Monday, August 6, 2007


The long ones always end with
some blend of joy and awkwardness.

Petting the foxed receipt that has held your page so
obediently these many weeks of job interviews,
chemo, diapers, mourning, or extended unearned laziness,

you rejoice to find that Huck and Tom are as young
and unalike as you left them, still squabbling over how
best to bust Jim loose. Though you can’t remember

how Jim got caught or which state they’re in or why,
and by now its clear you should probably skim back
a few pages, better yet a few chapters. And as you process

the sighing book back to its slot on the shelf
you feel a little bad for the receipt – all that work
for nothing – though you do take some solace in the fact

that receipts don’t have any feelings, and besides
he looks so much happier there in the recycle bin, lounging
next to a pink soda can atop an orange cereal box.

I’ve never smoked a cigarette, but I imagine the first one
in a long time would feel a bit like cheating
on your promising new girlfriend with that raven-

headed ex whom – let’s be honest – you’re still helplessly
and recklessly in love with. Sure, you’ll regret it,
and if you have any friends that are worth a damn

they’ll shake their heads nice and slowly
as you shrug and suck air through your teeth. But
what can you say? You didn’t like whats-her-face

all that much anyway. All that unwarranted bubbliness.
All those facts. And your friends – they just don’t understand
how good it feels to be someone you haven’t been for a while.

Right now, for instance – sweat-soaked before this perforated
iron locker you haven’t seen in five fat weeks, rubbing
your temples absently while indignant muscles

throw spasmodic tantrums on your legs, chest, stomach,
flanks, and the struggling cords of your neck, lungs
still furious with their torrid heaving, you hmmm

and blink victoriously as a gleaming steel claw
emerges from the stage-smoked cauldron of your mind
clutching a 32, a 2, and another 32, which you’re not entirely

sure about until the black dial catches and the lock tugs open
with its serious click. You welcome the familiar sounds
that follow – the metallic rattling and brief rusty screech

for they herald two goop-filled friends you’d nearly forgotten,
still standing colorful and motionless and patient and proud
with their informative backs to the dented beige wall. Toweled

and yellow-sandled, you marshal them on a slow, pompless parade
that ends at the second shower head from the right, the one
that has never chilled or sputtered as far you can recall.

Having ushered your friends to their scummy tin dish
and the towel, a rental, coarse and faded, to its high
beaded hook, you will twist the knob while taking one big

step to the right, to a safe vantage from which you can
hmph and glare knowingly at this fresh, inviting blast,
withholding your hand until you see some steam.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Seeing men with bellies, guys with
Rolls of fat that creased the skin on their stomachs
And jiggled when they laughed or coughed
Or sat down too fast, I reminded myself

That no matter how slow my
Metabolism got or how busy I got at work, I
Would never look like that, because I
Would never let myself look like that.

Sitting here now with my belly,
Its soft bottom hanging over the waistband
Of my shorts, its pad of fat pressing
Into the cotton of my shirt, I’m bothered

Not by the creases or the jiggling but
Rather my indifference toward them, an indifference
That grew slowly, like the belly. Years
Of scoffing at concern, admonition,

Panic, lament—assuring the mirror in a borrowed
Voice I know called my own that this
Is becoming a man: this dismissal of worry,
This succumbing to want, this letting go.

Looking Yet Again Toward Our Street

No matter how orange these mornings get, we
Keep staring at this blackened walnut stump, all the while imagining
A flipped canoe with both of us beneath it
Breathing hard on the dark water.

Each time my toes
Scrape the slimy stones on the bottom, I know that yours
Are still stretching, and that your thoughts
Of cold involve neither obsidian nor mammoths nor two story icicles
Because you annihilated all of that minutes
Ago with a sip of coffee.

Similarly, if I were to claim that the lawn at our feet
Is healthy, and if you were to rip some up with your toes:
You couldn’t sip the itch away, likewise
Not the dampness. But derelict and hirsute
Would disappear like sugar. The wind

May or may not be cold and quiet on that particular morning.
And whether Daryl’s sprinklers will be tchk tchk tchking
Is something I will probably be too loud-brained to notice.

But this purple—that is something
These two mornings will most certainly have
In common. My feet

In this spot; you puff-faced over there, still thinking
About coffee; and this ragged swath of purple,
Wide and
Lit and fading—far beyond this row
Of roofs about to remember their colors.

Of Cathedrals

Of cathedrals we write in stone
Bearing lemons and grapes in baskets lashed
To our backs—hammering at the
Stone like masons from unseen cities, times.

Always hungry. Even when we empty
Wide bowls that bend the oak
Table with their weight—even when the wine has bubbled
Up to our gullets. Even as our hair

Is blown clean by salt-wind from seas
We sail on more peaceful days, on longer days—
Always smelling the warm wet wood
As though the ocean has just been born.

O we’ll hammer, carry, feast, and sail
Until we can’t do one. And then we’ll cease
Them altogether—incapable of everything
Quite suddenly. Afraid of nothing but days

Swollen with time. Days that balloon to block
The sun and the voices of those who call to us
Asking what can they get us now—what do we want
Now that we’ve stopped, now that we’re resting.

Reheating Fish

twenty seconds is not
enough time to think
about the novel I’m writing
or the poem I have to write not
enough time to call my
mom clip my fingernails wash
the cereal bowl I used
this morning just seven
seconds now wait six
almost down to five
just not enough time for
anything, really, three
just barely enough to
think of things I’ll do one
day when I have some time

Pier 39

opening wings he charges
the other scurries and settles
he charges again the other
scurries and settles again he
charges the other scurries and
hops off the flat wooden rail
and flies across the calm
green harbor toward the barking
sea lions basking obesely
on the low wooden docks
set aside for them a boy
run-stumbles pointing squealing
gull! gull! he opens his wings
and when the boy gets close
enough he turns and flies
across the calm green harbor
toward the barking sea lions

Reading Outside on a Windy Day

An article about type design, about one
Of the masters—how he never waits for

Inspiration—how he always starts
With the h and the o. A tree got loud behind me;

I palmed the page and waited for the gust
To arrive. Once the tree was quiet again

I lifted my hand and resumed my
Reading. The master said no, I’m not

An artist. My best designs are ones
You see every day and never notice.


We do devote a lot of time to fucking—
Doing it, picturing it, and in our sleep
As we lie there, perfectly still and quiet,
We’re fucking her friends and driving fast cars
We don’t own, playing our favorite sports—football
Mostly—then winning and drinking and eating meat

At a table with girls and beer, heaps of meat
That redden our blood and give us strength for fucking.
And after fucking, oh that greasy heavy sleep
We’ve earned, that thick unwinding quiet,
Like a mile long museum of relic cars,
Like a locker room the morning after a football

Game. But it’s not at all fucking and football,
Unfortunately. You gotta earn money for meat,
And if you wanna keep her interested in fucking
You’ve got to have a nice fucking place to sleep.
So we work, settle down, stay still and quiet
While we feel like smashing glass and starting cars

And driving to South America, where American cars
Are royal limousines and the word “football”
Means soccer, somehow. Where world class meat
Costs a buck—hell, you could buy a whole fucking
Cow for ten bucks, I bet. On the beach we’ll sleep
With local girls, and afterwards all will be quiet

Except for the sloshing sea. So warm and quiet
There on the sand - no nightclub music, no cars
Roaring by. Wake at midday, go watch football
At some cantina, a buck for beers and meat
And guac and pretzels. Almost better than fucking.
Stuff ourselves good and feel like going to sleep

Forever, to the distant kingdom of sleep,
Where someone else will make the baby quiet,
Someone else will fix the sprinklers and cars
While we play endless horseshoes and football
And stare for hours at a grill of sizzling meat
Then die one night of a heart attack while fucking.

At last! We’ll sleep on cotton clouds and watch football
All day, surrounded by gleaming cars and quiet
Girls dressed in meat and always down for fucking.

A Sudden World of Paper Clips

One clip horizontal

A mother whale
and her calf

Vertical, fat end up:

The embrace
of silver flamingoes

Pull down the inside curl


Make it horizontal

Mother and calf
part ways

Put it away. Take out two new ones.

Make two trains collide.

Separate the trains a bit. A pair
of anxious eyes.

Make them vertical. Watch
a pair of strangers chat.

Let them kiss
with their hands
at their sides.

Now let them make love.

Let them make love
another way.

Let them rest.

Take one away. See
a lonely paper clip.

Now put that clip to work.

See a lonely paper clip
at work.

Teaching Literature

like a good
lamp a good
professor aims
brilliance not
at the pupils
but the page, where

pupils and
words can meet
and dance as the
pours down un-

A Wave

Gallops ashore and dives across the sand as if,
After days of journey, he has finally reached
The bed of his lover.

Only to discover, of course,
That he is a cuckold
And the last to know.

A good sport
He winks a bunch
As he backs away, though
He is clearly nauseas and in a hurry to die.


After the sixth or seventh caw I look out the window
And spot a crow on the line across the street.
He looks left, preens. Then he is still.
I wonder if that’s him and he caws three times.

He flaps and settles, then sidesteps right with wings ajar.
He steps again. Then he is still. A rattling
Car turns the corner and slows. And honks. The crow
Flies to a maple on my side of the street and disappears
In the green leaves. The car door shuts. A roar

And they rattle away. A far off siren. Wind
Against the glass. Four barks, big dog. I close
My eyes. A bead of water fattens and
Sags, stretching like saliva till he caws.

Old Books of Poetry

A new friend offered some old books of poetry
He no longer wanted, so I stopped by to get them.
I was sifting through the worn names - Eliot, Ginsberg,
And a bunch I’d never heard before - when my friend’s son
Walked in. I smiled and nodded. He gaped at me.

“That’s Joe,” my friend said. “You remember him?”
The boy just stared, his wide eyes scanning my face
Like it was a stain spreading across my head.

Grown men don’t unleash that shameless stare on faces—
Only on stars, or a good film, or on dead animals
When no one else is around. As that boy’s eyes
Dismantled me, I realized why and looked away.

Happy Bear

An apple, a pear, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
land at my feet, dropped from the rail by a bony little one
who turned and ran before they hit the ground.

I devour the unexpected treat, and then I sit
in the shade enjoying the nothing sound
my happy tongue roving my face in search
of crumbs and splotches, which I pack in my cheek
so the thrill can pool and trickle, so I can extend my
slow farewell to that taste of something different.