Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Volumetric Properties of an Asphalt Road

Va = Air Voids

The quick inhalation
after bending a peek
at two dealt aces –
a tell nobody sees
but the guy
with the kings
who folds
against your all in.
The worry between,
“Where did you go,”
“I needed a little space,”
and “Can I please have a kiss?”
The inability to respond
over the phone
after you’ve been asked
if you’re sitting down.

VMA = Voids in Mineral Aggregate

Postholes, a tilled vegetable patch,
an aerated lawn. Where that old tree
used to be before the roots went bad
and the stump got hauled away.
One rectangular space you’re hoping
all five will come to cry over.
A dry riverbed of things left unsaid.


VFA = Voids Filled with Asphalt


Old photos. Sharing a banana split.
The sound of “huggy, huggy, huggy”
coming from two feet off the ground
before you can even sit down
to take off your boots. Remembering
the taste of lemon on your fingers
as you picked translucent bones
from each bite of the mountain trout
you caught the summer after you discovered girls.
The way she tilts her head and smiles while waiting
for you to agree that you were wrong.




The Pedestal Magazine - December 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tender Melancholy

More and more now, my chest seeps full
with the tender melancholy of satisfaction.

It feels like breathing hot apple cider
or the warm slide of honey through my veins.

It encapsulates me like the wispy amber haze
of being almost all the way glad.

There are times when I resist its soothing,
fearful of there someday being a last time

and a serrated opening of half-healed wounds
from long before we escaped the heat together

in lawn chairs along the Santiam and you let me
touch the soft skin of your thigh after letting me taste

the softer skin of your lips in the cold, cold water
that was not so cold. There was a wafting just then

of what I think is called happiness and I was not afraid.
There was nothing that did not change with those kisses,

those caresses, your pressing yourself into the realization
that my drawing you closer was me giving everything away.



IthacaLit - Winter 2014

Monday, December 16, 2013

When It Comes to War, I'm a Middle-Aged Man with More Opinions Than History

I speak of right and wrong with an ease unearned
by the stain of another man’s blood turned black
beneath cracked and yellow fingernails. I have no
marching through mud, no shielding my face
from sand and sun and the burden of dropping bodies

from my shoulder like one woven red sack of grain
after another. I even lack memories at the knee
of a salt-and-pepper man who stops to refill the smolder
in his pipe and hearing him turn quiet as the room fills
with the heavy scent of cherry tobacco.

I do have Dale, the codger who kept my rusty Valiant
running so I could burn rubber every afternoon.
I have his marble-mouthed stories of killing Japs
bare-handed and the shame he felt in his pride. I have
Brad, my ex-wife’s ex-husband, shot dead after Vietnam

and Agent Orange and taking the police chief hostage with a knife
for poisoning his daughters through the school’s drinking fountains.
I also have Rob, my youngest step-brother. I begged him
not to run off and join the Army the minute he finished high school.
But he so loved the uniform.




Boston Literary Magazine - Winter 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Grief

A dry kiss goodbye through the stale tobacco air
of an apartment no one visits and no one leaves.

The zero-gravity silence of somersaulting between
the blue-and-white what used to be and the salty dark
of floating alone, unable to catch even one more breath.

Walking in the shade of riverbank trees as the breeze
picks up the cool of the whitewater and reminds you
of that time you laughed together with so much abandon

you let yourself believe her skin would always feel
so warm. Voices inside your head that echo there
like a very long time ago – when you used to sweeten

your coffee each morning, cool it with heavy cream
and close your eyes after the first slow sip.




Southword - Issue 25 (December 2013)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dead Flies

We call them icky,
the dry flies that lie
at the base of the sliding glass door –
the same door marked
with the red and black splatter
of what can only be called
fair warning.

We call them icky,
my toddler and I,
these individual proofs
that his mother
(warm breasted
cooer of soft sounds)
draws certain lines
that should never be crossed,
lines that, when crossed, result in
deadly thwacks
of faster-than-the-eye-can-see fury.

We call them icky,
wrinkle our noses,
purse our lips, run back outside
onto the prickly brown grass
for more of the stuff that makes him laugh,
the rough stuff that requires brawn
and a pleasant familiarity with sweat.
But first, we close the screen door –
all the way.



Reunion: The Dallas Review - Volume 3

Yes


There’s an arrogance
to the word that ignores
the backs I’ve turned,
the walking-aways I’ve earned,
the empty straining of arms.

But here it is, surrounding
me in the way she kisses,
the easy tangle of our fingers,
her insisting upon getting up early
each morning to stir blueberries
into my cereal – berries she picked
behind the shade of thick green rows
that stretch into the inadequacy
of any other word.



Emerge Literary Journal - Winter 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

After Happiness

Fingernails found black
against blue flesh.
Last screams
as hoarse and unheard
as coffin sobs. Voices
ringing toward the Pacific
and one long swim
into the sun. The sound
of the other shoe sliding
all the way from foot to floor
as I kiss her goodbye
for what nobody could have known
would be the very last time.


Blue Lake Review - December 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

The White Camels of Somalia

The camels of Somalia are white and lap sand like water
as they trundle their burdens between the dark gray grassland

and whatever color eternity is. Their milk is sweet as orange
marmalade. They butcher easily, bleed-out quickly, and their meat

tastes like honey if you cut away the fat for candles that sparkle
and smoke the blackest black smoke. The camels of Somalia stampede

before storms despite the affection of their Gabran handlers, who weather
mile upon mile of wind and grit and weep against the scars on their eyes.


Off the Coast - Fall 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How Cold Is the Snow

Where do you go, little bird, when it snows? – Nicky Mehta

You’re not really a little bird
anymore, are you? You’ve grown
tall. You choose where to go,
when to eat, what to breathe.
You say, “No,” a lot these days.
You limp, too. When
did all that start, little bird?

Your eyes don’t seem connected
to anything anymore. You curse
and scowl, let your stomach ache,
let your body reek. You shiver
at night, little bird, and curl up
alone in the grass, wonder
when your next warmth
will come. You are bruised
along your ribs. Why?
Your eyebrows are shaved.
Why? You called yourself
a faggot to my face. Why?

Do you remember that wintertime
is just around the corner, that we get snow?
Do you remember throwing snowballs
not so long ago and slush leaking
down your shirt? Do you remember,

little bird, how cold is the snow?



Toe Good Poetry - November 3, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

To Job: Advice for Raising Your Second Ten

Don’t get too attached.
Rock them to sleep at night,
but hum your dirges

so they won’t learn the words
until they’re old enough
to not understand.

Tell them bedtime stories
that help them fall asleep worried
about never waking up again.

Make them eat
bitter greens and vinegar.
This is good for them.

Leave for your flocks
in the morning while it’s still cold
and everyone else is dreaming

and turning over and over in their beds.
Don’t come home until the sky is done
with its wispy red tease

of something significant about it all.
Come and go in the same darkness
that fogs your vision and makes you slouch.

Spend your evenings staring at purple clouds
as if you care which way they turn.
Drink lots of wine.

Laugh sparingly and grunt often.
Avoid eye contact
lest you be reminded of someone.



Fifth Wednesday Journal - Fall 2013

Dear Bernadette

I walked into our house (my house now),
after our friends helped you move everything out.
All of the underneath was exposed.

My recliner was in the corner; thanks for leaving it.
I was glad the refrigerator was gone
because I really wanted a beer.

I never knew our bedroom could look so big,
but it did without our bed in it. Thanks
for leaving me a dresser and my clothes.

The closet was nearly empty and for, the first time
in over twenty years, my hang-up clothes could hang
without wrinkling. I remember smirking at that.

There was a nearly full roll of toilet paper
in the bathroom and a soft bar of soap in the tub.
Thanks for those, too.

The day after, I bought a vacuum
and some pine-scented chemicals.
I saved up and bought new furniture –

all dark brown and strong.
I put plants in the breakfast nook,
watered them. Oh, I also left

our old family portrait up on the wall
right where you left it, right where I could see it
from the recliner – where I slept for the rest of the year.



Fifth Wednesday Journal - Fall 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shameful Jealousy

The sun that day made everywhere
look like yesterday. It was a Saturday morning,
but I was headed to work anyway.

A curly-haired mother with wheat field skin
was holding hands with her curly-haired daughter
busy hitching-up baggy jeans

as faded and frayed as twiced-handed hand-me-downs.
They were walking alongside a field of sunflowers,
their faces shining the way buttercups glow

when held just below the chin. Now,
with each inhalationi and unexpected hush,
I see them - mother and child, sunshine and sunflowers.



Northwind - Fall 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Our Conversations Have Hyphens

Take, for instance, our almost weekly
the-new-recipe-was-a-bust-so-it’s-either-
Bing’s-or-Ixtapa-tonight talk via cell phones
and three-letters-or-less text messages.

Not to mention the busy little
across-the-dining-room-table-list-poem
discussions we take turns writing in thin air
while passing the salt shaker back and forth.

How long has it been since we last enjoyed
a little just-after-midnight bawdy talk that romped
its way into a half-inebriated lust of please-
don’t-ever-stop-saying-my-name-like-that?

Still, last night’s cool-twilight-laughing-
over-coffee-on-the-porch-between-silences-
that-brushed-between-us-like-hummingbird-whirrs
discussion was nice – especially the way it ended

with a me-holding-open-the-screen-door-for-you
bit of chivalry followed by the sexiest
you-taking-my-hand-and-leading-us-quietly-
into-a-one-soft-kiss-after-another shower.




Crack the Spine - Issue 84 (page 25)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Soft and Worn

My mother had a heart as soft and worn as the brown leather belt
she used when beating red welts deep into my back and ribs.

It got that way from her father revving the car engine over her
kindergarten pleas and from the fuzzy recollections of the taste

of her grandfather’s very long hugs and cherry-tobacco kisses
while her grandmother donned lace gloves and pretended

grocery shopping had to be done every afternoon. Most of all,
there were my father’s brown eyes, long gone and refusing

to just come home, seen in mine whenever I stared her down.
My mother’s heart was soft and worn and snapped like a whip

across my back and ribs, leaving marks so deep and red
there was nothing left to do but clench my fists and forgive.




Shadow Road Quarterly - Fall 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Poetry Reader

He spent another supper
at the library in the overstuffed
leather no one sits in, quietly
staring over his red wheelbarrow
at the autumn-haired librarian
who thought she was nobody.
But he imagined her in a red dress
going not gentle into the night,
and that made all the difference.



Boston Literary Magazine - Fall 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Nonetheless

Even if the soggy footprints
we leave at the edge of the sea
refuse to provide proof of our passing through,

even if the briny air carries our conversation
only as far as the first gray breaker,
even if that shiny blue crow continues

its just-in-time hop always only this far
out of reach before squawking a rebuke
in our direction and grabbing the wind,

the quiet space between the crush of waves
and our small talk, the slide of your hand
from mine as you hurry ahead for a piece

of driftwood you send all the way back
to the random wandering of its kind,
the way you let me lift you and spin us

around and around during our barely
being able to kiss for the laughing
will all have happened nonetheless.




San Pedro River Review - Fall 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What If

It’s a coyote howl
against a Bloody Mary moon;

panting awake wet
from the shivering ache of a nightmare
in which you'd found contentment;

a cold stroll in the dark
as footsteps not your own gain ground;

black-sooted bricks, phallic
within the smoky smolder
of everything lost;

dipping your toe into cobalt blue
and hoping for a few moonlit ripples.

It’s bumping into her,
stammering at the green in her eyes,
reminding her of your name.




Crack the Spine - Issue 76

Monday, August 12, 2013

Statute of Limitations

for Josh

Sure, I’m going to miss the bayou
for awhile and the redneck foreplay
of my favorite bouncer’s double-tap,
moving a little lady’s Bowie knife
as she slides all the way over
to the sweaty middle, and kisses
that taste like stale beignets and Jim Beam.

But I think those swamps will miss me, too,
especially deep inside where it’s quiet,
and the secret ways we kept each other fed.



Off the Coast - Summer 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Reservoir Road

I know where the bats live 
on Reservoir Road,
where I used to pedal faster
in the after-work black 
of my adolescence. 

The broken glass at the top 
of the abandoned 
plywood mill allowed 
eerie squeaks to escape 
into the darkest parts 
of my imagination, 

teaching me then 
how good a thing 
a porch light can be.



Decanto Magazine - Summer 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013

It’s Physics

Michael Long’s head was smoking
after our warm-up run in PE class.
It was his first day and he was fast –
faster even than Mr. Baughman.
But more impressive than his speed
was the fact that his head was smoking.
I’d never seen that before, even though
hot and sweaty defines middle school boys,
and on cool mornings we loved breathing steam
like adolescent dragons flexing fire-breathing lungs.
But, nobody’s head had ever smoked.
I remember wondering if it was because
Michael Long was black. There weren’t any
African-Americans in America in those days.
People were White, Black, Brown, or Oriental.
I remember asking myself if Michael Long’s
head smoked because he was black. I wondered that
even though I’d never seen any other black person’s
head smoke. I played football and basketball
with Darryl and Jeffery Tolbert all the time
and neither of their heads had ever smoked.
When I slept over at their house the only odd thing
about them was the way they woke up loudly
against the heavy congestion in their chests.
But that wasn’t because they were black,
that was because they had asthma. All the Tolberts did.
I’ve seen lots of people’s heads smoke since
that autumn morning almost forty-years ago. All colors
of people have heads that smoke. Turns out
that all that smoke pouring out of Michael Long’s head
was from the heat-exchange between the super warm blood
racing through his face and brain and the soggy gray air
we’d all just run through. It’s not that complicated.



Vine Leaves Literary Journal - Summer 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Space

I have a friend who, like me,
has a couple of full-grown sons.
When the subject turns to them,
he spends a lot of time looking down,
his voice dims, his thick hands hang.

His oldest, especially,
doesn’t have much to say to him
these days. He won’t tell me exactly
what happened between them,
just wags his head and folds-up,
but I know my friend.

I can imagine mistakes
made on his part.
Maybe there was an eviction
or two or more until one finally stuck.

I know my friend,
how he lacks imagination.
I figure there was
a lot of looking into the sky
with upturned palms, but
I can only guess at such things.

Over the years, I watched both boys
pass their dad in height and humor –
could always tell they were his, though.
It was more the quick-draw laughter
than the brown eyes that gave it all away. 

I’d sit with a beer and watch 
them crack him up
then slide their eyes for a peek
at his laughing.
I’m not sure he ever saw that.

Well, he’s pretty closed most of the time.
Sort of opened-up the other day, though.
Surprised to have gotten a text
from his oldest,
there was a spring in his step. 

He showed me the message, 
Not trying to be mean.
Just need some space.
Showed me his reply, too,
Fair enough.



Northwind - Summer 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013

Work Boots

Jackson is two now,
Dimples nearly gone for good.
Pull, cross, hook.

It is still dark this morning.
It is dark every morning.
Pull, cross, hook.

He likes to wake-up when I do,
Watches me lace my boots.
Pull, cross, right eye, left eye.

His blue eyes are rapt.
His database is smoking.
Tie. Re-tie. Tug the frayed denim.

He looks at me now. Smiles.
Still such an easy thing.



Full of Crow Poetry - July 2013

Clatskanie

All she knew was that this place came with a mill
and logs, steady work, and a little white house.
Far away from familiar-and-binding ties,
she bundled baby Emma and followed
her husband to another fresh start.

At twenty-two, she was still more afraid of the dark
than the daylight. The mill, with its weekly paychecks,
let her pretend the cold corners of the little white house
were all her fault and not due to his shrugging and grunting,
his preference for the perfumed little thing
at the bar after work.

Still, she prayed for him at the other little white house
in the tiny mill-town. She forced herself to give thanks
for the mill and sang hymns at the top of her lungs
and taught little Emma how to choke down tears
by the grace of God.

Between nursery rhymes and Amazing Grace,
the green in her eyes turned steadily jade,
and the deeper the color, the more she could see
the deep inside of things; all the darkest shadows
of brightest daylight.

A U-haul truck is hard to pack when your only help
is a toddler with questions, but she managed
to scrape-up enough humility to return
to the familiar-and-binding ties with everyone intact –
Emma, the cats, and the still secret beauty
of one last try.



Full of Crow Poetry - July 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Survive the End of a 22-Year Marriage

Lean over the rail and drop it.

Make sure you’re plenty high
because there are things to do
before the splash.

Drop it and shake-out
your hands and arms,
let them get used to the lightness.

Look over the rail;
beware the dizziness
and the urge to jump after.

Linger a bit; watch it turn small.

Now is the time for crying
if you think it will do you any good,
but do not lose track of time.

Here’s where things get difficult
and take real nerve. Reach around
into your back pocket; grab hold of your knife.

Raise it right up to your throat,
so close you can feel the blade
scrape with every dry swallow.

Hold it there and watch
as this thing you released continues to disappear
until it just touches the surface

and the line between you and it turns taut;
just then, jerk the blade sideways –
cut the noose.




Shadow Road Quarterly - June 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

There’s a Slow Leak in Me

There’s a slow leak in me
that hisses like a barn cat
warming the only spot left
for the last bale of hay of the day.

It winds all the way through
me like poisoned blood
marking the path of least resistance
on its way to this flabby deflation

in my chest that refuses to stop
pumping the waste of sunlight
and love I have become. She hears
it, too, says it sounds like the sigh

of coffee brewing in the morning
and is louder than goodbye kisses
or the crinkle of a brown paper bag
heavy with last night’s leftover dinner.



Boston Literary Magazine - Summer 2013

I Told Her, “It Must Feel like a Curse Sometimes,” and She Looked Back to Say, “It’s Really Bad When I Work It”

Her perfume lags behind,
turns masculine minds
inside-out.

She adds just enough dip and sway
to her relaxed sashay, refuses to turn
to see who sees.

Her walk is a shape poem, visual art
without abstraction, metaphor, or simile.
It is a divinity of simplicity,

making boorish Bukowski stammer,
“Alas, what angel are you that hath passed
just by?” Alas, indeed!

Her walk has power enough
to straighten Whitman into a wolf-whistle
and Ginsberg into a howl.



Boston Literary Magazine - Summer 2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Missing

The missing started early today,
as soon as the last loop around
our cul de sac for a final wave goodbye
and a few blown kisses from that bay window
I keep forgetting to wash.

I turned left and sullen
behind the forced squint of driving into
the still-low sun and the prospect of spending
another day being far too far away from you.
This will be another low-production day

of back and forth texts that make you giggle
and make me want to come all the way back home –
like that one time not too long ago when you met me
at the door in the heat of the day wearing nothing
but a short yellow sundress and knowing what you know.



Rockhutst Review - Spring 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Back Story

Gravel rock scar left a dent
in the middle of his forehead.
Nobody really knows for sure:
Running in the driveway with
untied shoes at five years old?
Midnight shift, stagger drunk,
miles away from the mischievous
years of racing for first in the dirt?



Vayavya - Summer 2013

My Next Door Neighbor’s Brand New Baby Boy

His face reads like a Bukowski poem
written after a weekend bender
with not nearly enough Bromo.
I’m not saying he doesn’t have
a certain puppylike appeal.
It’s just those worried wrinkles
already grooved into the middle
of his two-week old forehead
have me convinced that his future
will consist of way too many
well-placed and perfectly timed
motherfuckers.



Vayavya - Summer 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Miles Away Gray

Not with this wind blowing, and this tide – Rudyard Kipling

Waves crash in miles away gray.
I cannot see them or hear them
from where I wander the shoreline
in search of your face, my son.

I cannot see them or hear them
as they rise and fall and die white.
In search of your face,
I go unheard as they go unheard.

As they rise and fall and die white,
your goodbye becomes a pale stare.
I go unheard as they go unheard.
When will you return, my son?

Your goodbye becomes a pale stare
from where I wander the shoreline.
When will you return?
Waves crash in miles away gray.




The Monarch Review - May 14, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

Asphyxiation

Everything is a worn red pincushion,
an alabaster lamp of yellow light going nowhere.

Everywhere I look, there are things beneath things
and hecklers taking liberties with each evening’s cold.

Always, the rosemary breath of before I knew you
reminds me that the sun sets wherever I used to be.

Never before had the asphalt sweat smelled as black
as the morning you asked me to tell you your name.

I know now what your crow's feet have been warning me,
what the glow of your imagination would never confess.

There is a dizzy sort of calm that comes with seeing
me wear warmly the pale blue skin of asphyxiation.




Off the Coast - Spring 2013

Fornication

For years afterward, I was afraid
that’s what they were –
those super dry closed-mouth pecks
under the sleeping bag on the cot
with Kimberly the summer
Uncle Jim couldn’t find work.

Eight years old was too young
to notice her high Indian cheekbones
and jet black hair. It was not too young
to be spellbound by the whiteness
of her smile or the way it crushed 

the deep inside of my chest.

There we were, lying next to each other.
I was shaking the way I had imagined
Adam shaking before Eve’s outstretched hand. 
But, Kimberly was smiling at me. So, we pressed 
chapped lips together over and over again
until there was nothing left for a little boy
to imagine.

I asked her if she would marry me.
She told me that cousins can’t
and, of course, I believed her –
she was ten years old and knew
long-division and cursive.

We lay there together, hiding
our heads in the hot underneath
of the lumpy cotton bag. Before long,
we got up, went outside and started
throwing stones.




Off the Coast - Spring 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Harmonica and the Cat

“Ase Linden had three friends and a flute.” – The Sojourner

Ase has me beat by two friends
and a flute. What I have these days
is her and what’s ours together.

I mow; she weeds; what’s ours
together learns to play bundled
in the early green of dewy spring.

Later, after dinner, I watch
what’s ours together splash
in the warm soapy water

of his nighttime routine
as she runs just one more errand
for milk. Later still, her fingertips

move slowly along my back
with the lightest touch of gentle
conversation. I breathe

heavily while what’s ours together
dreams out loud, “Mommy, Daddy.”
Perhaps a recalculation

is in order. What I have these days
is her and what’s ours together,
leaving me lacking

just one good friend and a flute –
unless I count the harmonica
and the cat.



The Toucan - May 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mumpsimus

Makes me feel all warm inside, being
unconditional and lacking second thoughts.
Maybe the “I need beer” sign is just a tragic
plea for understanding. Besides, who am I,
standing in judgment of another man’s needs?
I stop the car, hand him a dollar through
my fully opened window, thinking of someone I
used to know. The man nods. I ease on the gas,
See you tomorrow and the next day and the next…



Camroc Press Review - May 8, 2013

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Silence

Silence befriended me in my teens, playing chess by myself,
rehearsing opening choreographies, remembering
hard lessons learned.

Varsity matches were full of it, in spite of the heavy breaths
of contemplation and the every now and then glancing to see
if my opponent was starting to buckle under its weight.

I lived hungry for it during my first marriage, a 22-year cacophony
of two grown people insisting on being the last person heard,
until I finally got everything I ever wanted.

Then, there was waking up to it and reclining with it in the evenings
under a beige shaded lamp. There was singing to it at the top of my lungs
all alone and trying to make it cry.

Before long, I started taking walks with it in the early morning
and sometimes the clouds would part, letting me see thousands
of silent stars – ancient, confused.



Decanto Magazine - May 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Churning Butter

It’s not the kind of thing
you see every day, an old woman
straddling a butter churn, working
the thick wooden dasher up and down
between weathered thighs, plunging
over and over, humming in rhythm,
gazing with half-closed eyes until the chore
is complete and she can move on.
It’s not the kind of thing you expect
to make you flinch, lose your breath,
wag your head squint-eyed, remind you
of the detached acquiescence of an ex
you could never (no, never) love right.



Atticus Review - August 28, 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Falling Flower

after Arakidu Moritake*

The falling flower I see drift back to the branch
is a butterfly riding two bluish petals of swirl.

The breeze caught her drowsing upon the afternoon
as grass bent to and fro on its way to chilly green sleep.

Dandelion seeds, liberated by breath, meander
toward clouds they mistake as salt-and-pepper gods,

who abruptly bless them with heavy gray wet,
driving them back to damp and settling-down.

The falling flower I see drift back to the branch
is the sigh of your kiss on the very tip of my tongue.



*from the haiku by Arakidu Moritake ....

The falling flower
I saw drift back to the branch
was a butterfly.


Pirene's Fountain - Spring 2013

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sometimes You Just Have To

My dad broke the eight-ball the day I was born.
That’s what he told me, so that’s what I believed.

I asked him once if it’s OK to stick up your middle finger
at someone. He told me, “Sometimes you just have to.”

I used to think I might take up shooting pool. There’s something
about the sound of the break, the slide of the cue between your fingers,

the light blowing of the blue dust off the tip of the stick, that strut
to the white ball after sinking something in the corner pocket.

For the first twenty years of my life, I loved knowing I looked just like him.
I was as proud of that as I was of the Jr. I eventually dropped from my name.



Vine Leaves Literary Journal - April 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pretending

Their lovemaking is as artificial
as an insemination and drier
than the sarcasm served hot
with each night’s dinner.

They smile, nod, drink coffee black,
manage to stay just ahead of the whirling
dust devil they kick-up as they run away
from constantly running away.

But, now and again,
there is backgammon on the loveseat,
a few laughs, and looks
that come from somewhere back in time.



Crack the Spine - Issue Sixty

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Gravity


It is the exact same gravity
that mercilessly drags
the Niagara into a rumbling
sockdolager of a natural wonder
as puckishly pulls the pacifier
from my baby boy’s drowsy lips
the second we drift into sleep.

I liked gravity better on the honeymoon.



Eunoia Review - April 9, 2013

Duck a l'Orange

I’d never cooked it before,
but it was our first Valentine’s
since the baby
and I could not stop imagining
her taking the first bite, closing her eyes,
sultry moans.

The problem is
I have a one-track imagination.

Otherwise,
I might have been able to imagine
the kitchen filling with smoke.

I might have been able to imagine
turning the mashed potatoes into smoggy clouds
of too much fat mingled with the hard bits and milk.

I might even have been able to imagine
her slow-chewing the first bite,
closing her eyes to the greasy sweetness
of the overly crisp skin, eagerly reaching
for more wine.



Eunoia Review - April 10, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

After the Rain

They hardly spoke
to each other afterwards.
He gave himself over
to drink and patriarchy
and writing things down.
She moved through the hours
busy with the usual things.
But, the hours weren’t the problem
for her. It was the minutes
of remembering and knowing
exactly what had happened.
So, she’d hum.

Otherwise, her mind flashed
with tree trunks and boulders
riding waves into skulls and abdomens
and babies whose final babbles
were drowned by the tardy pleas
of their now believing parents.
She used to wonder
how the fine young man
they’d hired to help tar the ark
ended up feeling God’s love.
Was it as quick as God’s wrath?
Or did his smile fade slowly
in a crush of mud against his chest
or after a final deep breath
right before his lungs made room
for the wet holy cleansing
of disobedience from earth?

At the beginning, her husband mistook
the gentle buzz from her chest
as the acceptance of grace,
asked her to read his sheepskin account.
She read and insisted upon one revision,
“You take my name out of there.”



Verse Wisconsin - April 2013
Audio of "After the Rain"

Elephant String

They say an elephant
can be controlled
with a piece of string
tied around one leg –
just start early
with hard enough steel.

Before long, it’s all about
eating peanuts,
walking in circles
with strangers on your back
and getting hosed down
for the next day’s show.

Deep in my brain
where I cannot reach,
I hear her whispering
and there is no need for string.



Verse Wisconsin - April 2013
Audio of "Elephant String"

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Don’t Even Talk to Me About Loneliness

Why would a middle-aged divorced man
with more new wrinkles around his eyes
than phone calls from his sons, roll out of bed
without hitting snooze every Monday through
Friday, brush his teeth, slap on the Old Spice,
squirm into clothes that are never more than three days
beyond fresh, bend all the way over his portly middle
to lace-up his boots, zip his jacket to the very top,
scrape the windshield of his primer-gray Pinto,
shiver during the defrosting of its inside, curse
every red light as he squints his way through town,
and wait his turn behind two pickup trucks and a mini-van
just so he can order a 20-ounce coffee with one Splenda
from the curvy young barista who twists her blonde curls
and smiles whenever he drives up to the window? Because
it beats the hell out of waiting all day long for the junk mail.



Grey Sparrow - Spring 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

dysthymia

you are

the spring in my limp
the depth of my shallow breaths
the shattered melancholy
of my being broken

memories
from before I knew you
sweet smoke
my dad loved to hide behind
dark eyes of an early crush
summertime grass warm
against my bare feet
first real kiss

black-veiled mourner
standing alone
beneath gray rain
clenching teeth and fist
dropping muddy earth
into my grave
smearing what’s left
across your face
hiding your crying
downcast eyes
enduring the disappointment

in all that I am not



Burningword - April 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Very Long Hugs

Grandma hugs me while standing
in the dim light of her kitchen after steak
and strawberry pie. She sears the meat

medium rare and mounds whipped cream
on the pie every time I spend the night.
Then she hugs me for a very long time.

Her heavy breathing makes her breasts heave
against my cheek. Grandpa is in the living room
lying on the couch in Jockey shorts watching TV –

the Rams or the Lakers or the news, something
other than Grandma hugging me for minutes on end.
Her old-lady perfume makes it difficult

to resist the urge to wriggle away
or let my hands hang limp. I don’t remember
if anything else happens, I just know

I keep my arms wrapped around her waist,
confused by her heavy breaths and trying
to figure things out.



Shadow Road Quarterly - Spring 2013

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spectrography

There is a red-hot remembering
at the mention of her name -
the growing pink upon her cheeks,
intensity of breaths, closing eyes.

There is a white-hot regret
that follows and a speechlessness
that has never gone away, an acrid
leaking in the middle of my chest.

There is a dark gray shame
that draws on my shoulders
and causes my eyes to blink wet.
I dare to look to you.

There is a deep-blue peace
that comes with the tilt of your head,
the resting of your hand on my cheek.
You lean into me, kiss me.

There is a yellow and a yellow and a yellow.



Boston Literary Magazine - Spring 2013

Saturday, March 2, 2013

To Myself

If your poems are pierced by shafts of light
in a battered gray barn, let the dust float
there awhile as red hens squawk
through weather-beaten boards.

If your poems shine
with her blue eyes and pillow talk
and some very heavy breathing,
offer to light them a cigarette after.

If they contain too much
wondering if they’ll remember
you when they’re grown and gone,
just cradle them into heaviness.

When they hide in the forgotten darkness
of your scariest dreams, stare them down
until they skulk into your back pocket
and try to get lost in the wash.



Blue Lake Review - March 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Just Afterwards

There is a moment
in the just afterwards
of early morning loving,

just after
all the dizzy
subsides into clarity,

just after
breathing hard
turns once again easy,

just after
fingertips retrace
the fair of her very soft landing,

just after
giggles and high praise
and pillow-talk upon my chest,

just after
a final nibbled
reminder of the sweet of her.

A bit longer
after the surprised
interest, the unspoken
concurrence, the first deep
breaths, the wanton flailing
of all that covers, the softest
of hard kisses, the finding
of her eyes.

There is this moment
in the just afterwards
of early morning loving

as my mind flinches
toward the shower and worn denim
and my shoulder reacts against the sunrise

when she says,
"Please don't leave, yet."



The Legendary - Issue 40

An Open Letter to the Emperor

I get it. You went to college
and I went to work. You understand
the Socratic paradox and I know I don’t.
You are certain that I am making everything hotter
while I cannot remember the real lesson
of Galileo and Copernicus.

I get that your heart is bigger than mine,
which explains why you want to spread
my sweat and my time around to those
with less of the one and more of the other.

I get that civilized discourse
means you can call my friends racist
zealots, greedy Nazis, and stupid cunts
while raising my hand requesting the right
to disagree makes me all of the above.

I get that it is much more enlightened
to believe in E.T. than in angels.

I get that diversity is best honored
through the narrow view
of a used up paper towel roll
so that white folks, rich people,
gun-owners, Bible-thumpers
and men cannot be seen.

Ok. I get it. I really do.
It’s just that I thought
I should tell you it’s cold outside
and you might want to put on some clothes.



The Legendary - Issue 40

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Baby in the Bathwater

for Jay and Vera, sorely missed

Nothing about their past was barefoot and pregnant
or one too many highballs after far too many hours
of always knowing what was best.

She wasn’t forever on hands and knees with a bucket and a brush
or seeing nothing but her reflection in the after-dinner dishes.
There was no unaired laundry begging for an airing.

They started sharing a bed after Korea and courting
and asking for permission and it never knew force
or the passive acquiescence to some muscle-bound need.

Their babies boomed into existence only after two loud smiles
were muffled by quiet propriety, smiles that stayed wide open
and naked for silky whispering and staring and all things being equal.

They shared goodbye kisses, welcome home hugs, and one hot
vacation on a beach in Mexico where they learned what tequila can do.
He called her Mama until the day everything turned into cataracts

in the bleary back of his mind. She called him Dad – even after
he turned nurse-bound and refused to remove his souvenir sombrero,
no matter what, until she walked into the room.



Tuck Magazine - February 2013

Toll

My head often aches in the morning these days
as I rise early for coffee and solitude before
dawn and its persistent nibbling away.

My first cup cooled and quaffed, she awakens,
blesses me with a bleary-eyed smile, starts
another cup, packs my lunch against the day.

I change his soggy overnight diaper, coo and tickle
him into the innocent belly laughing of his age,
join him there as he toddles into her arms.

When neither can see, I press my index fingers
into the sides of my skull and curse
this ache.



Tuck Magazine - February 2013

Thursday, February 7, 2013

If It Was You

If it was you,
you looked slimmer.

Why were you
all prettied-up
at the store
where we bought
extra bed sheets
that one time?

We couldn't
stay friends,
could we?

I was there for shoes.

I was there with you
just that one time
(and every time since).

No,
we couldn't
stay friends.

Well, if it was you,
I turned around,
looked for you -
wanted to say

those were awfully
soft sheets.



Full of Crow Poetry - Winter 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

Floating

Sometimes the halfway
between sleep and dreams
feels like floating.

Tied in the middle and suspended
by a big bunch of helium balloons,
my arms sag,

my fingers just touch
the surface of a still blue lake.
I follow

ripples in every direction,
listen to their gossip,
for my name,

for yours.



Decanto Magazine - February 2013

Friday, February 1, 2013

Chatting

Some days,

I grind against
breaking open the email
and jotting down,

Hey, how are you?

with a casual whistle
and a halo,

crossing my fingers
you will read
between the line.



The Toucan - February 1, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

After 40 Days of Fasting

I can walk on water
like it’s the gray cobbled path
to paradise and hoping to God
I find there the eventual pleasing
of my father.

I can wish the fog yellow,
the sagebrush green, the water
as warm as the ignorance
of what it means to be his
only begotten.

I can resurrect leaves in trees,
make apples grow red
in the wake of desire
I cannot taste, and watch
white flesh fall into a sweet
brown rot.

I can sweat blood at midnight
and mumble conversations
he says he hears
until torches, kisses
and propitiatory pinpricks
betray the true nature
of his love.



Crack the Spine - issue 53 (page 20)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sometimes I wonder who I think I am

click-clacking marks across the page in the sleepy gray
of all alone dawn. Too early yet for yellow, I stare

at the chilly overcast of a disappointing spring.
There is a breeze this morning whispering through

the maple like an aubade and hummingbirds are already
busy sipping clear sweet sugar-water my still-sleeping wife

made ready for them before bed. The minute-hand starts its way
back up the round and it’s time to stop pretending. I buckle my belt,

lace steel-toed boots, carry everything with me to the truck and drive
directly into another day of begging, begging, begging for mercy.



Little Patuxent Review - Issue 13 Doubt

Escape

I was fighting with myself
for the steering wheel
while driving to Eugene in the fog.
Watching from the back seat
was my oldest son,
the child of my earliest dreams,
the boy who would love me
the way I loved my father
and make being alone
a thing of the very long time ago -
the young man I never drive
anywhere anymore.

Just past Monroe I missed the bend
and all three of us went into the river,
the two of me and my oldest son.
Then there was only one of me.
I was buried in the water, searching
the sinking of the car for my son. The river
was deep, and he could not open his door,
could not open his window,
could not stop being so damned distant
from all of the reasons for his being
out of breath. My lungs filled up
with water, but I reached the car,
opened the door, pulled him out limp.

I shoved him to the surface, followed
his floating there, climbed the bank after him,
saw the wet footprints of his escape.
Then, I could not find him.
When I screamed his name
the only noise I made was the sound
of a baby crying colicky echoes
no one else could hear.
The other me was back now,
on the bank, wordless, glaring.



Little Patuxent Review - Issue 13 Doubt

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Did the universe know it was her last breath

or did it have to wait with the rest of us
for the lack of another?

Did it carry her gently away
like a kitten in the maw
to a warm dark place,
or did it rip things from her body
the way wedding rings get torn
from the sky-blue fingers
of battlefield brisance?

I hate to think of her erasing
into nothing more than nothing more.

It would tickle her pink to know
that one crisp autumn afternoon
in the not too far away, a little boy,
having spent all of his Saturday playing
outside, rushes into his warm house,
grabs a shiny red apple, takes a bite
as juice leaks down his chin

from where the universe has allowed
a little bit of my mother to run.



Strong Verse - January 10, 2013

Alumnus at Spartan Field

It’s just turned cold in the mornings
on the field where wide-shouldered
young men hone the heat of their prime
and imagine that they are gods.

He hears the clash of power
against power, the grunts, the curses,
the bleeding, that old gravelly voice
snarling into the sweaty steam of stupid youth.

He watches until his soft body shivers
and his tired joints begin to ache
with the stiffness of relentless melancholy
and a longing for the ball.



Strong Verse - January 9, 2013

Monday, January 7, 2013

Peacefully, in His Sleep

He awoke as shadows gnawed his chest
like they hadn’t eaten in weeks. His eyes opened wide
upon the black. He heard his wife breathing deeply,
clutched where the pain clutched, found something in the dark
to appease his need for focus. The ceiling fan spun steadily
above the lovemaking that had preceded him into sleep.

He watched it spin as each rotation came with a memory
and a self-diagnosis. Did it burn? Yes. It burned in his center
like the time he leaned into the furnace when he was eight
and let it be his excuse for crying over missing his father.
Was it radiating? Yes. It spread like the warmth of the first time
he saw her. Was his left arm tingling? Yes. It tingled like a fairy tale,
like a helpless maiden’s rescue from a black-hatted witch.

He could not wake her for this. He felt tears now, sliding
into his ears as he lay prone to emotion. He tried to turn for a kiss.



Strong Verse - January 8, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Onions and Butter

The mother’s hand shakes
as she spoon-feeds her son.
She’s missed lunch again.
All she wants
is to get him fed and down
before starting on dinner.
But her hand is shaking
and her baby is teething.

His face is covered in cereal and drool.
He cannot get enough of the feel
of his tongue between his lips.
Trills another cereal-laden raspberry.

The father looks up
from yesterday’s newspaper.
Tries to choke down a laugh.

She drops the spoon
into the bowl. Stands,
one hand on round hip,
one hand waving, “He’s yours.”

After a few minutes,
yesterday’s paper set aside
for the last time, the father scrapes the bowl
as she spreads peanut butter on toast.
He airplanes the last mouthful
into the baby’s wide-open smile.
The baby rubs red-rimmed eyes.

Just dusk now.
He sings to the baby
in the rocking chair.
She starts to hum along.
There’s a sizzle in the kitchen.
The baby’s eyes close. The house is full
of the smell of onions and butter.



Strong Verse - January 6, 2013