Saturday, April 16, 2011


Her Submission                            His Submission

Who does he think                            Who does she think
He is, anyway?                            She is, anyway?
Why does he keep                            To ask him to
Telling her what to                            Account for his
Do every morning,                            Whereabouts, every
Like she doesn't                            Minute of every day
Understand the directions:            And just stand for it.
How to make                                    A man could stand up
Toast, for pity's sake?                    A man could just walk away
To call his mother,                            A man could wander out and
(Like she's ever been                    Never come back.
Anything but nice                            When he leaves here,
To the cranky old thing)                    He wants a strict policy of
As if her love for                            Don't ask, don't tell,
Him could be boiled                    And then he could relax.
Down to "Love me,                            Relax enough to come home
Do what I tell you to do" or            And report the
"Love me, be how                            Headlines, if not
I want you to be."                            Every bead in between
Isn't the point that she                    He's here, isn't he?
Loves him?                                    If she could just wait
That she doesn't always                    One goddamned minute
Do what he says, but                    Until he brings it up
Stays here to hear him                    Himself,
Ask again.                                    He'd tell her.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Sunny Side of the Street

I've been walking my whole life on this side
The sunny side
I can see you on the other side, our head
Hanging down, muttering to yourself.
I'm waving to you
Don't you see me?
Can't you see me waving to you?
Hoping for your company on this side of the street
I'm trying to get your attention
Not because I need you to look at me
To understand my own existence. No.
You look interesting to me, your mutterings
Chime in my ears like music--I'd like to hear more.
But my arms are getting tired, I'm still waving
And you're still ignoring me.
I come over to your side.
It's beautiful here. The snow drifts are necessarily
Higher, the shadows cast arcane patterns in blue
It's lovely and perplexing.
I see why you want to puzzle out its meaning
But I'm telling you, the patterns are easier to decode
From the sunny side.
Come on over, I beg of you
I don't want to leave you here
But I can not stay too long
I issue my invitation to come across the street
With me. From there, we can laugh about how
Dark and mysterious this shadowed side is,
Without being pulled further into its grip.
Drifts become ruts, become trenches,
Then you're lost.
If I pull on your arm and drag you across
The street, will you be mad at me?
You say you can't help it, it's chemical
You think I don't understand how it feels.
But you are the one who lets bad habits
And chemistry take the blame for your own misery.
I understand that if I love you and I want you
To cross over with me and you won't come, and
I leave you here on your own, you'll blame me:
I clearly didn't love you enough to sacrifice 
My own happiness on the altar of your pain.
So I cross back to the sunny side
I'm watching you from here
I'm waving from time to time, come on over,
I miss you
No, I can't come back to your side. I'm sorry.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I don't know about your house, Acrylic, adjunct
But ours is filled with words. Bereft, breakfast
Words on papers                                                Cobbled up, coin
Papers in piles,                                                   Distal, deviltry
Piles piled on piles, splayed fanwise. Eggplant, ego
Words in books,                                                 Fanlight, filter
Books on shelves,                                              Gorgon, gesso
Shelves against every wall. Half a lump, heifer
"It's a library in here!" a visitor said. Indigent, indigo
But those are just the trapped words Juniper, jostled
The pinned down words                                     Kick the can, kola nut
The words we use to start the                                  Liberate, lemonade
Living flow of new words,
"Did you read this? What'd you think?" Mango, mutton chop
A blizzard in here some days. Nightshade--the deadly kind
A swirling braiding river                                    Oboe, oval, Ouagadougou
A river that leads down to the coast Pancake, pestilence
A place on the coast not shown on maps, Quisling, quarknet
A place, no matter how you spell it Ratcheting, rivals
That means just one thing: Sadly, sawing
                                                                 All those Tinker Toys
If you don't know what that is, Unusual uvulas
Go back and listen again, more Veering vapidly
Carefully this time                                              Why? Where? What?
Look it up in the OED Xenophobia
Under L.                                                            Yellowing, yammering

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Clear Memory

I've lived in your world long enough,
Heard your version of events--

Tried my hardest to countenance
Them, and failed.

I saw what you meant,
That you meant what you said

To be self-evident, to have one
Possible meaning only.

That your values, as you call them,
Leave no room for any of my

Talents, or efforts, constantly narrowing
The ledge I'm allowed to stand on.

You want the world to be your world,
To stay static on that day you

Understood everything and fixed it in
Your mind.

But it has not stopped still,
It has left you behind.

You want me to remain here with you
As the world goes on, leaves you in

Its wake. I see your loneliness.
You've never been without me.

But I have had to swim away into
The ocean currents on my own,

Paddle away from the ledge you've
Claimed, all the while you've called me

Back: Don't go, you've said, don't
Leave me here.

But I must.
The ledge is gone.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In Memory of Heath Ledger

What was acting and what were his real feelings,
Even he was losing hold of his little
Peach pit of self
That allowed him to do extraordinary things
With his face and body.
Jack Nicholson warned him
Nothing he could tell Heath about how to ply his craft,
But what he could tell Heath was
There's a switch
A switch inside you have to learn to flip
Flip on: act
Flip off: live
Heath, his gift so raw and new and outsized
Couldn't find that switch in time
He didn't want to be the Joker any more but
The mask had grown over his face,
This is the soul danger for all actors.
When you stop pretending and really act
You're in big trouble.
Heath's face in Brokeback:
The moment he pulls Jake by the vest into the outdoor stairwell
And buries it, that Rock of Gibraltar, into Jake's.
Their connection is as deep and physical as the Marianas Trench
And just as articulate.
Heath pulls away and in less than ten seconds he gives us Ennis' fear of discovery
Regret, desire, pent-up need, his delight that his love is still reciprocated. 
He pats, he pulls away, he brushes Jake's hands away, his forehead rubs Jake's,
Like a horse would, he stumbles away tucking in his shirt and volumes have been spoken
In their language.
How hard it must be to live at that peak
All day, every day
To have thousands, millions even,
Desiring that look from you, at them
How glorious for us, his audience
How exhausting for Heath
He could make us feel anything
It made him want to stop feeling.
Where is that switch, Jack?
I need to find it, too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ode to Emergent Properties

Let us talk about life.
There will be plenty of time
The other side of the event horizon
To discuss the implications of crossing
That border.
How can we live knowing we will die?
Try asking a rock, a boulder, a mountain
How the other possibility feels.
It takes us so long, chasing after answers to the
Wrong questions, to finally formulate
Right ones. We then have little time
Left to contemplate the wording.
We are lizards so long, sunning ourselves to get
Our body temperature up. Then squirrels, running and
Chattering and fighting to store the most acorns. Then
Building and worshipping and caressing the past, or
Illusions, or Beauty.
Beauty is an emergent property. An unanswerable one.
The peculiarly delicate antennae needed to perceive it--
Also an emergent property.
We do not yet know what else will emerge
From the sum total of all our emergent properties.
But think exponential, not linear.
We know how to do so many things that we choose
Not to do.
It is so easy to love
This life.
It is so hard to spurn
Each other. So costly to punish others for not doing
What you are not doing either.
Listen. Witness. Share the story, which spreads the pain so thin that it can
Break, like a film of ice over a muddy puddle.
Listen again.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Howl II

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
unhinged by rote repetitions of market economy truisms,
waylaid by synthetic psychoactive chemicals from pursuing linear thought,
felled by genetic predispositions to various addictions, proclivities,
brought to a full stop by auto-immune disorders.
Was ours the last generation to cower in the closet? Or the first to recognize
how ambiguous the either/or of sexual identity?
Great God Mammon stole many, consumed their youth and optimism
like so many yards of red Twizzler into the gullets of near-anorexics.
LSATs, law school, bar exams: meat grinders parsing the difference between
heroes and zeroes.
Our time became the time when even to ask the question: "What is all this for?"
was to be flung into utter irrelevance.
We jogged ourselves jointless, treadmilled our way to early aneurysms,
all in the name of fitness.
Unprecedented prosperity led many of our finest down fruitless garden paths of
pointless competitive connoisseurship: as if the best cigar, the best Bordeaux,
the freshest oyster, the smokiest Scotch, the highest concentrations of anti-oxidants
in the most organic, non-genetically modified heirloom tomato could save their souls.
As if worshipping at the temple of their own bodies, the ensuing survival of the
self-righteous could prove to the self-selected elite anything other than:
they weren't dead yet.
It seems a matter of luck, not the finely ground fear of middle class prudence, but
I'm not dead yet.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Restaurant Villanelle

Shall we be reasonable, my dear?
No need to order more than we can eat.
Tomorrow is another day, I fear.

It's true the oysters beckon, and the beer,
And what's a meal without a hunk of meat--
Shall we be reasonable then, my dear?

Oh--bouillabaisse! the choice is clear
But what about the rack of lamb complete
Tomorrow is another day, I fear.

You know those crispy little French fries they make here?
They stop your heart, then really make it beat,
Shall we be reasonable then, my dear?

Oh, what the hell--let's order half a steer
I guess we could take home what we don't eat.
Tomorrow is another day, I fear.

I'll pop a notch if I bend a bit too near,
That pot de creme was rich, perhaps effete--
Shall we be reasonable tomorrow then, my dear?
Tomorrow's challenge is the same, I fear.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Have you seen this painting I'm thinking of? Italian, 15th century, no angel. It is just a young woman, one hand raised, certain that the air has changed around her, an unseen event has occurred, a decision not her own will now guide her life. She will no longer be herself or an individual or anything she can recognize as the girl she was even one minute ago. She is now and will ever be a tunnel, a conduit, a sheath that held something miraculous and then, at another moment, no longer did. She is a means, not an end. She is a pathway, not a goal. Her very self will be flattened to let the goal be what it is and she, whether willing or unwilling, will now be that flattened thing.
And her will? What has will to do with this life as she is living it? Will, as she sees it construed by men, is illusion. She holds herself ready; then it begins, then the unsheathing leaves her flattened. Only then is she free to be an individual, a self. But not to the unsheathed one. To that baby, she is a god, then an embarrassment, then an annoyance, then a shore left behind long ago.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Back to the Dawn

Wake up early every morning
It's back to the dawn.
Leave the house in darkness
Walk the many blocks
Between the nest and the wide world
With my back to the dawn.
Deposit my most precious cargo
In the think-tank,
The sink-or-swim popularity factory
And then go on my way
Back to the dawn.
But today I go the other way
Scarlet sunburn behind
Tangled black roots
That are oaks without leaves in December
Trunks in blood
Twig tips in muted rose
I'm no longer
Back to the dawn
But full frontal
Face to face with the searing red evidence of the
Embarrassment the universe feels
For our petty aims and well-laid plans
And my own gory pump
Bangs around in my chest
Electrified and glory-filled
Happy to witness color drained of content
I'm back to the dawn.