Wednesday, April 15, 2015


No news             now                         no shift in cargo
            to capsize             what the captain left

before the kids                        kids             he said            
            head back to your rooms             to text            

from inside a stone                        I love you—
            we waited for you for days             by the shore

we hold up signs            backlit by candles           
            return to us our friends                        we wrote

return to us                        this paper boat            released
            with a message                        we love you—

divers saw                         three bodies floating
            through the window             of a passenger cabin

but were unable             to retrieve them

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Book of Desserts

pages for the privileged 

sugared stacks of white

on white, the cane

ground down into paper

lives follow the curve of that glass case

counter, inflection, chocolate cake, 

shelf to the cooling machine, plastic front,

marble floor

petits fours and doberge, apple stack and fritter

layer, layer, layer

You cut into this cake like colonists did Africa,

with joy

the sinking tines of a fork in frosting

the downward drive of a stake in soil

yield pleasure 

I imagine

the lagniappe after need has been negotiated

my mother observed

the refusal of a homemade brownie,

a slant eye at key lime

does nothing to further trust

this is the tyranny of the mille-feuille, 

in exile become Napoleon

subject of history 

and emperor still hungry

Monday, April 6, 2015

Creative Nonfiction

The materials are the artifacts
and the art of fact,

the matter of truth
and the truth of matter.

It plays the language
within (or is it against?)

the memory of the event
or the event of memory,

the way the little cushion

still cups like two open hands
in the stern of the boat

where years ago he laid
his drowsy head.

It speaks the no to fiction
and the fiction of no,

the way we all make
believe our renunciations.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


I’ve seen children baptized by force
roped and dragged down
to the water's edge
and across to the other side.

Some exit this life in a similar way
each door frame
the place they have turned their backs.

No one can step in the same river twice
Soul says the twisted body Open

a rim bone
a market
a mecca
a page

The world is high places and low places
childhood chants
skulls in the grasp of great tree roots
smoke on the mountain
steam from skin.

Wisdom says go back another way
I’ve seen rivers change course, shocked.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Tilting

The windows become the floor             the door the ceiling—           
            in life jackets                 we rise to the top

like a hatch now             we climb through it—            
            waddle down the wall                         of the hallway

toward             what light remains : the water                         ever
            our only light                         only hope by the stairs

cascading—             how many times have we tilted                       
            from our most fervent                         intentions?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

So, are we all continuing this thing for May, post poetry-month? This has been a lot of fun, and it has been a great motivator - to light a fire under my Asian non-ass - and I hope we can continue this forum, if even intermittently. What say you?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Road to Franklin

Why not begin
with the saw mill, which never angers

the air its addiction to light,
the light its mimcry

of sound, how it happens
all over, always

on the mountain road
you pass the tree farm—

fir, spruce—so many
ladies in waiting

in the painting of it
the artist forgets

to give them faces
nevertheless they greet you

with the difficult heft and hipswish
of their hoopskirts

some hope might gather there.
or is it

a hidden binge of winter air?

Thursday, April 26, 2012


— the kind
that would stab you
in the eye, keep moving

a bird-shaped hole
in the back of your head
for hunger-released in the rubble:

a cigarette the color
of bread, a candy wrapper —
the cold morning.


Shadow you thought
was your soul, flew in
through the fifth

floor window, across
the classroom
and down the hall.

But about the soul:
it doesn't mean, necessarily,
The Lord's un-clutched hand invisible gift . . .

nor omen,
nor flap-gift emissary
while you were teaching.


On the sidewalk, your way
to lunch, 
a good writing desk:

dark wood, with
a drawer out like a tongue.
Would it speak, it would say

My hunger, my thirst for someone
to come, dip his finger in ink,
touch my lips,

feel around my mouth toward
the throat, dead desert of 
unutterable words . . .


A crow
in the drawer, or
a squirrel

when you return
in half an hour. None of it,
really, requires the soul.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dinner (this is a poem of Joel's I'm posting for him)

So you sat next to Peter Orszag at an East Village restaurant?
What do you know about the CBO,
or the vermicelli he lifted with dexterous financial fingers
via a stainless steel fork?
The only thing you know for sure
is that Orszag is not a chopstick man,
and this knowledge is a tugboat
pushing the great barge of commerce
down the widening mouth of foreign policy.
I once ate there with friends and was silent
watching the senator perch atop his chair
like Franklin's bald eagle.
After coffee and dessert,
there was the car ride through this city of forests.
There is usually a car ride.

Taken from chair to chair I saw in the window
the diaphanous shadow of your phone's shallow face.
It fixed with tenacious reason on the shatter resistant passenger side
as if it were a giant night insect attracted to the darkness.
I saw the rows of text, the sublime back-lit miracle of liquid crystal
digalized before my eyes, and could see nothing else.
Not the trees, or the sky, or the ghosts of the great burning.
I only saw it:

The ephermeral rectangle; the small glass doorway;
The place where we make sense of what we do not know.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Not hunted really, but trapped—
the light made it difficult to look.

Her first eye, through a second eye,
captured her subjects' eyes.

The subjects' eyes, when captured,
saw her second eye first. 

Later she fixed them in solutions,
neither knowing any better nor any worse.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nothing's Easy

Yes, my dear, nothing's easy.
Most things are hard, the rest
we make hard for ourselves.


the best we can hope
to bear is to open
ourselves to light,

to  r e f r a c t
                          our suffering . . .

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Walking the Dog

Pulling her now, by the throat, from whatever

may distract her — squirrels, runners, a ball

bouncing, birds in the grass — a clean jerk

of the leather loop, buckle and chain,

tethered shortly to his side,

if that's anything like

what we need from each other — loyalty, or

the right kind of focus — to anchor the leash

in his left, the other to grip more gently

for slack, should she need it,

to nose in the dirt,

or to yank her from another, more fierce, who

would end her — to know a jump or the faintest

growl means another quick snap — Hey, that's not

how you say hello . . . him saying, as if she were a child.

High School Diaries

Some people post pictures of themselves on the internet

posing over the speckled carcass of a kudu

they’ve killed in Tanzania.

It’s usual to dig the uncocked rifle butt

into the ground and grip the spiral horns

like ski poles, for people love a virile huntsman with a viral smile.

Fathers and sons

bond by hunting. Husbands and wives bond by holding

opposite ends of a gun.

Hunting game, if you are gay, probably bores and horrifies you. Write this

down in your diary: What a sad, proud lion lying there in the dust

between the khaki musculature, jugular-struck, mane-pulled

like a passed-out frat boy

having his hair held back. What a miserable zebra with a hole in its throat.

What a wildebeest running

red from nostril and ear.

And, oh,

the cape buffalo crumpled next to a folding chair, a bottle of grey goose

under the fuzzy groin of the thorn acacia,

under the jackalberry tree, under the baobab, under

the jarrah tree, the candelabra

pulling all its shade back into itself.

No quarter given, no quarter sought. We are most ourselves

forgiving what we’ve written of the human heart, though most Americans

report they’d rather post pornographic pictures of themselves

than excerpts from their high school diaries.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

All the Animals in the Smoke

All the animals in the smoke
live inside each other,
romp like samba dancers,
disturb this world's night.
They are hairy beasts that swallow hearts whole,
you, like them, are gone.
They are an ethical menagerie
bound by no creed, freed
to step from the lines of day.

Their fears cannot be replaced.
They are feathers and long teeth.
They drift upward.

I do not imagine
this damp base of twigs will jump to flame.
However, there is a tower of gray.
Though I cannot carve it,
there is an order.
Few understand the face of the bear,
the fish, and the raven.
Or know there are more.

Monday, April 16, 2012


On a street without light, in a place I would not leave,
I left the windows open to hear the drone of cars
on the highway three winding miles below.

Two miles down in the other direction
the bell from a gray, stone church tolled each hour.
At noon its congested hymn struggled to uplift me.

When I moved to the valley the sound did not carry.
I no longer measured time with the tools and percussion
of drum, hammer, anvil, or stirrup.

I measured it with stamen, pistil, bees, and wind,
then closed the windows; these  difficult, temporal imbalances
could not survive the valley of their making. * 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I See Myself in the Sea

I see myself in the sea, the jagged mirror
of the sea. Behind the shards of me
     is the moving mass of water, the feint fins
     of the big fish swirling the undertow,
     the liquid calligraphy of sound within sound,
     the ghosts of a creature who would consume
me whole.

I see myself in the sea.  The jagged mirror
of the sea underneath the shards of me
     contains the terror of the fact that
     the sea is the soul, gargantuan and entire,
     the liquid calligraphy of me within me, palpably
     unfathomable, except for the tides that keep
time all its own.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Truth

As in the sea — the sea both hiding
and revealing the rubble below, bits

of shell, seaweed — or, as in more often
the wind — the wind-as-indifference

we learn to accept, finally, in nature —
despite some lucid reflection we hope

the water hurls back as we wade
in the shallows, shy almost, reluctant

or just returning from full
immersion, though as we stood there

it would seem no different . . .
I know, the waves no longer whisper,

I know what you've always been . . . no shame,
no need to confess . . .


Soon we were dry — half awake, half naked —
in the sand. Now the crest and momentum

toward us the shore, the roar and glide
beyond which there is no regret, as

the thinning sprawl of sea barely visible now,
now vanishing, leaving only the sand,

slightly darker than the rest, the rest
of the innocent shore . . .


And then we stood, as if in surrender . . .
We walked toward where the sea would meet us.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Abstract Art

abstract art

yesterday at the national gallery

some kids said of a frankenthaler

it reminded them of mario kart

the numeral seven rainbows

by the sea a row of taffy thrown

off a float in a parade a bloody nose

spring came and everything

was possible the possibilities

seemed endless you fag

I whisper when he calls

newman’s stations of the cross

fabulous black boughs shorn

of bark charred tibia telephone

poles in a morning fog you fag

he says when I disappear

into the jasper johns

as if it were some shrubbery

a child could hide in

a changeless symbol taut skin

a silent drum delectable

it’s true

I want

to tell

the children

if you

lick it

art will

kil you