Three short poems of mine just went up a Curio Poetry. One is about a Southern Illinois town of Hecker-where there’s a street with my last name, one’s about demons, and one’s about a flight attendent I dated once.
The Poem is called “Old Movies Taught Us” and has dogs, santa, and Shirley Temple in it. Where else you gonna find that all in one place?
Political Campaign in an Age of Apocalypse:
The Staten Island Ferry
is one of the last things
free left and the zombies
are trying to change that.
The Point Near Blue
You cannot sooth me at the point near blue.
Cool it on the signs and mumblings,
it knows amour’s at fault and that these ills
are the kind that kills men for souvenirs.
The joy French waiters have venting
on tourists. The appraisal of each penny
spent in another language. How much?
The vanilla nut latte, the cinnamon pastry,
the hour kneeling and lighting candles
for the sacrifice son—explain the exchange
rate compared to the past. Less man dances,
the less man rests with woman face to face.
Those tan disco souls know this. The point
near blue denotes where a brass band
will pass this evening. I will be kneeling there.
Here’s poem of mine that was just published by Evergreen Review.
Reporting from the Earth’s core
I come to you tonight live. I’ve searched
for drinking songs among the men
down here and found none. Not one
note hovering above a bottles mouth,
nor has any man attempted tremolo
in-between the falling of canaries.
Living in their quarters, I can attest
to the horrors, the heat, and longing
for home. Years ago an old man
in a new suit told these boys
that the beautiful virgins were fed
to the volcanoes above, they could
be found here and taken back.
Poem as Birthday Gift for My Girl
I also took her
out to dinner.
I’m not the beatnik
I used to be.
That is not to say, now
I know better.
I don’t. But I do
have a job today.
She not aged,
laughs the same
as she did years
ago when we dated
the first time.
so foxy and with a halo
of hair that old, white
women don’t understand.
He woke as a mouse
might. Lazily, still drunk.
Remembering the glue
paper trap from last night
binding his feet in place,
in spite of the throbbing
bass. Stop, squeak, shake,
and repeat. Calling for help
in an empty house might
stir the wrong neighbors
or a stray tomcat.
In an Abandoned Notebook:
Field guide to the new ecosystem
of my mind. Do not feed the haunted
ideas of my forefathers. Pay no fare
for ex lovers crossing dark water.
Abandon the hot-air balloon ride
before you leave the tree line.
Hope the martyr and the mentor
speak true as the hair on their faces.
Protect the endangered dreams,
they are the only children left.
These birds will lead you home.
He lost something inside
her mouth. Directions to his bosses’
house. A letter he forgot to mail.
The way a t-shirt just laundered
smelled as he pulled it overhead.
All the conjugations of the word run
in Spanish. Where he last put an empty
cup of coffee down. The year
that Miles Davis went electric.
The name of the movie where the kids
woke up after sleeping in the footprint
of a dinosaur. Which airports
look the same and the different
subways it takes to get there.
Those lips, a man could shipwreck
against. He’s retracing his steps
to the plank. There the teeth gnashed
each other momentary then receded.
Satan takes them to a discotheque
in Spain. The ex-girlfriends come and go
talking about some guy named Angelo.
This is the part of the joke
where I woke up wondering,
who dragged me down past the bar
and stole my new handmade shoes.
Evil eyes, the faces aching in the echo
of the bass. Someone had filled
the room with owls. Like Tupac,
he’s always releasing new material.
I know all the songs of the woebegone.
I sing them into the birdcages of girls
go-going and, for once, feel at home.
Paint by Number
Make sure you’ve got a clean
brush. I’ve already primed
the canvas and outlined
everything you need.
Now don’t forget to keep
a fresh, damp cloth nearby.
Some of you will see a ship
clearing the rocks, but still
about to tip. Others find Jesus
ghosted in light blue, the shape
shadows make, and covered
not in a shroud, but in numbers.
This is a one-handed, lonely
equivalent of a sing-along.
I’ve seen your earlier work:
ink spots cloaking Caesar’s
assassins. The Vermont boat-
house marked by a missing
set of oars and the birds circling.
Lies of omissions, are. You can
get this wholesale as a commodity,
like negative space or the rearranging
of a warm bed. Even the wine
I’m drinking tastes like it was made
yesterday from a full color photo
of an old man with a handful of grapes.
When I stopped his cold heart’s
beating, the tail continued writhing
fruitlessly. Half the length of a full
grown man, he could climb to the tree-
top without disturbing the songbirds
dancing on the bowing branches. How original:
me with seven pounds of wood at the end of a spade
after ten good shots. Which sins do we choose to call
cardinal? He knew the direction of the hollow
spot to enter my basement where the drywall
would rub a new skin out. This is better than sharing
dens with copperheads. Better too than being
caught raiding a bluebirds’ nest. I returned
his head and body together in a brown bag,
sent him home to the forest without
flattery, gladness, or prayer. One of us
is cursed, naked, and venomous.
Head Above Water Blues
Last year I earned fifty dollars
too much for earned income credit.
Three fourths of day’s work put me
over the poverty line, so says the taxman.
This isn’t what getting over supposed
to look like. Two grand would’ve
came back to me if I just slept
in when they called a substitute teacher.
Those kids chasing Monarchs to the milk-
weed, counting the days of molting,
crossing off each lifecycle—this easily worth
almost any day in my life. That day didn’t
fill up my egg crate with yokes, or pay
off the poor man’s thirst for the spirits,
the ones, and the zeros that wet bankers lips.
Kevin Eagan giving Paradise Lost a shout out at his blog Critical Margins.
Black eyes were easy,
it was the running and jumping
rope that kept me from being a contender.
Breathless and stupid, holding myself up
after the local champ’s body shot
stole every gasp in the room—the roundhouse
kick that turned my nose permanently to the left.
For two weeks, I smiled brightly through the shiner
that tagged along. But put me on roadwork
and there better be cops and dogs
giving chase. Once I woke face
down on the canvas, outclassed by a much leaner
man, and realized this isn’t where you win fights.
Jumped to my feet as I remember, bobbing
and weaving. But when I watched the tape,
before the ref stopped it, I was the perfect
picture of a handful of leaves in gust of wind
just waiting to fall.
Lesson on Gripping a Pencil
Told me to look around and see how does your neighbor
grip their pencil? What is the position of their thumb,
index, and middle finger? No, this won’t do.
All the small muscles in my hand went jellyfish.
He cannot hold the tripod grip, I over heard
this and something about developmental and tissues.
Sometimes I held it as a paintbrush, praying
to draw the words out to do my work.
Then it became as an ice pick might, chipping
away the recess hours in punishment at a desk.
Thirty years later I hold this pencil like a small bird
I’ve entered in an agreement with and we get along fine.
Missing My Exit at the On Ramp, a Meditation
For the old boards over the well that never
broke. For the stray pellet gun burst
that planted a spider web inside a window
to grow in the darkness. For the fist fights
that didn’t end curbside, mute, and toothless.
For my high school friend, Chuck,
running from the cops in his old pontiac
lemans and the parents he beat to the grave.
A Boy Acquires Language
In the open mouth of pregnant pause,
where wasps came and went and stung
when he finally looked through
a keyhole, or at that tower of stacked
magazines somebody else’s dad had.
Handed him seven words for fertilizer
before betting he couldn’t make a fist.
Here is the place of naming grown-up
drink and smoke. Remember, engineers
don’t know anything about trains.
This is the kind of thing you can shout
in a boat. All year he looked at Dick
and Jane’s book waiting for the sound
to come out.
The same weasel I played
jazz with for four years,
came back trying to bump
me out of the saddle with this girl
at the Stagger Inn. Earlier,
he was ear-hustling in line
behind us, waiting to talk
of his newest band. After midnight,
a sense of scarcity can be smelled:
There’s not enough love to go
around or the idea that a record’s
no good by the time everybody’s laid
ears on it. Maybe I’m the one repeating
myself and jealous and drunk.
Either way it’s still the same three or four
low notes calling home from infinity.
The Girl With the Mona Lisa T-Shirt
Might be the missing key
to art appreciation. Cut
out all the atmospheric
landscape. Zoom in, raise
the contrast and screen-
print what’s left of the mystery
on an American girl’s chest.
Both are famous the world over.
Bare Blub Swinging in Smoke on an Early Sunday Morning:
What do you know about the evolution
of horses? How long since you held
a job or a woman? Where did you become
acquainted with the accused?
What did the white rabbit
say to Alice in the beginning?
How do the Baltimore drunks,
careening in the moonlight
measure time? Which way
did Ahab go looking for Japan?
Which lounge is the best for running
numbers? When did you seek counsel?
This is true until it isn’t, right?
Like Words Could Do This
“Language is not the same thing as honey or squids or cold winds; nor is it the same as thoughts or feelings or perceptions,” Sharon Crowley, Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students
On an overcast morning you called
me honey, brought coffee and poached
eggs. It was all an act and part of our game:
Lip to tooth to tongue and cuss.
Like the shower and under other waters
writing on each others’ bodies in squid ink.
Every cold wind was flowing
through Brooklyn that winter and I wasn’t
moving there anytime too soon.
A place isn’t anchored only with a name.
Otherwise, why would New York City
still shadow me.