After Agreeing to Tell You my Innermost Thoughts

There’s a piano hiding
in my guitar,
plinking whatever I play,
echoed by a violin
whose strings lie across its strings.

I’m remembering the rain inside that violin, specifically
how it worked its way through my hair.

There’s an ungentleness on the roadside
that I would like to mist.
That’s why my hand is flat against the fret board.

I won’t be arriving at your village today.
Your maidens, your children, your old folks and goats
will have to improvise.

If they dance a certain way
the weather will be good

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 4)






































A middle-aged American black man
wearing a red baseball cap
stares into a dumpster.

He sees not just a stapler flat on its back
but every page it brought together,
promises and threats, a dream, a cancellation.

He feels that old chair beneath him,
sets the child who scratched it on his lap,
pets the dog who pissed on it.

The man is tall but sees to the bottom,
hears the laughter of every meal
that's left its peels and bones and stains.

The smell does not deter him.
He goes everywhere at once
to where the scents are fresh again,

the bottle still awed at its breaking,
paper blossoming from envelopes,
the used still being used, the regretted not yet lost.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































Allison's Outfit

Claudia's daughter draws a story
of women arrayed
in triangular art,
undergoing preparations,
the fixing and affixing
of buttons and bows,
lighting and alighting
like moths to each other
in the lamp of her notebook,

while Claudia’s friends paint the walls
a metaphor grey, brushing out corners
with histories careening down
to guttered truths, surrounding

the runs and trills,
the frills and lace,
of Allison, made to wait
in the wings, a bright crown
in her hair,
as patient as warm light
on a stone wall
while the supportive whispers
of the almost-as-pretty
drift into her ears, until finally
she hears her cue,

and in a room full of poets,
Allison’s outfit,
existing only
in a little girl’s notebook,
is the most splendid mysterious thing.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































America Loves Kanye West

America does not want to hear long speeches.
America died in the Forties, but does not want to hear about it.
America ate a cheese sandwich while you were at your mother’s funeral.
America will give you negative attention unto death, and then forget.
America is a light-skin black who loves white with a besmirching love.
America likes it nice and easy, even crucifixion.
America wants brief, especially Tom Cruise sliding on the floor.

America is always playing in the background.
Harmonize or get out.

America is shrinking,

America has jungles,
is owned by the murdered,
is difficult to get around,
destroys blondes who wear dark sunglasses.

America was a mistake,
named for the person who figured it out.
America gets in the way
of Asia.

Europe still isn’t sure what happened.
America puts down its cocktails to romp.

I love America
so much
that my britches are strangling
my Robert Johnson.

America stopped smoking.
America loves that you’re an arrogant prick,
but America’s not going to help you
when Jesus finds out.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)






































When you leave me you twelve years old,
I see already the man you were.
You strong back carry my music away
to a country called America.
For true, I too am called America,
I too know slaves, I too know Lords.
I too know your sweet caramel skin,
I too know what your lips are for.
Harry, load in the ba-na-na,
sing me how you long for home.
My belly aches for you voice to fill it,
but voice has gone where it can’t return.
Yet I shall count myself blessed, child,
for the few years you shared my bed,
for I was brave enough to cherish you
with no thought of the ill I had.
Odd to see you being crowned my king,
forever exiled from my arms.
I true to only you and Yankee Dollar,
but you already know that charm.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 3)






































I am unfair to my poems.
I draw them like a hot bath
just to thrash among them, burning.

You find beauty in their crippled torpor,
their slow promenade,
like sand shifting in the wind.

Your dream of them
adds a coat of gilt, frames them
in a memory, and only then,

when words like webs are swept away,
crushed by your misconceptions
as fleas by a souvenir paperweight,

only then is the field prepared,
only then the dew has space to spread
before the timid sunlight then creeping,

to catch the beauty of your soul's reflection;
only when the traps of meaning all are sprung
can I cross the page into your home.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)






































White petals, white papers
on telephone poles, pictures
of a white dog. Have you seen me?

A cop in a silver SUV,
the bend of pages in a logbook,
rolling fields of corn,
puffs of cloud chased by a storm,
the sky at war with itself. Sometimes
the month holds a miracle,
but the schedule varies.

Step on all the imagery
on the way to work,
first berries, then buds,
puddles, then bugs,
branches, birds, heaven, love,
a manic flipbook cartoon,

all of it ultimately
just a few dark lines
on fields and fields of white.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































Aquaman the Vampire Rapist Who then Finds Jesus

Breathing is no substitute for thirst.
Bleeding is the only way to scream.
All the bodies are connected. Step in
anywhere and I am touching you.


Jesus was a tough sell for me, so above me and all,
the bottoms of his feet and all, the fishing and all,
but He died well. He gave his blood. You know
I can’t resist an offer like that. Scripture
doesn’t last long down here, but oral traditions
resound. Q still echoes off the Marianas cliffs.
He forgives me for the dying porpoises,
the young ladies in their yellow bikinis.


Most of us are antinomian adoptionists: Jesus,
merely a man until the Baptist brought him here,
freed us from seafood restrictions (imposed
by a sky god, of course). Still, few of us converted
until we felt the legs of St. Christopher
churning through our rivers, and tasted
the tears of those he carried.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 4)





































Attention Paid

To whispers of winter in heavy trees
she was listening.

Of dry leaves turning like pages
she read every word.

Steeples pouring out songs and throngs
of other lives, like chimneys of spirit,
she heard.

Her ear against the sky,
she felt the flight of crows
like the brushing of her hair.

And now in this quiet room
she surrounds me like noise.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)






































I was born on an island.
Everything was stone
until the water.
The sky was a flower
painted by my father,
stretching a green arm
to the floor.

I was raised in a desert.
We played war with a cactus,
and scorpion tag: I was It.
My brother found snakes
in the wall of a flash flood.
He made me a necklace,
but my neck was sore.
He studied the sun
until it looked like a blank rock.
We dined on lost birds.

Adult at last,
I collected little bitter miracles
until my loose fingers laughed.
Other stories cratered mine.

Middle aged,
puppet on a puppet hand,
mouth of string,
you and me and the sky
made from the same things.
What is drawn finally
gives away the well.

My final years,
a cloud of seeds
in the breath of evening,
gliding choir of trees,
the moon a stone in the water.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































Bakelite Recorder

It belonged to my mother. She gave it to me
when it started playing its own tunes.
She learned music from it, but the music
wanted to be forgotten. She couldn't have it
in the house with her, the way it knew so much,
the way everything in the air filtered through it.
I will give it to you for half price
if it likes your fingers.

(first published in iota)





































The Ballerina

I make my body art.
I make my body lines
and fine French words.
I make my body lives
and terrible deaths.
I make my body not a body
but a story.

My body is not me.
My body speaks
but I am silent to you
and my heart
is in the dressing room.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)






































for Anya Grace Garipoli

Held against Mother's red dress --
a wide white rose -- pungent, heavy --
when the time came to be blessed
you glistened -- and stood ready.

Your head, pressed down, sprung back
and swept up the water like wind.
The Reverend held your hand and spoke
but it seemed you -- were blessing him --

(first published in The River)






































I want for an instant or two
to be beautiful, to say for one day
I lay with daisies and my hair
roiled their petals in that sunlit soup.

I want to walk on clouds, in the summer
of some girl's dream to have wings,
in every feather a delicate abstraction
of color, a slight curl, a secret code,

and then to rise like orange ashes
threatening the carpet, to unfurl
like a fear she must face, to paint
in her brave eyes my finest picture.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































Between the Butcher and the Future

A cow drifts into the harbor at Hudson Bay.
A cow in the August sky hangs low and gray.
A cow echoes the dream of a lost land
in a thousand sleeping heads. A cow hand
presses a thumb of ice into a kettle.
A cow sees the acres settle and unsettle.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 4)





































The Boy Who Is Screaming

It's like you're at the zoo
and this thing unwraps an unknown skin.

It's like a question
whose every answer you can think of
is lying.

I was loud once, too,
with tears in my nose,
I was coughing tears,
but the boy who is

has pulled the bricks and glass from my facade
and pooled his flesh at my feet.

Look, Daddy,
it's broken free.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































Broken Tree

Branch of the willow tree,
I’m glad you’ve fallen,
because you were broken for so long,
dead though life still clung to you,

hanging from your own tree
like a criminal, your bloated body swinging
when I pushed, endangering myself
to bring you down,

but you fell only
when you were ready.
I missed the crash,
the noise, the squirrel-trauma.

You missed the fence,
the garage, fell harmlessly
after all your looming,
a piteous serpent, a bark-bellied corpse.

I’m sorry you have
no face for me to face,
no empty hands on your multitude
of sad, sprawled arms.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































Building Up To It

I need a place,
but where do I start chopping?

The trees are home to too many things already.
How do I build a home out of home?

It feels like I’m making a boat out of water.
Impossible, but also pointless.

And somebody said the trees are made out of me.
I wouldn’t know until the bark came off.

It’s like I feel something in my mouth
and maybe it’s food or maybe it’s my tongue.

Are we just burying the sun every night
and digging it up in the morning,

and we think we’re archaeologists
because we’re so good at forgetting?

There are fifty people in the world
who can’t feel any pain.

They line up at the windows of my dream,
staring blankly, like a blank page.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 13)





































Burning Bridget Cleary

this is the story of two Irish girls
well American girls who wanted to be Irish
and they sang with ancient voices
because of their wanting
and their fiddling was green
by which I mean strong
not easily axed
it is the story of our country
for we are all black injuns
it’s the earth here will do it to you
we are all black injuns drawing magic from fiddles
to make us something else
which we never become
but the world loves our magic
it’s the story of three Foxes
who heard a dead salesman
and sold it
because we have the youngest strongest ghosts
and they haunt everything
our bluesmen like thick trees coming down
and England hears it and England hears our punk
and Ireland fears our ghosts
Yeats alone in that airplane haunted by Foxes
and two short years later Bridget Cleary dies a fairy
and two Irish girls I mean American girls
name their band after her
a band of women longing for Ireland
named for a woman burned by Ireland
but we do that best
burning ourselves as fuel
and these two girls
on them the cold hills
the sacred mounds
the liths of we know not what
Irisher than Ireland dares or cares to be
two black injuns
howling the cairn-song
a marker most brilliant for marking nothing
they toured Europe of course
but it’s a matter of debate if they existed
while they were gone

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 9)





































Can Machines Think?

Yes and no.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 13)





































The Chess of Loneliness

We each have one night left, one priest reciting
prayers inaudibly to comfort us with moving lips.

We each receive the same sentence,
a solitary love affair
in separate offices. Remember me to the window.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)









































































Childish Behavior at the Minisink Target

The Bored Child refines his Walk of Boredom,
boring, as it were, out of his life,
digressing in his journey through the store from
Men’s Shirts to Cutlery, where Stainless Knife
now gleams in Mother’s hand, pointing the way
that he transcends through mythic tunnels, left
and right of the Main Channel, Standard Day,
he’s not had time to carve into his chest.

He uses maps as checkerboards, to jump
from charted routes, not cognizant of dragons
etched to fill up mysteries. The sum
comes out the same, the distance equal, lagging
behind the crow and arrow, but the flight
was Target, white in circles around white.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)









































































Completely Connected

Today when I went to the bathroom
I actually looked at the bathroom,
the shine on floor tiles and steel pipes, the flashing lights
of motion monitors. When I left, an old man
was walking down the hall,
away from me, his whole top-heavy body
shifting left to right but not getting smaller.
I could feel the waves he generated, blue
like the stripes of his plaid shirt. Above him,
the grid of ceiling tiles did not converge,
nor did they hinder clouds or flights of birds.
Bones and pottery shards floated on the floor.
The hall stopped going anywhere. The walls
were my walls, I felt both sides of them.
In the stairway, there’s only one stair. Up or down,
it’s always the same. The sun finds its place on my skin
the way my dog curls up against me in bed, a motion of gravity,
not muscle. The dog opens her mouth
and disappears in light,
foreshadowing the end of this dream,
which this dream cannot know.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 7)

Composition for Violin

To be held with the head
against the shoulder
in the preferred method of affection
for sacred objects, cats and quiet friends,

one hand allowed to feel the strings,
the other drawing power from them,

to be breathed through the nose,
not the teeth, not to squeak
the polish, but to smooth the breast,
to woo the vibrato, to tweak

the leap of absence from note
to note, to force a memory across the bars.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)


December spells out a welcome
by breaking trees,
dragging the dead world back
to a star-clear night.

Snow renders direction invisible,
laughs at each successive foot,
collects wet and heavy
on the old roof of a skating rink
where children glide on a frosted mirror.

A curved, slippery month
you don’t get out of,
or you slip back in,
the year's revolution
fueled by its black ice

a leftover
from a base ten world,
a pedagogue with sickle teeth
sending wind to the brush fires,
on the floodlands,
throwing lightning
at coal mines with code violations,

its smell never leaves you,
every loss
lining your lungs with hoarfrost
until memory hardens
your brain into
an unsmiling December moon.

(first published in Panhandler Quarterly, Winter 2006)


I folded your tie
into an outbound interstate,
decanted your expressions
into porcelain thimbles of North American birds,
but I’m lacking in fine motor skills.

You can drive my car.

Even though I’m there already,
and left again,

you can drive my car,

even though I arranged the furniture
never to return. When you say those things
about conductivity to that woman
who is old enough to be my grandmother
when I was a baby,

you can drive my car.

You can sit hard into the vinyl bucket,
fumble for the stick,
forget yourself in the mirror,
kill us all for a mint cookie,

drive my car, drive my car, drive my car.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 3)




































Drawing Lessons


The ball point pen was a remarkable innovation. Felt tip pens have also advanced tremendously. Never before has the line been so stable, so perfect.

This is the opposite of what a line should be. All expression and character have been removed from the line, all sensitivity.

Find yourself a primitive technology.
Carve celery to a point.
Track a goose wing torn off by a fox.

The line is a recording device. It records not merely images or thoughts, but the motion and weight of your hand as it passes through creation.

An expressive line tears the page apart. This is composition.
The line that cracks and blotches
expresses something beyond yourself.

A fearless line ignores the edges of the page.
The page has thus been ripped from your life.
The page is a broken window.
The viewer has the fascination of approaching a window to a house he’s never been to.

Art can invite, or be forever happenstance,
a tableau on the side of the road, the kick of a tire, what
is that face in the car, that expression?
You’re past it now.



In reality, lines do not exist.
In the drawing, only lines exist.

Reality is a monstrous tangle of shapes.
Our eyes try to separate the shapes from each other.
A line is the poignant, desperate effort of the eye.

Clean lines and well-defined shapes create a smug viewer.
As an artist, you are creating a monster
and that monster is looking at your art,
mad with power, completely incapable
of understanding.

To create a realistic drawing, lines must wobble,
must weep. Scratches on the page
are the only way you will hold something.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 6)



































The Dreams That You Dare to Dream

Last night, Mama, I dreamed about a rainbow,
it was curving, like a rainbow does,
but it kept curving, like a big old snake,
it wrapped around my head, Mama,
so I ate it, to save myself.

Listen to this dream, Sid, this fellow,
this gentleman, he was calling on me,
you know, calling on me, I suppose
he was courting me, yes that must have been
what he was doing, I don’t know who he was,
you know his eyes were painted on
and I suppose I wasn’t being very
friendly, you know, and he was crying,
nothing loud or dramatic, but these tears, Sid,
these tears were falling and they were perfect,
perfect crystals, no, but they were round,
like crystal pearls, imagine that,
and I felt it so vividly,
swallowing every one.

You were there, Mickey, only shorter
and you danced like you were laughing
with your feet,
on these big curving stairs,
up, tapping like rain,
and down, like a river,
and up, and down, I said please stop
but when I moved my mouth the stairs
started chewing you, like some strange
kind of applause.

(first published in Agony Opera, 2021)





































Duress Rehearsal


We are absorbing your position.
I am afraid.
Your position is being absorbed
into other departments.
You were absorbed. You were on vacation.
Other people were doing your job.

I'm afraid.
We're letting you go.
There you go now.

We're reorganizing.
It's a new architecture of delight.
Find yourself some other cloud.

It's not personal.
There's nothing personal about it.
It's not about your children
or your mortgage. There's nothing
left to do or say.

I have a box for you,
just something I threw together last night,
a little impromptu surgery on your cubicle,
the extraction of a soul from the work.

Let's say good-bye before you fully realize
what's happening, while you still suffer
from this strange nobility,
surprising grace
and best revenge.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 6)




































The sky is a berrybush of stars. Why marry?
Women are dancing and men have thick arms. Why marry?
The bridesmaids have strapped on their chuckles. Why marry?
The question on everyone's buckle: Why marry?

Tell me, proud woman, why marry?
Man, lost in wonder, why marry?
A centerpiece of clutching hands,
knife in cake, a ring of thunder.

The best man squealed. The pastor lied. Why marry?
'Tis to push the veil aside,
I marry, I marry, I marry.

(first published in Lilt)





































The Etymology of an Embrace

From ember,
a flame dying in a cancer ward
of the common cold.

from brace,
to hold or support oneself against
an opposing force,

from em,
the distance between two

from race,
to close or bridge a distance
in a desperate hurry,

from bra,
the clasp of a boy’s
lewd eyes,

from ace,
on the crown of a cloud
shooting stuff down.

(first published in Specs Journal, issue 2)





































Everyday Amnesia


An evening in the arboretum,
a clearing in trees and time, my first
experience of love – I considered
no one but myself and I remember
almost nothing.

We talked about the trees one tree at a time, wondered
if those branches could reach into a mind. No connection was made
between shade and betrayal. I remember
almost nothing.


In Roma, the coins
gleamed in the fountain, more watery than water,
minor gods puking sunlight.
Saints in the darkness
performed fragile imitations of the outside.
A loaf of bread and some cheese
brought back to the hotel room
like we were squirrels.

In Napoli, gay men danced La Macarona.
In Toscana, the trees had no branches, elegant cones
fencing vineyards. Backpacks ruined
her photographs. She was thrilled with everything
except me. Pienza, Siena, Firenze, I remember
almost nothing.


Living in a living room, hosted by a fellow victim, I could feel
no compassion, only my own pain. I stole
her mother’s books, a strange crime
of packing and negligence. Books of poetry, but I remember
only silhouetted actors in a fog, mumbles
from a sunken stage, my uncomfortable seat.

The corpse of the past in intricate clothes, eyes open wider
than mine, skin perfumed, hands still working, arms
still pulling, wears a wig and coughs
a lacy smoke to fill the gaps. I remember
myself remembering scattered details
like a bomb scene, too tired to dig or rebuild.
Sometimes I’ll tape something together,
make it dance, or breathe all love and life into a history,
believing almost everything, remembering
almost nothing.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 7)

Extenuating Circumstances

My hands were covered in blood
but I was a butcher.

The little girl was crying
but snow had smothered the entire world.

Grasshoppers were staring through all the windows
but I was making salad.

Nobody had said my name for ten years
but that wasn’t my name.

I was a tough customer
but my father stood beneath a green awning selling watches and coin purses.

The hour was late
but wheels against wheels pushed the hands.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)

The Fishers

The orange raincoats of prisoners
look like sunsets in foggy bus windows

shining on the sloping backs of fishers
above the Pequest River, who wait
for the next silver pill it swallowed.

Menacing statues of the Great Eagle
with living hooks of beak
pierce whatever they perceive.

Nothing the eye has seen
can return to it. A boy

in only shorts disappears behind
the railing, splashes, cries out laughing.
Here! Here! Good-bye!

He is compelled to join the darkness.
He cannot find another way to swim.
A salmon remembers the smell

of an old woman’s clothes,
beaten, clinging to the rocks.

River continues into air, into
Industry, the result usually
of a connection, a misconnection,

blood on the knuckles
of the Catskill region, tight against
the Appalachian Plateau, pain

to be pulled from, patiently, using
the vision of cold stones.

(first published in the Voices From Here anthology)





































Five Year Old Blind Girl Playing Piano

When you repainted Starry Night
you only wanted the Mars Black,
to roll it on the sky with five
stars made of masking tape, and asked

that your new art be studied while
Yoo Ye-eun played Für Elise, so
I wore my headphones through the stile
and stood before your square zero.

A chord of stars were poking through.
I wondered how you found my cries
in their precise locales, and who
was shining on the other side.

(first published in Beyond the Rift: Poets of the Palisades)





































Footnotes to the Fifth Edition of my Life

1. The poodle is an intelligent breed. Jacks are merely cunning. They require a kill. 2. A bird, caught on a fishing line, will fly in smaller and smaller circles until she is trapped in the hedge where she made her first mistake. Her cries sound like a broken whistle, summoning the Jack.

3. This can be expressed as a haiku:

Mother rabbits do
not take lawnmowers into

4. This position is called the Flower. When you try not to be noticed, the position is called the Vampire.

5. Based on the superstition that if water forks from your faucet the devil has been using your sink.

6. While balling a towel for the hundredth time, I had a revelation with potential ramifications for millions who suffer from back pain: I could exploit them for money.

7. Though it could be argued that I never had Lucinda Williams.

8. One such photographic technique is to endanger yourself on a busy road to make it seem empty, as though it longs for travelers.

9. What she actually said was that my wife’s birthday would never fall on Easter.

10. You will not be rid of the bug in the bowl by adding more soup.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow No. 12)





































Forgetting the Smallest Things

To be seen, light must be

To be light, matter must be

Children close their eyes,
then blow.

Worlds and all their candles
are erased.

(first published in Panhandler Quarterly, Winter 2006)

From the Walkway I See What Is Essentially a Field of Beautiful Dead Flowers

A car turns left.
A bicycle silhouettes.
A shadow surrounds a woman’s face
in sun-shaped sunlight.
She stares at me, and I wonder what else
has watched me back, and I ignored.

And then I feel the bristling back of the walkway,
the cold shrug of the rail. My knees are laughing.
The sky is in the middle of a cough longer than my life,
so I don’t know its normal breath.

I remember the question I asked last night by not falling asleep
and I realize that this scene is an explanation
I can observe, take a few notes on,
and then destroy with something I didn’t recognize
as a gasp.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 7)


You told me once how you’d get stuck in patterns
like passing trees in car windows, or linoleum tiles.

You tried to turn away your eyes, but you were
frozen and helpless, like a yearbook smile.

Last night someone kissed my eyes three times
and on my back she scratched a broken cross.

Now I’m looking drowsily at a bathroom floor
I’ve never seen before, descending to its rhythm, lost.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 10)

Functional MRI of the zebra finch brain during song stimulation suggests a lateralized response topography

Half asleep, embraced
by rubber bands and wings,
he is fed his father’s voice
on a loop of tape:

This is the song that I taught you to sing.
This is the song that taught you to sing.

The delicate finery of his regret
is collected while, leaning
like a detached door
against a wall, he learns to sing
the song he already knows,

the song that teaches him to sing,
the song that is his song,

his father's day singing
in manufactured night
from the invisible juniper bush
of his shell-mind, nested
in equipment calibrated to wonder
if he opens his beak
for anticipated gifts.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 4)





































Garbaggio’s David

Garbaggio’s David is not at rest, nor is he coiled.
He doesn’t stand at the Uffizi in Florence. He’s not in the middle
of a victorious action, nor does he contemplate it afterwards.
This David’s eyes are locked with his fear,
his pose and position are meaningless, shoulders forward.

Today, David watches over Ithica, not Ulysses’ Ithaca,
but a college town in New York below the Finger Lakes,
where many wineries hope some day
to be as good as Napa Valley. His sculptor
immigrated to Syracuse, not the home of Archimedes
but the home of the Orange, too cold to actually grow oranges
but that’s the color of their football team,
American football, in New York again, not professional but college.

Garbaggio’s interest in creation began with used bars of soap,
which he carved into fruit trees, not orange but fig,
which he remembered from his childhood,
or at least remembered his aunt constantly talking about them.
Some say his David resembles a tree.
The birds certainly think so.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 9)






































Something moves the reeds,
nudges your shirt off the porch rail.

A black bird on the pier.
I think of telling you.
It's gone.

I feel your hand on my back
and expecting your face at my shoulder,
I turn my head.

I have never been to this inlet before,
but I have seen this water.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 10)





































God’s Bats

are white.

You can hear them finding you

deep in the brickflutter, where

cataract glass
multiplies moonwings.

God’s bats

withdraw redemption
from the flesh, collect
with silk tongues.

You are driving tonight
behind a silent yellow truck.
Leather wings caress
your eyes.

You lift up.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 5)





































I Put a Spell On You

It started in college.
I didn't know you,
but you must have brushed up against me,
or I saw your face through a window.

A brief incantation
must have escaped my lips,
but I thought it was a breath.

Ignorant of my own enchantment,
I married a mortal
and married again,
while your enchanted heart waited
in a tower of years,

until we both, sufficiently alone,
finished a double-braided spell
that looped us together
in life time.

The stars shook out of the night
and showed us to ourselves.

Even without magic
we would cast each other.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 12)





































I Wanted Not to Write This Poem

I wanted not to write this poem.
I want to save your eyes for me,
enjoy you silently, just so
my hand is somewhere near your knee.

Your eyes, your dark bright eyes, your mouth
a hillock for your lips, your hair
that waves the way a child would, down
a bare lane, through the morning air,

are articles that I would keep
in some square safer than a piece
of paper, larger and less neat,
a bedroom or an isle of Greece,

but dear affection died between
your heart and mine. The stiff white death
that pens inflict on love now seems
the only voice for our hushed breath.

(first published in Lilt)





































I’m Now Ready To Critique Your Abstract Painting

I’ve slept in your house a few times.
I know enough about your life
to stack it up against mine.

Your unknowable script on sky blue
is not as pretty as it first appears.
Long staring reveals
dirt and even footprints.

My second ex-wife taught me
what “perfect” means,
not “without flaw”
but from the Latin for “made through,”
built up from scars
like the earth itself
bunched up against
the house of our days,
squares of hope against the walls.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 7)

If There Is An Ocean It Is Here

I borrow Spring and All
with a bookmark already in it,
after the new introduction
by C. D. Wright.

I move the bookmark
to the red wheel barrow
before I give it back.

I go to the high school graduation
of my eldest niece. She is tall,
and in that blue gown,

I hug her but I should be
shaking her hand,
but that’s too like good-bye,
but so is holding on.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 7)

Innocence in the House of Fiberglass Bats

It started with elderberry wine, it's been a while
since elderberry wine. What are you doing with that perfectly good rug?

I fell inthe the woodchipper and now I'm an Ashbery poem in The New Yorker.

Some things are better rolled up. You can presume
I know what I'm doing. You may presume
I know what I'm doing. I have the signatures

One's doctor.

Oh, I see the problem. You met me while I was adjusting myself.
Now I'm all sorted. The robe is white and the water makes you happy.
The elder Ashbery whines.

He can't make out what they're singing in the cellar.
He can't see what they're tired of. Yea tho I walk in the valley.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 5)





































Jimmy Ernst among the Indians

The mountain is our table and we are the delicious vegetables. Ugh.
We are the dancing corn stalks. You make-um big smoke talk with us.
The rattlesnakes will show you where to sit. You know how they do.
We will tell you the big secret of the Indians. We want to be pirates.
Have you ever seen Judy Garland in a big hat? It’s so funny and such
a beautiful flower at the same time. We want her to dream of us
when she gazes at the loud salt sea. Check this out, Jimmy.
We’ve got some crazy patterns here. We’re all about the abstract.
Maybe you can put in a word for us. We don’t need fishing licenses
or anything like that. We’re totally set up, being natives and recognized
victims and all. We just need a boat, basically, and a harbor, I guess.
We’re not really sure how these things work, living up on this table.
Yeah, we’ll show you all the rituals. We’ll give you the Buffalo mask.
We worship the Buffalo and the Great Plains and Gene Kelly.
Can you get Georgia O’Keeffe to paint a black flag for us
with bones? Judy never got to play Annie Oakley, just wispy things
in poofy dresses with down-home values, standing at fences.
We know we could swoop in on her, ride our fleet Palominos
always one step ahead of an angry John Wayne wasting his time
with speeches and expository dialog, but the water calls to us
through cactus trumpets, daring us to silhouette ourselves
in the Big Blue Vista of the MGM Dorothy, to rise up
as Cassiopeia, as Orion, into the lyrics of her sepia song.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 3)






































as if merely knowing something could separate you from suffering

as if as if

I dream a plum blossom mountain as if a word for fallen petals
could cover the unswept porch

I move one petal, which is white, one inch, which is white,
as the floor smiled,
if the floor smiled

as if I could as if to as if swept away
what would be beneath?
as if that were katsu

(first published in Anima, Issue 3)





































A Letter From the Country

Dear Sylvia, the view here is like a painting,
flat and remote. Every day I withdraw further
into the temple of my body. People look smaller,
even when they’re kissing me. It’s physical:
the walls are getting stronger. I hear screaming.
I thought it was foxes, but they’re fisher cats.
Can they attract each other with that terrible noise?

The river reminds me of your legs across my lap.
How can a river be so still? I see lily pads.
I don’t know anything about my only world.
I can’t get out of the room I’m in. The trees
looked so sharp, like I could see every leaf,
when I realized I didn’t have my glasses on.
I couldn’t read a sign fifty feet away.

People like to read books in places like this,
but what’s the difference where you read a book?
It would make more difference to stay home
and change the book. So I write to you instead,
and see everything again for you, and pretend
we’re doing this together, which is only half untrue,
like a possessive salutation. Yours always, Don.

(first published in Local Knowledge, No. 5)





































Liza Minnelli Paints Her Toenails

Toes with a z not Surreal with an s

because I was under the impression,

in fact I was quite comfortable there;
I have an incredible ability to breathe
even with a great weight upon me.

Every night I blame my father for being Italian
as though he were Il Duce himself,
marching elephants across the Alps.

I sing Mammy only because she never sang it.

I don’t think of her
any more than a cabbage
thinks of leaves.

But look at my toes, darling.
Fosse showed me how to paint them,
a kind of sleepy pink, and when I dance
they’re a little field of poppies in the wind.
I don’t know where I get these images.
They just fall from the sky
like unusual weather. It’s like
I was born for this.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 3)






































Love is in the eyes
and on the skin.
Love does not blink.
Love rushes in.

Blushes and blinks,
barbarous bliss,
love begins and ends
with a kiss.

(first published in Beyond the Rift: Poets of the Palisades)





































Made of Gauze

My mother, made of gauze, could never be
unveiled, for veils she was, and to be viewed
she must be worn, as oysters wear the sea
around their pearly necks, though born as nude
as teardrops on a cheeky smile, in wrecks
of bone and coral, over collars getting
wet. My mother, softly woven hex
upon a silent story, not regretting,
never passing, only waving, blanket
blanking lovers, love absorbing, warmly
nothing, beautiful as wind, so plank it,
stand in salty air, the plankton forming
dusty pillows, as their cases trail
behind. I’m empty. Let me be your sail.

(first published in Anti- poetry magazine)





































A Man Speaks to his Tormentor

Slip on my silk shoes
and pad toward me on the steps I took.
I won’t hear you because I’ll be saying
the same things.
It’s hard to control the energy
in a room shared by fire and ice.

The popsicle man misses
all the sweetness he came from
and the mouths that licked him to where he is.
He considers becoming an effigy,
but the effigy’s feet are free,
and they kick him away.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































A Meeting of the Green Township Historical Society

Fifty years have made their visit here,
fogging over his eyes. He asks if I'm
the son of the station agent,
but I haven't made that trip.

Pulled from a worn folder,
the world in his hand
shakes with his age
like a flat, black and white earthquake,

but the creamery doesn't froth,
the train isn't late. The track men
have kept everything straight
from Maybrook to Easton. Drunkards,

muscles sore from indiscretion,
drove in spikes with fierce precision,
while engineers held the grade
to one percent. It holds,

this world, ready to be duplicated
but not entered. "You need the past
for stories," he tells me.
I have neither. I'm the sullen earth,

waiting for horses
and the blades they pull.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































Le Moineau

We walked into an underground bar
and a woman sang in French
but I understood her song,
she sang of chansons,
she sang of clarions
across the still air of June,
she killed for love
a dozen times, she wore a net
of old transparent rhymes,
she dined promptly
every night with a different
bottle of wine, she would always
start too soon
and have to wait
for her entree,
her warm entree,
to glide into the room.
She sang of steam, of heroes
misted over, sang of trees
from which they hanged.
I knew each word, each foreign word,
like I had scratched it out
with my own hand. She sang 'til three,
until the birds began to answer.
She sang to me, she sang of canticles
and cancer, all in the same
smiling voice. She sang 'til four,
until I could no more
breathe the ashen smoke,
until I could no more be her tired song,
then she was gone. Her empty stage
continued singing, a taped melange
of haggard tropes I can't remember.
I can't remember anything
but a sparrow captured by the night
and made to sing.

(first published in the Voices From Here anthology)




































The Monkey House


Fred has a beer. He holds it tight.
His shirt is starched and white.
Joe likes a mixed drink. He says, "What's your delight?"
I've got some ideas, but I can't work them out.
I'm just another monkey in the monkey house.

On TV some California houses burn.
Give me a pool cue. I'll take my turn.
Throw me some popcorn and I'll do a dance,
though it's kinda sad the way I wave my hands.
There's a funny way to say I love you to a really cold can
to get every drop out.
I'm just another monkey in the monkey house.

Mars hates women, we know what they're about.
There's a way to lose them, we perfected how,
developed through mutters in numberless nows,
on dark bar corners with napkined vows,
thus I attained the monkey house.

Screaming like I invented vowels,
the uncomfortable windows, the pile of towels,
while Dominick sandpapers dreams on the couch,
I'm just another monkey in the monkey house.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 6)





































Your wizened cry, your many pleas,
summon me to anguished wariness,
to know your wish to kiss, lips unnoticed,
your moans for wine, your briny teeth sunk deep
to the brink of an itch, a chaste sixteenth of an inch
now violated, your roses raking my skin.

Why do you want me? Why? You hover,
drop to pierce me, rise, ignite the stitch
of greased affliction with your spit. You sing
almost notes, like she struck, silencing.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 10)



































Mystery Protein ORF10

active cases
I want to look you
milligrams of rising sea
spreading asymptomatically
dead in the eyes I want to look you
infection rate
I want to look you
surveillance state
I want to look you
freedom to associate
tweets to liberate
dead in the eyes
every film a home movie
I want to look you I want to look you I want to look you I want to look you dead in the eyes
healthcare causing bankruptcy
dead in the eyes I want to look you I want to look you I want to look you I want to look you dead in the eyes dead in the eyes
every day I update my spreadsheet
I want to look you I want to look you I want to look you
my line chart doesn’t miss a day
dead in the eyes
I plot every body
and then I hit Save
I want to look you
Hi Mom how’s your day?
I want to look you
As long as I’m breathing, you used to say
I want to look you
cruel April, desperate May
timeless twenty twenty
I want to look you dead in the eyes I want to look you
and never look away
dead in the eyes I want to look you dead in the eyes I want to look you I want to look you
I want to look you
dead in the eyes
tune the radio, drain the air
of all its half-baked prophecy
reporters stationed nowhere
sports from armchairs
I want to look you
as one in outer space
as one with no face
I want to look you I want to look you dead in the eyes I want to look you dead in the eyes
I want to look you
thoughtless as a molecule of RNA
resigned to replicate
dead in the eyes I want to look you
an alien you can’t legislate
dead in the eyes
hospital layoffs, stimulus for chains
I want to look you
on a scale you cannot measure or repair
my cat tries to open the door to a bedroom we no longer need
dead in the eyes
a hundred sixty four thousand dying anyway
dead in the eyes
they can’t compare
the heart gives way
I want to look you
every day
I want to breathe
I want to say
I want to look you
statistically significantly
I want to look you
so beautiful today
people to do things to see
I want to look you I want to look you
without fail
as the hammer sees the nail
dead in the eyes I want to look you I want to look you I want to look you
as the wind sees the sail
adventures described by those who stayed
I want to look you dead in the eyes I want to look you dead in the eyes
the recurring ultimatum
dead in the eyes
I distantly approximate
I want to look you
no spoilers, no hot takes
just tell me what it means

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 14)




































Narcissus Describes the Lake

I’m painted on my view,
fracturing on my features.

There, in my chin,
a bird disappears.

A storm darkens
below the fish.

The direction of the wind
is a matter of taste.

The rain rises to where I am.
I feel it on my back.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 11)





































Night Clouds with Fingers

“For the hour that you are on, I forget the body that I am imprisoned in.” –a Trekkie


There’s a piano hiding in my guitar,
plinking whatever I play.

It’s raining on the piano, where it’s always night.
My hand rests on the fret board, flat.

It’s over already, in the middle of
the tender part or the becoming part

of a word.
Snow in the sky is just halted breath.

Snow on the ground whispers to my feet
what it might be like on my arms.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 6)





































Nights Out and In

The distortion of notes by a human throat,
the bass guitar thumping like a chalkboard,
the orange walls, angry poets
still in coffee houses after so many years
of so little applause, I love this about you,
that you’re not here, that cranes turn out to be
herons flying over milkweed explosions,
the kitsch of all cemeteries,
the rollicking desecrations of viaducts,
the crows who wouldn’t let Cicero die in bed,
I love this about you, the fight for blankets
with dogs at our feet who get confused
by your frantic operettas of a single word,
baby baby baby baby baby baby baby,
and the dreams I’ll hear tomorrow,
as safe as a child at the zoo
when a tiger leaps, I love this about you.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 9)





































On the Lawn Tonight with Pippa

The party is so peaceful from here,
each window a silent movie.

I owe it all to Pippa,
spinning on her leash in dazzling impatience,
rolling and diving.

She’s a boxer mix
but doesn’t know she’s bred to fight.
She only knows love
and knocks me out with it.

I put her on the dog run,
now and then freeing the cord
from the birdbath or the garden.

That’s when Pippa will show me her belly.
Does no one else want to see this?

Back on her leash,
she grabs it with her teeth,
an inch from my fingers.

Now this
is a conversation,
letting go and biting down again,
closer, further, from the danger.

She leaps
while I wave like a matador. We flaunt each other.

We distract each other. That’s the plan,
to keep her from scratching knees
and hoovering hors d’oeuvres.
I’m manufacturing forgetfulness, throwing veils
on her desperate need. That’s the plan,

to Cerberus the black night, growl at emptiness,
bark at the brightness of stars,
hound the failed connections,
bury chewed-up business cards.

One by one the guests leave, tentative,
as though she’s guarding me,
or they don’t see us at all.

We watch them fade out of reach.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 11)





































Orange Moon Invades Newark

you and I cross the street, hesitatingly to our
Carnage horizon!
Deleterious delectation!

A random, senseless Pac-Man,
jaw dripping of covenant,
at highway's end,

the brutal reflection
of a fire in a bar's
black window,

the ravaging of landscape,
Archangel orange-vested
sneaking a cig on preposterous precipice.

Can I be in Rutherford
seeing Newark
with such a large eye?

or does the light
reveal me
to be where it shines?

Have I been robbed
of my feet
by this monster vista

wrapping around a domestic evening,
deck of polymer lachryma,
rapine lunesta?

How long have you been
from this suburban perspective?

O Captive,
we who are your cage
shall receive no mercy from you.

We who pluck
the bars
with those cruel windows

that interrupt our visions
of ourselves
with visions of ourselves.

A tiger has eaten the sun.
Villagers beat upon the bushes
with bamboo rods.

They sound like baseball.
O great prick!
O stupid tears!

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 4)





































The Parallels

I’m crying in your shoebox.
You’re laughing in my kitchen drawer,
beneath the Chinese menus.

Your window and my window
open their curtains on a single scene,
a comet pulsing against a red moon,
its signal falling on our rooftops.
You know what the antennae receive.
I know how much the water towers hold.

When we’re shopping for dinner,
we tend to buy the same cheap wine,
a red called Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
We’ve been to Montepulciano,
shivering outside of an old stone cathedral,
but the wine hasn’t.

The wine is only telling us
the name of its grapes,
like a flushed penitent, dizzy and proud
in the dark confessional,

and we’re the priests
sitting quietly, taking it all in.
There’s only a whisper between us,
but, facing the same direction,
we see the ghosts of each other
seeing ghosts of ourselves.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 9)





































Poetry Law

You never hear of it until you need it,
believing there are no rules,
only expression of feeling and self,
but then a car door closes across the street,

a calamitous feelingless physics
demanding to be written without a hint of you,
and then what to do?
What is the cogent terror
of sunshine on a Buick window?

The Universe idles –
a sharp, specific devastation of insight
purring your own pointlessness
all the way through to the church of your skull,
ringing out a poem that the moon wrote,
but it bears your name.

Gently, you enter into suit,
serving tender notices,
waiting in a series of rooms
for a ruling on a contract
you signed in your sleep,
that was as blank as you were,
and you wonder if the gavel will wake you
or nail you to the page.

(first published in Agony Opera, 2021)





































Pornographic Fortune Cookies

eating rose petals instead of drinking tea in bed


blackbirds murmuring in bed


a man killed by lightning plowing circles in bed


pale geography collapsed over a map in bed


you will be sick for the entire life of a dog in bed


your arm gone numb in bed


night-headed windows in bed


an empty sagging bed in bed

(first published in Agony Opera, 2021)





































Quietest Plastics

You can't hear it.
It's in your clothes.

Touch your face, touch mine
with your face. I said to kiss me
but this noise in the night,
this mystery, prevented you
from hearing me. Cotton breathes,
but we are the quietest plastics.
I love you but I suffocate saying it.
There are fibers so small,
like a sigh's expression of meaning,
like an eye's use of prepositions...

You get near it.
Off it goes.

(first published in Art Times)






































You eat the chocolate
before the wine.
You want no color
on that deep delight,
no blood in the shadows.

Or is it the wine first,
to heed every accent,
the onset of the aftertaste,
curve of glass
caressing curve of mouth,
while chocolate waits
to ease you with
its imitation of night
from the pinch
of this waking world?

I'm not sure
because I alternate,
a bite of one,
a sip of the other,
a winking communion,
a dance from floor to wall
and back again,
as Donald O'Connor would do,
the virtuoso
of not quite falling
and not quite getting up.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 10)






































We’re bottles of wine afraid of spilling.
Nuns hid us in the mountains.

We reached perfection and then
kept hiding.

Dry reds, tasting only ourselves
and only tasting,

we thought the sun was a waste of time,
like ideas already tried.

If someone uncovered us,
I wouldn’t recognize you

and you wouldn’t even see me.
My darkness made me a mirror.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 11)






































When you turned your tortured abstract
you saw a self portrait:

the separated shoulder,
the irritated bowels,
the giant, regal head.

As soon as you had nothing to lose
the frogs on the wet road
sailed North

but you hung back,
negotiating the curve
until dawn was speaking.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































Riots in Cornerstan

Two kings have stumbled into the street
with neither robes nor illusions.
Incapable of hurting each other,
they deliver heartfelt toasts and ultimately sing
as birds fall out of the sky, turtles spin
and the asphalt relents just enough
to swallow tires.

The kings are reminiscing now,
but never seem to reach the end
of their stories.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 4)




































The Sacrifice


He wonders why you gave the queen
so easily, and smiling, what strategy
might underlie the loss

of crown for pawn, how quickly
you can bring your lesser pieces
to his king, now he's crossed

over to the second rank, exposed,
how lightly you disposed
of power for this cause.

He wonders at your eyes, the throes
of warfare shrugged off like old clothes,
without a pause.

Can he, with his superior force
breach your defense with queen and horse
before you find that lonely man

trembling on his empty porch,
knowing fear but not its source,
helpless to a larger plan?

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 6)




































Seen from an Escalator

								A cramped room
								can scrape the sky
								in a large city.
								Your face could be
								on my coffee table,
						every page your eyes flip to
						a color photograph. Instead,
						you are on the second floor
						and I see from different angles
						your face, rising by
				a machine 
				of a system
				I must never
				It moves me
		toward you, changing you.
		A dark figure for me
		to play sun to.
		Will you shrink
		like a shadow
as I rise?
My touch, obliterating you,
I keep safe in my fingers.
I loved you that moment
the escalator is still.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 3)





































A Series of Paintings by Jimmy Ernst on the Broken Glass of His Mother’s Bedroom Window


Jesus in Capernaum, with his foot in a prostitute’s hair

Five sullen parabolic peaks
in a cadmium rain,
a large circle like a dead heart—
He studies the top of her head.


Jesus teetering on the Sea of Galilee

Hard rivulets of olive green
on white palette-knife scratches,
anxious hints of canvas,
ancient ripple.


Jesus entering his home town without bothering to unpack

He straightens His robe
with a cluster of delicate strokes.


Jesus, hands on a child

Laughter can be heard on the inside of a house.
Birds are hinted at with sharp edges in the sky.


Jesus in the face of seven devils

He is a Jew, remember.
Yes, there is a gesture,
the subject collides with the frame,
more energy that way,
the dangerous shape
of what surrounds Him.

(first published in Beyond the Rift: Poets of the Palisades)





































Several Well-Marked Colors Are Commonly Seen in Zinnias


for Mike O’Brien

“Thoughts of absent friends.” -Language of Flowers, 1884

White. Not just you, your knowledge, gone.
That’s why most of history’s pages are blank.
Sulfur. That’s why cities burn more than once.
Yellow. You’ve sunk below the horizon
and your night is permanently affixed
to my calendar. Golden yellow. All I have
is a counterfeit of you, forged
by my unlawful mind, but I know its value
more dearly than I knew yours. Orange.
I have a sphere of cloves. The fruit they pierced
disappeared as secretly as years. Scarlet-Orange.
It was like a slow embarrassment:
your blush took months. Scarlet.
Imagine how silly a volcano looks
to its mountain peers. Flesh-Color.
The twinkle in your eye was really
the achievement of your entire face. Lilac.
Hanging dangerously over a railing to photograph
a hummingbird moth, but that’s just a story
I heard about you, and I’m the moth,
dumbly hovering, imitating a grander species.
Rose. You preferred sauvignon blanc.
Magenta. But you were a passionate barrel,
while I can’t get myself out of the car
to see your body. Crimson. A man is just
a highway for his blood, an oxygen parade.
Violet. I don’t want to see your closed eyes in a face
with no fat or fluff. Let’s just plant you already,
please. Purple. We’ll never know how Alexander
conquered all those countries. No one
will ever make your chili. Dark Purple.
I miss you so much it’s like I’ve already lived
the rest of my life without you.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 12)





































Snow Blind

Everything gets so perfect and beautiful
that you can't see it. You get on the phone to your mother
when the lines are down, and you finally understand her.
The white music of impact grips you with trees.
Jack London knew, and Frankenstein's monster,
the opposite of night,
the opposite of sleep.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 5)





































Springtime for Truth

People whose only discernable goal
is coffee
tap their knuckles on felt partitions
as they flash past the gaps.
I wonder if someone can die more than once.
I realize I can’t disprove it.

I make some measurements in the window
and then go down to the parking lot,
observing inconsistencies
in the placement of trees and buildings,
enforcing a disbelief in other windows
to worlds I can’t get to.

The truth lies
on a bed of facts
more numerous than spark plugs,
and more charged.

The graphic designer across the aisle
erased her design
when she saw a swastika emerge from it.
She hasn’t really looked
at her rug, her favorite blanket,
or the tile floor in her bathroom.

The letter Q is a cross hugging itself.
Truth is a question, a quest, a quake,
a quiz I take so seriously
I regurgitate.

Tonight I must watch a movie
that’s more than 24 hours long
to know the truth
before it changes tomorrow.
Anon is soon.

The up and down of a pointless day
pulses like the heart of a coward.
Disappointment is surrender.
Fear is victory in the bloodstream
searching for a wound to exit.

The oblivion of winter
pushes me to slump into it,
begs me to ball myself up
and sculpt a frozen version,
but I’m not the snow.

I’m the plow.
The only postmodernism that still matters
is pasted to my AR-15.
This machine kills the unalternative.

The truth lies
with a deep cover operative,
not buried
with dead leaves. No spin,
no election, will deter me.

(first published in Agony Opera, 2021)





































Stand Up

How’s everybody doing tonight?
I just flew in from New York
and boy is the sky tired.

They say comedy is hard
but have you tried standing up?

If you really want to see something funny
watch me try to walk in a straight line.

The other day this guy said to me
something I couldn’t hear
because I was in my bedroom in the middle of the day
praying to the blanket on my face.

Speaking of darkness there was this
snake that walked into a doctor’s office.
“Doc,” he said.
“The grass keeps hitting me in the face.
What should I do?”
And the Doc says
“well what does it feel like?”
and the snake says
“well have you ever looked up to dandelions?
You know what I’m saying?”
and the Doc says “no,”
and the snake says
“okay it’s like slapping yourself with a noodle”
and I guess the Doc knows what that feels like
because he sends the snake to a neurologist,
and the snake tells the neurologist
“it’s like getting slapped with a noodle.”
They do some tests, they don’t find anything
and he goes to an ear nose throat guy,
a urologist, a proctologist, a cardiologist,
and each time he says
“it’s like getting slapped with a noodle.”
Finally, he’s got almost no health insurance left
and they bring in the leading specialist in the world.
This guy has three hospitals named after him.
This guy is so smart they had to invent a degree for him.
He examines this snake from every angle,
runs more tests, sorts through the data,
consults with the United Nations, and finally
just stares at the snake, stroking his beard.
“What is it?” asked the snake. “What’s wrong with me?
Is there anything that can be done for this?
Do you finally know what’s going on?”
And the doctor says,
“stay away from pasta. Try potatoes.”

Yeah, we’re all laughing,
having a great time together
and you’re probably wondering
why I’m the only one getting paid for it.
The only way I can make sense out of it
is that those chairs you’re sitting on
must be real special.
I mean there are times I would
give my kingdom for a chair.
Did I tell you about my kingdom?
Well it’s ruled by this reverse castle
where the moat is in the middle
and everybody just kind of lives around it
and wonders why they need to feed the alligators.
And the politics are terrible just like everywhere else.
Half the people want to set the moat on fire
and the other half don’t know where the moat is
and everybody is me
and is this a toilet joke? I don’t get it.

Well, thank you everybody, I have to go.
I have so many things to do,
more than I can remember,
so at least one.
You’ve been fantastic.
I loved you in another life.
Have a great whatever this is.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 14)




































A Story Reconstructed By Witnesses

The angel made of black gingerbread
brought us to his studio apartment
after signing certain agreements with our parents.

The angel’s arms were covered with fur.
He asked us questions to determine how clever we were.
He told us about the one hundred most important people
ever. We saw a movie containing Abbott and Costello.

In the darkness of the movie, shapes of light
were projected onto our bodies. It was a fun evening.
One of us was reached into like a bag of peanuts.

We slept at the location, snug in couches
with our clever smiles under eyes cleverly closed
for the entire night in question, our dreams
plucked from his blanketing wings.

We all manifested the grooming gene
that night, each in our own way, inherited
from the same source, washed in

on the same nucleotides, lifted, left
as shimmery dents, mistaken for footprints
of a journey that never occurred, a story
of empty shells crowding into circus bags.

(first published in Specs Journal, issue 2)





































The Sussex County Poetry and Nature Society

You can find them on the side of the road,
Beatrice bent over, Lana pulling up the sleeves
of a purple sweater. Look for wishful white puffs
until the coolness covers them
in hats and scarves of grizzled rust.

Greta glows with a word for fog
that crowds around her feeling of it
on a certain heavy morning.
Rhoda tends toward earthy tones
to underscore her florid flashes.

Their rhythms are susceptible to weather,
stutter at cloud-buttressed cyan,
rock where they should run.

Cloris is helpless before a staggered rise of heather,
but the pollen of a seething new expression collects
in golden strands of verse.

(first published in the Voices From Here 2 anthology, 2017)





































Translated From Inuit

Come away from the steaming blubber
so you do not melt. Snow on me,
my snow. Snow on the floor so,
unsnowshod, I may sink into you.

I gladly give you my seals.
When the snow changed the snow
beneath my dogs to snow,
I whipped them with thoughts of you,

at which they eagerly yowled,
shook the snow onto the snow,
and drove on. Your memory
was snow upon the snow,

our needed traction. Let us be
fire for each other, changing my snow
to snow and your snowy eyes
to snow. In the snow of your hands

my back is snow, feel the snow of it
ridging. I wonder if your heart is snow,
safe from wind, or snow, like my heart,
flying to the waterland of whales.

(first published in River Styx)





































Two Questions

When did you realize that you were in over your head, that the proud mothers were expecting their progeny to be touted individually in your speech, that the pizza had a peanut topping, that Darren ate your note cards, that the dangerously old electrical system has never had so many fans plugged into it, that the little girl is standing on a table with three legs, that your mother is waiting in a train station 300 miles away, that the chairman of your organization was trying to tell you that he was being murdered?

When did you realize that you were not in over your head, that in a world of idiots you are a genius, that abstract art is so widely accepted and even expected that you just keep handing in your pallets, that everyone is terrified of your right hand, that the thermostat is still set to the temperature you set it to three years ago, that your watch is self-winding?

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 12)





































Urinal For a Futurist

I woke in a porcelain boat
filled with ungodly ocean
after celebrating the death of collective bargaining
by crushing the skull of a split-level ranch,
slowly folding into fist for one glorious week
every remnant of our mundane joys,

and I remembered Giacomo
speeding across an offended lake,
insisting that we pee
in a gleaming dog bowl he no longer needed,

and as we stood in that circle,
we delivered of ourselves
to each other
and to the reflections of what we lost,
spattered upon us and lingering

while he laughed
in the manner of chewing souls,

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 5)





































Venice a Be Verb

Thousands of pigeons landing in St. Mark’s Square


maidens tying grey handkerchiefs into their hair.
Sunset peeling the skin from a city braced for night


an old doge whose wheeled pedestal retreats from sight.
Spiders surprised when the ribbons shift


your fingers, slow to open my gift.

(first published in Agony Opera, 2021)





































The Walking Talking Cure

Sanity? Yeah, I know where that is.

You're going to come up on a feeling
like you never had before,
just go straight.

You'll see your father on the corner,
don't turn there.

You'll want the next left,
where she left you.
She wasn't your mother.

If you see a field of flowers you've gone too far.
Look for the fork with all the peas rolled off.
Stop thinking you have to choose.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 14)




































Waves Break All the Time

Waves break all the time.
No moaning at the shore.
No report of a crime.
No asking what for.

Look at all these people talk.
Not her though. White as chalk,
she lies quietly, with no demands.
She knows what to do with her hands.
We’re finally telling her how we feel.
Really seems like a big deal,
but I’m not listening. I’m tuned
into her old hospital room.
I feel her last steps to the door
as clearly as if I were the floor.
I feel the sheets tangle and churn
on the bed where she won’t return.

Another second ticks,
taken in its prime.
You don’t to get to pick.
Waves break all the time.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 13)





































Wayne/Route 23 Transit Center

It's like a flood at night,
not knowing:

water reflects more darkness,
opens up another night.

The ground is not just wet,
it's gone.

The conductor keeps asking me for a ticket,
but I'll only pay him once.

He doesn't realize that Wayne is underwater.
Knowledge matters when he opens the door.

It's like pulling the cover off a book,
to not be persuaded:

pages fall off
the spine.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 8)





































What They Say

There's an old saying among the Iroquois, that a man's pocket
is in his jeans,  like the Russians say, beware of friends,
or the Arab proverb, don't bring a camel to a cabaret.
In Spain they tell you to kiss your lying lips to a hardboiled egg,

but i live with Eskimos. They tell me
a shell is over everything.
They say idiots are important
because they speak against the hate
that you feel for yourself, that can leave you dry
by freezing what water you have.

I always said a drowning man is good for a dollar
if you get him before Tuesday.

(first published in The Red Wheelbarrow, No. 6)





































You Are Invited to Speak

I want to hear your voice, small in a phone
or hovering large as I lie down. Either way,
your thoughts are in my head,
wearing dresses of your mouth,
and the eyes of your thoughts
blink in the night of how I feel.

I crave the bouncing tide
of your populating ideas.
As with any shore,
connection and contest spark life.

I wake in your words. The rest of me is sleep.
I want all the sounds of your throat,
the feel and smell of the air escaping it,
the clacking and swishing of your language machine.

I succumb to the conspiracy of your neck and face
to communicate. I dream of your lungs:
they’re red, walking through the earth.

Wildflowers throw up purple and pink,
destroying the path through the woods
until there’s only wild,
writhing with your sentences.

(first published in Agony Opera, 2021)





































You're So Young

Your first meal with her is still on the menu.
The same manager opens the door
when you arrive alone.

Your shovel never solved a problem
harder than a heavy rock in the mud.
Your dog curls up in the blade and goes to sleep.

The shreds of a helium balloon
you thought was lost forever
hang in a tree across from your parents’ house.

You say to a terrible thing, never again.

(first published in Local Knowledge, No. 5)