It's a sunny day in one of your favorite cities. Tired of being indoors, you sit on a bench to people-watch. After a while, your thoughts turn inward. Welcome. I wrote the following poems over the past four years. They are in roughly chronological order. Please scroll down to read. Feel free to email me. Enjoy!
A half-remembered kiss
Memories of moments
To carry you through the empty times
So much technology
And no one has a cure for lovesickness
The kind where you feel like you’re in withdrawal from a feeling you may have never contracted
Love love if you can
Love not the style, love the man
There are really only a very few things
And even then, who knows
I hope I catch one of them
When the Saints
(Remembrance of a Bridge in Harrisburg)
When the saints
By the river
Stare their faces
In the stone
By the bridges
In the basking
Shows a twinkle
In the wave
I ask you
What makes you?
Have you thought it?
Is it true?
Cross the river
Stone by stone
Show your faces
To the saints
At the end
You will be known
We don’t have to remember
In this vision of life
Just consume and produce
Make the rich richer
And ourselves smaller and more insignificant
In a world where people remember
We are all a little poorer
And all vastly richer
Richer for the ability to remember
And richer for the lessons that memory serves
The mute books taunt me
They on their shelves
Me in my bed, on my phone
A mausoleum to antiquated values
A testament to the ignorance of the now
And here I am
Blathering away on my phone
When I could be reading Chomsky, or Langenscheidt, or Zinn, or Vidal, or Kevin Young, or anyone
No, the backlit screen, touchable, manipulatable, is plenty for the alcohol-soaked lizard brain infesting my being with apathy, seething hatred, and inaction.
For this is what we value, now, the now, however valid and irrelevant and small.
Now, not then, because then sucked. It was, and shall always be, the now.
Gehry’s great dragon jaw drips with drops of rainfall loosened from the billows of the approaching storm that frames the metallic sinews of the Fisher Center’s arched back.
Ensconced in the monster’s maw, I watch a documentary on Holbein and note approaching vehicles on their way to deliver various and sundry necessaries in an otherwise blank campus.
Even the Magic Crystal is shuttered.
Yet a scraggy little bird, as if painted by Rubens, hops under the overhang, alights on the other bench, nibbles food, and, awkwardly determined, sprites out to a predetermined spot looped up on a higher branch of one of the facing trees.
I am kept company now by the steadily winnowing patter of water as the green of the grass slowly creeps into yellowed tones, leavelettes quenching their thirst for sun and sending their energetic rays into my tired eyes.
And I am not alone, for a time, though I am but with myself, and architecture, and nature, and weather, and the birds, and the cellular, battery winnowing away as I type the text you read now, and perhaps again, if it bears repeating.
Maybe you will be kept company for a time by this, my record of solitude in your own moment of self-imposed exile.
Words Without Song
As I walk through life
And I find my self
Half foot in heaven
And half foot in hell
I have me a lady
She is so fine
Half mother, half caretaker
Half out of her mind
I have big dreams
I have petty thoughts
I got a good family
I got a good brother
Half out of touch
Half too much
I gotta find an answer
I’m fresh out of juice
I got no direction
My house had no roof
I’m about a third the way through
And shit ain’t getting clearer
Surrounded by death
Only gets nearer
They don’t tell you in school that it only gets harder
That if you want more you gotta run farther
Death doesn’t kill you
It’s usually life
Half full of joy
Half full of strife
I need me a woman
To sow my seed
I want to have no wants
I need to have no needs
When you meet a man of words
When you meet a man of deeds
You’d have to be a magi
Who’s good at reading beads
When you do, could you tell me?
Heavy spring air
Sun bathes all
Darts of nature flit
And squeak their mating squawks
Midway upon my late afternoon walk
I inhale the fresh glory
Of health, and, briefly perhaps,
Of being content
The sun begins its graceful descent
And I look forward to music,
To the radio
And perhaps, to fireflies
Umpqua River Valley
Glowing tree tips impossible green
Feather fingerlings feel photosynthesis juice into the misty moat
Grey feels the craggy river flow flow
So much moss!
Cresting fingers slowly peel back winter’s clammy cold
Light brown and green matrices
Latticework brush the sky
The breath fills lungs with vapor
And droplets on car windows
The Time we Spend
The time we spend
Could be spent
Calling a grandparent
And relieving them
From the monotony
And poor medical care
They are receiving
In an understaffed home
The one you suggested
To stretch their monthly benefit
And your inheritance
Once they winnow away
The body just barely nourished
A failing mind
One million shoulders kissed
and a million feet planted themselves
one after the other
in an endless river
of hope, perseverance, and determination
(Or, Racism as Distraction)
The South eats (and drinks) its feelings
While the North points and laughs
Meanwhile the bigots gather for the coming storm
And the oppressed gather what little is left around themselves and patiently wait for more of the same
Can't we all just drink a beer together?
No, not all of us. Most of us don't have the time, or the money, or even drink beer
The North runs its marathons and its gentrification machine
While the South tries to forget it all and simply live
Meanwhile the earth ever warms
the sun's acid rays reflected in monolithic warehouse windows searing their photons into jaded retinas that squint as much against their intensity as against the counterintuitive beauty of the commute's winding metropolitan course, left, right, stop, go.
Rushing, gushing, liquid bliss cresting, troughing, laughing, spraying, jesting:
Notes fly from fingertips flashing down string length to wiggle their joy into the ears of eager expectant listeners, their minds perked to glimpse a peak of the mysterious unknowing, if conditions are right, the magician-musician calling to life ideas of bygone centuries to resonate the souls of today.
Ideas springing forth from calloused hands to feverishly scratching quill etching for posterity the shivering rush of truths that for a nanosecond cross before the open ones ready to grasp them, catch them and unlock their secrets before their gleeful interstellar boomerang back to their shrouded source.
An unending sea transcribed in a narrow wavelength of sound to mold hieroglyphs that will shine once complete as talismans of an experience shared, a communal bond forged of stronger alloys than human sweat, minted in the fires of love.
untethered, unmoored, at sea, in the air, below the moon, above the clouds,
a star wiggles its ancient, silent, torment as my gaze drifts down across the muted fields, river, and town, domestic lights a-twinkle,
as if in a Gary Wood painting made animated.
Water and Remembering
water and remembering
living by a body of water
land being solid memories being of the land
water ever flowing things come and go so why memory? harder with water, unless very bored
land solid memories
water ever flowing
seasonal affective disorder
is it sad that in sad is the vehicle for the "affect?" more commonly one doesn't speak of affect
as it may affect production
and we need good christian soldiers and god hearty red meat workers
to be led to the slaughter
ever for the man
the greedy man
the big man
and where is woman
my ten-year old son has a nose for sonnets.
Teo's toes wiggle et the tones of nonets.
though i've sent him to net tonnes of fish,
i advise him not to leave snot in his dish.
he prefers a Middle Earth tale with an Ent, so... take note(s).
(these rules aren't set in stone, but there are a ton of them, tens at least.)
Love you tons.
To the pub!
to write a sonnet pleasing ear and mind
is certainly a feat in no small kind
within the space of only few iambs
not overusing lines that might enjamb
and with which rhyming scheme should one employ?
do shakespeare's verse, or petrarch's, yield more joy?
and why for heaven's sake compete with those
reveréd bards euterpe's wisdom chose?
as i begin to set down to the task
a question gives me pause and i must ask
in all the name of human vanity
what gave rise to this bizarre insanity?
tis done! i'm out of space. it gives me cheer
the time is nigh to quaff a tasty beer
Mi trovo daffronte il Coypel ancora,
quel quadro enorme splendido
che fu una buona parte
della collezione di Giuseppe.
Il mito occupa una posizione importante, adesso capisco,
quando la vita e l'umanitá ti danno un colpo grave.
quello sconosciuto da Gio,
é forse inutile,
peró in questo momento
posso assagiare i suoi frutti.
Se non riesco a sopracorrere questa melancolia profonda,
almeno possa bagnarla in una pace breve,
per un momento furtivo,
da solo, in quieto inquieto.
America is boxes running through the night, their red hazy spots winnowing in the distance, turning the corner into oblivion.
Christian bright white lights only their own hazy circles in the dead black night, annoying specks against the maw.
And people keep milling, milling about. And for what. You mill your life into another mad man's dollar when you could be a wizard.
As the babe suckles the teat so the man works.
I do not believe in work. No one has yet appreciated it.
Why play Bach when Bach was Bach back then and is so dead, so gone?
Einstein played Bach and gave us the universe.
And Johannes Bloch played chess with death.
What have you done today?
...taking a pause between fulton and park from the grass i picked up the other day off the sidewalk in park slope, i accessed my iphone 6 via four-digit passcode and opened the program notes to begin to type an account of, in appropriately hipster fashion, with right forefinger and left thumb, not unlike a jazz drummer, how in the midst of...
... each subway car a world
its soothing electric hum
yellow-white angled lights illumining the tired and slightly annoyed faces of the multitude returning from their respective work, parallel lives.
i like this spaceship. there is a quietude, a peaceful suspense until the next world is breached, doors open, a-clang, and the way stations deplete their weary adjutants, receive their expectant arrivals.
... and on, ever to the next.
Homage to Asimov, Jules Verne
now you see stranger from another planet
the balloons are life
they have always been
we the parents hold dear what we learned in the skies, traversing the world
we entrust our children to the balloons
every morning we send them down the alleys
the anchor lines are loosed
and we trust they will learn
so when they become parents
they will know that the helium plants will be safe
and that no one would shoot down the balloons
for then no balloon, and no parent, would be safe
and our world would disappear
New York! I brush my teeth with $1 coffee from the bodega and a cigarette! This still frigid air, sucked into my lungs in a furious cold breath raises the blood as the caffeine flows into a morning smile, almost as bright as the crisp baby blue air reflecting the sun's pale gaze.
New York! A city of untold millions where you run into an oft remembered, rarely seen old friend on the street, only to exclaim, "of all places!" The stop and chat!
New York! Because Manhattan is too expensive and your parents raise an eyebrow when you say you're staying with a friend in Bed-Stuy: "We only witnessed one shooting, ha ha" [gentrify this, motherfuckers]
New York! The Met, The Met, The Mets...$18 for asses, pussies, and dicks, oh my, at the New. How risqué! Awfully artful, and you can tell your friends! More satisfaction from older works at the Neue for only $2 more! Frick it, at that price...
New York! Jew York: where Hassid meets Hipster in the cover art of the New Yorker-anachronistic irony-clutching Tora, iPhone, and subway railing, respectively.
New York! Where so many people do so many things so many different ways so close together and manage not to kill each other: a testament to Dutch seventeenth century liberalism, nineteenth century infrastructure, and twenty-first century demographics.
New York! The antidote to fascism, the battle ground for revolutions political and social, the crown jewel of the West and the Americas, Mount Olympus of modernity: nay, the Gods are at play in high rises-penthouse and board room alike-as capital gains, bonuses, preferred stock, bonds, dividends, all trickle ever and always upwards as I summon my Uber on my iPhone, a smoke and a joe a drag and a sip away, respectively.
Doom cried the doomsayer.
Truth lied the soothsayer.
In the fair the silly hats danced.
In the street the alley cats pranced.
Trumpeting on high, the battlements
Suffering below, the wretched rags,
Their strength ebbing with each passing hour, a crystal tear flowing into the sea
Clouds billowing, the field rich and green
Sun glinting on steel and arms, raised above
To strike ever below, singing glory and signing death warrants
Running, ever running, the heart flabbergasts, someone please feel me!
Is it you? Is it you?
Experiments in Form
the cherry tree
patterns the sky behind,
and scatters the sun below
does the tree know?
does the sun know?
do the birds know?
their happy paths dovetailing in the air,
they embellish my stroll
can you imagine an ornate walking stick?
can you see the brisk air?
can you feel the sun's glassy rays?
tapping along, my imagined elderly me
takes in the sights and sounds and smells
as, a life completed, he remembers this younger me, now, then
the father and the son have much to learn from each other
the birds have no need to learn of our sorrows
i wonder, what would he say to me, if he could?
Experiments in Form II
so many people
dying, as the earth dies
and so sad
do you know how many shapes make a human face?
and how many human faces are alive?
and how many have died?
so many faces
crying, as the earth cries
and so sad
do you know his story?
do you know her story?
do you know the good ones?
so many stories
told, and untold, as the earth shudders
such cruelty, comedy and tragedy
comedy, for the laughs must cease
tragedy, for the tears are for naught
is everything truly tinged with sadness?
Bethlehem in the snow:
it brings a wry smile to my face.
how anachronistic it would have seemed
to that idealistic carpenter an age ago,
an omen to be sure.
but today in this country across the sea and across time we have the luxury of naming things what we like and imagining things how we would like them to seem whether they are or not
what I know is this:
The snow hugs the ground as it weeps
The frigid air crystallizes the clouds
- crispy cumulonimbus -
our little orange ball (lord and savior, to be loved and feared), the one true king of our tiny interstellar fiefdom,
scatters what remains of the storm front, last night's stealthy companion, bearing gifts, and warms my temporal, corporeal, phenomenal being,
and i am content.
walking down the streets of philly
i feel silly for not having already
deconstructed illadelph halflife;
the closest big city to my
an imposter, i, who don't even know my own
go fallon! well played roots -
but can on a dime sit in on brahms' fourth
henceforth an unofficial recipient of that gracious ogrenization's trickledowns
and here, on a crisp, clean, february sunday
after an obfuscating rain,
a bitter cheerful cold accompanies my caffeinated stroll through the gayborhood,
Street's streets stripped of their green,
the taste of an almondy nutter flaking off my chin, today was both the beginning of vinyl jazz a century ago
and a colossal step closer to our Great War:
are we in for more? anarchy, socialism, fear, discord, all seem so far away today (as they weren't then) as i, with myself, stroll along, aware amongst unawares where my life now is good. and for how long? we all know, are constantly told, that it is but a flash.
i just don't like pain. i don't want it, unless on the way to greater pleasures. please love the one in pain, for it may be our only (not gonna waste my) shot at salvation.
Sitting comfortably behind as a chain of contained spheres of fire pull,
yank at the gears festooned with metal teeth
gnawing at each other,
snapping away the feet into miles
that span the autumn horizon.
A pleasant country drive as the sun sets
on combustion, on capitalism,
and as the light fades,
the air grows chill and the nose is filled
with the must of dead leaves
strewn on the blacktop,
that liquid web with which we have chained
our motherland, our sustenance, our livelihood.
Oh, lo the open road, far from open,
that shuts our mind to blinding thoughts
that grind in long interminable ruts:
parallel, unending, never converging, never seeing,
the one nor the other,
in an endless cycle of stasis:
unerring as the arrow of time.
To step outside this vehicle,
to stray off this road,
a relief to those tired hands clanging,
marking the minutes,
the hours of ours,
ever diminishing as the shadows lengthen.
Perfectly curated conglomeration of creativity
Craving tenderness and too proud to admit it
Mist melting the mountainside,
a dewy haze suffuses the morning rays:
burnished bronze and baby blue compete
with forest green and industrialist brick
for the moisture of white wisps strewn across the lightening horizon.
The valley sighs,
bringing its weary people into consciousness,
into the sights, sounds, and smells of another glorious day,
yet one more unreciprocated gift
from the secret mechanism of existence,
like a gleeful elf prancing around the inside of a clock,
reverberating amongst the gears
and tiny golden hands.
On love and sadness
how much can one read into an old photograph?
is it what you desire in the now reflected in the then in your eyes alone?
what gaping hole are you filling with someone else's lost memories etched only in silver now, slivers of burnt light vainly grasping at fragments of thought, emotion, remembrance?
your lustful fits and tremors entwined, limbs akimbo, with their budding hopes, as you steal from their empty coffers a reconstructed narrative to satiate your present self's longings?
twins are a lie, for one is born fractionally after the other.
and in those brief moments, a host of circumstances may very well be etched into its own unfolding destiny, or its brother's, mirror images, mirror geneses, but perhaps and perhaps always inverse lives.
no thing is every truly the same.
i crawl and fold and refold and retreat and condense and distill into myself, searching ever for a more perfect expression of grief.
not to conquer but perhaps to prepare? well-buckled girdles and gilt plating guard my I for when it ceases? to be me as i know him.
Not for me, so many others’ favorites.
Yet I cannot replace what I do not know.
Do we continue to search for fragments of ourselves in others?
Shattered pieces of petty traumas folded into our mitochondria
And what of trauma? Yes, there is the big stuff.
What if I never experienced
the Big Stuff?
And how can my art change your life?
And do you even know what it is?
Mounting anxiety of the cosmic kind
An old dream haunts me:
I am told I am to save the world
I see the task
But the countdown is too late, and I have not the codes
Cartoon-like nuclear weapons launch, blinking, ballooning, billowing their multicolored slow-motion mushroom death and decay in a splash of neons, smarting, silent screams from the ones I couldn’t save reverberating in my inadequate ears,
and I wake, sweating, despondent, and the world is still here.