Thursday, December 2, 2010


kind of heavy

kind of short

kind of loud

you know the sort

clingy clothes

and heaps of hair

ample cleavage

some to spare

draped in baubles

sparkly heels

makes a living

makin’ deals;

nice enough

but I can’t tell -

what’s she really

tryin’ to sell?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Praise the Lord and pass the gravy

Dave got drunk and joined the navy;

raise a glass to Aunt Louise

who passed away and pass the peas

Turkey’s cold but so’s the beer

send them sweet potatoes here

grab a plate, don’t mind the clutter

green beans and some bread and butter

Cousin Crystal brought her kids

(Lord knows who their daddy is)

Cousin Carl’s ex-wife Jan

(call her Jim now – she’s a man)

Someone go tell Uncle Teddy

time to wash up – supper’s ready;

he’s up under Ann’s corvette,

still ain’t got it started yet

Grandpa’s gripin’ ‘bout his gout

collard greens and brussels sprouts;

grandma’s mixin’ up her lunch,

that famous bowl of julep punch

Some stuffing and some dirty rice

cranberry sauce and pop on ice,

sure wish Cousin Frank was here -

hope he makes parole next year

The kids is raisin’ hell, I swear –

s’why they’re sittin’ over there,

sneakin’ more potato chips

and olives on their fingertips

But that’s the whole damn point, I guess -

the din and fights and food and mess –

sure we’re rowdy, plain and poor

but we’re what we’re all thankful for.

I’ll take pumpkin and pecan

someone turn the ballgame on -

praise the Lord, the last is first,

sweet Jesus, think I’m

gonna burst.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I slept ember far too long;

woke up where I don’t belong.

Gilt and gold are all I find,

some migrant Midas left behind.

I walk tober through the park;

scarlet billows, like a shark

prowls through fog and rips through limbs,

shredding hymnals into hymns.

I know vember very well;

rumors that I can’t dispel.

Cultivating our eclipse,

scent of spirits on her lips.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


He brought back a Luger

from World War II;

we all need our trophies

and he had a few.

A Purple Heart medal,

a couple of scars,

a letter in German

and one silver star.

And he had his stories,

his songs and his rants,

his men in the trenches,

a young gal in France,

but he never mentioned

how he came to own

a Jerry boy’s pistol

one night near the Rhone.

Fifty years later

he left it behind

with three other guns

that his son had consigned

to buy a piano;

he hadn’t a need

for his father's weapons,

souvenirs of his deeds.

Sometimes, even now,

I can hear his son play

when the window is wide

and the breeze blows this way,

and maybe it’s crazy,

but I think somehow

those hammers are beating

a sword

to a plow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


We’ve labored in your grand machines,

you corner office libertines,

we built your smoke and mirror screens

while burying your go-betweens;

with avarice, with arrogance

with no regard for consequence

your words will make no difference

when you collect your recompense

we’ll build a new economy

with music, paint and poetry -

when words become our currency

we’ll learn to use them carefully

the banker and the Bedouin

will stand and sing in unison -

as sentinels, as bastions

regardless of our origin

Doesn’t matter what you tell us

you have nothing new to sell us

peddle deference as rebellious

but your hoaxes won’t propel us

engineer some new afflictions

to endorse some new addictions

blur some facts to grease the fiction

flavor helps reduce the friction

we’ll build a new democracy

with music, paint and poetry -

when harmony is liberty

we’ll play it out responsibly

the grand duke and the destitute

will shrug their station and repute

to raise their voices, resolute

united in the same pursuit

although we’re bruised and bandaged

in a world fouled and damaged

by disasters you’ve repackaged

and the faith that you mismanaged

we’ll still tear down every rubric

of each populist and maverick;

let you choke on all your rhetoric

as thick and sweet as arsenic

we’ll build a new reality

with music, paint and poetry -

when art is made invisibly

we’ll learn to live life beautifully

the children and the elderly,

the indigent and pedigreed,

will slip the chains of enmity

and close the book on history.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


When the frost is on the fencepost

and the birch has shed its bark

there won’t be a star to guide you

when it all goes dark

just a rasp of shallow breathing

just a rustle through the leaves

and a fly that’s caught and kicking

and a spider in the eaves

peer into an empty tunnel

slip a penny on the track;

it’s a long and lonesome whistle

when it all goes black.

When the creak is on the hinges

and you find the door ajar

and it smells of something sodden,

vaguely old and cold and far

you won’t need a star to guide you -

there will be a scarlet spark

in my eyes as I enfold you

when it all goes dark.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


is it brown or is it

it's not gone, only beholden
to a dark and dormant
grasses passing
like the reason

i once had
but can't remember
to see each leaf
as glowing ember
popping from some
phoenix roaring
'til its cinders
send it soaring

but ashy skies,
they only bring
a rush of mud and

might as well call falling flying;
fall's a wily word
for dying.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Summa Cum Lauder

Wasted days and wasted nights -

Freddie Fender had it right

backstops and blacktops

and Leilani’s smile,

living on Cheetos,

red licorice and guile

Bruce was dancin’ in the dark

while we were drinkin’ in the park

pink pearls and the girls

at the volleyball games,

Ronny’s Chevette with the

spray painted flames

like broken gods in local myths

don’t believe me, ask The Smiths

study hall and basketball

and freshmen stuffed in lockers,

couldn’t back it up with much

but we were first-class talkers

Joey knew just what to do -

I wanna be sedated too

filmstrips and friendships,

that row in the back,

strollin’ in tardy and

blastin’ The Knack

makin’ out when we got bored,

kiss me deadly, Lita Ford

spitballs and shortfalls

we’d never confess,

the fever that rose

with the hem of her dress

Fishbone was skankin’ to the beat

while we snuck out and down the street

wizard bongs and Zepplin songs

and all we couldn’t know back then -

like what I wouldn’t give tonight

to see Leilani

smile again.

[the poetry bus poem that wasn't - or almost wasn't - or was just really late.]

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Nothing gold
can stay, I've heard,
and poplars seem to know

all the ingots
in their arms
are for the letting go.

Leaving, then,
must be like gold,
a weight the heart must heft,

through a furnace,
through the flame,
'till leaving's all that's left.

As it's true
that nothing gold
can ever stay for long

so each note
must leave a throat
for there to be
a song.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Slidin’ Delta

It ain’t like we stopped tryin’ -
them bottlenecks still slide.
The delta just been dryin’ up
since Willie Dixon died.

R.L. Burnside - dead and gone,
him and Mississippi John.
Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim,
porkpies on magnolia limbs.

They’re sweepin’ up the barrelhouse
but Honeyboy’s still pickin’-
hangin’ notes up in the air
like Sunday’s fryin’ chicken.

The blues’ll find a stringer
with a story yet to tell
long as dust can find a crossroad
and a soul is left to sell.

Bo Diddley took the midnight train,
Memphis Minnie, Elmore James,
Blind Lemon too, and Magic Sam
fish and spoonbread, greens and jam.

They’re lockin’ up the juke joint
Pinetop Perkins still inside,
still bangin’ boogie woogie
jumpy as a blushin’ bride.

So I guess we keep on tryin’ -
it’s rainin’ hard outside.
Things just never been the same
since John Lee Hooker died.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lost & Found

Autumn strips the branches bare
old men losing all their hair
exposing what we lost up there
things that flew too far, too high.

A rubber ball, a broken kite
snared by forking limbs and height
fading slowly, ashen white
bones of days that passed us by.

Winter keeps us looking down -
whipping rain and muddy brown -
that we might not look up and frown
at things that flew too far, too high.

We’re certain there’s too much to do
too many days that will ensue
to pine for silly things that flew -
flew like sparrows through the sky.

Spring begins, with every leaf
to shroud the spoils of the thief
and hide the objects of our grief
until we can’t imagine why

we used to miss the things we lost,
things we or the wind had tossed,
up to where the boughs are crossed
caught like dreams that went awry

Summer in its fullness comes
bearing peaches, figs and plums
to call us out with cricket hums
and maybe, someday in July

we’ll laugh beneath a canopy
the dappled shade of some great tree
forgetting, playing happily
things can fly too far, too high

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stolen Ambulance

this week’s poem has been stolen.

ok, not really stolen. i sent it to The Smoking Poet and they published it. which is actually pretty cool. thanks, smoking poet.

sorry for the extra click, but bounce on over to read stolen ambulance - and, if you have time, you can peruse the whole fall issue – i think it’ll be worth your while.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


What does not move
is always moving,
proven past
our ways of proving -

spokes and supernovas
stars exploding,
stars beginning;

we pass in
and out of this,
wispy as
a rain-washed kiss,

breaching walls
we did not make,
held by every
breath we take.

[a discard from this prompt - seemed like a good excuse to give a shout-out to aniket and his flash fiction site, though – check it out if you haven’t, and if you have, jump in and join the party already!]

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Labor Day

is a block party,
a football game,
one last trip
to the beach.

overextension, then:
a panic.

politicians and podiums,
highways crawling
with Airstreams and boats.

Fading companies,
failing banks.
Union wheels rusting
in a locked-out railway yard.

hot coals and
cold beer,
fireworks glittering
over the lake.

boycotts, troops,
Smashed-out windows
and a torch-lit mob.

is the sun going down
on summer,
a national tribute
to the American worker.

is the glow of a burned-out
Pullman car,
a riot quelled
by American bullets.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Old School Poetry Bussing

what? random monday post? well, not exactly. see, i'm going back to scohol.

thing is, our friend karen is driving the big yellow poetry bus today. the assignment is to write a poem about school or schooling. which i started to do - really - but then i got to thinking about those days. i started writing poems in high school, thanks to one remarkable english teacher and a lot of customer-free time in the silk plant gazebo in the basement of a sears store. and i thought about karen too, whose take on the poetry bus prompt often isn't head-on; she usually stretches the prompt in her own unique way. so, rather than writing a new poem about those days, i thought i'd post some poems i actually wrote back in those days - unaltered - complete with semi-legible handwriting. schoolbusses don't have seatbelts - what do i need one for?

(click images for larger, semi-legible versions)

finally, this post deserves its own special prime cuts - poetry bus edition.

Quiet Riot / Mental Health - early 80's hair band glam metal - the incarnation of cliché - and, like blacklight posters or an atari 2600, totally freaking epic in its absolute awfulness.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sam & Bernie

Bernie’s eyes were growing dim
his heart and lungs were failing him
he’d lost his hair and strength to age
but years ago, up on the stage,

he’d make that grand piano sing
just like a lark, those keys would ring,
and 30 years of students passed,
their lives changed by a Spanish class.

Sammy’s eyes were sharp and clear
he’d lost some hair, could barely hear
from radiation, chemo, vials
of pills from all the clinic trials.

He loved his swim and soccer teams,
was full questions, hopes and dreams,
fought that cancer, unafraid,
a superhero in fourth grade.

Sam and Bernie met one day
upon a cloud – they passed away.
Sammy trembled, looking down;
Bernie blinked and looked around

and in a quiet moment there
slowly, they became aware
of each other, as they drifted
gently upwards, gently lifted.

Bernie asked the kid his name;
Sammy told him, asked the same
and each could tell the other’s eyes
were kind and soft and warm and wise.

Bernie’d had no kids, no wife,
and Sam’d been sick for half his life;
“I wonder” Bernie said aloud,
“what luck this is – to share this cloud.”

“Maybe it’s not luck,” Sam said,
“to share this cloud – I guess I’m dead -
and mama told me that there’d be
an angel here, waiting for me.”

“I’m no angel,” Bernie grinned,
“just an old man, at his end.
Actually, thought you might be
an angel too, waiting for me.”

Bernie winked and Sammy smiled;
Bernie’s hand reached for the child
who took it softly in his own,
grateful they were not alone -

and that is how they headed for
the open arms of evermore -
hand in hand, as on they drifted,
gently upwards, gently lifted.

for my friends, sam (2000 – 2010) and bernie (1924 – 2010),
with love.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Esprit d'Escalier

Step one is denial
an astonished disbelief
swirling through a silent stupor
like a bronzed and blustered leaf

step two is the anger
boiling blood across the face
in a riled mix of rancor
and resentment and disgrace

step three’s a rush to bargain
with the words that aren’t there
trying to plead them to their places
as they whistle through the air

step four – a pall of sorrow
creeping like an early frost
from the tongue still tied and frozen
for the moment that was lost

and finally, acquiescence;
a surrender to defeat
at the bottom of the staircase
chewing answers down the street.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When He Is Older

They will say he isn’t much
wonder if he was ever much
at all,
shuffling out
in corduroy slippers
to stink-eye the neighbors
and get the mail.

A roadside curio
on a high shelf,
gathering dust and pity,
wheezing and hacking himself
and further
into a world that
sucked out his youth
wrung out his blood
and picks its teeth
with his duty
and debt.

They’ll wonder what it is
he mutters under his breath
and he’ll wonder why
they can’t stop to listen.

They won’t understand
why he spits at their charity,
why he won’t be a jewel
they can paste
on their holy-rolly

They won’t remember the brawn
that shaped steel,
that set cornerstones,
that fought every fool
and earned every dollar.

Not when the tide of strength
has gone out.

They won’t recall
how he picked up and carried
a family of six
through fire and flood
like they were
strapped to his back.

Not when the skin
hangs off the bones
like that ragged undershirt
limps down his frame.

His memory will deceive him,
setting fire to the dried up pasture
of his past.

His body will betray him,
slowly curling his shrinking spine
into a fist.

He will write venomous letters
to the city council
about the parking meters
but there’s no way in hell
he’s paying 44 cents
for a stamp.

He will be a threat
to children,
a cautionary tale
to adults,
unshaven and unkempt,
stockpiling jars of hardware
rusty tools
and broken appliances
in a dim garage
like ammunition
for a burned-out

They’ll keep an eye on his porch,
waiting for the newspapers
to pile up
so they can call the cops
and be done with it.

But for now
he is happy to toss that ball
through a hoop,
chase lizards
through fallen leaves,
eat his dinner
in front of the TV
and call up his dad
every Sunday.

[a long-delayed response to Julie’s incredible When She Is Older - appreciatively, and with the hope that inspiration, in fact, is the sincerest form of flattery.]

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Bells of San Juan

The bell of San Vicente, deep
rousing saints out of their sleep;
throughout the mottled history
of Capistrano by the sea

The swallows are gone
but the bells of San Juan
are still buried
flaked and serried

The Spanish and the Portuguese
brought Jesus Christ and olive trees
and built a church of mud and stone
naïve to how the earth could groan

Father Serra consecrated
holy ground - the soldiers waited;
the curious Juaneños came
to see the flag that laid them claim

The bell of old San Juan intones
the sins for which we must atone;
throughout the mottled history
of Capistrano by the sea

The swallows are gone
but the bells of San Juan
are still broken
splitting open

The Spanish and the Portuguese
brought their wine press and disease
and built a church of mud and stone
with walls that strained beneath the dome

converting chiefs to neophytes
by marshal law and sacred rites;
saved by grace but made to plow,
to worship with their back and brow

The bell of San Antonio
calls out as we come and go;
throughout the mottled history
of Capistrano by the sea

The swallows are gone
but the bells of San Juan
are still ringing
struck to singing

The Spanish and the Portuguese
brought tallow vats and rosaries
and saw their church of mud and stone
come crashing down upon their own

where Magdalena, by the light
of the moon still walks at night
reciting her repentant prayer
since all the padres left her there

The blessed bell of San Rafael
we’ve hung it high and swung it well;
throughout the mottled history
of Capistrano by the sea

The swallows are gone
but the bells of San Juan
in the garden
plead a pardon

yes the swallows are gone
and the bells of San Juan
know the story
tarnished glory

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Poem Blossoms at My Place

So it’s Thursday, but not just any Thursday. Time for a poem, but not just any poem. Please welcome guest-post-poet Sarah Hina, who has just published her debut novel, Plum Blossoms in Paris. You probably already knew that, but on the off chance you didn’t – well – now you do. You’re welcome.

Happily, Sarah agreed to make L&M a stop on her (rather incredible) blog tour. I feel kind of like Bootsy Collins and Macy Gray just showed up to play my house party – I mean yeah, the place is kind of a dump, but nevermind that.


We’re about to be transported.

But first - it might seem odd to promote a novel by posting a poem - but it isn’t. At least not for this novel. Part of what sets Sarah’s writing apart is how it moves like prose but informs like poetry. Or maybe it’s the other way around. What am I, the New York Times Book Review? Point is, her prose is full of poetry – the way it lifts, falls and turns, the way it breathes, the way it ripples through the senses like a sleepy finger trailing through a quiet pool. If you’re familiar with her work, you know what I’m talking about. If not, bounce over to her blog for a bit or check out this excerpt from Plum Blossoms.

OK, I’ll shut up now. Here you go.


The Accordion Player
by Sarah Hina

He squeezed a song
from bellowed veins
growing blue half notes
into red, sustained
as couples passed
like shaken bouquets
some tossing their coin
some fading away

Down silver quays
slickered with dreams
cobblestone rivers
to catacomb drains

And still he played
as the Seine did flow
April in Paris
to La Vie en Rose
fingers pumping
his reluctant friend,
Non . . . je ne
regrette rien

But regrets he kept
between two stones:
Sacré Cœur summits,
gargoyle bones

Until one night
in late November
when tourists were weak
and the sky was thunder
a single soul strolled
a burgundy flower
bracing violin
against one shoulder

Her back was turned
his eyes did close
they exchanged no words
as notes struck swords

And lightning flashed
over Notre Dame
and bridges swayed
with maelstrom song
as the stained glass shards
of two musicians
bubbled and dripped
into one rose fusion

And when she turned
a chord of eyes
their surrender à l'amour

Under Paris Skies


Follow Sarah around on her Meet Me In Paris blog tour (sort of like being a Deadhead, but without all the hippies, microbuses, contact highs and perilously errant Frisbees):

Sarah hangs with
Travis Erwin
Plum Blossoms in Paris
virtual launch party
Plum Blossoms
flash fiction contest (winners announced!)
Sarah answers
25 Questions posed by Richard Levangie
7SS with Aerin Bender-Stone
Sarah visits
Jaye Wells
Sarah’s poem at
The Walking Man

An excellent review by Stephen Parrish
Listen to
Sarah reading Sarah

And of course – don’t forget to pick up your copy of Plum Blossoms in Paris at:
AmazonBarnes & NobleChaptersBordersYour Local Independent BookstorePowell's BooksBooks-A-Million (or, you know, walk into a bookstore. If you’re old school.)

Oh, and this. Just so I can keep my poem-a-week streak alive. (I know. Total narcissist.)


I can not wait to
read Plum Blossoms In Paris -
I hear it kicks ass.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


On a longboard
in the morning
by a reef break,
southwest swell

kind of sloppy
but it’s draining
and should clean up
pretty well

you can shred ‘em
if you want to
carve ‘em up and
cut ‘em down

but that wave just
melts to ocean
and another
rolls around

On a longboard
in the morning
where the seagulls
soar and swoon

it’s a slow ride
through the silky
waltz of ocean
with the moon

I am only
passing through here,
rising up to
fall apart

while the surf keeps
timeless rhythm,
an eternal
beating heart

On a longboard
in the morning
where the dolphins
crest and dive

in a wordless
prayer of reverence,
grateful just to
be alive.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Waiting Room

In the waiting room it’s muted
in the waiting room it’s cold
filling forms and signing papers
simply doing what I’m told

smiling faces gazing up from
creased and tattered magazines
seem content to be distractions -
they’re still prettier than me

there’s a door that I came in through
there’s a door where I will go
with a waiting room between them
full of people I don’t know

all whose lives have been delayed here
and who share a common aim;
who can only sit and wait for
someone else to call their name

there is water in the corner
and a clock that holds its breath,
there are flippant plastic houseplants
impervious to dust and death

there’s a door that closed behind us
there’s a door that’s closed in front
with a silence in the waiting
full of nothing that we want

Thursday, July 8, 2010


milk white skin and hair like ink
bleeding in a bathroom sink
trying to exsanguinate
the wretchedness
the reprobate

why are all your
shirtsleeves long
why do all my
words sound wrong

turning inward, iron-clad
even each small smile is sad
downcast eyes that rarely raise
haven’t had a
meal in days

who has filled you
with misgiving
made you so afraid
of living

carved reliefs and pins and blades
losing friends and faith and grades
drops of crimson, wrung from clover
black and white and
red all over

forget I asked;
just let me sit.
these scars of mine
are testament.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Coffee Machine

forty-five cents
for a bad cup
of vending machine coffee.

the vending machine man
didn’t stock lids

i think about him
and about the janitor
wiping down the sinks and
hauling trash
and the men who tromp around
on the roof,
banging on the air conditioners
every month
to get them humming again.

they didn’t get
the email from corporate
with the link
to the newsletter
with the article
about how we are poised
to “boost efficiency”
through “consolidation”

“it was a very tough decision"
said the boss
who has been in our building
in four years,
“knowing it will
affect people’s lives”

listen, not having lids
affects people’s lives.

not having jobs
alters them.
suspends them.
holds them hostage
in paper cups
while all the heat

i drink bad coffee
in front of
rows of chips
and candy bars,
burritos and pre-packaged sandwiches
neatly stacked
behind the glass.

so here we are;

forty-five cents
a line of machines

and lids
that just don’t fit
our cost structure

Thursday, June 24, 2010

El Dorado

He was born down in Chiapas
underneath a mangrove tree
where his papa blessed the virgin
as he washed him in the sea

he mended nets at four and five
by six was in the boat
helping papa chase dorado
through the reefs he knew by rote

but the mangroves grew into hotels
and the boats got bigger, faster,
and the palm trees stretched up from behind
black bars and boards and plaster

So they slipped through Arizona
and they got to Colorado
working side by side with papa
always dreaming of dorado

They bought a van and followed
as the crops grew ripe and ready
sending what they could back home
though the schooling was unsteady

He learned to cook in Texas
to lay brick in Tennessee
how to keep a dead van running
how to trim and crown a tree

and when the time had come for him
to finally bury papa
he made good on what he promised
and returned him to Ixtapa

His sisters wept and kissed him
filled his belly with asado
and cerveza and ceviche
for their jefe, of dorado

He took long walks in the mornings
it was like a different town
but the north held nothing for him
so he thought he’d stick around

He found work on a charter
running tourists out all day
baiting hooks and gaffing bluefin
in the salt and sun and spray

and the ocean shone like tarpon
and he felt his papa’s hand
like an angel on his shoulder
every time he left the land

and it came like second nature
reading silhouette and shadow
tell the gringos where to drop it
watch them reel in dorado

He earned a reputation
and he earned a handsome fee
but his needs were pure and simple
just a boat, the sky and sea

and he passed on to his nephews
all the secrets that he knew
stories of their abuelito
until they could feel him too

Then when his breath grew shallow
and the toil took its toll
all his sisters wept and kissed him
and lit candles for his soul

but he’s out in open water
casting nets toward Coronado -
he is drenched in gold and azure
and he’s dreaming of dorado

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dear Hunter

You can come up raisin’ hell, son
six-guns blazin’, pumpin’ lead
but you can’t knock down that barrel
pressin’ hard against your head

and there ain’t no use in cryin’
and it ain’t no use to quit
and the only lie’ll kill you
is the truth you can’t admit

so just play the cards you’re dealt, son
with whatever chips you got
you just draw a breath and draw a bead
step up and take your shot

it’s an old and cold blue marble -
when it rolls around again
drop a live one
in the chamber,
give that cylinder
a spin

Thursday, June 10, 2010

There’s a Hole in the Bottom (Thanks BP!)

There's a hole in the bottom of the sea,
There's a hole in the bottom of the sea,
There's a hole, there's a hole,
There's a hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s a pipe in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
There’s a pipe in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
There’s a pipe, there’s a pipe,
There’s a pipe in the bottom of the sea.

There’s a spill from the pipe in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
Spilling oil from the pipe in the hole of the bottom of the sea,
There’s a spill, an oil spill,
From a hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s oil spilling from the pipe in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
Spilling oil by the barrels by the hundreds hourly,
Killing men and fish and fowl and legacies,
All the oil, gobs of oil,
From a hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s an oil slick that’s spreading through the sea,
Floating, sinking, drifting all throughout the sea,
It’s a mess even the astronauts can see,
All the oil, gobs of oil,
From a hole in the bottom of the sea.

There’s a lot of people working for BP,
As their fixes turn to failures steadily,
Fumbling through a circumspect apology,
They don’t know, how to slow,
Oil gushing from the bottom of the sea.

There are people cleaning oil from the sea,
Trying to mitigate unbounded tragedy,
Ask the folks up in Alaska, they’ll agree,
After years, it reappears,
Washing up from a hole in the sea.

There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea,
There’s a geyser spewing up catastrophe,
That’ll easily outlive both you and me,
And I hope we maybe learned a thing or three,
Like not to bore, a well offshore,
And put a hole in the bottom of the sea.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Welcome Back

I don’t know what I expected
having thoughtlessly selected
dusty bottles stuffed with notes
I can scare recall I wrote

from some long ago of shore
tossed them out into the roar
of the ocean, pitiless,
to the whim of her caress -

but she is a funny thing
cannot help herself but bring
souvenirs up from the sand
bits of secrets in her hand

and she giggles at my wonder;
I may break it, pull it under,
deep as darkness if I spurn it;
then again, I might return it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010



Apostrophe, misunderstood,
and commonly misused,
I wonder if it makes you sad
or if you are amused.

Although unmoved by plurals
I find it most impressive
that your heart’s unselfish mission
is denoting the possessive.

You’re frequently omitted
and yet you volunteer
to indicate omission;
Ironical? Or queer?

Will we ever understand you
or will you endlessly expose
our imperfect grasp of grammar?
I guess heaven only know’s.

Question Mark

Question mark, who made you?
Why do you loop and drop?
How is it that you always know
When questions need to stop?


Not quite a colon, not quite a comma,
your mark is distinction; you’re given to drama.

You like clauses independent; you link them up like so.
You’re the comma comma calls on when a list requires a pro.

When John, from Jamaica; Frank, from Peru;
and Tim get together, you know what do.

Not quite a comma, not quite a colon,
You wait for the thunder; consider it stolen.


A little dot. So simple, yet
as useful as a speck can get.

A little dot, and yet so great,
to end and to abbreviate.

Some say you’re a decimal,
but I must disagree.
(Perhaps you are – I must admit
that math’s just not for me.)

You are Punctuation, Inc.,
the spot that stops the thoughts I think.

A little dot. So simple, yet
so easy, sometimes, to forget


Comma is that breath you take,
a quiet pause, a little break,
when a new clause has begun
dependant on the other one.

It’s always happy to assist
sort out the items on a list
so we’re not stumped, mixed up, confused
by different things becoming fused.

When in pairs, somewhat like these,
they stand in for parentheses.
“They’re used with quotes,” the scholars say,
“when it’s the object, see? This way.”

Between coordinate adjectives,
after greetings on missives;
your cheerful, sideways smile’s a clue.
Dear Comma, what can you not do?

Quotation Marks

“It’s with pleasure I appear
each time you use a quote, my dear –
direct that is, not paraphrased,
corralling what another says.”

Have you any other quirks?
“well - titles of artistic works,
nicknames and use-mention too -
I act as italics do.”

What about to emphasize?
Is it alright? Is it wise?
“Perhaps, I guess, occasionally-
when words are used ironically.”

I see – now I have the tools.
I “love” all of these grammar rules!
English isn’t all that tough!
“All right, wise guy, that’s enough.”


I went strollin’ with a colon
and we had a little chat
‘bout the way that it could help me
when I’m writin’ this or that.

It can introduce descriptions
or the items in a group
and we had a three course dinner:
lemon cake and steak and soup.

It can introduce an outcome
of a fact that is preceding
so I thanked it for the meal:
colon said that it was treating.

I went bowlin’ with a colon.
Know why that’s its favorite game?
‘Cause it’s two dots down the middle
like two balls in every frame!

[a collection that’s been pieced together over the last couple of years, mainly as catharsis – how is it that, judging from their correspondence, better educated and better compensated professionals seem to be at such a loss when it comes to the basic use of common punctuation marks?]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ray Combs

The road began at Hoodwinks
telling jokes for free drinks
killed on the Tonight Show
got me a big stand O

Richard D was history
handed it right to me
some kid from Ohio
looked good in stilettos

my way
no cash
car crash
strung up in a closet
it’s not the answer you wanted, was it

Hob-knobbed with the A list
shook hands and I got kissed
all about the giving
asked questions for a living

I’m sure they’ll all remember
forever and forever
me and Dick and Bob and Wink
tickling our contestants pink

my way
no cash
car crash
strung up in a closet
it’s not the answer you wanted, was it

Dickie came back into town
I was out a gig and down
no one seemed to come around
no work for a one note clown

Swimming in a sea of red
maybe in over my head
guess that’s how the cookie breaks
between the suits and sharks and snakes

my way
no cash
car crash
strung up in a closet
it’s not the answer you wanted, was it

Got off the road in Glendale
stepped onto the third rail
sure do miss the family
wonder if they’ll miss me

another TV tragedy
check it out all month on E!
the guy who tried but couldn’t be
I swear to god that isn’t me
can’t go back to comedy
standing up is hard you see
when you’re crying til you choke
because the braces pinch and poke
and your ego needs a stroke
but you’re busted and you’re broke
and you find out you are the joke

my way
no cash
car crash
strung up in a closet
it’s not the answer you wanted, was it

[hey, was anybody looking for a poem that appears to be lyrics to a punk song about a relatively obscure late 80’s game show host? because, um, i found one. from the archives, late 90’s.]

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I never felt the feelings
that you did and that I should
and I don’t know what that makes me
but I’m sure it isn’t good

I’m sorry that I’m sorry
is all I had to say -
if I wasn’t late or missing
I was getting in the way

I never meant to hurt you
but that’s all that I seemed to do
I could never find the right words
but I’m sure you have a few

I’m sorry that I’m sorry
is all I could express -
if I wasn’t getting mucked up
I was making you a mess

I never saw the future
that you seemed to see in me
and it’s not for lack of trying
there’s just nothing there to see

I’m sorry that I’m sorry
is the state I’m always in -
if I wasn’t at a standstill
I was in a tailspin

and now I’m doin’ 90
I’ve got no idea where
but it isn’t like I left you –
I was never

[from the archives. november 1996]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Corner Kick

There was this sketchy little kid at the end of the block
with a shoebox full of sluggers and a robot that could talk
he didn’t have no friends, no one called him on the phone
and when he came around I’d pretend I wasn’t home

His dad died in the war, his mom was always on a bender
drove a yellow Grand Marquis with duct tape wrapped around a fender
he always walked to school always staring at his shoes
the first one tagged in dodgeball and the last one that we’d choose

Always wore an army coat, too big and kind of brown
always had some bruise from hitting doors or falling down
nobody really talked to him, was like he wasn’t there
kind of like a fencepost with a mop of matted hair

One night, I think in April, just before the sun was gone
a couple of police cars pulled up and parked there on his lawn
his mom was out front cursing, screaming, spitting at the cops
somehow got a free hand and she punched one in the chops

and I saw the kid come walking out and climb in the cop’s backseat
you could hear his mama’s yelling echo up and down the street
and he looked out the window and I saw his pale face
and he just looked kind of tired but there wasn’t no disgrace

he looked just like he always did, just bored and blank and sad
and he didn’t cry or look afraid or mean or scared or mad
and that’s exactly how he looked as the cop car drove away
the same nobody nowhere look that he wore every day

The cops, they never brought him back, he never came around
his mom packed up the Marquis and she steered it out of town
the house sat empty for awhile, was razed and built again
and then my buddy Frankie and his family moved in

The kids at school had stories, but none of them were true
I could’ve told them what I saw but no one really knew
and we kind of just forgot as dust and pine tar filled the air
and no one really – like I said, was like he wasn’t there.

[from the archives. mid-90's]

Thursday, April 29, 2010


She smells like the
summer rain
drifts like an old song
through my brain

moves like breezes
through the grass
as warm as home
as smooth as glass

every smile is a sunrise
chasing darkness from the sky
and I’m a little gladder
every time she passes by

Her body like
the crashing waves
can’t help but stare
and be amazed

and when her lips
begin to part
a bolt shoots through
the harshest heart

each smile is the silence
just before the music plays
and I’m a little gladder
every time she looks my way

Eyes that spark
and flash and gleam
like glints of gold
inside a stream

and when a sadness
clouds her face
the sun and stars
seem out of place

she’s the girl that you meet
that makes you glad you came,
and I’m a little gladder
just because she knows my name.

[from the archives. 2000-ish]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Returns Department

Ten past nine
it’s cold and wet
haven’t had
my coffee yet

some days you love
some days you hate
most days you just
go in at eight

Look for the file
that no one’s seen
and curse the loveless
fax machine

ain't no rhyme
or reason to it
when you have to
just get through it

Something grandpa
used to say
more in a farmer
kind of way

I edge closer
to recall
when the phone
shatters it all

can’t say that it
matters, though –
have to get
that cup of joe.

[from the archives. mid 90's]

Thursday, April 15, 2010


forget the thought
I thought I thunk -
I shoot my mouth
when I get drunk

and I don’t mean
and I don’t aim
that ratshot blast
but just the same

I ougtta leave
that whiskey be
what puts the devil
into me

forget the things
I think I said -
God knows what
flew out my head

like tossin’ shells
into a flame
until they pop
and mar and maim

I oughtta quit
that wicked juice
what knocks my sense
and jaw too loose

so just forget
the man you thought
I am because
turns out I’m not

I’m loaded with
the hammer cocked
a bottle up
and almost crocked

I guess that’s just
the bitch of me -
i’m smokin’ in
the armory.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


She was long and low and lovely
and she handled like a boat
as I barreled down I-80
in my old man’s hat and coat

they was all that I took with me
but they couldn’t case my shame;
left my father’s house in ashes
but I couldn’t shake my name

it was all he ever gave me
‘fore that long and awful ride
of a drifter and a grifter
hawkin’ used cars on the side

and a pretty little penny
out to catch herself a thrill -
what her daddy couldn’t buy her
in that mansion on the hill

Didn’t know where I was headed
what it was I thought I’d find;
if I’s out to capture somethin’
or leave somethin’ far behind

Atlantic City to Toledo
like a Waylon Jennings song;
just a slice of pie and coffee
ragtop open all night long

Passin’ every Joe and Johnny
99 on cruise control;
phantom faces on the highway
patrolman on a pecan roll

No he didn’t give an answer
but what answer could there be;
wasn’t nothin’ but a monster
and sir what does that make me?

Livin’ like I had no reason
to believe in much no more
since the day he made the papers,
that state trooper at my door

but way out in east Nebraska
I felt something breakin’ free;
the captain of a Continental,
windblown prairie as my sea

Just a captain, a Continental,
and Nebraska
as my sea.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Four Questions

What bread is this that does not rise?
We can not sleep - redemption flies;
so gather what you can and run
and let it bake beneath the sun.

What is this herb of bitterness?
The flavor of our hopelessness;
the silence on a servant’s tongue,
his lamentations left unsung.

What stem drinks from a pool of tears?
You, beloved - your frontiers
spread out like a scarlet bud
from all our fathers’ bones and blood.

What is this pillow, soft and deep?
The chains we lost; the peace we keep.
The freedom where we find our rest
in fortress, field or wilderness.

It is at once our history,
our present and our prophecy;
tonight’s what changes everything
as we pass over,
into spring

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Dine Alone Without Feeling Awkward

Sit at the counter or a bar,
cruise a drive-through in your car.
Short of that, make up a name
to give the hostess – something plain.

Request a table set for two;
they don’t need to know that you
are on your own, so just pretend
you’re waiting on a flaky friend.

Pull out a book or magazine,
some pages you can flip between
and gaze down at them pensively,
deflecting looks of sympathy.

Stir the ice cubes in your tea,
take bites alphabetically.
Apple, bacon, crouton, date –
what did I say? I’m sorry – wait -

Make believe you are a spy
or up to something on the sly;
check your watch, avert your eyes,
give curt and indistinct replies.

Act as if you’re on vacation
in some distant, pleasant nation
where you cannot comprehend
a single word that they extend.

Or maybe just get hammered first,
peel off that hunger with a thirst;
get too friendly, crass and strange –
let them feel awkward for a change.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


“green with envy” -
envy’s green?
this idiom,
from what latrine?
I hadn’t thought
what it might mean
until today,
until this scene;

as spring is surging
over us,
verdant, blooming,
the shoots - oeuvre!
the sprigs - opus!

what doesn’t grow -

that’s envious!

[yes, a day early - but seems fitting - and anyway, what good is a rule if you can't bend it sometimes? happy greening, all!]

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Something’s where
the record skips
the words that hang
on thirsty lips

unsettled by
peculiar ease

Something scrapes
against the pane
that anyone
could well explain

(but leave it to
a fool like me
to ruminate
the possibly)

Something’s sticking
in my skin
the wrinkle of
a stifled grin

the splinter of
what’s left to say
as Something whispers
walk away

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Well they tried to get me ready
and they did the best they could
tryin’ to lead a horse to water
but you can’t carve rotten wood

so I packed up my intentions
and I signed my registration
and I started up that staircase
to some higher education

you can burn the midnight oil, you can burn up something sticky
you can swear to god you’re straight but all those white lines can get tricky
you might catch a couple cases, but there’s no need to get nervous
if you can’t afford the fines, their community needs service

Always fell a little short
always heard I had potential
but I never figured out
how to solve that differential

and I found that all the answers
from my best hallucinations
didn’t have a foil in questions
posed by higher education

yes we took the road to ruin all the way to west New York
while we weren’t sharp or pretty we got by on noise and torque
we misconstrued the meanings and we mostly made mistakes
and were halfway down the mountain by the time we tried the brakes

Even though I was surrounded
by good people I respected
couldn’t help but feel inept,
out of place and disconnected

and what I considered trying
was just spineless resignation
as I kept on sinking lower
in my higher education

you can blame it on the method, you can blame it on The Man
you can blame it on the witness as he’s sworn in on the stand
you can blame it on the mirror when the image gets effaced
but it’s harder getting wasted when there’s nothing left to waste

So I failed and I bailed
unencumbered by degrees
and I sold my books in boxes
with my pride and memories

and the best that I can hope for
in my shame and consternation
is to manage long enough
to outlive my condemnation;
maybe find a grain of wisdom
or some kind of graduation
in the crest that crowns the crater
of my higher education.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Other Words

In other words, I’m trying to say
what different words
could not convey ;

I get hung up in them a lot -
in words, I mean,
I’m always caught

between the thing I want to shout
and what it is
I stutter out.

In other words, I hoped to show
what different words
don’t seem to know;

they always vow they will express
precisely and
with stylishness

but then they lurch and reel and fall
and snicker from
their languid loll.

In other words, I'm trying to write
what these words here
don’t seem to, quite;

but maybe they’re not made for this -
forget them, then,
and with a kiss

we’ll let them slip and slink away -

I love you more
than words can say.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

St. John Eating Pancakes at Fog City Diner

Halo hung
on the coatrack
by the glass door,
lost in wide streaks
of mid-morning sunlight.

Faded denim
strains between
broad shoulders,
hard, thick hands
dwarf the fork.

Dirt pushed high
under fingernails.

Another bite crosses
a coarse tangle of beard.

Out of work
since eight lanes of asphalt
level the wilderness
and the casinos string
and sparkle
and sing along
the river.

Out the window
the laborers
huddle with their backpacks
under a mission fig,
gathering hesitantly around
every shiny truck
that pulls up.

Landscapers, roofers, masons.
Sí, sí puedo.
A few climb in and
are gone.
Painters and tree trimmers.

Stares at himself
in a still pool of
black coffee,
making brown
runny rings
over snake-oil

Waitress sets the check
in front of him on the counter
without looking down.

A thread of maple syrup
seeps from a pale scar
circling his neck
and he does not bother
to wipe it away.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Gather rosebuds, Herrick said,
before the smiling
bloom is dead

like he knew, in 1650,
how to hurry
or how shifty

time can be, or how it slips
a cunning hand
around their hips

what is it that you’re waiting for
how is it that you can ignore
the heat unlocking every pore?
the pulse that pounds into a roar?

The sun is Carpe Diem’s call
that bounces off
the convent wall

grab a basket, wide and deep
and leave the chaste
their spotless sleep

mind the thorns, but if they rake
seep some blood
for beauty’s sake

who is it that you’re waiting on
restrained within your prim salon?
why linger there, trussed in chiffon,
shifting, sighing, growing wan?

Gather rosebuds while you can
before the virgins
hit the fan

spinning fingers, blush and blouses
until poor
John Waterhouse’s

maidens fall like Pollock drips,
bending tears
around their lips

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Used Two

I used to feel you think of me.
It’s been a while
but that could be
it was only
wishful thinking
or whatever
I was drinking.

I used to feel you felt me too.
Not anymore
I guess that you
found whatever
in the space
you needed and
if that’s the case

I guess I’m glad
you cut the strings -

I used to feel
a lot of things.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Hold on
old man
and do not go -
the sun is low but has not set;

there still is snow
upon your stoop,
your floor needs sweeping yet.

I’d like to stay
but have to go.
Someone else
must clear the snow.

Hold on
old man
and do not go -
the sky is hung with twilight grey;

there still is snow
upon your walk,
and much we have to say.

I hear my name
and have to go.
Someone else
must clear the snow.

Hold on
old man
and do not go -
turn away that shadow’s reach;

there still is snow
upon your roof,
and much

you have
to teach.

Kiss me, boy,
before I go.
Take my hand
and watch it snow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

3 Days of Rain


Woke up to the tuneful sound
of steady-falling
rain come down.

Like a friend who’s come around
who’s been away,
who just hit town.

Let the wiper blades keep time;
we’ll catch up in
the shimmer-shine.


Mid-afternoon; the gloomy glow
of sun diffused
by clouds below.

Like a guest who doesn’t know
the welcome’s worn -
it’s time to go.

Sorry for the mess and all –
hang on, I better
take this call.


Driving home; another fight
through flooded streets,
refracted light.

Like a rival, flashing spite,
gnashing through
the swirling night.

Sodden, sopping, soaking wet.
I am not done.
I’ll drown you yet.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


in case you haven’t heard, jason over at clarity of night is having another short fiction contest. i highly recommend checking it out – always some really great reads.

since he's got a new contest, and since i'm currently buried to the point i haven't writen anything for almost a month, i thought i'd post my entry to the last clarity of night contest – technically not “new”, but new here – and this is the longer version, before i had to pare it down to 250 words per the contest rules. if you are a comparer / contraster, here is the – well, not short, but sanctioned version i submitted. (and don't miss the winner of the last contest)

So you let yourself in early
to surprise him when he woke
but the bed was made – unlike him -
so you stepped out for a smoke

and you couldn’t help but notice
as you wondered where he’d go
atop the trash, the empty bottle
of a ’64 Boudreaux

he once told you he’d been saving
for that sometime special night
and your final drag was shaky
knowing something wasn’t right

so you grabbed your phone and called him
but you heard it ring inside
and you found it in the kitchen
on the counter, right beside

broken bits of silver ribbon
and a scrap of shiny paper
and the breath you fought to draw
quickly vanished into vapor

as you glanced down in the basin
and discovered in the sink
a pair of dirty crystal glasses
with a foreign shade of pink

telltale lipstick in a crescent
like a smile, near the rim -
though the tears impaired your vision
you could piercingly see him

as the puzzle came together
faster than each piece could fall
and you retched onto the dishes
at the writing on the wall -

eleventh-hour client dinners
and the weekend business trips
when you simply couldn’t reach him
and the stutters and the slips

and you fumbled in a stupor
of revulsion, hurt and ire
and you tore and threw the necklace
he had given, and a fire

was still smoldering in cinders
in the hearth, and you saw red
and an earring on the carpet
which, of course, explained the bed…


In the rearview, from the freeway
dusky plumes began to dawn
like exclamation points that
both his house and you were gone;

in your ears he was a sparrow
on your neck, an albatross;
love may cast a
blinding brilliance
but in vino

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Red Herring, Orange County

a little black ragtop 325
drive like you’re late but you never arrive
peroxide and cowhide, some pills and a bible
protracted divorce and a judgment for libel

some silicone, some collagen
great taste in shoes but not in men
pull into a dark garage
teardrops on your décolletage

so you’re not the kind of girl
that would give a pig a pearl
as he talks your Secrets off
carves a notch into the trough

charm with smoky eyes and skin
on the sickly side of thin
one more glass of chardonnay
long as you don’t have to pay

have a ball and charge it all
little boutiques, at the mall
find the perfect purse to pair it
even if you never wear it

so you’re not the kind of girl
that would give a pig a pearl
but he’s got a place in Vail
says he’ll teach you how to sail

your son’s friends seem very nice
coming to you for advice
stammer shy but wrung and wound
usually when he’s not around

and your daughter seems embarrassed
that her mom is not the squarest
never brings her boyfriend by
never gives a reason why

so you’re not the kind of girl
that would give a pig a pearl
as he’s pulling off his tie
carves a notch into the sty

maybe you’ll go back to school
trashy novels by the pool
maybe boost the child support
with another round in court

and the makeup’s getting thicker
and the wine gives way to liquor
and it’s harder finding claimants
for reciprocal arrangements

no you’re just a savvy girl
knows the worth of any pearl
(as a hoof runs up your garter)
is determined by the barter