31 December 2012


THE end of the year
brings in a hard mark where there
are mainly mergings:

fresh water/ocean
heat of youth/cold of old age
freezing rain/soft snow.

Tomorrow grants us
starkness of resurrection
and so we’ll take it.

30 December 2012

Farmer’s Wife, circa 1963

THE cows would have to
wait. She unpacked the perfume
(mail order) after

locking her daughter’s
bedroom door. The bottle had
a baggy thingy

(like a docked blimp or
a tiny punching bag or
one of those Ambu

bags that medics used
in ambulances and in
emergency rooms):

that is, a perfume
atomizer. She took off
all her clothes and milked

a small cloudlet (is
that redundant?) of fragrance,
closed her eyes, posed her

arms as if they were
about to take on a load
of split firewood or

scatter the chickens,
and paraded through the mist.
Arching her back and

lifting her chin, she
could have been a model for
a hood ornament.

29 December 2012

Saturday Haikus

WE live in the big
city where everything
happens and nothing

ever surprises
us and the sound of sirens
just means someone else

notions of angels
bore us but we still collect
the perfume samples

from slick magazines
and from the Sunday papers
striving to recall

28 December 2012

Moon Full

LIKE the trembly torch
in the safecracker’s perfect
teeth, the moon, too, moves
with our two motions: twitchy
with nerves and with breathing, slow.

27 December 2012

Blue Christmases Past

My mother
was a looker
(of the Nashville lookers)
and men injured their necks

whenever she breezed by on Charlotte Ave.
And some even whistled
while they were out
walking with their very own wives.

Especially in the summer. In the winter,
on the faintest hope,
I kept to the window
and waited.

Momma’s blue-bulbed candoliers
(the melting wax
running down
molded right into the plastic)

we taped to the sills
because the electric cords
tended to pull them onto the floor.
And since those cheap blue lights – probably

a fire hazard since they always overheated –
were her only luxuries
in that entire house,
I kept to the window and waited,

hoping for snow
to fall
and added more painter’s tape
as needed.

25 December 2012

Virgo at Dawn

it’s been a long night
what with the neon
singeing NO VACANCY
and the artillery

shelling in the near distance
(that is, the heavenly hosts)
and the unexpected guests
smelling of lanolin

traipsing in one muddy-
rugby face after the other
and all their other buddies
that they’ve rousted out of bed:

coal miners and wildcatters
and lantern merchants
(noisy and oily all) not to mention
the birth of the boy and Joseph’s only

tunic soused – but dry now – with midwifery
so yawn Mary yawn
(the guests are all gone or passed out
on the periphery of the dying

it’s been a long night
and it’s almost dawn

24 December 2012

Night Silent

all all
and and
bright calm child

heavenly heavenly
holy holy
in in infant

is is mild
mother night night
peace peace round

silent sleep
sleep so tender
virgin yon

23 December 2012

Advent IV (momentum)

red rover red
rover send
the shepherds
right over

and so at first slow
and then fast
and then faster the dull
and the dusty

most doubting
some trusting
they ran yes they ran
all at once yes they ran

they ran toward the glint
of that heavenly band
their harps on the ground
and their hands linked to hands

but the dusty ones knew
that none would break
through in this crazy game this
starlit game this

dangerous game how would any get through
but right when they reached
that marvelous wall
each angel released

each hand in that wall and
each hand that was held was now held at each side and
each shepherd passed through to
seek and to find

22 December 2012


yes, her lips are like
lollipops except
for the ways they're not

no, they don’t come wrapped
in cellophane and
that handy dandy

paper stick — they don’t
have one of those for
convenient pacing

and they don’t get small
and sharp, enticing
a bite before dis-

appearing altogether
but other than that
her lips are just like

lollipops more than
they’re not

21 December 2012

Cartwheel Before Laolao's Funeral

She is way past fear-
less. Her sandals
are birds taken-

off into a green
sky. The same sky
where her hands are

buried. And for

an instant, as she
plays at Atlas, she
holds up every-

thing: expensive black
cars, golden trees,
and Chinamen

jumping. Off chairs.

20 December 2012










19 December 2012


Poets come
a penny
a million.

Readers, though,
are rarer
than rubies.

18 December 2012

Fallen Deer: A Parable

This is their field
for falling

just beyond

that strange black river
with those long

yellow fish.
And since

they were built (all legs and lungs)
for running,

they continued to run
from memory

(even after
those moving moons

and that brighter lightning struck
their ribs, their flanks).

They are now like wheelbarrows
abandoned from behind

and so they finally fall (and for the last time)
just beyond the black water, after clearing

the ditch.
And since

the mowers could not
(or would not) mow over

the bones,
the scrub

cedars are left
to grow.

17 December 2012

Horizontal Hold

I am
still awake
and the fuzzy
grey dawn is
just is

is just
coming in
like an old t.v.
screen warming

up and the earliest
trees begin
to announce
as filigree not night

not mittens
and fire escapes
unveil their cascading
Z’s against their buildings

16 December 2012

Advent III (snowglobe)

as angel word
is spoken clear
the settled globe
is shaken

and fearful shepherds
rise up to run
like centaurs swirling
toward the Son

15 December 2012

Mary in the Lights

Mary, or the woman
playing Mary, was the best
soprano in the church, and when
the spotlights were trained upon
her, for her big solo number,
there were then a total

of four Marys: the soprano
and the trinity of wavy
cast-on-the-backdrop shadows,
back-up singers who moved in perfect
synchronicity with Mary,
the best soprano in the city of David.

14 December 2012

Poem for Friday

the heart is
a lonely hunter
except the times

when it isn’t
and that’s all
the time the heart

want to hunt it
wants to be pursued
tracked sniffed heard hounded held
seduced sundered soothed

I’ll grant you lonely
as the adjective
but the noun
is nonsense

13 December 2012

The Choreographer

Reporter: We are so pleased you could sit down to answer a few questions for us.

Maestro: Not at all. My pleasure.

R: You have recently come forward to acknowledge your role in creating – and correct me if this is not a fair description – perhaps the most widely performed ballet of all time.

M: That is correct. My reputation, of course, is wrapped up with this one work. But only my closest friends knew about it. They insisted I “come forward” as you put it. To receive the credit they thought I deserved.

R: Can you tell us a little more about this work?

M: Certainly. It is performed by amateur and professional companies, and by beginners and seasoned dancers.

R: And the movements, I understand, are exquisitely suited for a spectrum of abilities.

M: Yes. The movements are both simple and elegant – and take into account improvisational elements.

R: That is fascinating. How did you come to design this dance?

M: Hours and hours of watching.

R: I think you are being modest.

M: Not at all. Just hours of observation, refining my vision, and then seizing the opportunities as they presented themselves.

R: And I understand there is no music.

M: That’s right – another tiny innovation of mine that…

R: And... Sorry to interrupt. There is also no applause – and this is across all cultures?

M: O, yes. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. It’s been quite moving actually – there is an almost sacred silence surrounding this artistic endeavor. I have to confess, though...

R: Yes. Go ahead.

M: Sometimes I am tempted to stand up and applaud. But, I stop myself - given the strong conventions of silence that have established themselves.

R: I have a confession, also. I have to confess that before now - before meeting you - I was not a big fan of ballet – I’ve heard of The Firebird and The Nutcracker, and something about After Tea with a Faun, of course.

M: You mean, I think, The Afternoon of a Faun – debuted by Nijinky, quite a scandal.

R: My bad. And before we go off the air – we almost forgot to mention the name of your wonderful ballet.

M: Indeed. The title is: Danseurs d'étirement et réglage leurs jambières.

R: Sounds beautiful. But I’m so sorry Maestro, I don’t know French and probably most of our listeners don’t either. Could you translate for us?

M: Certainly. Dancers stretching and adjusting their leg warmers.

R: Maestro, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule – I understand you will be present at two other performances this very evening.

M: That's correct.

R: Thanks again, Maestro.

M: My pleasure.

12 December 2012

Cop’s Wife

on a high and winter wind
the tattered cirrus clouds

(and on the drying line
are a dozen dress shirts
frozen solid like targets
and her one dress blouse)

and on a light blue bed
a sheer white gown

11 December 2012

Dream Date

I admit it. I was out
of my league. I had never
ever even heard of a moth

auction before. Never mind
been to one. My date had her
own magnifying glass. I’m

not kidding. She knew what she
was doing. I didn’t know
anything, so I just watched

the crowd mill around. Not true.
After I touched one, I watched
the crowd. Strike that. Once I got

caught touching the big blue one,
I started watching the crowd.
Not sure if my date was more

angry that I had far more
exotic and expensive
eye makeup on my finger-

tips than she had on her eye-
lids or that my fingers looked
like those of a preschooler.

10 December 2012

Advent II (redux)

Carpenters, over here and listen up.
And all the rest, you guys can go on home.
Don't you worry, all you clowns who showed up
will get paid for the full shift, and then some.

First off, all of these roof beams need to be
lowered. Not altered, all the way to the
ground. What about the pavilion? There is no
pavilion, get it? No roof, no walls, no

nothing. No skylight neither. There is no
building, you dunces. You just needed to
move the manger a few hundred metres
further out from the town. Was that so hard?
You geniuses even unroll the blueprints?
And no, you can't put fresh straw in it.

09 December 2012

Advent II

so lower
the roof beams

so lower

them until
there is no

roof or walls
no shelter

left standing
there at all

then make a
manger with

the debris
for the king

of glory
comes to play

outside in
a hiding

game a game
of hide and

08 December 2012

Ain’t No Shame

now there
ain't no shame
in a light-
headed heart

that startles
when she deigns
to smile or even when
she pauses near

and there
ain't no shame
in a heavy
one neither

one that withers
when she stays
hid far away
and the only murmur is remember

07 December 2012

Childhood Magic

my childhood was magical
like when everybody in my family
disappeared at the K-mart and I was the Blue Light Special

or like when I fell out of the attic
and almost broke my back
that was almost like rabbits out of a hat

(except for the direction) and speaking of ears
sometimes suddenly
things would appear from behind them

like the senior’s accelerating middle finger-nail
(on a bitter cold
waiting-for-the-bus morning) flicked against

my bare skin and then my lunch money coins
floated out
of my pockets (but not the marbles and rocks)

and my auricles
burned brighter red
than Rudolph's nose throughout first period

06 December 2012

05 December 2012

Light on a Dark and Stormy Night

              I could do these things
              especially if you asked me
like follow you across a strange
and dangerous city
              at night in the rain
              of course it’s raining
and windy too
and huddle beneath

              an awning (tri-coloured
              like somebody’s flag)
when the rain became
too much and when the first bolt
              of lightning struck
              I would actually run
and pull you after
me like Eurydice

               I think that’s the one
               can’t really remember
but I would try to
while you pulled out
              your cigarettes
              and tapped one out
and that’s when you would ask
and that’s when the glinting Zippo

              would appear from my jacket (I almost wrote
              magically but I didn’t)
like a knife and then the flame
would follow
              your face would be beautiful
              (and I did write it, a form of it,
this time) in magical shadows
and we would both guard the fire

              though we didn’t need to
              as you drew in the first draw
like the first taste
of a strawberry milkshake
              (notice how you don’t even
              need to use the word “straw”
since it’s already there
in “strawberry”)

              and the end glowing orange
              and the lighter clanking shut
as you turn-tilted your head
to blow the first puff up
              and past mine
              and I would wait
while you took a tiny
bit of tobacco off the tip

              of your tongue
              whether there was a tiny bit
of tobacco there
or not
              and I would notice
              your pink lipstick
on the cigarette and remember
the flavour of the milkshake

              but you don’t smoke
              and I don’t own
a chrome-plated Zippo
but these things I would do
              so maybe you should
              take up smoking
and these things I would do
I would

By the by, all the "ands" are on purpose.
If you don't believe me, take a re-peep at stanzas 1 and 3 and 6.

04 December 2012

I pick up things

serrated washers totally worthless
as coins and feathers with futures
containing neither
pillows nor flight

beer bottle tops like crowns
too small for my head
or yours
and smooth stones with no Goliath in sight

so the things I pick up
they are small
and useless
and light

and easy to hide

03 December 2012

Volcanic Verses: First Fragments

we'll take our verse
well-cooled thank you
black lava not
orange magma

antique tongs hung
in the shed not
tindering tongues
dancing over

our heads well-formed
and safe-to-the-
touch with touching
ironic turns

hammered in
at the very end
to advertise
the icy brain

at work with words that
pinch emotions
worthy of state

02 December 2012

Advent I

so tiny how
is my divine
so daringly
to be confined

to stoop into
a virgin’s womb
so temple small
there’s barely room

for altar bells
or candle stand
so body bow
to understand

so humbling how
is my divine
so small to fall
as toddling child

01 December 2012

Study in Purples and Pearly Whites

her purple

pulls open
her mouth so

that her lips
are just now

briefly lit
with trembling

static stars
of downy lint

30 November 2012


from atlas north to sacrum south
I run in soft curves
an odd-numbered highway perhaps
but a subway, in some ways,
is probably a better

picture the hard outer shell
filled with the soft caramel
and vanilla nugget, sounds like
candy, let’s call them passengers, riding inside,
who spill out at the last

stop just north
of the municipal zoo
nervous commuters on the wrong side of town
their Times rolled tight
like a constable’s baton floating toward

the safety of the cages,
to see the hurdy-gurdy tigers
and the snow leopards, since they are felinophiles,
let’s call them cat lovers, their hands in their pockets
fingering their make-believe

coins, called tokens, and then finally, ultimately, toward
their rank unruly yours untruly
snoring stretching belching roaring
king and queen of everything,
not just jungle, rumbling loins

He said, "Toe-may-toe."
She said, "Tuh-mah-tuh."
He said, "Roaring lions."
She said, "Warring loins."

29 November 2012

The Suitor

sing your song for me
for four hundred nights
beneath my window
and I will be yours

and you will be mine
and so he came night
after nighty night
with his toy guitar

in rain and snow and
sleet and thunderstorms
past snarling bloodhounds
wasps and scorpions

and then the neighbors
started in with the
eggs and tomatoes
before finally

smashing his guitar
thinking he'd then go
away but he just
sang a capella

so week after week
he stood under her
window and sang her
her song even when

she was out dancing
with somebody else
and the seasons passed
and the year turned round

and that fateful night
finally arrived
when he rode up on
a white charger dressed

as a knight in, yes,
shining armor, tuned
his brand new guitar,
after removing

his gauntlets, of course,
cleared his throat and then
he said, “I forgot the
words,” and rode away

28 November 2012

Drive at Dawn

this was your one
invincible moment
when you presumed
to jump from the temple

so you eased the gas
pedal to the floor
and nudged the glowing
orange needle past

90 on a rainy
Route 1 morning
before chickening out
and praying

for an angel
surround while
your pulse
came down

27 November 2012

Birds of a Feather, or, What is that Wire?

THERE is no single centre, but many,
and each stopped body has its very own
ragged flight of feathered satellites, birds
so notorious for their fear of motion,
save for their own roll, pitch, and yaw, that
they patiently wait out the final gasp
before perching upon the stock-still ribs.

WHILE ropes and chains tether other orbits,
the stallion breaking and the barking dog,
defining their circles, what is that wire
that fixes these strange birds on broken things?
Perhaps the same tug that tugs the still-breathing
toward the stage to reset it, to relight it
before dawn, to carry off the carrion.

26 November 2012

Twenty Questions: Give or Take

Is this the way?
This is the way.

The only way?

Everybody come this way?

That a dragon?

No kidding?
No kidding.

Real or a dream?

Is that a riddle?

Is that Puff?
No such thing as Puff.

Is it the morphine?
It’s not the morphine.

Did my granny come this way?
Of course.

What did she do?
Offered it fruitcake and coffee.

Did that work?
What do you think?

Did my father come this way?
Are you a simpleton?

What did he do?
He kept his head down.

My mother?
She didn't ask so many questions.

Is that flame across the road?

We're just supposed to walk through?

Will it hurt?
Are you making a joke?

What about “death with dignity”?
Is that the name of a lounge act?

Are you making a joke?
Why not?

25 November 2012

A Couple of Couple Couplets

when father found a flag to fly
my momma moved the mountain by

and when she sang her sweet sad songs
my daddy dialed the darkness down

24 November 2012

Circus Clowns

how easily
we forget the
elephants that
stood on our chests

their feet hovered
but sometimes the
trainer let them

let down some of
their great weight and
our ribs creaked like
old wooden stairs

and our eyes would
roll back to find
her flying far
above us her

hand-held haloes
chirping and our
hearts pounding with
pent-up longing

muffled beneath
those enormous
feet so she heard
only the crowd

23 November 2012

An Old Poet Pens a Letter

my job was not
to free you but
to confine you

not to trigger
but to have you

see what I see
and hear as I
do to bring you

under my sway
so come into
my cell first and

look and touch and
remember and
then step up on

the stool and pull
yourself up by
the black window

bars and for as
long as your arms
hold out keep watch

over the yard
at ground level
it’s better than

a Romper Room
magic mirror
you can stroll through

the garden with
the visitors
and guards later

22 November 2012

Mother and Child

that's my momma
with the wild hair

and that dark disk
to the left is

a man’s hat that
slipped off my head

and that’s my fist
which was the same

size my heart was
at that time

21 November 2012

The End of Zechariah

warhorses have become
kiddie rides and jingle
bells have replaced the bruit
of chariots

and HOLY is engraved
on the slides of trombones
and the bottoms of old
cast iron skillets

and burnt out crack houses
glimmer with the brew of
ancient favour laced with
angelic bliss

20 November 2012

Your Lips

and yet
to say “your lips”
is to begin askance
for they are one not plural
a singular thing (a theatre
in the round a circle dance not square)

the tongued
an “O” folded over
just this once upon itself
the omega that comes from a match
(like a cherry turnover) of halves

19 November 2012

Nursery Rhyme

we can’t keep
each other

safe we can’t
speak our child-

hood names we
can’t peal the

wolves away
we can’t leap

the candle

18 November 2012


when you place me
in my final
crib you know the
one the one with
those shiny chrome railings

raise it up on
stilts and put chaulk
in my hand and
I will draw you
an Eve on the ceiling

17 November 2012

Naboth's Vineyard

my mother made grape jam in
batches of six straining the
steaming fruit in old dress shirts

sometimes a jar would crack in
the boiling bath and hard-won
juice would bloody the water

and she’d fish out the glass with
those far-too-short silver tongs
hot with bottled-up longing

16 November 2012

Helen of Troy

give me a break
you really think
it was her face
that launched those ships

try sandaled feet
and golden calves
and perfect curves
of thighs and hips

of breathing breasts
beneath her wrists
and yes, perhaps,
those parted lips

inside the horse
we thought about
the gifts we’d brought
long years before

those new perfumes
from distant lands
doomed suitors to
her father’s door

so curled we tossed
and hugged our shields
and dreamt away
the stench of war

15 November 2012


Against grey Time
we always lose.

Our brilliant moves
are winked with praise

then swept away
with words like these:

"Crown me, or as
some say, King me."

14 November 2012

The Equine Eye

the fence
was moon-

light white
the night

the snow

and now
it’s just

but the

grass is

13 November 2012

12 November 2012

Train at Dawn above Your Town

I’m taking that train again
in the hills above your town
and the fog is rising up
with the morning collar of
your favorite off-white blouse

kitchen lights are switched on and
the morning crew warm their hands
at contraband oil drum fires
and I’m not dreaming of my
face buried in your cold hair

11 November 2012

Poppy Day

when you fall
asleep you
leave me for
a far country

as I watch
your breathing
settle at
the border crossing

so is this
how we re-
hearse for that
final parting

the poison
in tiny
doled-out doses?

10 November 2012

A Vet's Request

dance for me
and no one

your arms like
liquid wings

chopper blades
they’ll vanish

you dance for
me and not

09 November 2012

Stable Doors

do you remember when
we built these stable doors
in the heat that summer

and the chestnut yearlings

snorted at the scent of
paint after nodding at
the pounding of hammer

08 November 2012

Cookie Jar

a mother
or father
or just some-
one taller

reached up and
handed down
then stashed a-
way again

no need for
a ladder
or a tip-
toe totter

so where's my
sweet treasure
hidden now
is it on

that long low
shelf in the
house where the

hosts stand guard
against my
dying doubts

07 November 2012

Birds of Prey: Still Life in the Snow

today it snowed
and we were shocked

that it came so
early in the year

but the barrel
of water still

amplified the
whole wide world to

us and when the
gusts came we made

ourselves small and
eavesdropped on

the mice in the
dried leaves below

but they were safe
from our swooping

since they were still
breathing (noisy

as snow), moving
(noisier still)

06 November 2012

Birds of Prey

we roost to warm
our black feathers

on the water
tower not for

the vantage point
but for the bounce

of sun and sound
off the round steel

the height is just
the ambience

from which we’ll launch
our hot shadows

05 November 2012


there is
a bridge
from here
to there

from her
to him
from we
to them

from root
to stem
from blood
to bruise

from win
to lose
from wind
to still

there is
a bridge
to then
from now

to when
from how
to hope
from doubt

to heal
from hurt
to sky
from dirt

that sways
with a
glaze of

04 November 2012

Hollywood Stock

a perfect fox at 3 o'clock
right out of central casting, hollywood stock
his bearing and his body
and especially his hair
as warren zevon would sing, was perfect

there were no signs of sleeping
in the dirt or a lack of nourishing
diet his coat was lush and the colour of
melted brown sugar and honey
with burnt orange highlights

his tail was full and not wispy at all
it was rounded at the tip
kind of like a moderately-used pencil eraser or
the half round of a snow cone, pre-juiced,
so perfectly white

he walked - there was no trot nor hurry at all
and certainly no slinking
his head was up and level
and he just moved straight ahead,
parallel with the road, about ten feet from the sidewalk

like a confident executive going to a meeting,
but knowing if he happened to be a tad late
everyone would be waiting
on him

03 November 2012

Playing with your food

the last two slices of apple
can make for some pretty pictures
the straight edges placed face to face
create a red-skinned valentine

a stenciled S if fault lines slipped
flipped side by side they’re two eyebrows
spun, they become a butterfly
yo-yo, then languid angel-wings

at right angles, sailboat and sail
and then when balanced on their arcs
they make two rockers without their horse
the carvings of a man's remorse

02 November 2012

Theodore Gabriel

there he is his
heart beating in
a field of stars

an astronaut
or test pilot
on the ultra-

sound screen and then

the week he fell
in slow motion
the coupling gel

applied again
and again by
the technician

so sorry said

as she wipes off
your belly and
pulls down your blouse

four days later
he crashes in
a blaze of sheets

and frantic towels

01 November 2012

Wax and Wrought Iron

to her
words were
places where
you entered
tucked and hid


where you might
find yourself
fenced out then
gathered in

31 October 2012

30 October 2012

Storm Warning

the sky has been
cloudy for ten
days and the wind
begins to stir

and i recall
the story told
by my mother
about the storm

in miami
it sounded like a
great freight train she said
and her daddy

ripped up sheets
to tie her and her
brother to the stove
or to the icebox

(she wasn't quite
sure since they were just
toddlers) to keep them
from blowing away

29 October 2012

Prayer for Kate at Eight Days Old

Keep her crib safe silent soft
knock soundly knaves who sneeze and cough

Attach angels attending to all her pretending
and with awesome arm accompany all her contending

Teach me to teach her topography true
to train toward tiptoe's altitude

Ease her way always to her daddy’s embrace
even when she’s eighteen and engineering escape

28 October 2012


He sneaks into the kitchen and assembles
his golden goose sax on the stainless steel,
loose and relaxed as a hired sniper.
The singer and her combo on a small
riser, sleepwalking through an old standard,
pause when he begins to play, whisper soft,
the dishwasher holding the door ajar.

He slides a marble plinth beneath her heels
and her voice begins to bloom on the new
tune he reveals with coin and smoke and heat
and chill. The sculpted notes like old quarters
as far as weary-worn and coolness blown,
but like a slink of kitty around her
shins and calves, as far as smokiness goes.

27 October 2012

Lot's Wife

look it
you would

have turned
back too

falling (hear them)

the smoke

rising (smell it)
in clouds

your heart

fingers (feel them)

you go

tears and
sweat an

remnant (taste it)

on your
numb tongue

and your
eyes burned

you turned

26 October 2012

The Narrow Way

The narrow way
is not a crack
in the garden wall

The narrow way
is not a path
through the wilderness

The narrow way
is not a tightrope
across a great divide

The narrow way
my friend is this
The narrow way

is through the crowd
through the crashing waves
through the onrushing mob

The narrow way is squeezing your shoulders through
that second birth canal
the crowd going the opposite way

25 October 2012

Train #7

I knew, when I went to the station,
just to watch the trains again,
their strangers getting on and getting off,
that I would remember
that day, that other autumn,
when I began to suffer for the smile I gave
and the one returned, departed.

24 October 2012

Sex Trafficker in Vegas

       Welcome to our casino. Is this your retinue?
       - No. This is my bankroll.
       They have names?
       - No. But they do have denominations.
       Hah hah! That's a good one, sir. Busboy!

just crawl up on the table honey take
off your nice shoes dice are out hands high snake
eyes next shooter the point is five little
phoebe pay the player ballerina

point is now four no more bets seven out
pay the don’ts pass the dice the point is now
ten any wagers on a woman’s best
friend no roll roll again place your bets

could we speak with you sir we think you should
convert your girls to chips maybe it would
be fairer don’t you think for all of the players
no offense but we were just observing
since the dice are getting caught up in all
their clothing yes yes very nice and rarely reaching the back wall

23 October 2012


a bivouac of angels
just outside the city gates
adjusting their havoc sacks

the final invocation
and the only disturbance
of that deep dark silent night

a lone dog, against a blue moon,
unhushed by an angry neighbor's
slamming door and sporadic curse

22 October 2012

she sways radiant

she sways radiant
in the midday sun
her smiling blossoms on

roots in dark places
twisted down places
like all the other plants

21 October 2012


this dull blade of unnamed sadness
delivers no decisive slice
just the pommel blows to the brain

20 October 2012

the great cats brood

the great cats brood over a new darkness
as we move through artificial gardens
our tiny attempts at hand-built edens
the creatures caged, and we, with silly fingers,
pinch cotton candy and point through their bars

19 October 2012


my friend, do not keep silent when
the wicked are astir
the strong, their wrongs conspire
and then, baby-faced, sleep silent

Janus on Friday Night

regrets i don't forget
futures i don't remember

les regrets,
je n'oublie pas.
les avenirs,
je ne me souviens pas.

18 October 2012

Canterbury Tale in Sixty Syllables

sometimes there is a darkness regardless
of the flip of the switch the heat of the
bulb the scrub of the sun the blur of the

eye the numb in the toes a darkness that
canters us unbridled and unsaddled
into the next lady-in-waiting day

17 October 2012

Newish Moon

an eyelash of a moon
a swinging gate scrape in the snow
an ashen smile in slo mo transiting
a blue-to-black buttonhole

16 October 2012

15 October 2012


the king is all alone
with his eyes on the prize
his eyes on my wife

my wife is all alone
with her fingers on her thighs
her eyes on the throne

and I am the man
sleeping in the street
and I am the man

who carries the command
and I am the man
he knows that I won’t peek

and I am the man
left alone in the heat of the fight
so I get to die

for their wandering eye
so I get to die
out of mind out of sight

14 October 2012

this breathing is

this breathing is indeed a giddy thing,
the in and the out and the in again
of aromatic air from far forests,
cedars of Solomon plunged upside down

into our lungs, their essence easily
besieging the barricades and storming
into our blood, and then, returning in
victorious parade, clear and untinged.

forehead to forehead and then knees to knees,
our backs bent against the extremities
of the day, we breathe into the secret vat
we have made, where we pour in and draw out,
you giving yours and taking away mine,
as we drink and we sigh a new Cana wine.

13 October 2012


will this kiss this flesh this serving of nerve
either blunt the sickle or make it swerve

12 October 2012

Broken Bird

this is where
the bird flew
through the glass

this is where
the bomb-shaped
blue jay passed

this is where
the shattered
are scattered

inside the dead
shed? or out toward
the buttery grass?

11 October 2012

Grief Fridge

some tube the Chattooga
with a six
pack trailing
in the numbing water

intending to consume
all of their
beer before
the end of Section II

but I have an icebox
to keep my
sorrows fresh
guard them from perishing

where time has stopped and where
I can reach
to sip once
more while checking of course

the DON’T USE AFTER dates
since the very best
bitters are
sometimes from
the deep dark distant past

1:07 a.m. next day

10 October 2012

The Art of Parting

leaves in parking lot
will we, in our falling down,
leave such parting sparks

09 October 2012

Playing Joseph

this kid’s got ideas
notices things in
the couplings between
maybe so and no

the first auditions
are a month away
and this year will not
be the same old same

mary with a dolly
joseph with a stupid
staff playing a shepherd
like all the others

not when he shows up
he’s going full bore
carpenter with a
hammer in his belt

and nails in his teeth
a T-square over
one shoulder and a
perfect dovetail joint

pre-cut in cedar
(the tongues and the grooves
dry-fit and ready-to-glue)
over the other

08 October 2012

Instrument Flight Rules

away with me
and be my prayer
we’d hide awhile
beneath the stairs

runway with me
and be my air
we’d fly undialed
into the storm

07 October 2012

what if we

what if we grappled with
our respective angels

each one a lonesome one
until the dusty dawn

what if mine bruised me
blessed me helped me recall

with a touch touch here
and a touch touch there

here a there there a there
everywhere a there there

06 October 2012

Window Washer (Present): Basketball (Past)

the squeegee on blue windows
forty stories up
the squeak of new Chuck Taylors
on the honey-coloured court

the traffic cop windmilling
a hive of taxis on past
that same silent-for-now whistle
on the ref’s about-to-blow kisser

the royal thumb crushing a bug
against the cold wet glass
the coach’s forefinger cursing
the next play on his chest

the secretary sinks the file
with a wink and a hip
the ball slinks through the net
like the same through a slip

the gauze of exhaust cotton-softening
the candy taillights
the old scoreboard glowing pink in its cage
at the end of time

05 October 2012


her cat arched up
with an unknown

world champion
wielding the string

04 October 2012


teach me a new word
one with water weight
a word rarely heard
but common, cupping up
cold water from the well in the square
like the ladle on the chain in the well on the square

teach me a new word
a word with endurance
one with muscle and bone
but one with perfume performance
evaporating but adhering
volatile in the summer
stable in winter regal royal enthroned

teach me a new word
one with
one worth
walking towards
one (which is) worth
waiting (winter)

03 October 2012

She Sleeps

know she doesn’t
so please don’t tell

that soft she sleeps
in a lofty nest

a tiny lair
inside my brain

pretty please don’t tell her
she’d be dismayed

02 October 2012

The Old Astronomer's Home Movies

when the star, his star, at last appeared
the old man smiled and rolled away

from the Cartesian screen and fell
fast asleep, hugging his lumpy pillow

to his chin, its tiny quills sharp and sparse
as his own beard, once more unspooled

his favorite dream, revolving with wolves,
a pack of grieving, so many galaxies

sleeping, spiraled in the snow, their feathery
tails like boas shielding their eyes and noses

their throats percolating on their ruby-red paws
their ears the points of shark-finned stars

01 October 2012

till that deep darkness do fetch me away

let’s make-believe it be a friendly steed
offer cored apples, carrots snapped in half
to that midnight muzzle nuzzling toward me
through the ragged gaps in the stable slats

30 September 2012

Writing Spider

the tattered web is a crazed platter
silver borders of a blue map
or a skater's bladed figures
on the camera man’s shadow

29 September 2012


tell me
does a sparrow heart start
with fear
when the sleet assaults this hard
this early
on a stark september

28 September 2012

Windshields and Fallen Leaves

for a few moments
it clung to the glass
the pace perfect the
invisible palm

of air cupping it
there as long as i
fondled the gas and
watered down fast with slow

27 September 2012


reading from screens
will spell the end
to these affairs
the heart’s skipped beats
beneath paper
roofs that woo with
inky perfumes

remember when
the words made you
stop reading and
you spread the book
on your breast and
secured the spine
beneath your chin

it was too much
too much to bear
so you held up
your finger to
your lover’s lips
your not-quite touch
bidding them hush

26 September 2012

i run my tongue

i run my tongue
around my teeth

the sentry
while others sleep
pacing the weathered parapet

the blind finger
of the climber
gawking a hold

the hound along
the garden wall
sniffing a toad

the flouncing fool who
from cranny to merlon drools
cringing his blister bells

the newt hooksli-
ding into its
cold bouldered stream

i numb my tongue
in a boon of ice cream

25 September 2012

Freeze Tag or Stuck in the Mud

the choked down supper of collards
and the cornbread’s butter still on the knife
the soft knocking at the screen door
and the teasing wafting in from outside

the metallic taste of out-of-breath blood
and the nagging gnats in the eyes
the fairy queen lift of lightning bugs
and the slow-down stitch in the side

and that’s when the neighborhood cheat shows up
and there is, always, forever, one such
the running away, unfrozen
and resurrected, but untouched

24 September 2012

Sleepless Saloon

I’m a saloon door on
my bed swinging from side
to side but no one is
coming in going out

no gunmen with grudges
no barmaids with whiskey
no sheriffs with bullet-
-scarred stars and no boys with

any down burning barn
breathless news running in
just dreamless tossing and
turning and nodding off

and startling on again

23 September 2012

Heavenly Host

what an unexpected spider
to fly into this homespun silk
means not to be stunned then cocooned
but to be served cookies and milk

22 September 2012

The Number 4

in space, like so
trace the compass
with your finger
east west north south

play the maestro
memory gone
who lost his place
but tip-toed on

21 September 2012

Winter Wheat

they will lift
a future bread
from oven earth

its door opening upward
like a storm cellar
or a trapdoor in a theatre

and they will begin by kneeling
in the clods with their tractors

and when they break the dirt-loaves
to find the darker-damp pocket inside
they will smile

they still know
that the dust will come up
before anything else

but winter long
their faith will see
that levitating grain

with her dirty blond hair falling
toward the sky
and not a stage

20 September 2012

Theology of the Unfinished Poem

is it okay
for me to pray
for my sick poem

just like i might
my dying dog
or your lost coin

19 September 2012


now all my eves
are hallowed eves

and my heart hurts
inside my ears

night by night
i go as a ghost

from our bedroom
to the living

room wrapped in you
that is, cloaked in

one of your new
cadmium white

lightning loomed
pure cotton sheets

and fall asleep
on the old couch

my “you, too” trapped
in my blue mouth

18 September 2012

Rainbow II

a rainbow is
the powerful arm
its elbow soft abundant bend
its sleeveless sweep
its reach congruent to its grasp
touching treasure at either end

17 September 2012

Antietam: Five Fragments

The self-proclaimed world’s leading living authority on “everything Antietam” lived at the old Walter Reed. On my last visit, he slipped me this small sheaf of handwritten/typewritten papers from his massive stack of torn sheets from various books. “It’s pronounced with four syllables. Try it. Aunt, tea, et, tam.”
He grinned his disarming grin. “It rhymes with my war, you know. See what you think of my poem.” The legible portions are presented below:

It’s a strange way
to harvest corn.
Shot and shell and
calvary charge (cavalry?) hah!

Pa, I want you to have me a pair of boots made.
Those shoes you had made for me ripped all to pieces.
I have got the suit on that you sent me.
If I had a good pair of boots I would be the best
clothed man in the regiment.
I have nothing more for my paper is scarce.
Write soon to your only son.

for as far as the eye could reach
was the glitter of the swaying
points of the yankee bayonets
we camped under the apple trees
finally had something to eat

Dear Wife,
I dreamed of home night before last.
Saw you at the window and you kissed me.
Is that not quite a soldier’s dream?
In this letter I send you a bit of gold lace
such as the officers have.
This I cut from a rebel officer's coat
on the battlefield. He was a Lieut.
Yours as ever. Do write soon.

just the names themselves are stark (brutal/brilliant)
enough, not to mention
the sawn bones and the blood-run creek

Dunker Church, and if you guessed Baptist
you’d be right

Sunken Road, and if you wagered bloodbath or
Bloody Lane
you’d be right again, right as rain from the night before

Rohrbach Bridge over the Red Sea, (rohr=reed, pipe/bach=creek)
but here, unlike the Bible, it is literally true, you see
the water ran red with reunion blood

the dainty poets speak of tea and jam
but Antietam whispers another name,
this one with three syllables
pronounce it An-ti-et-am, and you will hear it
faintly, as from a shell

Tuesday 4:04 a.m.

16 September 2012


since every t is a cross
(the naked stick figure treeing)
and every i with its dot
(a lighthouse for sacred seeing)

so when in black on white my pen
stabs the seeing-eye upon the stem
spreads, again, the carpenter’s arms

the impersonal it becomes
the mark of total devotion

15 September 2012

House of Habit

each day a new wall would come down
and the wreckage carried away
first the pastel interior
and then the exterior stone
but the frames for the doors remained

so they kept on using the doors
but the raccoons and the squirrels
the suns and the moons
they would just saunter through
where the walls used to be

but they kept using the doors
opening and closing them
walking in and out of them
using their keys when they'd come home
and checking the locks when they'd leave

14 September 2012


we dare to speak of beauty
as if we can see and know
but is it something we be-
hold, or something we bestow

This is a deceptively simple poem that is intricately layered with formal qualities that help carry it along. Each of the 4 lines has 7 syllables. Most of the words are mono-syllables, with only 4 words with more than one: beauty, behold (as you put it back together across lines 3 and 4), bestow, and something (used twice).

The long "e" marches through each line: we speak, we see, we be(hold), we be(stow). The second line, the line about perception and knowledge, is composed entirely of simple words from an elementary speller.

Finally, the breaking of be/hold - which may be, arguably, an ugly move - nonetheless disperses language so that the reader can engage in the sport of re-gathering the four separate meanings for the conclusion of the poem:
Beauty is
...something we be
...something we hold
...something we behold
...something we bestow

13 September 2012

Watermark: Pool is Closed

the pretty French blue you see
is not the water's marquee
but the sky-lit bottom of a placid pool

and a chair is not a chaise
and a towel is no escape
from the refracted gazes of an old fool

10 September 2012

The Whipping Tree

it’s really just a stump
the stump of a sweetgum tree
but you can’t kill it
and we’ve tried to kill it
bleach and ax and fire and cairn

the shoots make great switches
and we harvest them according to the offense
three or four or five or more
my mother prefers that we strip all the leaves
leaving the node-bumps as stingers

except for the one tender leaf at the very tip
which flies away, an artistic touch,
on the first blow, the tiny green

of our defeated kingdom

09 September 2012

After Dark

crickets fiddling after dark
or, I guess that’s what
they are
the unremitting alarms
of ten thousand cartoon cars

08 September 2012

Dream Horse

not to ride
just to see
the splashing
of that proud
nodding head

Original Image: G. Adams.
Altered Image: B.R.

07 September 2012

06 September 2012

Seven Ages

throwing goldfish crackers on the floor for the dog
making my first best friend
throwing pappy bread snowflakes toward trumpeter swans
witnessing cold, first hand
throwing sugary sand at dragon zaggingflies
spangling their glassy pond
throwing fistfuls, at nightfall, of gravel at bats
testing their sonar wands
throwing bravado kisses to perfect strangers
mocking my own lonesome
throwing good money and better pearls after wine
trumping women and song
throwing off the covers and pulling out the lines
sloughing off the despond

05 September 2012

A-1 Fabrications

we've got bald-face lies for unblushing brides
distortions and contortions for more modest types
fine fables and frauds for fences and frogs
and deceitful applause for all your sleeping dogs

04 September 2012

The Coming Cold

où est le pain
pour demain?
où est l'eau
pour l'agneau?

en l'automne
les levres
sont pour

en l'hiver
les livres
sont pour

Le Froid Approchant
where is the bread
for tomorrow
where is water
for the lamb

in autumn
the lips
are for

in winter
the books
are for

03 September 2012

Riddle on Bucket Truck Grill

bone with silver wire
but why is it there?

yorick allusion,
dog taunt,
or, the old prophet’s

combustible breath?

02 September 2012

Sunday Sonnet: Heartbreak Ridge

I stayed up way too late watching Heartbreak
. Didn’t even finish it. How does
it end? Got my usual four hours
of tossing and turning before taking
the dogs for their walk. Showered, packed a kit
for hiking (thinking I'd go after the
service), and grabbed my Bible. The sermon,
if you can call it that, was from Mark 6.

We had a decent crowd today: 14
total (11 residents and 3
visitors). Claire was there for the first time
and she was, from the start, eager to leave.

After the closing hymn, “Jesus What a
Friend for Sinners,” I took her back to the
second floor, just outside the lunchroom,
and she whispered me to stay, “Don’t leave me.”

01 September 2012

Carpe diem, tempus fugit, and all that

while my skin is still
skin and not parchment
will you not touch it
sketch maps upon it

while my lips are still
lips and not blue minnows
will you not hear them
wade in their shallows

31 August 2012

Time: Love/Hate

sometimes i
wanted time
to go by

days and hours
just slow cars
to hurry

traffic jams
to work a-
round to Fri-
day night

where Mary
waits don’t be
late the star's
dark light

and at other times, breezing
across the rink’s blistering

we’re begging and we’re pleading
o time, won’t you pretty please

as we jetpack yet closer
to that jaggedy jet-black

and we hear, it’s not a dream,
the night nurse's grippy shoes
squeaking in the hall

Skirting Frozen Pond

30 August 2012

Three Umbrellas Six Chairs Nine Minutes

it's the last week at the shore
and nobody else has even noticed
that the gent from number three
and that the dame from number six

have been missing for nine minutes
except for me, but that's my business
i'm sure number five will pay for pix
and maybe even number four

29 August 2012

Grey Hairstreak

                  grey butterfly
                  on silver hood
                  junk sailing on
                  south china sea

28 August 2012

Fairy Tale

met a moose who
disappeared into
the mist with
hands above
his head in
velvet gloves
wands upon a pine

27 August 2012

26 August 2012

Sunday Sonnet: Chariots of Fire

The Sunday night movie is Chariots
of Fire
and the room is filling up with
walkers (that is, the aluminum kind),
with wheelchairs, and with warriors who still
walk on their own, at least some of the time.

I check in on Paul who took a fall this
morning. He was there on his side as I
emerged from the stairwell onto the third
floor, more embarrassed than injured. I helped
him into a chair and then fetched a nurse.

The movie room was full tonight and we
softly applauded as actors ran on
blue beaches and the surviving daughter
of Bobby van Epps asked me how to get home.


Bobby van Epps was the piano player
for the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra.

25 August 2012

Tone 1:9

There was enough light from the great window for me to see Tone’s lips moving as I glanced over. He was mouthing the names of the constellations as he plucked them out of the milky wash of the other stars. This was just an internal test. A game. Proving himself to himself. He had nothing to prove to anybody else. I could also faintly hear him, as he pronounced Lyra… Cygnus… Aquila… Hercules… He was in his own private swirl, dealing with the incessant burden of his brilliance.

I turned back toward the great window, and waited. The woman with the orange hair would finish up with the bride and we would ride home in a Mustang convertible, and I would try to catch a glimpse of the great burning window-furnace in the rear view mirror when we first headed home.

24 August 2012

Jarabe Tapatio

your dress
like two

made of
crêpe paper

your lips
just grazed
my nose

Hat Dance

tu vestido
se arremolinaba
como dos

arcos iris
hecho de
papel crepé

tus labios
acaba rozó
mi nariz

23 August 2012

Half Mast

what was at half mast
now ripples at finial
and the starling gone

22 August 2012

Diplomacy: Wire Story




21 August 2012

Bubble Dancer's Dowery

she blooms her arms move
her toddlers loom to leave
spent balloons
in her hair

she copes the crib with
castoff chiffon to dis-
till the harm
in the air

20 August 2012

Lost and Found

I found a green bike abandoned
in a deeper dark greener wood.
Do I take it myself to give away
or find the current Robin Hood?

19 August 2012

Sunday Sonnet: Charles Descending a Staircase

Sunday morning. The elevator is
not functioning. There’s a punctual man
on the landing. With both of his frail hands
on one railing, he begins to descend

the long staircase. Sliding hand to hand but
not crossing them, and foot to foot before
dropping one daringly over the edge
of each box step. Charles in crimson slippers,
with dancer’s hands on diagonal barre,
our very own Nureyev at ninety-four.

The pall bearers pass the casket into
the idling hearse, the long mahogany
handles smoothly through their white-gloved hands.
But that’s another mourning,
another landing.
In spite of the power outage, Charles was determined to get to the church service on the first floor - and he was determined to get there on time.

18 August 2012

A Cold Kiss

après une cuillerée
de la crème glacée

je cueille
un bise froid

qu'est-ce qui s'était
mal passée?

Un Bise Froid

after a spoonful
of ice cream

i steal
a cold kiss

what had
gone wrong?

Note on Tone

Dear Readers,
Tone 1:9 will be posted in the next few days, deo volante.
Stay tuned.
Catch up on previous installments here: Tone.

17 August 2012

Storm at Sea

THEY go down
to the sea
in their slips

waiting for
their husbands
their lovers

for some of
them it is
the same man

and some just
want to watch
the dark storm

as they make
their way down
to the sea

the spasms
of the light-
-house breaking

first across
their bare feet
and then their
scared faces

Image based on "Bell Rock light house during a storm from the North East."
Drawn by J.M.W. Turner. Engraved by J. Horsburgh. 1824.

16 August 2012

Red Shoes

the light has turned green
her shoes have always been red
she wears no helmet
her dogs hide from the thunder
but they chase after loud cars

What is a tanka?

15 August 2012


you moved
    legs as long
through the
    as a lifted
dawn garden
    damp gown

14 August 2012

Reynard and The Wolf

my good wolf or
is it rector
would you heed your

so-called calling
if you were called
to preach and pray

without housing
or pay

mon bon loup ou
est-ce le recteur
écouteriez-vous de votre

soi-disant vocation sacré
si vous avez été appelé
à prêcher à prier

sans presbytère
sans titre exalté
sans salaire

13 August 2012

Everything Falls Down

un poème ne peut pas nous sauvent
un pomme n'est pas le savant

tout tombe à terre,
à nuit
nous calcul l'allure,
le bruit

a poem cannot save us
an apple is not the scientist

at night,
everything falls down
we calculate the speed,
the sound

12 August 2012

Seven Sovereigns Before the Cross

Monday lays down his blue cheese moon
alongside Tuesday’s juiced grey goose

Wednesday lays down its wedding gown
spun in silver from Thursday’s thunder

Friday lays down her spinning wheel
inside Saturday’s hula hoop

Sunday lays down its worn out worship
seven lie down in wonder

11 August 2012

Tone 1:8

Question. Can you have a lost weekend in the middle of the week? Sure you can. If you’re an over-achiever. Like me. So maybe you’re not trying hard enough.

It was Friday already and I had been in and out of a haze for three days. Sorta like a very slow flight in a very small plane, in and out of various types of clouds and low-hanging fogs and the smoke from leaf and brush fires set by idiot neighbors who shouldn’t be burning fires in the middle of summer anyway. For some of these maneuvers you don’t even need alcohol. You just pitch and roll and yaw.

10 August 2012

Three Things: World History

there are three things
a king requires
a castle high-towered
an army un-cowered
and a chapel well-choired

L'histoire du Monde
il ya trois choses
un roi exige
un château haut-tours
une armée non-recroquevillé
et une chapelle bien-chœur