Saturday, July 31, 2010

Let there be sound...

I'm experimenting with embedding audio files on the blog. If the player doesn't work, the mp3 is available here. This one is of me reading my recent poem Saint Nicholas. The sound quality isn't great (I need to invest in a better microphone), so you may have to turn your speakers up a bit.


Life line dips shallow
With this sharp knife's tip he'll carve
his palm an asset

Friday, July 30, 2010

Lessons in allocentrism

Into our fun house of mirror neurons,
a favorite Fellini character strides
distorted perhaps,
but reflected clearly enough,
none the lesser for our wear.

Who is it? Which one?
It’s truly hard to decide.

It could be that brute Zampanò,
his chain unpopped,
and as ever demanding our attention...

Or the cypher, Steiner,
teetering on edge
to tell us his secrets...

Or a voluptuous
la Saraghina,
reveling in our riveted eyes...

Or gentle Giulietta,
chasing her voices,
their whispers that echo ours.

It doesn’t matter who, in the end.
Better yet, let’s take them all,
and crowd them close in.

What matters is,
we ask they try
a seeming simple task—
touching tongue to nose,
or elbow to chin—
and we watch
their attempts, together.

Strive and fail.
Strive and fail.
Strive and fail.

These are the Sisyphean rhythms
we’ll need to learn.

We have our limits,
but empathy is endless.

In this week's Big Tent Poetry prompt, Jill Crammond-Wickham asks us to imagine pop culture icons in a mundane setting. I'm sure what I find iconic might not measure up as "pop" and my mundane is always quite mental, but Fellini and a fun house seemed a natural fit for exploring some neurological concepts.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Morning, our tomorrow

What we were once, two words,
we are no more, taken in

When ten sticky layers absorb
the shadows of our predecessor shapes.
Purple bruises bleed through
the buried steel

Where one-hundred shouted
stories slid down into
a waiting mouth of obtuse angles.
Vague numbers now,
we follow, ask

How one-thousand labors
couldn’t gird us against not-
birthing gusts, their reverse alchemy,
aching to prove

Why countless precious lines
could turn testily from true
geometry’s parallel path, and seek
an improbable calculus of chaotic drips,
those splats that trace a figure

Who in the flash of flame
realizes his distinctions
have lavishly become

Our tomorrow will know
what our today’s forgotten.

This is the last of the trio of pieces I wrote to accompany my friend George Kokines' installation of 9-11-themed pieces, which is to be exhibited at the Elgin public library in September. I wrote this thinking of the iterations the painting went through, its previous versions invisible but still lurking underneath, and how that's a metaphor for so much of the past that we pretend doesn't exist but always informs our present and future. If you missed the other two poems, they are Silver Wings and St. Nicholas.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

After Beckett, Words Fail

Better or worse?
Maybe if you massage it a bit...
You’re beyond help’s reach.
I could squeeze it till numb, and it’d still be worse.
When did it start?
When will it stop?
You’ve got no answers?
I’ve only got questions.
Questions start the ball rolling...
I’d like it to stop.
First, try to start.
I’ll start tomorrow.
Would that be better?
No, worse.

I didn't do a very good job of writing to this week's Poetry on Wednesday prompt. Rallentanda posted two music clips: Martha Argerich performing Bach on piano, and Anoushka Shankar playing sitar while accompanied by a violinist. Such music tends to set my mind wandering (a dangerous thing), and the latter struck me as a kind of conversation. Having spent the past week immersed in Samuel Beckett plays (there's a wonderful 4-DVD set called, originally enough, "Beckett on Film," which includes his 19 plays), this dialog is what popped out. It's derivative and not very deep, but it succeeded in its mission to amuse myself. There's a musicality to Beckett's language, which I admire greatly.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


If you asked me what
it is I miss most from
an easy moving childhood,
I’d answer with the simple
toss of a pebble into thick
summer air, like we did at dusk
to trick the echo-location of bats,
and watch them twist,
circle, dive after the false
apparition of a meal.
Far from ideals, in a white-
nosed now, their winged numbers are
receding as quickly as
those innocent days when
a small stone felt like it
could work big magic.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Squiggly dust

Eye finger-pried wide
he awaits sky's drop, to cleanse
aged film's squiggly dust

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Vain wishes

There's one pin-prick light
If I could wish it to move
it might prove... lucky

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Spider slides down sly
thread from flower-cup fixture
Spry when food happens

Friday, July 23, 2010

Saint Nicholas

How do they call you,
those who’ve passed through unmarked
twin doors for the shy
side of one century?

Is it as Nicholas
of Myra,
or of Bari,
or as an unlocated saint,
working wonders in
this home of trim white-stone
block, with three tiers of black-
arches, frowning up at
the merciless
grids behind?

Rows, rows, rows, they float
on glassy, steel-blue oceans,
and these oceans will fall in
waves unlike any with foam
caps that once lapped
the rocky coast of lost Lycia--
your see
our maps don’t contain,
and our licit hosannas won’t reach.

Who are they?
Who pray here?
all whose sighs
rise with the torrent of immigrant chants
liaison rafters
fracture in echo-song,
the old coinage that plies your favor.

To which patron can they turn
when your cross crowns not
the work of masons
but one day’s
a tongueless bell,
the charred
relics of unnameable acts?

This week at Big Tent Poetry, Carolee Sherwood suggests we use a favorite poem. Often, when I get stuck, I'll return to a work I admire for inspiration and perhaps an idea on how to move forward. That was the case for the above piece, which is the second of three that I hope to recite at a friend's upcoming art exhibition. The poem that helped me with it was The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Tall grass blades, stout friends
lend him sympathetic ears
Words of wilting, drought

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Three minds

I am of three minds—
an un-whole trinity
built by ghostly id,
god-sick conscience,
and one son of never-
virginal egos—
interlocked inside
a mortal’s spirited,
head-in-head conflict.
To the fabulous free
goes my prized heart’s
spoiled meat. Cooked rare,
its fetid, red juices
run in all directions.

For this week's Poetry on Wednesday prompt, Rallentanda asks, What's on your mind? My minds are on my mind, all three. This was sparked by my drawing of the same name, and my friend Eileen's suggestion that it be put to words.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Partners in limits
Pleasure-bound mind blocks body's
painful messages

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Collision Course

Wipe away that image of
beating butterfly wings

and the currents they send across
great continents.
See instead, you and me

arranged on the same vast
plate — two irregular green peas
rolling around the nucleus of a split pod.

Even if we don’t meet here and now —
snagged by an intervening fork,
set off course by rivulets of gravy,
separated by marbled slabs of meat,
or consumed by a gravity-defying, black-
holed gob — somewhere
on parallel, fine-clothed
tables, we’ll savor the joy of
big-banged, trajectory-altering collisions.

At Big Tent Poetry this week, Nathan Landau suggested we dabble in steganography. Mine isn't a very challenging code to break. Each stanza represents a word. Each line contains one letter in the word, and the line's number indicates where to look for the letter (counting from the left, and ignoring spaces and punctuation). I wouldn't have made a very good cryptologist.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


He hunts for the blunt
Sworn words once used to capture
fading attention

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Making positive use of a double-negative on Bastille Day

He couldn't
not take off
the backward cap
that hides
his tousled hair
as he pulls back
the high-backed stool
he'll perch himself on
next to
this unfamiliar beauty.
He couldn't
not accept the bourbon
shot, a pert bartender
offers to keep
his pint company
and lend him
extra courage.
He couldn't
not exchange
an inquiring smile
then a glib remark
about the heat
and the sudden
appeal of dank taverns.
He could
watch her
small gestures for hours
and never
lose interest.
The way
alabaster fingers
tease auburn hair,
they pull at his longing
for a moment
they'll land to still
his right hand
nervously tapping
so useless against
the emptied glass.
He couldn't
guess where
it all might lead,
but he couldn't
not take the chance
it might,
Her accent
sounds French,
and it is Bastille Day.
Anything's possible,
n'est-ce pas?

It's Bastille Day, and the Poetry On Wednesday prompt this week gets us in the proper spirit by suggesting a sprinkling of French and some mimicry of the poet Jacques Prevert. My piece is more Francophile than French, but I did retain enough from my high school studies of the language to understand Prevert's Desjeuner du Matin in the original (with a little help from the translation).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Late summer's stroll

There’s a sidewalk here,
the city has poured,
cemented with smooth
and perfect squares.
It leads to all
the usual places,
only altering when
at last it crumbles.

There's also the rough-
cut route I’ll walk,
taking Aeolus
by his shaky hand
to stroll where moths mingle,
dandelions dance, and
destinations giggle
tickled by our setting suns.

This is my contribution to the dialog my dear friend human being is having on her blog Thus Spake the Crow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Silver Wings

Should stolen silver wings make soft
cutting of glass and steel...

Should thumbs of clouds smudged red and gold
stop watchful gulls mid-dial...

Should broad-shouldered blue shed brave skin,
then feverish crumple...

Should there ever be a morning
when grey snow falls on warm
September sidewalks, and brings us
no damp or cool
but the burning
silence of five thousand throats... how
could I write that canvas?

This is a poem I'm working on as a companion piece to a painting by my friend George Kokines, which we hope will get exhibited as part of an installation this September 11.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


It's a vain effort
To re-member past selves torn
apart hastily

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

Putting an end to this bad pun, There’s no I in steam

I like to visualize my death
not as a grand moment
fraught with TV-script intimations
at sudden illumination
while I’m encircled by a non-weepy
sprinkling of the usual types:
one surviving relative
curious to see what I’ve got
left to inherit; one forgotten
friend dubious I hadn’t
died quite some time ago;
and one vengeful stranger
anxious for the shock
when I hear her unmask.
No, I envision my death simply
as the lonely release
of a hardly noticeable puff,
its minute droplets lifting
to mix with every other
ever breathed, and bid adieu
to my residue of befuddling
puddles flecked with unresolved bits.

This week's prompt at Big Tent Poetry takes inspiration from The Love-Hat Relationship by Aaron Belz, asking us to take a common phrase and make it "go a little sideways." There's no better cliché to send off-track than a sports cliché.


Down on drooling grass
he lets fog nibble over
is consumed by cool

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Swift changes

Swift changes ignite
An ignoble laugh from less
evolving creatures

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Look here, into the eye of my soulless contraption

Young Johannes keeps his theory
dressed up with petty pink
flourishes and tucked inside her
wicker basket. She plops fat on

a spangled, off-center perch
while surrounded by tangles of
circular mirrors, each reflecting
his fragmented eye. “The fluid

mechanics of my camera’s
lens imbues its gaping human
subject with a soul,” this caged bird
sings, just as he’s coached her.

She doesn’t require very much
care -- a few scattered meat-filled
husks and white space for flapping
her clipped-tones -- but reluctantly

Johannes must set Prolly free
to wing it openly upon
the waves of patterned noise
his vacuous glass can’t see.

This week's Poetry on Wednesday Prompt is a photograph (click the link to see it). Don't ask me what leaps in logic my mind made to get to this poem, it's hard to explain.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


His predilection
to flout low appetites flops
Full-bellied friction

Monday, July 05, 2010


He hews messy lines
What's cleaver-made, let no man
put back together

(I got "cleaver made" as a word verification prompt, and this is what it inspired)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Gun powder

Clustered oak leaves owe
their trembling to gun powder.
One dove's coo calms them.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Lured from bland confines
he locks down eyelids, denies
naughty inventions

Friday, July 02, 2010


I don't know
where we were headed,
but the sidewalk did,
and its smells had been
liberated by a hot summer rinse.

You grabbed at my pendulum
arm, and jerked
me back before
the gap grew us
out of being a couple.

My penance was
a hair-shirt stare
and a smack with that saw:
"Life's about the journey,
not the destination."

"Sure," I said, "but the end's
a crappy cul-de-sac.
I wanna see what I can
before we smash
against it."

You summed me up,
mouthing the three letters
you drew on my chest,
still not-chastened:
"A-D-D, Humming bird."

"There's no deficit
of attention here, Old Crow.
It's just this
plugged-up world's got
a surplus of stimuli."

It was one week
later you left,
taking a whole
slew of savory inputs
to the blank without you.

happens for a reason,"
you'd tell me.
Knowing the cause,
never changes my effects.

This week's prompt at Big Tent Poetry suggests writing a "Conversation Poem." I cobbled together this anecdote of imaginary call and response.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Pirate signal chirps
from the utility box
Six starlings hungry