carrying photos of tadpoles
large eyes and feathers and whatnot
while painting the scene with shades of
carrying photos of tadpoles
large eyes and feathers and whatnot
while painting the scene with shades of
wriggle of morning thought.
Something to hold on to. To pull him out. Sharp. He bites--
Hold on! Hold on!
Tight jaw, reeling in,
line stretching, water shake. There's a
bend and a swing.
with the whole scene
swirling past too fast then he's
flopped over and
down onto the plankety
board bottom of the shiver boat.
Standing above himself now.
Subway ride through a newspaper, flutter
express stop and cooked air at the sports section
with the concrete pressed straight cold against your feet
like there's no shoe there at all. No shoe to separate
the ligatures that spell out
the times of the day, the subway times you're zipping through. The
business, life, nation, op ed, crowded, closing metal metro doors
and gossip too. And there's you, subracing through in
flip-flops made of newsprint and cold-pressed shoe.
A red-cabbed rig
flying just above the spires of Golden Gate Bridge.
What the hell -- right? A truck, aloft? Sort of lovely
though for the moment, looking around. There's
a nice stereo and tapes and a bed tucked in
behind the driver's seat.
The problem's his trajectory.
He'd hoped he might line up
with the road below, touch down, head on over to
Sausalito for a movie. But there's too much
sideways momentum and the truck flew west.
Flew past. Drifted.
dirty gray, piled high like handfuls of baby sheep stacked and teetering.
the air sharp with cotton candy drift
that leaps toward the understanding part.
you can't hold it back.
a pillow he's reaching for it now
to prop up all those teetering stacks,
to ease his way into a dream of sharp fluff.
Forget not the mud caked juice box,
those traces of familiar sweetness locked in
hannukah gelt coin coverings dented
a plate or two of shaded eggplant parmigiana.
There was a party here. There were frightened
earthworms. Thunder. Gray light. And children being
been thinking about
my great-grandfather's beard.
I can't compete with that.
Coffee, ironed tablecloths, small spoons.
Not one drop swings
Cigars for all. Corona de Luxe
over old Europe squares.
Sons in perfect pose. Even the camera man
had his act together.
driving home late telling my eyes
it's just about time to open
wide, let in a few headlights
reveal the back
of my head.
clang noises clanging back there
still clanging away let
shine on in.
it's a matter of asking
that tape recorder, are you gonna
spool this? Do you want to take a sec?
hold a sec? paste that moment
across some plastic?
Cuz I don't wanna let you go, sec.
I want to throw you in a drawer next to
some passports and
a picture someone
drew of me
when I was 17.
His pals don't need much, ya see.
They wear snappy hats. Elbow each other
at the sight of something, hey!
Hey look at that snappy hat!
All they want is a patch of dirt
to trash. To take off their hats.
They've got cleats, ya see. Underneath
them fancy pants. And
I had two foods from my childhood tonight and
the sugar cube was a complete let down.
All promise, stacked high
crystalline stack and then
collapsed like a wet meringue.
Blech. A mouth full of undifferentiated
former-cube fragments, trying to
escape each other and
Trying to find a place that's not shaded.
Damn trees everywhere.
I just need one spot where
my skin can make contact with the sun.
Light is part of the sun, did you know that?
It's not an offshoot or something sparkly
the sun shakes loose like
water from a dog.
It's more like actual dog parts.
Our share of cosmic dog parts, sprinkled down.
This planet is covered in dog.
That's the truth.
Some of that dog gets tangled in the trees.
Some gets tripped up by clouds.
And what I need right now is
a clear spot to lie down.
the living dog.
You say I'm a snake but snakes
move with purpose, right?
They lead with their head. Reach
with their mouth. Draw a
dry belly line with an impulse dotting
Have you ever seen a snake tumble? Or trip? Or twist?
Not a snake.
Saw real bikers tonight.
Four bikers, they lined up
side by side across both lanes with
their leather jackets. Comfortable, warm.
Cocooned in that roar that they
i dreamt i adopted
a dog without a body or a head
and we went fishing.
afterwards, while I was
untangling the line,
a nice lady came up to see how
my dog and i were doing.
"his tail isn't wagging much," she said.
"i don't think he's ok."
revisiting old poetry books
finding bits that didn't
spark for me
are some how sparking for me
now. These words are
Words are? Holy water
runs through you? Maybe?
Clouds then? Cameras? And the way they
stop things? Guitar holes?
A place where music gathers?
Words are. Holy water.
I saw you watching when I got up
and I want to reassure you,
it's not you, it's me. It's not the way
you were snapping your fingers. Or how
loudly you were breathing. Sure,
I don't like your shirt. But
there are lots of shirts
here I don't like.
Look at that guy, for example.
No, this is about me.
And the choices I've made.
The potatoes I had last night, for example.
waiting on line
in my mind. everybody
cutting and they
don't even know it and hey
I was here. getting coffee
and a scone but
The lavender lemonade is back
at my local coffee shop.
I'd given up on her.
All the lemon factories, moved off-planet.
"We Thank You For Your Business."
Empty cups, traced with
mint and cane.
I've been lost
dark berry side of this Lavender Moon.
Here comes the lemonade.
Bodies fly close overhead
glittering geese eyes
turning my body to track
invisible, lovely dark
Up on those shoulders. Over that soft tummy, the gray-haired chest slopping in.
Sitting up there, hands clutched together in clumps of see-through white.
He walks you around the edge of the lake. It feel so light up there on those shoulders,
Falling would just mean floating, then landing, then hopping back up.
And a rare smile from grandpa at the sight of the bouncing boy.
But you can't see that smile parked up on there on his shoulders.
You can't see his face, in fact.
You're looking forward, you're breathing in his cherry tobacco hum.
You're grandpa's face today. He's got a happy five-year-old's face.
You're giving that to him.
He's giving you lift.
both kids at other
kids' houses two toothbrushes
standing by the sink.
Snow lights the heavens you sparkle at me cold
soft indentations that last a week or so the footprints crushed
the heavens sparkle at me cold you snow.
"75 years, same coffee."
Don't trust fancy coffee drinkers, they're saying.
Or at least, do trust people who are constant
-- fixed, unflinching
with scorched taste buds.
Give your money to the folks who say
Go to hell, cappuccino. Go to damn hell, double latte.
Buy this car?
Our coffee is pre-9/11. Pre-boom and bust. Pre-velcro.
We're drinking the coffee
the greatest generation drank
when they were nine.
What's it going to take?
What's it going to take
to get you into
this coffee cup?
I ate a chocolate whopper today. A cookie that was so chocolatey that
in the molecular space where there's usually air
or maybe some kind of eerie vacuum
with a faint ringing tone
there was no air or vacuum. There was
At the time I thought I'd earned it.
I thought the math of my last few days
the good things I'd done, the bad things, the easy moments I'd had, the challenges
had all added up to
it being OK
for me to consume
a chocolate whopper.
At the time.
That's what I thought.
Here's another libretto that spilled out of my soon-to-be-seven-year-old son. He sang this one last weekend while puttering around his bedroom. To me, it sounds sort of like something written in 1200 BCE and then translated in the 1950s.
I should also mention that I told him I'd be posting this and asked him what he wanted his "Vortex" name to be. (My daughter is codename "Shonny Vortex," my brother adopted "Jake Vortex" when he played sax on a couple of tracks a while back.) So anyways, he considered "Fire Vortex" and "Ice Vortex" before settling on "Power Vortex."
Who am I to argue with a boy named "Power"?
Do You Love Bad Guys the Best?
by Power Vortex
Let us live and win the battle.
Let us lie under the stars.
God, why is this happening?
You say no to everything.
Please let us win the battle.
So when will you say yes?
Then we'll win the battle.
Or do you love bad guys the best?
Is it for the good and the bad?
Is it for the bad and the good?
Kids write the darndest verse. A while back I posted a poem or two by my daughter Shonny. Here's one from my six-year-old son. He doesn't really talk like this, but every once in a while he'll belt out a non-rhyming song, sort of like a libretto, and these words will come out from somewhere, and I'll scramble to write them down. He tells me this one is about dreaming.
Dawn in the midnight.
You see the voices far.
You see the big flying voices
and the beautiful light that I guard.
It's very like life.
You see the beautiful midnight sky
and the beautiful voices.
You have lots of fun but...
you don't know the ways
of your life and the voices so far.
Oh beautiful sky.
Yeah, dawn in the midnight!
Now more than ever we could all really use a yearbook photographer.
Whispering 'round the quad. Snapping photos of us and our respective pals through the zoom lens of a swank 35mm Canon (Christmas gift) as we participate in various activities. Child-rearing, for example. Sock-matching. These things that we do.
Afterhours they're hanging with the Editor. Sipping diet soda, talking Duran Duran. Nominating classmates for various awards. Maybe you, even? Best eyes?
Anne Frank was resting.
The day before she had bested the Werewolf.
The day before that, an alien robot had burst
into the attic.
But there's no rest for Anne Frank.
Through a small window ringed with
pencil-drawn tulips, you can see
Godzilla's head. At first, it's the
size of a thimble or a small eraser. Then it makes
that noise, that horrible Godzilla noise.
The ground thumps with Godzilla's
horrible slapping feet.
The head grows.
And Anne Frank knows she's got
another monster to deal with.
"Kitty," she asks, "if I destroy this one, will they
let me walk the streets?"
"Will they declare me a hero? Will they free
my people? Will they free the others?
If I destroy Godzilla?"
Harmonize those ages into a blur from
5-year-olds to 17-year-old
with smooth tones
taller than people
louder than people
and our little folks singing
next to them
us all shaking
in our seats.
I will eat pizza and oversized subs and drink soda. We'll tear stretch rubber masks off cranky senior delinquents.
They have their complaints. I have complaints too. You don't see me acting out.
Snoopy and Scoob will tug and growl over a torn blanket.
The girls will help me fold my zig-zag t-shirt at night. Read me stories as I lay my large round head down to rest.
Release me from this dustbowl, Fred. From this house. This baseball field. These shrill harpies.
Let me ride along in your stinky van.
The coffeeshop is fluttering today.
Six or seven denim-coated guy-legs
shock the tiled floor.
Silent soft bouncing.
They shake the air. Crinkle your vision.
There's a lot of energy under these tables.
I write espresso poems now
the way I used to write about cigarettes.
My old fumbled word love to white ash
the hard-dented tan filter.
The clouds! Oh those sainted particles!
The courage of my glass ashtray!
All swapped for
a slight-stained saucer
a cat-like crema.
How long till they turn you against me?
What will I smoke when you're gone?
the majority opinion that aims to
my emulsified flavor.
Froth my cup
dunk its hue.
75 cents is my strong statement.
I will tip you 75 cents
if you'll just
and let me slide bitten
How many times must I not
watch you before you get the point?
If I must not watch you a million times.
If I must not watch you till the solar core
inside my TV cools and its silver casing cracks
until my many remotes retreat into open palms
rush back toward some lost part of my
until my eyelashes gray and wilt
and spiral off
When I was small you could
get a paper cut from just about everything.
From a computer display.
While petting a puppy.
You could get several paper cuts pressing down hard on
a pinkening snow ball.
We wore gloves in the summer.
Heavy mittens in the pool.
They date underground
And they skip by the mushrooms
they dance with the dwarves
They sleep under waterfalls
lightless with dark sparkle and foam.
They leave the sun and the wind and banana peels
to the squirrels.
Were they birds or were they bats?
Does it matter?
When they drop down in darkness.
When they brush up against the back of your head and nudge you along.
When they flap in your hair.
You want to know.
Feathers or fur? Beaks or black noses.
Were they bats?
Looking into your warehouse it's clear that
someone's really good at stacking boxes.
I know they use machines
but it's still a skill
a lattice like that
three stories high
to hold against
the pull top boxes feel
their natural urge to tumble
to splay and splash
to show the floor their glory.
That tree at night is so beautiful.
I saw it. I saw the beauty.
I claim this vision with my
artist's eye. My eye so
true you crave to see
the beauty I see. You pose
and claim you saw it too.
You didn't see it.
Escobar couldn't hear so good.
His cold -- the same cold he was
complaining about last month --
had taken root now, deep inside
the curly spots that led from ears to brain.
You might think he would open his eyes
wider to compensate, to pull in
extra visual cues.
But he was going the other way instead.
Withdrawing like evening fish.
Letting things happen around him without much fuss.
For example: when that guy flipped him off,
Pablo Escobar (1949-1993) just nodded.
on the plane ride home
that I might be the one who dies young --
that flimsy-bodied office worker whose organs
Then the smiling round
retired banker capturing me at the local tea shop
telling me only the rich are happy
that I don't really know Orange County
that I'm due for a double-chinned heart attack
and what will happen to my wife and kids then?
Finally a voicemail from my doctor saying
my total cholesterol is high
I'm at high risk for cardiac disease.
She hopes it's OK to leave this in a message but she's going on vacation.
And it came roaring out of his eyes, his ears, his nose, his throat
like some kind of pressure-cooked stew where you
can't make out the specific vegetables involved
but it's obvious something's
He achieves a softer plush with his face
letting the gray grassy mass
Short enough he will not chew
a whiskey growth
a little moss.
Something to rub at during meetings.
that won't come come off
on the fingers.
Would you like to dance?
A gazillion years later
would you still like to dance?
Put on high boots and a dangerous skirt?
Are you addicted to garbage
this weekend? Age inappropriate?
Will you shake that thing?
And are you all the rage
"He's breaking all the time!" our cabbie says. He's what?
"The cab in front of me is breaking all the time!" Oh my lord. Somebody stop him. We need time!
And then of course I realize it's just that it's late and I'm skating along.
"He's braking all the time" is all that other car's doing. His backlights flash and flash and flash.
Our taxi scoops around, passes on the right. Bright white bolts of drizzle slam into the speeding road streaming it back out behind us faster than we can parse.
All part of that necklace I wear made of night trips home from the airport.
Other boys stay out late and smoke.
They use bad words.
They worship false gods.
When they ask me to come along
I say I'm busy.
I'm keeping my hands clean.
It's been hard work, really really hard work
keeping my hands clean all these years.
I do not live in a glass house.
I am not one of those people.
I've earned the right.
And now I'm throwing rocks at you.
Chicken and eggs lobbed
from twelve feet away keep him
fed. They comb his mane when
he's sleeping. They clean his chin with a sponge.
Planted in someone's garden next to
Cool dirt and pebbles
pack up tight against his belly down
They let him roar when he wants to roar.
Counting beans, one for every
word you said today.
A waterfall of frozen
lima bean conversation.
Bright bean rage.
Soft, velvety heirloom beans.
Bean opera. Beans buzzing
in a thick glass jar.
Where do all these beans come from? --
these beans, with no apologies.
And why is it that you find yourself
at this late stage
so full of frigging
He described his life as a series of tasks
filled with the description of those tasks
how he’d cut the boards
what he did in the cotton gin
how he'd made the metal bracings for the chair in the front of his house
that you saw him in most days.
It was like asking a chef for her life story
and she says
I made my first cake when I was 12.
We started with 2 cups of flour, a cup of milk, and a pinch of salt.
It's long past time
we end this charade.
This intricate dance
designed to mask
As if it's something to be
when we both know it's a
source of strength.
We should celebrate it.
Our dance should celebrate it.
Instead we dance this
I can sort of taste the taste of it.
The soft peg-like extensions. The way
they protect me from poison
help me sort out
those five sensations.
It tastes good.
So far. That
safe taste of a taste.
We'll see how much I like
the real thing.
Gold, polygonal shapes.
with soft fuzz edges and
little black legs popping off
They were fighting each other
in tar-crackled dirt by a roadside stop.
A few feet over they were bobbing around this pond
the little ones dunking the larger ones
with unnecessary ferocity.
Someone said they must have come from outer space.
A tom-boy of a girl with tough brown hair sat by the pond.
She'd been there for some time
"Be careful not to get their eggs on you," she cautioned,
nodding at my cap-toe Brunori's.
"Little specks. You don't want to bring them
back with you
to the city."
"Maybe we should call someone...?" I said.
"Call Time," I said. "Or Newsweek. Get someone to cover these
gold colored alien fighting bugs
before they kill us all."
his eyes dry up
when the pants tear through
and a red pearl forms
drifting out of his eyes.
Swirling crystals enough
When I transact toward an espresso
is to drink
the liquid part.
The cup and plate (and the spoon &c)
would remain the shop's property.
Really, I just want to make sure
no one's upset or confused (or surprised &c).
I don't want to lay down my clink,
then find out too late
that my rights
are limited to
moving the drink around, for example.
Or smelling it.
There wert a time, oh a long time ago,
like in movie time, when you could
tip someone a sketch more than they'd expect
and you'd say "thank you" in a
low ruffled D and they'd say
"thank you," clean surprise in their voice
and tall eyes with bouncy brows like
"thank you" you know? trilly and upright
and a tip of the bellboy's cap as for punctuate.
And I suppose it's still possible these days
to mark such a response
though I ain't heard so myself.
And what would it take?
Like a gazillion freakin' dollars?
The scariest guy in town sits on a bus bench beside his sweetie true.
His prison-gym forearms coiled energy all Pop-Eye'd and snarling with frenzied shag
end at knotted hands tranquill in her lap.
Driving past you can hear love words plopping like hash onto metal trays
out of that crazy-Joe bushy beard.
inside my intestines
advances like a jungle animal
stalking me in small leaps
three inches, five inches at a time
fixing me frightened to a point
because a jungle animal
doesn't care how nice you are
or how much you need sleep
or how sorry you are
that you ate too much and
drank too much
and neither does the food
inside my intestines.
Watching the movie
of your life and there's
your enemy repositioned as
he's a maverick
and she digs him
Do you believe you have bone inside you?
Have you bought stock
in the scam that
you're made of stone?
Why not skin? Solid through?
Why not dense-coiled hair
to prop your fading hips?
As if we have a pelvis inside us.
Tell me this: how did that stone
get in there? That stone called
And how come that stone isn't worn
to a pebble?
in his red and black
with his arms propped
behind his head like
a catapult on safety.
His face is a bass note,
calm and confident
as if to say:
"I'm a super hero. And a bass note. I'm a catapult.
And I've got plots and plans aplenty."
You're not the only one made uncomfortable
by these lens flares
that threaten, curl,
They can wrench the wind out of a room.
Catch 5 quarters in mid-air. Each.
And when they sneeze
you turn away to miss a flash
against the back of that
At the coffee shop
a man long past down on his luck
head resting on a piece of paper
pen in one hand
but no words on the sheet.
Just 60 or 70 short lines
twitched in all directions.
A swarm of
"I mean no harm"
for him to sleep inside.
After a while
they wanted to get so used to it
a different word for each kind of rain
say, one for fine-pointed rain
that comes down
light and silky
one for thick drops where the rain is thick no matter
how few drops fall.
And then on a turn, the end of rain
and a kind of
sunlight showed up
that was also fine-pointed.
Or maybe shy. Loud yawning? It was
sunny that day.
All the puddles
preparing to hibernate.
I am inclined seaward.
Tilted at my desk
with my hair
Seaweed, of course.
There's a mussel in each ear.
and a starfish sucking on my nose.
Five equal segments hath the starfish.
No heart, nor brain, nor eyes.
And yet I find
its tube feet
with their remarkable vascular system
dragging me off into the deep.
shuriken with bright black tips
spread out wide against soft cassis cardboard like bats
behind a glass case.
I'm shopping from a safe distance.
Five feet back, where the merchant
can't catch my breath.
Ten minutes or so and
now my sneakers have set
into the muddy tire treads of this rained out road.
The morning's bagel keeps me warm.
I'm not really shopping.
Just standing still.
Bladed stars, grant me ninja speed.
He said "ta da"
because he wanted them to spot
the magic. The unicorn and its twisting horn.
The wand and its wand rainbows
all spark to celebrate
I used to be an otter.
Now I'm mostly.
Today was another important
Another day when I didn't seek an audience
with the skeptical colonel --
confront him with my passion.
"Colonel, soon these oceans will run dry!"
"Soon the humps of humpback whales will be revealed
and all sorts of unknown sea creatures
will flop about squinting in shallow pools!"
"Colonel, for once in your damn life..."
He arches a brow. My hair's gone insane.
"...can you not be so
It's the smiley that really breaks my heart
the little happy face you
right after you break goodbye, say the news, share that thing.
You're happy. And I'm glad for it.
But where is your nose?
Now who will save
your missing nose?
Don't hold on to that wall.
Don't let it pull you backward
to its fixed side.
Hold my hand
and now we glide.
Airplane seats never fit his body.
Not just his legs,
though there wasn't enough legroom, that was for sure.
And you lower the tray and it goes right up
into his rib cage, like he's a grown man
sitting in a baby-sized high-chair. And the day is scraping
baby food off his face with a small
spoon, cool metal, plastic nubbin of a concave
food-holding dip at the end.
And putting that face-warmed leftover vegetable goo
back into a
I was so angry, so spinning with all my anger
I remember at one point saying to a good buddy
that I was going to tell everyone I met
for the next TEN years:
"if you meet someone named [her name here]
please give her a kick for me."
I figured the word would spread over time, like a belly.
But now that I know where she's at
all these dozen plus years later,
I no longer feel the need to kick her.
Or to have her kicked.
I signed a lot of stuff today
and I don't mean to brag
It was the way
I curved that capital "C" in Cecil.
and looped the "l."
My graceful scoop.
The pen's hurled weight.
Like I was piloting
a space plane
made of jet black ink.
If we're all drawing a face together
I don't want to draw the mouth.
I'll draw the hair --
just lines, loose and easy.
Or the eyes.
But not the lips.
The way they curve and join
and hold back
Don't make me draw the lips.
Forgot an old friend's name tonight. I thought it was "David Shapiro, of Kansas" but it's not, is it? It's something else, something equally common unsearchable. Or maybe it is?
Lordy lordy I've lost all confidence.
"It's a multiple of a lot of different things."
Then somewhere down the line, you find yourself saying
"It's a syndrome."
You're giving 75/25. Or 65/35.
Not out of laziness but from some sense
that things are finite and you don't want to spend it all.
When the phone rings, you answer it on the fourth ring.
Or you go to an adult valentine-making class and you say "nice to meet you."
But you don't make valentines for everyone. Just two or three.
Your basketball buddies don't even bring it up.
The way you've stopped saying
"That’s what I'm talking about" with your trademark vigor.
So you head on out to a petting zoo -- any petting zoo.
Because animals can't tell the difference.
Except that maybe you're easier to sit on nowadays.
That goat is so heavy.
Come on now, you big old goat.
Never gave thanks. Never had blogs. Owned slaves. Some of them owned slaves. Were shorter than us on average.
Yes, some of them fought against it tried to move things forward toward
a blinding bright world but
not all of them.
We played with sticks for a while, my people
looking for wood that was strong and flexible,
turning it into specialized sticks.
Sticks for scratching
for digging out hard to reach
Then we made the Torah.
The pencil they gave me
was covered with paint. I scraped at it.
Artisan, whole-leaf paint chips
in spidery clumps.
And now I can see, it is an artisan pencil.
Made by a man in the mountains of Peru.
Separated out from the base of a Peruvian Pencil Tree.
It is a savage land.
And there's my friend, the legendary artisan
with his Peruvian pencil-carving knife, its handle
snapped clean off
from the root of some
Most of the knife is edible, in fact.
Even the blade.
But only if you cook it long and slow.
And who would eat such a thing?
Who would eat the knife cooked tender?
Someone with a pen, no doubt.
Or a typewriter.
do you remember being a goose?
do you remember flying in pairs
your neck pulled long and straight
warm feathering into the wind
your boney beak bobbing
far out in front to beats
by your partner's heart?
Is it enough to call the water black to talk about the swirls, the crack in the floor of this Bay
That steams up sleep evaporating soaking into a newspaper headline till it has mighty heft
Is now a good time to chalk it all up this swirl and this crack this slow-dripping heft
to some sort of vague, tectonic displacement?
Some foamy kerning surge?
"The eye of the storm
never hit land
although obviously the eye wall did."
Like now we're all supposed to know what an "eye wall" is.
Meanwhile: I'm having these dreams
where Mr. Roarke was originally
Tattoo and he's saying
"The Plane, The Plane"
in rolling tones with a sweeping hand.
And then he gets promoted and the new Tattoo comes in.
And the new Tattoo thinks "Alright! I've got a job with upward mobility!"
But he's wrong about that.
And those white seaplanes keep dipping down
slowing to a stop
while the eye wall of Tattoo
becomes dark, clustered, clumped.
As he floods on the inside.
Some say "no one should suffer simply because they have chosen to fall in love."
But I'm not certain I agree.
Surely someone should suffer.
Surely. Someone should suffer simply.
Because they have chosen to fall.
But perhaps no one have chosen?
You think? Because they suffer then?
Perhaps they surely? Simply to choose?
I'm say not certain.
Surely to choose to love, yes?
Surely to choose perhaps
to love at last
but no one agree.
Thank you for the strut
even though I know
Pity poor Pol Pot's cat.
Fed by this thing.
Stroked by this thing.
By this skin
Pity poor Pol Pot's cat.
Other people have smaller fingers
slender grave pincers
and they move fragments around.
reposition dust to achieve a fine result.
Not children. I'm not
talking about children or
Other grown ups.
Living in crash pads
with thatched chairs and
hung by the door.
Look at them. Look
at their work.
Wet ride this morning.
Chalk bricks trying to absorb
pulling it in cold wood
His wet feet uncovered, yes?
Flat cats lick his feet.
Lick sneaker pump.
Lick vapor swoosh.
And those feet stir.
Now he's caressing some space saying:
"Hi. I will stab you in your leg."
I don't see a knife.
held with small fingers
slips of bone
sometimes lose their names
as six dead gerbils shade
to four black mice
as two turtles become a snake
and goldfish replicate.
the elephants do their dance
and you know that it's your time
how they're dancing for you
how they've painted their names
how they've polished their pokey things
and you're just sitting back and letting
the bump of their girth
flop you out of your
chair with each move
flop you out
onto the dance floor
and you're thinking
and it's effortless.
Look at me.
Everybody's tired of it today.
Tired of the same old everyday vibrations
chugging through their bodies
down from their throats to
to the ground.
The lechers are too tired to lech today.
Dogs don't even try to lick their buddies.
And now the sidewalk prophets are even putting down their
street signs, even walking off their jobs
put on a fat coat
wind too sharp
Taking us from a to b.
Varying in heft.
Curving shiny sometimes
but still always essentially
Stand in front of thirty.
"Which one is my favorite?"
But how could he
This brain don't tire
shrinking to speck
as boat pulls away
as every day
And the monkey breath!
You gotta pack that up, my friend
all smelling of termites and sticks
and other monkeys.
No one asked you to smell that way.
In fact, the assignation specifically connoted
replicating a contrary stench, to whit:
the non-monkey stench.
So why carmelize your ack ack ack ack ack, my friend, my friend?
Instead, hey --
flatten out your wallet.
Hey narrow your eye-wear.
Gathering glass breath
into slushed dixie cups
chimney'd through milk wood
through worm weed
Marked pies with iron-crossed crust.
Sliding up against
red-veined wood fences.
Slipping into character such that
fading blue words.
Graffiti glass breath, my sweetie.
Popular chain-gang motif.
He looked like he was drawn not with a pen or a paintbrush but with the dull wet end of a used toothpick.
A dent. An imprint. A soft image.
Leaving behind a flaw designed primarily to gather dust.
Soon will come a time
when we'll move out to that house
by the brook.
And the weather will be fine.
And the broadband.
Pouring all these
good things inside me.
Tea. Poetry. Pear tart. Lemonade.
Tea. Poetry. Lemonade. Lemonade.
Hoping some of it sticks.
Perhaps it's just a dream
but I do like the idea
of some days having
that boot on my desk.
Some days not.
I pardon myself for burping.
I don't ask for your pardon.
I burp. I repent.
He can see
in her eyes
that she can see
in his eyes
As I walk out into the street somebody's shouting at me shouting in my face with his teeth near my face.
He asks me if I'm scared of him I say no he says I should be. He shouts I should be. I say I'm harmless.
He shouts some more and then someone else shouts over at him -- someone somewhere -- I don't know -- across the street not at me this time more like for me.
And it sort of pulls me out pulls me into my car. And I don't lock the door cuz I don't lock the door and now I'm speeding away curving away sliding out into the shouty night and I'm twisting back over my tight right shoulder thinking:
if I have to if I have to if I really really have to
I can always run him over.
As I walk out onto the street
just the very second I leave the coffe shop
somebody's shouting at me
shouting in my face
with his teeth
near my face.
He asks me if I'm scared of him
and I say no and he says I should be.
He shouts I should be. I say I'm harmless.
He shouts at me some more
and then from across the street
someone else shouts over at him
not at me this time
more like for me
and I'm grateful.
It sort of pulls me out pulls me into my car
and I don't lock the door cuz I don't lock the door
and now I'm speeding out into the shouty night
thinking if I have to, if I really have to
I guess I can run him over.
Great-great-grandparents Googling me
just checking in
cork thick-thumbed after
And every time they'd Google me
a bell would go off.
Some bright blue bell,
that would hover right behind my head.
It'd be like "g," and then they'd go to the bathroom.
The After Life bathroom.
And then "o" and they'd go to the bathroom again.
So for the whole thing
there'd be three weeks maybe even four weeks
in between bright blue bells.
And that's how it all went down from start to finish.
Only with some work stuff thrown in that I left out here
and a biplane explosion with my uncle on the plane.
He walked away unscathed, heroic smile
and the flames still ripping at the tarmac.
He gave me a heroic hug
but that's not the crazy thing.
That's not even close to being the crazy thing.
The crazy thing is: I don't even have an uncle.
Is it too much
to want to be
the John Wayne
We were so lucky to be kids right there in the sticky sweet center of the golden age of t-shirts
Mall-store walls plastered to the sky with receding rows of iron-ons -- too many to pick just five
And when one of my older brothers wore that shirt that said: "I'm so happy I could just shit."
Well I was that happy too.
We were so lucky
to be kids
in the sticky sweet center of
the golden age
Mall-store walls plastered to the sky
with receding rows of iron-ons --
too many to pick just five.
And when one of my older brothers
wore that shirt that said:
"I'm so happy I could just shit,"
Well I was that happy too.
Don't think of it
eating your sandwich.
Think of it as
hiding inside me
for a day or two.
Rising to greet you.
Pulling out a chair.
Licking clean your plate.
Sanity bread crumbs sticking to the side of
your mouth your chin your shirt until
wiped away soft backhand skin.
Sanity letting you sit down first.
Beached and bleached into blue-white seashell fragments.
Crushed and sprinkled over a wide path.
Then sanity taking a nap.
There's a bench by the Santa Cruz merry-go-round
where you can sit and watch the brass-ring jockies
as they spin past at high speeds
watch their faces shift from
crazed release last miss to
tight mad joy next shot
hook swinging into view
watch hands pull back
fingers snap from
loose, curved noodles to
My 3-year-old and me back to back at a Route 5 pee shack
and there's this mighty roar pours out his two-foot frame.
The rush of my doom. As I'm flushed out the room.
Cyril, who recently retired from service
in the British government.
Only fifty some-odd years old
and now traveling the world
in the wake of a messy divorce.
And what did you learn, Cyril,
in your fifty some-odd years?
"It isn't worth it."
But he seemed happy enough.
Family smiles down
long tables at
there's an extra calmness
and even family
blank stares and
family glares still
jaws with an
inch or so between them and
all the muscles
Senator Strom Thurmond belongs to my gym.
I see him there three, four times a week.
On the treadmill.
Sculpting his biceps.
His rock hard abs.
He doesn't listen to music while he works out.
He just stares straight ahead
with his iron skull and his
wide, bony eye sockets.
I try to tell him it's overkill.
At your advanced age
one time a week
would be more than enough."
He snarls at me. "Son," he says.
"You don't know beans."
He tries so hard
to look bright around the eyes
bright Kennedy eyes
kind crinkles soft
wisdom star fire big pupils with
flecks of genius
but it always
Ow dammit ow.
That's the goal. To open it
one more crack.
Bathe in the woosh.
Fire it back.
Not to be Superman.
But to stick our heads
into the place
where the idea of Superman came from
and then wriggle out
I wear your hatred
like a badge
like one of those
toy sheriff badges
made out of spray-painted
Look at me: I'm a cowboy!
Little bird people
with their hollow bones
trying out afterhours fancy soap.
it's not all about you
applying topical sweetness.
it's all about
His eyes stopped on her
like a butterfly
landing on your arm.
Lying in bed
scooping a little more sleep
into my bowl, like soup
until the soup goes cold
and starts to overflow
onto the table.
There's the metal
of the ladel and it clinks
as a thin carrot wedge
following the current
toward the table edge.
Twee birds, rumbling boat horns,
rough timber movement
rolled up for the night
into a living room carpet spiral
with socks and cat toys,
spoons, string, lost chopsticks.
Leaned sideways through the timeline,
bending toward a corner wall.
And then shook out at new light.
Dropping like 6 am jacks
onto the hardwood floor.
Jane won't eat pears. No matter the context.
Stranded on Pear Planet.
Attacked by toothy pears.
Armed with only a pear fork.
Oh, she'll kill 'em. Oh sure.
She can be savage.
But she won't eat the flesh or drink the juice.
And she doesn't want to talk about it.
They went driving in the rain.
They watched it fall down
on jelly-eyed twenty-eight-years-olds in gold paisley coats,
side-burned thirty-seven-year-olds in suspect camping gear,
fit fifty-year-olds wearing thick, graying furs plucked from cardboard boxes.
Early on, almost at the very first beat,
the rhythm section took their jackets off.
Red shirt, tan shirt. Suspenders. Brown towels in easy reach.
About an hour later, the piano player followed suit,
folded his coat up neatly, leaned over,
laid it to rest during the drum solo.
And now here they are -- the whole gang.
They're lighting flat matches in dry marble corners.
Thigh-high boots over too-bare skin.
Balds heads, stylized facial hair.
Then a busload of high school band kids
hauled up from San Diego
pours out all over the sidewalk.
Clarinet players. Trumpets players. Sax.
And the aged. And the infirm.
All rolled in to hear
some jazz sincere
on a wide stage.
They're building a flock of geese
out by the base.
For six months now
they've been working on it,
piece by piece
sun, wind, rain.
First came the bones.
Then the organs, the muscles.
Fat and flesh.
Last week they put on
a soft undercoat of feathers.
And I was like:
"wow, these really are starting to look
I remember frogs -- feeding them, caring for them pressing that spot on the base of their spines...
Small frogs, caught by the creek cupped for a moment, captive, fluttering released open-hand.
Huge store-bought bullfrogs kept in shaded back-of-garage aquariums.
I don't remember naming them. But I do remember holding them close looking down
their slimy skin soaking up against my shirt
and it wasn't gross at all.
Put it in a box and bury it
by the side of the house
with a few friends, a eulogy.
Soft voices and a
Gone, like our grandmothers
and grandfathers. And not
No matter how young we are inside.
How frolicking. How ready
to go to the circus.
But it's gone. Long gone.
And we never took
a still moment
Saying the word "doodle" out loud --
makes me feel
three months more young, light, and lean
three months less gassy and gray.
Five minutes after the lights go down
I hear a familiar rustling two seats over.
Someone's making things happen.
I'm a little stressed but not surprised
when a hand in the darkness offers
two white pills.
"No thanks," I say, false cool, thinking:
"I am old dude."
The hand withdraws.
A minute later, I ask:
"What was that? 'E'? Ecstasy?"
And I nod a short,
as if that was my second guess.
"Live for today," he said "We're all going to die."
"Especially you," she replied.
It was a short conversation.
Cell phone calls in
But there's no mistress.
No jealous second life.
There's a campfire
in Carol's coffee cup.
She liked to
when she opened
you never know.
Soul is not space,
You can fit all the world's souls
in the crack
of your ass.
just because you can
doesn't mean you should.
Today my son
is the Black Fox
in a one-kid revival
of the '50s classic, The Court Jester
as he stands around the kitchen shouting:
"Hawkins, get out of my clothes."
"Hawkins, get out of my clothes!"
He wants to play with Danny Kaye
but Danny Kaye is long gone.
That Victorian isn't old. That car
isn't old. My Sinatra records aren't
old. Not that old. Not really.
Even that old tree isn't old.
That old woman
who just walked past
like she just stepped out
with a flock of goats trailing behind
and a thin little stick
and a plan
to get them all
to water by nightfall.
That old woman is old.
I'm wearing big pants today
big comfy pants
size none of your damn business pants
so big, so comfy
makes me want to have a piece of cake
a piece of chocolate cheese cake
stretch these big pants out.
he looks at me
like I'm sleeping
with his wife.
And I'm sure.
I'm almost sure.
That I'm not.
Checking in to find them
lying side by side
in the dark
on what had been
the best part of the day.
There's a man there by the window.
And he's speaking with such precision you can see the letters spit forth into air shiny newborne serifs spinning.
And his words are just hanging out there piling up there in a loose stack by the window free dialog for the taking.
...by guest poet Shonny Vortex.
In my blue house
Everyone is I, I
Talking about themselves
In my blue house
Hearts bang on your head
With drum sticks
And stars twinkle
In the daytime
And fish swim into your mouth
So you can eat them
And flowers grow out
Of your head
And people have square heads
And people love squares
And a blue moon
Floats at nighttime
and a yellow moon
Floats at daytime
With the stars
A purple oval-shaped moon
Flies at daytime and nighttime.
And there's a butterfly-shaped moon too.
May 18, 2003
a moment to mourn.
And a long line of enthusiastic neatly dressed retirees.
They're pressing toward the front. And now they're strip-mining the table saying:
tell me sell me
how to stop time.
At every gas stop along the way, he pulls out trash with his wallet.
A scrunched up sheet of off-white paper
and a smaller one – a post-it.
Out, up for air and then he
bends over to close a hand on them
and pull them back up
off the shadow stained concrete where they fell.
He straightens himself out a bit.
He slaps his pants.
And then he pushes them back down.
Back down deep.
Talking with her about her brother's death years back now. And it's the first time we talked. She just had a kid first kid last month my son's almost four good guy big boy.
Their house looks the same even the table even the carpet and I tell her that. The house even smells the same. But you can't say the house smells the same. Or ask if the sofa's still covered in plastic.
I think of him often. I tell her that instead. I tell her he meant a lot to me, which is true. She says thanks. And then I use the word "maudlin." I say: "Sorry to be maudlin." But it's the wrong word. And that's what sticks with me later. It's not maudlin.
Her brother's dead.
Tonight in his sleep, Sam said:
"He wants a chocolate Gogurt
and to fight bad guys."
He said it a couple of times.
Always like that -- in the third-person.
And then he fell back asleep.
And I say:
Enemies of evil!
International chocolate conspiracy!
You own part of my child's brain.
He wasn't very smart,
or very rich,
or very successful.
But he was six-foot-three.
And at parties, he would
slide up silent
behind his smarter, richer,
Head to head.
Back to back.
And hang out for a while.
He said we're longing for a simpler time something easy refreshing familiar a malt shop.
He said the polyester backlash is still in progress.
Last night I saw the best argument for 6 billion of us.
A musician so talented.
You don't get one so talented
if there are 600 of us. Or 60 million.
You need really big numbers.
So maybe that''s why.
Or at least that's why it's OK sometimes.
For example: Last night.
The hallways smell like paper and scissors and elmer's glue and parents roaming around inspecting the tile
quietly comparing notes amid sneaker skid boom.
This is America. We come here from different countries, from different cultures.
We speak different languages. But there are two words we all understand.
And those words are: "multipurpose room."
Waiting outside the theater --dink. his mother's umbrella opened accidentally into the backside of his buzz-cut head. --dink. --dink.
He blinked. He tightened.
summer midnight in the city
and the bridesmaid just walked past without her shoes on.
It's a young man's game.
gum in an
Because if you do
your gum will taste
like an airplane bathroom.
they're chatting in front of the register lit softly by streetlight
and if you only saw the look on his face
her back to you
her hands on her hips
straight black hair sliding over
you'd never guess
she was an eighty-year-old widow.
espresso, green tea.
I mean, seriously.
How much more married
can you be?
Trying to cover the three of us with one umbrella.
My naked hand out for a cab full-body soaked as that car roared by
and I was wet and cold and pissed.
Then giving up counting our change to catch the crosstown bus
climbing onboard paying our fare and me
surprised to find it half-empty in the rain.
I really let him jump on me
let him throw himself into me
like some red-headed salmon
and me the current
his feet slapping the waves.
He was laughing, slap-laughing
and flying, slap-flying.
And then I was the sand
and he was the ocean
and he stretched me apart and he wore me down
and he sent me
He talks in a low hum
with no air between the words.
He fills all the space.
He fills all the space.
He's like crickets.
He sat down sobbing
into his hands.
and he wanted them
to give him a dollar for it.
Retarded. "I hate math."
And I just wanted to have lunch.
Then he stood, bearded
"I hate math!" again
through his beard
over one thick shoulder.
And he thundered off.
She slept in the bed
while he slept on the couch
so he could hear their sick daughter
and her three-day-old cough.
And in the morning
while she moved around the kitchen
and the kids watched too-loud TV
and coughed a little more,
he crept back into the bed,
curled up in the body warmth
she'd left behind
and they slept together
only by time.
Just because you turn
to check her out
as she walks past
that she don't notice.
"Snow!" he shouted
tossing clouds of
thin, white sand at the beach
out of sand
with their heads
and their arms are wet planks
and their toes knotted kelp
and they never melt
until the sun explodes.
I must be someone very different to him than I am to me.
Maybe I'm some fast-talking jack-ass some know-it all jerkweed some high-maintenance poindexter.
If he saw me in a bar he would hate me in that bar.
I hope god doesn't see me through his eyes.
You could find us by the smell of cheap wine in open-air plastic cups.
See, we'd walked into this sunny summer party unguarded booze them all in college us two in high school. Strolling the lawn with our big red cups held chest-high both hands.
We were alert and amazed. Thick-haired and thin-faced.
Bobbing along like tipsy rowboats.
Sipping small sips.
Invisible. But not odorless.
My son wants bacon made out of coffee for me and bacon made out of orange juice for him.
Leave those pigs alone!
But keep the bacon coming.
A thing a day a written thing a thought a memory a day it's not too much to ask too much to do.
In Florida, the land of the dead for me. All those memories of bouncing on airboats through swamps, and wandering around exotic bird parks, and listening to King Crimson on the wide lawn under the wide sky by the reflecting lagoon.
And sometimes driving, sometimes walking over to my great aunts, and uncles, apartments for bowl snacks and conversation.
There was that one time -- Meyer borrowed our walkman. Suddenly volume spun all the way up, all the way up he could hear again. Oh my god such a smile.
All gone now, that gang. There were two Irvings.
And all alligators gone. All tennis courts gone. All rec centers gone with miles of immaculate green felt pool tables.
Key West too.
And Florida is for me. The land of the dead for me.
I want to build a house with Richard Brautigan up on the third floor.
Looking out a large window at open land hands on the windowsill.
Wearing that old hat that old vest those old glasses.
He looks good.
Do you know how many stars up there -- how many of those nighttime naked-eye stars-that-you-can-see are part of our local little galaxy?
Not off in the broader universe representing some distant cluster.
Just local twinkle. Milky Way shine.
Do you know? Do you? Do you?
How about all of them?
My son cried out in the middle of the night
and I went to him and I picked him up
and I cradled him and we rocked for a bit
in the sliding chair
with a blanket over both of us.
And then either he peed on me or I peed on him.
I'm not quite sure.
But I think he peed on me.
And I was three-years old again
I could clean myself
and I was laughing.
So I dealt with the pee
that he'd piddled on me
while my wife cleaned up
our boy and the chair.
Then we called it a night
and he slept straight on through
all dry, all clean.
Sudden roar. Minature Thor.
Why'd that bee sting my eye for?
(with a sideways nod to Robert Creeley)
Sitting and snacking at the local tea shop surprised to be sucking up whole tapioca in a wide straw.
Fat and flavorless and full of --
Never smooshed though smooshed should be in my not-so-smooth smoothie.
I almost never do this. Almost. Never. So clickety close to never.
Not never actually, Not actually "never."
But like -- this close.
Cat-pinned warm butterfly me beneath the blanket with my warm beneath the blanket in my crook she's a tack pinned me down till I flutter flutter stop.
she stays warm I can't move she don't care.
and I stop.