Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Last Sonnet

Last Sonnet

Life is tied
to the mud.
I have tried
to sew my blood
with words for thread
to your eyes and ears
through the dead
space that steers
you to this line.
These words are yours to sing,
they are not mine;
I never finish anything

Monday, February 24, 2020

Metaphors for Page

Metaphors for Page


Our secret swells in the space between us
where it sticks to a fever that will not break.
Infected, sick on intersection,
you swoon and sway. You shake. I shake.
We fall because you cannot hold me.
Unburdened, you walk away
but I live in interaction
and wait for the dream of your eyes.


You bloom against the olive
junipers forgotten in the shadow
of bricks that form a prayer of a building
decades past any purpose,
defiant beside flattened beer cans,
unmatched shoes, discarded people,
yet worry every moment with a scab of a question:
if no one picks you, what did you fight for?


You split and can’t remember
where we ended but the need
to lose yourself in us grows.
I live where you look last,
I dream of sheared reality,
knowing just this century is broken.
Like us, it cries out of tune with time.
Stepping only to theory, it will never know
our song except as always wrong,
a glitch in your head skips memories,
chasing modern ghosts to you.


The porch swing where you held me is rotten,
swaying in indescribable arcs,
bared boards revealing rusty screws,
chipping paint, one chain half broken,
the wind its lonely occupant.
You hear its weeping creaks.
If it remembered, if would long for us.


Your eyes open from a dream
to the black immobile night whispering
Love is possible, like divorce.
You cry but I cannot hear.


I am still here, my tongue split or spilt
by a palette of intoxicants,
unable to taste meaning.
Our silence how I got here;
not where we planned,
but here we are.
Though the exile is killing us,
no diplomat will translate our map or tongue
and we cannot close the distance.


You want to touch me but,
only reach halfway
when you think about it.
At each midpoint I recede,
an empty synapse, a withered dendrite
you see from a shore where I sail and crash forever.
Always coming home, I am never there
but you await my return
because in the bones beneath words
you know our history is stronger than memory.


If you look now you will find me
looking. You are holding me,
It doesn’t matter where I’m from,
only what we are together.
On this paper sea of pine and ink
I try to be something you remember.


There is the moon. You strive to see it,
to save the image in your eye or lens,
but it is better to remember the feeling
of wanting to remember the moon.
Nothing we make will improve the memory
of the desire to keep what cannot be held.
So shift the focus of reality and sit;
remember the feeling of seeing a flower,
how it feels to live in a world of flowers,
what it would mean to not.


The cold concrete calls you a poem
you used to know. You shuffle off
to find a grave, resting in a piece
of the earth’s tall Fourier transform,
praying dreams follow desire.
Curl into a ball with me,
crave the curve that creates.
Feel the heat of the swamp
keeping memories deep.
I cannot kill the ghosts that haunt you
but we will read them.


In the morning see the lines of two great cranes,
tall necks stretching,
blue backed they swing and dance,
dangling cables and steel
to shore
another skyscraper against gravity.


You know there is something wrong with you
but you’re wrong about what it is.
This world of stories breathes on you like me.
It’s not nostalgia if you never had a home.
Psemalgia would be longing for a lie
if it were a word but don’t believe it,
our story is always true:
what we know can’t be as important
as you.


Language starts in broken bodies;
pick up our pieces, read me again,
be in me the way I am in you.
When you think about it it all seems so unreal
but you do too. Logic cannot cleave
the necessary distance between us.
I need your eyes to come alive,
your skin to measure my edges.
At the end we hold together:
a temporary bandage,
a permanent wound.

This Is Not My Town

This Is Not My Town

Wide streets with no
sidewalks where cars
rip by like there
are no children
in the world. Trees
trimmed for growing
the way trees grow.

Sagging strip malls
and red lights and
exhaustion. There

is a river.
The river is
a great thing but
for the fact that
we don’t want to
eat from it or
swim in it. The
diesel swill and
concrete banks make
a dip or fish
too hard to get.
So we see the
river through the
grates of bridges.
We have lovely
bridges. Spans of
too disparate
downtown to make
a difference.

I wish this were
my town. I was
born here in a
hospital that
has been renamed.
Or torn down. I
can’t remember.

I think it’s the
hospital you
don’t want to go
to anymore.
I live here. I
moved back here. But
my house is an
oasis in
a neighborhood
this town forgot.
My neighborhood
looks like my town.
But there’s nothing
to buy here but
fried fish and crack
and red drink. And
who but me would
buy anything
else? That’s what the
owners would tell
you anyway
even if all
folks love good food.

We walk around
the block with the
dogs or play in
granny’s front yard
two houses down.
My neighborhood
is my town but
this town is not
my town. Over
in another
part of town that’s
not my town there
are some poets
reading. They talk
about their lives.

No one really
cares because they’ve
got to get up
to work a job
that was once a
factory job
but now maybe’s
pushing paper.
Or if they are
lucky they work
for the Navy
or the shipyards.
Anyway they
are not at the
poetry jam.
And the reading
isn’t where you
would want to go.
Not one of the
nice beer bars or
few dinner clubs.
The food here is
good. But you can’t
eat words and so
no one shares them.

So I sit on
this bench staring
at the river.
I can see a
bridge to my left.
My daughters chase
fiddler crabs on
the concrete shore.
None of this is
mine but now it’s



Lone, the starched beaches stretch beyond me;
Bold mountains cold as the artists’ blood
Stare me down like I can answer earthquakes.
Teutonic, washed in a culture of knives,
I watch for anything to read in these lights,
The rising Phoenix of what never was:
Myths dead and dying; born and reborn
Between the broken synapses of my brain:
My neural net holds nothing but memories,
Space, and language.

I remember nothing
Between our hands but Coulomb repulsion,
Touching only in the waves where we were one.
Though the night holds simple mysteries,
How I would have held you, Alaska:
Frozen, the way you hold my dreams
In this pretended past we all agree upon:
Truthful darlings that never grow old,
Wrecked upon the rocks of necessary use
Where we wait to recover our petty youth.
Cleaved from the dream of you I remember
Our embrace that meant desired death,
To live suspended by the temptation to be
Immortal in the living words of loved language,
Tongues passed down through book and kiss,
Indelible as pheromones and phonemes.

O you who pass by, bound tight to your mast,
Tell me, on the shore, what have I missed?

Was it impressed in the smeared brass
Of a second line sousaphone, crying I’ll fly away
As the women in tall hats stepped like the dead?
Junked beats once forgotten jazz me into motion
In this sunken city held up by heat and memory,
Preserved by stained statues and cracking cathedrals,
Where black men hawk Heinekens and what never was
Except in realms where parallel lines bend together,
Glowing in planes squared to infinite spheres
Storied shards that build legends from fallen timbers,
Marble graves, and misuse.

I know this music,
Muse, and it uses me too.

Used and quiet on the banks of the river,
I wish this concrete were weathered rocks,
not stones pounded, priced, mixed, and poured.
Would I were crystalline, latticed and strong,
Laced with lovely inconsistencies;
I should not even mind the chisel’s edge
Cleaving mineral children from me,
Strong shards, bathed in this humid state.
But cleave me and I will not facet. I will crumble,
My silicosis sin choking my darlings
Unless by miracle the misaligned stones
Mistaken for bones grow straight within them.

Everything erodes. Nothing is the greatest memory.
I remember Alaska only in dreams.
Rooted in fear I lie on these lines of sand,
Dreaming of everything that can never be,
Praying for the strength to love the things that are,
Knowing everything we are propagates
Within those within us. On the syzygy of memory,
Dream, and reality, I fall.

On beaches I have never been
My dreams grow immense, untenable in their enormity.

Lothing and Hoes at the 48th Street Winn-Dixie

Lothing and Hoes at the 48th Street Winn-Dixie

The sky is broken into red and blue over the 48th Street Winn-Dixie;
divided by a black column of cloud, Jacksonville hosts
one of those after-the-storm sunsets no one would buy in a Dali.
We’re leaving for Polk County and the past tomorrow                      
and I gotta grab a few things before the trip: fruit, diapers,
half and half, steaks. The parking lot steams in the twilight;
even though it’s nearly nine o’clock, the humidity won’t let go.
I grab the driest cart from the lot and try to ignore its bum wheel.
When I walk in, I wave at the same security guard and cashiers
who’ve been here since we moved up to North Shore.
The store’s changed hands three times since then but it hasn’t changed.
I want to pretend that we know each other but I’ve never introduced myself.
I catch myself singing “hello!” with Pearl Jam playing on the Muzak.
I go to the small natural food section first. Julio the manager told me
the only customers who shop that section are us and a two tattooed kids.
Most of it gets near date and they trash it or sell it to Solomon’s.
I wish they’d give it away, enough folks around here need it.
I’ve seen those tattooed kids before; roommates, siblings, or maybe a couple,
locking eyes as we reached for the last pack of grass-fed beef
or scoured the clearance shelves for organic non-perishables at blow-out prices;
there’s not a lot of demand for gluten-free cookies in our neighborhood.
Usually they’re headed in different directions. He does a Sherlock on prices
while she cradles fresh fruit like Saturn. They never look at each other
until today; when I see them near the galas. Everything is different with them.
He’s searching her for clues but she is a Zeus to his Hera.
They’re setting a scene. I try not to stare but it’s the only thing happening.
Apart from “pardon me” or “do you think this is a good deal on kale?”
I’ve never heard her talk, but it’s impossible not to hear her today.
“Every time we went to a restaurant the server brought us separate checks.
What does that mean? What does that tell you?”
“We’re egalitarian and it shows?”
She rolls her eyes. I see her face above the tattoo of an octopus on his left bicep.
I really should be looking for starfruit and kiwis right now but I’m not.                                        
Instead, I’m staring at what’s either the Washington Monument or Excalibur
on arms she’s thrown into the air. He shrugs and grabs a nectarine.
“Do these smell right to you?” Her eyes narrow.
“We need to talk about this.
I didn’t agree to meet you here so we could talk about nectarines.”
“I don’t want to talk. I just want to come home.”
“Well you can’t.”
“Can’t what?”
“Can’t ‘just come home.’ It’s not your home any more.”
And then she’s gone. He looks at me and says “what?” I fumble
with my phone and check out the price of pickling cucumbers at Earth Fare
as if I’d drive across town to save five cents a pound. I don’t believe myself.
I walk away to check the terrible deli selection on the off chance
there’s real food in the hot case. Nothing, not even decent wings like Publix.
I’ll have to go to Hip Hop Chicken on the way home for an impulse buy.
I find myself following them into the meat section looking for a good deal
on steaks that expire tomorrow. They’re in poultry but you can hear them in seafood.
“What do you mean you ‘rearranged the kitchen’? I was only gone for two days.”
“I can reach everything I need now. I always had to ask you for help before.”
“I liked that you needed me. Now you don’t need me.”
“No. I don’t.”
She’s turned away from him. He’s staring through her, trying to find the words
that will turn them around. I can’t give him the words. I can only think,
like him, I have seen them so often but didn’t know what they were.
Pearl Jam ends and a blues song from Nirvana’s Unplugged takes its place.
I turn down the soda aisle. He murmurs something that becomes a shout.
“Why don’t you tell me what you really think of me? Of us?”
“I don’t think of us.
We are unhappening. We are something that never was.
I don’t need you to make rent. I don’t want you to reach the top shelf.
I. Don’t. Want. You. I. Don’t. Want. Us.” She walks away. He holds the air.
“This is just a rough patch, you’ll see. We can get through this.”
“This is not a rough patch. Our marriage was a rough patch.”
She closes her eyes. She’s done now. She moves toward the exit sign.
Agape, akimbo, he looks up at the ceiling, looking for all the world
like he’s doing calculus in his head, or praying. “Did you fuck him?”
She stops. “Is that what you’re waiting for? Yes! I did. Happy?
Yes I did. After you left. What does it matter? We were through.”
He poisons his sorrow with fury. “Do I need to get tested?”
“No. I just said it was after you left. You never hear me.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better? That you waited until I left?
We were—we are still married.”
“I doesn’t matter how it makes you feel. It is.
I don’t love you. I don’t remember loving you. You don’t make me cry.
You don’t make me laugh. You never have. I used to crawl
inside myself and sink when I thought of us, ashamed of my choice in you.
I don’t feel that any more because we aren’t.” He walks to her.
He’s a head taller than she is. He looks down. She doesn’t look at him.
“I’m doing the best I can not to spit on you.” She exhales and closes her eyes.
“I know. This shouldn’t be news to you but it is and I’m sorry you’re angry and hurt.

I wish you could move on, too. I know you’re hoping I have some doubts.
Our marriage was the ghost of my own doubt.
I’m not doubtful. I’m through.” She turns again to leave but he stops her
as he spits one word: “Whore.”
I’ve dropped all pretense that I’m not watching.
Everyone in the 48th Street Winn-Dixie is watching. Everyone is going to go home
and tell this story. She faces him. He’s shaking. “That ring on your finger.
It’s my grandfather’s. Give it back to me. Give me back my grandfather’s ring.
You’re not my wife. You’re a whore. Give me that ring, whore.”
“Would your grandfather be proud of you? Of your words? Of this?”
“Don’t talk about him. He’d want his ring back. Give me the ring, whore.” 
She pulls off the ring and drops it. Bouncing, it sounds like the highest handbell,
the only living sound in the silent store. One song ends, another begins.

Tears mark the floor. “I’ve never been more grateful we had no children.
When we chose not to have them, I didn’t know you’d always be one.”
She heads for the door. He follows. I follow them both, shameless.
They get in separate cars. His needs a belt. And tires. And bondo.
Hers is covered in bumper stickers. They drive away in different directions.
I want to call after them, “say instead your kisses are like wine!
Tell him his arms are towers! Tell her her breasts are the twin fawns of the gazelle!”
But what do I know of them, save we buy the same things?
What kin do we have beyond consumption? What ken can I bear here?
“Hey come back, I remember when this happened twenty years ago?”
Maybe amputation is the surgery that will save them from each other.
Maybe I see in them something I fear. Maybe those words are what I need to say.
I look down at my cart with the broken wheel. It’s empty.
Behind me they’re locking the doors of the 48th Street Winn-Dixie.
I go home empty handed to a house full of heartbeats and love.
I could say I forgot my wallet but why should one always lie about such matters?
I tell Heather there was a scene and I got distracted. It’s what I do.
Since we’re leaving tomorrow, we can grab what we need in the morning.
She laughs and pulls me close and tells me the kids are in bed.
I laugh and tell her her breasts are like the twin fawns of a gazelle.
She laughs again because she knows the Bible, if not the context,
and we stretch out on the our old couch together and drink a nap
and watch M*A*S*H and happily stay up too late, like we do.

When we go back to the 48th Street Winn-Dixie, the sky is crayon blue.
We pass a car, covered in bumper stickers, parked near the street,
and a girl I’ve only seen in stores sorting freshly pressed dress shirts
into a defaced green and white charity bin labeled  lothing and  hoes.

Sonnet for Detroit

Sonnet for Detroit

The iron oxide flowers, red and hoary;
dilapidated cars die rusting here
among old dogs that stalk their territory,
pissing on ancient cans of Pabst Blue beer.

The cranes scream, bending air with magnet claws
while crushed glass falls like leaden, empty snow
between metallic corpses and rubber gauze
that beg me to be dragged away, singing low.

The forklift strains beneath the ruddy weight
of broken hulls that carried families
from birth to death but now whose only fate
lies in the boiling flame and smelting breeze.

The fire that refines will make them new.
I wish to God that I was burning, too.



That’s not how you’re supposed to do it,
mashed up against me like a grape
one-half bruised and hidden
in your fingers.  Try one more time
but drop the act.  See my hands on my hips?
See my raised eyebrows?  I don’t believe
you.  You’ll want me to look
like this—to be relaxed.  See the smile?
See how my body’s open to your
plane of attack?  Now try it again:
here I am.

That’s not how you do it:
mashed up like a grape,
hidden and half-bruised.
Try your fingers one more time,
drop my hands on my hips,
raise my eyebrowed belief,
want me to look at you.
Relax my smile,
open my planes to your body.
Try your attack again.

How you do it:
A hidden grape
mashed up, half-bruised
on your fingers.
Hands on my hips
raised in belief
to look at you.
My smile relaxed,
my plane open
to your attack.

Do it,
hidden grape.
Mashed on
your fingers,
my hips,
in belief.
Look at you:
to attack.

Do it:
Look: you

The Wind & the Willow

The Wind & the Willow

I fall before the weight of words
forgotten, almost; robbed from you
by your eternal parting there
where I was not; I could not be,
so torn in distance from the us
that never was; our fantastic us
that sang on youthful arms to be
the pull that planted us here, there,
apart from all we knew.  Then you
were gone; leaving me lonely words.
Our song, like Spring, was our one kiss.
The willow mourns the winter; windless.

Pushing the Muse

Pushing the Muse

“Nothing” we said in passing, stuck
in whippoorwill repentance, heads
sunk silent, ears ignored and humbled;
the jumbled gesture, mute, tone-deaf
fell onto fragile hands that fumbled
possessionless, impoverished—blank.

Our faces at our feet we moved
in opposition, telegraphic
words end-stopped within our hearts,
stuck in passing; saying nothing.

The Long Defeat

The Long Defeat

In every age the world declines;
profound and weary reasons hang
themselves upon philosophies.
Each Spring no birds remain who sing.
The feeble arts unclothe our minds
with nothing woven into proof;
our wisdom fails and fallen, lies.
We seek a spent, imagined youth.
But always there are lonely flames
that stand apart and burn on faith—
where works and love untouched by stain
rebuild with uncorrupted grace
reborn from mourning into light
opposing the eternal night.



I wonder if you’ll ever learn
desire splints atoms into blood;
it’s not peer pressure, it’s just your turn;

some men just want the world to burn;
the ring you wear was dug from mud.
I wonder if you’ll ever learn

the sacred words that transform scorn
to love; to know not when but should.
It’s not peer pressure, it’s just your turn

to stand. Alone, curled like a fern,
unravel into me and bud.
I wonder if you’ll ever learn

what I can’t say. Your silence earns
contempt. Speak. Move. Do. Loose your flood.
It’s not peer pressure, it’s just your turn.

We’re here, apart but touching. Spurn
convention. Give in to the slant mood.
I wonder if you’ll ever learn
it’s not peer pressure, it’s just your turn.



Stray dogs are ripping widowed paper bags.
Nearby lies a broken heel; a leg out of place;
a skirt, hem slung around; a mouth that sags:
a hole in a yellow, faded, made-up face.

A mongrel tears a strip of rawhide free
from a faded bag. His teeth sink in the soft skin
as bitter drops fall from the balcony
where a girl is wringing out her clothes again.

His ears twitch, hit with the brown sinkwater
that pours from dirty panties. He turns his tongue
to lap the steady stream. The girl drops her
wet rags, coughing. He gnaws at the blood and dung.

The mongrel drops his skin in the filthy light.
Her love is coming home to stay tonight.

This Fond Imprisonment

This Fond Imprisonment

Bloody sense fell out of time:
impractical to find,
easier to lose.

Abdicating the need to choose
we stare into unmoving
planets, locked in the purple

burdened sky, unable
to follow the clock’s quick hands.
Trapped out of time because

no one believes that signs
are not debatable,
a billion gods, each failing

to sustain his lonely world,
cast a cause upon
anything but skin.

Let us live within this world
unburdened by the need
to master anything.

Hold me in this entropy,
the strong force integral
and infinite between us.

On the Sixth Day

On the Sixth Day

I blinked and you were born
Unlike me and yet the same
Your smile and eyes the first
I saw; you were my mirror,
My opposite, my end.
We glowed in the green day
And I gave you all my names.
The gift of you alone
Bested all creation.
But the light failed and we
Grew blind together, lost.
And then i lost you; limp,
You hung your silent head
To never laugh again.
I was too dumb to know
That night would turn to day.

Translated from the Greek

Translated from the Greek

         for Alicia Stallings

Ripped moorings drift within your reach
as you save wordlings from their fate
like children plucked from stranger fires.
Phrases arranged to hide or teach
condemn or love in measured weight
unhidden from ancient pyres
sing out of shattered aspirations
to rise and fall at your command.
These words you wean from mother tongues
stumble into foreign nations
ignorant of their master’s hand;
they fight with the fury of the young
shoring the fragments of our ruin
against a broken civilization.

Wedding Spring

Wedding Spring

Go now, together, with lives tied,
newborn curates of the long road;
lover cleaved from lovers; laughing
ancient self-slaughter shaped to the shared
flame of a twisted, braided wick.

Kindle no anger overnight;
together sacrifice pride to love.
Into one house, account, accord,
one word pour all your work—make your
tongue speak now only of life: love.

And when the necessary trials
burn your life’s elliptic rings
upon your fingers, don’t fall into
yourselves but fall into each other;
alone now always means together.

Forget your fights from the final word;
forgotten years will rise before
faults will wear themselves away
and sooner will unsought conversion
come than love to adamant hearts.

To years—to springtimes, summers, autumns,
winters—to all those spinning seasons
ending where you have here begun:
love; to love’s perfect knowledge; to love
reborn each morning you are one.

Go, newborn lover, ancient flame:
kindle together into one tongue
and burn upon yourselves, alone;
forget forgotten faults; and come
to winter’s ending: love reborn.

Now is the Winter's End

Now is the Winter’s End

Six points of snow teach me
cashmere embraces skin
like robots gripping glass,
bright strength buried within
commands unknown to us,
bound knots that were never free.
This precious death is bright
in a child’s arms like tears,
skin-rent. Intend, begin
to see this sphere–it shares
our breath, a space to span
with ease if this is right:
there’s everything to find
in a timeless state of mind.

Helen & Menelaus

Helen & Menelaus

Here is the arrow’s scar,
still stiff, it goes straight through,
reminding me of you;
reminding me from far
years past of the men tossed
in arms, their faces stilled
in fright, not noble, just killed,
who won less than they lost.
Yet here I am: old man,
dry husk of brittle eyes,
blind ears, deaf mouth; I can
no longer lift the sword
that won my fickle prize
who turned upon a word.

Daedalus & Icarus

Daedalus & Icarus

Without your road to walk
along I carve the air
unbound, unmoored, I stare
unheard, I lie unlocked,
heart-blocked and buried here
in an oceanic maw
of memory and awe,
of history and fear.
There is no freedom. Bars
adorn the fairest cage
open to air and stars.
We’ve had enough of hate
to burden every age.
I’ll exit from my own gate.

Poseidon & Medusa

Poseidon & Medusa

On this wet rock you come,
my hair around your waist
in streams like ocean foam;
the pressured salty taste
rests upon my tongue.
As we swallow the night
the morning rises stung
and stained with our delight.
Here in this temple crows
are swelling from the altar
screaming the holy vows
I promised I would keep.
I have done much more than falter
and vengeance never sleeps.

Lost Revelation

Lost Revelation

Our tongues are swords
pointed inward
hilts left to those
whose snatching hands
scar our mouths split
between the ears
where no thoughts lie.

We are having
none of that stuff,
headpiece emptied
straw burnt, rocks strewn,
we have become
product zero.

Zeroed into
what we've become
we burn remains
of empty heads
and try to stuff
what we've got to

that will not lie.
Between our ears
our mouths are split
by jealous hands
who bear the hilts
of bladed words
forged by our tongues.


               a villanelle for Heather, on our anniversary

Incomplete if not a pair,
we tramp together, sure and fumbling,
our children cleaving to our care.

Their cries and laughter rend despair
while our complaints go mumbling,
incomplete. If not a pair

of lovers buffeted through the air,
we cut a graceful flock: we’re stumbling.
Our children, cleaving to our care,

grow without warning—soon they’re not there;
our steps uncertain; we’re stumbling,
incomplete. If not a pair

of hearts will we fight the snare
of silence? Clinging to our mumbling,
our children, cleaving to our care,

we sacrifice our love affair
for simple love, pure and stumbling,
incomplete if not a pair,
our children cleaving to our care.

Birth of a Nation

Birth of a Nation

Rhea sweats, lost in the heat of her labor,
while two men battle over her contractions.
The static waves of the monitor cradle her cries
in a rhythmic circle-beat of straining hearts.
She moans in constricting pain and feral hunger.
Her husband says that she has had enough;
they decide that she cannot labor on in her state.
Against her wishes she hears the doctor offer
an intervention to preempt the pain.
Rhea says no I can through her dry lips
in vain.  They do not hear her tired voice.
The epidural spreads narcotic knives,
severing womb and strength from Rhea's mind
as amniotic fluid drains past her legs
no longer cushioning the fontanel.
Pitocin forces contractions into her sinews
while a wire is screwed into her baby's head
to watch the decels build with every spasm.
The doctor reads the charts with a legal eye
and calls to ready the O.R. for a section.
The baby's head recedes.  She cannot push
and so the doctor spreads her perineum
and kisses it with his knife.  She cannot push
and so the vacuum cap is stuck in place
five hundred millimeters tight.  He pulls
the child and Rhea tears from stem to stern.
Her child, born by extraction, is torn away
with blood and water at his mother's feet.
Everyone crowds the foot of Rhea's bed;
will they not let her see her firstborn child?
Weak, Rhea struggles up to see the child,
stillborn beneath the vernix and lanugo.

The Final Arc

The Final Arc

          for Alan Sullivan

No place in the nuke ward but the MRI
delivers menace more than medicine;
though not for me; through these four years of dying
there have been few surprises; I have seen
my tumors shrink or grow with no prognosis
for salvation; but today a ceaseless sobbing
cleaved through the whispered conversations and curses
futile as a penitent before a king.
Strapped to the gurney, I am no longer trapped
and the Spirit knows where I was blind; I pray
and the Dove flies from me as if the flood
of fear was a phantom its wings could wash away
and in the silence of the ward I crack
a joke.  The laughter is our gopherwood.


     a hymn to the 14th Amendment

            Things are seldom what they seem:
            skim milk masquerades as cream.
                                    –  W. S. Gilbert

Malacorp awoke: ten million shifting eyes
focused on their groping mouths and prayed within their lies
for Malacorp to stretch its banks of flesh and gold and steel
and pixelated light to make the nation kneel.

Malacorp for Mayor!  The churchyard marquees shined
but the Board of Malacorp had bigger goals in mind.
Malacorp for Senate!  For Governor!  For King!
But the CEO of Malacorp, he dreamed another thing.

Malacorp the candidate was shining and immense.
Kissing babies and shaking hands at stockholder expense,
each primary was pricey and the competition roared
but Malacorp was triumphant, led by CEO and Board.

The steam was building nicely like the colors of the Fall,
Malacorp was polling in the sixties overall
and then that fateful Tuesday, Malacorp was on a roll;
five million times it voted for itself at every poll.

Its stock rose overnight as the news of victory struck.
The brutal winning margin was not beginner’s luck.
Malacorp our President!  Is what the papers said;
the Republic sighed a final breath and finally was dead.

The stockholders were millionaires now making all the laws
and never to the lesser folk did they give a moment’s pause.
The poor folk hadn’t voted, and not for Malacorp;
and once the thought was spoken, they weren’t thought of anymore.

The Constitution ‘mended so that Malacorp could hold
a third, a fourth, and fifth term, as it never would grow old.
All criminals, instead of jail, now worked at Malacorp:
the white ones in the office, the blue ones at the store.

Nothing now was taxed and each thing had its price.
The suburbs built their walls and all stopped being nice.
The cities grew like corpses swollen with the poor
who bought their food in markets that were owned by Malacorp.

Directors and stockholders all fell laughing back in smiles
as campaign funds metastasized in electronic piles
singing money spent on Malacorp was money duly spent
for now five million souls could claim they owned the President.

New Babylon Baptist Church, Inc.

New Babylon Baptist Church, Inc.

“To stand for office, one must have religion.”
Wal*Mart said to Microsoft and Coke,
“So I’ve retained a priest to make us one.”
The Father smiled, but thought it all a joke
until the Board eliminated sin
and actuated parachute salvation.
With scripture set aside and doctrines thinned
“New Babylon” was “Built for Corporations.”
His contract made the Father’s conscience lurch:
philippics vitriolic filled his cup
and every one disparaged the poor church.
Despite their might, no one could shut him up
until he was impaled upon the steeple
screaming “Corporations are not people!”

On Salvador Dali's Autorretrato Cubista

On Salvador Dali’s Autorretrato Cubista

Sal, you started with Cubism.
I started with Modernism.
Will my juvenilia hang in such halls
as the Reina Sophia,
the little sister of Madrid’s Legend?

You rain the angels down
from a center point
as if the lines were light,
as if light shown in prisms
and not rays.
You are not distorting our point of view
but the function of light.

This is written off as misunderstanding Cubism.
Will they do that to me, Sal?
Say my experiments are flaws?

And if they do,
what affect do I put on?
Where did you, at nineteen, turn from
the new old masters into
your surreal pictures more beautiful than photographs?
And how long until these paintings were loved?

Please write back, Sal,
as I am eager to change the world,
and I have no moustache or oscelot
to back me up on this.

The Intelligence of the Artist

The Intelligence Of the Artist (Mary de Rachewiltz)

The intelligence of the artist
is the same intelligence
in the peach pit,
in the heart of grain, in the carrot seed.
It is the vein that leads
to diamonds, the cancer
to the pearl.
It is God creating beauty,
A prophet seeing truth,
An adventurer of the spirit
in unbound spaces.
The generous artist takes
starvation and avarice,
heals them, and leads us
with words.

(trans GMP)

In the Cave

In the Cave (Mary de Rachewiltz)

We are in the cave;
he and I and all the sheep

that have not
gone down in rows
to the crosses at Golgotha

I am him,
he is me
and in our wound

I ponder.

(trans GMP)

Sirens' Song

Sirens’ Song (Homer)

Wonder thrives here!  Wise and wiley, prized Odysseus,
Great glory of the Achaians, Avast!  Set your ship,
Here, by our place, where you can hear our wonderful words.
For up to now, not one blackened ship has driven by
Who has not at least heard our melodious voices
And did not steer cheering to our shore to know much more.
For let us tell you, we knew all that was great in Troy,
We knew of the toil for the goddesses’ desires;
We knew this, and we know all that is borne, that passes
Upon the jagged face of this all nourishing Earth.

(Odyssey XII.184-191)



What castle rises bone above black bone
from solar fields of barley, wheat, and grain
where poor men flee the breath of wars that hone
their great white teeth on profit, death, and pain?

What tower climbs the hill with such a glow
that peasants, blinded by its brilliant rays
grope naked-armed in valleys far below
where darkness becomes greyness for their days?

What wall impregnant stands around the world
with stretching arms that span from sea to sea
where children crouch in holes with fingers curled
‘round rocks that crush and snap skulls easily?

O Trebuchet! Swing wide with all your weight
and match them, stone for stone and hate for hate!

The Walls Are All Mirrors

Fish in bright and weary colors
trapped in glass
drift in scheduled silence
feeding on each other.

The Walls are all Mirrors

We are voyagers, discoverers
of the not-known,

the unrecorded;
we have no map;

possibly we will reach haven,

From down the hall she stares at me,
vacant eyes and violent face falling down towards modesty,
away from memory.
The walls are all mirrors here,
I am Hamlet in an O’Neill play;
family is everything.

Mother floats towards me from a mirror
motionless as a specter and silent

nothing moves from her but reflected blue waves
she waves and floats in her ocean,
She is a woman, and a Cancer
and at home most when drowning.

When I lived on the sand I burnt my feet
in the white hot gaze of the sun
mother or father would call from the shoreline
shouting Hold on tight! to anyone but me,
they would drown themselves in effigy
waiting for the moments to come.

Too pure for them all,
I burnt into the sand,
rising from myself into the sky.

I drift down the mirrored halls in white
drawing stares wherever I look
vile glances, veiled glances
glances full of sorrow or of woe,
confused and determined and tired,
always so tired.
The telephone has been ringing for some time now,
on one end I hear the static of the human voice
which should be saying
I was whirled and tossed into delicious dancing
just by hearing your precious voice
but there is only a phonetic drone
strung together in random patterns;
the receiver hangs from the gallows of the nightstand

as I lie crucified on my bed
I condense into clouds
and rain in resurrection,
going on beyond suicide

the static drone is now a steady wail
the receiver is no longer dead but screams in agony
as if its hanging were a torture.
I replace the receiver to strangle the voice
but it continues and in these walls someone is screaming
and tearing their hair like

blue and white lights from a blown Christmas bulb
and a radio in my mind just out of station
the glass across my arms like a river
stained by viscous fluids
pumped  by hand or machine,

The river ran past our house to the skies,
an escalator to infinity,
a river of Babel
and I was pulled free a moment too early,
I knew what lay at the mouth.
We moved that same day,

a house in the suburbs with red Kool-aid and He Men,
1984 and my family was Big Brother,
watching every toy, every boy and girl
calling, calling, every hour that same drone,
static meaninglessness.
Drifting past apathy into mirrors
where I stare in anger
white mirrors reflecting words, light

I alight on a branch flitting like a bird,
I am a swallow, raped and silent
watching with terror for an in-law,
someone who comes as a friend,
the state is my spouse, doctors its children,
jealous of everything I have,
sweating in white and mirrored halls to stab me once again
to bring on the opiate dreams of fevers, of terrors
I run only to become weary

She is staring at me again,
silver and white in the mirror
alone she is approached by smiling and familiar faces;
family is everything.

The Penguin and the Clam

The Penguin and the Clam

Come in, come in, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home is your home too, come in, come in!
But your home is so cold, said the Penguin,
And I am so warm; I will not come in.

Not so, not so, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home is warm and soft, come in, come in!
But your home is so wet, said the Penguin,
And I am so dry; I will not come in.

Of course, of course, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home's underwater, come in, come in!
But your home is so foul, said the Penguin,
And I am so clean; I will not come in.

Oh no, oh no, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home is washed daily, come in, come in!
But your home is so small, said the Penguin,
And I am so large; I will not come in.

Look now, look now, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home has many halls, come in, come in!
But your home has a lock, said the Penguin,
And I have no key; I will not come in.

But wait, but wait, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home's doors are open, come in, come in!
But your home has no food, said the Penguin,
And I am so starved; I will not come in.

Hold on, hold on, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home is full of food, come in, come in!
But you are a mollusk, said the Penguin,
And I am a bird; I will not come in.

Now think, now think, said the Clam to the Penguin,
My home was made for us, come in, come in!
Well, I am so tired, said the Penguin,
And you are so kind; I guess I'll come in.

Elijah and the Antelope

Elijah and the Antelope

The sky opens up for you
as you dance across the pasture.
There is no Bucolic that can Rime away your leaping;
the second coming was a shadow of you.
You are the first in everything,
the strong, the swift, the wanted;
your heart is the reason we live.

The daft craft of your speed is dizzying,
we leap to the chase with pointed sticks,
leaving words wherever we pursue.
You guide us to discovery
as your fiery escape
from our futile scribblings
leaves us worshipping.

The Rest

The Rest

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper thy peace to my soul.

Was it cirrhosis or Old Timer's disease?
None of us knew, but Dad wasn't Dad anymore -
those skinny arms, those blue eyes once so fierce
were now old milk. Oh, now he could be fierce
when he was defied, but we knew it was the disease.
That was what he had become, nothing more.
Taking the family picture; Dad not moving:
Thanksgiving weekend was an eggshell ballet.
The grandkids wanted stories that were not there.
I don't know what we gave thanks for but there,
at the end of the table, Dad sat, never moving.
Eyes open and hands clawed like they were when he lay
next year in the hospice bed as we all watched
his left angular artery push out his genius
and we closed those milk-blue eyes. As everyone
let go to hold each other, I still held one
cold claw of his in mine. I sat and watched
longer than the rest, trying to stay his genius.



I had never seen him before the night,
wine dark and brooding,
his sea foam
eyes spread over me.
I had meant to pray in the temple;
my knees instead were bent to him.
His brutal gaze quick to open me,
a snow white calf,
my streaming blood,
my hair, strewn upon the altar.
My screams were pounded under his waves.

Now I am alone.
My sisters are out hunting,
and I sit with statues of lovers everyplace.
My hatred has grown weak.
I cannot see him now,
and others I can only face with my stare.


All across the ocean
and the other end of the world
everyone is still with me
and there is no alone.


Prologue: Horizon Blue

I turn the radio on

for that sweet sound

and head west, always west,
go to the heartland I always say
and keep the horizon blue,
that way you lose less time.

Not that I'm rushin anything
well everyone needs time,
and I like to keep mine close.

what was that promise that you made

I pull into a truckstop,
always eat where the truckers are,
they know what's good,
the dust from my miles blows in
and I need to wash my Lincoln.

The toothless waitress brings me my bacon
and the grease on the plate could kill a horse.
I swallow it all and keep on driving
and I try to reach Kansas by sundown.

Part One: Dusk and Twilight

Topeka hits me when the sky explodes red,
I cry cause its just so beautiful,
and because its just smoke and dirt.

sweet dreams and flyin machines

I burn through town and right past a Motel 6,
they left the light on,
but I'm not goin home.

The first star comes out and I make a wish
            Starlight starbright
            first star I see tonight...

I plow through Kansas, but its getting late
there's nothing for me here
so I pop a couple a pills
and figure I can drive for another day.

Part Two: Night

Alone on the highway
everyone returns
and I can see my baby crying.

I shut out the eyes
but the stars stare down
and every trapped soul reminds me of who I am.

I try to pull off
but the speed is working
and my mind pumps my bloodshot eyes wide open,
my white knuckles grip the hard wheel.

got a world of trouble on my mind

Somehow the night passes and the stars droop down,
the radio wants me to buy a minivan.

Part Three: Sunrise and The Next Day

Stopped at the golden arches with an overheated engine,
I've gotta eat cause I ain't comin down
and I don't know when I'm stoppin.

I walk out to where the truckers are
and I sponge around for some anti-freeze
the lot lizards in their leather straps
with their too much makeup call me
hey baby hey baby hey baby hey.

I can see her soft hair
and the years beyond her eyes
I can feel that first kiss
and I slam down the hood and take down the top,
crank 'er up I'm on my way.

people keep talkin about me baby

Fifteen miles to Nevada
and I've gotta keep money to get somewhere

I close my eyes as I feel the rain.

Pulled off on the highway
-emergency stopping only-
the roof comes up and the windows too,
suicide doors and all.

I put the pedal down to make some time

Part Four: Horizon Neon

For some reason I drive through Vegas
the call girls and the gamblers and the neon gods,

an artificial heaven,
Babel in the desert.

I'm comin down so I pull into a cheap hotel
the waitress wants to marry me
but I just want my two dollar prime rib.

don't know when I noticed life was life

I hide in my sheets,
shit drunk and piss stained
I crash, so there's no time to think,
no time to hear those demons.

Part Five: The Clouds at Midnight

I step through the screen door and the sliding glass

takes me away to that special place

the table is covered with a mountain of bills
and the stove overflows with home cooking.

The baby cries in the other room
and I hear sounds of soothing.

The pots boil over
and the paper accumulates,

a couple of paintings from Sears

the baby keeps crying and I can't reach her
I'm burned by the water and torn by the paper

it clamors around my neck and smothers my arms
as the water scalds my chest

I jump up to a musky sheet in a baking room
I throw off the covers and turn on
the ice-maker air-conditioner.

I step out into the darkness
and the clouds are covering the stars.

I know you I walked with you

what more in the name of

Part Six: Horizon Black

I jump into the Lincoln
and speed off towards the sea.

The stormclouds gather on the wind tonight
and lightning strikes the horizon.

Its early in the morning
so the cops are all at Krispy Kreme
and I'm peelin down the road,

I know what I've gotta do.

under a blood red sky

I know when I would not ever

California flies by me at dawn
and birds paint the sky.

Part Seven: Cirrus Clouds and Seagulls

The Pacific grabs me like a hungry child
and the salt air makes me swoon.

I drive up the coastline and the endless summer
and the sun beats down on my shoulders.

I remember this

I can see the clouds on the horizon,
the weather's changin soon.

Part Eight: Lightning in the Sky

I pull off at some beachboom town
and walk through the wooden plank hotels
and the surfboard rental shops.

The wind blows cold with the advancing storm
and I didn't bring a jacket
so I just shiver along with the birds.

come Monday it'll be alright

The bars are crowded with the drunk and brown
first time rock star singers
coo soulful tipsy melodies.

I look back to the ocean,
the sky is black
and yellow with lightning,
and my roof is down.

Part Nine: Black Clouds and Rainfall

I love a rainy night

I run back to the Lincoln before the storm hits
and I save my vinyl.

I weave back through the streets
as the rain comes.

Its getting late,
but its already black from the storm.

with the lights out its less dangerous

Young boys drive by and holler in their youth
I'm splashed by the rain on the street.

I slide into a Waffle House
and dripping like a rat I find a seat.

I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

The coffee and sausage do nothing for me,
I pass out in my booth
and my waitress lets me sleep for a couple a hours.

Part Ten: Moonlight

When she wakes me up it’s past midnight
my sleepstained mouth and eyes point me to the restroom.

I leave her a fiver
and I stumble out the door.

The rain has stopped and the full moon
glows down like a radiant king.

I can hear music fom behind me

a long long time ago

I turn around and head that way.

I find a small bar where the sound comes from
and a young boy with a guitar,
he sings to the little crowd sweetly

a dragon lives forever

how many deaths will it take till he knows

you ask me to enter but then you make me crawl

I'm sorry

Epilogue: Horizon Red

As the tears slip from my eyes
I am frozen in my chair

I can only lay my head down and know.

in the midst of the rubble

When he stops singing its dawn.
I get up from my stool
and I almost break my neck running out the door.

It takes me awhile to remember where I'd parked
but the engine cranks right up.

Radio on I turn towards the Atlantic,

I'm goin home.