Friday, July 29, 2011

precipice (falling & the fallen)

precipice (falling & the fallen)

"Everyone is a terrorist. Everyone carries a gun in his heart. . . .
For want of a rationale, or courage, we are all assassins."

a man left hanging is not a hanged man

even a fallen man is not falling
when the rope holds him there
swinging against the act of killing

but she did not kill him this time
& failed to destroy what she wanted
to end like nightmares she dreamed

it proved impossible to defy physics
to simply ask a moon to stop orbiting
to will an apple not to drop to the earth

he had been stabbed cut loose & ambushed
but despite the assault his heart was resolute
& ached to toe a ledge just for the peace of it

this hanging-never-turned-to-hanged became
instead a myth weaved from the yarn of riddle:
he wanted only & always her who wanted him

this is the truth of poetry
that stains her lips&tongue
like blackberries&raspberries

& the nectar of her breathkiss
filled his lungs heart & mind
against the creaking branch above

Thursday, July 28, 2011

surrender (when they come for me)

surrender (when they come for me)

And the more I thought about it, the more I dug out my memory things I had overlooked or forgotten. I realized then that a man who had lived only one day could easily live for a hundred years in prison. He would have enough memories to keep him from being bored. In a way, it was an advantage.
Mersault, The Stanger, Albert Camus


when they come for me
i will not put up a fight

as they rush me from behind
pinning me down to earth

underneath the weight of a knee
bloodied mouth and handcuffed

my hopelessness will seem brave
my solitude will cloak me like armor

i am a warrior monk celibate and monogamous
as i have surrendered my sword to prayer

burying little scrolls of you in my lungs
tattooing haiku of you beneath my tongue

each heart beat a confession of supplication
eyes blinking Morse code meditations

for a man cast aside faith is a silent weapon
against the undertow calling like Sirens

gods and mortals alike are offended and angry
because bones can break but i cannot

captured and sentenced to life in prison
as if that changes anything
as if that changes anything


whispering to myself no longer praying
the secrets of a dead man walking

if it were you slipping up behind me
your hand on my shoulder to turn me around

your hand taking mine as we face to face
look at all that has come before to this place

that could be the end to this crusade
a façade of all that we have failed to share

i am weary of being a solitary soldier
whose only grace is recollection and belief

and that is the truth behind the legend
of my falling under the weight of their assault

Sunday, July 24, 2011

delicate (rice paper)

delicate (rice paper)

her skin was as delicate
as rice paper
as rare
as kindness sustained

(anyone could be kind
or string acts of kindness
one after the other
to appear kind
but sustained kindness
offered beyond thought
was rare and beautiful)

and that skin
pale and sun-denied in winter
toasted brown in summer heat
(he would learn in the days to come)

made every shape curve and gesture
of her nearly unbearable and indelible

and he fell in love with her
watching her unaware of him
before she knew anyone watched
before she could imagine being watched

or loved

like a haiku carefully feathered
black ink etched across rice paper
rolled and tied with a green ribbon

later much later
when she sat cross-legged and barefoot
the soft white arch of her upturned foot
assured him of the promise of kindness

and nothing as delicate as that could match
the words he tried to lift from his lungs
that came out as only humming
and then she smiled kindly without thinking

28 days (this metamorphosis of words)

28 days (this metamorphosis of words)

Father Benedetto: [speaking to Jack] You cannot deny the existence of hell.
You live in it. It is a place without love.

yes we had begun again
rebuilding and sculpting
our subterranean world
our lives at the margins

and anyone would admit
that this fragile Shangri-La
this sanctuary spawned softly
from the blood of imagination

could not stand for long
like sandcastles washed away
by the insistent rising tide
chanting this can never be

so how can i remain bound
buried under two surgical emails
crafted 28 days apart cycling
from blissful hope to stripped anger?

so how can i face this metamorphosis
of words like scalpels and sutures
casting me precious in your heart
and then bull shit on your tongue?

when the steel of me lies in bone
surrounded by the fragility called
skin blood flesh muscles and sinew
that burns and bruises under blows

aiming past this cartoon rib cage
expanding and contracting always you
and framing this beating heart aching
singing holding believing nonetheless

“but” means you don’t (sport fishing)

but” means you don’t (sport fishing)

There's no one above me to stain my fierce hands.
No you don’t love me, don't say that you do because you can't.

i love you but. . .” means
you do not love me
as i loved you and love you

i never knew that you
were into sport fishing
casting a line and hooking me
only to release me once reeled in

but my love is not rust
easily polished back to steel
shiny as if the water had never
turned the silver to amber brown

the hook is deep and i am a fool
no one can erase you buried in me
and i am not easily cast aside
as if nothing happened or mattered

i love you but. . .” digs
deeper than any hook
and tugs at the edges of me


we have lain

we have lain

we have lain
three soft nights
naked as spoons
beneath warming sheets


we two gather
those soft nights
like honeysuckles
picked and sucked


we gather moments
like leaves pressed
against our skulls
until they bury there


we two separated
in the flesh
of one mind
honeysuckle sweet


            tear aside the sheet
            and find us there
            wrapped in each other
            lovers mindful lovers

Thursday, July 21, 2011

people do this (masks)

people do this (masks)

people do this
stealing a life to the side
whittling carving sanding and polishing

a masking or unmasking
these statue-lives created
for living breathing fearlessly

will you love me
behind the mask i’ve fashioned
like a dream of beauty and confidence?

will you love me
exposed sincere and honest
the me of me laid bare and open?

yes, people do this
these mannequins of risk
we strip of common clothing

and place about the room
and hope no one will notice
or pull back their eyes and hands in disgust

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

acetylene (2003)


is a beautiful word—
it makes me think of fire

like warm and soft
when i  imagine you—
whispering in my ear

your name, your laugh,
the curve along your neck—
they make me think “desire”

i wait to strike the match—
if only you were here



once upon a time:

her love for him
was as clear and calm
as a glass of water

the echo of time
was another story—
a shattering and a quake

the half-life of her love
for him was forgetting

things happened, of course—
or things were done
with no scar of intent

but things done cut
as deep as things intended
bleeding out all the life

the half-life of his love
for her was remembering

then things were said—
spoken and written and implied—
like uranium hidden in a shoe

after the end that lingered—
silent and radioactive—
in the bones of his hope

the half-life of suffering and loss
is always and never

he wore his face then—
the one they all wanted to see—
like a lead apron

though his bones glow
in the darkness of his belief
regardless and forever

as he told her
as he told her

eminence grise

she needed both
and on top of that—everything

and running through it all
like a thread—nothing

it was the thing of her
a part of the bones of her

some people called it by name
but she knew it to be wordless


if she took a razor blade
and maybe a thousand years

she could gently remove that gray thread
from the skeleton of her Self

underneath she wondered silently
if removing nothing was removing anything

but such surgeries done carefully
leave someone else on the other side

someone who uses words
and needs something

like leaves moving beyond the window
to believe that the wind is blowing

things built & things uncovered

things built & things uncovered

these wrinkles of sky & ice
are where they always seem to meet

at least these were the words
that came to him unbidden
(as if the Universe had spoken)

then he saw her coming toward him—
but it wasn’t her—of course—
a shape recalling her to him—

flinging open the doors to her—
these rooms that held all of her
that lived in his mind—like bone—

things built—he knew—can never stand
against things uncovered—
things in his bones—

hidden like yellow folded into blue for green
held like yellow folded into red for orange

he used nails—no tape or glue—
but things hammered never lasted—
pieces and parts rebuilt into that

this was his thing—he imagined—
hiding his shovel and always always looking
for the right place to dig—the right place—

and then he realized it all so clearly—
if he ever slipped and fell—hers
was the hand he would most like to be offered—

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

endemic (this moment called you)

endemic (this moment called you)

as long as your feet
move across the curve
of this spinning planet

and your lungs expand
with the sweet salt air
worshipping the rising tide

this moment called you
is etched indelible and deep
in the bone and marrow of me

and courses warm and faithful
through every sacred cell
that builds flesh sinew and muscle

i have tried to find where you
begin and i rest kneeling alien
turning me against me in prayer

peeled and cast aside like rind
from an orange desired only
for the juice and pulp of this fruit

Friday, July 15, 2011

the math of us (stages of grief)

the math of us (stages of grief)

Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?

eager sprites stole these flints
chiseled into pomes to sing and dance
with tambourines, banjos, and castanets

weaving through the forests
beyond the sight and ears
of humans dull and distracted


me plus you equals too much for you
spent and hardened like a diamond
marionette unstuffed and clipped free

us minus you equals a tongue silenced and tasteless
eyes blinded and crossed
fingertips scalded by your lips

i cannot hear myself think inside
the din of this empty room

i find myself circling stores at the mall looking
for a perfume counter and golden bottles of Chanel

i can barely carry these recollections
that have propagated against my skull

minus equals multiplication


i am not an artist
although i created this

the absence where you are not
driven to emptiness and gone

my paint-by-numbers disaster
razing Cain against the possibility of us

and no matter how i figure against this
it simply does not add up


we watched Bubba Ho-Tep
because you had watched it alone

together the watching was not adding me
us there together watching was exponential

you lay with your head in my lap
tired from a day of work

and for just a moment your hand
found my knee and rubbed the cap gently

and this comes rushing back to me
day after day after day after day

the memory piling one on the same
each time recalled and re-lived

wide-eyed and heavy i stare at each day
looking for something to remember

something i can count on


was it lies
the hiding
the masks
and dodging

that killed us
that killed it
for you at last
pent up inside?

or was the lie
the hidden
the masking
and dodging

that we (i trusted)
that it (i believed)
was never there
at all for you?

and now this awful
question builds inside
me cast aside remainder
outlier parenthetical

embarrassed doubting
fearing your eyes
and answers hidden
like papier-mâché


i scroll through pictures of you
and realize you are never looking

at me

someone else behind the camera
your eyes turned down or looking away

or pictures from you
there behind the camera

this beach where you live
with footprints and a gray-blue ocean


i never calculated on this

you i did not anticipate
you i did not recognize

peace and happiness could not blossom
under the shadow of my burdensome love

addition by subtraction

a formula i cannot handle
fingers stiff against such cross tabulations



a house of stone
with marble countertops
and granite tile

rock gardens shaped like talismans
to conjure faeries heavy as bricks
crunching like gravel as you drive away



my lips pressed inhaling
against the inside of your wrist

your pulse there
metronome of my heart


i am now calculating
how to trace this paradox

drawing thick black lines
around the outer edge

contradictions added together
the sum of us in negative silhouette



solving proofs
of marriage soulmates
and star-crossed lovers


the irony of trying to express nothing
the space where that who once was is no longer

a word there to say she can no longer
the goodbye she never uttered

like feeling the rain in the air
after the storm has passed


this ring around the finger gone

these human tales
become faerie songs

because my hubris
is a wicked thing

among the disasters i am
the common denominator

trust me
i have done the math

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

of anne sexton—and my lover (periwinkle & lavender)

of anne sexton—and my lover (periwinkle & lavender)

may i kiss the back
of your knee
trailing up up
along the inside
of your thigh

like an anne sexton poem?

may i take your foot
in my hand
kissing the softest part

though you complain
that your legs
are not long and brown
(sorry, anne, sorry)

hamlet tells ophelia
that’s a fair thought
to lie between maid’s legs

and i suppose
that’s true

though “fair” can mean
many things
like “delicate,” “amber,” and “perfect”

and i believe he was not talking
about “thought”
it was “to lie,”
it was “between,”
it was “legs”

and you sent me her poem
in your handwriting
on a small white card

            sprung from a woman’s eye
            bloomed from your fingernail

her words
in your hand
have carved themselves
inside my chest

scars sprouting like roots
and speaking like Braille

to a dying woman
searching for her child
gone blind from exhaustion

crawling on her hands and knees
in her withering hysteria—

yes—they will carry me in
on a wooden bench

then everything—everything
will blossom across your cheeks
like a bouquet of tears

because no one will speak
no one will speak

so every hand
can hear
the words

like periwinkle & lavender

wishing away the bars

wishing away the bars

James Dickey stood there   full of himself
                                                                                 bulging from his 63 years.
We kept time with his meter
                                                                            as he fought   the slipping of his pants.
The podium   wood   ornate
                                                                           shrank before him   chiseled by his voice.
He was the words   the sound
                                                                             he was   articulation—
Casting images   sharp as hooks
                                                                                reeling in each of our imaginations.
Then he drew his ink-filled arrow
                                                                                  lowering it   even with our skulls,
To pierce   our preconceptions
                                                                               to twist the complacent looks   our faces.
Ultimately he wished away   the bars
                                                                         the black steel bars   our cages.
So we joined hands for the hymnal
                                                                                  we paced the aisles   panthers.
He adjusted his pants   one last time
                                                                          denying the weight   his years.
"Poetry"   he drawled   laughing  
the final word   stirred by his own wit.
We left with his incisions   on our brains
                                                                               the strong   sloping face,
The huge   gentle hands like wings
                                                                                   the magnificent agony   of sincere




yet it was the way
her shoes held her feet

that walked up to me
            into me
            over me

as if i were a black sand beach
& she, a ceaseless tide
wearing me into the Nothingness
that stepped to the drumming of our hearts

a silent dance on an empty floor
that held us like shipwrecked strangers
crawling through the surf & sand
of an island rising from nowhere

& it was the way
the sand held her feet (fleetingly)—
the imprints temporal & melting
like me into her, into us

drawn to two

drawn to two


Here I am fifty—          
                 half a life
ago tearing rumbling charging along
mountain roads   up and down the Saluda grade
driven by speed   the leaning and revving

on two wheels                     
              Harley-Davidson.  Then
young reckless careless   except for speed.

But those were days
of Marlboros and Budweiser                
                           leathers   no helmet
before children   only the wife's fears   like

a fallen phone-line                      
                    the pole I have to climb
the wires I have to restore              
                            fusing anonymous
conversations   calls for help   emergencies

tying people back together
                           as I break away
the seat holding only one   only me




                                                            The years peeled away
the wind stripping me down to father
                                                                                     no leathers
smokeless   all the lines connected
                                                                                dial tones

replacing two wheels with shoes for jogging
the breeze gentle as my wife's contentment
bliss at her
             healthy husband grounded
breathing hard against the loop of my own
design pointless laps
                      the throttle rumbling
inside my chest
                moved up from between my legs
the desire of my thighs
                        jailed by heaving ribs

nylon rubber   the thumping of strides
I imagine myself chrome polished   black

red wings   Harley-Davidson
                            two wheels
long distance direct.



As if I were falling backward   a man
in my forties keeping conversations intact
from behind a desk
                   the pole no longer

between my heels my knees my thighs
replaced by a boy's toy
                        bicycle two wheels
driven by my legs
                  now pistons direct

to a chain drive crawling the same mountain
of my youth   the grade reborn under me
pedaling   my wife a woman I didn't marry

suffering through a cracked rib
                                broken collar
bone from leaning too far too slow
the recklessness gone
                      gray bearded   collect

I pedal nearly unconscious ears ringing like
a call I must answer   emergency   two wheeled
and charging calling me red wings.



                                         Yes fifty
buying another two wheels   Harley-Davidson
resurrected Phoenix rumbling between
my thighs hog wallowing in the rumbling
no longer speed but sensation
the seat built for two
                       my wife
behind me liberated dialed in to the cycles
of the motor built for feel
                            vibrating us
together husband wife red-winged
charging recklessly leaning
against each other shaking us conscious
awake waking to the telephone poles
passing us marking our loops up
through down the mountains there
regardless of us or the wheels
following asphalt              us

                drawn to two wheels