Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Firefly at the Experimental Jazz Concert

Look at a distance and it makes sense.    
Everything said, everything felt,  
all made sense.  

So much need 
to be set apart from the world.  
This is the song
you didn't know you wrote—
locked outside the music,
desperate wild blinking
toward the lights.

This is so unlike you,
laying there dying.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Start Here

We are traveling.
Milkweeds caught in the wire,
a river overtopping the banks
after a long wet winter—

here you are made smaller.
I’m going to tell you what happened
right away. And then
we can talk about it.

There is something
everybody knows.
From too far away, your voice spilling
into the corners, grief-

we are already here.
Leave the shadow, leave the glass,
there is something.
Start here, right away.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Before the Tide

Many silences,
circling back into sand
by the glass
by the window
this is how you land.                      

Plunge the dark where
all the fine beasts
dive towards sky.
Say more than you have to.

Each pebble a witness
promise and music,
here you are made smaller.
Eating our language,
the song gets stronger.

So much common magic,
an ocean is dreaming
of washing
into the graveyard
to find it’s flower.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Surrendering the Horses

A stranger, delicate conversation,
first sapling
sweet yeast,
handmade corn tortillas.
This moment,
a terminal demonstration
12 minutes from
                                           all the fine beasts
                                broken. Soft eyes close
                                in 10 fragile ways.
                                The pony's bridle, cart
                                a cornered, tattered toy.
                                Try to imagine it.
                                The great plunge
                                foundered, finally.
                                Hard to keep
                                the last mares
                                from bolting forever into the fields.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Follow You Home (3)

Another thing,
it could be just a matter of evening.
An afternoon holding night at arm's length
before easing her into the ground.

A walk where dusk is coming quickly,

surrounded by plum trees. Fortune, a stray cat following you home.

Even if you don't believe
wisdom can be just what it sounds like,
a memory with a shadow curling into itself.
Familiar hands at the end of mystery limbs.

Consider the end a becoming dark,
not exactly, but getting there.
Forever falling, never landing. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Letter To Fortune

The alley giddy with needles, chamomile soap,
the old notes in hard pressed script. Four marbled strays remain, everything is ordinary.

I write from under the tree where we met that strange blooming fall,
Do you remember me? In the gingko’s curling shadow, I was the one made small.

Though early, dusk comes quickly, still. I am traveling. The voices all spill into corners. My limbs are a mystery. It is exactly what it sounds like. I have never left.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Story

On this day your time has come to take the story. This is the story of us -- of who we were, of who we are, of who we will become. Every child must learn the story. Every child must grow and tell the story. Take the story and give it to everyone you see. Tell the people they must take the story, take it and give it away. Put your words and poems in the story, so that when it goes you go, too. Tell the people they must put their words and poems in the story, so that when it goes they go, too. Tell the people what I have told you on this day -- your time to take the story. The story of us - of who we were, of who we are, of who we will become. Tell them the story. And the story is:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sadie Dreams of Her Mother Walking Into the Ravine

I agree: it must be the seasons.
You think you are seeing,
But you are not.

Hard to imagine either of us that young,
yet it happened.

Listening to her family in the next room
while laying twisted in fever,
never again to hear a bell
without hearing the bell.

The package left, suddenly in the night,

with some relief, you watched her walk away
and knew not to stop her.

Soft and letting go
            through the moss to the leaves above--
easing into the water, eyes open.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Follow You Home (II)

 Ever recall a memory and there is a thing

underneath it?  Like a shadow,

Tonight, the ginkgos will lose their leaves

all at once.

The neighbor’s yard is drying, curling inside itself.

Streets fill with ghosts, all remembering.

Dusk comes quickly, leaves a shadow

on the porch.

A stunned rose has found herself bloomed,

right here in late October.

I want to be told something.

I want wisdom, even if it only sounds like it.

The tomato plants need to be broken the news:

Winter is an old man waiting,

Fall is a teenager following you home.

He may get to the end,

it will surprise him, too.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

(Poem Longer Than One Line)

The Hermit Crab Bought on a Weekend Whim
Lived on for years. No one expected this.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Take it Easy, Take it Hard

For Bubba

In the winter I wait for summer.
In the thick of summer, it seems like cooler,
more tolerable weather will never circle back around. 
Days and weeks are spiraling past, while simultaneously the bus never seems to round the corner. My friend, you write: Innocents, awaiting the divine, suddenly propelled forward on the edge of an alien tsunami. Fifty years gone in a blink. Knowing that fifty days and fifty years can blink and drag and blink and drag... how can I argue? 
How can I deny it?
Instead I will say this:
Go get Marly, walk down and let him splash in the river and shake his natty fur. Sit in the garden near Phebe's witchy thistle patch. Sit in the grass, lay down in the grass. Rest your head on that smelly precious dog. Light a bonfire, drink wine from a coffee cup on the darkening porch. Dance until the record skips then tell jokes in the kitchen, mosquito slapping. Scratch your beard, take a swim and shake your natty fur. Let your grown son be a child. Take it easy and take it hard. 
Go get Marly and walk down to the river,
I will watch for the bus finally rounding the corner
and find myself aboard.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tiny Magics

Sometimes it is an outrage. When Mila considers the chances and possibilities in this world, the fine lines and gaping canyons between what is good or not, the distances between blessed and cursed, she is outraged enough to spit!

"I have had a hard life, no doubt," she mutters inwardly on her way to catch water from the well. "I've had a life that makes others wonder how I have managed, still, to have an open heart and loving. I am flawed and far from perfect but I BELIEVE!"

Mila believed in goodness and love and light, even after the days of Noe and all the hurtful ways and words. She believed she was blessed and graced with rare and tiny magics.

"A fact," she whispers into the darkness, "a fact is that flowers make me happy. A true and honest joy in this world so full of those anxious to grind any bit of beauty straight to dust. This happiness is a miracle."
"Who needs millions? Let me lay down on a blanket in the grass, let the sun shine, let the dog come in and snuggle me, let me hold a child or a grandmother's velvet hand. Give me coffee!"

Once, while swimming naked in the inlet, a manatee gently licked her foot and swished slowly away --she was wealthy!
At times she thought her heart would burst in gratitude.

Piss on all of you who think the goal is everywhere but love and your own stupefyingly gorgeous souls. You are poor fools destined to die as you live: empty into eternity.

This is as close as Mila comes to prayer. Once said, she can kiss the ground and begin her day.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Things Written Down to Cassendre Xavier's Voice

Listen to the song that inspired this poem.

So, this small storm comes on, a prickly tidal wave :
travels to the skin, lower back, ears, lower
and back.
Can feel even as we hear, or we are not hearing until we first feel.
It’s a chill, a warning, a takeover.
How to say -- feel music so much as hear it
without saying what has been said before?

Redemption, Redemption, Redemption, birth rite.

So, this small storm comes on, a prickly tidal wave :
it sounds like with-with, heart stop, with –
it sounds like shhhhhhhhhhh
It sounds like learning, learning, learning, lifting burning.
Willing, willing                                      willing.


It sounds like looking back, looking forward, looking-

Joy can be mine?

I have learned
I won’t be cruel
I have learned
the path Less Broken, less broken.

What would you do what would you do what would you do what would you do
if I told you:
I am not back
I’m back
I’m not back
I’m back
not ready not ready not ready
never ready
for pain.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Elegy (II) for Gil Kalt

I dreamed again of you last night.
                   In the dimming light, your eyes
                seemed green, and true
I am no longer sure they were blue.
Oh! and your feet were bare
striking more was your hair, a swept
                            up affair much less you than those eyes:
green not blue.
Last night I smelled again your salt and your sea,
        laid my head close to your heart, a mystery
warmly caged. I clutched you like a land bird after a day
stuck in a tree. You smiled at me.

I am a child still grasping 

       but no longer asking
you to stay.

"Less than a month after joining the police department as Philadelphia's only open gay officer, Thomas G. Kalt Jr. took his own life today by shooting himself once in the head near the historic First Bank of the United States at Third and Chestnut Streets."          --Philadelphia Inquirer

Friday, March 13, 2015

Advice for the Dead

I have been waiting
in this dark garden a long time
for you to arrive.

First things first, I hope you lived well. What ever that may mean for you, now that you are dead. If you believe, as my father does, that nothing but rotting happens when you die, perhaps you now sit, satisfied in your lump of disintegration. Is that what you once believed-- your body becomes compost as soon as your last breath escapes, your essence simply dissipating into The Almighty Maybe?
Dead one, did you go first? Is there someone, or more than one, waiting and wondering, hoping that your energy is still here, hovering on the edges of our mere existence? Did you find that there are some things you take along, though your body, that gorgeous organic pod, is now quickly melting into the grass and ground? Did you have some ray of light in a silo of loss? You are not dreaming, you are here with me. I am here with you; we have never left.

Dearest Dead, I hope you had love. All sorts of love and lots of it -- sweet savory, and downright bitter. I hope that some one's smell and smile sent you out into the street at some point, weeping, screeching, sure that you would explode with desire. I hope, too, that on occasion, you sent another screaming outdoors for the same reasons. Did you laugh at the awkward moments? Did you find a way to say the difficult things?  Life.
Jenkins said: "One is only alive for a short while and dead for a very long time."

And Neruda: "Loving is short, forgetting is so long."

Did you appreciate what is worthwhile, and not mire too long in the monkey shit? Anytime of the day or night, there is proof that someone somewhere is struggling.
Feel that bloody, gushing, pounding inside? My heart, I am in awe of you.

Let us walk away from these many darknesses and into the ceaseless shine: you have built a stunning foundation of memories from which to soar off into the great beyond.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Selling the Farm

sestina for my brothers

I dreamed again of our old farm last night.
In sleep the land is forever changing,
Chestnut mares constantly running, running,
their finely chiseled forms slick with cool sweat –
I see their muscles flexing, fluid skin,
I smell the strong musk of manure, sweet grain.

The sky opened up – a starburst of grain;
the silo shot like a rocket last night,
oats showered dried earth and the smooth skin
of the mares, their shapes and colors changing
as I, too, begin to move, my own sweat
dripping, my bare feet slapping dirt, running.

The orchard shook, fruit fell from our running
thick pungent sumac patches bent like grain
while my feet cracked and my eyes stung with sweat,
the pounding of hard hooves rattled the night,
in moving through acres I was changing,
my own muscles flexing beneath my skin.

The mares’ thick switching tails flick at my skin,
I don’t know why I continue this running.
Am I also frightened by the changing
sky and the explosions of glistening grain
shooting forth, bright tiny jets in the night?
Bending graceful necks to drink, the mares, sweat

pours from their bodies becoming streams of sweat,
cascading from smooth coats and slickened skin
draining into the dried earth and dark night.
The mares begin once again their running,
bodies like wet chestnuts, manes like light grain.
I move along the fields, body changing

all the while running to avoid changing;
the slipping away of the farm like sweat
from our bodies, the sting of the grain
as it pelts, welts and sticks to our wet skin.
Then I realize it’s the earth that’s running –
a huge treadmill spinning the farm into night.

We grew up with foals, whose coats changed like our mixed skin –
our futures sliding apart, spreading like the sweet sweat

of the horses that run only through the high grain fields of my dreams at night.

Note on the form:
The sestina is divided into 6 sestets (six line stanzas) and 1 triplet called an envoi which is just a concluding stanza that is half the size of the rest. It is usually unrhymed and works by repeating the end words of each line. The envoi contains, in any order, all of the six end-words. The catch is that one has to be buried in each line and another must be at the end of the line. The pattern for repeating the words is like this: (stanza A) 123456, (stanza B) 615243. This 615243 pattern is how each of the next stanzas are made.

Winner of The Julia Fonville Smithson Prize, this is my first Sestina.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Final Exam

Believe that the throat
is meant to be so bruised.
Ruin the soft blue-
the curve of a vein
let this sharpness become pain,
say: this is nothing.Nothing is this: say

it has no name,
make a game, then;
call it a kiss, missing
the idea completely.
Let your eyes cloud over,
mind crowd over, just forget it.

This is unimportant:
we all live for the surprise
of the lies that keep us up.
Tip your cup to the dog.Test yourself, test yourself.
This wavering is no dream.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Smell, Sight, Sound

Grace. If we’ve learned at all, we’ve learned that popularity is nothing. That time rolls on; we all get gassy, make odd noises and then are betrayed by our bodies and often our minds. Shell is helpless as she watches Tosha’s dark plummet.
"Lord, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me."
It is Shell, again. A prayer murmured at the times she feels most winded. It always seemed to soothe her, but today she only continues to wonder: who did I think I was way back then, when everything had meaning? If posed with the question, the old Tosha would have answered: who do any of us think we are, then or now?
Now. This Tosha, this present-day Tosha, sits picking her fingers until they bleed, leaving scraps of nail and cuticle scattered on the couch. This Tosha, sitting before her, had only last night lunged at Sheila and insist she never again use lotion; that the scent of Vaseline Intensive Care made her feel hopeless. It wasn’t the first smell banned from their lives. It began with Shell’s favorite fabric softener, which at the time seemed like an odd but reasonable request. If the powdery aroma wafting from fresh laundry was disagreeable to Tosha --if in fact, the smell made her "angry enough to kick something," Shell had no problem buying another brand. Yet the issue grew, increasing in intensity until plug-ins were yanked out of the wall and even the most expensive perfumes tossed. Shell began to wonder what was her responsibility in all of this, and most specifically her responsibility to the woman she’d loved since she was eleven.

It started with a fever. After an unusually long hike on a cool drizzling afternoon, Tosha complained of a terrible ache in her lower back. Shell told her that she should have a warm bath, with salts. Two days later they sat, without insurance, in a crowded clinic, waiting for help. When a nurse finally took Tosha’s temperature the alarm on her face was clear, and Tosha was whisked off in an ambulance to the city Urgent Care Center. In the morning, Shell was told she could take Tosha home, but that she would have to be carefully watched. Shell had no idea what was wrong, and didn’t understand the explanation as to why Tosha was not speaking normally. Grateful to take her out of the hospital, Shell helped Tosha sign the required forms, and shoved the prescriptions in her pocket.
Those months that Tosha was ill and Shell cared for her was a time full of heat and shadows and sounds. Some days the fever would soar impossibly high, and Tosha would babble endlessly about the light bouncing off of the wall and ceiling, that the beams were vibrating and jutting over her like a bass-line. She told Shell that her heart throbbed in her fingertips and that she felt sure a tiny man named Ken was rapping on a snare drum inside her skull. Shell would carry Tosha back and forth between an ice bath and the bed, while Tosha whispered “hit the tin, Ken—hit the TIN!”
Shell watched her while she slept, and wondered how someone so dynamically present could seem to disappear. How it was possible that Tosha could be vanishing before her: her strong body and mind now fading. There is nothing to prepare us for this, thought Shell. Nothing.

The nights were dark and difficult, as any hint of music in the house could send Tosha peeling into despair. The theme song to Hill Street Blues, with the volume so low that Shell could barely hear it, would be picked up a room away by Tosha’s fever-tuned ears. The drama that followed would leave both women tear-soaked and exhausted.
It seemed to Shell that the tiny apartment she shared with her love was an intensely overbearing symphony that she could not escape.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Blind Foal

Sweet Jesus, grant me the power to delve deeper, deeper still:
cracking it all up,unsheathing, splitting everything
then leaving it out in the sun, exposed.

Give me some bitterness and irony

like the blind foal born when I was ten,
pushed out slick and steaming,
tearing his mother with urgent hooves–
then mercy-shot a day later.
(The mare stood, her tender parts swollen and stitched,
missing the colt’s nubby mouth nudging her belly.
All that work for what?)

Don’t listen, if at some future date,

I beg for release, pray for numbness.
I may say different,but this is what I really want. Really–

to scream at the difficult moments,

say the awkward things.
Let my flustered lovers leave me,
let heartache leave me brave.

To remember and shudder; let some pain drive me into corners

collecting the God almighty ashes and dust, making my own.

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Ways We Try

It wasn't so much that she had not spoken to him in nearly six days. This was bad, Til decided, but not the worst. Nor was it that she had not nestled her backside into the curve of his belly during the long, long nights of the last week. What is was, was this: Til felt sure that in spite of herself and her best efforts, Lee's heart was slowly moving away from him.

The first indication was how often her eyes, usually so full of intent focus, now seemed to drift somewhere up to and beyond his hairline. He could no longer hold her gaze. Even when he pleaded for her to look at him, her eyes would only shift down to his nose or the curve of his upper lip.
And his lips -they ached. Even in other days, during other fights or difficult moments, Lee would silence the silence between them with a soft and purposeful kiss. If she could not speak she would instead mouth a tiny bit of magic into his mouth, and offer Til the miracle of reassurance in this way. But tonight, this day, he'd had none of this from her and he suffered.

As the hours slipped by since their last kiss, Til found himself approaching the ledge of a frank and intense cliff of loneliness.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


for JQO

Now do you think of me

as nettling around you?
I don't know how to be
I don't know where to stand,
put my hands --find a way to
join you on your stoop.
Lets draw figures in this mud;
your speak
I can no longer speak,
your space is so far away.
Walking lightly to your door:
where are you now?

and now?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Butterflies Outside the Ruins

Though the nuns wept and urged her to stay, Grace left the Albergue and made her way back to the warm three rooms she shared with Shella. The simple care she'd received while she withdrew -- the cool palms and prayers in Spanish, the endless glasses of Jamaica with ginger and lime -- for these simple things she was alive and grateful. Thin, pale and weak, her dress of dark sleeves and long pants for her slow walk to Centro under the bright sun brought shameless stares from children and their mothers and fathers alike. 
At home, she was not surprised to find the cats using her room as a respite, lazing about on the cool tiles under the hammock. Shella left the ceiling fan on so the sheer blinds grazed and billowed at the slotted windows. Nothing changed in the three weeks since she'd left. It looked as though she'd stepped away, for minutes -- for milk or beer, and was just now returning home. The four marbled ashtrays remained positioned near the corners, mostly full of butts and tiny bent spikes. In the nights before she left she had begun sleeping with a Pharmacy tech, who would arrive each evening with clean syringes. In those last days before the Albergue, though shamed and abused by Cito and the others, Grace felt giddy and flush with needles, no need to share or re-use. 
 Her only books in English, three of them, lay wedged the far wall below the hanging cross the landlord insisted remain nailed tight and steady. Tired and damp from the walk and the heat, Grace made her way to room’s sole piece of furniture, an ancient dresser with drawers swollen shut from the humidity.

Reaching inside, she searched for her old notes and found the three folded pages beneath a musty pile of t-shirts. She pulled one out and unfolded it carefully and there found, once again, the hard pressed script of Noe.

Babe, he never used her name.
I been clean now for nearly three weeks, and you know everyone says I look good. I gained some weight and feel pretty good. And I look better, you should see it, everyone says so.

Sitting slowly down on the hammock, Grace presses Noe’s letter to her face and inhales. She used to believe she could still smell him, even months after he was gone. But today, on this hot afternoon with the walls swelling in around her, Grace smelled nothing but her own skin washed in the nun’s chamomile soap.
The gate outside clanks and, keys jangling, Shell appears in Grace’s doorway with a tired smile. Reaching over to lightly swing the hammock, Shell asks if she is thirsty.
“Yeah, I am. Just haven’t mustered myself into the kitchen yet,” Grace grips the floor with one foot and pushes, making to get up.
“No, no, I will. I have something special…” Shell is already moving past the hall window to the kitchen. Seconds later, she is cursing the tiny fire ants that have again invaded the sink.
“Rotten little shits! Where do they all come from?”

Grace smiles and pushes herself into an easy sway, still clutching Noe’s note. She is wondering how it was, not so long ago, that she and Shell fought bitterly and regularly – that she and Shell once didn’t speak for nearly 7 months.

At one time, they lived together in Brooklyn with Noe crashing for weeks at a time. There, the nights ended with many, many slammed doors and Grace crying into Noe’s armpit while they lay on the futon.
“She can be such a bitch!” She once slobbered into his fine hairs and folds, and she felt his body shaking with a stifled giggle.
“What! What?” Her anger amplified, finding that her lover not taking her side.
“No, no! It’s not you, it’s not – it’s just that the sniffling and tears makes me tickle!” He was laughing outright now, no longer able to hold it. Slowly, Grace began to laugh, too, while curling herself into his slim body, inhaling deeply. She can smell his sweat and skin, warm like cinnamon and musk.

Swing swinging in the hot room in Centro, Grace smiles sadly at the memory, realizing now that Noe would be dead within twelve days of the night they laid laughing together.