Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Gideon's Daughter

On the table, my breath held, the CAT scan
Looks inside for the tiny stone that says "No."
No flow. No go. Like a baby that won't be born.
A reluctant birth, here at the start of my old age.
There's nothing to do but be a kind of drainage,
And hope that, though painful, nothing's torn.

I finally figured why my daughter stands off so:
(The stone can wait.) because I'm not a good man.

Another one about old age. The last, I hope.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I played,
with army men.
Bags of them.
Sniper on ground.
Sniper kneeling.
Hand grenade always pending.
Ksshew. Ksshew.
There were never battles.
Only sound effects.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Through the day, an arm's reach away, was one
messed up kid. His bruised sister, much the same.
Still, she dreams of the day when their mother
Sets them free, a chance about as remote
As an icy pod of dreamers sent to float
Through space to a star. So why bother?
When does love, harsh as daily pain, lay claim
Upon our hearts like the gravity of the sun?

Mother's Day. Not Slaves to DNA Day.
Line 3, "she" is a woman dreaming of adopting the siblings.
The "dreamers" image was inspired by a blog item
that calculated what it would take to get to another world.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Boys Will Be Boys

Past the barbed wire, stretched a bull-guarded field.
He snorted from his pen a dare: “Come here, son.”
We took him up on it, hooting ourselves stupid,
Taunting him with the one word we knew he knew:
“OlĂ©!” We waved our sweaters at him until he threw
Himself between rails, his great head extruded,
Wood splintered, and we fled for home as one,
Hearts hitting like hooves as the Fall sun wheeled.

The barn was visible from our living room window.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

On Greenwood Ave

In one of those yards, visible on Street View,
A girl sat on my chest and tickled me. I was two.
Such is my blurred, but hale, first memory.
We went to my great grandparent’s two story
Camelback house nearby. They lived in bed.
Past a caged windup canary, I was led
To kiss them and then left in some empty
Room. The bird elsewhere and needing a key.

Just west of Dixie Highway in Louisville.
My parents would soon move to the far east end
where I could see a barn across the street.
Brief idyll.

Street View is a feature of Google Maps.
Visit Greenwood Ave just west off 23rd St. My first home.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Mirror Test

A mynah turns sideways to see his reflection.
One eye cocked, then a hop and pirouette.
Yes. That’s not a competitor. That’s me.
He opens his beak and displays his tongue:
I'm myself though I've mimicked every note I've sung.

So, when I pass the mirror on the way to pee
At night, with just the night light on, who will bet
That old man and the man I’ve never met are one?

A kind of "stout Cortez" error. Apparently for
years, I've confused mynah birds and magpies. Magpies
pass the mirror test. Mynahs are the ones in cartoons.
I like this one. It just slipped out.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Empty Bazaar

A shuttered stall, a man with a beard like ice,
And a question from The National Geographic
Which puzzles him. And so he stammers on
And on, relying on God to fill out his words.
He fidgets with some bread, and feeds his birds,
But really, he’s angry at the Question.
Words are trails of crumbs. Knowledge is a trick.
A bird tucks its gaudy head and gnaws on lice.

I sometimes wonder what makes poetry
poetry. For me that "And on" at the beginning of line 4
is the best bit of "poetry" in this.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

from the climate blog Open Mind

the sky
will become a caul.

W.C. Fields, a Pennsylvanian,
liked to
warm himself, his back pressed
against sun-warmed brick.
his tombstone reads I’d
rather be in Philadelphia.

The premise was to write something
whose syllables matched those of pi.
The first line with 3. The second with 1. The third with 4. etc.
The subject matter: global warming.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sailboat Race

Zero in on a trailing boat. Its crew won’t hear
The crowd's cheers no matter the pace or how near.
They twitch like fish at the tails by their side,
One fixed will to feed its sluice and glide,
Past sails which arc white in the broad, clear sky,
In quiet sun which bleaches out the eye,
In lulls that flag, wind that drives, and sea
which splits under hulls. Almost tenderly.

Began life as a kind of cross between The Lime Tree Bower
and The Yachts. Horror of horrors: a poem inspired by poetry.
Usually, the first draft is it.
I must have made 20 revisions to this.
I've no idea why.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Little Quiet Time

Out in Morro Bay, the rock seems to itch
With birds,and the sea scratches it. White sea,
White birds, gray fog. And along the ridgeline
The sun, behind us -- always -- breaks through.
Here, it’s fifty and the tent’s soaked with dew.
My cheap sleeping bag has molded to my spine.
The sea birds, white shells, the waves, and now me,
My mind so mute I can’t tell which from which.

It might help to know the geography
of the area. The coast there is rocky with a large boulder
out in the bay. The Pacific is cold and the marine layer
of clouds almost ever-present. While just beyond reach
the sun shines on the ridge of hills about a mile away.

Monday, February 11, 2013

White Smoke

I wish I could resign like Benedict.
Plead the obvious: age, infirmity.
Spend my days in warm, piazza light,
Eat simple meals, and wear clean clothes.
At night, when the dutiful aide goes,
Tell a loving, forgiving God "good night,"
And sleep in a place called the Holy See
Where peace evades the dark, and tradition's strict.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jellico Mountain

Just up the ridge outside of Jellico
Lay the numberless trees of Tennessee.
So many mornings, when the children were small,
And Summer was not quite hot, we’d drive
In darkness to Florida, on I-75.
Up over the mountain, we slowed to a crawl,
To watch the miles of trees become one tree
And the strength in our bones become vertigo.

Small, smaller, smallest.
I aim too high usually. This is too low.
Someday I'll scale it right.

Monday, February 4, 2013

On Top of the World

Starlings on the line by the parking garage
Sway in the cold and hunger to the point of rage:
Side by side, and sullen in the wind and gray.
They forage for flinty seeds by day,
And grab the telephone wire by the winter moon.
Spring, gooey and supple, can’t come too soon.
Hunger and cold are kin and each is like a fist.
Ask a bird: irony just does not exist.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Doing Genealogy

The weathered headstones were in cuneiform.
Less than 200 years old and now gone.
We'd seen the tombs of Eloise and Abelard
in Pere Lachaise, and imagined what?
I suspect we felt that though the past was shut
it only needed a little nudge. It wouldn't be as hard
as planting a rose or mowing the lawn.
At least the drive was sweet and the sun was warm.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Still Has 'Em

Jack is a pied, domino-faced Border
Collie. We talk across his invisible
Fence. He, in dog, me in ... whatever this is.
English? The mazy motions of the air?
Something reins us both as far as we dare.
I stand on the line neither of us miss,
And we wait, kind, doggy, and in the null
extent of it, barking mad, But all in order.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Last night, attending to Old Man Disease,
I put my hand up to brush away … empty air.
And then I woke up, still in bed, bladder full.
What I needed in my dream, I needed then.

There was a time that I’d have called that “Zen”.
Now, I pause between an easy, cynical,
Dismissal and a wish for something there:
In the dark and quiet, a little breeze.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Back Stage

Pulleys, sandbags, wall studs, snakey cables,
And claustrophobic as a cave. Oh, and voices
in the air, somewhat near. Like Ariel.
In the movies, the final light says goodbye --
Kerchunk -- as if the space itself might cry
To be so all alone. So we must tell
It: we'll be back. And the dark rejoices.
As do all who live beyond their fables.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Tower

The stairs up the tower were empty today.
From the ground floor room, I looked and saw
The long focal pull to some missing part:
Something, hundreds of years ago, now gone,
To tell us why someone thought the dawn,
Or the dead, deserved this cryptic art.
We’ve changed. I can’t imagine anything like awe.
And yet, this tower, which should be sand, will stay.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Turtle in the Highway

Turtle in the highway
Big mess is comin' soon.
Turtle in the highway
Big mess is comin' soon.
Turtle soup tomorrow morning.
Turtle salad long 'bout noon.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Butterfly Lands

At the mouth of a cave cut from limestone,
We were suddenly swathed in butterflies.
They’d swarmed upon us  from the valley below
Like bees protecting their hive. Except not.
We weren’t even sweet that day. We were hot.
And they were a tide, not a swarm. That “No!”
Was misplaced, from other times, and other cries.
And just before one lit .. was a sigh. Not a groan.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Grill Smoker

Baby hippo on wheels. A wasp nest, empty,
meshed on some metal inside. When smoke
Poured from its Toonerville Trolley chimney,
The heat drove a mother spider from the smudge
Of silk which held her babies. She wouldn’t budge
From the edge, while her DNA spun on quizzically:
What to do? She didn't know. Life’s little joke
Is the kinds of tools we use and how clumsily.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Background to Danger

The reporter rides to the Alpine pass by bus,
But I’ve always seen him in a suspended tram,
The gondola gently creaking above snow,
The long day always gray. No morning, no noon.
Just the tourist crowd and an early moon.
That’s the book right there: the vast forest below,
And one man, a foreigner, on the lam,
And war at the frontier, waiting for us.

"Background to Danger" is by Eric Ambler.
A thriller set in 1938. A reporter is accused of a murder
he hasn't committed and must flee from Austria to Czechoslovakia
via a remote mountain pass.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Weir Trinkets

In one field, camel, llama, and bison roam
With a fence-high mournful array of cattle.
In mild, lingering, winter afternoons
We wish the steam of their breath made a ghost
That has broken free of the grave and most
Other claims of the earth, of suns and moons,
And in their lowing, mooing, bite and battle,
There were song, though not one of their heads are home.

After a phrase of Paul Celan's --
"wir trinken"::"we drink" -- from Death Fugue.
There's a field near Frankfort, Ky that owns this amazing array of animals.
And, of course, after paintings by Marc Chagall.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Time on His Hands

The octopus has a different eye and doesn’t resolve
The world to an internal map. We look and feel pity,
Fear, curiosity. He looks back and feels … cold.
Were we a moray, he’d be a lionfish. Otherwise,
He’s content to bide his time. Two eyes, eight thighs.
And a plan. He doesn’t see himself as getting old.
Doesn’t panic or regret or fear that past sixty
One night, he might blink and the world dissolve.

Some species of octopus can mimic the lionfish.
The presence of certain eels can prompt the octopus to hide.
And the octopus eye evolved differently than our own.