Monday, June 19, 2017

Not That You Asked

No one is asking for another poem. When I walk
the neighborhood, no one stops me to ask
why I haven’t shared with them my latest thoughts
on death, or dogs, or the way a flatworm swordfights
with his penis. There are no petitions, no Kickstarter
fundraisers, not even a peaceful march with placards
and animated crowds asking in a shout, “When
do we want it?” Anyway, the answer would be,
I’m quite certain, “We’re good. No hurry, dude. Whatever
works for you.” It’s okay. I get it. Poets are like
that lady in your office who always wants to tell people
her dreams:  “There is no word in the world
to describe the color of the shirt Ryan Reynolds
took off before he kissed me. But then I realized
it was my father I was kissing! Don’t even get me
started on what that might mean.” And no one does
get her started, but that doesn’t stop her. Point taken.
I won’t be saddling any of you with how it felt
this afternoon to find, as I was boxing up my old books
from college, sandwiched between the pages
of Herbert’s “Bitter-sweet” and “Love,” between
“sour-sweet days” and “usurping lust,” a condom
wrapped in a square of red foil, as yet unope’d.

(from Pembroke Magazine, 2016)

Thursday, June 15, 2017


The mannequin in the window is reaching
dramatically skyward, where maybe a better life
or better pantsuit is out there somewhere
hanging in someone else’s closet. It reminds
him of the way his mother used to lift him up
as high as she could reach, and then he would run
a feather duster through the dead spiders until
she tired and took him outside for some fresh air
while she smoked a Kool menthol and told him
what all the neighbors were worth. And when she
gave him a sip of her RC Cola it was clear that nothing
beyond that porch was worth knowing about. Past
the store with the mannequin is a dog wash
and a juice bar and the place that does his shirts
with light starch and a hint of mint at the collar.

(from The Timberline Review, 2015)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Isfahan, ca. 1600

The weft and warp
are wool, wool and silk
form the foundation
and pile, steeped first
in indigo, buckthorn
berries, saffron and
madder, larkspur. See
where the weaver
has plaited into
the odd Persian knot—
among the three hundred
every hour, eight
hours a day for eight
hundred days—a strand
of her own ebony hair,
how it still reflects
the sun, these centuries
later, as she must
have known it would,
must have hoped
you would imagine
her here, today, combing
each new row into
place, her eyes lifting
for a brief, capricious
look above the loom.

(from Avatar Review, 2015)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fairy Tales

When you get them talking, you will hear
fantastical things, like how your mother’s
car-dealer boss forced her to sit on his lap,
or how your father spent two years of his life
breaking East German radio code. How
can you not have known this about them,
their lives before you that had nothing to do
with you, these bright Kandinsky spatters
of experience that jar against the placid washes
of their lives now, set in the gentle landscapes
you have peopled with them, the way you once
set plates around a miniature white tea table—
for Barbie, tarted-up to the nines, and GI Joe,
rakish beret tipped back, already three cups in.

(from Avatar Review, 2015)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Dead to the World

When the news comes the way
it sometimes does in a dream
in which you are eating your fingers,
smacking your lips at their deep-
fried goodness but all the while
knowing there is something
not quite right about this scenario,
but the wrongness is not enough yet
to overcome your feeding frenzy
until you get all the way to the third
finger on your second hand and begin
to notice a persistent tapping
in the background as though a tiny
metronome were keeping the beat
for a tiny mouse ballerina who lives
and practices her pas de chats
in the suburbs of Medulla, Oblongata—
but until then you are dead to the world,

not unlike yesterday, when your co-workers
emerged from their cubicles en masse
to huddle around the big screen
in the break room.  From your chair
you could see some of them lift
a hand to cover their mouths, others
shake their heads and slump into chairs,
and when you joined them for a closer
look, no one spoke to you except
in half-muffled sobs, their red eyes
looking right through you, so this,
you guessed, this had nothing to do
with another birthday party where
there would be cake and singing
to while away the rest of the work day,
no, this must be something new
they were finding out about the world—
at their ages, too!—something flashing
in their eyes, worming into their ears,
something that would briefly drown
out the sound of the dozen clocks
in the empty office, a ticking
which seems to you the only sound.

(from Writing Tomorrow, 2014)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


Actual touch—real contact—is not possible. 
           --Anthony Doerr

I tap his left fist
to reveal the black pawn.
He will best me again
at the game I taught him.

On our walks through the trees,
we learned to identify bracket
fungi, those brilliant polychrome
hints of heart rot.

In Yellowstone, once, we watched
ravens feinting between
distracted wolves, stealing pink
strands of elk viscera.

Now I loosen the four-point
restraints as he sighs
into sleep, smiling at something
he keeps to himself.

(from Right Hand Pointing, 2014)

Monday, June 5, 2017

It Kills Me

The day I saw Salinger at the general store
in Cornish, New Hampshire was also the day
before the night of the "super moon" when
the moon came closest to the earth and you
said you could feel it pulling on your womb,
not in a painful way, but more a kind of mutual
attraction, a personal galactic tide that you found
rather comforting and grand, really, because
here was this celestial orb reaching out to you
in a way that said, we're in this together, you and I--
and then you stopped and gave me that look
that meant you knew you had gone beyond
the pale with that phony moon and womb stuff
and had better just shut the hell up and pretend
to be interested in my story about J. D., Jerome
David, counting out apples into a sack and then
asking me, out of the blue, if I, too, was a goddamn
Hubbardtson Nonesuch man.

(from A Narrow Fellow, 2014)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

In Re:

It’s true the cat shredded the hem of your silk skirt (jaune) while you were away.  And, optimally, the heart leaf philodendron would have been kept minimally moist. I freely admit to seeing the red Final Notice letter arrive for your Stairmaster 7000PT with bottle holder, accessory tray, and reading rack,
and yet, did nothing.  You may find it most grievous to learn, when you review the security tapes, that I spent an entire day naked, taking pains to sit most thoroughly on the Wassily chair with the (once) pristine white fabric.  Mea maxima culpa.

Perhaps you will find it in your heart to forgive me.  You may even text to tell me you understand my childish tantrums, that they appear as number four on Dr. Phil’s list of symptoms of a man’s seven-year itch, and that you are ready to foreground my return with some pre-negotiation problem-framing via Skype.  Sadly, it may be that I am unable to take your call—out of range, as it happens, ragtop down, needle buried, well south of my last known position.

(from Chicago Quarterly Review, 2014)

Friday, June 2, 2017


I’ll just go home now.  I have seen
the post-workout women in their tights
sweating together over green smoothies.
I have smiled at three young sisters
waiting for hairdos on a row of pink
plastic chairs.  So, it’s time.  Oh, and when
the gaggle of guys from the Mini Cooper
club stopped at Starbucks before mounting up
and hitting the road like horses and jockeys
in their silks—I knew I should be going.
I would almost like to be there when
the parallel lines of perspective near
nil and the whole lot lift off like a spinning
carousel into a blue summer sky as I
shout something true about how beautiful they
all are, and stand there wet-faced and waving.
But no.  Best to be gone before it comes to that.

(from drafthorse, 2014)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Do Over

Laugh like the demons
gone huffing into the sea.

Taste the final fig
before it withers, the second
wine at Cana.

And when Lazarus
comes out at last, by god,
you boys pick up Mary M.
and take it on the lam.

(from drafthorse, 2014