Sunday, June 30, 2013

POEM: Blue Flame

There then goes the vascular flame,
A flame that carries heat & light.
There then goes a claim to this life.

There then goes gravity that once
fixed objects  to this earth, but
now repels each thing from the other.

There then goes blood & DNA
& the bruised secrets of loneli
ness, of Coumadin-induced ghosts

standing in white hospital rooms,
of cousins long deceased, speaking
in spectral whispers.   There then go

the dusky eyes, the easy smile,
what remains of our father’s voice.
There then goes what we imagined about his hands.

Then goes the blue flame that released us
with the warmth of the friction created
by fingers releasing a sisal

rope, one by one, until nothing
lasts, & everything is
cast away.


POEM: The Objects That We Love

Your arm reminded me so much of lamb
That I nearly took a bite of it.

Your cheeks were so much like mashed potatoes
That I yearned to cry over them & salt them.

Your ear was a chocolate chip cookie
Begging to be dunked

And each lip, was a gummy bear.
Your neck was corn on the cob

As I plucked every yellow nib with a pink tongue.
Your eyes were butter in a toaster.

Your thick breath, maple syrup.
But when I say that I loved your lasagna

I am not being metaphorical
But that your layers entice me,

Whispering “undress me,
One curlicue noodle at a time!”

And when I dine out,
There is no cause for jealousy.

It is your sauce that I want poured over my pasta
Whenever I am hungry.

It is your bubbling red sauce, raw, stripping,
That shapes my meatball heart.



POEM: My Fearful Swan

My fearful singing swan is
so mindful yet  forced silent 
By early white plumage.
Elves glide on blissful song in the dell,
Parting false company. But only by
Listening, you died betrayed & sang
Aways in circles, where the song faded away.

You were such a swan then.


Found Poem From Translation of Edvard Grieg’s “The Swan”


POEM: Signs

Why does the flag fly at half-mast tonight / it is for breezes quitting / Or the naked trees / Or the look of hungry crows with deep eyes / in search of bread / cawing at the leaner days ahead / When I pass a church / and at every meal / I make the sign of the cross / just as I was taught growing up / Just as I still bow my head / when the name of “Jesus” / is spoken aloud / But I was never taught what sign to make / at a flag half raised / Especially When the deceased is unknown / It’s a blank gravestone / that waits for a Godly script to be written / A name perhaps a date or a clue to his faith / What remains is what I can never know / Is what has already been done / in living songs / in the friction / that life brings along with it / in the haystacks of debt that we owe to history / Which is a story / shivering to be told.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

POEM: Turdis Migratoris

Sunrise breasted bird,
You sit and wonder.
I will wonder too.
Scratch for your grubs. I
Will scratch along
with you. With a yellow
beaked heart that picks at
everything below.

POEM: Reversal

And now your life pulses

After the ebbing that was yours,

That sorrowful ghost,

That bag of dry twigs,

That was hope as kindling,

It is now just an empty glass.

The promise of love,

Of a smile, had never left you.

It was only covered up,

Hands clamped over its mouth

Waiting for the moon

To change everything

POEM: The Lives of Dreams

It is bad luck to dream of ice, or have your teeth fall out. To dream of snakes means change is coming. Dreaming of snoring people precedes natural disasters – like hurricanes. Like the night before superstorm Sandy hit when you elbowed me to tell me I was snoring and by the way, the air pressure was dropping, and do you think we should evacuate?

Nakedness is just the humility you lack; dreaming of red means you are holding a grudge, which will someday dry you up and blow you away. Rodents indicate a burrowing will, a whitheringness. The inability to vocalize during a dream means you want to be a jazz blues nightclub singer, and your soul is trying to find a hole to escape from you. You’ve never been accused of being hip, and this is why: you must let the cool escape.

Dreaming of geese in V-formation flying away means you will lose someone. Dreaming of geese in V-formation flying towards you means you are pregnant, unless you are male, in which case it means you wish you could be pregnant. Dreaming of geese on the ground means you will soon be crippled.

It is good luck to cry in your sleep, to weep soundly. It is your body’s way of uncovering all the hiding places in you, of removing the plastic sheeting you carefully construct over your internal house. It is also good luck to dream of food and if you can smell it, or taste it, even better. It is a sign that all of your hunger will soon abate. That soon, you will have enough. Stop worrying.

POEM: The Lives of Furniture

The loveseat once serviced the buttocks of Louis XIV. “Lou-eee Catorz” is how he says it. He is proud of this. The recliner never complains though he has a meat-and-potatoes life. He knows every Superbowl score since they started holding the Superbowl in 1967.

The piano stool once served in a speakeasy, dodging spilled prohibition beer. She dreams of being with a Steinway in the Biblical sense. She is a kissing cousin to a Stradavarius but does not like to mention it much since the others always make fun of her and she thinks it is bragging.

The end table is stressed – by design – to give him warmth, the marks and chips age him, make him seem experienced. On most days though he wishes the marks were gone so he could avoid all the pity stares he gets.

The hutch thinks he is overweight, and always tucks his drawers in to look thinner. He is tall so the weight is distributed well on him. He is made of mahogany, and the other pieces envy his tan. Still none of the other pieces in the room thinks he needs to lose weight. Sometimes he just feels fat, he says and asks the mirror to move a little so he can catch a glimpse.

The roll top desk likes to read. On rainy days, he rolls up his top, and flips through pages of a book. Sometimes he reads aloud until the others shush him. Near an old replica of an inkwell, are the initials “T.P” carved into his shoulder, like a tattoo. He remembers when the child did that. How much it hurt.

The grandfather clock adjusts his spectacles. His ballasts hang in fatigue. His pendulum carries a weight. Knowing time is a burden. All his springs want is a trip to Bermuda, to sit on pink beaches, and drink out of coconut glasses with colorful, paper umbrellas sticking out of them.

The rocker hums, eyes closed, imagining small children and arms.

The coat rack’s arms are tired, even without having coats to hold.

The couch needs reupholstering. His springs stick out. His arms are threadbare, with patches. Once, though, his foam was firm. Once, people felt majestic sitting between his arms.

POEM: The Lives of Voices

I found a voice on the street and thought it was mine. It was robust and fit well enough into my vest pocket, that I thought it might be the voice of reason so I kept it, hidden from the tirade of winter, keeping it dry and warm for future use. I wore this voice as a sacred undergarment, not unlike those worn by Mormons.

The next day, while hiking, I found a wounded voice in the woods, tattered in its timbre, fading at the edges. I brought it home and made it Portuguese White Bean and Kielbasa soup to give it heart, to fatten its soul. I hoped to make one fully reconstituted voice capable of the most unnerving prayer, the kind that makes you shiver from the openness; the kind that precedes a great discovery.

Friends encouraged my voice, asked her to sing, asked her to recite poems, to do interpretive dance. But her nerve grew and shrank based on the temperature of the dreams she had at night: hot dreams made her want to do more, to stand taller and to preach; cooler dreams made the voice believe she was a mushroom that no one bore witness to.

On some evenings, wandering the city streets, my own voice abandoned me and danced down alley-ways, bounding off of narrow walls, off of stucco buildings, pink in its carousing, drinking, finding women of low self-esteem, lifting their spirits and their skirts. In the morning, my voice would come back, headache in hand, remorseful for having bounced over the cobblestone of its own imagination only to find its way home on the back of a whisper.

Sometimes, in the fall, the season of great migrations, I find voices strewn all over New England, each one needing a hand up, each one in search of an inner ear and some bone-rubbing.

Not every voice makes the journey in one piece of course. Some are carried off by the wind on horseback never to be heard again. Some voices take a life time to bubble, to boil like the White Bean and Kielbasa, until it is soup. Some voices are just a glance, or a touch. And still others paint their hands bright saffron and touch everything.

Dreamers dribble into the 13 billion year old universe, spending their days waving to passing celestial bodies, never even looking for an ear to inhabit.

POEM: Wedding March

The sunlight has all the promise of a commencement address.
It tumbles over a thin-lipped horizon like a drunken pledge,
A full-bodied wine, so able to commit mayhem at a moment’s notice.

Today is your unwashed carrot plucked from dry earth, soil
Clinging to its pointed orange skin, held up by its green hair, so fragrant.
It is the diamond once lost in the back yard, rediscovered by mistake.
Today you become the seeds you’ve always dreamed of becoming.
The birds chirp a wedding march, and the clouds process in bridal white.
Before the dandelions and the compost, before the congregation
Of mayflies, those flitting maids-of-honor who flutter your praise.

In the presence of an embracing universe, in full view of smiling lilac,
A balloon heart with your names on each other’s tongue is carved into
the oldest oak tree we could find and that is your New Testament

POEM: Plague

We are melting candles
Frenzied by the noise of
Our own our diminutive voice.
Our tongues that click and clack
This and that.


Death is on its way.

The problems that have
Plagued us up to this point
Are wax drippings.

This is what the flame teaches.

What is left is what we have
Tried to avoid all this time:
The persistent cat-tongued voice
Wallpapering our brains;
Our turning around and
Around again and again only to
Face ourselves.

POEM: Apnea

1.) At 10 PM you nestle in. The bed is warm and the blankets are tucked around you. You are breathing like Darth Vader into the nose mask, through a hose connected to the CPAP machine. You imagine yourself as David Merrick, the Elephant man. “I’m not an animal, I’m a man!” you keep screaming at your wife.

2.) At 10:20 PM you are asleep. The hose to the CPAP machine is a snake that coils around your head. It is on a swivel, and you are careful not to strangle yourself or your partner with it while you switch sides.

3.) At midnight you wake up for the first time because the CPAP machine has malfunctioned and your heart has stopped. You momentarily dream of being bitten by rats and this is when you ARE getting oxygenated blood into your brain but without the machine, you do not dream at all, it is all a soupy blackness; it is the sleep you get when on cold medicines.

4.) At 12:01 AM you reach over and feel the night stand and correct the machine.

5.) At 1 AM you fall asleep long enough to feel as though you are falling. You kick your legs involuntarily and wake up again.

6.) At 1:30 AM the moon rushes into the room through the window like an anxious father and you curse it and pray to it all at once. This is the first time you glance at the digital clock - and make the analog comparison in your brain to someone running a marathon: how much further to go before the alarm. Time = distance.

7.) At 2:15 AM you turn and turn again, carefully maneuvering the hose of the CPAP machine. You are not asleep but not awake either.

8.) At 2:55 AM the mask slips off your nose and the air gushes like a wind tunnel. In a panic that has you believing you’ve just been sucked out of a 747 at 50,000 feet, you move your head slightly to cut off the air leak and then fall back to sleep.

9.) At 3:17 AM you glance again at the bloodshot eyes of the clock and mutter something about Satanic verses.

10.) At 4:02 AM you dream of sitting tied up in a chair in a field and hands, just hands, appear securing the knots. You scream as you are transported through wormholes connecting universes.

11.) At 4:05 AM you are awake again, revising the lesson plan for a class you are teaching about Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart”.

12.) At 4:06 AM you are mentally balancing your check book.

13.) At 4:07 AM you begin breathing deeply, following it into and out of your lungs.

14.) At 4:08 AM you are bored with this and go back to mentally balancing your checkbook.

15.) At 4:21 AM you are asleep long enough to dream of someone you do not know. You wake up feeling sad and you wonder why.

16.) At 4:35, AM again, you look at the clock and calculate time as distance.

17.) At 4:36 AM you accept that you are a freak; you believe that every other living thing is asleep at this hour. You believe you smell skunk.

18.) At 5:00 AM you dream of performing calculus in your head and while you believe you are sleeping, you are in fact not.

19.) At 5:30 AM the gentle melody of the alarm on your cell phone goes off. It is the opening notes to Radio Head’s “No Surprises”.

20.) At 5:31 AM you carefully shut off the alarm so as not to wake your partner. Your eyes are carrying American Tourister luggage around on your face. You stagger into the bathroom. The image staring back at you in the mirror: he knows you are a liar.

POEM: April 10, 2013

Had I left this spot

When the wind first thrummed,

When the gray clouds drummed

a black fist at me,

When my chilled teeth chattered

And my tired bones rattled a mamba

With rumbling hips of thunder -

I’d have missed the blue whale sky ripped asunder,

Stripped to the flesh, exposing

A roiling sun, flesh bared unrolling its tongue

Until it touched the earth,

All the while smirking, licking me warm.

POEM: Ode To a Statue of St. Francis

Sometimes birds like to shit on little St. Francis,
Man of peace. This is an occupational hazard
Of all garden-art, religious or not.
You can complain all you want:
Find a reason to hate birds, or
Never again trust a shady spot
But when you are brother to all things,
Which includes things with wings that shit all over everything,
Then you must have a cotton heart.
Otherwise your insides become a stone and
Then how do you respond to all the sadness of a world,
That scampers like a rat across a slate roof, that is
Sometimes seen, but always makes its presence known?

Clean it up and press on. That’s all you can do.
And if that bird shits on you nine-hundred and ninety-eight times,
You will clean it up nine-hundred and ninety-nine.

Watch a spider repair its web after a storm.
It’s incapable of sighing.
Remorse does not fit within the thimble frame of its
Rigid exoskeleton, it rebuilds.

Watch over me, shit-stained Francis. And
Protect every creature that dozes deep in my savage bones.
I will take you, mossy and white, or any way you come.

POEM: Tin Man

I stare into a mirror and
Proclaim in a mahogany voice:
“My God, what am I doing?”

That is the first step to disconnecting the red cable of your car battery,
Which is how you learn to jump-start things, like a car.

Fritter your hands a little. Fuss a bit.
Come clean with yourself, in jellied tones,
To the stranger in your head that says bat-shit crazy things
that you hide whenever company comes over.
The one that drives the Porsche of your mind
with the hormonal rage of a teenager.

Today is made possible
By its frosted flakes and all the sexy risk,
as dangerous as a cat-stretch-puddle.

It waits for you to take a step.

Here are the instructions:

Turn off the light /
make faces at the mirror/
on a moonless night/
let clouds grip your throat/
when owls embed themselves into headless trees/
hoot and then holler/
speak in private syllables/
break the tie between you and the image of you. /
Hold onto things with mosquito feet /
Promise anything: to bake bread together,/
to love the same woman or man or men or women,/
to get a rescue dog together and fight over its name./
Go and unmake your bed, /
Go slip your feet into large shoes, /
and stumble./
Time to stand in the ruinous rain/
to chisel away at the oxidized parts /

POEM: Wellwood Avenue (2 versions)

(Note: the first version is my first attempt at the poem, written normally.

The 2nd represents the same poem flipped upside down. Which one sounds better? It is a a very interesting thing to do to a poem.  The meaning is slightly different in the 2nd version, but it also suggests I am not in control of the poetry writing process as much as I might like to believe.)

We wonder how sunsets look to the dead,
From the tips of white granite
Which is now how we recognize their faces?

We know they are not really there, of course. We are
Very good at knowing the difference between
animate and inanimate: it is a difference of weight –

The living are always lighter. Geography
Sews an invisible thread to the inside of us, and
Pulls at us every step of the way, demanding us to return.

When I go, I want to build a place for you, my love,
To sit beside the godly pine. Place will be the shape of
My face, and the curve of your hips.

It is the running ripple of your spine, the meaty part of my hands
Which you have always admired. A place to clutch
cold stone. To wish beneath a glowering sky,

To believe in the heaviness of the dark oak past,
When I was your desire and we connected
To this sandy island whose soils once


And perhaps neither of us will miss or be missed as much.
While my consonant arms wrap around you,
My name, and all the vowels will lodge in the trees.

Sit before marble and silence, and you will speak.
I will slip into your breath when you rest, when this sandy
Island a long time ago hitchhiked south on a glacier,

Before I was your desire and we touched,
Believing in the heaviness of a dark oak past,
cold stone. To wish beneath a glowering sky,

Which you have always admired. A place to clutch
the running ripple of your spine, the meaty part of my hands
My face, and the curve of your hips.

To sit beside the godly pine. Place will become the shape
of my face. I want to build a place for you, my love,
that pulls at us, every step of the way, demanding us to return.

The living is always lighter. Geography
Sews an invisible thread to the inside of us.
Animate and inanimate: it is just a difference of weight –

You will know I am not reallythere, of course.
From the tips of white granite
Which is how we will recognize each other’s faces,

Wondering how sunsets look to the dead

POEM: Watching Sports

Watching sports is like carrying your lover on your back
Through every minute of every day.
She throws her arm off your neck while you try to shave.
He leans her to one side, as he bends to tie his shoe.
She uses his Ahab arm, which swings as if
tied to the back of that accursed whale,
As a trivet to place a hot frittata upon.

The chance for perfection is always appealing.
All the energy that is burned could rekindle
A supernova, black hole,
now dark as coal,
weightless in space
or it could re-illumine every burned out light bulb filament.

Monday, June 17, 2013

POEM: She’s Off To Find The World And Herself (A Parent’s Final Exam On Flag Day, 2013)

The sky shows off its boredom in pale blue, the shade of a thresher shark’s cold indifference. A jet that is so high it is ghostly, glows as gray as a newborn. It leaves jet trails like autumn leaves in its wake.

It’s Flag Day. I hear parties going off all around me. Fireworks putt-pat against the warble of tree frogs whose trill questions everything. Laughter floats like the smell of stale beer from shattered bottles on a mocha breeze.

They are with their tribes, I think.
“Where is my tribe tonight?”

I think about children who grow up to fly to other continents because once we taught them not to be afraid of the world. Right about now, uniformed men all over this land gather, meeting to dispose of old American flags in the only approved of manner: wearing medals with multicolored ribbons and oversized pea-green jackets, with elephant ears and log-like noses, swaying to taps before flags laid out like soft coffins,
saluted, anthem-ized, hand-over-heart-sworn-to, drenched in kerosene then ignited.

Rising smoke is the soul that pools into clouds of a holy memory.

The serious sounds of growing old fill my head. She is off to Tanzania, Bolivia and Iceland. Colorful stamps will decorate her passport. I worry about the intercontinental travel of children who are no longer children, and of me, being a child again, without agency, afraid of the world and everything in it.

“I would give everything I own tonight to see her pearl face poke through that door right now,” I say every night, for a year, until she returns.