So, I don’t really write poetry, but every now and then something comes out of me, a thought or an idea, which somehow seems best suited for blank verse, which is all I really do in the end. I mean, I do other stuff that rhymes and everything, but you really don’t want to read it. Anyway, for those of you who enjoy seeing what it’s like when I step beyond my natural element- as every artist (and lover, for that matter) should do now and then- I humbly submit: some poems.
A message to other poets
Please stop impersonating
William Carlos Williams
It was only funny the first time
Believe you me.
And soon will come a time
To worship he who walks
Unhateful and uninhibited
Under a sightless, ancient Sun.
He who has been blessed,
Though God is unknown to him;
And whose heart was once
In an ageless time
Wreathed with ever-burning stars;
And whose focused eyes in wakefulness
Have been lovingly kissed by the Moon.
Long night mid-monsoon season
It’s been a while, I know,
But we’re in the final countdown
Of the end of an age.
Bits of salmon are stuck in my teeth
My eyes remembering lightning
Over dark, dark roads in the foothills
A stupid Police song stuck in my head.
I have no plans for Saturday.
Some important phone calls have not been returned.
“Animals emerge in Arizona rain,”
Drone the birds outside my door.
Every step you take.
Every move you make.
Every smile you fake.
Something, something, la la la.
Stars are peering through the clouds
And the wind moans with dead cowboys
Splitting kegs with actors, singing
“Time will pass soon enough.”
Last Arizona Party
Aller- to go- but I’m not going there
I think I’ll have another beer
And spend another midnight here
Until the only choice left is one to move.
Watch college girls weave a weeping werehorse
Out of teenage sex and their folks’ divorce,
Smile and dream of using force
To finally have their way.
Go get high with Josh out back
Impromptu tango on a sidewalk crack
Count stars with Jay until we lose track
And fall asleep dreaming of Greece.
Mark of Cain
The last girl I kissed
Is laughing at me now.
She wants me to know
That this is how it felt-
All the things that happen to me
And all the things that don’t:
The martyrdom denied me
Drying on my Phaedra face;
The journey I don’t take
Getting slick and frisky
With the first and last
Worst lover of the year;
Things turning hopeless
Like potatoes being peeled
Like the color of dry
Or the sound of one hand lying
Saying it knows how to touch you
Without breaking anything.
Wolfe At The SFMOMA
You kiss me somewhere between
The portrait of two boys bathing
And a photo of three open graves;
At the time, we’re sitting down,
And our conversation has been clever-
Everyone knows we’re art savvy
And stupidly in love.
I look at you and think:
No one paints eyes like your eyes
Or can sculpt your shoulders
And I’ll never be able to write about this-
I am that happy.
You smile and kiss me again.
“I don’t get it,”
I say at some point
And you assume I mean the art.
Your wings assure me,
“It’s crappy and I love you.”
Our feet go echoing down the stairs
Past some good art, past some bad
Some silence, some conversation
Comfortable even at the coat check;
Your Frodo Lives hoodie, my old backpack,
These moments when we were princes.
Beatrice and Dante
At the end of the fourth age of man
Sometime after the shit touched down
There was nothing left but you,
Me, and that Billy Joel musical
Everyone just can’t stop talking about;
The world spoke Japanese
And as usual, we weren’t fluent;
Rat tails came back into style
On men and children and rats;
And everyone thought Hollywood
Made objective documentaries;
And you kept saying to me,
“Something good will come of this.”
And you kept saying to me,
“I promise you’ll come around.”
And I kept thinking,
“One step farther.
“One step more and I’m home.”
Heart Like A Star
Sometimes you get taken out of it:
This Heart Like A Star.
Sometimes it gets taken out of you.
I slept well
In the Days When You Loved Me;
Does that mean I took you for granted?
Water me down-
Even plants like to be talked to;
Nothing lives on Sun and Sun alone.
If there are lessons here-
Can I decline to relearn them?
Nobody asked for your heart like a star.
Shelter In Place
“If you speak to them in French”
I was once told,
Good luck was assured;
Them being seagulls
And I being in need of good luck.
April came and went quietly,
All sad and done;
I walked the halls sans company
And you were there too.
Stamped and stamped
Knuckled down in place.
Coffee goes best with stats:
Tea goes best with email.
Brandy cuts Zoom.
Outside, I hear sirens,
And car horns,
And fog horns;
“Bonjour. Ca va?”
Fourth Of July
Venus above you and I
All around a citizens’ symphony
Flash rolling thunder balls
Croquet cracking the garden walls
Sheltering our six feet of distance
Filled with cupcakes and whiskey
Wine glasses full so when
We four toast our time in history
On this precariously placed
Slow submerging Pacific shelf
Called from twilight musings
Like a long last Elysium
To vineyard varnish into home
In hopes of one day standing
Sort of like a Hudson surveyor
Caught between bays/beginnings
In search of steep dry land islands
Hollowed out with hobbit holes
Echoing orchestrations of genuine joy
Their faces pressed against windows
Glittering reflections of silver sparks
Blooming into the indigo like
The Best of All Possible Trees.
It was cold a lot-
That summer without-
And hangover upon hangover
Saw mornings of dry mouths
Forming affectionate hello agains;
Prologue to lunches a la park,
Shady with cheese and blackberries,
Coffee drown in puddles of milk
And her smile, a hyperbolic twist
Half Mona/part Sphinx,
Wedged in like a croissant,
As she Sibyl me The Future
No one can predict.
Perched with the pelicans-
He “watches the coats”-
Till the Sun comes out
The towels warm like lovers
And we bake like cookies
Local, organic, artisnal;
Under a sailboat blanket
Merseals and Manamaids
Peering their distance,
The folds folded, waiting
Souls we murmur like rumors
Sailors flying the Dutchman.
Afternoons shift the mood-
When the cocktail hour breezes in,
Shivering bone ribbons
Against cream plaster till
Window after window
(Listen to the Epilogue)
Each castle draws its bridge
As fog cigar smokes through
The last of the dog walkers
Hurrying home to turn the lights up
Turn the bed down,
Count the days till Christmas.
In the morning a line forms
Block after block of chatter
Intersecting the intersections
My windows ramparts hovering
Over women waiting watchfully,
To knuckle closer to a pear or plum.
In the evening a line forms
Bandanned banditos, giggling masquers
Rows of visored knights
Battle handed in a bottle
Sidewalk squared in liquor store light
As we ship with pint from park to port.
And the horizon glows August
Candling the evening with the future
While you and I strum the dusk
Fabling through whale ribbed chapters
Best played by the breeze whistled
Through the lines of a summer shirt.
Asleep with the window shut
I found myself freezing
And woke to ravens circling
The carol of the year.
I can’t seem to write about it;
I can only seem to try, but-
Pen to paper
Paper beats pen:
“White, a blank page or canvas,”
“How do we Narrative?”
I ask the decorations
“Which frame applied
In opens the windows?”
Christmas Angel Chimes:
“Everyone who dies, ghosts.”
Traditions are Spells
We cast when we Cook
We banish when we Clean;
Even a Physical is a Ritual,
I’ve been a Prophet or Two.
“The way is shut,
It was made by those who are Dead
And The Dead keep it.”
One Emmanuel to Another
As the fog thins like The Veil
“The Way Is Shut.”
Until the time comes.
Through empty streets
I Saint Nicholas In A Hoodie
To say “I love You”
Mask to Mask;
“This is A Gift” I present
Which, too, is a gift.
Wondering, I wander
Into the Tender 19th Century:
All puddles and powerlessness,
Too poor to Social Distance,
Just Socially Distant,
A future lockjawed in the clouds.
I have a soul and so do they,
But the ones on my shoes are thin
So I walk in the car canals
Past a couple handing out coffees,
Clean t-shirts, fresh fruit;
The way we live now.
Counterside, Egg Nog Dispensary,
A Nation of Shopkeepers laments:
“I can’t see my parents”
While giving me a candy cane
“They’re so old,
It could be their last.”
An agony of seagulls fight for roadkill
And I ascend into the Middle Class
All houseplants and debt,
Sweep my kitchen, think:
Some Christmas Yet To Come
We’re all Christmas Past.
Sun overhead and holiday brisk,
Frivolous Shopping Be Done
An Afternoon north to scatter coin
To whittle my bonus into a pittance
Nodding to every Mask I pass
Oh we few, we happy few.
Outside the Take Out Tavern
The clerk finishes his cigarette
And mourns his brandy stock:
“Your options are terrible and bad,”
He spits and covers his face,
“Like everything else in life.”
Outside the gym rowers row
Cars carry and passersby pass
Customers stationed six feet apart
While winter overhead
Radiates cobalt and cloudcover:
The sky screaming through a mask.
Wallet empty, arms full,
I use my foot to open the gate,
Then mail check and find
A chest of steaks,
For eating, not slaying,
Melting with my name on them.
As I elevator up,
“Has it been a year.”
Shuffling past anonymous doors
Laden with plunder
To a silent Ithaca in a silent sea,
Odysseus, home for the holidays.
And as day dusks, prayers.
For the past.
For the present.
For the future.
Each ghost under God
And God themselves
Long gone Ghost.
For who we lost.
For who we might yet save.
For who we were
And who we might yet be.
That we might be remembered
And that we remember.
For The Winter,
With its cobra winds
And its indigo heart;
Its shark mornings
And its gray talons
Sleeting against the dawn.
For The Spring,
With its tadpole floods
And its lavender tongue;
Its bumblee evenings
And its green fingers
Planting in the twilight.
Afraid to move.
Afraid to look,
And at last we sleep
Having dined in Zoomtown;
A Mouse King is Crowned.
And a new quiet comes
All wishes and fears
And with a whisper
Sirens, alarums, and Lo!
Shouldered by stars
A flapping of wings.
We are all of us vespered
A way in a danger
By the waiting
By the wanting
By the will
We draw our swords and circle-
To celebrate light.
It’s what darkness teaches us;
What is a shadow’s flicker
But a candle’s dance?
What is a silence
But the breath before song?
Prayed all year,
It was a riddle in flame,
Around which we gather
Each to share
Miles before we sleep.
The heart heals like a star fades:
Light years away from the present
Only glowing to the naked eye-
Only a pinpoint of cold brightness-
Named against will, tasked to guide
Will-o-wisping to ships at storm
(Mangering from stern to prow)
Invisible but real as Mariana glowfish;
So I try not to assume the worst of anyone
When it comes down to what you will.
Who can say, Balthasar, who can say, but,
We’re all of us, sometimes, mystified, and
One beach over you could have been Sebastian.
All things end.
You know this.
Anyone who has ever read a book
Sees the final page approaching
With equal parts joy and dread;
Who puts Our Lives on a shelf when
The Reading is done?
Is it friend or frenemy or just
Some cousin or other?
The child I never had or
The man I never married?
Their Christopher Robin or mine?
Which Nat Bodine, which John Carter
Sifting through chronicled Mars
Holds one gem to the light
While another one slips into
The Lake of Shining Waters
And lands a mermaid palm?
Will the unicorns plural?
Will Atticus finch You and I?
Old Man Willow used to say
Every production in the attic
Was a summer gone Gidget
And you can argue legacy
From Moonchild to Ragnorok
But even the Trojan War had
A Pollyanna for each Polyxena
And why not, Cathy, after all
Astyanax Was Here.
Weeping over a Charlotte.
Laughing out Tinkerbells.
Little life rounded with a sleep.
The Day The Queen Died
“You can learn a lot about life,”
Orpheus told her
“Going through the motions of self-care;
There’s a certain laughability,”
“To just about everything and everyone”
Then indicates to remind:
He’s just a severed head.
“Fentanyl and murder,
Says one of my familiar strangers
Explaining lost friends;
“Low in Low Places”
Would be the chapter head
If I ever bring myself to publish;
If you ever actually read it.
“It’s a curious paradox,”
We try to remember
When it’s our grain being reaped
When we die a bit
When we live again;
“Seek help,” we tell people
Instead of helping,
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”
That guy gets killed behind a curtain-
But I’m stronger than you look:
Yesterday I did six impossible things
Including get through yesterday.
I mean, The Queen died,
But I’m still here;
Does that mean I’m doing it right?
Orpheus: “Did you have fun?”
She: “I learned something, and I have been happy.”
This is what we have:
This world, each other.
Would it kill me to send a Thank You note?
But if this diet of Expectations and Gratitude hasn’t
Who is to say what will?
No finished book
Is a promise of another.
You keep dancing.
As we forget how
As we remember
As the steps change
As the music changes
As they sell the venue
Then buy it back again
You keep dancing.
You need a partner.
I present myself, and bow.
Morning In Troy
This is life, lad.
This come and go.
This Mermaid, This Window
These Bon Mots,
You weave it, you wove it;
You broke it, you bought.
This is Life, Lad:
The yearning, the search,
The language, the lurch,
This precarious earthquake perch,
And your balance;
If you want it, you got it.
If you’re brittle, you broke.
But this Is your life, lad.
Coffee, Work, Sleep,
The company you keep;
You laughed, so
Finger to lips, teeth together;
God’s tongue in your ear.
Let nothing, no nothing, no nothing you dismay
Remember The Light we can bring every day
With the rising of the sun, and the running of the deer,
A horn blows from Arawn’s Hall; so begins a new year.
And this year you learned. And this year you lost.
And this year is a line that is one more you’ve crossed.
And there’s reasons to leave. And there’s reasons to stay.
You’ll be equally cursed and blessed either way.
But Morrigan crowned, becomes Morrigan the Maid,
And into her lap, is Arthur’s head laid,
As the boat drifts through folds of Llyr’s silver mane,
And Llugh rests by the fire, and our lives start again.
So maybe this time around, we’ll make it all right,
But it won’t be all summer, and it won’t be all blight,
And you won’t be all perfect, but you won’t be all wrong,
So the nights will get shorter and the days will get long.
Then stop for a moment, this is the place where we say,
“I kept you, I lost you, but I loved either way.”
And so there are bells to ring as new morning breaks,
And you will make it home; it takes as long as it takes.
Map out the epic of my youth
If you will
Upon these tempting, empty pages
That cannot help but ask
To be written and re-written upon
With heartfelt cry and Hamlet heavy anguish
Wrapped into words too dry
To be adequate packaging
And metaphors so cliché they lose their meaning
Dwindling into pop culture references
Adrift in a shallow sea too honest for irony
Of rhyme and wordplay and unfinished song
And thoughts cut down in the spring.
I really am much better at writing plays.