Friday, December 23, 2016


on I-75, last chances from Amazon

drone FedEx through the night

with heavy lidded drivers.

second shift is over at AK Steel,

cars leak from its parking lot 

in twos and threes,

last call just an hour away.

the tree is radiant 

with baubles and tinsel

and candy.

gifts spread across the floor,

and wrapping still to be done.

here, everyone is asleep but me.

with a book in hand,

I worry too much this night

about things I cannot touch -

the weather, the scepter, 

lost time. everything seems heavy,

and angels distant.

the stars have drowned in city lights so 

I cannot get my bearings;

the old maps are all useless now

except for the florid inscriptions 

at their edges: "here there be serpants."

winter solstice is two days past,

in bed, I turn out the lights,

and in the darkness wonder,

if the days 

are really growing longer.


Sunday, December 11, 2016


As prayers matter only to God,
it’s hard to imagine that poems
matter to anyone but poets. 
People do not much line up at bookstores
when poets come to town; None are declared
Person of the Year by Time magazine
or named Sexiest Man Alive by People.
And, for better or worse, there seem to be few poetic stalkers.

I know there are podcasts by poets
but I’ve never heard them discussed in line at Starbucks.
“Only poets buy books of poetry,” complain booksellers.
But perhaps this is like complaining that
only fishermen buy fishing rods.
Fly fishing is poetry – cadence, soft touch, patience.
Some poets like to fish - so some fly fishermen
Must like to write poetry, knee deep in Maine streams.

Fading sunset, the splash
Of the rainbow trout that just missed his last cast sends
Ripples of sunlight rolling across the stream,
So that in the early dusk, he is a rendered a sharp silhouette
against the red ember sky.

He fishes out a pencil and small notebook, notes
The new born babe he saw by the highway
With angels hovering and ominous storm clouds
in the far mountains. The old woman and young girl
fighting at the bus stop. The alcoholic bartender.

But not least he writes
Of the flash of that trout of just moments before,
It’s fight for life,
Its stark contrast to a world
that has forgotten how to fish.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016


When you live in a city of lies,
where words are sniper bullets scoping truth,
you must avoid street lights
when you walk yourselves home from evening meetings.
Do not wait at stoplights for a sign or cross,
just walk when you know its time to walk.

When the woman behind the counter
At the 7-11 looks behind you as she takes your
Cash, don’t turn around but ask to buy a pack
Of cigarettes, even if you don’t smoke,
Then walk slowly out the door smacking
That pack against the palm of your other hand.

When the police car that circled the
Block, circles it again, turn on all the lights,
Inside and out. Let them know you are
knowing. Turn down the TV
So the neighbors don’t think what they may hear
Is just entertainment.

When you see a security camera,
don’t wave or be cute. You
must keep your dear loved ones so close
that no one can see their shadows.

When the people gathered
On the corner are strangers,
Stay on your porch, in the dark, let them see
Just the glow of your cigarettes. Don’t talk
About anything except, maybe, guns. Always
Back into your driveway.

When the river is red with oil and waste,
The politicians will brag of their success in
Saving it from worse. Always carry a handkerchief
To cover your mouth and nose from the stench. Always
Have enough cash for a cab.
When the teacher tells you what you know
Are big lies that carry the weight of their absurdity
Like scepters, and you are forced to keep your head down
by sniper fire, remember to breathe and
know where the exits are.

When the manager takes his daily walk
Through your department,
You need to notice everything about that walk,
The direction and the timing of it. The slow
and the fast of it.
Someday it might mean life and death.

When light gathers suddenly
on a midnight horizon like a sunrise,
gather your family and say the prayers
That must be said. Touch each other’s
Faces and wipe away the tears.

And when the light grows too bright to bear,
When even closing your eyes can’t stop the pain of it,
When one more lie is added to the fire,
And snipers are everywhere,
Then we must find each other and
All the others.

Then we will run through the town square
Of the city of lies, its blinding lights,
As cop cars circle the square
Again and again, as the mayor
Descends to his command center,
As the stench overcomes us like sin.
As we hold close all that was
Shattered in the past, all of
The sacrifices, all of the blood
Of hallowed providence, all 
of the words of all our prophets and poets, 
hold it all so close 
that no one can see their shadows.

Oh! loved ones, hold dearly


Thursday, November 10, 2016


There is the sadness of flowers of course,
When they throw their seeds to the wind and
There is nothing to hold them.
No angels or sun or rain.
There is the suddenness of loss -
As when a friend dies that you’ve been
Meaning to call but then you get the news and
Everything is broken glass.
There is that place where love and hate intersect,
That sniper’s dream, that place where
You can never run fast enough
And everything is far.
There is the dream that ends with an alarm.
And another that ends with eternity.
And another that just ends and you realize
The sunrise ever does not wait.
There is hopelessness of course. Always that.
The wonderment of G-D and what does this mean
And why does life hurt so much
When all you did was open your eyes
After a journey of blood and stars and months.
There are times when
Only bare trees make sense,
Only clocks keep time,
Only babies give hope,
The impossible cost of truth
Is revealed,
Forgiveness is given,
And the trees bloom with a passion
Born of forgetting that
They’ve done it a hundred times before.
We are given this life for the remembrance,
For that moment when truth had a beating heart,
For when all that was thought lost was found,

And the night gained its stars.


Thursday, August 25, 2016


the wind weaves through the trees and brushes by me
like someone late. Standing in a spacious green field, I
await lightening. I believe
in the unbelievable,
deny the unbelievable.
god is farther than words. 
farther than “exist” or “non-exist”.
god does not make watches, but neither repairs them.

each breath is universe.
this life itself is truth. 
each day, there is nowhere to go, 
but the journey never ends; 
no understanding, but no end
to understanding. 

no magic,
no miracles to believe,
except this beating heart,

pushing oceans.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

a seed senses what it will become

waiting to be shorn of its
summer sacraments,
our garden is a wild thing in August.

on hands and knees in its warm dirt,
I whisper questions:
when do weeds become flowers?”

and, “in the fall, where does it all go?”

in the evening, the Kentucky whiskey
I sip is warm smoke
from the embers of the day.

with a deep breath, my tired body slips
beneath sleep and drifts in its slow tides.

much later, I wake to see
the moon tethered to the treetops.
I grope for a pencil,
flip on the lamp, and write:

nothing ever really goes anywhere.”
weeds become flowers because they do.”

then I flip off the lamp
and watch the moon come untethered
until my eyes realize that I am asleep

and it's time to dream.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016


You can’t rest. Not really.

Life doesn’t let you rest.

“Rest in the grave,” says the chorus.

Your heart doesn’t ever, does it?

It labors through the night,

pulling its mighty oar,

while your mind 
catalogues all the heartless lovers

that stabbed you

through that very heart 

and stopped caring

where you slept.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Fluorescent cold fills
these glass aeries
where we perch, enamored
with the business of selling ourselves
piece by piece with the
gold scale at our feet

or just singing a cheerful song.

Happy as larks. Happy
as a coal miner’s daughter.
Happy as a traveling salesman
knocking on your door
without a sale in his pocket
that day.

Our faces are pallid blue
in the harsh white, icy dread that lovingly
runs its fingers down our backs,
tangles us in a damp tourniquet of sheets,
wakes us with tied off veins
pulsing fluorescent
maps of unknown provenance.

The persistent hum and flicker
sliding beneath our eyes,
crawling like soft silkworms
down our ear canals,
filling our skulls with an unbearable
blue cotton candy brilliance
in which we can see not even 
one thing.

Softly then we,
with strangled breath,
sing a newly learned
and blindly cheerful song
of fluorescence
and how happy
it must be to be replaced




Monday, June 20, 2016

the sound of bees (for my sister)

          The blue rotary wall phone tied you
to the kitchen counter,
shoulder holding it to your ear,
while you stared at your parents talking over
Cronkite’s black and white delivery
of the news from Selma.

Confronted by the plainness of your life
in all its glory, you longed to be
in New York City,
read at
the City Lights Bookstore
or raise a pint of ale
in Devonshire;

though you knew not
what ale was,
who was drinking it,
what was being read,
why it mattered or
what stranger you would
make love to the East Village.

You only knew you wanted
the cynosure of anywhere,
longed for it, heard rumors of it
in music and from the
high school teacher that
none of the parents trusted.

Until after years of retreat,
when you could no longer abide
the estranged languor, the flatness,
the sheer absence of madness,

you gently laid that blue phone
on the countertop,
and let it fill the room

with the sound of bees.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

on taking a birthday polaroid at the crestone zen center

         with a camera almost as old as me,
the zen monk cocks the shutter to
take a black and white polaroid
to mark my 60th birthday:

“hold your arms out high –
like you’ve just won something,” he says.

after our breakfast of tea, rice and fruit,
in the midst of a warm May morning,
I squint to see the picture he took
just moments ago.

“It looks so cold there,” he says
looking over my shoulder and
tapping at the center
of the underexposed print.
“And you can’t smell
the crabapple blossoms at all.”

“Can you normally smell them?” I ask.

“Yes, well, every spring,” he answers,
brushing pink petals from his black robe
and putting his camera away.

“Every single spring.”


Friday, April 29, 2016


In a hotel lounge twenty-six floors above Seoul,
the sound of rush hour is muted.
The acrid grey sky is cancerous with sunrise.

With neckties tight,
and coffees half finished,
four businessmen at the next table
speak of the silver flash of trout
in shimmering Colorado streams.
Children in Bangladesh.
Second homes. Long hours suffered.
Rare earth minerals pried from Mongolia.
Starving migrations. Picassos. Monets.
The value of love. What to bid.
Consumption of McDonald’s.
The smoothness of ivory.
Profits for a cure. Stocks. Wine.
Pyongyang and cigarettes.
Their adored sons.

But my translation is poor;
their language of pure math
is difficult, a distillation.
A torrent of calculations with too many
decimal places rushing through stock markets,
canyons, favelas and forests far below,

washing away everything
that cannot escape
to higher ground.

Then, with laughter at a good joke,
they push back from their table,
and are gone into the stillborn sunset
bleeding across the city.

Gentle brown winds from China
burn our lungs.
The evening closes over us
like rising water;

nothing moves.


Friday, April 22, 2016

a poet puts down his camera

a photo is worth a thousand words too many for this poet.

the dam has burst and the flood of words
It held back sweeps me onto blank pages, the receeding waters leave the debris of my life scattered everywhere.

the scene would make for a vivid photograph, but I will find meaning in the beautiful chaos, letter by letter, word by word,

one poem at a time.