 
and brawny with spring rain;

soon enough, the tips 
of their fingers may grow 
to touch over the center of these roads, 
forming a thick dome 
over the homes and apartments below—
so much the better to cradle and hold 

the fragile expectations 
of all those who dwell there,
to protect such heretofore 
unexampled frustrations, to keep
such extraordinary solitude from escaping 
or being exposed. 

Thursday, May 14, 2020


Gradually, the agitated 
bustle of the grocery store 
gives way to a kind of 
quiet communion—
obscured faces and precious things 
lining aisles and display cases, 
boisterous kids and their 
watchful, tight-lipped parents 
contemplating both 
the senseless damnation 
of life in a pandemic and 
what makes sense for this week's lunch. 
Gradually, we become more 
than customers; we react as war generals, 
mature as statues, resolute as pack animals. 
We move as one finely-tuned implement 
of desire and love, humility 
and imperfection. 
In line, we watch one another 
shyly but without guile, 
blandly but courteously, the old 
and the young, the overly-
cautious and the overly exhausted—all
the representatives of this world, 
knowing we are here 
for the same reason; we are going 
home to different places; 
like never before, we are aware 
of the slender existence of one another.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


Go ahead—dismiss me, 
or tune me out 
toward those frequencies of 
wayward influences, 
carve me black-headed 
on a staff, and then
lose me in a digital flood of 
disregarded melody 
like a bad penny down 
an impervious well.

I will still go on making my
irreducible music
day and night endlessly, 
and you will remember it 
by its defenseless simplicity—
by the restless stillness 
that lives in the pitch-black 
trenches of your mind
like rings live 
inside the trunk of a tree.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Alone and unseen 
on another empty street, I 
can feel myself swaying 
in the gathering breeze—
like an insect 
who's trapped in the intricate web 
that is this dim and suspicious city—
its many sticky absences 
all strenuously crossing 
over and under each other while I 
wait in the center 
for someone or something deceitful 
to return home and claim
my shadow as its own. 

Monday, May 11, 2020


After Lucille Clifton (sort of)

Oh antic multiplicity 
of universes, return to me 
the young man of my 
early twenties—
unkempt hair billowing 
out from underneath a 
thrift store ball cap, t-shirt 
breast pocket bulging 
with Winston Lights soft pack, 
smiling ironically at the photograph 
he never expects to see again.

All of the atoms in my body have left me
at least twice since that moment.

My hands don't remember 
what signature patterns 
his were so practiced at, 
and I can no longer recall 
what he worked such long hours for, 
who he loved 
more that he thought 
it was safe to admit, or 
which absurd counterfactuals 
he'd sit around and dream of.

I wish he was standing before me 
here, just for a moment 
so that I could hear him insist
(however noncommittally)
that none of these details 
really matter that much.

Friday, May 8, 2020


With every new iteration
of the world that gets created
I'm starting to worry

we might
keep getting placed slightly
farther apart.

A few more of these
universe branches
(following some close-call decision
about to eat for lunch or something)

and I may not even be able
to leave you
with advice—like:

don't be too eager for love,
but don't take
what comes, either.

Try to speak your mind, but
never say I'm sorry
when you're trying to be polite.

And when the ones who
are in charge start
to spurn you—only to turn around
and ask for your support;

when they try to remind you
you're dust 
and to dust you shall return,

try not to look
directly in their faces
when you laugh;

be a little graceful
and just say thank you 
before you turn
and walk away.

Thursday, May 7, 2020


Late spring is mature and kind
and eager enough to chaperone
pink dogwood
wild plumb and lovely
cherry blossoms
to this outdoor formal ball

just so that you and I might stroll
idle as the air
thick as marscapone
past them all—feeling debonair
and breezy wearing
last week's gym clothes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020


Heads up—here comes
that invulnerable hero: the sun;

demigod, sparkplug, revisionist,
exalted one;

enemy of criminals, drunks,
philanderers, card sharks;

the one who gets things done.
Unlike that liminal coward, the moon,

he has returned just as he promised,
luminous, and as always,

in the same platonic, circular
oracular form.

He can now be seen from your window
riding in his glorious chariot, post-battle

toward that reassuring press conference
in the sky called high noon.

And you are so relieved to see that man,
you can feel it in your bones

like a heat; so relieved,
it feels undeserved—it's like

those dreams, those precious hours
like pearls on a necklace,

which were stolen last night
as you slept have been returned.

From your ligaments to your fingertips,
you feel whole once again

as you realize—you do not have to
do this alone.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020


The thin needles of cold
rainwater this morning
can go on pelting the lilacs
outside my window as long as they

like for all I care; I am no longer
offended by the relentless,
the indefinite, the endless, or
the all-over-the-place.

Perhaps the world's sadness
is a kind of sustained prayer,
an expression of our gratitude
for the time it took to get this lost

and for the generous time
which is still on offer
to pay off the interest
on the opportunity cost.

Yes, there must be much tenderer
planets out there than this one—
so small and so distant, it would
exhaust these bodies to get there;

but there are also those thoughts
which we know will never leave us
until we've become so
thoroughly exhausted.

Monday, May 4, 2020


Right as arithmetic
you roll out of bed—
another day, a blank

page, a clean slate
(except with your
particular head on)—

at least it feels that way
for a few seconds,
until that strange terrifying

alien computer brain
kicks back online again
and begins recalculating

frantically, everything
that has ever happened
in your life until now—

adding up how much
of it was all your fault,
then subtracting off

all the stuff you couldn't
do anything about
if you had tried. Luckily

by that time, the bed
you lie down in
has been made

and it would only
lengthen this sequence
to crawl back inside.

Sunday, May 3, 2020


After the fact, some brick
walls start to look like
lucky breaks—

dead-ends, like acts
of crash test
dummy mercy;

breaking their hearts
may have kept the reckless
safe from broken necks.

Saturday, May 2, 2020


It is actually all of the poems
other than this one
which have saved me—
those beautiful gems
wrought by hands I haven't met
with the blood and sweat
and fetid smell of their own
hells, or the sweet pure
simplicity of their daydreams,
bound and collected
by still yet unseen others—
those mystical squalls
of torrid imagination
which have snapped my last
resistant traces, or else
deftly recombobulated
some dead node in my mind
at the very last moment
before the breakage could occur.
Those are the poems
that matter. This one is written
merely in participation—
like a nod in response
to a life-and-death directive,
a sober and sapless 'amen'
uttered upon the conclusion of
a transformative sermon.

Friday, May 1, 2020


The grass in the park
across the way
is overgrown again
and needs mowing.

I can see battalions
of dandelions
creeping steadily
inward from its mangy edges.

Silence—neither the silence
of peace, or of complete despair—
now occupies the square
patch of ground in the center

where squealing children
once would clamber
over ropes and bars
and rusty swings,

eager to launch their
small world wars.
Now I wonder what sorts
of unsuitable spaces

are filled today
by the voices
of those brave and
impatient soldiers—

what impassioned
political speeches
must be pouring from
their indoor throats

like the mash of torn-away
treebuds and rainwater
that's gushing from the mouths
of its vacant army-green slides.