Tag Archives: poetry

Practicing

I tried untangling the drawstrings
on the folding window blinds–
someone left them tied in impossible knots

I spent hours sorting the pieces
of the 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle
into piles of guitar fragments

Fender logo, fretboards and lots of
black background nothingness until slowly
an autographed Strat showed itself

all curlicued happy snarls
and whammy bar and sidemen
drunk but still wailing eyeing the blond

at the bar who would make the night in a Tupelo juke
less like a box of rusty car parts
and more like a savage night run across the delta

in a growly Mustang hand on a tan thigh
tongue in ear mistake worth making a thousand ways
all the pieces fitting together all the guitars friends

who forgave my decades absence
while I worked on drawstring knots
making a Tibetan mandala out of sand

again and again and again
on my knees in red robes
practicing breathing like I didn’t know how

Mount Stuart

(after Tu Mu)

high up the stony trail below
the hatchet-faced mountain

the bones of a horse
at sunset

A Distant Echo Before Nightfall

The prone Diogenes asks Alexander the Great
to move out of his sunlight, his testicles sagging
and visible, stained with last night’s glorious wine drunk.

As a bee dances first before it dies for its queen,
so the nuclear sunset looks glorious before it reaches you.

Alexander laughs and moves to one side.
An irradiated lily puts its blossoms away for a time
when the air is safe to perfume again.

Two Perverts of Piso

Catullus was a 6th century BC Roman poet who influenced everyone from Ovid and Virgil to Yeats and even J.K Rowling. For his many raw sexual references, he was the Bukowski of his time. This is my free translation of his poem #47.

——

Porcius and Socrates,
two perverts of Piso,
that scabby slum of the world,

does that horndog Priapus like you better
than my little Veranius and Fabullus?

Do you party like rock stars all day,
while my friends turn tricks on the street corner?

——-

Porci et Socration, duae sinistrae
Pisonis, scabies famesque mundi,
uos Veraniolo meo et Fabullo
uerpus praeposuit Priapus ille?
uos convivia lauta sumptuose
de die facitis mei sodales
quaerunt in trivio vocationes?

Hanford 1944

Hanford 1944 was published by Work Literary Magazine.

Grandchild

You came and the world got better.
You came and irony went away.
You came and icicles sang.
You came and walruses sat up straighter.
You came and church steeples tilted in to listen.
You came and sheets felt softer.
You came and a hundred projects felt less important.
You came and relatives who never speak
talked about little things with their knees close together.
You came and smiles came down off the upper shelf.
You came and the world breathed a little easier.

Wintering Over

(first published by the Rainbow Journal)

the Ridgefield refuge
has old oak trees

the way we
have relatives

gathered
in clans

& spending decades
not speaking

What Became the Bandersnatch?

“Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!

And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.”

—Lewis Carroll

By teas and seas and billowed charts
The beamish boy did sail about.
Exilerious did he lark
And wilder did he lout.

“Tis true, the ‘Wock, I did him slay!
His hide and hat I did procure
And Jubjub bird and Bandersnatch
Did also take the cure!”

A Bag of Words

“We tortured some folks”
–Barack Obama

Like flying birds
We snapped as twigs

Covering our own heads
With a bag of words

(A Bag of Words was first published by the New Verse News)

Long Road Home

The funeral home
where they reduced
my father’s body
to dust is now
a Portland brew pub.

I had
a beer there
on his birthday.

The traffic
outside
would not
slow down.

Later, I walked back
to the car
remembering his wry smile–
Dad was a teetotaler.

The geese
above the river
that day
stitched their sky quilt
In the normal way

and the rain clouds
hung above
the bridges
like the furrowed brows
of ancient sky gods.

The tire slap
on the pavement
on the way home
reminded me
of the ten thousand miles
we traveled in his Volkswagen bus
along roads where everyone’s memories
collect and scatter
like cottonwood seeds.

Driving to Wyoming

Idaho.
Alkali desert.

Greasewood.
Distant crop prices on the radio.

The scrape of highway narrows
to a single country song.

Then finally the mountains
arrive on big red shoulders.

The back side
of the Tetons

says wait
till you see the other side.

Baryshnikov

I saw him dance Swan Lake.
He was utterly thrilling
because he was humble.

Standing with heels together,
as if waiting for Icarus to move out of the way.

It was not enough for him to fly through air–
air was a poor canvas for what he did.

He took your heart in his hands and said, look what God wants from us–
he wants joy. He wants us to feel his joy.

If I were to write a home repair manual for poetry,
I would put those words into Baryshnikov’s mouth
and ask you to believe that you stand in his incomparable satin shoes.

A Note to My Children About Money

Scratch, jack, bones,
skins, buckage, bank.

The nicknames change over time.

Did you know your distant ancestors worked no more
than four hours a day to earn their living?

They did not have a twenty four hour fire hose
of distractions, though.
Living was distraction enough.

If you find yourself addicted to electronic distractions
in the interstitial time between work and sleep, try saving a third of your income.
Your income is the congealed energy you traded your time for.
This practice will help wake you up.

And don’t forget to write.

The Seance

Once there was a seance that left everyone with a shimmering feeling of being inside on a snowy day.

Even the TV sat up and took notice, stopping its own snowing.

One can be in two places at the same time if you don’t mind being both substance and shadow.

Now the winter won’t let go.
The birds still call each other by their winter names.

They resemble maracas that can’t stop clacking when they are left on the table. Music swallowed by frozen water.

It is still beautiful to see a newborn in the womb, feet askew on the glass skin.

An aquarium fish looks out at you
and asks if we are related.

A Catskill Eagle in the Soul

There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces.

–Herman Melville, Moby Dick

A Writer’s Job

“Each word has an interior life. Your job is to caretake the interior life of words and language through your selection and arrangement of them in stories.”

–a Japanese storyteller

Planxty Edward Snowden

Hand assembling a stadium-sized puzzle
of interlocking data boulders:
these malware bot modules
go over there in the zettabyte
server farm racks.

Looking up from the pens
beneath the Coliseum,
lions and cheetahs
with sharpened fangs
and jeweled collars
lick us affectionately.

Look, a new David,
has thrown open
the outer gates!
Caesar’s grin freezes.

Planxty Wallace Stevens

Dense, viscous,
thicker than reason
(or “libry paste”
as my father used to say.)

Try to dive in
and he’s elusive
going all mystic disputation
in the tumult of integrations on you

until the insurance executive
who won a Pulitzer for poetry
decides to leave you an alleyway
to duck into.

Winding through
his staccato streets
narrowed by lime shuttered houses,

past his glass aswarm with things
backlit just enough
to glimpse his
green fan printed with red willow,

leading to the poolroom
where he sits playing cards
waiting for you to show up
and take him precisely at his word.

After the Motorcycle Accident

back aches
in a torn blue line
of furnaces

Transitions

I taught my teenage daughter
to parallel park yesterday.

She paid attention
and learned how to do it
after a few tries.

I thought I heard church bells
but maybe not.

In a month she gets
her license.

Later she drove me up the Columbia gorge
into a sharp, sun drenched afternoon.

And I became a passenger.
Again.