Monday, March 31, 2008

She whirls in the darkness

in a dance of heart-stopping


her every lithesome move

the definition

of movement itself.

Her leaps and pirouettes

would stun the Kirov's

stars, but none will

ever sit in jealous awe

as she performs.

Her theatre is closed to all

and she would sooner

burn it down

than let a coarse and barbarous world

be blessed by her tender power.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

You can set it down now.

You've carried it one hell of
a long time,
and I wouldn't be surprised
if it's made a permanent dent in your
shoulder by now.
I will admit, however,
that that old piece of wood
you've lugged around
for so many years
has really become part of your
identity, although maybe not
in the way you imagine when
you're alone and adding up
the outrages
that have been committed
against you that day.
You've been showing it off
for so long that even the people
who used to wonder
when you were finally going to reach
Golgotha have stopped asking
about it.
So you might as well dump it
in some place where it'll
be handy for the garbage men to pick up.
We got the message a long time ago.
Now you're just becoming a bore.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The days melt away

and so do I.
There will be no trace of me
some day
except for the records
kept in electrons
and those will die out
forgotten in some
indecipherable corner.
is a mug's game.
But ever since Gilgamesh
the suckers have been
laying down
the coin.

Friday, March 28, 2008

You'll miss them someday,

the gentle moment of holding that little girl
in your arms,
that moment of standing in the new light
of a forgiving morning,
the surge of strength you have to lift
those heavy branches,
or that tidal wave of ecstasy
in a shaded place
with the one whose love
keeps you whole.
They will pass through your fingers
faster than the time between vivid dawn
and looming darkness, never to
return to your hand again.
Never let the mundane world
sell you the lie
that they are too commonplace
to be worthy of your

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I used to say

that I wanted to see its true face,
no matter how terrible,
and drink its essence,
no matter how bitter.
But I never actually wanted
to do that.
Rather, from a safe distance,
one where I could get
something to eat
whenever I felt like it
and curl up with the cats,
I wanted to
read about
how other people had
had to march through Sheol.
I know that on one level
that makes me merely
a voyeur of the suffering
of others.
But I didn't will their agony
and I don't revel in the accounts
of the horrors that raped them.
And my going through them
wouldn't undo any of it
on their behalf.
I wanted to know
because I felt
someone should remember
what had happened to them,
however loathsomely
comfortable that someone was.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Every joy you have ever felt

in watching a little kid's giddy delight,
smelling a new morning's ineffable promise,
spooning with a special partner in private,
unspoken bliss,
having an omelette so good it deserves an award,
feeling your soul opening up like a crocus
on the first warm day of spring,
or embracing a friend you once thought
would never be in your sight again
but who is now vibrantly real in your arms,
is not an escape,
an aside,
an aberration in the scheme of an
indifferent universe,
or a denial of reality.
Each of those moments is a victory,
complete and total in itself,
over gray, exhausted despair,
an affirmation that the term real
isn't just reserved for tragedy,
and a reminder that life
is more than the sum
of its tears.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

It was so much easier

when the roof was just a few miles high
and the magical constellations
glittered just beyond the top of the ziggurat,
rotating around us in a flattering,
glorious procession.
It was all so wonderfully compact
and understandable,
and we counted for so much
in the eyes of the wide-eyed
gods that stood in silent
judgment in the temples.
The dazzling nightly show
had been created with
only one audience in mind,
and those who watched it
and saw in it the realm
of the perfect,
knew that the only futures
it would ever predict
would be theirs,
and theirs alone.

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's a day for doing

on the spur of the moment.
There needs to be no plan,
no elaborate route
covered with cheery little
colored pins,
no map with notations
written in nice, clear
printing on the side.
Some days
I just don't care
where I'll end up.
And for some reason,
that's usually
when I find myself
in the places
with the most
interesting scenery.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Most of 'em

don't know where they are.
Most of 'em don't know
where they've been.
Most of 'em don't know
what they are.
Most of 'em don't know how
they got this way.
Most of 'em don't know
who they are
(if they think about it
for longer than a cigarette break).
Most of 'em have their hands full
just winning the battle of day to day.
Most of 'em wouldn't be able
to fill up a school notebook
with what they remember
from the days when they used
to own one.
For most of 'em, the world is
just "out there" and
other people are mostly "they".
But still most of 'em
think they know the score,
got it figured out,
know where they stand,
know what it's all about,
and by God they know
they're right
about the Big Stuff.
Whew. Must be nice
to be that sure.
Makes me kinda

Saturday, March 22, 2008

They think I'm helping

to prop them up.
If only they knew
the Cedar-of-Lebanon sized
timbers that they have placed
under me.
Some days, all that
keeps me from
wanting to vanish
into the lingering night
is the knowledge that
they might need me
(or rather, think they need me)
and I wouldn't be around
to offer them
my shopworn solace.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Was The Preacher really

as exhausted with life as he sounded?
Or was it simply weary disgust
with the ones who were never satiated,
no matter how deeply they had drunk,
and those who could never simply
enjoy what was in front of them
rather than ache for what was just
beyond their desperate, relentless fingers?
He saw that a time came in the
life of even the most
flesh-gorged hunter
when the days offered
no joy in the fresh kill,
and decline and sorrow became all.
It will never be any different,
he said in his
sun scorched realism.
In the background
I hear the carnival barkers
shouting "God wants
you, yes YOU to be rich"
and I have to laugh
as I raise a glass
to him.
Right on the money, again.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

They stood on the hill together

looking out over the treeless plain.
Behind them were only unburied dead,
felled by the malevolent spirits
who had flicked out their lives
as easily as
one would brush away a fly.
What they had fled
had been their home
ever since the forest god
had created it, but it could no longer
be their destiny.
After they had wandered for a day,
the elder was overwhelmed
by a fevered vision, and said,
with cascading worlds in his eyes,
"We must go to the
unknown lands, even beyond
where our hunters go.
Only there can we escape
the Death Curse."
So they had come to be gathered
in this place of desperation, the
last of The People.
Swallowing his fear, showing no sign,
the tall one said simply,
"Keep on. We have to make camp
by nightfall."
And with that, they began their
two hundred thousand year

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I want to be like

and lie on the damp earth
in transcendent exultation,
loving the very act of being
I want to be able to say
along with him,
that we will all see each other
and say it with the joy
that the great Russian writer
has him feel.
And I have to laugh.
What does it say about me
that I even now envy
who never existed?
It's just that it's been
so long...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The messages emanating

from the atom-sized world
fade out into nothingness,
disappearing forever.
Those sending out the hopeful
are more lost in the cosmic
than they could ever dare
to imagine.
Nothing they do
or experience
or think
or believe
means anything outside
of the atom.
If the microscopic world
were to suddenly
the only epitaph
its inhabitants could ever
hope for would be a moment
of incredulity from a distant
astronomer, who might turn
to an associate and say, "Did you
see that?"
(And need it be said that the
reply would be,
"See what?")

Monday, March 17, 2008

He wants to believe in it

because it is woven into his
instilled by innocent songs
sung in kindergarten circles,
and brave veterans speaking
on warm days in late May.
It's an almost mystical
presence in his mind,
the vessel he's on in the
ocean of humanity,
his home, his hope, part of the very
definition of himself.
When he saw those who had chosen
to fall rather than burn
on that beautiful late summer day,
he loved the others on the ship
even more than he ever had before,
and wore its flag with
fierce, tribal pride.
So part of him dies
inside when he hears
of the night horrors
being done in the name
of keeping him "safe",
because he needs to know
that his brethren not only
can win, in brute, raw firepowered
displays backed up by
the timeless courage of
the warrior,
but that what they will win
will still be worth having.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

They swirled about

in the ethereal "place",
great yawning clusters of them
in tight print and well-defined
armies of words flung
like javelins,
filled with fiery
argument, impassioned
pleas, here and there some
reasoned discourse, mountains
of information being thrown
back and forth
like baskets of earth in a dirt fight,
rivulets of consciousness running
in bizarre directions, and everywhere
tangential branches building funhouses
and magic mountains.
There were hundreds, perhaps
thousands of contestants at war,
some persisting in the bloodshed,
others making quick entrances
and faster exits.
After several hours
the constellation of language
grew cold, its members
spent or disinterested,
and its stars broke
away and became parts of new
galaxies of sound and fury
expending their energy in the
smiling vacuum.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

This is our day.

You cannot have any of it.
It is for us alone,
the two of us savoring
the transient delights
of a day like none other,
living in multiple worlds
at once,
immersed in them and
shaking off the ordinary
with neither thought
nor brittle regret.
You cannot interfere today.
You cannot try to drag me
into the charnel house
I will not go along with your
reptilian alarms and your frantic
efforts to shove tragic photographs
in front of me.
I brush them aside with ready
contempt, lest I give up more than
a second's worth of effort.
She and I are too important
and you are too tiresome,
too old,
and too limply malicious
to matter.
This day is my victory,
our victory,
and your pathetic attempts
to prevent it from being so
will simply make my victory
that much sweeter.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I wish I could

travel back
into the history of some
dark gray family
and grab the first son of a bitch
three hundred years ago
who told his oldest son
that you keep your wife
in line
by slapping her around
when she talks back
or won't put out for you.
The son would have witnessed
an inspiring lesson
from me
on why it's a really bad
goddamned idea to
treat your wife like a
sparring partner
who doesn't get to hit back.
A lot of Saturday nights
in the long decades after that
might have been a lot less
and a lot of sons
might not have learned
so much
by example.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Christian women who have loved me

have all sought to
pull me into the Kingdom
not by fire and brimstone
and threats of demonic retribution
for my wretched apostasy,
but by gentle suasion
and a kindness born of the
effort to follow the
Perfect Example,
however imperfectly.
I have never loved anyone
more than they, but not even
their patient ministry
has been able to put down
a doubt born of the belief
that words matter.
And when
those who heard the first
soaring-hearted message
did die without seeing Him return
with power,
there was a sad truth there
I can't look away from.
I stand on my promontory of
charred disbelief,
and I see them beckoning to me
with the pure light of agape.
I wish I could grab the silken
life line they have thrown me,
and join them
in their golden hope
that all is forgiven, if only
one asks, and that death need
not concern us,
if one believes it has been vanquished.
But the world is still here,
and it wasn't supposed to be
any more.
I can do nothing but accept that,
however much I wish I could
know their embrace,
and however much
I would like to believe
that the end is simply
the beginning,
and that the Christian women
who have loved me will
some day greet me as a radiant group
and say, in voices brimming with
happy laughter,
"Told you so,"
in unison.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

There will be no

Disney happy ending
for the children
of the Great Rift Valley.
They didn't get to be the
landlords by handing out
free lemonade and cookies.
(And God knows, old habits
die damned hard.)
I know too much to believe
that a crew like us
could ever set out for the
Great Shining Horizon
and do anything except
fall on our faces in ways
that would inspire
awe and wonder
in the minds of anyone lucky enough
to have not lived through the attempt.
I would settle
for a final evaluation
that read,
"pretty good",
"not bad",
"a hell of a lot better than it
used to be",
"all right",
"it'll do."
I stopped looking
for that island
the decapitated Chancellor
wrote about
a long time ago.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

They didn't live in

high drama.
They lived in the world of
the eternal commonplace,
the quintessential ordinary,
and the unchanging routine.
The people above them,
to whom they were invisible,
were the ones who had the eloquent,
impassioned arguments about
the true essence of the world or
the efficacy of syllogisms, or
the Mandates of Heaven, or
the nature of reality.
The ones covered in dirt and mud,
the ones who shivered in the winter
and sweated from planting to harvest
didn't read about Augustine's
heavenly city.
didn't discuss Occam's Razor,
had no idea who the Emperor was,
didn't know that the sun only looked
like it was going around us,
weren't there when David
was unveiled,
and had never heard The Messiah.
In fact, they basically missed out
on all of the Really Interesting Stuff.
They were too busy getting practical
on why you never wanted to become
too emotionally attached
to a newborn.

Monday, March 10, 2008

All it would take would be

a single
unforgivable sin,
not the kind that pursed-lipped
celibates condemn,
but the infant put on a bayonet
in front of his mother.
Is it really possible
that almost anyone,
standing on that short,
ancient ledge
on which we were all born,
could voluntarily
make such a jump off of it
into the inconceivable
from which
no return is possible,
and where one's
only companions
are the others
who have wrung their own soul's

Sunday, March 9, 2008

It will not miss us

at the end.
It will not yearn for the days
when we wandered in
microscopic abundance
across its randomly
chiseled face.
It will not reflect on the marvel
that was the thin scum
coating its surface at one time.
It will not mourn for the days
that could have been
but weren't.
It will never have been
Mother, and it
never will have been
or any of the
thousand other
wishful hallucinations
the micro-beings may have
believed it to have been.
It will not wish the thin, sticky
was still sloshing around its outer rim,
proliferating and diversifying.
Whether the micro-beings'
are there to be swallowed whole
in Sol's death agonies
or not
will be a matter of profound
indifference to it.
None of the
hypnotic chants,
delirious songs,
and lovely words
thrown at its eternally
deaf ears
will ever have been
The summation of its
history will be:
It was not.
Then it was.
Then it was not again.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

In them

there are
nameless faces.
Disembodied voices.
Dali landscapes.
Warping time.
Shifting roles.
Strange juxtapositions.
Lost characters.
Nonsense dialogues.
Blurred identities.
Sudden illiteracy.
Crazy images.
Deep emotion.
Wondrous abilities.
Terrible threats.
Changing scenery.
Frantic lateness.
Frozen legs.
Perilous falls.
Resurrected beings.
Forbidden lovers.
Lunatic revelations.
Startling inspirations.
Do they
also contain
deep meanings,
profound thoughts,
personal insights,
or perhaps
royal roads?
Or are
they just
white noise
emanating from
deep recesses
of the
ancient mammal
crouched within
us all?

Friday, March 7, 2008

They had thought of everything

in preparing him
for his journey across the river
and his meeting with Anubis.
There were the gold adornments
to enhance his glorious countenance.
(And could it have been otherwise?)
His sacred cats had been preserved with him
so that they might sit in their lordly,
insouciant way
in the next world.
A beloved servant had been slain
in order to continue his service
in a higher dimension.
The great king's internal organs had been
thoughtfully placed in beautiful
jars, not far from their original home.
There were even delicacies
of meat and drink to nourish his soul
as his spirit self traveled
to its eternal home.
And as I examined the pictures
of it all, I felt a twinge of sadness
come over me.
Not because he had died--
but because he had
believed that
those carefully wrapped packages
of preserved beef
were going to come in handy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The call came in the early evening

and my brother-in-law, on the other end said,
"I don't think she's going to make it
through the night".
My wife and I jumped in the car,
looking for the unfamiliar hospital
the assisted living home had sent her to,
grimly resolved to get there
before the final curtain call ended.
We found her in a room ghastly
with fluoresecent light, hooked up to
a host of devices trying to save her
from the endgame the pneumonia and
the heart disease were playing with her
to the point of checkmate.
I couldn't tell if she was still aware of
anything any more; her eyes were closed
and there was no hint left of consciousness.
We consented to more morphine, just to be sure
she was being eased out as gently as possible.
Whatever had to be said, had to be said now.
Unexpectedly, a lifetime had to be distilled
and expressed in words that could only fall short.
The final reassurances that God would now
take her into his arms;
the last thank-yous for all she had done,
said in breaking voice;
the final expressions of love
said both out of affection
and as a way of paving a road with
tender words
to accompany the journey to the light.
My sister, who had ministered at many
such bedsides, said, "They're there one minute,
and then they're not." A few minutes
after midnight, the gauges all
went to zero, and it seemed as if all the
air suddenly left the unconscious body
before us. "They're there one minute,
and then they're not", my sister repeated,
as grief took hold of her.
The kind and sensitive nurse,
who had seen many of these departures,
sent for a physician to make the call as
we sat, disoriented. The young intern arrived
some time later, and made the formal
pronouncement. (Perhaps his first ever.)
We left for a sleepless night, and my
sister took the burden of the arrangements.
My brother-in-law later said when you
remembered as an adult, you could accept it;
but when you remembered as a child,
that's when the tears came.
He was right.
The earth has gone around the sun ten times
since that night when my sister, my devoted wife, and I
said a final prayer at her bedside.
The road had been hard for her,
but she had survived long enough
to claim a small piece of this world as
hers, and hers alone.
Her virtues ultimately overshadowed
her faults,
and in the end her decency, her kindness,
and the example of bravery she left,
are the images and echoes
that will never fade.
And part of me will always be
that little boy
watching her make a cake
as the yellow sunlight
comes through the front window.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I once said

that anyone who was happy
was a fool,
or simply in
of the Guernica-like obscenity
that this world really is.
What I didn't say
was how much I yearned
for what I despised,
and how much I wanted
to let go of the
horror show,
and see a reality
that is more
than my gruesome
Morality Play's opening act.
Maybe it takes more
to lift my eyes off the ground
than I used to think.
But I'm hoping that
if I do muster the strength,
I might see a reason
to be a fool after all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The genuine kind

can only find a home
where it's ready to be
It doesn't like the idea of simply
it wants to explore the outer
boundaries of shared experience,
sensing that
at that limit, dazzling possibilities
may reveal themselves.
It's willing to bear any burden,
however forbidding,
but it will only survive
as long as it's respected.
It's not indifferent to appearance,
but it's more interested
in the unique history
beneath it.
It knows the difference between
being self-conscious,
and being self-aware.
It lives in the moment,
and beyond it
at the same time.
It will never be understood,
and ultimately it's more
important than the
mere fact of death.
It's about sacrificing
"me" to become "us",
and in doing so
finding the real me
for the first time.

Monday, March 3, 2008

He wandered into

a room so enormous
that he could no longer guess
its size, or even its contours.
Windows high up on its walls
let in light from an unknown source.
He had been there more times
than he could count, and, improbably,
it seemed bigger every time he came.
There were unthinkably huge stacks
of paper everywhere, some of them
brightly colored, others a grayish white,
others wildly hodge-podged with papers
of all shapes, sizes, and hues.
On columns (more numerous than he
could count) other pieces of paper had
been tacked, stapled, or nailed.
There were pieces of paper lying on the floor,
crammed onto lazily arranged shelves,
swirling around in unexpected updrafts,
or stuffed into the various odd-looking
roll top desks that were scattered about.
He wandered the room like an aimless nomad,
picking up loose papers from all sorts of
nooks and semi-hidden little corners formed
by some of the more imposing stacks.
He tried a few of the drawers on the desks
but most of them seemed to be locked
(or even hammered shut).
With a vague sense that something was
missing, he wandered back to his own
dismal quarters and taped up the new
pieces of paper on the walls and ceiling,
sometimes covering up older items, sometimes
putting things next to each other
spontaneously, sometimes losing
track of where everything he had grabbed
that day was.
His home looked like a collage put together
by a designer who was part madman,
part obsessive, and part whirling dervish,
one who had been working for a very long time
apparently without much more than sketches.
He sighed, and decided to go back
to the room tomorrow, to see if the
new additions
helped make any sense
of the old ones.
In the meantime, he looked
for patterns in the multicolored
jumble, and occasionally
a small, almost indiscernible
crossed his face.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I don't want to get there

and wish that it hadn't happened
at all,
to wish that there had never been
that slow emergence of
myself out of the mists
of helpless childhood,
to come to the
sour conclusion that the
happy times and the humble
comforts and the laughter
had been eclipsed by the
gray days and the despair
and the dark rage at what was,
what could have been,
and what I never understood.
I want to get there
knowing that it had been right
for me to take the chance on
capricious love, even if I didn't
understand what love had been
(or even if nobody did).
I hope I have the presence of mind,
(and the reason)
to be grateful for having had
the chance to exist at all
in a universe in which that was
a mind bendingly unlikely event.
I hope to see
(and to recognize)
the ones whose lives always meant
more to me
than mine.
Above all, I hope that I look at the
man I was
and know that in some way,
the expedition benefited from
having had me as a member,
however small a garden
I leave behind.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I saw them all the time,

the sixteen and seventeen year old boys
consumed with anger-tinged sorrow,
ready to hurl fiery lightning bolts
at the world if only they had had the power.
Their faces wore the marks
of adolescence's enemies.
They didn't have the bodies of the men
they secretly envied.
They never had the heroism it took
to talk to any of Them, the unattainable ones.
They ground on, day after day,
soaking and marinating in their misery,
not so much disliked by other kids,
but something worse: ignored.
And I wondered, when looking at their
grim, sad, defiant expressions, when the
last time was that anyone had touched
them, when the last time was (if ever)
their parents had given them that reassurance
that no boy will ever admit he needs, but
all of them do.
No friend, no girl, no one
had embraced them since they were children,
or even so much as put an arm around them.
And as I saw them crawling through
the broken glass of their lives,
I realized that people can die
of more things
than meet the eye.