headlights

black patches curving slick
the moon
extraordinary in its bloom
lights last flecks of
webbed snow

two by two geese
flee into darkness
tracks melting under toe

I’ll meet you here, tomorrow
Jack says

as Seven Sister skate the sky
moon raining crystals.

Read more "headlights"

September 1997

I asked sleep for a few favors.
So a lightbulb became
the sun’s sojourn;
a notebook, the expectant grass;
a crayon, the watering pot;
a scrawl, the gathering dusk;
a train horn, the private night.

Read more "September 1997"

Affection: A Bilingualcultural Poem

In Chinese, 朋友,恋人,& 爱人 are all
12-stroked characters, just as their counter-
Parts friend, couple & spouse are 6-lettered
Words in the imperial vocabulary of English

Though they are all underlined with human

Love and loyalty, the former entails twice
As much input or effort of the heart
As the latter to maintain a disparately
Similar humane relationship as a speech

Read more "Affection: A Bilingualcultural Poem"

A Thousand Dolphins

Because (in part) a disgraced president invented the EPA
rockfish and croakers have returned to the Chesapeake Bay,
and new life frolics at the mouth of Baltimore’s river.
Beneath the silent bows of sailboats on the Patapsco
rarely seen dolphins ride waves like metallic rainbows,
the silvery curves of their bodies stitching clear skies
to the blueness of gently roiling waters.
Who could imagine such a fantastical outcome?

Read more "A Thousand Dolphins"

London Fog

Searching your trench coat,

I looked for truths, found instead
a 1969 penny and a Green Room matchbook—

I resisted the flame.

Pockets, lined with mothed holes
and a stained handkerchief,

not my mother’s shade of red.

What can we ever know, Dad?
This urge to rummage our dead.

Read more "London Fog"

The Mock Orange at Night in Mid-July

Out of flower now,
yet I smell it and so
must the dogs who
know where the cardinal
was at noon and the red squirrel.
Who knows which
trace is truest –

this one as if someone took
a torch to pearled sugar,
crust on custard,
almost too sweet.
We, or at least I, rely
certain in seeing.
The moon is a firefly
in the pine, a silver flash
above the greenish
flare of beetles.

Read more "The Mock Orange at Night in Mid-July"

Arte Povera

Luciano Fabro assembles green flies
and beetles iridescent as death
on armatures of brass.
He calls them sculptures
though they often resemble
shields and helmets
and other objects
useful to primitive pacific tribes
or knights escaped
from medieval armories
and museums of unnatural history.
His scarabs glow with rarified light
and abide in memory:
hidden wings and hardened heads,
smooth coats of black shellac
and pins sequestered from
my inadvertent touch.
At night, they recall themselves to me
unbidden, without conscious desire.

Read more "Arte Povera"

What the Snow Covers

is the witnessing grass
pressed down by boot
in joy or fear and
cut by dangerous blades
and neighbor’s gazes.

What the snow uncovers
is the secret parade,
the pawed passage
of shivering midnight
moonlight scavengers.

What the snow covers
is its own white with
further white, soft light
made heavy after its
nomadic fall, the flakes
ache to settle, nestle, wait.

Read more "What the Snow Covers"

Shark In Shallow Waters

How foreign-delicacy we must look
So glittering-feast for silver handcuffs like fish hooks
On the fishing lines of Met police
Our fleshy white meat
Scattered like bait in the woods

We all clenched-jaw, shark-teeth keys now
Double rows of razor-sharp between knuckles

Dragged up on the dock and weighed
Price gouged for market
Fish-eye frozen on a casket of ice
2.99/lb

What do we taste like?

Read more "Shark In Shallow Waters"

Touched by Fire

I drank from the fur cup. It tasted like you – orange blossom honey infused with fire. If our forebears had remained in the Pale of Settlement, herding cows, exhorting God, they would have been destroyed with the rest, and we would never have happened. History is riddled with obscure coincidences. The poète maudit Stéphane Mallarme died from the same disease I have. There is no cure, no absolution, no escape. I am not only a prisoner, but also the prison. Please spare me visits from the sort of people who refer to poetry as “verse.” I just want to stand chest-deep in your flames.

Read more "Touched by Fire"

Daffodils Laugh Out Loud

In mourning spaces,
answers dangle questions.
Yet daffodils laugh in fertile fields.
Ours is a slow unfurling.

Answers dangle questions
despite a lustrous sky,
and slowly, our unfurling,
the dim voices sway.

A lustrous sky
will not mention death, for now.
Voices sway against the dim—
wonder, where are you hiding?

Death, no mention, now—
fertile fields laugh with daffodils.
There is no hiding
among the mourning spaces.

Read more "Daffodils Laugh Out Loud"

How Deceptive The Moon

Night air carries superstition, poison’s veil,
cry of hunting owl, unbound mastiff.
Deceit manages the moon.
Dire blaze of comets fall
whips at cries of disembodied voices,
chaos of sordid death by border lies.
My reflection is running water,
an impulse through exile’s grasping past
profound as sin and consecration.
Floating in inertia, admiring
ennui through its idling passage,
I cup my hands to my mouth, rising
in terror, singing for redemption.

Read more "How Deceptive The Moon"

Pandemic-Blues

wuhan-corona
china-covid
travel-bans
quarantines-closures
social-distance
flatten-curve
wear-masks
ventilators-pump
hospitals-capacity
economy-slows
essential-workers
people-struggle

Read more "Pandemic-Blues"

A Frozen Europe

Urban II, post coitus, made enquiries
into the etymology of escutcheon.
He barked instructions towards the Pleiades,
as was his most holy remit,
his casus belli, if you will.

God’s own genetic mandate made flesh.
In gowns of velvety purpurates,
semi-tumesence tenting his muslin cassock.
His slippers velour. Brocade of satin.
The usual finery designating position.
A high seat assigned at privilege’s table.

Read more "A Frozen Europe"

Hockey Smell Poem

Clubs you like a rank bludgeon,
it does. It’s in the hallways, waiting
at the elevator doors. Smell
like an elbow bent six years
and peeled open. Shelled
spongy scruff, a man-shed oyster
rot. Yet
that stink, like the sea’s,
is rich with promise. It’s not all
charnel. On every tide an elegance
of power in skaters
fast as gulls and as fierce.

Read more "Hockey Smell Poem"

At my parents’ house on the one-month anniversary of my sister’s death, which is also the three-year anniversary of September 11th

it snows. Too early for snow but seasons change.
On the warm ground snow falls all day,
fat white splashes not quite like ashes, but
with a purpose, a quiet, eerie mismatch of
What for, why, how can this be.
There’s a hum. I can’t hear right.
This silence is deafening.
I hate snow.

A chainsaw sits near the door of my childhood home.
The door’s knob wore down and fell off.
The door forgot its name, is listening for it in the wind.
A pair of rubber work boots stand nearby.
They rub together, rattled by a cold breeze, a
synthetic scratch, scratch, daring me to enter.

Read more "At my parents’ house on the one-month anniversary of my sister’s death, which is also the three-year anniversary of September 11th"

The Dogwood in Early June

I’ve waited seven days for this dogwood 
to unfurl its white cups, to drink the light
it gathers. Other flowers have passed
their season, our path matted
with pink rhodie remnants,
but the dogwood shows off 
in open space between cedar
and fir. 

Sun fills each cup as I witness
from shaded days steeped in protests
heated to burning, to melting, 
to truth yelling and tears. 

Read more "The Dogwood in Early June"

Homework

In science class we learned
the hottest point of steam
is at the tip of the teapot spout—
where streams of swelling heat
rupture the cooler air.

After school, I do my homework
upstairs in my room.
My kid sister murmurs
somewhere,
playing family on her own.

When the clock clicks four
the stacks of the factory moan,
and the sky
gets smudged with smoke.

Read more "Homework"

Being Young, 21

Being young, 21, is everything
For wisdom does not come with age
Only tired bones and fade
And maturity means accustomed to
The crumbling of a once great temple, you
Invisible now, featureless, faceless
That’s the rub of the wrinkly skinned
Who live in seaside towns, with mothballs twinned
And all this whilst the beautiful people
Run like gazelles, screw like rabbits, have such delicious fun
God, it’s just not fair, though once I was there
In the class of being young, 21

Read more "Being Young, 21"

To Settle the Night

Sky streaks lavender and orange to lowering blue.
Night chill rises, flicking at pants legs, leaf piles,
dampens sidewalk to footstep skate.
Beyond the greasy click of a security gate,
last birds circle to settle on a sleeping roost,
scavengers slink the hedge lines,
eroded wastes of tree root, fence rot.
Phone-nervous, the late-working husband,
lover late with wine and Chinese
hustles towards an unsettled greeting.

Read more "To Settle the Night"

Half Capacity

lacking logic
who is essential
who isn’t
claiming following science
churches closed
strip clubs open
gyms closed
liquor stores open
corporate box stores open
mom-and-pops closed
restaurants and critical thinking
both at half capacity

Read more "Half Capacity"

Portrait of Progress Lake by the First Fish from Bragi’s Calf Muscle

The eagle’s knees, they speak to me in legalese
Today. The sun is crying; its cedilla couldn’t be
A mere façade! A rotting moon and decomposing

Stars invented yesterday, its bats and troubles.
Dolly Varden swam through history’s jittery
Arteries to get here. Swans without ressentiment

Sing Dolly Parton songs. The sky is like a queen
Without a nose to every lesser long-nosed bat.
The S&P 500 tries to steal this mental real estate,

Pretending it’s a moral act. I eat their R&D, and
Do it trenchantly, astonishing my food with
Time’s mayoral tact. Now every day’s a crisis,

Sexually attracted to cat urine. Emily Post says
Ours is not a time for overrating first impressions.
I, too, founded the New York Post on images

Read more "Portrait of Progress Lake by the First Fish from Bragi’s Calf Muscle"

Famished

On the menu is barbed wire
sautéed in heartless tyrannies.
The bloodied linens of the Visigoth.
Tongues of the vanquished, broiled,
with a side order of children sobbing.
And salads of inexpressible horrors.

Today’s menu includes bandage soup,
served drawn and quartered.
Knife pie, with a shotgun topping.
Visceral stew and smashed-mouth bread.
And the special, baked heads and hands,
which are, we think, to die for.

Read more "Famished"

First Memory

The picnic table. My sister’s
vaporous hair. Neighbors
in their unknown clothes.

I’m wild in blue shorts,
striped top. My mom’s
in my sister’s body.

The tenants of the lawn
rumble their tongues
like little engines and tickle

my untouched ankles.
I run the path of planets
around the wild grass

between the grass
between our houses. My
arms make airplanes.

Read more "First Memory"

Ode to John Ashbery

One day you finally knew
what you’d been put there to do,
and did it
while the loud voices rang louder
and tugged at your sleeve,
each cry a death cry, a flashing red sign.
But you knew.
You knew what you had to do,
though the thread unwound round you
leaving you nakeder and nakeder,
its melancholy terrible.
Then the queerest thing happened.
Being almost already too late, and too dark,
the moon threw down
a bird, a
shining wild raven and in its mouth,
a flower of life.
The stars burned in its brilliance,
at first saw themselves shyly
then danced and shone round to
find themselves extraordinary.

Read more "Ode to John Ashbery"

A Drink to End the World

The map of the world has changed
since I photographed you;
faded in its frame,
ink lighter with the seasons.
No Siam, no Burma,
one Vietnam.

Across the room
your cheekbones are sharper,
hair shorter, bright blonde as
your lips and nails are red.
Aroma from a whiskey tumbler reveals
polite wine lost to single malt.
Surgical, your laugh slices the room,
precise as heels across an Aztec tile floor.
You step out where I stand
to smoke, to stare at the waxing moon.

Read more "A Drink to End the World"

Word Arrives from Kennedy Creek Falls that Old Olympic Highway is to Die For

Fortuna believes there’s something inherently wrong with this place
Only because she came here for tuna. It just goes to show you
History always lets newness and strangeness pollute the land;

A sort of win for the pinnacle of peace. The shortest
Hills have a purple smell in the evening, when, in Summit
Lake’s somniloquy, purple smells of shortbread. Unspoken,

The truth, with the eyes of Oyster Bay on it, is acting out.
Like every man does when alone on some nights, the creek is tumbling
Over an ancient basalt flow. “There’s tumbling,” the mature

Timber says, “and there’s tumbling.” The oak trees stand by these muddy
Trails and their failed predictions like Anakites. Science says all
The old highways are unique, but quite similar to highways

Read more "Word Arrives from Kennedy Creek Falls that Old Olympic Highway is to Die For"

The Robot Petting Zoo

Look for it close to the Amazon warehouse district,
not race tracks or the railroad station.

Don’t expect auto-vacuums or auto-lawnmowers,
it’s a fur-ever home for snuggle pups that don’t grow

into rambunctious black labs and for calico cuddle cats
that purr at any touch and home in on shoulders

in bed. Admission fees are need-based; declare
your loneliness on a scale of one to ten. Best

to come alone for the cheapest price, and best
deals are on Friday just after work, advertised

as Thank God I Feel Friday when you have one hour
for free. Leave your striped tie at home; the goat

teases by trying to chew on ties but gladly accepts
carrots. Shoelaces are sometimes a problem.

Read more "The Robot Petting Zoo"

One Night on the Riverbed

Nighttime medicine, 
Benzene blue his eyes and soul— 
How slowly we fall. 

Silent Lorelei,
An embrace of glassy green
On my skin again. 

Dark blue, pinhole stars,
My body the midnight sky
Bending over his.

Hand on hand. Dreams slip
Into the underbelly
Of the universe. 

Read more "One Night on the Riverbed"

I love my dog more than my dad

I love my dog more than my dad
By a distance, not a tad
There I’ve said it, the cardinal sin
Preference for a canine to my next of kin
His big floppy ears, doughy eyes, cold wet nose
Means more to me than my father’s bones
That lay in a grave, I hope at peace
My accidental parent, who came from the East
And whilst my dog showers me with kisses
I remember the drink, the rows, the Christmases
He was never there, never told us he cared
But still I loved this boy soldier, unrecovered man
Though not as much as I love my dog
Sorry dad, I hope you understand

Read more "I love my dog more than my dad"

Broadcast

Seventy languages heard
in the bazaar of Dioscurias,
today’s tower of Babel
streaming terrible news.
Spleens vented and faux miracle cures,
the process a disembodied entity.
A dunce in his dark corner,
pulling out a plum.
Tales of the demi-demon’s hellfire.
The annals of blah.
When fear and ignorance wed
the fools’ opinion bred.

Read more "Broadcast"

What Crows Say About Black

What else is black?

A dragonfly frequenting backyards,
hunting metallically.
Flat wings, smear soot thin.

A rural road’s moonless night
where tree branches take
the passer-by pulse—they rustle

the scrape history lammed
onto bark thinly thinly
as dragonfly wings and first time

hearing white tail bucks stamp
and hiss in the pitch dark I tumble
into the ditch prostrate like a penitent.

Read more "What Crows Say About Black"

The Beard On My Face

She used to touch the beard on my face,
Whether nascent or full,
And stroke it with two fingers.
She would indulge in the bristles
As they bit tenderly into her chin
When we kissed and kissed
The way we used to
Kiss and kiss.
She loved when it was mostly brown and a little blonde and ginger
And loved it more when the white began to overtake the brown and blonde
And touch of ginger.
If I shaved because it’s not our world but theirs
And I must get along sometimes
She would be sad but understanding of that.

Read more "The Beard On My Face"

Unmasked

Repealing the
mask from my lips is
not an act of protest.
no liberation has
been performed;
rather and excusatory
removal from a
collective
responsibility
we shun
in the name
of individuality

Read more "Unmasked"

Immemorial

That greedy wheedler the aspen 
shakes its golden leaves. In earth,
its shoots snatch another foot.

And a young woman suddenly died, 
quietly, from a quiet well-loved life.
No cause is known. Her eyes 
that flicked like lizards closed.

Read more "Immemorial"

We Install a Sump Pump on (What Used To Be) a Holiday (Take 4)

Horsetail is a type of weed; it never tires
Of itself. Make your big hands useful, and un-
Screw this greedy pipe. Second of all,
Habit and opinion failed to teach you;
Holly’s not a weed. Go toss it in the waste
Bin with your pride. They love mechanics,

Angels do. On PBS, they say the past is always
On the move. Well, you’re my engineer;
The past is time’s hypotenuse, right, dear?

Read more "We Install a Sump Pump on (What Used To Be) a Holiday (Take 4)"

Wildling

Comfortable in the cold,
mist tendrils rising
across morning garden,
dew-dampened boots
dry in the rising wind.
Cracking this year’s journal,
I release pleasure to the river.
Behind a dome of December clouds,
the sun struggles.

Read more "Wildling"

Horizon Views

Ocean to horizon…
land to horizon…
a woman stands
between.

She stares at the distance
and dreams of where
driftwood was born
as its temporary home
snags her shore.

Read more "Horizon Views"

I Love Trees

Standing tall, resolute in thunderstorms,
blizzards or sunshine, bending in breezes, 

home to squirrels, hummingbirds and
owls. Silent, wonderfully silent in quiet 

majesty, bothering nothing, existing, living 
in due course their destiny without rancor, 

war or bitterness. Who lives here with more 
grace and dignity than trees? Who is it?

Read more "I Love Trees"

So You Know Who You Are

Never a moment of still air. Memories
a rib-crack and a hard hard way to breathe.

In the living room a dream like an infection
hid beneath the couch covers. I kept my eyes closed

tight. What happens when a past looms against endless sky
spilling cyclones and debris. Whimpers, strings

of saliva, the space between his teeth, her doggy
long tongue. I kept my eyes closed. Displaced wind,

outside squeezing through the crack beneath
a door. What happens when history gasps.

Read more "So You Know Who You Are"

the still water that runs deep

somewhere on the coastline of my memory, two girls and a slick canoe
glide across a blue puddle, their opposite oars dipping in tandem.

one girl stands and stumbles like a wave overcome,
while the other sits and stares at their watery window.

beneath the girls, liquid glass and undersea sidewalk.
beyond them, a fish’s bones settled at the brink

of a sandbar’s black out. the girls are only canoeing because
the wave-like one is scared of fish, and feels their lips against her feet

Read more "the still water that runs deep"

April

the clouds hinted of old bedsheets
left on too long
and then the fog fell clammy
in a downing with the sun
and we were so cold
the wet seemed like wind
and the turns in the road
like twists in a tortured gut
until the steam rose with bravado
from the lonely sugar shack.

Read more "April"

Convalescent

My body the underside
Of a river at night, dark blue water
Strewn with a pinch of stars.
All is quiet now that I’ve lost
The will to fight. All I can conjure up
Is a lonesome silent fish, a gentle splash
Of gold on the face of the moon.
Then all falls backs into the soft,
Watery black. I’m on my back,
And my legs will not move.

All I can do is wait to be reborn.

Read more "Convalescent"

Rocket Man

I said my goodbyes, turned back to the shore, stopped trying to find you. It took me awhile, took me a few more pink striped skies, a few more mountains, a few more years. But I found my way, wrested my skin from yours, saved myself from going under. I talk to you still, the way we always talked, close and deep without platitudes or pretense. You know I have forgiven you for all the ways you almost took me with you. You didn’t mean to, never meant for me to get swept into your undertow. You tried to stop it but I was desperate for a reason to fade away.

Read more "Rocket Man"

Forest Spirit

Many selves,
a raging fire, a sparkling chasm.
viper slithers to its apogee – the sun –
almost succeeds, almost destroys –
I am justified in brevity, breathing
as I, come face to face,
and so it is – angry souls in each other’s bodies –
while August burns treacherously
in the dry grasses.

Boy leaves tracks. Life trudges.
Brooding, endorsing the searing sun,
Can’t close the seed captured here,
die brother…live sister….
no distress or bitterness or revenge –
merely randomness that
divides itself unmercifully

Read more "Forest Spirit"