ForceI want to lie to you.
The bear in the cave, he is asleep.
He has eaten everything there is to eat.
All the nuts and berries, grubs and fish
are gone. Gone to fat and dreams
of delicious summer hunts. He snores
and keeps the bunnies on their toes.
They know he hibernates, but still
the jagged, rattled breathing makes them freeze.
There is no bear.
The lantern on the table has been lit
for hours now. It's not just warm but hot
to careless touch. Turn the wick down,
please, before you burn yourself.
There is no lantern.
If it would make you smile
I'd shave my back.
I would never shave my back.
I want to lie to you.
I want my words to fall like rain,
to slick your t-shirt to your breasts
to melt inside your mouth like chocolate
burn like whiskey
trip you up
roll you on your back
lick your face, the taste
of rain, whiskey, candy, rum
hum a moaning, railroad travel song
against your neck
bite tattoos that show tomorrow
make your dentist wonder
questioning the not-so-subtle
not-so-fragile true intent
I want to lie to you
because the truth
has never worked.
Bears, lanterns, laughter, blood.
If I thought silence was the way
I'd sew my lips up tight
and wait, wait for you to tell me,
"It's all right. I swear, baby,
everything will be all right."
Silence would be another lie,
of course. I'll try it soon.
Just to see if that will make you
Green waste vaultsPandering folk gnostic, shimmering stapled.
Laugh-pointed gyroscope, nocturnal fractal.
Hope not glow warm wash,
his tarmac assemble.
Green waste vaults tangerine,
slip under simple.
Theocrats? Optical, not rainy parlor
to font of more lamb tanning, shingle slam slow punk.
Green waste vaults tow submarine lemon,
fix toward mass bongo drown
Whore tonnage tulip flow,
last puncture tendon.
Trance dappled circuitry
Cold frontA sudden possibility
provides a subtle pressure.
Or, perhaps, a gentle suction.
Tugging one way, pushed the other.
A vague, external vacuum
stretching outward from a center
that was hidden, draped in surety,
now stark in taut relief.
How odd, to learn the contours
of an unnamed, buried organ
only after distant doorways
open outward to the sky.
A well behaved deathPeace is a traitor. A comfortable fiend.
Shy, quiet failure disguised as a virtue.
Dreams filled with poison that tastes of vanilla.
I am the model for normative philters:
the ideal amalgam of watered-down meaning.
Cool, clotted ash in a Bakelite bowl.
Aim the doomed at my image. I'll try to absorb them.
While wishing, again, for a cure for the cure.
PauseLunch outdoors. You said it felt more
like a break. Every Wednesday, we would eat
somewhere beneath a canopy or golf umbrella.
Or under nothing. Just bare blue of spreading noon,
white of sheepish clouds. You nod, faintly,
to the waiter, ignore the crowd of words
and soon there is nothing
but the bright clear sky above
and you and...
at the corner of your lip.
You smile, take a sip of coffee. Still
it's there. I watch, enchanted, by the yellow
spot. Your tongue darts out. I stare.
(I'd been staring all lunch long, but at your
eyes, the way your
breasts stretch out and tent the blouse a bit beside each rise, your
perfect neck, the shadow of your
collarbone, the taper of your
fingers, bridge of knuckles, sun lines in your
wrist across the napkin, your
Now a little drop of mustard draws me
in. Breaks the fantasy, the dream of
Work may stop. Reality
is yellow, though.
Blue brush above. Two checks below.
Alone or darkHeisenberg is not your friend.
Would you want, in the end, to know
No such luck. Bend
to see the object, hot and bright,
of your desire. Any movement
changes light. Your eye, warm metal,
glides like wind. Unseen but stiff enough
to stretch and send dry leaves against
the wooden fence. A scratch heard faintly
by the one you stalk.
slowly, softly past.
The warmth of want
will alter orbits, warp fine lines
and change the curve and comfort of her path.
The conversationWhat art is choicer than the talk?
A thousand thousand colors paint
the clip snip nip nibble bubble pop
of you and me while we bob
for puns, slip flirt, nudge points,
poke parody inside, joke, tumble, prop
the social pole, the hidden pile
of life's dark hole. Not grave, just deep.
The eyebrow dance, smile, shrug, hands up,
hands out, hands point, hands fist,
sideways glance that says what's said
is less or more than puffs of air.
Bright lens flare of context. All about
the angle of the phrase, the way
you don't say
what you don't need to say.
The way I know that you don't say
what you don't need to say.
It's all been said, and will be said again
in other ways, on cold, warm, broke,
flush, distant, closer, tender, harsh,
loose, bound, free, forgotten, glowing
We work at this. The vital whole built
on whispered leaves of play.
More coffee, please. More traffic noise.
More brush of coats and cell phone buzz.
More rain in slithered tracks on windows,
circumscribed by others' colors, background
noise does not distract but emphasize
the drip of words we let slide down.
Like stalagmites, conversation built of tiny
microscopic stuff, dissolved in wet, wry words,
grown statuary, monumental
witness to our shared wonderful and verbose worlds.
Just a flingContradictions weave delight
through daydream wishes.
Balance light and dark on fingertips,
hot and cold, flipped and spun
a juggler's trick of white and red.
Candy cane fun. Pale innocence
deep bedded now with dark, wet lust.
No science here. No formula. No X+Y
must equal Z. Just fantasy.
Waltz onto that road for real?
Dreams die flat beneath laws' wheels.
Cold, StiffWalk with me again
like we walked home from school when
sticky, yellow buses couldn’t wait
for drama and debates.
Snow-congested, gravid Boston skies
harrowed moisture from the corners of our eyes.
Trees shamed bare of gaudy, orange leaves
stood naked, proud of winter’s clarity.
Breath comes quick. Too cold to talk.
Legs pumped, rubber boots cracked ice, we walked,
I watched you bend your neck, your shoulders bowed
as wind rode your arching back, your hair a tumbled, yellow cloud,
the only light below a fading day
of dirty white and depthless, concrete grey.
Movements slower, harder as we near home.
Stiffening as cold seeps into bone.
Nearly numb just before entry.
Eyes closed, fingers dead, you fumbled for my key.
BrittleYou can spank a bad boy with a finger-thick willow switch,
cut fresh, dripping green and running full of summer sap.
Or you can curl it back, head to tail upon itself, end on end.
Go even further, make it bend into the Christian fish;
an alpha. Then let it snap! The tension gone, it rises, spinning,
falling, finally. Lost in high grass by the swimming hole.
That branch’s brother cut in winter’s short, sharp noon won’t yield
up one degree of give. The juice that lives in sun and rain is gone,
sucked down to ground. It sleeps in rocks. The willow only knows
of it in dreams of caravanserai, eastern gifts and tales of kings.
“Softly,” is the wise-word of the willow on his darkening wind,
his long-night solstice wind that shakes the lights and brittle bulbs
hung on the changeless, undead pines.
The willow sleeps and waits for limber times.
Snow AngelFallen, fallen in the snow.
You can point, but she is gone.
We name the hole the thing. The wet recess
where she once lay. It’s long hatched
its angel, though.
Wind and flakes have now erased her footprints there
and back. Two wings. Two legs. A head.
A halo where
she shook her snowsuit hood.
The hole is not what’s real.
The angel is revealed, released and dances now
with cocoa and a powdered doughnut. How
the white fluff coats her fingers,
coats her cheeks.
Winter wind seeks cracks, lifts twists of sugar
and of snow, dusts eyelashes of angels
as we watch them fall
and watch them dance
and watch them go
For LenaThere is a place where silence meets
the roar of blood, the wind of breath.
The black of black and white of white
important only for the contrast.
Massaged in sunlight, deep night drained,
curtain rain, desert dry, winter ice.
Stillness, violence, worry, peace,
passion, boredom, hatred, love.
Our eyes cry beauty.
Our hearts beat love.
Our minds find pattern.
Our hands hold
Silent rockHis dreams are dark, except
when they are too, too bright. Light
caves in, an avalanche of yellow,
white, blood-filtered red, the grey
of baked cloud wind. Dead concrete
reflects from up above, somehow sky
flipped, squint, for rock, day blue gone
elsewhere, somewhere, out of sight. Blue
hides from him, he hides from light.
His childhood church: but laced
with locker-room alleys, extra stairs,
circular towers from medieval games.
Still, though, the small room, there,
behind the lectern. Where children wait
to enter, singing. In his dream, though,
filled with late files, boxes, totem papers, notes
and scribbled lines. He is peppered with
a dream-laid need to search, to find...
what? What? Something buried in the pile.
The light breaks in. He runs. Clutches
a score; music sheets drip behind him,
rustling forests of reflection. He needs more
time. Runs short.
The garage is dark. Clean, easy, drab.
Seven stories of parking for working moms,
single uncles, dying dads who peel
the skin off one more day, squeal tires,
escape, as he makes his way around and up
to rooftop star-pecked cold clear night.
The music in his briefcase a light
weight. No great tome, no mound
of xerox compost to drag home. Just notes,
black freckles on a field of chaste, pure
snow. He lays down on the concrete,
rests his head on leather.
Back cold on stone, he knows
the weathermen said, "Hail." Doesn't care.
He waits for light to come, but
sings a short, soft prayer:
"There's no hiding place down there."
Cuddles up to asphalt, curls over on
the yellow line rubbed dim and gone
by daily tires. Tries to sleep before
the light finds him. Sings, falls,
"... hiding place. No hiding place."
The rock cries light, bleeds sun.
He dances with ghostsForever is such a long, long time to go
without knowing how
to fox trot.
Nor waltz, tango, jitterbug,
box step or cha-cha into eternity. Nobody turns,
no hand in his hand. No wrist
like a stopwatch, ticks out blood time
draped over his shoulder. Nobody smiles,
dips her sharp chin, hides a tight grin
and follows each sweep of his steps.
Clumsy or practiced, heavy or slight,
she is nowhere reflected. The heat
or the light from his effort, the
exercise, short-breathed and pink
from no bounce, tarry, twirl, sashay, tip.
Dip. No dip. Nothing held or upheld
in a strong-yet-soft grip. No venture,
no gain. Not even music. No strings
from the balcony, horns from afar,
piano, accordion, drum. No guitar strums
lines he might follow.
He dances with ghosts. Spirits of sense
in his driveway, his kitchen, his den.
Imagining shoes and the click as they tick
across parquet and marble. Sashes and slips
and maybe a boa.
No... probably not. Too dramatic.
This isn't the 30's. He's got to be
reasonable, even in dreams.
The band plays. It goes on
a very long
so it seems.
Wait, waitShit falls down. Shit breaks.
Iron oxidizes. Gate left open, dog
escapes and runs into a busy street.
Dog dies. Dogs die. Rust cakes
beams from the inside out; time
and traffic make the cables weak.
Bridge falls down. This is not
I turn over. You turn too late
to see the liquid wake, the streak
of water slide past my nose. Too dark
to see it stain the pillow. You take
no time to think, "He's asleep." Eyes
dry but staring. I don't see you linger
longingly. You wait. I wait. Blind, blind.
Always boyRed rubber balls smell always of summer,
of asphalt and jumping, sweat, cheating and mirth.
The bounce -- a bold fracture of chaos and planning
spins outcome and circumstance into a mass
of possible endings: a run through the lavender;
loss in a sewer pipe; climb to the roof.
Watch it blomp merrily, picking up dew and grit
snaking through dust until finally still.
Only in others or over long memory is there a line
between child and man.
one dayone monday i slept for a year
january dawn curled buglike embedded
winter toast bread
spring commute sheet twisted
summer nightmare heat lightning
autumn noon bright rolled over
winter again dinner fasted
one year i slept for a ten
one decade i slept for them all
night, sugar night
sweet syrupy night
deep sanitized basket
dreams' pills on the night stand
i will sleep i will sleep
Where there's smokeThe thunder came back for a third time last night.
Explosive light spattered (or so I assume)
too far up the county to preview the drums
with a white, sharpened, spark bone
jammed into your eyes.
Sitting, not sleeping (for how could we sleep?),
as the fists of the clouds beat down on the tent
that night stretches over our streets and our eyes
now pointless as shelter
from bothersome light.
Each rumble is different, a fingerprint boom.
One feels like a train rolling over our graves.
While the next is a branch cracking under your foot
in a forest of black fingered
The first wakes us up and the next pulls us out
of our beds with a fist of sound gripping the sheets.
By the third... we've relaxed, and got milk for the wait
while mountains of air
converse with the heat.
They talk to us, too, of course. Querulous bombs.
The volume is such that it's hard to make out
what the words are. But listening, closely, we hear:
"Don't fear us -- we're only
the gentlest of signs."
Bad punhe defines "untied"
as "tied to nothing"
no hope of hope
no jump into a lake of cool
sweet summer peace
no rope swing leap
from earth to air to water
boys fly free
on a dying tree
ThinningI took pictures.
I remember taking them. In my head,
the picture I have of that summer is
on the beach
I don't have them anymore. Except
the ones in my head.
You found a t-shirt I gave you;
one I'd designed
for a friend's store-opening.
I hadn't known you then,
but had a few extra and
gave you one.
You never wore it.
Though you said you liked it
at the time.
It's going in the bag
of stuff for Good Will.
There's a half a bottle of wine
in the pantry.
That couple from your office brought it
the third time they came over.
The last time they came over.
Vinegar, now, I assume.
So long ago.
I turn the label inwards
and put it behind the mac-and-cheese.
We built the Adirondack chairs from kits.
Two-by-fours, slats and bolts.
Three coats of weather-resistant paint.
They've lasted well
through twelve winters on the porch.
I sit and listen to the wind.
The wind says,
"Remember the day when you were eight
and sat beneath the tiny, scrappy maple?
It was October, and the tree
had just twelve leaves left.
All orange. Do you remember?"
I nod. I remember.
"You were there," I say. "I wore
a hooded sweatshirt. And chewed
on the ends of the drawstrings."
The wind chuckles. "Yes.
"But you don't do that, now."
The chairs will last at least
No pressureJenna collected bleak, broken dolls.
Snatched back from dumpsters, yard sales, consignments.
Blind socks full of rags.
Bare, pink plastic torsos.
Porcelain tea-cup heads, mapped with vein cracks.
Hair torn out, fingers chewed,
faces bleached, headless.
Smelling of powder, soap, sweat, paint and dirt.
She put them on shelves
in the light of her window.
Paired them up. Match-made them.
Gave each a place.
Made sure they were dusted
and nestled in families.
Sang them to sleep at night.
Smiled them awake.
Easy, so easy, to love what is broken.
No fear of failure.
No future of doubt.
They're already ruined,
her cracked, shattered babies.
Do anything to them,
she'll still be
Long roadTwelve steps
there are between the cupboard and the fridge.
Straight lines, shortest distances, again.
From anywhere to anywhere
here from there and split
the difference down
a thin, mid line. Tear
in half a universe of choice.
Go this way. Step by step, step, step.
Voices of reason, rulers,
razors, bells, hallways, handcuffs,
file cabinets. Tell me
and I'll go. Just tell me.
Point to points. Show
me the shortest distance.
I'm disappointed in the sense.
No straight lines in children
forest memory shade shadow
fallen voices kissing hair
dense scent vanilla
I've asked the nice, young man
to put me in the crow-stepped gable room.
It's quite uneven. And I've asked him
if he'll move the cupboard or the fridge
from time to time.
He's promised that he'll help me
blur these many lines.
Luddite hymnShe bakes.
The oven's heat overwhelming other senses.
A kitchen with a mission
centered dead on iron purpose.
Air shakes above the box,
wavers up in rippled force.
The smells are ones of mother
and grand-so-on. Apple, pecan,
pumpkin, cherry, rhubarb,
Inhale the days of simple scents,
of ginger, allspice, nutmeg.
Breathe innocent fumes and
sugared tales and
fruit in severed piles.
her kitchen like an army;
utensils at attention.
Marching rows of pans and cups
and shining sheets of tin.
The pies go to a bake sale.
Every Sunday, every Sunday.
She never sees them eaten
just the plates returned next week.
Her kitchen is an altar
and she sacrifices time there.
Like mother did. And grandma did.
DryWhen the ocean fled
we were left with many dead
That Wednesday (Thursday in Japan)
when the seas just up and ran
the fishermen in fallen hulls
had one or two good raking days
of harvest. Bloated gulls
were everywhere and gorged
on mundane bass and trout
and monstrous, deep trench horrors
eye-stalks poking out
of yellow, running beaks.
What had been the beach
was now just sandy path between
two dirt worlds
no spray, no salt, no scene
but earthy, constant fixity.
And you won't sing for me.
the word eaten by wind
as I hold the heavy door
turn to catch a whiff
of brunette and hazel
and grey wool and
young young young
slight and slightly
for less time than it takes
swung glass to shut me in
I forget my headache
my debt, dead, day
in baby powder
something something something
Edge ofNear dusk, the separate sea and sky
die. The blue-green-grey and violet-black
stand back-to-back and her blood
swirls in his hair, merged
in heavy, deep, same sleep.
So drab, this two-in-one. So flat.
No moon, no sun ring chords
from separate spheres. No tension
in the place between, no force
seen. We won't hear steam
hiss from the space
where depths touch heights.
So bland, this cuddled mass.
So similar. So tight.
But lightning shows the edge again.
The off-shore storm that rips
and kills the blend. White heat
points, "There!" We see
wind pull clouds to death,
waves toss spray.
The blood-stamp, eye-print
memory of edge
will keep us
Night meadowhandfuls of grass
i want you like that
tear great deep
pressed pinched green
still feel boyish
yet shyly great
fling fists skip chunks crush clods
grab more always more
brand emerald sweat
funny and bitter
sweet in the teeth
rolling you prickly forgiving
leave a trace
weave a pace
breath in my breath
picks slivers of mint
and tinny thin sounds
wind on wind
give me this
take handfuls of grass
there is more
thick grass never gone
and water to wash