On the passing of
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
February 2, 2014

No doubt you stood out
Complex artist with underbelly
exposed to pain’s harpoon

You, who waged war on mediocrity
defying popular appetites in film-
on stage, a master craftsman, honed.

And where are you now?
The son of a grieving woman,
Have you undone yourself?

Who will star as you? Who
will tell Capote the truth
about your passing?

Perhaps each piece chipped away,
or the script faded to black.
Did the role call for this?

Critics pause, speechless.
Their clackity-clack silenced,
remembering the awe of you.

Your children will see your movies
when they grow. Will you be
in the audience, too?

Or will you be rehearsing
with the other lost icons,
a moving apology or sober goodbye?


Reasonable Suspicion

Today, much like everyday
a young person who has made a poor choice
Tried to cover it up with a lie

“Who snitched on me?” instead of
“Wow, I’m sorry for that choice.
I’ll work on it.”

Oh, the humdrum of high school,
the blissful buffoonery of youth.
How happy they make their parents

How difficult they make their own lives,
lives rich with potential and rife
with self-delusion

And yet, each one is still better
then the sum of their mistakes
growing into greatness

despite the folly of today.
If I did not know better,
I would call them magnificent.


Rest Here

Last night I dreamt
you slept right on me.
You were in a hard sleep,
your breathing compressing
my heart, resuscitating
memories of your infancy,
memories that belong
not to me, but to some
other woman.

When I woke, I smiled
for the memory
that was not mine,
until the memory veil
became heavy, too heavy,
in fact, so I lay my head
down again.

I wish still for the dream
to return, that I could
sleep forever knowing
you were safe resting
near me, on me.


Color Sounds Serene

No one knows how dark
my days are, the blizzards
that blow through my brain
beckoning for emancipation
from trivialities of my time.

I know no cause for these sideways
swirls that push me south.
I am the sunburnt crab who
flees the monstrous waves
of Lilliput and Blefuscu.

I lean in toward the beacon.
I look for the green winds.
When the white sails
of some Athenian helper appear,
I inhale to draw them near.

I would like to leave the shore.
Maybe hike a mile inland
to the fresh water of aqua.
Perhaps there, the ruminations
will cease and sleep, coo me.

Or at least, a small Tinkerbell-sized
pixie could sprinkle sundust
with such perfect aim that I am
deloused of the darkness
and infused with brilliant color.

I see days of turquoise ahead.



Holy Moses

That’s right, he climbed mountains
to see the face of God.
I can barely climb out of bed
to wash my own face
at the sink with warm, running water.

Dealt with Seti and Ramses,
turned water into blood
while I find it such a burden
to make grape juice
from concentrate.

The hardest things to fathom
are those stone tablets with
the thou shalts and shalt nots;
of course, it took me twice
as long to write this poem.

Who am I kidding, anyway?
He could call in a dozen plagues,
lead the Hebrews to freedom in
an epic biblical exodus,
navigate a wasteland for forty years,
yet I, I who has everything,
can not seem to walk around the block.


Knaves I Have Known

First, there was the second-grader,
Michael, who insisted on pulling
my hair and then cutting in line
at the drinking fountain every day
during recess. I had to sock him
in the stomach.

Of course, I got in trouble.
I have never felt bad that I did that.

Then, there was the fourth grade wiseacre,
who bragged so often about winning
the spelling contest but could never
remember my name. I forgot to bring
his Valentine to the class party,
and he whined to Miss Brockhart.

Of course, my teacher scolded me.
I still don’t spell well.

When the seventh grade terrorist
snapped my bra strap for the third time,
unhooking it and leaving me embarrassed
until the lunch bell rang, I told
a girlfriend, and we wrote a poem
about jerks with small brains.

My friend’s mother read it and called
my mom. I still write poems about jerks.

In high school, I asked the smartest
boy in math to the Sadies dance,
but he turned me down flat saying
something about me not being
pretty enough. When I hung up,
I cried my first cry caused by a boy.

I did not tell anyone.
I feel bad about that still.

During my last year of college,
a pretty good crop of young men
crossed my path and all seemed
vibrant and striving for more,
except one. I dated him,
but not for long.

All my girlfriends hated him.
I feel bad about that still.

The riffraff of knavery
in the beginning could not outweigh
the love for so many good men
until I met the man from Shanghai who
cornered me in the room on Jakobistrasse.
I fought back.

I did not speak of it.
I stopped caring after that.

Twenty years went by. I encountered
a new scurvy knave all wrapped
in friendship. I let him in.
He pecked away at my leathered
heart which bled freely again.
When he uncloaked, I wrote this poem.

I should call him out. Yes,
I feel pretty good about that sentiment.



There is not a poem
in me tonight–
no sight, nor sound
stealing my brain

A wind came through
wrapped up my muse
whipped him away
before I knew it

I lay my head down
upon the wanting
pillow; I cannot rest
here all alone

Perhaps tomorrow
the captured fellow
will find his way
into a poem

Tonight I tarry
no telling time
someone captured
my sense of rhyme.

Ah, there you are,
you charming dreamer
escaped from Boreas,
that midnight schemer.

Most see a Boreas, this is a thief among thieves.
Most see a windmill…to Boreas, this is a thief among thieves.


Blowing Sideways

Stepping onto the trail
that leads to the ocean,
I first notice the breeze
as it dents my pantlegs.
I pull my jacket around
and button it up, guarding
against the sure cooling-
the sign that I am vulnerable
even on this known pathway.

Soon enough, the wind
spits sand grains against
my calves. Sea grass whips
wildly toward me and before long
I wonder about turning back,
forgoing the venture
for a warm cup of tea
and a book of poetry.
What would Mary Oliver think?
Or Billy? Robert Frost must
certainly have something to say

But I move ahead; the ocean
lures me. The salted air
infuses my lungs, addicting me.
When I reach the shore, the wind
slaps my hair against
my friction-frosted cheeks.
Its direction defies
romance, and howls. I snap to–
Where will I go now?


Today’s Voyage

The day after the day after
you know, the day before yesterday

like a fog steaming up the landscape–
the gooey air of the briny coast,

cloaking the soul of my promises.
I wish for a life ring from the Nautilus.

Viscous distractions are making murky memories
of my intentions, paving new paths of failure

in the synapses of my mind. But then a foghorn
blasts sonic waves of encouragement,

And ultraviolet sun-rays begin the process
of redemption. Clattering ores silence,

slip overboard to slice, to displace
heavy water and seaweed tangled thoughts.

With my reserve armies, I begin the homeward
paddling, and tomorrow, oh blessed tomorrow,

becomes the day before the day after,
and the dulled horizon now brightens ahead.

I will not be shipwrecked by procrastination. I will sail through the blustery seas of Distraction. The horizon remains fixed and promising.
I will not be shipwrecked by procrastination. I will sail through the blustery seas of distractions. The horizon remains fixed and promising.


Enough time to grow weary,
but more time to grow strong–
three years go by quietly
but the day is yet long

It’s enough for the babe
to take her first steps,
to mouth then speak
words, full sentences yet

And moving from childhood
through middle school angst
brings braces and romance
and Mockingbird tastes

From sophomore year high school
To college dorm frats
The young grow to manhood
with off-key jazz skats

It’s a long time to whistle,
a long time to pray,
I’ve been whittling the hours
and daylight away

Here on this keyboard
mostly at night
A new poem I conjure
to summon the light.

Three years go by quickly;
there’s little to share.
The turtle keeps racing,
out-foxing the hare.

Which way did he go? Which way did he go?
Which way did he go? Which way did he go?

A Blessing (after James Wright)

As evening’s chill creeps ever closer,
the light slouches behind the ridge,
and the dogs bay for their supper on the porch.
The older hound, the brother, nudges
his litter-mate sister in order to be the first
whose nose will catch the scent of the meal.
He dotes on the female, plays rough
to show who is boss, but gentle enough.
He lay beside her the time she broke her back;
the recovery was long. He is her best friend.
There is no solace like that of a dog and his sister.
They both sport traditional white collars, short hair
saddle brown markings, and droopy ears
that make their breed so recognizable.
I would like to play with them all day
and have them jump on my bed at night
and steal my pillow or have my feet warmed
by their heat. And the male has arthritis,
his joints ache as he shuffles to the sliding door
to tell me with his smiling, pleading eyes,
that he loves me more than I love him,
unconditionally. Suddenly, I realize
that if I were to see a poor man
this very minute, I would give him
everything I owned.



Porcupine People

Porcupines are odd creatures–
perhaps as unusual as bluebirds.
Really. Have you considered that each don
unusual apparel while jays squawk
excessively? In flocks, jays squawk

Anteaters are also a bit absurd–
much like a hummingbird.
Exactly. Have you seen the tongue
of a hummingbird as it darts unseen for
nectar? Like lightening, it darts

Sloths capture the imagination, too–
similar to the box turtle.
Yes. Have you imagined the two
racing at top speeds toward nowhere
in a tie? Racing at top speeds, they

People are the other enigma–
like storm cloud formations over canyonlands.
Unequivocally. Have you been amazed
by their vibrant hues then seen them
dissipate? In storms, their vibrant hues


Just Try Thinking About Something Else

I truly like a million things–
books, poems, piano jazz, diamond rings;
but of all the likes, I like
you best. Too bad you left
me here alone.

I like the trees and ocean floor;
there’s something to be said
of liking more than just the surf,
the waves and such. A striped shrimp
just joined our lunch.

True, I’m fond of dogs and sloths;
for that I often pay a cost;
Bernese mountain pups and Siamese cats
top cliched likes of this and thats–
along with you, of course.

Cloud formations inspire lines
about the heavens and fireflies
And Galapagos isles create a verse
about some other favorite firsts
Like the penguins who tarry there
among the tortoise and sea hare.

Yes, those animals and ocean things,
clouds, Keats, hounds, concert strings…
all hard to think about just now
(or pen rhyming schemes or stanzaic forms)
since you’ve abandoned me, you cow.

In fact, the diction remains pedestrian
since emotion inebriates the poet’s pen;
(he warned writing now might prove a fuss)
Alas, all liked things have packed their stuff
and climbed aboard the outbound bus

with you.

Writing with Billy might momentarily take my mind off of you.
Writing with Billy might momentarily take my mind off of you.


Tonight, the stockings came off
their hallowed hooks along the hearth
and now sit up like a cluster of newborns
wrapped tightly in swaddling clothes
and leaned against the sofa pillows
stuffed to the ruff with inconsequential
trinkets and sweets at midnight,
enduring winter’s eve like the
wildlife beyond the walls
just a few yards away among the redwoods.

And when the children pull and pour
out the contents upon the Berber rugs
across the land, the stockings languish,
empty, impotent for another 364 days.


The Walk

Many walks in my life
challenged, consoled, inspired
me–it is the walk, after all,
where things happen

Like on the road to Damascus
or that famed walk in the woods
by Thoreau, Bryson, Winnie the Pooh

Maybe it has to do with the air
in the woods. Crisp, freshly
oxygenated, but damp, too

Or perhaps it is the solitude,
like Emerson claimed we need,
when we escape our lives

For me, the walk, whether
down the aisle or around the
block has meant something more

Always ending up here on the page
I circle back for meaning
wondering who or what will appear.




It’s not like I’ve never been
on the edge of my seat–
I’ve been there plenty of times

Like watching the 1980 Olympic
Ice Hockey team defeat Russia
Or Elizabeth Proctor telling a lie

Not unlike cheering the thoroughbred
who edges out his opponent
in a Santa Anita photo finish

I’ve also seen those rock climbers
who, poised on the edge of the cliffs,
give me palpitations

Or the looney bin escapees
who crest the bluff
of Niagara in a barrel

That, an interesting obsession
for sure–bobbing along and then
dropping into the deathly plunge pool

Or my teetering on the brink
of this page where I find myself
paddling frantically upstream

from the topic of you.


Particular Pickles

If I had conjured all images
of bumpy, green cucumbers
drowned in briny baths
waiting languidly in potbellied
barrels on the mercantile counter,
I may have written a poem about
a pickle that you may have known–

not, however, the pickle that now
faces me.

This particular pickle found
its way into my stomach
when I opened my big mouth
and bit down hard on something
that was deceptively palatable
but decidedly distasteful–

as salty as an old dog,
his tail wagging to the beat
of “Oh, Waly, Waly, Gin Love be Bonny.”

Do you know where these pickles are located?
Do you know where these pickles are located?



No, this poem sprang not
from your faint words
nor the silence
nor the coming deluge
of my broken heart.

This poem was written
on the cold concrete floor
of the warehouse in NoHo
Not one scent of comfort
in the winter air–

Despite the hint
of rhubarb pie
and espresso.

Yes, the narrator has
complete control
over sense and sorrow,
never letting emotion
choose the words
nor passion fuel the poem.
Yes, logic has beaten
down love, and reason
done away with pain.


Another Day

I imagine a different day;
even yesterday,
a day when platitudes about
holidays, especially those
that demand gratefulness,
felt free of that syrup
that slowly drips
across the airwaves
and through our wireless portals
laced with black Friday specials
and scented with sage and
a side of thirty-year old
green bean casserole.

And tomorrow. Tomorrow
may be quite a day, too,
as the relief of surviving
all of the food fuss
and rattled nerves creates
one tremendous sigh
and leftover mashed potatoes,
and I return to unforced
thoughts of what really matters
and not the pile of dishes.
You know, those dishes
like the gravy boat that only
make an appearance once a year.

Maybe Thanksgiving sets
the mind straight, maybe
in the feasting we gain
gratitude along with
those two extra pounds.
Let us hope if I speak my thanks
now, no one will be surprised
because he already knows.

I will say it all again
on Monday or Tuesday anyway,
to the same people
I always say it to.
I will leave no one out–
even those who would
prefer not to hear it.
The universe demands.

Yes, I might even invite
those same ungratefuls
home for pie.



A Mouse in the House

It begins and ends here
awake in the middle of the night
ruminating about the dogs,
the kids, the actors, the poets,
the impossible nature
of middle-age.

Could it be that just as Homer
was telling the story of the Lotus Eaters
He was wishing to find such an island?
Or when Dante visited the underworld,
he was not so afraid of dying
but rather intrigued by what Hamlet
feared most, sleep.

Yes, sleep, that would be it.
Perhaps a nap somewhere
in the Caribbean, or even a few
winks here in my own bed–
how lovely to dream about
a morning arrived at like Queen Mab.

But no, the clock ticks by, the mice,
finished with their scurried race
up and down the clock, rest curled up
in their little nest, and I,
I who am waiting for the fairy dust
to settle, yawn and think,
I wish I were a mouse.

That, of course, becomes
fodder for yet another tangent
that steals fifteen more minutes
of sleep, and so I write a poem
And wonder who will care
about the mouse
except to
figure out how to snap its puny
little neck for daring to curl up
in my house.


Lesson Plan

If I were to read a poem at a meeting
I would probably choose, “The Trouble With Poetry,”
not because it is my favorite, but rather
because Emily Dickinson, Edgar Poe, even
Homer, Chaucer, and Dante Alighieri
Just have not been able to crack this
thing wide open on their own.

Really, if I could begin the next faculty meeting
with something other than how many
students are in crisis, how many mandates
the state has enacted but neglected
to fund, I think I could leave Billy Collins
to those of us who love beautiful irony
as opposed to the crueler variety.

But, no, the revolution he began,
to bring poetry outside of the classroom
closet, has found its way back
to the steps of the schoolhouse,
knocking and waiting, waiting and
knocking, for a chance
to instruct, not the students,
but the teachers, not the masses,
but me.


No Wiedersehen This Time

Our neighbor moved out today
not because of our barking dogs
nor the blower we use to clear the leaves

Of course, the way we set off fireworks
just as the lights go out each night
could have driven them away, I guess.

But not the way the Nez Pierce and Mormons
were driven out of their settled homes,
Despised and misunderstood.

It might have been our five cars
spilling out onto the street from the driveway,
or perhaps our kids playing with guns,

the BB type, shooting pennies the way
Booth shot our president that night at Ford’s.
Everyone moving out in horror–

Not the way these neighbors moved
this morning, maybe hoping for refuge from us,
him needing solace, her hospice.



They grow on the tree,
and fall under it
Not far from it
One bad one can indeed
spoil more than just
the rest of the barrel;
in fact, one a day
can bankrupt the entire
medical profession even
before the insurance
companies do.

Alas, when they
are served a la mode
it’s hard to believe that
that it took Adam so long
to take a bite; oh, but maybe
the pair partook of a pear.
And that poor Steve Jobs,
getting rich on a Macintosh
but that could not save his life
nor could it stop Snow White’s
huntsman from killing the pig
a very Lord of the Flies moment.
Poor pig.

And when everyone sits down
at the Thanksgiving table
and plays, being careful not to compare
oranges to bananas,
I thank the good Lord for you,
my pupil, and wonder
how you got into my eye
in the first place.


The Game

On the ride in to work, my daughter
asked me to play “Truth or Dare.”
I laughed aloud at the request.

“Isn’t that the game where friends
dare you to kiss the boy who you think
is the cutest in the room?” I ask.

Or maybe you have to answer
a question truthfully, like
Whom do you love but won’t tell?

She assures me that this game
will not have those kinds of questions.
I believe her and agree to play.

“So,” she begins, “What’s the worst
feeling you have ever felt and when
was the last time you felt it?”

I don’t think she has ever missed
someone the way I have missed
you. “Missing someone.”

“And when did you last feel it?”
She asks innocently enough.
Just now. “Oh, a while ago.”


Drinking Alone (After Li Po) (after Billy Collins) (after midnight)

Yeah, right. Like anyone, me included,
could do anything with as much
acumen as Li Po or Billy Collins.

Perhaps maybe there plays a toddler
somewhere along New Orleans’ boardwalk,
who fills his neon green sand bucket

and contemplates the specks of glass
and will someday pen the next
“Drinking Alone,” but it won’t be me.

No, I am much too busy writing
anonymous blog posts detailing
insanity and administering nonsense

that writing after these fellows
would mean paying attention to form
and influence and maybe even

reading a few of their poems
or reading something other
than billboards and tea leaves.

Death of the Metaphor

Writing the perfect, peaceful poem
usually requires undisturbed time
at a desk in a well lit room–
without perhaps what readers
might imagine to be that cool jazz
and scent of lily filling the room,
or that sun sphere, retiring
from a busy day, illuminating
the masses, that must be casting
its long rays across that imaginary
forest viewed through my frosted window
while the poem glides
ever so gracefully through
the ink onto the page.

No, chances are, the day
is slightly chaotic, the writing
fraught with fidgeting forays
into clunky language describing
landscapes and sounds,
none even remotely close
now except for maybe
my photo album from
the trip to Alaska seven years ago
or the sucking noise of the vacuum.
And then, a long delay
in writing when incessant
distractions subside, and I
foolishly check my email
and find a pompous demand
from a zealot and my emotions
spin, allowing anger to murder
the serenity of the blossoming
Lapland Diapensia
or the perfect metaphor
rising from the frozen tundra
leaving only
memories of that flat tire
three hundred miles from Tok.


Heading Home

Friday night traffic eats into my sanity
in a different way than Monday morning traffic
or internet traffic or the air traffic controller’s
traffic or the trafficking of young girls
or weapons or kilos of cocaine.

Autos and trucks merge on and off
as quickly as banana slugs emerge in
rainwater. The flood of red taillights
creates seas of cars going exactly where
I need to go when I need to get there.

And how is that?

These people do not live with me
or even near me, and yet they all
want to be in my lane turning
on the street I need to turn on
at the very same time I need to turn

Why don’t I know them?

They are not strangers, these commuters
who look so weary on the eve of weekend
revelry. Inside their metal carriages,
and perhaps inside their craniums,
they are the heroes of some other’s life.

Their day, like mine, filled with small victories
and minor defeats, began early–ended late
and somewhere in between they wondered
when Friday would arrive. On Friday evening,
they would head home next to me in traffic.


Billy Arrives and I Leave

Books make marvelous bricks
that weigh me down, sink me
to the bottom of today
or build me up like
pyramids in Giza.

They are so much the building blocks
of my character. I come to life
to read, and die when I finish,
except in books
by Billy.

When those poems arrive,
all bound and tethered together,
I pack my bags and go along
for the Sunday drive. He brings me
with him like he promised he would.

I am not aimless in my love,
it belongs to you and just a few,
without whom I would only show
a portion of my tortured soul
only to be whole again.


A Simple Stroll

Despite streets devoid of cars
and politicians and clerks
on Sunday holiday, the day hums
with calm breezes, cathedral doors
stand open as I walk in solitude
down sidewalks wide enough to make me feel
insignificant yet alive.

Momentary encounters blossom
new thoughts,from sadness
spring smiles, large edifices
pierce the marine blue sky,
homeless men recite Collins poetry
about where they live as they drink
waiting for a better day,
the day I am having,
as the leaves fall
and sycamores sway.


Kindness Unravelled or the Art of Being Better When the Oak Tree Dies

It used to be that I would walk the halls

and think about the great work done

here among and on behalf of the next generation.

Today, however, the small oak tree outside

my office window came down. It had died,

probably a slow, painful death, strangled

from water, leaves curling, turning brown

until she had to be cut down to preclude falling,

knocking out some unsuspecting teenager.

Would that be so bad? Could I choose the teenager

who might be sitting beneath that beloved tree

as it careened to the asphalt in the center of the quad

in the center of the school that is the center of the community

that is just off-center from the land of silicon?

I could name one or two whose head, swollen

with self-importance, would survive the blow

but maybe be knocked sensible in the process.

That, of course, would not be becoming

of me, a person in my position, to wish for–

a lover of children and especially teenagers

even when they say hurtful things, disrespect

their parents, crash their car in a mad dash

for the sandwich shop at noon. No, I dare not

wish the child to be near that oak, that once

beautiful tree, when it dips its last time in the wind.

There is something quite sad about the loss of a tree,

or a dog, or a friend, or even the thought of one.

It makes me want to be kind to the trees,

but not necessarily you.


Another Viewpoint

Was it you who told me how much
you loved The Giving Tree?
How lovely it was that the tree
gave her all to the boy, the man,
the one who ultimately killed her
by taking everything she had?

Oh, but it is just an extended metaphor,
you say just as you ask me nicely
for my last dollar, my last moment
to listen to you marvel at how life
had treated you so unfairly?

Too bad the giving tree had not
sliced her branches into a switch
to lay you down and tell you
that nap time is coming to you
regardless of your age,
that if you touch one more
of her lovely loose leaves
she will haul off and knock
you silly.


Seasonal Sonatas

Poppycock and pine trees replace summer
haystacks and alfalfa fields that teem with titmice
long into summer while boys grow
into manhood and women long for love.

Cumulus clouds billow up from my mountain
laced landscape, and I turn inward as the dews
begin to freeze in the early morning hours
of this autumn transformation.

How is it, I think, that the season,
like poor Persephone stolen away
from the home she loved,
can capture me so fully?

I turn to you, poet laureate and pal
To make sense of the inward unraveling,
the inescapable crack up of that summer
joyfulness and sunshine bliss

And you tell me, in that way of yours,
that peace is in the moment and that
power is in the words, and that tonight,
of all nights, I should relax and enjoy the stars.

So I look up, and sure enough, the moon
has come out to play. Oh, Moon, how kind of you
to remind me that we are here together
and what I see is sunlight coming from you.


Hard Thoughts

I brush up against my own thoughts
when thinking of you.
How is it that I can move
so silently toward my grave
while smiling and laughing
at the top of my lungs?

What will you do to atone
for your life of self-indulgence?

When my thoughts touch my thighs
I bristle at their stiffness.
Their pricks remind me that you
are nowhere to be found–
only my memory of midnight
and the clattering of my sanity against
the floorboards beneath your bed.

I lay my head down now
and try not to think.


Mocking Bird

Angry birds, stellar jays and woodpeckers,
squawk and drill beyond the window sill.

I watch, curious about their antics.
Their shrill sounds blast, muted by the pane glass.

Steam from the morning’s mint tea
Gradually obscures my view.

But the screeching and the knocking

scratch against my throbbing eardrums,

And my inner voice screams epithets
upon your name while angry birds do the same.



I ironed my slacks this morning

and then my shirt, and wondered

why the fuss? What, pray tell,

is wrong with wrinkles?

When he crinkles his nose,

how is that not as appealing

as the smooth face of the stoic

or smile lines of the aged chief?

Why is one grandmother,

spared from time’s unenviable tracks

by her own gene pool, complimented

while the other is pitied for the well earned

folds that testify to her endurance?

The scarce commodity of time

creates its own type of pressing.

But if you want to see what pressing

actually does, just ask Giles Cory

or the great criminals of

of Greek and Roman mythology,

such as the Judas-like Tarpeia who

betrayed Rome for a necklace.

Sit with me at the school

conference table with a parent.

When she begins a line of questioning

and her eternal condemnation unfurls

as she lifts the great stone

of judgment above her head

readying for the drop,

her offspring remains inert–

not realizing that he could leave the table,

go outside, breathe fresh air,

save his life, remain beautifully himself–

wrinkled a bit, but beautiful.


Missing a Word

It would be lying to say

I haven’t waited all day

for word from you.

You, who has my filial

heart and imprisoned soul

marching like zombies

around your imperious being.


Yes, it would be a lie

to speak about you

as an after thought,

a smidgen of remembrance,

as if I did not know you well.


Well, I do know you,

and I give you no pardon,

unless, of course, you

ask for one.



Another year slid by
without a host of hullabaloo
or even a confetti popper
signifying its passing.

And the lines in the stores
and on the freeways at six
stand still as the lines in my
skin deepen and fold.

Turning 50 made me feel entitled
to rant or cry or speak my mind,
but this year, I do not want to
sign that book or tell off the world.

Instead, I want to go back
to the bookstore,
talk about poetry and lore,
find myself with Whitman

buying groceries with Ginsberg,
walking quietly in the woods,
finding beauty in the simple
things that surround me.

Perhaps even you might
consider joining me,
talking for hours about
meaning and madness.


Seamus Heaney Lives Here

I cannot write about Seamus Heaney

found just months before his death

but whose influence informed my mentor

thus informing me.


Not unlike my great aunt, who I never knew,

who painted and sculpted and whose

art I have never seen, but it informed

my grandmother, my mother, and me.


There is nothing to say about how Sophocles

influenced Aristotle other than Plato

knew them both, and Plato probably used that

connection to sway his student.


And when I read of blackbirds and the poetry

of the Bog,  I wonder how it affects

the marginalia and the order of words

and the outcome of this verse.


First and Lasting Impressions

For a moment, I thought you were God,
entering my room with chariots
and trumpets sounding the millennial song.

Entering my room with chariots

You commanded my attention

And swept away my reserves in one breath.

You commanded my attention

Introducing me to dramatic turns

Filling me up with the fire of youth.

Introducing me to dramatic turns

Pulling me headlong and swirling

Into the deepest recesses of my soul.

Pulling me headlong and swirling

First through the door of the theater

Finally, through redemption’s fire.

First through the door of the theater

With trumpets sounding the millennial song

and for a moment, you were a god.



Sonnets and sestinas and stanzaic choice
sent me out with my head hung low.
All the grace of every poem had what
I had opted not to own–

Rhyme and meter, influence, too
Had Billy pressed that more than once?
The form is almost everything
Or so I thought, yeah, me the dunce.

I marveled at the dog and chair
that sit so quietly by the stairs
and then I thought about the form,
loving masters, hearts forlorn.

And it all fell apart one line at time.
It simplified and lost it’s rhyme.
and soon enough I had a poem
that meant nothing, so I went home.



Party Crashers

I have been fighting with the ants all day
only to realize that the battle ended
several millennia ago with me losing
to the army of minuscule foot soldiers.

It began on Wednesday evening
under the tent where we ate dinner.
The ants and I, I mean. Everyone else
seemed unaware of their invitation.

A few bold ones crashed our party
then brought their friends and their drunk
uncle who could not follow a straight line
to save his life.

And I, constantly brushing them off the table
as they intruded so rudely into my conversations
sipping my spilled drink, nibbling my crumbs
zigzagging away with my concentration.


Hamlet Hangover

Not that Descartes was wrong,
but thinking and being deviate.
The first, impossible without about
The second, a matter not up to me.

I did not think myself into existence,
but I can think myself out.
If I think about you, I am human.
If I love you, I am a slave to thought.

And the red balloon launches into flight
just before dawn raises her golden head
and sleep changes my thought to dreams.
Ah, to dream. There’s that nasty rub.