Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Four corners

His hand
on her arm

the blood reacts

She is now other
than what she
appears to be 

A tree that's moved
from day to night

the moon 

through darkling 

she almost thinks,
breathing through
two paper legs

sipping her sips
of tonic water
with her radioactive 

She hits the

his mask

She sees ice

and likes it

While deeper


Suffuse me
before you're gone

I am small and
winter is long

running circles
around a rectangular

fall down in a flock
at the end of the day

Exhausted by what
they couldn't say

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Used To

I used to wear pink. 
Now I wear red.

Like a leaf 
no longer hiding,

Like a silent 
solid yes.

I used to hang 
on others' ideas;

now I make 
my own. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why You Write

You write because you’re alive. 
Because your brain is a singular specimen, 
but your heart’s on loan from humanity at large. 

You write to pick a lock. 
You write to go somewhere green. 
You write because the battle between the heart and the head 
can be a silent, choking civil war. 
You write because it’s the one worth fighting, 
on all the days. 

You write because for too long, you’ve been ashamed 
of the gap between the person you are 
and the person you were supposed to become, 
and the words are, if not a bridge, 
then a photograph 
in which the other you grows blurrier 
by the sentence, the paragraph, 
the story, The End

You write because you’re a narcissist. 
You write because you’re self aware.   

You write because sometimes you surprise yourself with the things you say. 
And other people seem surprised by them, too. 
And in the exchange of that shared surprise comes another flash of sparks: 
you are part of a chain reaction dating back to the Phoenicians, 
a small, if vital component in a rolling caravan of readers and writers, 
all hijacking the highways of literature’s nervous system, 
with no horizon line in sight. 
And if Shakespeare excites the highest hymns,
an individual’s response can still evoke the infinite. 
And hey--remember--you’re alive and Willy’s not. 

You write because you are humbled in the sharing, 
made more by the transfusion. 
You write because your ego is often skidded, but never fully squashed. 
And eventually, when your skin has thickened
into a callous-like armor threaded through with rejection, 
you write for something more than validation. 
You write--God help you--for truth.  

You write because clarity is the golden ring. 

You write because clarity is always somewhere else. 

You write because you don’t know what you believe 
until you set it down. 
And even then, it takes endless trying 
to set it just so.   

Right before it collapses in on itself. 

So yes. You write as prelude to revision. 
You erase and rewrite because you can no longer pretend to be like Hemingway, bleeding through his perfect typewriter in that perfect Paris 
of a perfect past which no one was ever, actually, part of. 
So you write until the hemorrhage has a form. 
A body. 
Until it pumps with a finely-controlled precision.  
As something apart from yourself. 
Character. Story. 
With great mounds of flesh on its bones. 
And later, less. 

You write to be reborn. 
You write, you write, you write. 

You write because even a poem 
composed on a napkin
isn’t worth the cost of a drink
unless it’s got some iron and oxygen 
blacking its ink.  

You write because the words are there, waiting on you.
You fail to write when the fear blocks your way. 
You write blind--and deaf--to meet the words halfway.  

You write because you want to live forever, and you’ve concluded 
there’s no other way, shoddy consolation that this is.   

You write to beat back the sameness of everyday life, 
no matter how nearly perfect, or almost empty, life is. 
You write to keep a child’s vision. 
You write to play.  

You write because words are your oldest and dearest friends. 
And sometimes, when you put them together 
in the most friendly fashion,
they burst into song. 
Or even keep you up at night. 

You write because you wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I should know. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


You are an old soul masked
in an adolescent's body

ripping off the pages
of a recycled diary

and setting them 
to flame

Before tossing the ashes
in the eye of a lake

and whispering your psalms
through the pine-bitten dawn

That Time is a phoenix 
with unfathomable wings

and we are the chlorophyll
draining its veins

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

And The Record Skipped

(Close-up of unidentified Rothko)

Intimacy lives
in that band 
of skin

above a man's


beneath the
draw of his
barber's blade
Where Summer's
burn slides

into a white
Winter bed

And in the passage,
a woman's Fall

Friday, September 12, 2014

100 Words

In her mind, they meet in a clearing, conscious of the cliché, but captured all the same by the beauty of their bodies beating in the sun, the electricity swimming on their swollen tongues, awareness dipping into some peasant fold, so that he moves—and she moves—and they move—as leaves move.   

Like a bird she will dive into his mouth. 

And oh, the sky, and my, the clouds, and yes to the weight of his body being on her own, yes for the felt and fleeting clutch of an immortal light, in all this blood between the legs.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


All week long,
I've left words 
and they seem fine
out there 
on their own

Exchanging my pen
for a Nikon lens
and the sawing at clarity
for the sensory swing 
of encountering a thing,
before shooting it

I like the beautiful things
more than I like the true things,
but I like the beautiful, true things
most of all  

And that is a photograph's
exquisite appeal,
being all right 
magnified and married
at the speed
of light     

While words have to
always this struggle--
and always upwind, 
us and them jawing 
to get our gears
to bite

then stopping
before finding--


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2 Red Chairs

Let's sit here all day,
not speaking 
of things

for things 
have a way
of pulling 

loose strings,
when what I want 
is to extend

my two legs,
and maybe reach 
for your knee

and lean 
just like the 
shadows do

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


The church bells rang
and the cardinals flew

An altar of blood 
keeping the two

Safe across the 

city's walls

Until their final 

dying fall.

And later, the violin 
player starts 

and fails
to make a woman

from gut and hair,
of air and longing

but I'll give him points
for trying.

For Love,
what is deeper

than Death
but You? 

And how weak the word
that wants Your flesh

but bends before
such broken bread.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


They pulled you out between White’s Mill and Currier Street,
about a mile from the bridge where you parked. 

The river is warmer
than it was in March
when everyone was looking
and putting up signs 
and later on, looking
less, flooding to Facebook
to report what your mom
said, connecting the dots
to fashion a lede. 

You were “Missing Athens Man.” 
Knives in the wood
after a knife-throwing act.
A stain of old pain
in the rearview reflection.
How come we hadn’t
learned our lesson? 

You left your keys in the ignition.

There was goodness there. In the swell.
Everyone shouldering hope and doubt 
on competing scales. 
It seemed the proof you were looking for:
if life has worth, people will fight for it;
if people fight, living is worth it.
It made sense, on its face.
A transitive snake 
grabbing hold of a tail. 

You had a great smile. 
I could see your mother’s hope in it. 
You wore your hair long
and it made you look vulnerable.
You probably would have hated this, 
but “sweet” is the word that springs to mind.

This world is hard on gentle boys. 

And I keep trying to recall if the 
pizza delivery guy had long hair
or short, the week before Christmas
we got pizza at work. 

Why should I want to put you there? 
What could it possibly matter? 

Your mother said she’d come for you.
Just hang tighter.

Once the weather turned,
I ran the section of the bike path
that bends to the river
over and over and over again, 
pacing myself to its muted rhythm. 
Its crooked spine, infrequent people.
The birds were sharp—soft—both together,
all at once. The wind in the grass 
was a woman’s dress, a mouthful of milk
on a taut clothesline.

My son plays baseball on the fields nearby.

And you were a rustle
in the thirsty brush,
drawing my thoughts as my 
feet held the line 
because I saw the men huddled
along the bank—
sonar trawling, sirens off. 

The water flashing 
its teeth 
in the sun.

There and back,
I took the bridge,
culling the edges with my eyes,
reading the gaps between the lines,
seeing the eddies bubble and
froth, disturbed by the dead limbs,
big rocks, uprooted trunks. 

Trespassing on something 
that wasn’t mine.

Even now, not sure 
what I’m doing here.

But you see how absence becomes abyss
and you think God, how do they carry this?
I absorbed you. Not impulsively, not all at once,
but incrementally, with the herd. 
We swallowed you in desperate sips. 
You sank in, like tea, leaving leaves at the end.
An archetype with a shape 
pulled from the caves.  
The lost son. Come back. 
Your brother has killed the fattened calf.
For you. Come back.
Won’t you hear?

And now 
I want to take your pictures 
down, so that she won’t have to. 

I want to hug my children tighter, 
preserving their shape in a better forever. 

We never learn.
It never makes sense. 
You needed more time. 
Pain is a bridge. 

The paper said 
you left a poem behind.  

It’s April now. Winter was hard. 

The lilac is late this year.