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February 23 2017

Remember when I didn't know you
So it didn't hurt?
How exquisite.

Twelve years of throwing sharp pebbles at my own soul.

Candied pecans in a dish abandoned on a dusty desk.

I broke glass and used the shards to carve up everything I knew.

I used to live like a vagabond
On crumbs of emotional sanity
Running out; crying in the bathroom.

The sharp pain in the stomach
Or, more frequently
The vague unease, the roiling storm.

These memories are closer
Than my first kiss.
My first fuck.
The giddiness of reciprocated affection.

Even when I turned the page,
finished the book,
started another.

Some chapters stay with you.
Some epilogues close nothing
But touch off the beginning

Of a more complicated saga.
A sophomore work.
A tragedy in five parts instead of three.

Some books you open again
Even knowing damn well better.

February 18 2017

kick it up a notch.
create art
like you scooped out the innards
of a baby boy so smoothly
and laid it at its mothers feet.

i can't erase the image unbidden.
there's a cry that comes from down deep
that no one ever wrote down.

no one tried.
it couldn't be captured.
it existed not in some other dimension
but really truly outside of space and time.

it's so powerful in its emotion
that it's not stardust.
it made stars
it wasn't made by them.

it's backgroud radiation
we didn't pick up.
it's beyond
and i mean beyond.

thousands of people
have dipped their quills in ink
to paint imitations of it.

they have failed in myriad beautiful ways
rainbows against backdrops
of senescent, floating clouds.

each failure is a different hue
and i will add sixty seven.
i will not turn away.

i will bring my brown paper bag
of words i packed for lunch.
i will place each one carefully

in iambic pentameter
or something like that;
i threw out shakespeare

when i realized reading
all those books
didn't actually keep her here.

they've tried in music
and they got awfully close
i have to say.

in fact
they win the award.

i'll be here the rest of the night,
hoping the right combination
of notes

finally hits that feeling.

June 25 2015


researching a shooting

drawn to lethal catastrophes in the news
like moths to a porch light
smacking ourselves relentlessly
against something we cannot possibly
understand; if only a shred of this
light shined on the chaos in life
to offer us some sort of explanation

drawn to accidents on the road
like flies to rotten fruit
our curious thirst quashed
by destruction; regret pounding
in our ears when we see blood.

drawn to violent, mysterious television
like a dog being served dinner
the heart-racing eagerness and
strange fascination with the reasons
that crafted characters choose to kill

does it help us somehow cope
with the day-to-day battery
of injury and injustice?
does it make it easier to hold
our loved ones in death,
onto our minds in crisis?

does it desensitize us so we can
live each day, even under
insurmountable circumstances?
does it smooth over our suffering
and place it in perspective
so we can still face the world?

it must, musn't it? what else can we
hope to glean
Tags: poetry

May 24 2015


papa mcguiley

in 1977
papa mcguiley walked to the store
bought a carton of cigarettes
spat on the floor
walked outside to look
up at the sky
to stare at the sidewalk
and wonder why
god was so damn unfair
with all of his gifts
his blessings and curses
as his mood quickly shifts
to leave a man as he was
so desperate and broken
looking out in vain
for any old token
to show it made sense
to keep striving along
each morning and night
to sing the same song
in 1977
papa mcguiley walked to the store
and swore out at the wind
a man had faith no more.

February 26 2015


The Dress

(a raymond carver inspired short story after viewing birdman)

Mattie twirled around to face him, her delicate hands pinching the very bottom of dark-maroon fabric. "What do you think?" Her face was alive with color - her cheeks were flushed with a tint of red, her blue eyes sparkled, and her teeth shone visibly against her modest lipstick.

Martin bit his bottom lip. He blinked once, twice, as the initial thoughts swirled in his head. Of course, Mattie looked incredible, as she always did. He hated the tired cliche as soon as it tumbled through his mind. Honestly, the color was a bit drab for his liking. The lace on the sleeves seemed a little unnecessary.

"It's alright."

Some of the light faded from her face, but the smile receded only slightly. She turned, more slowly this time, to face herself in the mirror. "I like it," she said, speaking to herself. "I don't love it." Placing her hands on her hips, she continued to gaze at her expression and made a few faces with her eyebrows and lips in the mirror.

Martin shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He felt slightly nervous. He valued Mattie for her honesty; she was the one who had told him he tended to stare sometimes and it creeped her out. It crushed him at first, and he felt useless, but when she saw him again the next day it wasn't awkward. He was surprised, and relieved.

His father, a big boozy man twice his size, would be shaking his head right now. "Marty boy, you can't be honest with a woman," he'd say, chuckling. "Always tell 'em they're beautiful. Unless you don't wanna fuck 'er anymore." Martin thought briefly of his mother, with her pinched face and corralled gray hair, her eyes always wide and empty.

"I like the black one you have better," Martin volunteered. He could feel the uneasiness creeping over him slowly. He remembered Mattie just an hour earlier laughing about his awful parking job. He'd flushed bright red, and she had hit him lightly on the arm. "Just kidding, babe! Honestly, you're still a better driver than me."

Mattie pursed her lips in the mirror and nodded. "No need," she said, still to herself. "No need." Turning around sharply, she furrowed her brow and waved him out of the dressing room so she could change.

Martin sat on the bench outside, twisting his hands around each other.

Mattie flounced out a moment later, the maroon dress slung over one arm. "Okay, ready to go?" Martin looked up at her cautiously. She looked down at him and laughed again. "What, did you think I wanted to browse more? This one just caught my eye. Let's get something to eat."

Martin had a quick stab of regret - did she really not want to try anything else on? Forget it, he reminded himself, just let his friend John had told him. Stop complicating things, he'd said.

He smiled and stood up, taking her hand.

After they sat down at the food court, Mattie went to the restroom. Martin stared as his hand, wondering if she had gripped it just a little bit looser than last time.

July 18 2014



a kite
and five candles,
small tchotchkes
clustered together on a table -

a breath of nostalgia,
the scent of something green,
the wheel of seasons
spinning effortlessly in your head.

the cold metal bracelet
that now chafes your skin,
the eyeglasses with rims bent
and lenses loose,
the battered teddy bear
with half his stuffing
sprinkled amongst your childhood

to hold them,
cupped in a weary palm,
to cherish such tiny wonders -
to make them collectors
of dust, of wistfulness

possessing the power
to turn you back
to one emotion in time -
a most precise carousel
of meaning and expression.
Tags: poetry

eight tomes

eight tomes
of secrets,
drifting lazily
down the river;
fish nip at their
cracking spines
and paperthin pages -
a lifetime disseminated
into the roil
only memories left,0
echoing through seashells.
ravaged compilations
wash up on the beach,
sandcastles lovingly crafted
from their cold and
abandoned remnants.
Tags: poetry


a mere breath of suggestion
that breaks the fragile peace
so carefully constructed, piece by piece
glued together meticulously, painstakingly,
one-at-a-time with the utmost care

to hint at shattering it
with a clenched fist,
even a fist of benevolence
even a fist of possibility
is still too much to fathom,
to have to begin again
all the planning,
the weeks and weeks
for the cement to set

i hide like a turtle
in a ceramic shell,
on a dusty shelf
in a pottery shop
hoping I won't
be dropped.
Tags: poetry


a hot knife slid
between the ribs, tearing
the connective tissue, leaving
a scar - a skinny, red, raised
thing, flashing you back
to the stab, in slow-motion
as you nervously run
your fingers across it,
absent-mindedly considering
something else entirely
while the undercurrent
of memory pounds away
at your unconscious, unrelenting
in its barrage,
a tide that never goes out, a flicker
in the mirror -
spinning around to catch
it, you see only
the small sad figure
until you plunge your hands
in your pockets and
squinch your eyes shut, swimming
to shore like your life
depends on it, knowing
someday you must reach
the balmy warm sand, greeting
you in castles and dunes and
Tags: poetry

the waking mind

the waking mind
recoils at the floating dream-fragments
adrift in the skull upon waking;
on occasion
it delights in the fancies
new and freshly imagined
a welcome paint-streak
across consciousness-

but more often
it runs amok;
frantically rearranging itself
to make sense of
these strangely constructed images
and contextless statements,
wondering why emotions -
in the file folders of years ago -
would fall to the floor now

a form of time-travel
that is disconcerting
more than it is interesting
or exciting -
simply an unwelcome reminder
dissolving too slowly
at eight-thirty a.m.
Tags: poetry
you are an engine
of unimaginable brilliance:
gears clicking and shifting,
springs tightening and pushing
a well-oiled machine
so intricately complex,
these millions of processes
humming away, skirting notice

these systems we do not
and cannot think about,
for there are so many -
each quietly sustaining
our breath, our heartbeat,
the light filtering through our eyes
we only notice
when one nostril stuffs up,
when we choke on a bite,
when we can't remember
where we left our keys again

but as a small solace
for those overwhelmed existentialists
gazing at their palms
adrift in an ocean of confusion
you are an engine
of unimaginable brilliance.
Tags: poetry

summer day

to float effervesecently
across the trees:
a hot air balloon
unhinged from its strings

weaving through clouds
and other airborne things

sharing the sky
with mosquitoes and bees
birds and airplanes
skating on the breeze

the sun beaming down
on dirty hair and scraped knees
colorful chalky lines
forming flowers and seas

a summer day tied up neat
makes a nice present for me.
Tags: poetry

how to begin

how to begin to spin
the pressure building inside of my head
into something i can knead and shape,
something more meaningful
than hurried back-and-forth signals,
traffic lights constantly changing
cycling through green-yellow-red
suns rapidly rising and setting

how to begin to spin
the hateful spew of news,
the words of murder and mayhem
streaming in from all sides
fires eating up the landscape,
children hiding from bombs
in tattered tents of hopes and dreams
smothered and burnt
within an hour, within minutes

how to begin to spin
the day-by-day drawl
the hours tapping away
at keyboards and screens,
the hours laboring
to pour cement, to hammer nails
the hours inserting needles
and taping up casts

how to begin to spin
the whole world
so overwhelming in its entirety
into something one mind
can capture, can hold
can understand
how to begin?
Tags: poetry

our challenge

to pause a breath
to think of every second
a miniscule change
an unseen alteration
triggering a radical departure
from the usual next few events
or perhaps nothing,
just a slight rustle
of last season's leaves
rotting in the gutter
contemplating the multifaceted
tree we live in,
branches opened to the sky,
roots coiled around
some belief we hold hidden
in our hearts
from the poisonous fungus
of cause-effect and change

to uproot, to transplant
moving so drastically
without withering

is our challenge
Tags: poetry


there is nothing more punishing
than that piece inside of you
twisting and turning
everything you do,
everything you think
into grains of sand
rushing through a sieve
into the ocean
of insignificance.

frantically building
sandcastle after sandcastle
before the tide comes in,
hurriedly slapping together
the damp and salty clay
as children watch curiously,
slowly shaping something
smaller, not bothered by
the continual eroding
of their creations.

a symbol shining ephemeral
not meant to be anything more
the unique panic
of memento mori

one day i will toss it into the sea,
skipping it across the waves
like a smooth rock.
Tags: poetry

March 29 2014



the soles of feet
clapping on pavement

birds make Vs in the sky,
crickets make noise at night,
automobiles trundle down highways
puffing exhaust, honking at geese

the moon
waxes and wanes,
pulling the tide in
and pushing it back out

the heartbeat of the earth
innocuous feet
Tags: poetry

March 13 2014



spinning cylindrically
in the drippy-droppy rain
all the desires
of a scraggly dog
lifting its leg to pee,
of a child in rubber boots
crying from the cold,
of the irritated commuter
giving up on his inside-out umbrella

the strange clarity
of precipitation,
rain or snow or sleet,
the pathos that settles
on thatched huts
and mansions alike,
the puddles left in its wake,
the snowmen's crooked arms

the peculiarity
that is banished
from those hot summer days,
with noisy sprinklers churning,
rickety fans spinning the air

this transparent puzzle piece
that defies description
and erases explanation

wrapped up tight
in a coffeehouse window,
snaking itself around
a hot chocolate,
settling silently
on a snowbank.
Tags: poetry


that moment
with the windshield wipers
setting the pace,
slowly wiping away
the cold and insistent rain,
the warmth from vents
caressing your toes,
the blurred streetlights
and traffic lights
all the green yellow red
muted tones slipping into
your mind, coasting along
your average yellow-striped road
what hides in there
searching for a home?
what hesitates to ask
its calmed and content mind
about 'something more',
about a change in tracks
about taking the left instead of the right
just to see where it goes
what lurks and lurks
and waits for the moment
when you're lulled into security
to disrupt you, to discomfort you
to leave you feeling
a certain vague disappointment
oft forgot after a minute
what intrusion
can we cherish
and which can we discard?

the muted streetlights
have no answer.
Tags: poetry


you want me to write
in a style like sunshine,
in a style like birds
with little clipped wings, hopping in the grass

the clouds bunch perfectly
in tight little puffs
scooting across the sky

small children see
boats, horses, and ducks,
green grass growing
with fresh vigor,
dandelions dotting the landscape

it cannot be this,
it cannot even be
the angry storm
with punctuating thunder
that follows quicksilver bolts of lightning
or the blanket of rain
each drop perfectly formed

more like a tornado
that demolishes
the perfect barn,
painted bright red
but skips over
the rustbucket one-story,
whose gutters dangle
like the lazy legs of a cat

it is that unsteady moment after,
the fractured peace
when you pick up the splintered wood pieces
still looking warily over your shoulder
for another funnel cloud
Tags: poetry

March 06 2014


yellowtape house

a mile of yellowtape house
wrapped up and glistening in gold
sparks of meadow, the sheen of the sun
the rabbit that runs, the rabbit that hides
quivering in the shadow of sunset,
the stalk of grain in its mouth
soaking up saliva

predator, prey
pick an angle
pick a lens:
a way to view
each storm window
each broken gutter

each stalk of corn
moonlight hitting the hills
a fresh kill, a fresh thought

the image painted in a picture
the image painted in a photo

miles and miles of yellowtape house
miles and miles of punch-tape sun
set in a humble story
by a second grader
nervously chewing his pencil
and eyeing the clock
for the release
of recess.
Tags: poetry
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