After the Ice-Storm
Angels of Death
Another Old Photo
Beneath the Blue Blood Moon
For The Living Dead
From Mirror To You
In Our Eyes
In The Wake
In Tree Light
My Father’s Job
Origins of Alchemy
Paradox Of Intersections
The Broken Lock
What To Do Next
After the Ice-Storm
We walked among the pines in back,
Accompanied by clack & click of branches.
Some boughs broke & took others down
To a frozen floor, to skid across
A crust of hard snow,
Like sleds that are out of control,
Stuck on GO, no hope, & ‘No more slack.”
We mounted wooden ladders, then,
With worn-out hatchets & a broken broom,
To break off backed-up roof-ice,
It gave us bad leaks & went inside our walls,
While all night long I heard it drip,
While waiting for day-break & still more work
On the weary roof that sheltered our sleep.
So now, we wait, protected & safe,
Until another bough may break.
Angels Of Death
Back when I was a social worker
for developmentally disabled children,
it was not uncommon to lose a child,
often one whom I’d worked with for years.
They were children who breathed
through tubes, who ate through tubes.
Some could neither hear nor see.
Some were bright but confined by their bodies.
Some had normal bodies with mental prison cells.
Their life spans were usually short.
As workers, we used gallows humor
to deal with harsh realities.
It gave us some temporary relief.
A worker whom everybody loved,
sweet and cheerful, a beautiful woman
who never joined in the sick joking
had a long streak of infant deaths
on her overloaded caseload.
So, we called her the Angel Of Death.
The teasing went on for several weeks.
She put up a good show at first,
but then another child on her load died.
After that, she didn’t come in for a week.
Then, she quit and moved to Minnesota
to become the manager of a Hallmark shop.
Children continued to die off all our caseloads.
After the fourth year, I couldn’t handle it.
I would burst into tears at funerals,
sometimes using a whole box of tissues.
I finally fell away, imaginary wings broken.
Another Old Photo
In the old photo my parents are still young.
I am cradled in my father’s arms.
We are all smiling because I’ve been born.
Our first little cottage is behind us.
Its tar shingles & open rafters are gone now,
replaced by a Marathon Mini-Mart.
My mother is small & happy in a plaid skirt.
My father is tall in cuffed dungarees.
I wear a diaper, a knit hat & booties.
Mother has long black hair down to her waist.
Father has black hair, slicked & parted.
I am bald, both yesterday & today.
Now I am old, & they are both deceased
except in this snapshot, stolen from the past.
No sign here of the tragedies yet to come,
the births & deaths, the divorce
of my parents, our little family gone
like a glimpse of an elusive Red Fox.
No indication of future diseases,
promises, send-offs or receptions.
Nothing is predicted or foreshadowed here
in this yellowed print of three strangers,
a photographic monument to potential,
no blood on our hands yet, just mercy & hope.
My mother bought it on sale
at a dirty discount store
when I was eleven years old.
It was shaped like a big one in Kyoto,
but ours was painted a gaudy red
with random specks of gold.
Our Buddha was two feet tall.
It was made of plaster instead of stone.
It began as a Buddha in bad taste,
but Mother spray-painted it flat black,
& it looked better with makeup.
Many years later, it sits in meditation
on the mantle of my fake fireplace,
its cheap red flesh thinly concealed.
Now it reminds me to let small shit slide,
to be humble & kind, & to look beneath
the superficial surface of the world.
Beneath the Blue Blood Moon
The blue blood moon shoots a lewd mood.
Meals on wheels repeal ideal deals.
Nine months later, we have a baby boom.
Hormones ebb & flow in tide zones.
An orangutan delivers a State of the Union speech
to an audience of baboons, monkeys & apes.
Politics notwithstanding, it’s almost tulip time.
I like it when they uproot & dance in the moonlight.
The hills are alive with the sound of Muzak
because the elevators are contagious.
Epidemics of despair infect the zeitgeist.
Vaccinations of courage are only 30% effective.
An arrow has an arc, just like a life.
A dull knife doesn’t slice so nice.
Passing everything at snail’s pace,
no roadblocks can slow us down.
Even though we have no destination
we’re running on pure adrenaline.
Inside every heart is a tiny suitcase.
Inside the suitcase, musical scales.
Telescopic microorganisms contort
in disproportionate macrospasms,
their ecstatic mutations subsonic.
Masochists pass out mass market snacks.
Some of us send them back,
preferring a different attack.
Anchor chain reactions hold us
to the bottom, drowning in debt.
A giant piñata hangs over our heads.
Once burst, its contents surprise us.
Ironic ironing-boards dictate
that flat compliments all fabric.
Dark star, deadly binary nemesis
Of the transitory star we call sun,
Here we are, on beleaguered planet earth,
Worrying about our own extinction.
Dark star, parent of the next meteor,
A tsunami of lethal energy,
Serial killer of the dinosaurs,
Great reaper of scheduled massacres,
Here, we are the captives of gravity.
Dark star, our lost identical twin,
Shooting mountains in our direction,
Playing Cain to our reflective Abel,
Birthing invisible anti-matter,
Catalyst for horrific disaster.
Dark star, planetary doppelganger,
Mirror occupying negative space,
Black reflection at the vortex of time,
Here, in sunlight, we wait,
Another day surges over
the horizon, flotsam
sloshing through its dark
sluice. Loose pages
drift in pools, like
travelers, asleep beneath
the hills. There is no
bowl to contain our
tears, just flooded floors in
a hastily abandoned factory.
Though pleasure pours
like rain, we swim
on until dark, emerging
from the water’s edge smelling
like wet sand. Submerged
beneath our common
respiration, we wonder if
the ocean breeze will
keep us on course or
blow us back into ourselves.
We have thrown down our
breathless waves, arriving
home late but still
adrift. There is no
pail for love. Even though
we’ve wrapped ourselves within
each other’s arms, each
of us still drowns alone.
For The Living Dead
I rise with an effort
I feel the dead
In my foggy heart
Like icebergs colliding
In oceans of blood
I am alone
I sit by my window
I become a stone
Like stagnant water
Or steady drumming
I was once a prisoner too
I hear again
The familiar beat
Inside my heart
The divine rhythm
Of the countless dead
The rainstorms of light
The zombies are revolting
They are crude in their culinary habits
Eating the flesh of the living
Raw with no seasoning
Duly elected representatives
With secret term limits
Sound the alarm
The flesh-eaters are in the house
They are slow but they keep on coming
They are mesmerized by fireworks
They like to run amok
When they aren’t milling aimlessly
Zombies have no sex lives
They share the despair of the wolfman
Drunk on power under the full moon
Soaked in gasoline waiting for a light
Enflamed by love & hate
Counting down to the final insult
A cipher falls dead in the snow
From a bus of discontinued androids
Last year’s models obsolete versions
Of absolute ideals polished
To insane shines that reflect
The light that cannot be silenced
Jolly gunshots wound our pride
Armies of pleasure reap
Rewards of perfect cartoon murders
Buddhas smithereened by friendly fire
Floating in rivers of polite bodies
Joyfully waving their black flags
They are the human furniture
They are the living dishrags
They are the constant reminders
They are the ruined fortresses
Engorged on cloned flesh
Fitted with artificial hearts
In the post-apocalyptic world
The zombies are loosely organized
With no zombie leader
They wander in random abandon
Trying to play various musical instruments
But their rhythm is shot
A small group of human survivors
Still comb their hair & wear make-up
Drooling & shuffling their feet
The zombies are mystified
By the smallest most subtle stimuli
But their haunted bony faces never smile
In the land of the dead
If a zombie bites you
You become a zombie too
You become a soldier in the zombie army
Sharing a goal with no sense of purpose
With an inner drive to obey.
The red bird still sings
In the green earth tree
In the airtight shopping mall
In the fenced-off arena
In shadows of tall buildings
In shacks of toothpicks
Robots built by zombies
Then put in charge
The doors are all locked
Impervious to your meat cleavers
Oblivious to your howls of pain
Ungrateful for your sacrifices
We navigate by dead reckoning
Our options are greatly reduced
We search in vain for a way out
Disguised by decadent cosmetics
The sentries at the gate are drunk
When the invasion comes they will die
What can we do
What do we know
We who are barely human
We who have broken the 7th seal
We who have left the gate open
We who have stolen the Golden Fleece
Now the ghosts swallow us
We sullenly celebrate their loss
Our eyes opened wide as greed
Our diamonds soaked in blood
The coldest heads prevail
To organize the slaughter
Where have we been
What have we done
We mounted the final burial mound
We heard again the ancient last rites
We cloned sheep by the herd
We unleashed the living dead
The robots are in formation
Speaking in unison
They all have the same face
They bow & scrape
Without relish or anguish
Animated by artificial energy
Their movements are spooky
Unaware of planned obsolescence
Or constant surveillance
They make good household servants
They make good food service workers
They don’t mind piece-work
Efficient & cost effective
Prison guards, they
Know no fear
They don’t need names
They don’t have dreams
They don’t throw temper tantrums
They’re not ticklish
They don’t itch much
They never need vacations
They don’t get pregnant
They don’t get drunk
They don’t smoke
They don’t eat or shit
They know not art
They hardly ever fart
A robot may be decommissioned
When a better model is developed
Many of the latest prototypes
They utilize virtual fibers
To simulate the naturally organic
The severed head of Orpheus screams
Among the ashes of ancestors
Among the names carved into stone
In secret caves & hidden places
In tedious epics of doomed voyages
To the edge of the world
Organic life is prone to rot
Wooden puppets become brittle
Formaldehyde replaces blood
When the machine rules
Over the maker of machines
Which ones are the tools
Ghost lost before the body
Toy soldier left out in the rain
Hollow & impervious to pain
The pounding of robot feet
Grows louder by the parameter
Drowning out the earths heart
I feel the spirits of the dead
They explode like seedpods
A thousand downy spheres
Doors that won’t stay closed
Locks meant to be broken
Dandelions born in the wind
Beats of light drummed by spirits
Into the pulsating heart of sound
Into the unsanctified dirt
Out to the edges of space
Through the wounded waters
Beyond the toxic pain of time
I hear the call of light
Through the mechanical darkness
Through the marching shadows
Through the neutral rocks
The stale bread that feeds
The dreams of the anemic world
From Mirror To You
Your sad hands ramble over
The badlands of your face
Like old prospectors that drag
Metal-detectors across the beach.
They call their grim barracks castles.
They search for adorable fortunes
Beneath abandoned arcade boardwalks.
They invest their time on shaky docks.
But although the harbor is empty
A brave life-raft will sail out
Toward the open, opulent ocean
Over the waves of your hair
Below the cliffs of your brow
Finding a fresh current to freedom.
Light emanates from my coat
My coat that contains
A shining stream
My coat of fool’s gold
Wiser than the stars
Singing in its pockets
Imprisoned by the fragrance
Of the rosy clouds
Like the dark heart
Hidden in a bright cave
Hidden in infinity
So far out in the open
That little fish
Swim through its fabric
Standing on sand
We peek beyond
Shafts of light
Past deeper shafts
We call out
Hoping to be heard
Above the rattling autos
You can see the stars
Even in the daylight
From a deep hole
This shafted wound
In mother earth
Where we were found
We cry for wings
Even as wings approach
A prolonged heat wave
brings order to our days.
Here in the northern woods
we’re not used to hot weather.
We write letters
through the cool mornings,
the hot afternoons,
toss through warm nights.
A big red fire engine
our two-lane road.
It’s tires burn rubber,
leaving black brush strokes
as it rounds the corner
in a rush to engage
the flames in combat.
We hope it’s not too late.
Here in my house of skin,
safe inside my warm dream,
while wild white storms rage on
outside these weary walls,
in transit through dark rooms
of long gone memories,
all the clocks run backward.
Here the rooms have muscles
& the passageways lead
to doors with broken locks.
Beneath a roof of sense
down to my crazy cellar,
shadows rise & descend
on stairs that never end.
In Our Eyes
My father died looking in my eyes.
He was fifty-four. I was thirty.
He’d collapsed on Division Avenue,
walking home from a party store,
his bottle clutched in a brown paper bag.
The hospital called me at work,
I was the last to arrive.
When I got to his room, my sister & brother
made a place for me by the head of his bed.
“He’s unconscious.” my mother said
as she leaned against the wall.
I looked at his closed eyelids for a moment.
He opened them, & gazed deeply into mine.
He squeezed my hand once, then his eyes
rolled up to show the whites.
Everyone there cried, except for me.
I didn’t cry for ten more days,
until the night my first son was born.
My father never saw my children.
I went home, alone, the night the first was born.
I sat in my attic & cried through the night.
I wept for both birth & death.
At the funeral home his mother & I sat
on a red love seat & she saw into me.
“You look more like your father
than ever before.” she said.
“It’s in your eyes.”
In The Wake
the lost rain
returned to the body:
after the big wave
our defenseless cups,
that left us
waterlogged but thirsty,
even as the angry tide
even as the ancient tears
from new eyes
that opened underwater
to see the useless furniture
toward the sucking drain,
with dollar bills
into a foreign currency,
in low vapor,
with dying dreams.
In Tree Light
The white pine outside my window
grows old in the summer heat.
A robin sings its old song,
then flies away, music gone.
A woman in an apple dress
makes everything briefly red,
then passes by like an old wound.
The land is fragile as a match
burning fitfully in the wind,
but we sleep inside its sap
feeling the drumming of our blood.
We all love the sudden instant
when daylight steals our dreams.
You can feel your own dark heart heal,
that boat that leaks and breaks
just as you reach the distant shore.
The night is white.
The moon, a cosmic smile.
Big wind frightens a fawn.
A branch falls, an alarm.
For awhile, I remember
Pictures across the river,
A life boat in the snow,
Radio squawking at the stars.
Now images are gone.
Mind empty, I’m alone.
Right here, by the smoke
Of the glowing embers,
Camping on the edge
Of the open sky.
As a young sailor I learned
to handle the lines. I’d stand
on the slippery bow to toss
the bowline to the dockhand, balanced
against the backwash
of the engine & the wave action,
hoping that the catcher on the dock
could grab the line from mid-air.
Later, in the Coast Guard, I trained
in the use of the line-throwing
gun, a 12 gauge shotgun
that shot a steel rod
over the bow of a drifting boat
with a small line threaded
through the heavy rod-head, a difficult
task in rough water.
If your aim was off, the rod
could hit, maybe even kill
the very stranded boater whom
you were trying to save. You had to
arc it just right, so that it fell
across the bow, so the boater
could retrieve the line & connect
it to his bow, so you could rescue him.
But sometimes lifelines break.
Nylon tow-lines stretch way out.
We stand behind a cyclone fence, in case
the rope might snap. The sudden recoil
could kill a man or knock
him overboard, to tread water
until someone bobbing nearby
can throw him a line.
On turbid days, afloat on
dark, forbidding waves, we need
strong lines, to lash us
to something solid on shore,
a post or a pier that might stand
against the wildly surging swells.
In dreams of flight above rough seas,
I search for you, to throw you these lines.
Phalla had a great life
growing up in Cambodia.
She was her father’s favorite,
the most attractive of his girls.
He dressed her in fine clothes
& called her his little doll.
When her father died,
with no one to support her,
she was forced to move in
with her maternal grandmother
who considered her spoiled.
They argued every day all summer.
Finally, to teach her a lesson,
her grandmother sold her
to a brothel in Kampong Som,
where they stripped her
& locked her in a room
& raped her many times a day.
Some of the men reminded her
of the way her father looked at her
when he called her his little doll,
but more of them made her think
of the look in her grandma’s eyes
when she won the argument.
I wake, in Civil War,
Play endless games
Of solitaire. I die,
& am reborn. I breathe,
Until my breath is torn
By unexpected stare or look
In mirror, sudden laugh
Or uninvited tear. No one knows
How slowly I have grown. No one
Knows the feelings I alone
Have given skin & bone, to float like ghosts
Past shadows of the piers & reefs, then
Rise on bells to walk asleep
Through burning cities of white peace,
Where green dreams bloom
On the pastures & plains
Of my newly wounded hands.
Communication devices destroy communication.
Text messages erode the language,
stripping her in public, violating
her adverbial flesh & adjective soul.
We wait for the next exit, hope
the infrastructure doesn’t implode.
When the bridges are collapsed
the traffic will be blocked.
You can’t go around every river.
Some of them must be crossed.
Yesterday two icons, four superstars
& a diva met up for an exclusive confab.
Subjects included skin care & hair care.
Gift bags were filled with decadent cosmetics.
Their collaborative conclusions were confidential,
producing several viral YouTube videos.
Online commentary trended ominously
& friendships ebbed like a flood tide.
Birds’ hearts flutter
that drink the sky.
The autistic moon
from moths that scrape
against its shoulders.
Worms tunnel deeper
toward the heart
of the sleeper.
Grey morning clouds over the straits
Blue noise lights the sky
A hawk sails symbolically, hunting
Friendly chickadees, happy in morning sunlight
Old men follow without desire
Wildfires race each day to play
Sweet pine fragrance, crisp A.M. air
A loud chunk of chocolate breaks off
Loud, obvious spaces blurt out
Streams of angry money, accusing
Shrill politicians whittle down the branches
Deer bed down for the day, afraid
All masks removed at last
Big pike glide between lilies, predatory
My Father’s Job
My father worked at a car factory, but
When I was a little boy I thought that it
Was a prison, because of the impression
I got one morning when I went along to
Drop him off for the day-shift outside a big fence
That surrounded a huge brick building that had
No windows except a row of tiny ones
Way up by the roofline, many stories up.
My father went in through a small red door.
When he opened the door, loud noise busted out.
A quick glance revealed it as a prison:
All the walls & floors were a dull gray color.
All the men wore uniform gray coveralls.
An odor of oil escaped into the air
Along with the steady banging of big dies.
All the workers seemed to shuffle their feet.
We took him to that gray place every day.
As I grew older, I understood that it
Was just where he worked, making car bodies,
But I still couldn’t shake the feeling that he
Wanted to get out, but couldn’t.
Once, he quit to play piano in a bar.
He was happy for a while, but
Then my mother wanted more money so
He went back inside, this time for life.
I find your face
on a pillow of leaves,
our body heat
while we breathe
cold cedar air
on long fall nights.
The downstairs Buddha
gathers our dust
in its ceramic folds.
Water shapes itself
into each glass vase.
Outside our window
stray climbing scales,
while underground sleepers
dream on, in no time.
It’s 6 AM in the Universe, &
Cold. The yellow sun
Makes another dawn in the lake
Above my head. Warm blue air
Lifts the blanket from my bed.
Yesterday I wiped my father’s blood
From the white cloud walls
Of my home, in another dream.
Now, awake beneath the lake, I am
Alone. The cold grey water of the lake
Invites me in, but then
I am rescued by my lover, the sun.
Origins of Alchemy
Scattered snow whispers through
my brain, keeping time to gravity.
I imagine a vast atom, endlessly splitting
its sides in divine laughter thereafter.
We patch black holes in our dreams,
embroider religious symbols on Achille’s heels.
We wear starry halos stolen from dogs,
lost in our empty mirrors, those oceans.
We’re in a burning rowboat,
surrounded by evil loan sharks.
Swimming in the polar wind
earns forgiveness of all imagined sins.
Faulty choreography, triumphant
in error, has ’em dancing in the aisles.
One day the beginning will be forgotten
along with the formula for gold.
Into the beige interior planet
spools are wound with symbolic strings.
Spontaneous human combustion
becomes a cosmic barbeque.
Our plumbing needs are provided by the sky.
In time, we travel nowhere infinitely
until we don’t, & then I’m not,
& neither are you, imaginary thief.
Really big bubbles jiggle funkily.
I predict that patterns will emerge
in classic colors & styles the way
you might want them. As for me,
my teachers scaled South American peaks
& tripped fantastic on New York streets.
for Murry Harralson
I resisted him like a knot
resists a crosscut saw.
I didn’t want a step-father.
I missed my real father
like a tree bereft of branches.
I never called him father. He didn’t
like me any more than I liked him.
He was an ex-Marine,
a strong, silent man of few words.
We co-existed through my adolescence,
but as adults, we warmed to each other.
I hung out with him in his garage
where he carved & burned wood.
We’d have a beer & a late night hot dog,
& he’d tell me about the world war.
Tears came to his blue eyes
when he spoke of Guadalcanal.
In his late sixties, he got into cats.
He built ramps so they could climb
up into the rafters of the garage.
His favorite cat was a feral stray
who had to be tamed. She scratched
& bit him many times before
he became her trusted feline love.
In his mid-seventies he was struck by
congestive heart failure. He
could only sleep while sitting up.
They gave him six months to live.
During that time, he opened to music.
I would sit on his bed & sing to him.
On the day he died, I played him asleep.
It was the last thing he heard.
As his son, I inherited his carving tools.
I also got his uncompleted carvings.
Over the years, I finished some of them.
Others were thrown away, but I kept
the tools, just in case I might find
some wood badly in need of a shape.
Paradox Of Intersections
Every other busy intersection
Reveals a single dusty shoe
Or a flattened single glove
Their mates are gone
Though little movies come along
Flashing images of a conjured past
Later the shoes run away
& the gloves wave goodbye
Until the inevitable intersection passes
Littered with lost kisses & near misses
The sky is grey here.
My room is quiet & near.
Thinking of you
in my little cocoon.
As we turn our attention
toward the eternal magnet
at the center of the galaxy,
let us attempt to pause
where a pause is impossible,
to dance before the shaggy beast
that guards our illusions
in the prison of our dreams.
In the hard rain that beats away
at our poor, deteriorating roofs,
we search for cover
but instead find only diaries
of lost childhood
scattered across lighted pools
of fantasy, floating amid some
special toys, forgotten but not lost.
Yet the long days drift by, in currents
both dark & light, still all like
storm-lost branches out of reach,
while on the temporal shore
we see our unnatural enemies
as well as our intentional friends
passing on their journeys
to where even oceans must drain.
Russ & Dave were brothers
& they were funny guys,
good buddies to play war with.
Dozens of boys would gather
to shoot BB guns at each other
in the woods behind their house.
One summer day I went to play
war with Russ & Dave. I had
the single-shot Daisy with me that
my father gave me before he left.
From down the block I could see
the police cars & ambulance
on their front lawn, right up
against the big maple we had
all climbed together the day before.
Dave was led, in tears, to
the police car. Russ was carried
to the ambulance, but it didn’t leave.
They’d been playing with their father’s
12 gauge shotgun. Russ came
around a corner & his brother
shot him in the chest, from the hip.
We didn’t see Dave for a year.
They sent him off to a group home
in Colorado for the 7th grade.
When he returned, he wasn’t the same.
He cried easily & never smiled.
For awhile after Dave killed Russ,
we all stopped playing war.
None of my friends shot anyone
for the rest of that hot summer
when the war took David’s brother.
6AM morning campfire, orange
firing up the dawn. Fresh
green spearmint by a clear
stream. Water flows from
cold springs to feed the blue
lake. Minnows gather in
curtains of light. A ski boat
circles, sending waves to smash
the shore, throwing light
skyward, projecting brief
rainbows. Weeds grow from
cracks in an old pier. Rusted
steel upangles from white
sand. Two old dogs play at
waters edge, puppies
at heart. A whoosh of wings
pumps over the lake: white
swans in explosive flight. Down
flutters down to float
on a fluid surface. Boats
sit at tilt on a pebble
beach. A seagull worries
a dead fish, its eyes
long gone, sockets staring at
a sky that stretches out
over clueless cities, by seas
that birth tidal waves aimed
at distant shores, where
campfires blink innocent eyes.
in my black chair.
Whole lives pass
beyond brown eyes.
are with hawks
but engines whoosh
in my spatial ears.
I turn up the music
& dance to the spheres.
My old knees squeak,
knocking against space.
My shelf life
than my journey.
Seeing a woodpecker
bang an old oak
I think of the time
a lovely redhead
listened to my chest
then struck it repeatedly
in the heart.
Even the continental drift
compared to these lost days.
I’m glad I still have you.
I bought chrysanthemums
on the last day of summer.
I made sure to get some in bloom
(white as nothing, yellow as
a soothing dream song) & some
big plants loaded with buds,
ripe with hope. I like to get both,
to carry us through to the season
when snowdrifts obliterate.
We planted them in rows,
bloomers & budders arranged
to maximize our viewing pleasure.
A week later, bent on revenge,
a storm came with angry wind
& rain that flooded our yard .
In the aftermath, blossoms
floated in a muddy flood
that flowed inexorably into
the thirsty, sucking storm drain.
New blooms opened the next day.
Flying leaves & branches
Smacked the window panes
With violent thuds & bangs
Within the desperate sound
Of still-rising wind
Thick with blasting sand
The curtains were drawn
Thick & warm
While the tantrum rain
Flooded the muddy garden
& the roses, in pain
Made their final stand
Against the giant hand
“There ain’t no cure. . .”
– Eddie Cochran
It’s a hazy summer night
for an outdoor blues concert.
The small green stage is set
on a hot asphalt parking lot.
The drummer takes off his shirt.
The bass player adjusts his ball cap.
The rhythm guitar unzips his jumpsuit.
The crowd is alert & ready to party.
A local D.J. introduces the band.
They open with Johnny B. Goode.
The frontman is yellow
after his recent liver transplant.
He no longer drinks alcohol, but
he can still play pentatonic scales
all night long or even in his sleep.
Two drunken biker chicks
sway-dance up front by the stage,
over a hill neither saw coming.
Their bleached hair looks tired
despite pink & blue streaks.
Most of the men wear black, with
greasy leather chaps & vests, &
big trucker wallets chained to belts.
They’re in perpetual mourning,
afraid someone will steal their money.
The beer line is long, but
the lemonade man has no takers.
The older bikers sit on lawn chairs,
& arrive in cars or trucks,
but they dress like they still ride.
The younger bikers stand or sit
on or by their big Harleys,
keeping them always in sight.
They stay on the periphery,
where they almost feel comfortable.
But, the band sweats it out
& the crowd gets the beat.
The oldsters sway in their chairs
while tipsy dancers rub the stage.
Grace notes rise to the pink sky.
A slow blues hymn ends it
like a cool unexpected breeze.
Bike engines roar on the edge.
A wet encore soars aloft
in the sanctified sunset.
The Broken Lock
The Chevrolet beneath the seaweed
Resembles, say, a pendulum.
In the glacial sewers
They all look like abandoned books.
They gather in fields of blood.
They wait another minute.
Falling faces scrape sharp edges
Against us as we watch the stars.
Our marching machine begins to fill with foam.
Our slowly cracking table says “Goodbye.”
In the prison of the glossy blanket
Strangled paper cars claw in
Sober luxury. Handgun. Caress.
Membrane. Attempt. A silver
Tunnel carves an orphan
Illustration on our fragile female
Hatchet. A tiny cutlet
Whirls in nude simplicity. Our magnet
Signs the blank, transparent
Mortgage of the jealous cartoon.
We take the tapered candles past
A nest of burnt-out lightbulbs. We
Shake our messy napkins in the
Trans-Atlantic air. Our teeth
Are scared. Our hands are
Running in front of
Speeding snake bracelets. We
Have lost our shoes! We
Have lost our season tickets! We
Have lost our fried potatoes!
A placenta of noise
Masturbates in the ambiguous
Bandshell. Car-pool. Vendetta.
Banshee. Balloon. Barrels of
Dead kittens crouch on stereo
Loading platforms. Juicy
Manikins balance on
Shrouded pedestals. Our grief is
Greater than all the porcelain in
Mexico. Our grief is a polar bear.
Candy-striped plants lean toward
Windows of music. Strawberries
Buzz obsessively in the creeping
Rain. Bulldogs escape
Omnisexual worms. Our
Harmonicas are leaking! Our
Underwear is illegal! Our
Grandparents are alive! Our
Rescue gear is stolen! We grease
Our feet & slip into the night.
Sandwich. Beacon. Crawfish. Mistake.
Persian maids lounge in secret
Frameworks. The bells of
Mystery ring a song of strange
Graduation. Our bluebird
Reeks of soy sauce! Our bean-bag
Unfurls in hymenal splendor! We stand
On the threshold of a
Kitchen revolution! We teeter
Near the edge of an insect rebellion!
Our eyes are bankrupt! Our
Noses are overparked! Our
Brains are under arrest! Our
Bones are bushwhacked! Our
Hair is ringing! Our
Legs are braided! Our
Toes are psychotic! Our
Hearts slowly stretch in the
Direction of Hudson’s Bay. Meanwhile,
We hide inside a giant football.
Our bed is stacked with
Grey-haired magazines, squirming
Hats & umbrellas. Rusted scalpels
Litter the quaint fairground. Con
Edison. Sample. Woodcraft.
Needle. The sweet blonde
Morning declares itself. We
Inhale & hold excited breaths to
See the tortured, raving day approach.
Alfredo wailed to the cloudless sky
when he found his son Juan’s body
along the highway outside their hometown.
Alfredo had been searching for two days.
Witnesses told him that Juan
had been taken by the police,
on his way home from school.
Following a tip, Alfredo
borrowed a car & found Juan.
His throat had been slit.
Juan was nineteen years old
when he refused to join a gang.
Two gangs fought to control Chilapa,
a gateway to the poppy-growing zone,
surrounded by lush, green mountains,
populated by 30,000 souls.
On the Day of the Dead,
Mexicans usually stay in the cemetery
until well past midnight,
draping orange wreaths of marigolds
over the family headstones.
In Chilapa, people leave after noon.
They hide in their homes, doors locked.
Alfredo’s daughter Maria had nightmares.
Gunfire in the street made her cry.
One gang threatened to kill him
because they thought he’d joined the other.
The other gang threatened to kill him
because he still refused to join them.
A few months after Juan’s murder,
Alfredo’s brother Jesus was abducted
by six young men in a black Chevy van.
They beat him & left him for dead.
Days later, the Federales took his nephew Jose.
Alfredo found him dead a week later,
dumped in the same place as Juan.
After that, what was left of Alfredo’s family
fled to America for asylum,
but his parents refused to leave.
They didn’t want to abandon the dead.
Through memory caverns
Of the elusive present,
Like a big fish
That struggles upstream
To spawn in times river
One last time.
Like a mad wind
In an ancient storm,
Pierce the peaceful solitude
Where I have come
To take my soft rest
In the depth
Of a winter night’s dream.
In the arid badlands
Past the long watches
Of sleepless nights,
I hold communion
With those lost ghosts,
Even as I pass into
The ever-darkening mist.
Cristina grew up in Romania,
the eldest of five sisters,
all with beautiful blue eyes.
When she was the age of thirteen,
their father died, leaving them
without an income or a home.
Her mother decided to sell her off
to a twenty year old stranger.
Cristina couldn’t avoid it.
He paid enough to get them off the street.
Her new husband had a temper
& he hit her when she resisted him.
Then he took her to live in Spain
& made her steal from stores.
When she couldn’t steal enough,
he made her sell herself for sex,
so she started a secret saving box.
After saving six years, she ran back
to Romania, to see if her sisters
had survived the curse of their blue eyes.
with metal detectors
search the earth
in likely areas
where architecture flourished
for signs of civilization.
In mounds of peat
we seek for flowing milk.
It will be a happy moment
in the debris field
when the black box of love is found.
Out in deep space our old light
travels to new eyes.
Another sunrise warms earth.
A newborn protests the sudden light.
Belated starlight winks back.
Human tears make a deposit
in a pink cloud bank
on the Western horizon.
In the fading daylight,
seven hundred lamps
in this room we call our own,
& still the shadows beckon.
for Bill Oldenburg (1936-1974)
A child plays quietly
In an old man’s room.
A song of brave infatuation
Rises from the moon.
A windmill spins
Above an ancient heart,
& the crocuses are in bloom.
The broken-hearted bricks
Hum a strange, sad tune.
A newborn child
Emerges from its womb.
It’s morning once again.
I’ll see you soon.
Blowing up from
the deep holes
inside the earth,
the nympho wind
is pure desire.
The wind laughs
through our bodies
like wayward lust.
The wind sings
old siren songs
of love & pain
into our rainy brains.
You can feel it
kissing your skin,
& then you hear
your own wild breath
join with the wind
that cries out
like a poem
just before birth.
A torch of morning birds flares
Joyful bubbles of music explode
Redundant black bear on the back deck
Disoriented curiosity of the wild
Dark wounds on drunken willows
Celebrate knots of green light
Hearts glow from old houses
Where candles burned like dreams
Linking flesh beyond limits
We scratch across intentional walls
In rooms down the hall
Priests wield ritual implements
Lay folk kneel in awe
Rain returns as we leave the lodge
Lingering by the plexiglass partition
Like a yellow blanket on a river bed
You slouch in the back row
Staring blindly out the window
Quick locks broke keys up
Imagined as overgrown
The dead whisper insistently
The October wind gives in
In the blood-filled eye
Of the next hurricane
In a year of death by drowning
& honor gained by refusing honor
Emptied of pressing desire
Eternally firing but lethal
The letters labored under parched parchment
Sure sign of a moral compass
What To Do Next
You arrive at the station
With your pockets full of time.
You’re so invisible
That girls walk right through you.
Throw away your ticket
& skate away.
The clouds burn out
& ashes rain upon your head.
Your bones ache
From being used as jail bars.
Get up & move on
To the next holdup.
A dog on the coffee table!
A roller derby in the ice cream!
A piano roaring down the road!
A monkey with a gun
Has got you covered.
Keep your eyes straight ahead.
She has too much
But she wants a little more.
The room is loud
& the walls are turning brown.
Your ears are burning with old sounds.
Just take a deep breath,
Coming across them
A child, they
Taste as fresh
As red. Hard
To collect enough
To bring home
For jam, so we
Eat them while we can.
The ocean cannot be contained,
but it can be heard inside a small shell.
Stars we named after ancient Gods
enter & depart in a dream.
They reverberate through
our collective neurons,
back beyond the big bang,
to an infinitesimal compact
of impacted selves,
their endings encoded in
expanding beams of energy.
We move toward the unknown,
blind in every dimension
but our poor human senses.
It’s time to pack our weary trunks
for a much colder climate,
to share each other’s warmth
like stranded survivors of an avalanche.
Molecules material but mortal,
beam to black space as errant waves,
each atom alone but connected,
quarking indeterminate but immanent.
Sweet orgasmic magic of our imaginations
plays on all the pages & stages of our days.
We take a break for the sake of sanity,
as they speak to us, through us & for us.
Then we cast them into the frozen fire,
transformed again into invisible wings.