Thursday, April 30, 2009


I pass it sometimes
on the freeway,
the chain bus,
a staff of bars along
the windows, flashing
a big gold

back and forth
between the cold walls
of county courts
and county lockup,
property of the state
say the gavels
and guns

diesel fumes
and polished chrome,
white paint
and black glass
seals the innocent,
the guilty,
the sellers,
the shooters

sitting shackled
and silent
as we throw it into 5th
and pop the clutch -
remembering what a wheel
felt like
in their hands,
the radio on,
the smell of
beside them

passing the chain bus
I remember
the night we ran
down railroad tracks
and ducked

into bottlebrushes
with the boombox
and beer cans,
watching the flashlights
bounce around
the bridge

getting kicked out of
dodger stadium
for drinking because
their hands
in my pockets
missed the powder

buying what I had no business
driving when I had no business
to go where I had no business

the stupid buzz I stole for
the backbiting affliction I stole for
the eventual dispossession
I stole for;

I had no answer then.
I have no answer now.

maybe it’s a single moment
or a missed call,
a friend of a friend,
or a bullet
through the window;
maybe it’s what time you
leave the party or
the streets you take
to get home

And then
one morning
you are in a chain bus
on your way to court
to face the music

or in a car
on your way to work
with the music
blowing out the window

and you are driving into the sun,
letting the rhythm
of the ride
keep you numb,
and you carelessly
glance over

and all at once
the air
in your lungs
turns to ice
and the ice
in your eyes
starts to melt
as you think

there is no real reason
why that
should not
be me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


There is a sailor calling me,
ever, always,
towards the sea,

a shade who walks
a rotted deck,
the broken belly
of his wreck,

in the darkness,
fathoms deep,
restless in
a sodden sleep;

There is a sailor calling me,
some buried root
of ancestry,

forgotten or
perhaps ignored,
a scofflaw on
a rusted sword,

a rogue of
dubious career,
who plied his trade
reviled, revered;

There is a sailor calling me,
in swells of history,

an undertow,
a tidal urge,
to strain against
a rolling surge,

to clench the wheel,
face and fight
a typhoon at
her fuming height;

There is a sailor calling me,
who knows my name,
who says that he

can get a ship,
scare up a crew,
can tell a dead man’s
tale or two,

can anchor in
a quiet bay,
until I’m joined
with him one day;

There is a sailor calling me,
who claims there is
a banyan tree

that spreads above
a hidden plunder,
the spoils of
brigandry and thunder,

abandoned on
a clement shore,
uncharted still
and lost in lore;

There is a sailor calling me,
a siren song
of centuries,

a gale from
a vanished squall,
a hoarse and low
and constant call,

a voice that’s getting
hard to slight,
or blame on tricks
played by the night;

There is a sailor calling me,
ever, always,
towards the sea.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Man Who Wished on All the Wrong Things

I’ve wished a hundred thousand
stars -
on passing cars

On bottle caps
and flickered glows
through window panes
of TV shows

On broken bits
of cookie crumbs
and salt I rubbed
off of my thumbs

On eggshells
and neckbones
and bluebells
and headstones

On pennies dropped
through sewer grates
and signs that welcomed
me to states

and tears I wiped
onto my sleeves
and mission bells
and maple leaves;

I mailed them to
the wrong address
without a stamp –
they’re lost I guess

But now and then I wonder
when I wished ‘em, where they went
and if they’re as sad as I am
that their magic got misspent.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Litany of Laredo

Hail Mary
full of grace
rubbing dirt
into her face
through the plaster
pale and stark
our mother’s face
is glowing dark

Father please forgive me
if a question
is a sin
but when Jacob
pinned the angel
did the angel
let him win?

Hail Mary
full of dread
fleeing when
your husband said
the slaves return
as transients
our mother pawned
the frankincense

Father please forgive me
if I slept
while you were praying
but I lost an ear
to fervor
and I can’t hear
what you’re saying

Hail Mary
full of tears
kept him safe
for thirty years
and made of him
just one request
that tore apart
the hornet’s nest

Father please forgive me
if I’ve asked you
this before
but I couldn’t be
more hungry -
could I maybe
be less poor?

Hail Mary
full of awe
storing up
the things you saw
from the blessed
to the cursed
our mother twice
beheld him first

Father please forgive me
if I can’t find
my way home;
but there’s giants
stalking Judah
and there’s lions
prowling Rome

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Flash & Burn

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree
” -

Of course, I think, and who’d debate
A creed so clear it seems innate?

Deforestation, clear-cut hills,
Poisoned rivers, paper mills;

What kind of fool (or hypocrite)
Am I to cheerfully forget

I chop the wood, I pay the wage,
Each time I put a poem to page?

As flames roar through God’s nursery -
I’ll burn a disc (and save a tree).