Saturday, December 29, 2012

There is

There is
I can feel it
when she lets me
get close
a little piece
when she lets me
if she, she is
of god
she's god
in each of us.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On the face of it

Why are you stuck
on the face? She asks.
She says. I say,
I like faces. No,
she says. I mean the face
you draw. That turnip
of a face, she says.
I say, Maybe
it's my face.
It's my face I draw,
I say. I ask. She says,
yes, I'd guessed that.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My struggle to know

"We are the universe knowing itself." I keep coming back to this idea. I first heard it spoken by a man at a meeting many might call a gathering of godless Communists. I'm not sure where he'd heard it, but I'm sure it wasn't original. He may have even mentioned the source, but I've forgotten it. It doesn't really matter. What matters is, every conversation needs a starting point, and every feeble attempt to sum up this life needs a framework, however faulty, and this is the one I've chosen.

To know: It's our strongest impulse. It's what pushed our species, from the moment we could put one foot in front of the other, to search every corner of the globe and beyond. And those things which we don't know, and can't discover the meaning of, no matter how hard we try, are the one's that drive us to do the craziest things. Like invent a religion. That's where all our mysteries get stuck. It's the closet where we keep the worn but oh so warm and comfortable blankets to wrap ourselves against the cold of doubt.

The ideas of purpose and synchronicity are two of the fuzziest blankets we pull from that same closet. They give our lives a sense of inter-connectedness, of direction, of worth.

What is our purpose in life? Why were we put here? Are the things that happen to us in the course of our various journeys — some long, some short, each with their own measures of joy and pain — completely random, or do they happen for a reason? Is there something bigger than ourselves that guides us, or watches over us, or rewards and punishes us?

Thursday, December 13, 2012


How could he paint
a flower some wisdom,
but no god

he could believe in,
designed so perfectly? Don't
borrow its periwinkle

or its vermillion. Don' t
borrow its curve,
or its line. Take them!

Break them up!
Mix them, move them,
and build them back up.

What was there that was
flat, what was there that was
white, it was what

a wisdom, but no god
he could believe in, told him
couldn't remain untouched.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To My Dear Friend, George

It's easier to admit to
a higher power, when you're higher
than the clouds. Something does it,

easily throwing a bulls eye of light
against their white caps below. My eyes
don't dart to it, they settle softly

into its faded blue center. Who
questions it, what you can't
know? I knew the snow of his hair

that's now ash. I knew it, but I can't
know the why, or the how of its
sudden change. Or the when I'll follow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

From and to

From isn't always. To is,
and it comes with a blue
bucket sporting red letters.
It comes in a blue bucket hung
upon a wing. OD is an ending,
the ending of that red,
and of that reading,
but I don't know
what it ends. It's not

ODD. Even odder, it's not
where I'll keep this secret.
I'll leave it, not in a bucket,
but where I always do, where
I left it before, in the internal
ear you'll listen to it with
while you read it. It's not
really a secret. Have I
told you? Have I ever

told you, each time
the plane's wheels lift up,
it feels only slightly,
only slightly less
than the beating of your heart.
Then the beating of your heart
lifts me. It takes me
from and to.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Come on in, vent the moon

"Come on in,
vent the moon."

He looks like David Byrne. I don't
know David Byrne.

"It's filled with eye balls,"
he says. All those stares
must generate heat.

I'm sitting in a room
filled with other talkers.

In a room filled
with other talkers,
you have to stand up
to stand out.

"Come on in,
vent the moon."

She says it too. She looks
like Laurie Anderson,
and I don't know her either.

It's an idea
that's time
must have come.

It's an idea,
and when you come to it,
come to it
in a rocket ship
with new eyes,
and a strong voice.

Others will.

At least two
others, it seems,

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not looking to the wind for answers

The wind didn’t blow it to me,
Bob’s answer. It didn’t blow any
answers. It riddled instead,
both soil and sea, then it fled
without its debris. What it takes,
it puts elsewhere, then it makes
amends, by giving this place something
back, whatever’s at hand, anything,
when it returns. Returning
begins to feel a lot like learning,
if you do it enough. The sun didn’t die
when it went away. It doesn’t lie
in wait behind the clouds. It keeps
to its schedule. Repeating its sweeps
around us, like the wind. Unlike it,
it only gives. Heat. Light. And what’s lit
doesn’t come with any more answers
for me, or the wind that comes after

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

For what was taken

They’re not the some left,
those some, just some, yes
them, here. The golden
browns, they tuck thickly
around their honey
locust’s hem. They hear
her soughs, so unlike
the hot-throated wind.
And they hear her soft
sadness, not at all
like the wild-eyed wet.
Her soughs, her sadness
she gives, not for them.
No, not them. They, she’d
given. Not for them,
for what was taken.

Friday, October 26, 2012


I’ve stood up
tall into its porcelain
mists, stood up
into this vitrified blue,
and I’ve watched them.
I’ve watched the people move
across hard sidewalk, across
leaf-litter seconds. They move
not unlike my idle hours,
some faster, some slower.
And as I watch them,
I try to catch them
up, in my mind, these people
moving. I sweep my arm
through the blue and try
to take them up as they happen
by, before they happen
away and into the hungry
mouths of market doors
and subway stairs. I take them
up one-by-one, in my mind,
to place them, taller,
higher up in the 3-D puzzle
pieces, atop the extruded jigsaw
pieces that muscle up
to a ribboned brown.
Shoulder to shoulder,
and foot to shoulder, and
shoulder to foot, they’ll stand
and their small faces, so much
alike at a distance, will be
windows. They will be
mirrors, and they will
pattern over the porcelain.
They’ll honeycomb into the blue.
I won’t move, like my idle hours,
and they’ll watch me back,
and they’ll catch me up,
and they’ll take me with them,
even higher.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It won't be long

It won’t be long, now. It won’t
be, yellow-orange tells me. It lies
across the damp, and it tells me
It won’t be long. I’ll belong to it,
but not now. Not yet. First I’ll get
to the oak and see five hundred
years. I’ll be the oak and its tossed
limbs, our mossy elbows down
on soft yellow-orange, and the damp
we'll tamp down, till I belong to it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A leaf, it doesn't know

I could be this pavement,
here. It’s here,
where water’d recently run.
And when it ran, that water,
perhaps this morning,
in that morning
it was done,
done running, done
but for what remains
of it. And what remains

for this day,
not not young,
but getting gray
are the grayer marks,
the reminders of where
the water spilled out,
from cracks. There
its wet followed, following
the cracks for one wink
before breaking free

to mark more pavement
with its passing.
I could be that pavement,
but I’d rather be the one
dried leaf on the road.
It skitters by. A leaf,
it doesn’t know
the water was here,
and it’s blind
to all signs of it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

They say. They said.

They say.
They said. They
said, “It gets
easier.” It does get.
It got?
It got
to the point it gets,
and then it gets
what it’s not.
What it got
is, and it isn’t that
it’s easier. It’s that
it isn’t that. It’s this
now. It got, and it’s
but what it’s getting
to be is an else.
Some thing, not itself,
and not what they
said, or say.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Their glass

Their glass was disposed
to the repose of steel blue,
but yellow-orange fell. Oh how
it lit them, reminding me of you.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

While the cold's still young

The radiator rattles. It rides,
riding the cold out, out
in its rusty cart with one loose wheel,
one of those wheels that jiggles

and sticks, as it rolls
across a pebbled lot. The cold’s
not bitter. It still fits, but it will
grow. Give it time. Give it

a little time to live
a little. Give it a little more
time to build up, and build
the aches in its bones,

its joints, its sagging
muscles. The aches that push
this dying fly to fling itself
against walls and ceilings, to try

to break itself. To remake itself.
Then watch it, watch
the cold grumble. The radiator
knocks, a wooden block, to chop

the cold, while the cold’s still
young, and thin-necked,
and vulnerable to its taunts
and hisses. It’ll thicken. The cold.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Belly, the conclusion

[Well, this is it. The final piece of my puzzling Belly. I'll do some clean up and perhaps some re-ordering and then post the final version on my website. Thanks to all of you who stuck it out with me until the end. Once again, if you'd like to start at the beginning, please click here.]

“Have you taken the medication I prescribed for you?”

“No, but I don’t think I’ll need it.”


And some amount of time will pass, but he won't know exactly how much. But he will know. He'll know. He'll know it's the morning. It's the morning everything changes.


Jonas, are you alright?


And he’ll be on the train again. And it will move through the black as it always has, morning after morning, but this morning won't be the same. This morning, it won't be the same, the same routine. This morning won't track smoothly along his timeline. This morning will jump the tracks. On this morning, he’ll find a different kind of black within him. And the voices won’t come there, only colors will. And he knows his color now. He can’t name it, but he can describe it to himself. A sunburst orange. The orange of a sun bursting free from the horizon. And he’ll become that color when he closes his eyes and enters that black, the black so different from what he sees outside. And when he opens his eyes again, he won’t see black, or the others, or even a train. He won't be on a train, and it will be a different morning.


Jonas? You missed our appointment today. Call me back when you can, to reschedule. And please take those meds.


And when he does, open his eyes, the special black is replaced with a startling, but equally special white. The white of an empty room, a freshly painted room. The white of a new start. The white not of refusal, but of belonging. And he will occupy this room with the other colors. They're not here in the room, but they're here with him, or in him. And he won’t put anything in it, this empty room, but a single spider plant hung from the ceiling, to keep him company with its parachuting, miniature green offspring. And he'll also put there a single book, leather-bound, with blank, vellum pages. He'll lay it at his feet with a fountain pen, to write in and with, when the words come, if they ever come. They’ll have to come, but he won’t know when exactly they come, because he won’t keep any clocks. He'll keep time by counting the times his spider plant flowers. And then he’ll write. And then he’ll write. And then he'll write some more, his pen moving like the cycling of those flowerings. And when he’s done writing, whenever that will be, he’ll let the book go, wherever it is books go, and he’ll go with it. And they'll go together to speak to others. And they'll leave only the spider plant behind, because there will be nothing else to leave. And then a new story will begin.


Is it time for another first question?

Yes, and I’ve got a good feeling this time. She won’t disappoint us.

Not like the last time? Not like Jonas?

No, not like Jonas.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The fiction of inside

My window mongers
rumors, not lies
of lighter traffic than yesterday
of a starling startled to cry out, then fly
of the cloying sheets neighbors use
to fragrance and dry
their clothes. The house
flies buzz by
assuring me, it’s all true.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Belly, part fifteen

[This is another passage from my short story Belly. To start from the beginning, click here.]

“When I close my eyes, I don’t see black, or I don’t see only black. And the black I do see, isn’t a dead blackness. It’s not a black of nothingness. It’s alive with shapes. Not geometric shapes, but irregular shapes. They’re splotches, or swatches of colors. Bright colors. Forest green, and magenta, crimson and cobalt blue.

“They move through the black as if it was water. Not swimming as much as floating, or gliding, as if their sides were covered with tiny bumps, or little hairs, or something small to channel the liquid past them.

“And the strangest thing is, I know these shapes are a part of me. Or, not a part of me as much as they’re others like me. Not physically, obviously, but somehow, we’re the same. I may not be seeing their actual, physical selves. Or what I see as me, or you see as me, may not be real. I don’t know. I may be seeing their essences. And these essences are my essence too.

“And when I go into that black, when I can close my eyes and escape into it, I can escape from the voices too. It’s not that the voices don’t still frighten me, it’s that the voices can’t frighten them, these shapes.

“Whoever the voices are, whatever they ask, it doesn’t mean anything to these shapes. And they tell me, not with words, but with a pulsing of their color, that the voices shouldn’t mean anything to me either.

“That’s when I start to let them, the voices, go. I feel myself, for a moment, dissolving into a colored shape, like the others. I feel myself becoming one of those shapes of color, someone, or something beyond the voices’ reach. Someone the voices don’t matter to. Someone, or something that knows they’re not real.

“But that feeling only lasts for a moment, at least so far, and then I slip back to reality. Or this reality. I’m not ready to completely let go yet, I guess, but I know I need to.”

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Belly, part fourteen

[This is another passage from my short story Belly. To start from the beginning, click here.]

It feels different.

Yes, as if he’s about to slip away from us. We won’t have much more time with him.

We haven’t had much, and we haven’t learned very much either. Less than the others.

Each one’s different. We can’t know how they’ll respond, and every one’s important.

We do have a little more time. We should make the most of it.

We can. We will. Let’s show him.


Why not?

Jonas? We’ve almost reached the end. You’ve almost reached your end too. Can you see it? Can you see where you are? Can you see you aren’t where we led you? No, can’t you see? You’re where you’ve always been.


One spark doesn’t cast much light, but the stream of sparks the metal wheels spray as they spin against the curved track make the landscape come alive, a liveliness that lasts for the few seconds the sparks still have life.

They light up a tree, these sparks, for Jonas to see, and it is a tree, but it’s more than a tree. In the flash of light, Jonas can see, not just the gray, craggy bark, he’d expect. He sees not just its branches swaying as unsteadily as aged arms, and the small, thin twigs that poke from their ends, the tree’s arthritic fingers.

He can see inside of it too. There’s a warmth there, a color, or a glow at its center. It’s a glow fed by the moments the tree witnesses standing rooted to its spot. It feeds on whatever passes it by, all the daily events, human, animal, mineral. It feeds on them as it feels them. Yes, feels, and knows, and recognizes, and cherishes, both the good and the bad.

There are the small harms, the sharp pains, as little boys stab it with pen knives to carve initials, or mower blades gash its roots. There are small joys too. Yes, it feels like joy. Yes, the joy it feels as a May sun warms its newly budding leaves. Or the joy it feels as it recalls its past attachments, to the squirrels and jays, and crows and sparrows who’ve made it a home, by sitting in it for no matter how short a visit. Jonas sees all of this, as those first sparks still burn, and then the tree falls back into the early morning’s darkness.

The train takes the second curve in an ess, and more specks of light sparkle to show Jonas less of what he thought he knew, and more of what he didn’t, like this plain, dead wall of dull red bricks. But the bricks aren’t dead or dull. They too glow, and they move, or what’s inside them moves. They hold the hum of movements. It’s not their movement alone. It’s the movement of all they’ve absorbed in the tens of years they’ve stood here.

They hold within them all that’s been said or seen, touched or felt around them, and they sing about them, all of these stories, to Jonas’ eyes. Every meal cooked, every dog walked, every child tucked tightly in their warm winter bed. And they sing them, all these stories, in a language he can’t speak. Every lover’s hand taken, every little and big betrayal, every boss cursed. And though he can’t speak their language, he can understand them, all these songs they’ve sung in this the briefest of flashes. He can understand them, all their stories sung together so nothing can be lost when the second set of sparks lose their lives.

And wanting to hold onto them, Jonas closes his eyes and tries to imagine them again. But when he closes his eyes, he doesn’t recall them, he remembers something quite different. He remembers the voices. Not the voices who brought him here, but those other voices, and what they told him. And he keeps his eyes shut, longer than he otherwise might. And he looks. He looks more deeply into the deepest black, deeper than any black he’s ever looked through, and beyond that, this black, he thinks he sees it. He thinks he sees just a glimpse of it.


Jonas, are you there?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Belly, part thirteen

[This is another passage from my short story Belly. To start at the beginning, click here]

The patient claims to hear strange disembodied voices. He is under the impression these voices could be in some way prophetic. He describes various hallucinations, all of which seem to be induced at the suggestion of the voices. These episodes occur primarily, if not exclusively, on the patient’s commute to work. There are no signs of unusual stress at his job. He is not currently in a relationship, and hasn’t been in one of any significance for quite some time. He does not appear to be a threat to others or himself, but he does display some anti-social tendencies. He doesn’t make eye contact when spoken to. He doesn’t like to be touched. He says he doesn’t interact with others, if he can help it. He appears to be healthy physically, other than signs of fatigue and anxiety resulting from his recent experiences. He’s assured me the hallucinations are not the affects of current or past substance abuse. I can’t rule out some form of psychosis, possibly schizophrenia, although there is no family history of this, and it should have manifested itself at a younger age. He may have suffered an emotional trauma as a young adult, but he refuses to talk about it directly. It’s impossible to know yet if any of his recollections of past events are reliable. Understanding this better may be the key to managing his condition, but it will take more sessions to arrive there. I have prescribed a benzodiazepine in the interim.

Monday, October 01, 2012

The interconnections of water and time

Their white within the Inner Harbor’s
tea-colored water
first tricks me into seeing
them as trash. They’re floating
too-elegantly for me to mistake it twice.
The biped in me can’t help but admire the grace
of their jellied swimming.

To swim, I’ll swim across days,
up coastlines, to new cities, and memories.

There are fetal skeletons
at the Mütter, and they’re arranged in the display
case according to height. The boy
at the right end’s skull, slightly flattened
makes him look awkward and alien.

I’d feel like a monster to look at him,
and her, and her, and him, each of them,
these children who never took a step, too clinically,
and as my eyes move between their tiny
toes, they move closer to me than any jelly,
no matter how pretty,

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Belly, part twelve

[This is another fragment from my short story Belly. To start at the beginning, click here]

“And that’s when I start to think, maybe I’m hearing them, and seeing these things for a reason. Maybe there’s a message in it all.”

“What kind of message?”

“You know, maybe I did get it mad, the universe. Maybe it’s showing me it’s got some control over me after all. Maybe it’s making me see things, see everyday things in a different way, so I can learn from it. Or maybe others are seeing the same thing. Maybe the world’s changing, or it will if we don’t do something. Maybe we’re changing, evolving, and I’m getting some kind of advanced warning about it. If I could only make sense of it, I could tell people about it. See if there are others. But I can’t.”

“You shouldn’t try to make sense of it. There’s nothing to be learned from it. None of it’s really happening. It’s something we need to get rid of, with therapy, with treatment, with medication. That’s what you have to understand first. The universe doesn’t send people messages. Not like that. No such universe exists.”

“How do you know? Last I checked, you’re not an astro-physicist. And you’re definitely not a priest.”

Friday, September 28, 2012

Belly, part eleven

[This is part eleven of my short story Belly. To start at the beginning, click here.]

“Young Jonas believes I’ve got a purpose to fulfill. I’m not sure what it is. Something cosmic, or religious, or spiritual. Whatever you want to call it. Young Jonas still believes. There’s this dream. Something ridiculous. A bad B-movie script. Worse than that. I’m in heaven, I guess, and it’s a full out battle between the angels and devils, or whatever the evil forces are. It’s not guys with horns and capes or anything like that, but you know who they are. And I’m right up in the front lines leading the charge, like the Archangel Michael, but I’m a kid. Who knows how my mind came up with such a thing, but it did.

“And that was a long time ago now, but young Jonas still believes that kind of crap. He’s here. He never left. He’s hidden away, but he’s here.”

“Grown-up Jonas, me, I lost my faith in that stuff many years ago. Since my 20s. I don’t know what finally did it. Losing someone. Losing more than someone. Spirit, purpose, good, evil, they all went too. And after the years, and the disappointments, and losing other someones, you have to justify it to yourself somehow.

“I justify it by seeing the world as pretty indifferent. There’s no kindness in it. Why would it care about any of us, or for any of us. It’s all blind luck who does well and who doesn’t. There’s no one up in the sky keeping score. Rewarding the good, punishing the evil. It’s all random events. There’s no reason to anything that happens. People get pushed onto their particular paths, and they bump into other people along the way, but who they bump into isn’t preordained. It’s dumb luck, like I said. Or blind luck, same thing. Throw in deaf luck too.

“Young Jonas is here though, and he squirms when I say that. And maybe I say it to make him squirm. Or maybe I say it as a challenge. Prove me wrong. If there’s someone or something out there, prove me wrong. Yeah, maybe I just want to get whatever it is mad, so it shows me I’m wrong. Take the Lord’s name in vain, blaspheme, whatever. Just to see. Prove me wrong, god dam you. Prove me wrong.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Belly, part ten

[This is part ten of my short story Belly. To start at the beginning, click here.]

He thinks it's one voice, but as he listens to it speak its words, it seems to multiply into many voices speaking together. They sound not unlike his own voice, but not exactly like his voice either. Some have a higher pitch, some lower. Some sound much older, some younger. Some are smoother, some more raspy.

Despite these differences, they all speak at the same time, or almost the same time. Their words follow milliseconds after each other, and their timing drags out the sounds they make ever so slightly, so that the words reverberate in Jonas’ ears and stay with him a little longer than they otherwise might have. Most importantly, their voices, joined with each other, are clear and strong, as if they were coming from close by.

They say to him, "The next time you hear them, those voices, not ours, close your eyes. Close your eyes, like you’re doing now, but not too tightly. Just tight enough for you to see the black. And when you see that black, look. Look for the colors there, running within it. We’re there, inside those colors. You can be too, and inside those colors their voices won’t reach you."

Then they stopped speaking, and as he let them go, he let his eyelids rise. The newspaper was just a newspaper again. Its newsprint, and the stories and photos made up of it, held firm. And then he realized, he had reached his stop.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Belly, part nine

[This is another passage from my short story Belly. To start from the beginning, click here.]

He still doesn’t know us.

He can’t. It’s not the way it works.

It affects how he takes what we say.

It can’t be helped, and we’re learning from it. We’ll make adjustments.

We’re on to variations of a theme now.

What’s the theme?

Time, and it’s relevance to how he sees the world. Or it’s irrelevance to how he will.

What if he doesn’t want to?

We always come back to choice, don’t we?

It’s pretty important.

We only give him the sparks of an idea. He has to choose how to react to them. And we’re overdue for another reaction, so ask another question.

Jonas, what if what happens, doesn’t happen for one reason, and it doesn’t happen only one way?


He hates the way the newspaper pages keep spilling on his thigh. He can’t stand the sound of them turning, and so constantly, with its crinkle and swish. And when he hears the sound of their voices come back to him again, he hates it all even more.

No one taught this man how to read a newspaper on a train. Some one taught Jonas. Brother Joe, in high school, while waiting for the morning bell to ring. He showed Jonas, and the other kids, how you fold it, vertically, length-wise down the center, and then peel the pages back. Jonas was impressed by the ease of it, the grace of folding the pages back, then opening it up at that reduced center, then moving on to fold more back.

It’s as if the man wants him to read along. Or they do. So he does, glancing down at the headlines there on page A15. But the words don’t want to stand still for him. They keep hopping around to different places, rearranging themselves, and sometimes changing shape to new words. “Killed” becomes “survived”, “won” wants to be “lost”, names and genders switch places.

And it’s not just the bolded words in the headlines. The smaller words in the blocky paragraphs below move too, their letters fall away like grains of sand sliding through glass, and new words take their place.

And it’s not just the words on the page, it’s the photos too. Someone bloodied becomes the same person unsmudged and smiling, or a different person altogether finds themselves in an altogether different place, or maybe the same but in much different circumstances. Their uniform and weapon have been swapped for a t-shirt and sign. Wartime is peace, angry protests are cheerful gatherings, a flag-draped coffin becomes a cradle meant to display the new year’s first newborn.

And it makes no sense. And it’s all too much. And Jonas closes his eyes to shut it all out. And just then, as the blackness takes him, he hears another voice pipe in through his ear buds. A different voice.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

And they come, like leaves of grass. And they'll go.

And then I'm here,
and when I’m not here too

They walk past me,
and I see it in their faces,
the generations,
and their generations,
when they walk past me,
the worse-off
and the better,
they come too,

And they come,
and they come,
and in their faces
there are shades I can't name,
but every one of them is,
and everyone of them is

And in their hearts
there are whispers,
whispers that speak in shapes
I can’t measure,
but they whisper
and they whisper of their pains,
and they’re not like mine,
and they’re not unlike mine either,
and through them all,
they have, and I have
stayed strong,

And they’ve come here
and their strides have covered,
they do cover,
not distances,
not years,
but those joys and sorrows,

The joys and sorrows of many
and they came from those many days
and those days flowed out
from many places,
from many places
that are now one, and that one
will go too,
into many,

There will be many
and into many
it and they will go,

And when they go there,
they’ll go everywhere,

And when they go,
everywhere will be
one place
and nowhere,

And it’s from there
they’ll bring me back,
and it’s to there I’ll go
and I'm going there,
and I’m going there
again, with each of them.

[Union Station, Washington, D.C., 9/23/2012]

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Belly, part eight

[This is part eight of my short story Belly. It's a work in progress, so expect some things to change as I progress further into the narrative, including the order of some of these passages. To go back to the beginning, click here.]

“No, it’s gotten worse. I don’t just hear them, when they speak I’ve started to see things.”

“What kinds of things?”

“Changes. Changes in things that shouldn’t, or shouldn’t so fast. All at once.”

“I’m not following you...”

“Time lost its grip. On me, on them, on the world. Peoples’ faces. I saw them all. I saw all their faces, at every age, at the same time.”

“Whose faces?”

“The faces of the riders on my train. Standing in the aisles, sitting all around me. Every one of them. Their faces all started to change.”

“For how long?”

“Until I got off the train. I couldn’t make it all the way to my stop. It was too much.”

“I can imagine. And the voices caused this?”

“I don’t know. They asked me something. Something about the past, present and future. What if it didn’t exist?”
“And I guess you saw that.”

“I guess I did. I wish I could un-see it. And how do I not see it, ever again?”

Friday, September 21, 2012

Belly, part seven

[This is part 7 of my short story Belly. Click here to start at the beginning.]

And an image flashes in his mind. An image from his childhood. An image of a crowd. So many bodies crammed in such a small space. So many bodies with angry, uncomfortable faces. They’re not pushing each other, no, but they seem to be pulling themselves in. They seem to be trying to maintain some sense of self, here, where they’re just another face and body among so many.


Star Trek. It’s like a scene from Star Trek. He must have watched it when it was small. Or his brother watched it, obsessively, and he only half-watched, caught in the middle of one of those far-away states he has.

He’s always done that, since he was a boy. Fell back deep into his thoughts and let his body continue on doing whatever mundane things it does. And his body does them quite well sometimes without him. It keeps doing whatever it’s supposed to and leaves him to his mind. He’ll find himself suddenly much farther down a sidewalk then he thought he was, with no recollection of the time it took for him to get there.

And though he’s not fully there, it doesn’t mean his body stops taking in the sensory data it’s supposed to accumulate. It doesn’t need him there to keep on seeing, hearing, smelling things that he’s not even half-aware of, or maybe not aware of until much later, when he feels he’s sensed something before. Is it deja vu if you can’t remember the first time?

And that’s what’s most frustrating, he can’t control when these memories resurface, or figure out where they fit when they do. Like this scene from Star Trek. He can’t say what episode it was on, or what season, or who guest-starred. He can’t even say what the stupid story line of the episode was. But he’s looking at this train full of commuters, and suddenly he sees that shot of a group of people jam-packed in a room. They’re supposed to be aliens on some over-crowded planet, but it’s not hard to tell they’re just a bunch of extras in bad costumes crammed onto a sound stage in Hollywood.

It’s like that here, except on Star Trek, their faces didn’t move.

The memory’s not important. The feeling isn’t either. This feeling of wishing they would all go away. Not in a bad way. Not to harm them. Just to move them away from him. To beam them off to some other planet, or ship, or dimension. Or maybe it would be better if he was, beamed away.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

And the bay

And the bay, not purple
but purple
in this light, addresses
all who pass by it
with its uncountable,
jelloing tongues. “You
didn’t come here to stay. You
came to put on calcite
layers. To let what’s inside
grow, or change,
or become, what you’ll become
when you no longer come

Most don’t listen, they watch
the wind
make a dead leaf hop.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Belly, part six

[This is part 6 of my short story Belly. Click here to start at the beginning.]

To see life in its totality is a very special gift.

He won't appreciate it.

He'll learn to. He has no choice.

Yes, that's because we won't give him any.

These things don’t always go as planned, he might surprise us.

Then ask.

Jonas, what if there were no past, present or future?

The human face, it never held Jonas’ attention with the same intensity as a clock’s. That softness, the malleability, its odd colorings, and utter variability, it all unsettled him. And the eyes, there were the eyes. They had such depth, and held such secrets. What might hide behind those eyes? He couldn’t look anyone in the eyes for more than a few seconds. He only managed to deal with his customers by keeping his eyes fixed on the merchandise he showed them.

That’s how Jonas normally feels, but today, right now, after hearing the voices again, he can’t help but stare at the passengers clogging the aisles. Their faces, each one of them, seem to be strangely blurring. Rubbing his eyes doesn’t stop the sensation, in fact, it gets worse as he continues to look. Their features seem to be moving. No, not moving, shifting. It’s as if there were many faces inhabiting a single head.

Everything else about them is unchanged, from their scarves and buttoned up collars, down to the tips of their leather gloves and wool mittens, but their faces have been put into continual motion, a motion that is speeding up. It’s as if someone was flipping through the pages of a picture book, and that picture book was filled with portraits of a single man, or woman, taken every moment from their first gasp of air until their last. Ah, but these pictures follow no particular order, and they're in 3-D.

Jonas tries to focus his eyes, to force them like a thumb into those fanning pages and make them stop on just one, any one, but it doesn’t work.

If he keeps his eyes closed for long intervals, the faces slow their movement enough that he can make out individual features. A cleft chin sprouts a lawn of stubble. Two piercing green eyes cool and darken, while cracks radiate out over patches of skin drained of their color.

Eyes back to the watch. Keep looking at the watch, even if its numbers are stuck. Stuck doesn’t feel so bad now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Belly, part five

[Another passage from my short story Belly. Click here to start at the beginning.]

"What do you hear?


"More than one?"

"Yes, there are two. Definitely two. They're similar, but they’re clearly different voices."

"Are they male or female?"

"Two men, I think. But it's hard to tell. They don’t seem quite human. "

"Are they speaking to you?"

"They mostly speak to each other, but sometimes they address me by name."

"Is it a running dialogue?"

"I think so. I don’t know. It feels like it’s a part of something much larger. An ongoing conversation. I only hear them for a minute, and then they’re gone again."

"Can you make out what they're saying?"

"I can usually make out the words, but when they’re talking to each other, they sound muffled. It's like I’m in one of those stupid sitcoms, hiding behind a wall, with a glass to my ear, eavesdropping on the neighbors. When they ask me something directly, the words are clearer, but what they say doesn't always make sense to me. "

"Are the voices friendly?"

"They're not hostile, but I wouldn’t say friendly either, no. Not even necessarily to each other. They're more dispassionate than anything. It's as if they're dissecting a corpse on an examining table."

"Are you the corpse? Are they talking about you?"

"Yes … maybe … I don't know. Would that be good or bad?"

"It's not good or bad. I'm just trying to understand."

"So am I."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Even more Belly (part four)

[Click here to start at the beginning with part one]

Jonas’ life involves quite a few circles. First, there is this “circle” he travels around each morning inside the Loop. The elevated track the train rides atop runs due north and south until it reaches the edge of downtown, and then it turns abruptly to skirt the city center’s perimeter with a clockwise path. From the air, the route might seem to sketch out an exclamation point, or a thermometer, or a clock’s pendulum arm held still.

Yes, make it the arm of a clock. Time pieces and their round faces are the other circles to figure prominently in Jonas’ life. He makes his living as a salesman in a small clock shop. Every inch of its walls, from floor to ceiling, is taken up with a variety of second tickers, some standing, some sitting on metal shelves.

It’s crammed full of stately grandfathers, would-be mantelpiece squatters, less serious cuckoos, and assorted novelties. Their exteriors are made of glass and precious metals, mahogany, and less sturdy but more colorful plastics. Their precisely geared innards push pendulums, cause small brass hounds to chase a rabbit, and tickle a black cat’s tail to twitch back and forth.

While working there, Jonas sits behind a glass jewelry case filled with smaller items: wrist and pocket watches, alarm clocks, timers and stop watches. When no one’s in the shop, he’ll let his gaze fall on their small faces for one second each. He counts aloud with their little and bigger hands, as they glide and tick around and round to lap up numbers and notches, tracking our oval about the Sun.

His fancy for time-tellers didn’t come solely in trade for a middling pay check. He’d had a fascination with them since he was very young. When and how did this start? He can’t say really. Maybe he was born to it. He does have a vague memory of a waltzing animated, grandfather clock that might have cast the first spell, but he’s not sure if he’s made it up to justify a neat trajectory from his past to present.

He knows quite well the first time, at Christmas, he strapped the black leather of his Micky Mouse watch around his too-thin wrist, and waited for those two very unrodent-like arms, fit with their precious white mitts, to converge up at twelve o’clock. He’d never not wear a watch after that. There was magic and dependability in the constant but invisible circles they traced.

Now, with his current watch strangely refusing to give up its fixation on a seven and two zeroes, and with an impenetrable black pushing in against the window beside him, time’s once comforting grip on him slackens. His memories begin to feel borrowed. To Jonas, they begin to feel less real than a mouse with white gloves, red pants, yellow shoes, and a cartoon smirk.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

gods come in all sizes

These tiny gods come and go
as easily as they please
in their inconsiderable

as easily as gnats
or flies through screens

and they’ll please,
but not easily,

and only if you don’t try,
to hold them too close
to your fruit-like heart,
on knotted strings
and silvery chains.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Belly, part three

[This is the third part of my serialized story Belly. Click here to go back to the beginning]

And he’s on that train again. And time has passed, or he’s passed the time, but he can’t say how long, or how far, or if he’s gone forward or back. His watch still sticks at the same time. It won't move from it until he steps off the train. Then it finds the right time, on its own, without any winding.

And the voices have come to him again. And they’ve gone.

This train. He sits on this train. Steel rods are its bones, and a molded plastic dyed the color of tan flesh sits upon them. Jonas sits upon the pixelated blue felt that sits upon that molded plastic. And he fidgets. And he waits. He waits for the voices to return. They don’t come every trip, but most. And those sometimes, those sometimes when they don’t come, those very hard sometimes, it can be worse. The waiting.

He’s tried to distract himself through the waiting, with books and newspapers, crossword puzzles and magazines. He’s found that the insulation of sound piped through two small ear buds soothes him most. He doesn’t listen to music, as much as voices, other voices, any voices, just not their voices. Mostly clear voices. Voices he can hold onto. Voices that don't ask or tell him to do anything.

And within the seconds and fractions of seconds of silence that glue these broadcast voices’ words into sentences, those sentences into paragraphs, he knows theirs, as narrowly cast as any can be, will sneak through to him. It doesn’t matter how tightly he presses the ear buds into his canals, or how high he raises the volume, they’ll find a way in to him.

A crackle, and a hiss, a hum and a palpable silence, and then he hears them, but not clearly. No, what they say is not ever clear. It’s not as if they were in the same car, or train, or city. Their words must come from far away, and it’s as if they pass through a thick ooze, but when they reach him, he feels them pass into him, and settle as an ache in his bones.


Do you think he knows about circles?

He must, he seems quite fond of them.

And how they have no beginning or end?

Well, unless you break them.

Let’s break his with a riddle. Jonas, where we’re leading you, is not where you’ll be going.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Continuing on with Belly (part two)

[Click here to start at the beginning with part one]

There are lights here, small white, plastic globes of light floating down either side of a steel blue center. They're not bright, but to Jonas’ straining brown eyes they burn intensely.

Ears, he has ears too. And they work, though they might not be working well, if they’re hearing strange voices. They have nicely rounded tops. Jonas always though his ears his best feature. And these tops are tucked neatly within a knit cap. Not the bottoms, the bottoms are unobstructed so they can receive their sounds. And they do. And they’re working. They received a sound quite like the landing of a cushion of water when he awoke. After hearing those voices, as his mechanical keeper made another violent thrust forward.

Jonas takes a deep breath, his twin nostrils gulping the stagnant mix of sweat and snow-wet wool. And as that air fills his lungs, he comes fully back to the jostle of the boxy car in which he's stuffed. To this train that carries him through his daily circles.

“The time. What's the time?”

What's the day, for that matter.

Jonas’ left wrist wears a watch, but it’s been pinned till numb, and won't lift up without the aid of his right hand.

“Seven o’clock.”

He thought it was seven the last time he looked.

Square with rounded corners, the window beside him is backed by an early winter morning’s black, and gives out no clues if he’s gotten any farther on this journey.

“Does it matter?”

It doesn't. Suspended above the invisible scenes of troubled city blocks, Jonas lets his mind slip back to where sharp voices dull to mumbles, their words softening to the sounds of distance and long ago. His head falls forward, returning to its “yes,” and and the disturbance those voices caused go with it, back into darkness.


That was simple enough.

And not very rewarding.

True, but things will pick up. It’s good enough for now. He won’t get through the next one so peacefully.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Back again to Belly

[I've been struggling with my story Belly for many years now. I think this will be the last attempt to get it right. I'm going to plow through it, start to finish, and see what comes of it, rather than continuing to tinker with it piecemeal. So, here, yet again, is the first part.]

Can we ask him a question?

Yes, like before with the others, but let’s keep it simple. We don’t want to frighten him too soon.

How about the time? It’s simple enough to ask someone the time of day. Unless the person you’re asking is a stranger. Then, they might not give the answer as freely.

We’ll likely always be strange to him. It can't be helped. And the things we’ll show him stranger still. He won’t keep much of us, or them. No more than the whiff of decaying leaves he’d take from a walk in an autumn wood.

No, but we’ll remember, and we'll learn from him. We always do. Let’s ask him as if he were a friend. Perhaps it will help him accept us. The time, Jonas. Can you tell us what time it is?


They’re just voices. What else could they be? God? A devil? Or an angel and a devil? Those cartoon appeals to conscience perched on his shoulders? Ridiculous. Too ridiculous. But more ridiculous than hearing these voices, hearing them for the first time, now, on this train? Hearing them indistinctly yes, but still hearing them.

Jonas, half-asleep, heard them. There’s no doubting he heard them now, for the first time, when it all starts and ends. This moment of a single movement: when his head, once so deadly heavy, jerks alive with a backward nod, as if it were taking back a “yes.”

Voices, but whose voices? And what would they want? What could they want from him, Jonas? Were they real? They could be. But they could be the remnants of a dream he had in that moment. A dream that retreated back to the depths without him when he woke.

Or they could be the trailed-off fragments of a conversation. A conversation he’s misremembered, or mostly forgotten. A conversation, perhaps half-taken from the television he left on at home, the night before, as he fell-asleep.

No, to Jonas these voices sound much more, much more like something from inside. From inside but also far away. They sound. They sound like a voice he’d hear. A voice he’d hear while reading a story. The kind of story he reads, but doesn’t like. The kind of story that troubles him with the details, and the uncertainties of others’ lives.

But this is his life. It’s Jonas’ life, and he thought he already knew all of its details. He thought there weren’t any more surprises in his story. He thought. He thought, his story was writing itself now. Writing itself in expected ways. Uninspiring, but certain, and expected, and not comfortable, but not disturbing ways either.

These voices are disturbing. Very disturbing. If they’re real. Are they real?

Continue on to:

Saturday, September 08, 2012

this town believes

this town, it seems believes
a subway is the way
the struggling move through it

one man says, or yells, looking back
and forward, side to side, in anger's eyes,
I learned what I needed all I needed

to know about myself in that cell
be strong, always be strong I don’t care
for them, or their excuses

another’s dressed like a pirate he says,
I used to be a reverend I know it,
and I’ll tell you if you seek him

no matter where you are no matter how
far down the wrong road you’ve gone,
god will show you a light to get back to him

this town is struggling  to believe it

Thursday, September 06, 2012

How the world sounds, when left alone

Twelve or twenty, they’re black,
and wordless they fly with one mind
about the spire. My eyes try

to catch one that doesn’t, but can’t. I hear
a hum. It’s not quite musical, but it is
strangely pretty. Secretly, I know I’m not

meant to hear it. Last night, as I slept
I heard a voice I don’t know, or didn’t
recognize. He wondered, back where I couldn’t

see him, how to break it to us. The birds
and beasts, not like us, he said, he sensed,
know exactly where death takes them.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Not from these parts

They might be new, these trills
within the broken sun. Or I might be
new to it. A tall woman

with tight orange curls slides down
the wall face to sit on the sidewalk.
I walk past her, and an awkward look

gets passed to me. I’ll mistake it
for a smile, another newness
I’ve brought with me into it.

Sunday, September 02, 2012


I’m the old man who can’t tell time any more
what lies ahead ... any way he tells it,
what he’ll tell it is always
how he’s become more or less himself,
less the more ... he sits
a broken dish
down, and watches the hours run off
the end of his spoon ... it’s the same way,
the exact same way
his medicine slops, when he tries to
stop his palsied hand from pouring it ... oh, how
he’d like to run
off or away or on and on about it
after learning the moon doesn’t turn
blue waiting for her cow ... she turns her face for you
not to see her giggle
at the thought of how a cow might plummet

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Which way, Billy Pilgrim?

A going back.
I’m going back, or forward. Or both,
and every point in between,
Billy Pilgrim style.

Not a holy place, the place
I began, or the place I’m going.

Not wholly that place, or this,
but a place I can pretend is. There.
There it is. It is

in a wood, somewhere not far,
sheer, copper-penny
snake skins are slipped,
if not where I’d keep them.
And it’s there,

further on in that wood, trees change
but not the wood, and a sound comes,
just the sound, and then nothing more
than a ripple of chocolate-
milk water. It’s there, where now
jumped, and nothing’s gone

missing with the log lost underneath
orange lichen, I’m going. It’s there
I’ve been.

In this sun

In this sun, an apse
at the alley-aisle’s end, all
blessings fall blindly

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Be careless with what you wish for

I’ve been in this play before.
I’ve heard
and spoken these lines.

Will I speak them to you?
I will. But first, about this fly.

I'll tell you about it being
my reincarnated friend, Smita.
She’s back to swim in my ointment.
She’s back
to tell me it’s okay to be
careless with what you wish for.

Her soul would fly up among my wishes.
As a fly she can’t fly anywhere
but around me, so she flies to where
I stand and stays in my hand.

I take her
back to that stage where we began.
With no mouth to speak her lines
she still gives them to me. I would say:

“She never understood.
I only ever wanted to love her.”

within the seconds of this,
my second time.

But Smita has me say only
"Love, instead."

[dedicated to two who will never read this]

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What the walls buzz at me

Each cycle has its reason to teach. I reach the end of one, and when it’s done, whether I guess it or not, the next season comes to teach me anew. I knew that I’d done this before. Before I could count the cycles, count the seasons I’d lived through, I still knew them and that there’d be more. For me and for others. I may not pass through the last. It may not last as long as I want it to. But, the last cycle will come, and when it’s done, whether I make it to its end, what will come after is what came before, and I will be a me I’ve both known and could never guess.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What the willow lets me know walking past it

The past is
the past. If you can’t
get past it, paste it
to the pasty place on you
that gets no sun. Yes, it’s least
noticeable there.
Not that you won’t, or you can’t,
notice it, turning your head
slightly to the side
to glimpse it
as you’re headed out
for a bite,
but you’ll be able
to pretend
the biting's a little bit

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Your train has arrived

A Turing bird
whispered to me:
"The announcer's words
you heard, and her
pauses, could be more

Thursday, August 16, 2012

when the wolfe fell into a beckett

I know, the going can
.............. as homes go, never again
I will, go again
.............. never home, but you’ll go, or you can
the home I knew, it never was
.............. not it? but then, wasn’t it? it was
once, maybe once. lots were, once
.............. and now not, and then it was, once. ah, that once!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


A man’s hand,
not much more than a boy’s, can
reach past his grasp
into a past with a future reach
he can only grasp
reaching it, and his hand,
smaller, paler, smoother, more
or less inclined to grasp
vast reaches

Monday, August 06, 2012

Sunday, July 29, 2012

There's nothing, to reveal

Death doesn't know ... knowing
looks. It can't look or feel
around for the answers to give you.
.......  ........................ Its one
answer's ready, and it's going
back to a home with no back
rooms, no father or mother
who'd prepare them.
..  ............................. Rheumy
eyes close, and a closed-up energy
takes its leave from mass, one leaf
rising up from the attaching soil
to re-attach itself to light.

Monday, July 23, 2012

If we gathered where we fit

We could gather
together, kinked elbow
to elbow, wiggly fingers
snugly knotted (not the knot

of a smoothed-down board,
the knot, all bumps and twists,
we tied when we didn’t tie knots
very well, but we tied them

close and tight), at the creek
we call a brook to make it feel
magical (that kind of magic
where frogs speak their curses

before they splash off).
We could gather
there, and not speak
the rathers we’ve used not to,

rathering not to be gathering,
rathering not to see how we fit
elbow to elbow, or how a creek
isn’t any less magical than a brook.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


For every ever
I’ve ever said never
to, in that very-very
nevery way
I have, there’s this

one Ever, tucked in the sky blue,
where the huddling clouds do
keep the nosy sun’s
and other prying eyes ever
away from it, and I’d never
ever never it. No, not ever.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

hybrid high, high high above

If I'm in the gleam of this
machine, imperfect
in the perfect way
it limits me, where it takes
me in it, it takes me (placed 
in it) places perfectly 
suited to it and its suit 
(my suit) of gleaming blue, 
machining me into other blues 
where I couldn't be without it.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Her bunched tulle lips

I addressed the wrinkled
face I made up, there above
pretend crinkles
in a pretend dress.
“Why can’t this dream keep me,
without taking me
from the waking sun?”
I said, and winking
into the yellow-red
as she turned
her window-wide head
to look at me,
she made me
the hushed reply
a soft breeze gave to her
bunched tulle lips, “It’s you,
who keep those two

Monday, July 02, 2012

Nothing from something?

Of all the restless minds in all the beds in all the world (and universe), it popped into mine. If "something" can spontaneously appear out of "nothing," can the reverse be true? Can a something also ad lib a disappearing act, surprise slipping back into nothing, or perhaps choosing to inhabit a new nothing when it tires of the other somethings around it.

What got this maybe nothing of an idea started was a something said by cosmologist and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss while on the Colbert Report plugging his new book "A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing."

I highly recommend watching the full interview (the clip is here), but the kick that got my thought-ball rolling was his comment that the universe favors something over nothing because "nothing is unstable." In an apparently empty space, eventually particles will "burp" into existence. Where do the particles come from? Are they the product of a divine indigestion? That's too big a something for me to answer, but not too big for me to toy around with a little.

The nothing-to-something thought trip gets much trippier when you think about the possibility of entire universes big-banging their way into existence where nothing once was. Ours is still spreading out in the spacious nothing it decided to inhabit a long long time ago. Maybe it will reach a limit some day, and return to the void whence it came, starting a new cycle, giving it a second (and third, and fourth...) go to explore all its unexplored possibilities.

Sunday, July 01, 2012


Into pages’ shine
a bit of spider drops lines
It disconnects me

Saturday, June 30, 2012

When a month runs out

"I tried," he says with a sigh, not to himself, but not to anyone else either. By "tried" he means failed, at least as far as he can tell. Telling's a thing's he's been good at, if good's adequate or able, since he was old enough to tell. What he tried, or failed at, was a change. He did change, how couldn't he? Changing is about all any of us really does. Not for well or ill, but just for being. He being like any of us, he did too, in lots of ways, but not in the ways anyone would notice, certainly not the anyone he isn't talking to, and not him, when he says "I tried," not again, but still for the first time, as time hasn't moved, as he hasn't changed, as far as he can tell.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Something from nothing

nothing can be
slippery. out of a thin
blue sky (it’s always
something), the biggest black
-est beetle can fall
flat on its back,
four spindly legs
wiggling for a hand
(or a stick which I have
at hand) up. righted, it stands
unsure till I turn away
and then it slips confidently
back to the nothing (or
something) from which it came.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


One brown shoe, still young,
keeps on at the stoop. “No one
will walk it, my mile.”

Friday, June 22, 2012

This moment, and that next

This moment
right here (and this one
right after it) is (or it was,
and they are, or were)
big-belly, ready-to-drop-
everything, and

No, not with any oh-
so very vaguely named
possibility (you know,
or don’t know, the one),
but with a very real
if possibly uncatchable
beauty – all the impossibly
cerulean lizards, lavender
jays and cobalt butterflies
we never chase.

It’s (they’re) giving
birth (or gave it) again,
not to anything
we’ll possibly notice,
but to all of this (impossible
to name) loveliness –
one plucked chartreuse leaf
fluttering down to the chocolate
ground where it will stay,
whether or not (looking
forward or back) we bother
to see it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The poem I write, when the poetry's run out

My inklings would spring
from pens,
both black and blue,
wriggling and giggling
back at me,
still stuck, in between
my mechanical keys,
where the sounds sound cold
and clackety,
and no fantasy
creatures bound free.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Recipes for inaction

Skip to the who: My self,
unfulfilling prophecies I’ve kept on the shelf
with those spices I never use (Cardamom,
white pepper, cinnamon,
saffron and thyme).

I’ve a tasteless time’s end in mind,
without the means to kill it.
My mean stare can’t hold the quiet
still, to replace it. It can’t quiet the still
repeating tics below these eyes. Filled

with their empty visions, my mouth
can’t pronounce
what ingredients the pages can hold on to:
inkless impressions, a thin, shapeless blue,
the browning edges. Here the years crept in

wet, to undo them.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Flash forward

Clouds unhand the sun
an instant. Tree limbs give me
shadowy pointers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I am hip to that square
of cool concrete, not quite a column,
where I like to stand when I’ve nothing
particular to do. I am shaded there too, sickly
green by the white of a midday sun, the way
it filters through an overhanging liveliness that is life-
less for one breeze-free moment. Here I overhear
a man talking about a book, an autobiography
he’s read that isn’t very auto.
I don’t care very much
about it, but it sounds like he says it
got “grave reviews,” and he (and it) might have,
but why would he (or it)? Whether it was really “great,”
or “rave,” or indeed “grave”, my thoughts turn
away instead, to the red grapes I have at home
and how I like them to ripen until they fall off
the vine with a special, spicy sweetness.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

2am street scene

It’s not an absence
this 2am darkness—
half-dark and half-lit
by its unnatural glows—
grabs hold of,
firmly pulling it—
this thing not
an absence— growling
from the dead
black inside a stray
dog’s too-mouthy head;

not just it, but the voices—
untroubled and present
if not too
many, tucked into
a more deeply darkened night.
It takes them, not to
gobble them
up, but to throw them
off cobble, cement and stone
to open places, voices
won’t normally come.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Looking down

So small, so precious
here. Transiting there, Venus
can’t (no, no) see us.

[A little late...]

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Looking out

Princely Norway maple,
do limn me. No more than all
your earthy dreamings.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Looking up

Its hue of blue screams
electricity, pooled there
'tween gray-bellied whites

Friday, June 01, 2012

It's June

It’s June, and the rain-
freshened wood’s
feathered chorus is in
full and sunny swoon, not
singing so much as swinging to
each other’s
noisemaker tunes.

They share the squeaks
a boy of five squeezes
from his bath-side toys,
the towel-dried squeals and howls
he clambers with
up three creaky carpet-
covered steps,

and the penny-whistle-like
tinny tones he blows
with just his lips, to tell
the cricket he’s kept below
a not-quite air-tight lid,
it’s time for more

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I fell into an if

there is
a lazy wood
here layered around
these more red than green
glimpses into my clouded falling,
I haven’t spoken it aloud
or tasted its sweet
and fresh lack of effort
in bringing me down
to the gravelly rasp
of an unexpectedly
kind streambed.

No, not yet. I haven’t.

For my words wouldn’t,
they couldn’t make it out,
screamed or murmured
as summer soft
and impecunious as
the soonness of this
coolness that swallows
my wrists with its newness
and impresses my palms
with the painful clarity
of its hard
at work

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Reading into the sun

With color, it seems
to bleed the blame from its ends
of days. It’s blameless.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

False judgments

This pigeon, otherwise
gray, has a fluorescent green
on its neck, as pretty
as any humming.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A disembodied voice has nothing left, or right

We make frequent stops
along our ways,
all the different ways
each of us has to go,
and even those few same we have,
and when she says it,
when she helps us with her
my’s, we listen.

The moon’s lost face,
she’s lost a little too
of her orange glow,
grown paler, yellow
but not any colder,
since I last heard from her, both
different and the same, as when
I was headed another way.

They say, or have said,
in some made-up way
and place, these frequent way-
stops make it easier
to keep track of
how far we’ve come,
how much face the moon
may have lost, or gained
along our ways.

My faith comes in leaps
and it keeps me
imagining her voice,
so pretty, with its accent
I can’t place, there before
she lost her body,
the body that lost the hands,
and sides, she likes to speak of.

Her blood left too, or it moved
onto colder solutions,
and what was left, and right,
is now dissolving with the ease
of this steel and glass
sliding open to let in the air,
not salted here
but it could be
when I’ll go another way.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

For you

For you,
I could slay
a mountain's doubt
(thinking it's a hill).

I could move
a dragon to fire-dousing
tears (telling it all
I would do for you).

I would hazard the moon
can't once in its blue self guess
how I'd go about plucking it
from its purple perch

to present to you
as a sorry present's
starry-eyed promise
of a future

with all I'll do
for you.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Adieu, cruel April

When I think of the month of April and Poetry, the opening of TS Eliot's The Waste Land always comes first to mind: "April is the cruelest month," or so said the master.

I've fallen into the strange habit of occasionally rewriting passages from famous texts. It's probably a bit of sacrilege on my part to try it, but it's how I find my fun. As an adieu to National Poetry Month, I set to playing with the first seven lines of Eliot's masterpiece. Mine of course don't come close to matching the power and portent of Eliot's striking words, but I don't dislike what I came up with:
Peril, with its cruelest mouth bleeding us
dry, lacks the doubt of our dead hands mixing
deader memories. From the fire’s stirring,
our dull boots will spring duller. It’s the pane
of winter that’s kept us from covering it
with our thin and forgetful throws. Feeding
us a belittled life, it tries to burst. Free.
Here's the original text by Eliot:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

National Poetry Month: Gerry Boyd

There are a number of poetry bloggers I admire, but none more than Gerald Boyd. His works always inspire poetry envy in me, especially for the way they engage the senses, and the unique uses he puts color to. As a perfect example, check out the start of his recent poem Never sure if climb is the word (and then click the link below it to read the remainder, which is equally wonderful):
Your fear is justified at the top of the stairs
when you slowly open the weathered door
and find a yellow chick and purple boa froth
of frightened feathers that make no sense.
Read the rest of Gerry Boyd's Never sure if climb is the word

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

National Poetry Month: Flashing By

Yes, the month is flashing by, but Flashing By is also the name of a nifty collaborative blog that is a source of many pleasures. It includes illustrations by rhoda penmarq complimenting the poetry and short fiction of favorite writers like nooshin azadi and Peter Greene (whose blog Old 333 you should also visit). Today's post Machine Christ is an exquisite example of the pieces posted here.

And though the days in April are quickly dwindling, don't stop celebrating poetry once the calendar page turns to May.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Most Beautiful Thing

Today is the day of the My Most Beautiful Thing Blogsplash, where bloggers celebrate the release of Fiona Robyn's novel The Most Beautiful Thing by writing about their own most beautiful things. You can celebrate the day too, by downloading the Kindle version of Fiona's novel, which is available gratis today here (or you can buy a paper-copy at Amazon).

The poem I wrote to mark the occasion centers on my most beautiful thing, which is my girlfriend Jill's gorgeous smile.

The beauty of it is
none of this,
and all of its
beauty, not the triumphant blue
of a jay’s bluest coup
unsettling the mature greens
and their younger leaves
to topple one cardinal’s redness
and its calm,
not it or the uplifting, baleful grays
that follow to chase
it and us, with the dense, clear drops
pristine brown soils savor,
no, not one moment of it
or the us who share in it,
will last, can last
any longer or matter more
than that instant
my no longer innocent eyes steal
a glimpse of your smile.

Monday, April 23, 2012

National Poetry Month: The Earth Thanks Me

As a National Poetry Month bonus, I get to share another one of Jill's poems.

The Earth Thanks Me
by Jill Dumser

My shoes are dirty.
I stand on the Earth while the trees beacon me upward.
Should I look?

I raise my head, following the trees,
drop to my knees,
and bend towards the sky.
Weaving and waving,
Singing and dancing,
the Earth thanks me, for being me.

Couplets: Interview with Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Today, I'm very excited to bring you the second of my poet interviews for Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour. Iris Jamahl Dunkle is not only an amazing poet (her poetry, creative nonfiction and scholarly articles have appeared in numerous publications including: Fence, LinQ, Boxcar Poetry Review, Weave, Verse Wisconsin, Talking Writing, Yalobusha Review and The Mom Egg), she's an educator and a Web Developer. Read on below to see some of the fabulous things she's up to, but also visit her blog Poet 2.0 to get a fuller picture of her writing and other work.

The first thing that strikes me when I read your poetry – for example, the marvelous pieces at Talking Writing and Radius – is how intricately connected to nature they are, weaving in elements from the Northern California landscape, following its cycles of decay and renewal. How important is the place you live to the way you write?

Place is a central part of my writing process. I am fortunate to have grown up in Sonoma County in Northern California. And I live and write on the same property where I grew up, so my natural surroundings are something I’ve been learning about since I was eight or nine and set off on day-long creek exploring adventures. The hawks raise their young in the same tall pines above my home as they did when I was a child. The quail nest in the same spot next to our gravel driveway each year. The deer follow the same paths year after year. I have a visceral love of this place and I guess I never get tired of trying to understand where I am. These days I’m equally focused on digging into the recorded history of the place where I live too.

I do a lot of work centered around Web development, so of course I was particularly drawn to the series of “code” poems (incorporating elements of HTML, XML, PERL and javascript) that you wrote for Raft. What attracted you to experimenting with these syntaxes, and what possibilities do you think they offer up for poets interested in exploring new forms?

Well, I’ve spent the past fourteen years as a web developer and social media communications consultant. For most of my career as a web developer I kept my poetry life separate. But something happened to me once I had children, and I just couldn’t believe in boundaries between my writing life, my work life, and my home life anymore. One day I was trying to write an elegy for a friend’s father and I just couldn’t break the lyric enough to express what I wanted to say. Then, I remembered how malleable XML code was and thought, “why couldn’t I frame my lyric thoughts in tags?” It was really empowering to blend the language of poetry with the language of code. It was especially fun to bring in the Perl tags. I hate Perl. Every application I had to build and support at one of my old jobs was built in clunky Perl code that I never felt I could control. It was so liberating to use Perl poetically rather than functionally.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I have this
.................. to say
and sometimes
........................ that
but never

Saturday, April 21, 2012

National Poetry Month: Beauty Shifts

For many of us poetry can be a very personal thing, a passion so private we may write certain pieces for only ourselves or those closest to us to see. That doesn't mean these poems lack the beauty of the more publicly shared pieces. And it's their personal nature that makes them all the more precious to us. It's why I feel very privileged today to be able to post a poem by Jill Dumser, the love and light in my life. She's graced me with her poems before, and I'm very excited to share this one with all of you.

Beauty Shifts
By Jill Dumser

Whips of light spiral madly through her thought, flourishing only in splits of seconds where the seconds split into lush moments of tranquility and unharnessed energy.
Composure becomes the tranquil star, fiercely throbbing with desire.

Beauty shifts,
Tainted scrims lift,
and alone the Visionary sits,
with her Visionary colors
and her Visionary hat.
In the dawn of dusk
a musty gray light,
fresh from the night.

Filled with power.

Flickers of light catch the eye with perfect precision,
the winds unwind;
the seconds combine,
and all in procession are those moments and seconds of time.

All yours. All mine.
Beauty Shifts.

They are. What we're becoming.

They are. What are we becoming?
It’s rote, I know. It’s rote.
It all bares my repeating. He wrote,

though not to me,
“The first prerequisite of defiling
a corpse is a corpse.”
And I thought, Of course.
We’ve become
experts in their making. And his point,

the point I didn’t think
needed making, not at this point,
again, yes, again,
yet again,
is how many we’re making.
We’re making them

without a second thought
or guess.
With an ease and a quickness,

and we’re finding them,
once made,
hard to be rid of, hard
not to accept
as ours, except
when we’ve become them.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tune in Tuesday for my "Most Beautiful Thing"

How would you reply if I were to ask you, "What's the most beautiful thing?" Would it be a special someone's smile. A sunset or rainbow playing behind your favorite vista? The Mona Lisa or Starry Night? Beethoven's Ninth or Imagine? Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day or Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird?

Next Tuesday, April 24, I'm taking part in a Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things, inspired by Fiona Robyn's new novel, The Most Beautiful Thing. People from all over the world will be blogging, tweeting & writing about their own most beautiful thing.

There are any number of ways you too can contribute: posting a photo, or a drawing, writing an essay or a poem. Whatever strikes your fancy. Just let Fiona know you'd like to participate, and she'll send you all the relevant details.

The folks at Writing Our Way Home are making a directory of everyone who's taking part, and they will also re-post their favourite entries on their blog over the following month.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Couplets: Interview with Wendy Brown-Baez

To honor National Poetry Month, I'm participating in Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour, by posting a series of interviews with other poets (be sure to click the link and see all of the other posts related to the tour).

First up is Wendy Brown-Baez. Wendy does some pretty impressive work, not just writing poetry, but taking it out to wherever people are, whether that's by performing it in nontraditional locations, leading her Writing Circles for Healing workshops, or inspiring youth through the In the Shelter of Words project. She's also just received a 2012 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, which she'll use to bring relevant and accessible poetry to non-profit organizations through workshops and presentations. Her website has a lot more information, including details about her poetry books, and she also maintains the blog Wendy's Muse.

You describe yourself as a “performance” poet, with a passion for “bringing poetry into fresh, unique venues.” With more and more poets seeming to be drawn to the Web as the primary outlet for their writing, why is it so important to stay connected to the “real world” and the places where people meet face to face?

The first time I memorized a poem instead of reading it from the page, I felt a deep connection to the audience. I could see the expressions on their faces and feel their empathy. It was so profound and uplifting, that I decided to continue memorizing my poems. One of the dysfunctional aspects of our modern culture is loneliness. So many of us have chosen to move away from our families and neighborhoods or are no longer connected; we no longer sit around the fire and tell stories. For me, art is one of many excuses to be together. It is life-affirming and life-saving. To know you are not alone, to speak your truth aloud, to be heard. It’s what we’re made for!

What are some of the most unlikely places you’ve performed in? Do people at different venues, let’s say a bar versus a church, or a private home versus a parking lot, react differently to the work you present, or is there a similar connection you make with the various audiences?

Ending up in a parking lot was probably one of the most unexpected venues I have ever performed in! Bars are different in that you have to really grab their attention. I performed sensual poems at a hip hop bar in Santa Fe where young people were waiting for the hip hop to start. It was a relief to hear the audience settle down to listen. You have to judge your space and what best suits it. I prefer more intimate spaces because I can feel the audience responding. Sample Night Live was a formal stage with a spotlight in my eyes and I had to “act” out to an audience I couldn’t see. People still loved it but it didn’t fill me the same way. It felt more like entertainment and less like sharing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

They may make you, monsters with handsome faces

An iguana hides in your folds
of phantom gray,
and from this patterned gray
it doesn’t look away, it
doesn’t look your way,
or all the ways
you imagine yourself
looking, there posing beneath it,
smiles cocked for the gun-bold
camera ready to tease
free from you, but not it,
more than your freely given smiles,
a thought
that you’re more than
you are, more than
a too-freely wielded weapon,
and not
more than the iguana
who gently feeds within
your violent folds of phantom gray.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

National Poetry Month: A Blade of Grass

Getting back to my National Poetry Month feature of featuring favorite poets, I'd like to point your virtual gazes to the blog A Blade of Grass. Jon, its proprietor, and I share a love of Samuel Beckett, who celebrated a birthday last Friday, and after a bit of a respite Jon posted a piece of Beckett-inspired wonderfulness with the poem says i. I says, says I go check it out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

An early morning sun upon closed eyes

The orange it burns
is small and yellow, sometimes,
and the blob-shape it,
the orange, follows
does rhyme with it. It all rhymes.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Oh, the faces

oh, the faces you'll know
when you walk through a wood
you wouldn't or couldn't have known
but the felled felt you should

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

National Poetry Month: Thelandabovewater

Continuing on with my somewhat sporadic tour of favorite poetry blogs this month, I'd like to share with you Thelandabovewater. It's a site that I make a point of visiting often. Manik Sharma finds the poetic hiding in places most writers might not look for it. Here's a passage from his latest poem The Temporary Birth of Character, which is a good sampling of his talent:

The talk is of the weather,
the dilating libido of suppression
Of The persuance of harmony
through all the gutters
that lead us,where we have always wanted to go

Read the full poem here, and make sure to check back regularly for more great work by Manik.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

When you're in it

From down here, it feels
there's nothing
there, but when you're in it
up there, lit
bright blue or a shadowed navy,
the air lets you feel it,
and how it could let you
go, if it didn't love you

so. It will let you pick through
its pockets. They're yours.
All of its is in you,
and it's yours. You're its too,
when you're up there, or down here.
You'll forget this, but not the way
you forget which shirt you wore
after sitting too long in the dark. No,

you'l forget it the way you've forgotten
how gorgeous a stand of trees can be until
you've seen them again from above, them
down here standing in their grassy, mossy,
rolling places. And it's then, you'll forget
you were just telling yourself
how useless and tedious though true
this life can be. Not when you're in it.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

National Poetry Month: It was that kind of night

As National Poetry Month rolls on, I'd like to share a poem by my friend Christine Flores-Cozza. Among her many talents, Chris is also a musician. For me, the best songs have always been poetry put to music, and the best lyricists as big an influence as any poet. After soaking in the atmosphere of her poem, go check out some of Chris's music at ReverbNation.

It was that kind of night

Snared like smoke circles trapped in sunrays-feeling like the undead.
I’ll take a dozen cold ones to freeze-frame and re-affirm my humanity.
Then hammer my meanness into the streets and boulevards, boulevards and avenues
Like kerosene and matches and lightening lighting.
I wear the wind in smoke and mirrors hidden in the eloquent sun confusing you.
Warn and dusty; age the aggressive invader of beauty fading.
If I had a dollar I would smoke it… Maybe you have seen me in the early dawn?
It was that kind of night.

-Ccozza 6-3-11