Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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Selected Poetry 

And very genuinely, thank you for reading.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

we all fail (you coming new to us)

we all fail (you coming new to us)

we all fail
like dying that’s what humans do

of course i have failed you
and you and you

and now you newly born
into our congregation of humans

despite our best efforts
we will fail you too

despite my best intentions
i will fail you too

but this is not about that
this is about the promise you

only a handful of months with us
you appear in my dream

i do not know most of the people there
but suddenly and for the very first time

you begin to talk and then walk across the room
as if those are the most natural things possible

and that is what this is about
you coming new to us

you filling our chests near to exploding
with all the possible and all to come

you make us believe in who we can be
you make us want to be better people

you make me believe in who i can be
you make me want to be a better person

it is Friday evening and i ignore friends
to sit on the couch you sleeping on my chest

we all fail
like dying that’s what humans do

but living in the precious moment
that’s what you offer me in soft breaths

as we beg you to say those first words
as we coax you to crawl across the blanket
as we cheer you standing to walk alone

i imagine you reading quietly
playing with words as children do

you lying on my chest us heart to heart
you make me want to be a better person

there us together silent and still
your warm weight lifting us beyond dreams

Friday, December 19, 2014

secrets between my granddaughter and me (watch out world)

secrets between my granddaughter and me (watch out world)

my daughter sends me a video
of my granddaughter sleeping

her eyes are fluttering in dream
her mouth is working working

but the thing that hits me first
is her pose there in her bassinet

lying flat on her back left arm raised
her tiny fist clenched silent and defiant

(on the days i keep her we have read
Marx, Freire, and The John Carlos Story

we’ve watched Ali and Baldwin on YouTube
and listened to Morisson on the white gaze)

my radical five-month-old granddaughter
dreaming wordlessly of the 1968 Olympics

already announcing at the end of her tiny arm

Thursday, December 18, 2014

imagination&recollection (i come to tell you everything)

imagination&recollection (i come to tell you everything)

I tell you miserable things after you are asleep
“Conversation 16,” The National

 …the loss of the moments of shared intimacy….The prospect of losing that made him saddest of all.
“Scheherazade,” Haruki Murakami

i come to you in your sleep
you do not know i am there
you may not even want me here

it is dark & you lie under covers
except your bare left foot exposed
i imagine you in t-shirt & panties

i recreate until my eyes adjust
so i can watch the soft rise&fall
most wonderful you breathing

with daughter & granddaughter
an act of solemn & selfish love
i have done this often in silence

i am not here to relish watching you
i am here to tell you everything
even more than love all that i fear

with you imagination&recollection
are impossible for me to separate
i have confessions bound by darkness

i could more easily hand you my bones
than lie to you or admit the naked truth
so i come to tell you everything instead

how many nights may i take from you
recognizing i deserve none of them
i begin certain my stories will never end

i could spend every night watching
you sleep & hoping i am welcome
in the dreams that warm your heart…

Monday, December 15, 2014

rising sun, you (solstice)

rising sun, you (solstice)

Loving anybody and being loved by anybody is a tremendous danger, a tremendous responsibility.

it is mid-December
just before daybreak
when i walk outside alone

frost and darkness coat the world
tilting toward reorientation—
we will return again to Spring

bare black branches reach skeletal
against the pink-orange horizon’s glow
this coming sunrise of another day

i pause, a solstice

in this dimming fall of life
chilled by an inevitable winter
i am a man bound to dry words

now suddenly warmed at my center
by the wordlessness of memory
radiating bright white through me

recalling the scent of you near
and if smell is our oldest sense
recollection offers immortality

you pull aside your hair revealing
the curve of your neck there
brilliant rising sun, you

Friday, December 12, 2014

the chemistry of my sorrow (skin&bone)

the chemistry of my sorrow (skin&bone)

“It hurts to love. It's like giving yourself to be flayed and knowing
that at any moment the other person may just walk off with your skin.”

no Garden of Eden my creation story
me cast from Teflon + every repellent
known to human history

then drawn physically + powerfully
to the impossible compound you
radium + lanthanum + barium

if not impossible at least unstable
thus eventually + predictably gone
leaving only this black hole my sorrow

i am risen now

most men offer you
only their hearts

but i must confess
you own me skin&bone

if you take my hand
because it is my hand

fingers laced with fingers
you have taken everything

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

They killed Gwen Stacy in the film too

They killed Gwen Stacy in the film too

Everything I love is on the table.
Everything I love is out to sea.

I was a television version of a person with a broken heart
“Pink Rabbits,” The National

Why did you have to be blonde and beautiful,
pale stereotype of what a woman should be?

And why, O, why did you love her, Peter?
This nerd-love for the unattainable girl?

Peter, O, Peter, with great power and all that…

Pimply and scrawny, I guess, we hide in bedrooms
with Marilyn Monroe posters on our silent walls.

But good people, beautiful people never really die
in three-color comic books or technicolor Hollywood films.

O, Gwen, why did they take you from all of us,
betray us like our mirrors every single morning?

Forty years apart, I cry at your lifeless twisted pose
frail boy comic in hand, middle-aged man on the couch.

Spider-Man or Elephant Man—hearts are bound to love
and no superpower can ever defeat the space of you gone.

O, Gwen, why did you have to die?

Sunday, December 7, 2014



when you willingly
even eagerly

board the train
destined to derail

do not act surprised
after the crash

dare not mourn
all the casualties

because we all know
you were in it for the ride

that made your heart race
so you could feel alive

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

rooms and spoons (i watch you with my fingertips and palm)

rooms and spoons (i watch you with my fingertips and palm)

When I walk into a room
I do not light it up
“Demons,” The National

“The kiss had shaken me up so much I couldn’t think straight.
At the same time, my anxiety had turned into an anxiety quite lacking in anxiousness.”
The Strange LibraryHaruki Murakami


gradually i have learned to hold
bitter tea in my mouth for the cold

my secret Southerner’s rebellion
drinking unsweet tea as denial


when i play music for my granddaughter
and sing along to “Graceless” badly

she pauses as only a four-month-old can
just before her dark-eyed smile unhinges me


you walk into the room

i am lying on the couch reading MaddAddam
crying so hard tears have pooled on my glasses

but that is not entirely true

you do not walk into the room as i read
those last pages through tears like circus mirrors


last night it is the same room
and the same couch where i am reading

about a strange library and a boy
saved from a labyrinth of certain death

by a transparent shape-shifting girl so beautiful
he loses his heart the first time he sees her

it is a sad story about a reading room and loneliness
pinning me to the couch where i cannot talk to you

because the only rooms i have now are ones without you
and like the boy i am rescued and heartless and alone


i wonder about the two of us
in a room perfectly dark

what the curve of your neck
would look like
to my lips

what my fingertips and palm
would see
across your hip bone


spooning in the wake of reading
we talk about the books from the sad library

i collected for you after you left me
stacked and silent and mostly hopeless

i watch you with my fingertips and palm
wishing that this were not yet another dream


i have driven to Conyers, Georgia
a place i have never been
but the details are vivid and clear
as if i have been there in real time

you of course are there as you often are
as long as it is a dream and no real room
your disapproving mother watches from nearby
the two of you indifferent as an avalanche


i am dust
i am whisper
i am straw

unsweet tea
you did not order

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

phoenix (an inverted zombie life)

phoenix (an inverted zombie life)

“Because,” said the hunger artist…“because I couldn’t find a food which tasted good to me.”

“I was afraid, I'd eat your brains”
“Conversation 16,” The National

i am not interested in arizona
but another state altogether


i am hopeful that the part of me
that died can rise from the ashes


it is lonely living while dead inside
no urge to eat—an inverted zombie life


this state has no decayed flesh or moaning
although the living somehow remain distant


to rise then in the arms of another entirely
and to resist feasting on her skinny throat


Wednesday, November 12, 2014



it was written in chalk on the sidewalk, i suppose,
not chiseled in granite as i’d always believed

winds and rain erase i love you’s in colored dust
while gravestones weather generation after generation

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Disciplines (all those terminal degrees)

The Disciplines (all those terminal degrees)

We are from different times
and different places,

but intersections and magnetism
are beautiful narcotics.

I am now forced to be an archeologist
of my own dreams

where you come again and again
offering indifference.

This is a different kind of discipline, then,
because it is not my field,

and even in my rare dreamweaving,
I am a rank amateur.

Sleeping, I must not shout out your name
in the middle of the night;

I must not fling back warmed covers,
leaping up to run again to you.

But it is there I am disciplined, a Grand Master,
a Jedi, a ninja in all black,

having perfecting the nuanced art of lies
and deception—of not being me.

The disciplines lead us to the inevitable, I suppose,
of all those terminal degrees.

Monday, October 13, 2014

i do not fall in love

i do not fall in love

I won't need any help to be lonely when you leave me
“Slipped,” The National

i do not fall in love with perfect
i did not fall in love to find your faults and fix you

i could make quite a list
of all the ways you drove me mad again and again

but if we had negotiated on even one
you would have no longer been the you i love madly

and my disingenuous professions of love
would have been manipulations seeking someone else

i do not fall in love with perfect
i did not fall in love to find your faults and fix you

and so i must now face the ugliest truth
wanting as i do to change your mind about me

realizing as i do the you not wanting me
is the only you i have ever loved and always will

Friday, October 10, 2014

lies, paralysis, & all the things we cannot recover

lies, paralysis, & all the things we cannot recover

Yeah, I'm missing something
Abel, my mind's gone loose inside the shell
“Abel,” The National

i wake up in a bed of snakes
assuming that all the lies i live by
have been rendered real to cradle me

the first thing they all do is ask me
with their heads tilted just so “How do you feel?”
as if they are intent on listening seriously

they seem completely unaware of the snakes
because of course they too are magnificent liars
and no one acknowledges another’s bed of snakes

this is simply a ploy to allow a brief pause
before they tell me the consequences of The Accident
“The Accident,” they explain, “has left you paralyzed”

as if The Accident is a sentient creature like the snakes
and it is then i realize neither the snakes nor the paralysis
is even close to the worst of this bed i have made to lie in

you see the snakes are simply all those lies come alive
and paralysis is the manifestation of the inner me
the paralysis i have covered in a hissing bed of lies

the worst of it all is something only i can tell them
which is that i have no memory of my past life at all
with this their heads tilt again and they declare

“Ah, well, we are not sure about the paralysis,” they admit,
but we can certainly help you rebuild your past!”
and so they begin to tell me everything they can offer

strangers, family, and friends are all the same to me
but they each sit patiently one by one beside my bed of snakes
telling me stories in no particular order with no clear value

paralyzed and lying in a bed of snakes i know mostly one thing
something or more importantly someone remains lost in this
something or someone i can never recover is my final fate

knowing there is a vast and precious unknown i cannot recover
leaves me paralyzed and hopeless as a snake in a foot of snow
wishing to recover the unknown and all the sadness it brings

Thursday, October 9, 2014

polish (this did not happen)

polish (this did not happen)

Then, without hesitation, she grasped Tengo’s hand, and looked up into his face….
Then she suddenly let go his hand, and with the hem of her skirt flaring, she trotted out of the classroom.
1Q84Haruki Murakami

i prefer black nail polish
or shades so dark they appear black

although “prefer” understates
this fascination and my jealousy

and then i see your most desired hands
the polish a pinkish-orange i’d call melon

so i ask you if i may hold your hands
each nail like a precious Jordan almond

and you smile raising your hands to me sighing
it’s been so long since we’ve held hands”

it wasn’t you
this did not happen

the hand and nail polish more pink than orange
merely a passing car and someone i do not know

and then the fist of remembering you pounding in my chest
while i alone in my car drove down this black highway

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

diligence (skeleton key)

diligence (skeleton key)

Perhaps an even more distressing prospect for Habara than the cessation of sexual activity,
however, was the loss of the moments of shared intimacy.
“Scheherazade,” Haruki Murakami

I'm having trouble inside my skin
I tried to keep my skeletons in
“Slipped,” The National

gradually and with reluctance
i have whittled away at my own resolve
to fulfill your wishes when you left

and then as i am walking to my morning class
a student in front of me tells another goodbye
saying your name rattling in my chest like a can

these hauntings erode my diligence to your requests
to live as if we never were and never will be again
i stand on the precipice of this my toes curled at the edge

i am reading a new Murkami short story
and it is toward the end when i realize
he is writing about the thing eroding me

and fueling my constant melancholy
because i cannot share this story with you
the thing that matters most about all that matters

everything is reduced in magnitude without you
dimmed dulled and nearly erased except what could be
and there is the limit of my diligence hidden in bone

when they dismember me
the skeleton key will be
the thing they come to see

the thing that can set me free
opening the door with a skeleton key
that allows me to be and to see

i hear your name and i recall your hands
making me the happiest and saddest i can be