Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Mermaid (rewrite)

Nobody remembers how all seven seas belonged to you,
how both fish and flesh knew your shape.
We have forgotten the true names for the tides,
paving them over
out of the childish need to conquer and ruin
that has marked Mankind for the lost animal
it crawled out of the seas to become.

The moon tribes knew the water songs,
but there aren't enough voices fluid enough
to sing them now. When the shimmering skin
of your waters was cut by the first sailing boats
no one could wonder why you fled that open wound.
Sounding deep for a place to rest you reasoned
"Water-skimmers want to play" you said.
"What real harm could they do?" you said.

But it was a serious game mankind came to play
and they played to win. When the rainbow
of their poisons spread out over the waves,
at first you didn't worry. Your body was vast,
unknowable, seemingly inexhaustible;
too late you realized this danger was too big,
that you'd never lull this to sleep.

You remember sailors used to call you with songs
the most beautiful woman to ever swallow them
whole. Nowadays we laugh at them, mistaking
manatees for mermaids, their want spinning
the salty yarns. But the truth all sailors know
is it was you, riding sea cow-girl above the waves.

Phoenicians and Norsemen, Polynesians and Portuguese-
you had many lovers court you across the centuries.
And every virgin race you took shyly in? You were perfect
and passionate the lover every time. Your only mistake
was you were yourself: giving and abundant,
while also moody... as they say, unfathomable.

Mankind is a spoiled brat. You learned that soon,
but it was already too late. Greedy hands grabbed
at you, taking anything they could find, cursing you
when they lost themselves in your depth. Not seeing
or caring about your thousand, thousand wounds.

When you awoke, you were imprisoned in an aquarium.
That's a place mankind built to exhibit the dying
before they are forever gone. And you are gone,
from ocean and river, pond and puddle, gone or going
quickly. And all mankind can do is shuffle past
your water tank, and mutter "Sorry"
but never once look you in the eye.

And now the oceans are dying.

It was like, once they cut your sea-legs
out from under you, they put you in a bathtub,
helpless. And the rotted drain-plug can't help
but let the water slowly out.
It is in this way, left up to Man,
you would drown on dry land.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Thursday, April 6, 2017

30/30 #7 also #4 of Revision Series "My Stupid Heart" (2011)

There is something living inside of me
too fast. My heart forgets limits. It falls,
it falls and loses itself, rising and dives
like my favorite song, and I am dragged
behind it- unwilling passenger with all
my baggage. Surly actor in my drama
series. I carry a cane because I have to,
I want to. I want something to anchor
me to slow movement; I want to come
to a stop, safely. I want to live a while
before my body wears out and I'd like
to be able to enjoy the scenery as well.

When you accumulate age, things shift
around, but it is the gathering inbalance
that convinces me everything else hasn't
settled. It's just change waiting to move
around, because nothing is tied-down
to the ground, everything I am is bound
to everything I am. This is not life-web,
it's a web of fuckery I wove from whole
cloth. It's something i wear like a suit
made from lost chances, absent friends,
and missed signals. It is the loss I need
to feel warm in my own small, isolation.
It's the candle I use to curse the darkness

with; the flame I moth myself towards.
In the end, this is just another life story,
unremarkable; one of billions, and not
even one built of great accomplishments.
You could say that it has heart, but that
heart beats too fast, races over too much
ground to ever anchor itself to anything.
You could say my head is full of theater,
say the balance is thrown off, say I flew
too high and now just look at me: a man,
a cane, a heart that has taken me flying
all the way to the age I am, where I dream
of moving slow; my heart, a stable thing.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Blurred Photograph of Sharp Memory

I ran for years off the pain of memory. It's been
30 years and I marvel at the freshness of the hurt
I hold on to, harbor, treasure; the scarification
tells a story all it's own, fills in details as I recall

them. I have done this for years with out a photo
of you. Not one. My memory's still sketching
with a brush that exaggerates both the good and
the greatness of that love. It set my stars in circles,

overhead. Someone shared a picture: all of us
that summer, group photo, memento, a keepsake
I never kept. And although everyone is blurry,
caught at a cheap camera distance, the photo still

refuses to lie. That is you, standing next to me,
struggling with leaving. Us, holding on so hard
to each other for the last time. Time has frozen us
in the moment of counting what time we had left.

How to Become an Elder in the Slam Nation (a 30/30 haiku)

keep writing, don't die,
you give back, and try not to
piss everyone off

Monday, April 3, 2017

30/30 Revision #3 "This House is More Than Empty" (2012)

Radio carries ghosts in certain songs. Screen-door, left open, is unhinged, slamming, fickle with the wind. Food on the table, left mid-meal, goes cold. One chair askew, one chair knocked over. Phone is cradled, mute. Radio chooses that moment for Daryl Hall singing “She’s Gone.” There are two piles of mail, only one of them grows, calling for her. Lights stay off, day and night. Internet is desperate to please, will show anything, anytime. Dishes beget

more dishes. Refrigerator speaks in beer and microwave. Bathroom is a sad mess. Bed is half-haunted and hasn’t been slept in for days. Radio bargains “Come Back and Stay" for good this time..." Magazines get trashed. Who wants to be reminded? Porn no longer does anything. Radio sings louder, radio howls. Batteries died days ago. Radio rages “Ooh ooh Baby, I Want You Back,” Radio weeps “Until You Come Back to Me,” Radio surrenders...

“Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone.”

Sunday, April 2, 2017

30/30 Revision #2 The Clock-Cutter Confesses

Time is vital. Bricks are important. Both
of those things can be stacked. You can trust
things that stack well. They are reliable, possibly
very tall. Time uses the sun to cast shadows.

I have a job I do. I work with time. There is time
layered on my hands. I work in a chronos-mine.
I pick at time. Digging into a deep vein. And
stacking. Stacking, always. I am keeping time.

Time is tactile. I am paid a stack of days. I work
for time. It feeds me. Time to eat. Time to grow up.
I make things with it. I make a bed. Time for sleep.
Then there is dream time...

I have this dream. Time is in my veins. My blood
 is ticking. I need a doctor. I say something in time.
I am given pills for every hour. Time for medicine.
I have a job. I work in a mine. Until I got clocked.

I killed time. There is time on my hands, big time
and there is little time left. I run out of time. Now
it's time for justice. There are 12 jurors. One each
for every hour.The jury is stacked against me.

The prosecutor is on the court's time. The verdict
arrives in a timely manner. I had a job. I worked
with time. Now I'm told to do my time, hoping
I receive time off for good behavior, someday

to return to the mines. I've grown lazy, off
the clock, there is so much time left to waste.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Words We Never Made

Human lips never learned to form
the word. We taught ourselves speech,
and breathing and kissing, maybe not
in that order, and we learned to hold
things close to chest, like each other.

We made a lot of words, many of them
from only four letters, but not that word.
It simply never occurred to us to name
that feeling; it was a feeling. You feel
those, you don't need to isolate them

unless you are trying to control things
better left unnamed. A word that anchors
things into a static shape, time, place;
binds feet, clips wings, calls things bad.
So much unhappiness in just a sound.

Whatever the world was, this time is
different and we never made that word;
instead talk of praise, as in praise songs,
praise letters, and those three little words,
I praise you. We never made the other

word, so its four-letter mirror reflection
was never made either. We substituted
praise for one idea, and never worded
the other, period. Our language works
better with Love and Hate  unnamed.

30/30 Revision #1 Prayer for Impostor Syndrome

It's the learned language of the abused, "Congratulations!
...you fooled them again, you fraud." after anything good.
How I can be sure the only thing close to commendable
is my illusionary juggling skills, keeping so many pieces
of utter shit I call "anything" from falling to full failure.

I am the things that lie to me the most, more than mirrors
and the way they hiss...hideous; more than happenstance;
even when I win I am positive I'm not worthy of Good
Things. I feel the need for caveat as much as confession,
I can never apologize for myself enough to be forgiven.

Here is to the wounded, here is to survivors, to those of us
weeping over broken mirrors, a finger's edge from falling.
Here is to the ugly ducklings, and swans of every possible
feather; flaws that blossom as sidewalk flowers, and weeds
that are amazing for the way they feed us medicinal gifts.

Here is to the lonely, may you be met. To the broken,
may you see  through that illusion. To the isolated, you live
in a time of instant message, you don't have to be alone.
To anyone who never before dared whisper "I am beautiful"
to reflections until they used a mirror they built themselves.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Deconstruction Ex Machina

...an erasure poem of a writing prompt by Marty McConnell

As always, this writing prompt is intended to be
a jumping off-point, so go where the impulse
takes you. Consider something inanimate,
from memory. Write down four characteristics
of a sentence that begins "Whoever made you..."
that includes a sentence that starts with "Why...?"
What does a specific part of this object reflect
or not reflect? Name this object of that name.
How does the Maker write a sentence
in which the object speaks to the Maker?
Where does the Maker go? Write a sentence
in which the Maker
is no longer


Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Haiku

substitute pagans
for "snakes" and switch genocide
for the "drove out" part

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

[No Translation]

If I had to be honest, I have never fallen
in love, so much as falling near longing.
The longing is to be a part of something
bigger than me, but that bigger thing is
the fear I don't belong anywhere. I can't

remember what it was like to be held
as a child. I don't mean the memories
are lost; I mean that I was never held
as a child. This was loneliness learned
before language. This is an emptiness

that never knew its own name, a pain
I don't know how to talk about. Alone
is the only thing that feels at all organic;
everything else is just throwing names
at feelings for which there are no words

Sunday, March 12, 2017

One Leap Balances the Other

The way clocks are digital:
automatic updates advance
the numbers used to measure
the time. One minute it is this
time, the next? We are moved
an hour, one way or the other.
We spring ahead, we fall back.

There was no 2 am last night.
1:59 to 3:01 in a lone jump
without moving. I have heard
the origins stories, I assume
each forward/back balances
the scales and so everything
survives long enough, twice

a year. But of that lost hour,
who knows? No one speaks
of it for more than a few days.
It is forgotten but not gone,
an hour of the 13th floor; of
missing time pieces; we talk
around it, like it's really gone.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Haiku 3/8/17

if you slice the sky
in two, you get the whole sky;
you can't slice the sky

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Hopscotching the Elephant

I said it wasn't that I didn't want to forgive myself
for my mistakes, it's that I never learned how to
separate myself like that. I am the Cognito ergo sum
of my mistakes, Forgiveness blunts the bitter edge 
I need to be hard on myself. I don't know different.

She said, Try approaching the forgiveness in steps,
in small pieces. Like eating an elephant: you're not
going to be able to do it all at once, never mind
even large chunks, so pace yourself; work a little 
at it every day. She said It's also like Hopscotch; 

you know the basics, everything else is moving 
through the motions you know. While I don't
hopscotch (I never learned), and I'm an ethical
omnivore (so elephant is right off the menu),
the rest makes sense to me somewhere deeper

than the spoken word. And while I don't know
the how, or the if, of forgiving oneself. Still, 
I recall a hopscotch song:  fire, fire, false alarm, 
I fell into forgiving's arms. Is this going to be
the one? Yes, no maybe so; yes, no, maybe so

The "Fire fire" chant adapted from a post on
Clattery MacHinery on Poetry
Grateful for the inspiration.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hoping for Visible

I changed the spelling of my name in high school,
because I had decided to become a poet. What?
Shortened it to three letters, R-y-k. I don't know
why it seemed important, but it was. It changed
little. When you're mostly invisible, you are

something that lives on the periphery of other's
lives. Now you don't see me, and now you don't.
I would pretend I was made of smoke, I learned
how to walk quietly, how to disappear in public.
I could have been visible, satisfied with people

seeing me, but it always takes so much work
not to fade into the background of friendships.
I lose a lot of friendships. I'm not good at them.
I find it stressful to take up space, in full view.
I became a poet so I could camouflage myself

with stories. Maybe I wanted to be just a voice,
mysterious in some library light, formless oracle
for people to beg words from. I would feed them
all the words they'd need. They'd call me so wise,
and leave gifts for me, and then leave me alone.

But the sky is blue, and this world is this world.
It's hard to be invisible when I need people so
much, I struggle as if in dream-mud, anxious,
weighed down with hoping I choose my words
carefully. But I show up in the light, awkward

and off-script. I recite poems I hope are clever
and beautiful, empowered to possess your heart.
If I could stand to be visible all the time, I'd see
the blue sky day, and you might say, "Nice to see
you" and I could say back, "It's good to be seen."

Sunday, February 26, 2017


The same elusive dreams, different each time
in the details, but the same longing, same lesson:
I am unlovable in the daylight. I am chasing
after moonbeams. I believe in God. I am willing
to try anything to heal this wound I inflicted

on myself. The great obstacle to loving again
is the sheer number of the dead I carry with me,
half-realized possibilities I might want to work
on at some time in the future; the negative space
there instead, by the time I become interested

in flirting back. One needed me only in privacy,
and would not admit to anyone they loved me.
Another loved me like blueprints for something
better.. Most don't see me in the same way I see
the possibility of an us. I'm not going to mention

the ones where I was responsible for the downfall;
the fire,  the flood, the slow-goodbye. Too much
pain there. I already know how to torture myself
for my failures. That doesn't help my message.
Tonight, I will dream I am radio waves pointed

at the night sky, hoping for someone who's able
and willing to receive my signal and, finding it
good, finding their way to where I'm sending,
sending a signal in front of them so I'll know.
Tonight I'll dream of stars closer than they are.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Inclement Weather

When I think of snowstorms, I think
of you. I don't know why that is, it isn't
like we ever spent any time together
during a snowstorm. I think the isolation
reminds me of your world-view. I learned
about it during a fight we had: you didn't
like people, or socializing, or the internet;
so many of the things I said sustained me
when I didn't have you. Once entangled

by gifts, I belonged to you, indebited.
Why is it your gifts without strings came
with ropes and hooks and overdue bills
and righteous claims of ownership? Idiot
that I am, I fell for that same trick again
and again over the years, always sure
this time it would be different. Never
learned, even though you'd telegraph
your break-up punches so they arrived

when I finally let down my tired guard.
They reason you pushed me to open up
to you, was so that you could best target
your words to hurt the most. You broke
up with me- yet again- I made no moves
to stop you. It was November. I was done.
But I remember you occasionally, usually
during snowstorms, depression. Anything
that tries to isolate me from the world.

Title Track

The first fifty years were the hardest, and the three after
were the worst, so if that makes a paradox, I don't care.
It improves the story, and some days, that can be enough.

The Wisdom That Comes With Age is mostly a drying up
of the most sensitive "I-could-give-a-fuck" glands. We don't
care about things that we were once certain would destroy

us. Been there, skin finally healed over that. Aging takes
concentration and grace in equal measures. Harder than
it looks; we've learned to comb through all our dreams

and somehow, be able to let some go, for one reason
or another-- we waited too long, we didn't make a plan,
we finally got what we wanted and then we didn't want

it-- you learn to separate one dream from what's left.
Or this is when you learn of a dream you never knew
you had, or even, so what if I'm old? I'm going to sky-

jump-roller blade-belly dance-take up the martial arts
(there are, I've learned, terrible things the old can do
with just a cane, for instance). That is, you learn to see

things for the multi-facet wonders they are. And moving
slow, you catch more of the scenery with eyes hungry
for life;  hunger growing, the closer to the end you get.

Friday, February 24, 2017


It is a hard road back from addiction. It starts
under grey sky. It wasn't easy. When I stopped
taking whatever let me escape, the sun went
out. The sky left me. I had to prepare to find
my way by feel at first. So I followed the path

of destruction my using history had scorched
through my life, but follow it from the ending,
back. After all, I did this so I could live a life
somewhat closer to "normal." Normal people
don't burrow into self-destruction, not like this.

I started with the last relationship that I took
hostage and followed it to my youth. I lost
count of all the crashed and broken things
I called Love at the time, not knowing how
to take responsibility for the words I spoke;

all the opportunities I left knocking on doors
I never answered; the people I lost touch with
when I stopped answering the phone honestly;
the pieces of myself I trade away, just to settle
for less than nothing. Every recovering addict

has this killing field, this mass grave of waste
we call regrets. The odd thing is how we hang
on to this pain, like there's something precious
to suffering through every step, when it's not
the destination. What saves us is taking steps.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


It's no mystery there is something standing between
me and my dreams. It's not the most formidable block,
nor the biggest. About my height, the same eye color,
all about me; this adversary is me, but a shade of me
that takes the most silver and shining of my dreams
and devours them slowly. It doesn't even need to eat.
It just likes that expression I make when I'm betrayed.

I'm old, but I'm not even old enough to remember when
this all started. When I started stalking myself, learning
my weak points, reading all about avalanches; avalanches
and explosions. I have moments or months of satisfaction,
but I steal from myself, I steal from myself; anyway, war
was declared long ago for the fuck knows what reason,
and I'm so hungry I sometimes forget to dream dreams.

I don't know where this adversary me sleeps. My guess,
mirrors. He sleeps in mirrors & wakes when he hears
me coming. I won't answer his taunting about the where
and how and who of my face. At least we both rest
during my morning coffee. Call it jungle watering-hole
courtesy. No one wants to bloody the waters. I kill
myself  more privately than that. My arms are aching

with the weight of everything I don't have, but carry
in my heart anyway. And the thing of it is, the thing
is: neither of us can wholly kill the other. We get it,
symbiosis sucks, but what's the alternative, this late
in life? Whatever of wishes either of us get, we have
to share it with the opposite. We'll always be stuck
being me. I imagine we will still bicker and lacerate

each other with words, when ever I'm close to feeling
I've worked for something good. But, more and more,
we don't as much. There is cease-fire, with a thin strip
of neutral between us. If not trust, call it enlightened
self-interest. We carry it in my pockets; holding it
in my breath; we keep it at the borderline between
the mirror and me. We argue about what comes next.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Haiku 2/22/17

writing that poem
exposed raw wounds, so today
best to remain still

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


(from a prompt by Marty McConnell)

Boston, 1985, over looking the Pike
across from the South End side. A view
complete with "Hi Ryk!" spray-painted
on the wall, by a friend, trying to lift me
from depression. This is the living room,
my room's in back, overlooks lush green
in the thin alley below my window.
But I wanted to die in either room,
so the difference is mostly rhetorical.

Whom it was that used to love me
in these rooms, was gone, leaving
a dozen ghosts in the turbulence:
Phantom of Passions, Brown-Eyed 
Woman, Southern Bellissima, Lover
I Was Engaged To, Lover Dispelled,
the Empty Space Who Used to Be Her
and other names I only groan aloud
when dreams force me to tell truth.

The only room I love, is the memory
of the rooms when she was in them.
This room is a seashell up against
my ear, all I hear is the sound of tides
pulling two people apart; the echo
of one person leaving the other high
and dry, shipwrecked on themself.
The never-to-be reception party lost
in sinking seas after Love fathoms.

Still, I didn't want to ever leave here,
the whole city was further haunted
by places we had been together; love
made under footbridges, willow trees,
on the roof of my building, in daylight
full view of office buildings around
us. I don't want to chase after any ghost
when, doing nothing, I can catch them,
standing still. This room wants to kill

me with the weight between its floor
of wood and sorrow, and the ceiling,
that let my dreams pass through.
I can't see through the windows,
every glance just reflects that room,
me standing in the middle, asking
what the fuck happened to us? in
so many distraught, soundless ways.
I've become a ghost in my own

memories; I inhabit a room only
I can remember. It was perfect. It
tells me stay long as I like. I can't
breathe when I'm standing here.
I grab what few things remind me
of her that don't hurt me to carry.
Which is to say, I leave the room,
empty-handed. I locked the door.
I wish I was there. I never left.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Breath, No Breath

my lungs, stealing air
with every breath, are filthy
thieves, gasping "...Justice!"

This Post Has Been Removed

As I go to post something on social media,
it helpfully prompts me with "What's on your mind?"
in the text window, and as an introvert,
I don't need that kind of pressure. My mind goes

blank and I wonder has anything happened to me,
or maybe something clever I said, or thought?
like I have to justify myself to the world
before breakfast. I type nothing, do not even

make a post when I can't think of anything
to say. My breakfast isn't even special
enough for a photo post, and though I keep
count of days sober (1,183 as of this writing

here...) I keep that to myself as well, unless
I should bring it up, and I don't. Except I just did,
which makes me sloppy, or a liar, or both,
and just like that-- breakfast or no breakfast--

I am struggling with how to communicate
when I don't know how to adjective authentically.
Maybe what I wrestle with is Impostor Syndrome,

or else that's just another thing I've learned to fake.

Sonnet in High C

After lunch plans with a friend fell through
of course I would have to run into you,
at the Public Library, and why not?
The rest of the day might as well be shot

to hell. When you saw me, you looked another
way.  Some people need to hold onto their hate.
And if that helps you, I'm glad to be of aid.
I'm sorry you're not over the mess you made

of us. As we passed, our bags hit each other
in the rush of you walking away for cover.
And I think of the twenty-five years gone
to hell with nothing to show for it. Oh well.

Our sonnet on the high C failed to make the note.
The opera lady has sung, that's all that she wrote.

Do Not Say Mirrors

All reflections are ghosts
of Christmases Yet-to-be.
There are no bells, none
that are obvious at least.

Brush teeth, comb hair,
making still another face
I hope will stay that way.
This, this is the cold place

I have made for myself.
It gets farther every day,
from you and everyone,
from the world; just a way

for me to cry out I am
hurting under my skin,
in ways I can't describe.
I would have to let you in.

Spellcheck Divination

Spellcheck underlines
your name in red, a mistake;
wish I knew sooner.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


I wake up thirsty. Every day, the same
hollow vacuum in my gut. Magnetic
absence that pulls in all the emptiness
until I am full to the breaking point
with nothing. It is hard to swallow

the idea that I will never have another
drink, ever. I am told, better to keep it
in the day, while I consider it lucky
when I can get through five minutes
at a time. Prayer helps, but sometimes

it's shouting into a telephone, quiet
on the other end taking the shape
of God. Where the intersection lies
between mental health and addiction
that's where I am.  I believe in things

I cannot see, and pray that I am doing
science. I spend every day wresting
a thirst I dare not quench, if I know
what is good for me. Tomorrow, I pray
my throat tastes water and then sings.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


(after "Sparrowfall" by Brian Eno, "Music for Films")

No. 1

the rain falls at dawn
sorrow drenches a world still
waking from a dream

No. 2

wind complements rain
stirs and textures the sound
rises, falls, rises

No. 3

wind and rain, mixing
if you listen carefully, the world
becomes orchestra

Friday, February 17, 2017


Somewhere between a body that walks
on three legs in the afternoon and one
that rolls on wheels, every day living
with a disability is a riddle wrapped
in a conundrum, buried deep within

your own health. Disability borrows
your body from you, never returns
it whole. It's a bad next door neighbor
that steals your wallet; gets under
your bones and wipes his feet

on your immune system. Imagine
your own body was lying to you
in the years you felt well, never
gave you heads up. No warning,
just arrival. Terrible arrival never

ending as long as you will know
about it. Disability will narrate
your obituary while you sleep,
leaving so many blank spaces,
because who knows what kills

you in the end? The suspects
are already too numerous
to keep track of, this late
at night. Sleep eludes,
accessory to crime.

The story starts to
live, to breathe,
just like you,

Monday, February 13, 2017

Haiku 2/13/17

I am younger than 
my age, older than my years
Shut up, God, I say

Waking From Dreams

Last night I had a dream. This alone
should simply discredit anything
I'm inclined to write. How could I
expect your trust? I have already
given myself such an open license
to fabricate whole-cloth totally
from air. You must then assume
my adjectives are suspect, nouns
traveling under disguise, verbs

making themselves take action,
even articles cannot be trusted
in their accuracy. Do I speak
of this dream? Or am I painting
with a brush I've made broader,
telling you I've made portraiture
of Dreams as a whole, when all
I have done is relate my singular
nocturne? In other words, am I

lying to you? Given the excuse
we don't ask for dreams we get,
maybe I was merely in the right
dream at the wrong-time, or else
the other way around, and also
silver fish, like a Spring breeze,
circling the moon. Wait... what
was I saying? Oh yes, the dream
I had. I will spare you the details.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Nothing for Dinner, Again

(after Mckendy Fils-Aime's "11/30")

You can get what you want
for dinner, and still never be

happy. She used to ask me
what I wanted; I would tell,

then come home to nothing
but a plate full of something

different. She could only cook
a few things, and none of them

very well. After nine-hour days
(three of which, just the travel

time) I'd be asked, could I cook
because she'd had a hard day

of watching John Edward's
"Crossing Over," exhausted

by all the closure she'd seen,
oh and could I do the laundry

too? This was the dull roar
than drained our life of life:

false promises, barren dinner
plates, resentment grown fat

on promises. John Edward
wasn't even his real name.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Feb 11 7/30

I put the kettle,
on, make tea for one. lonely
man watches snowstorm

For the Lovers That Waited In Vain For Me to Return From the Sea

I am sorry you fell in love
with someone who wasn't
there most of the time. Buried
too deep in myself, needing
substance to bring me back
up to Human. Those bad
habits meant more than you
did, every time the choice
arose. You told me you loved
me; I gave you an excuse
and a mask I assured you
was the "really me." I was
never in those photosgraphs,
just something you'd think
looked like me, sounded
like me, took to the drink
whenever it was offered,
and also took the drink
when it wasn't. Drowning
in escape that was doomed
every time I looked deep
into a mirror. I still drowned.
I just didn't go anywhere.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Requiem Train

I am dying. I might as well be
blunt about it, treat it as fact
because, truth be told, I'm not
doing it very well. I'm terminal

in my laziness. Often days pass
& I haven't done a damn thing
to bring Death to fruition; nothing
more dangerous than my living

around city air & no bad habits
more hazardous than breathing
it in deep. Neither have I prayed
for miracle cures, wild therapies,

or straight-up appealing to God,
"Strike these Demons of Ouch
the Hell outta me. Hallelujah!"
If nothing else, I have my pride,

(although, most days I'm damned
if I can find it) & that tiresome
optimism that comes when things
go south for so long, you learn

to at least enjoy the view. Fire
inside for suicide or a great blaze
to go out in: both are too much
effort. Chronic... progressive...

not currently curable...
for a journey where it is known
what the ending will look like,
but not how long the ride will be,

will have been. Just a pale train
that eats up my dollars & doctors
trained in telling you they know
nothing for absolute certain. Death

becomes less of a thing to fear
& more something you check
your watch to judge just how late
a thing can be when no one knows

the schedules. So, I rest in a chair
made out of me, put my feet up
on my past. I imagine this poem
will be finished long before I am.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Did you ever go looking
for a word, but you can't
remember what's the word
for when you can't remember
a word? I just do not know...

the rest of the day, needless
to say, unraveled this way.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Don't Touchdown Me There

I have only one good story about the Superbowl, and it involves my genitals. But not exactly how it sounds; this will be a PG, maybe Rated R story, depending on how you look at certain elements, I suppose.

Prelude: I never watched a football game as an adult until 2002. I was staying with friends, following my first divorce (and perhaps you assume something about any story that describes the first of anything, and you'd be correct, it assumes there was another divorce, which assumes a second marriage that, while healthy at the time of this story, eventually became the second in a pair of divorces... so far, any way). Anyway, this family I was staying with made a big deal about watching the game, along with tons of food, and I was invited to join in. And so I watched the first football game in approximately 30 years, give or take.

It went pretty much the way I remembered and, a few minutes before what appeared by all evidence a defeat for the Patriots, and I was tired, and so I bade the family goodnight and wished their team some miraculous recovery in the last few minutes of the game. And, indeed, such a thing happened, and the Patriots beat the St.Louis Rams, 20 to 17. Two years later, and different circumstances in a different place, I again found myself watching the game, and feeling the writing was firmly upon the wall, I went to bed a few minutes before the Patriots came from behind to beat the Florida Panthers, 32 to 29. Clearly, I was some unwitting good luck charm for that team, my indifference being their four-leaf clover, their lucky number, their percentage chance arriving, even as I left.

Skip ahead to 2008. A record-breaking all wins/no losses season behind them, the Patriots found themselves at the Superbowl again. Myself, I was at a sleep clinic, having tests to determine if I had Sleep Apnea (I did) and how bad I had it (bad). One of the few perks of being soft-wired to a number of sensory machines, in a not-dark room (with a camera on you as well, and then being told to relax and fall asleep) was a television that had full cable, including the Food Channel, Cartoon and Comedy Channels, and A&E before it became awful and, again in that total fog I'm in regarding the Superbowl in general, completely forgot about it and spent the night watching Iron Chef, instead. Apparently, it is my ignoring the New England only for the last few minutes, and only after having invested time enough for a few quarters, at least, that makes magically luck. We all know how Superbowl XLII ended for the Patriots.

Depending on whether you believe in jinx or not, that may have been My Bad.

2008 was also the year (April, the month) that I opted to get a vasectomy, after having fathered three children. It's a relatively quick, non-invasive, out-patient operation and I was there in the operating room of a leading Urologist, known for his skill in this particular surgery. So, there I was, on the table, naked from the waist down, with a little cloth wall across my abdomen, preventing me from seeing the operation. It's a minor operation, as these things go, but still, both local and general anesthetics are used, so I was fairly loopy, and since I couldn't watch the action, as it were, my eyes drifted lazily around the room, taking in the various signed photographs of Patriots players across the years, along with pennants, posters, news articles, etc.

If you see where this is going, you are fortunate; I lacked that insight at the time.

I started, "Hey Doc, you're a fan of the Patriots?" He nodded. "I've got a weird story for you!" And I started in on the story, and got about two-thirds of the way in, when it occurred to me that I was not thinking clearly, and my audience was not only not the appropriate audience for this story, but that indeed, they also had, at that moment, unrestricted access to my genitals and a number of surgical tools very nearby. You'd think I would have trailed off, or changed the story.

You'd think.

But, no; and cheerily medicated and in wonder at my own apparent powers over chance and circumstance, I went on through to the very end. At which point, I noticed wisps of smoke, rising above the little cloth-wall across my abdomen. "UM..." I said as steadily as I could, given the anesthetic still going WEEEEEEE! in my head, and my sudden awareness that I should not make any kind of sudden move, "Ha ha! Are you burning "Patriots Rule!" down there. He didn't even look up as he said, "No, that's to cauterize the incision... although I did consider it for a moment..." and winked at me. Relieved, and still medicated, I listened to him talk about ice-packs and sitting on them, nothing strenuous for a week or two, and something about there being "deep bruising" and I shouldn't be too alarmed when I see it.

I'm pretty sure that was his delayed revenge, knowing that I listened and heard him, but not really heard him about the bruising. Two days later, I notice, when I went to urinate, THAT EVERYTHING DOWN THERE LOOKED AS BLACKENED A PURPLE AS YOU EXPECT THE CLOUDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD TO LOOK LIKE BEFORE THEY RAIN FIRE.

"Hello, this is Dr.____________'s office. Can you hold?"


A few days later, the bruising cleared-up, everything worked as it should, and while my attention to things Superbowl has not improved at all (I guess 2012 was on me, as well. My Bad.) but I have managed to check in on a quarter or so of the games in 2015, and this year, when I marveled at how unlikely it would be for the Patriots to come back from a 25 point deficit, well into the 3rd quarter. So I shut my computer down and went to bed.

Patriot Nation? You are welcome.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

On Borderline as Punchline

There is a line in Humor, a border, if you will,
between making fun of the already marginalized
or moments of trancendent defiance. Punching up
vs punching down. A young poet makes a joke
using Borderline Personality as a blunt weapon

to make political haha. The inaccuracy of shooting
from the hip diagnostics aside, he doesn't just miss
the funny, clearly he made no effort to be accurate
either. Ridicule is easy, and that's not even the point.
Let me share how Borderline feels from the inside.

I live my life on the outskirts of Hell, all the time,
and that Hell is me. I know they must have broken
the mold the day I was born, because I came out broken.
Made bad somewhere fated and deep, flawed
crystal, rogue bit of virus code, secret mutant freak.

I live on the borderline of a drought and a volcano,
I call those my emotions. I'm never sure which
place I'll go when I know I'm about to act out, except
I know it will be the wrong one. Because that is
what I am, that is the damage I do with my feelings.

Borderline is living with an infection of phantoms;
a wine-cellar of every hurt ever felt, carefully vintage'd:
the year, the details, the pain fresh again; and helpful notes
like, "True Love, 1985. A deep, heart-stab red, with hints
of dead hopes, faded flowers, and anything crushed."

Borderline is every bad memory gets charged negative,
I'm positive, every time. I attract them by just being me.
Also why I inevitably repel away from anything positive,
without meaning to, because that's how magnets work; also
I do the Math: Life equals a sum I subtract myself from.

I want to end this poem by saying you didn't bother me,
I want to end it by saying I forgive you, by saying go read
a book and learn something. But let's stick to Comedy:
how many dull comedians does it take to make light
about someone else's struggle? This too, is an easy joke,

but I bet you don't want to be a punchline either.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sloughing Despair

Despair sets a sink-hole in my bed,
this terrible gravity says not to rise;
delineates the way seeds of failure
are in everything. It tries disguising
itself as a womb worth giving up

everything else for. I stare at my skin
and listen to the histories of atrocities
and lies for which it has been the flag
of the conquerors. It never changes, 
it's always been this way, always will

be this way, nothing we ever try to do
will make difference. Still, I've made it
as far as the shower. I stand weeping,
and drenched, and if I imagined this
was the world's blood, I would give up

and die, today. Instead, imagine my skin
as I scrub, dropping a river of the dead
skin cells, to be washed away where
they can change into food or compost
for something to grow. They're a loss

necessary for things to grow, even if
it is just a dandelion cracking asphalt.
Despair can be just like dead skin cells:
we are all covered in it, but we wash
it away, if just for today, and try again

Friday, January 20, 2017


I fear the darkness
less, when I light a candle,
even just the one

I wish for you all a strong candle
I wish for you a path through
I wish you nimble thoughts and gifts of fire on your tongue
I wish you clever umbrellas

I wish you a secret identity if you need one
I wish you an camouflage safe house home
I wish you a name for the dark that makes it smaller when you speak it
I wish you deep meals and good sleep

and you can take this
candle, light the next one, you,
already less alone

Thursday, January 19, 2017

3am haiku

I worried I might
have Impostor Syndrome, or
else I fake that, too

Monday, January 16, 2017

Remembering Jack

I can still hear Jack, his voice
resting comfortably in the back
of my head. He is gentle, often
with a subtle slice of sharp wit,
and if he cannot help, at least
he tries never to do any harm.

He agrees with me on waking
up; how that can be harder
on certain days than on others.
But up, we must. What choice
do we have but to do our best
effort and let go of the results?

I have his books, photographs
of the both of us, and enough
memories that I fear to lose
if I do not write them down
in time. Because time is all
I have in place of him now.

So, I nod, corrected, his child
& student; both really. I go
to a meeting; let go of grief
a little. Jack you didn't live
to see me sober. But I try to be
gentle with myself, even so.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

... Or As Needed

I take eight different medications
on a daily basis, with another three
in case of emergencies of muscle
or bone; two pills to keep my blood
pressure numbers closest to human
as possible; two for all the sorrows
that still live and feed beyond me

or my ability to cope normally; plus
a pill for how anxious I feel because
of the number of pills I have to take
everyday. Lastly, three miracle powders
I have to inhale to keep the billowing
sails of my lungs full and open to air.
I am as defined by the cures I've tried

as I am by the chronic ills they targeted.
I'm a war waging under my skin; found
by following prescription paper trails
appointment calls, medical records, and
medical records and medical records...
"Chronic, incurable, slow. Treatments,
but no cure so far so far as we know."

Monday, January 2, 2017

The God of the Forgotten Gods

Prompt: You are an attendee at the annual Convention of the Lesser Gods.  You meet a deity whose last worshiper died this last year. Share the conversation you have.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***

When entities have been forgotten, become lost
and unfriended, they come to me. In the Days
Before, this was something of a certainty; now
I find myself unsurprised in whole new ways.

If you are going to choose only one belief
about Gods, choose this: not a single human
knows anything. No one has ever begotten
an accurate description. They get it wrong.

Always, some fabric-unraveling inconsistency,
rises and their well-rounded, enriched religion
is revealed for what it is: a child's drawing
of the indescribable. Usually Super Heroes

of some kind who are better and kinder, or not.
Some are just bigger and all children know this:
the biggers can push around the small of them,
because they can. Of course they worship that.

Gods and Heavens don't exist unless they do,
that's as accurate as any anthology or liturgy
gets. What happens to discarded Works of Men?
Where do Old Gods go to die of quiet isolation?

They come to Me. Preservetus, the God
of the Forgotten Gods. They come because
I remember their names when names die,
remember their High Holy Days, remember

the things they like sacrificed, the essence
that a litany of voices is crucial to maintain.
I mean, I bring them meals and sing songs
only they and I still remember the words to,

for as long as they can yet hold their shape.
Afterwards I put them to sleep in grounds
beyond the reach of dream or supplication;
a place where the Gods are safe from men.

...throw a prayer into the air,
see is someone's listening there.
count to one starting at ten,
see if anyone's listening then...