I wandered lonely through a crowd,
Along streets, alleys and avenues,
When all at once I saw a shroud
Of people forming ord’ly queues,
Beside the bank, beneath the sign,
Shuffling slowly along in line.
Sometimes when I get in from the cold, I think I should’ve done more
out there, you know
because now I’m warm and uncoated and burrowed
Who knows when I’ll venture out clothed
who knows the next time the red neon lights will glow pink off my face, snowflakes falling from space,
as I steal a fry from a stranger
blowing through the streets like a limp-legged ranger
hunting hopeless prey?
Sometimes when I get inside I wonder where I was
because there seems to be a fuzz over my memories, a phlegmy hegemony
kept me from having a look around
I certainly wasn’t looking at the ground-
so, how did I know where to go?
Sometimes I think there are too many things that I do not know
from a dark hole music was drifting up, smoky blue and true to the time
and a mystery jazzman making history with his mouth and fingers,
burning lines in my mind like drunk kids with sparklers
somewhere to my left
I’m not deaf, so
why do I drown in silence?
Sometimes I wish I could go into all the cafes of the world
and order some pie
and make faces at waitresses hurrying by
who were once pretty once
or become an expert on the blue collar man’s face-
a craggy terrain, turtle dove, wasted love
I would be his cherished pain
but I hurry past windows of cafes and bars
because I don’t have anyone waiting inside
she whispered the morning after, considerately
bringing me complimentary coffee and newspaper
and underling our names on the marriage license with her finger.
Words don’t lie but poets do – I’m thinking –
Is there some way out this now? A loop
hole I can exploit or claim exploitation.
I know she’s been waiting for this.
The moment I would let down my guard.
The carefully constructed character of rationality
presented everyday to the outside world.
She knows I know I’m not who she imagined
as a little girl, not quite so beautiful as all that.
Not so handy either.
But he wouldn’t have agreed even if she converted.
Catalytic or a-
catalytic made no difference
to him. Not so liberal as all that.
So she and he agreed and settled on me.
A man, yes, torn between two worlds.
Born and powerful in my own respect.
Proper appendages in proper proportions
and so enough.
When the time came they called
our number – I’m remembering now – Elvis.
No wait. Buster Keaton. Speak now
and forever hold your peace. Looks like
I found it
lying in the flower pot. They were pink.
Carnations I think.
It’s a day like any other
the kind we all wake up to
maybe a siren in the background
or like here, there’s a huge belfry
and it sounds every hour on the
hour from 8 a.m. through the day.
It’s like a park, closes at sunset.
(The bell, not the church.)
Although it’s doors are firmly locked
and they’re pretty thick doors. Not
like the door at the motel
in Yerington, Nevada, where in order
to get into my room, I had to shove
my right shoulder hard
against it to get inside. Even
with the Calvary Christian School
football players on either side of me, I
had to play offense. Later, driving
to Virginia City and the Bucket of Blood
Saloon, I saw a road sign named
Away at the big war,
the girl he was to marry
was struck by a car.
He never loved another.
For almost two decades,
he lived alone, and then
my grandmother moved in.
Though he never finished 8th grade,
he could finish a crossword quicker
than you could your breakfast,
otherwise he ignored the newspaper.
He liked the Mets and the Giants
but never went to the games
because he hated the fans.
When he had to pass gas,
he pointed his finger at the TV,
let loose, and said, “Got ya.”
Watching boxing, he’d say,
“Hit em, I don’t feel nuttin yet!”
He worked his entire life,
sometimes two jobs,
but never got ahead
because he drank too much
and gave his money away
to relatives he didn’t like.
He died by hyperventilating,
a faded picture
of that long-dead girl
tucked into his breast pocket.
I used to be uneasy
‘round the freaks and all their friends
I used to be intimidated
particularly by the mean ones
I was sure
they were making fun of me
you’d think because I considered myself an artist
that I was just like them
or almost like them
or even sorta like them
but in college they thought I was a narc
they thought I was an attorney
it’s true I liked nice clothes
it’s true I didn’t much like drugs
it’s true I didn’t even drink until I was thirty-two
but I dreamt big dreams
really I did
just like the dreams I felt certain the freaks dreamed
though I never had dreads
and I never got even the smallest, hippest tattoo
and you will not believe this
no piercings of any kind
and now, my virgin body is aging
the ripples and splotches rising with an unpredictable regularity so that
I maybe should have
Might as well have
Gotten those tattoos
“The beauty will save the world”,
someone screamed in my ear, and
I looked toward the horizon
at some hint of rain.
The living goes with the living,
and the dead goes with the dead –
This is the philosophy of life
that we never fully understand.
My time will come,
and your time will come,
and we will see the truth at the end,
but until that happens let’s look at
the painter who’s drawing that dog,
which looks like it will open it’s
When it rains in the gully behind the row houses,
when it really rains for days without stopping,
the rain draws up water from deep artesian springs;
then the old bed floods, drowning the tangled grass
she thought was safe where it lay.
The new current loosens odors of rotting earth
and beer from rusting cans crushed against the rocks,
and she stands in the middle—socks wet in her shoes—
thinking a river should flow faster, should push and shudder and roar.
The engine groans, and shaking icewebs off
from all its glassy eyes, it rumbles, wakes
the tawny field from stiffened slumber, breaks
the breath of Cedar Creek’s unchallenged voice
which lullabied the mountain through the night.
We shiver, huddle tight our shoulders to
the wool and denim coats that blanket us,
and to each other. You and I were made
for rivers, for the rooted valley land,
for nights so huge they tell us once again,
“The world can rear up on its massive legs
at any moment, take you as it will,”
so that we know the danger’s there for us
to live within, to move ourselves throughout.
At such an early hour, starting up
the car across the gravel scar that cuts
the mountain’s chiseled face, the steam released
from cups of coffee, plates of scrapple off
in town, await now nothing but ourselves,
that moment we’ll emerge from winds that bite
our heels like foxes, into two remote
and sheltered wombs that are the diner’s rooms.
See Paul and Tony up the road? They bind
a deer with ropes, the frozen corpse and car
becoming one. They say they found it dead
already, plan to eat it.
it tastes like smoke from fireworks you and me
and Tony spent the last night firing up
and lighting lidded eyes with, flinging out
like raindrops into water. Way up here,
the sun that struggles, peering through the trees
in late November, makes the space around
feel bitter, like the hops rolled bitterly
across the tongue in winter, warming with
the voiceless strength communion brings to those
who choose to stay through cold, through shortened days.
I race my neighbor Sunday mornings,
when my wife is at mass and his in bed,
to see who cuts his grass faster.
There's not been a week that I haven't won.
This is partly because my neighbor, Doug,
doesn't know about the game we play
but mostly I think it's beliefs neither
would change that keeps my title safe.
Doug crosses his lawn in mower-width bars
to give the effect of a massive flag,
green and sprawling before his house.
He and Linda never had children.
Consequently, they don't care for kids
and puppies tramping about their property.
To part the blades with prints or worse
is to defile their tiny country.
My style is more organic,
starting with the perimeter and spun
like a moon shell, mutated to hold
hydrants, mains, and lampposts sitting
like the stones on my desktop sand garden.
Concentric rings ripple from surfaces that may
play a part in the enlightenment I skirt
on Sundays with that violent machine.
I'll beat Doug any day for time
but there might be something to his pace.
While my lawn looks like a Zen landscape,
he's the one smiling with every lap.
Deus Ex Machina
Jim Clamper whipped
out his tool shed
on a homegrown
chariot last night.
I saw him blow
under the street lamps,
all gold and lapis
with a dog leash
from his famous
It was fastened
with tow chains, boy
the sound it made
was furious. Like a—
salt-truck full of BB’s.
He did a full lap
around the cul-de-sac
and tore down the street,
one boot on the rim
of the barrow,
snapping that leash
like a bad mower’s
dry-rotted pull start.
There’s a trail of grease
and enriched gasoline
dotting down to Ms.
I must be the only one
to have seen old Clamp
finally take off—
he always talked
about it I guess.
But God damn,
he had an ace
in that secret
shed of his.
And if I’m
to be honest,
I wish I were him.
Leaving my land, place, roots,
another strange American
dazed with hungers,
breakfast cereal anticipations,
for change, glory, just enough lust
to risk Moloch-belly flames
licking fire at asbestos bones,
spinning and circling a torturous orbit
returning me to beginnings,
stubborn, ruthless, orphan greedy,
playing no more rhymes on my toes, Granpa,
past twiddling, caring about rag clad dreams,
leaving me shivering for survival
from the frostbite of vindictive atoms
unseen in the bustling commotion
in the churning harbor of unrest.
Beyond knowing that desire
is tissue thin
lasting the extent of inclination,
known only sense deep
the turmoils of the flesh,
as brief as vacations
with flared beginnings
progressing to destruction
that present evidence
of future crises
on passion’s extinction.
He worried that one day someone would kill him.
And that someone would destroy everything he’d achieved.
Someone who no longer had a care in the world,
Who no longer had anything to lose.
Someone he would have least expected.
I can't be lookin’ at Eb no more. Ain't sure I can love 'im no more.
I sold m' life fer his soul, thinkin'
I wanted what all he wanted.
He wanted a fam’ly.
I giv’d ‘im one.
He wanted a young’un.
I giv’d ‘im one.
He wanted a boy.
By God's Grace,
I giv’d ‘im one.
Still that weren't 'nuff fer Eb.
He still weren't filled.
Somepin' was missin'.
Or perhaps he wa’r o'erfilled
With the waters a' death,
'Stead a' the waters a' life.
Somepin' dried up;
Dried up the land,
'N dried up us,
'N dried up me too,
He, us, me -
We los’ ever'thin';
Los’ the farm,
Los’ the car,
Now we los’ our way.
Preacher man bin talkin’
'Bout the waters a' life.
What ‘bout 'em I ask?
Even m' milk bin thinnin'.
M' baby ain't hardly gettin'
Nothin' no more;
Thin trickle from m' paps;
Bin dryin' up,
Lost, done soaked up
By the sands a' m' man's soul.
Pro'bly lose the boy,
Pro'bly lose hisself too,
'Tho he bin los’ to us
Two, m'be three mon’s now;
Dried up 'n all, blowed away.
Jus' blowed away.
Ain't nothin' t’ be done.
It jus' all flowed
Away in the wind.
you’ve nice cheekbones
a small, straight nose and
a thin-lipped yet pretty smile
your plastic jewelry and plastic shoes
betray that your tastes
are more extravagant than your means
your laugh is pleasant enough
even if it seems forced
and I’m sure you’re looking at 40
from your rearview mirror
you look good from where I sit
and I want you to be sexy
I want you to make an impression
and become a pleasant memory
that suddenly comes out of nowhere
and pries a smile out of me when I least expect it
but you won’t
I’ll forget you
right after I watch you leave
if I remember anything
it will be the incubus you’re sitting with
do you find him as boring as he does?
“George said…I told George…then George said to me…I had to explain to George…”
he’s been yammering on so long
that piece of chicken on his fork is going to petrify soon
the way he’s waving it around
it looks as if he’s brandishing it as a warning
to all the other chickens or perhaps
conducting some bizarre barnyard orchestra
I want to reach over there
and shove the chicken and the fork and his arm to the elbow
down his throat just to shut him up
how can you stand it
what’s compelling you to smile and to laugh
every time he’s not funny
he must sign your paycheck
or play golf with someone who does
I wanted you to be sexy
but that’s just not going to happen
it must be the company you keep
My mama didn't raise me right,
it was trees that did that.
She was too busy forgetting herself
in Byron and gin,
slapping back every word from me,
choices that sank like stones in her womb,
settled on a husband whose swagger and
leather jacket were big brother's hand-me-downs,
a brother she sat near during holidays,
watched the smoke curl from his unfiltered,
rise like steam to his lips
drawing in desire between them,
didn't care that everyone watched her
No one came to visit,
invite her out for a beer.
I spent a lot of time in the linden tree
learning to root,
feeling how skin becomes impenetrable,
but allow bees to find sweetness,
make their way home with it
gathered in close.
i am hundreds of
pages away from
the peace we’re
looking for and
finding in quick
kisses in the
park the peace
we thought we
found when the
earth spelt our
names and said
encouraging things to
busy us with
firefighters once upon
I am hundreds of
pages away from
the peace that lives in
the belly of a bluebird
and fills the clouds
with treelimbs like
a blank page
the PigeonBike is flying straight from the underground to the cybersphere to the hard drive to the printer's to the cardboard box to the carpet to the envelope to the mailbox to the p.o. to the gunnysack to the 18-wheeler to the other p.o. to the white plastic carton to the boxy white van to the leather bag to the door slot to another carpet to the coffee table
a serene day
a singular cumulus
escalating the ambience
rays ventured across the sky for miles
and what a bountiful blue sky it was
as bright as it was
i still noticed the bark on every tree
sitting so still
sap seeped into the ground
quietly, calmly, healthy
i still noticed the stumps
never any sturdier
i also noticed
the bulldozers readying themselves
for the call
and when the call was relayed
the claws raked into the bark
like a ravenous dog chewing on innocent flesh
wheels pressed up against the stumps
and rammed into the wood, sap, and homes
leaves rustled and tumbled
the foundations, the roots all cracked
snapping in two, five, or seven
eventually thats what became of the trees
the noise was like a thousand homes crumbling at once
crack, crick, rip, whoosh, a fall
they all fell for a reason
the real estate signs proved it
I guess thats what passes as a good day
or for these people