Saturday, October 14, 2017

dear john

(A poem for John Ashbery)

Let me begin by saying I find you incredibly frustrating.

(This line will be removed in later iterations of the poem,
but will ultimately return because it is accurate,
though not true. I’m still deciding). So many things
said and each phrase untethered or tenuous.

What if I aspired to the same dense offhandedness?
Nibbling at the edges of something bigger
than poetry, less than poeisis, when
I would wish to dine.
A passage of some sort and
this is the vessel we are building.
Did you know that poet means maker?
Seeing your collages helped me see your poetry,
though not more clearly.

I’m tired of chasing after your strays, picking up their shit in little plastic bags.

They say you were a beautiful singer.
Well, okay – that’s not true, but I could believe that
you were enthusiastic. Your guests brought wine to the banquet
and drank it all, too. I hear tell there was a lovely burgundy.

Go ahead. The seats aren’t assigned. And weren’t you invited? Please join us.
Don’t be alarmed. We have always been this drunk and disorderly.
But not really. There was that time you spilled your drink on your date
and there was no going back at that point.

There must be a way to navigate this but I haven’t the map.
I turned left when you should have turned right. You are my true north.
Everything is better with Rosario Dawson.
I keep turning left when I should be turning
right. Whose failure?

And what’s with all the birds? Shivering, delicate wings. All
hummingbirds will fit in the palm of your hand. Even a small child’s hand.

When reading one of your poems, we sing together.
I try listening to the parts. I really do.
I try listening to the parts, how the tone shifts
and glistens like rain on the road at night as the lights reach onward,

Once more the lash. How one faces the storm. Whether
it bruises or braces. If I might take your hand. Let’s agree
to disagree with a firm handshake.

Sentences keep running akimbo, unleashed. Language
angles in and you choose whether to bend the knee.
One must ever decide how one surrenders.
I suppose it’s time.

Go ahead. Let the dogs out.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

an 18th anniversary poem for my wife

look; i’ll keep trying new ways to say i love you
in these poems; i’ll keep searching for words –
stringing them into something beautiful, a necklace to
adorn your heart, or this moment, or the years

marriage takes to develop its true glory.
all that time, wear, and polishing
reinventing the surface of things.
if sometimes it is laboured, it is blessed
effort – how we apply ourselves to the task, true

verdict of the heart. where we house our passion
a breathe into it. where we build a home,
nourish it with actions alongside words, true

vestment, a cloak that clothes us with grace,
love the golden clasp holding us close
in the shadow of the future, the next day.
ever at work the hands, purposed 
the soul, the constant finishing of us.

Monday, July 24, 2017

it is okay to grieve

let me just remind you: it is okay to grieve.
it is okay to not know how one might find the way
to a better solution, or any solution.

it is okay that there are no words;
you’re still looking for them,
they are shadows on the walls of a cave,
fugitive and strange. you know what you want to say
but it is only with your body.
or rather, it is only in your body.
and maybe this is how silence speaks –
with the body, and whispers
about changes that are not chains.

and so embrace this grieving.
there is no point in thinking that
something on the edge of meaning
should not bear so much weight,
should not wield so much power,
should not be beyond words
and the way to name this moment.

you have a decision to make.
it is not an easy decision -
though no one ever promised you any easy decisions –
and the consequences are unknown.

write down the words and measure them.
or carry them in your hands to build a monument.
determine their worth.
take a breath.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

rings and arrows

She told me God said
I must marry her,
or he would end it.
I had already purchased the rings.
I wondered if there was a choice.
Sometimes is it good to be alone.

dream 1
we are running (together) from a crowd
they are chasing us and throwing stones at us
we enter a forest and dodge rocks and trees
I look ahead and see an archer, who
aims at me and lets the arrow loose
it (barely) misses me
I hear its zwip as it flies past my ear
I wake up

dream 2
we are running (together) from a crowd
they are chasing us and throwing stones at us
we enter a forest and dodge rocks and trees
I look ahead and see an archer, who
aims at me and lets the arrow loose
it does not miss
I feel its thud as it enters my ribcage,
pierces my heart
I wake up

The book said the priest shall take a wife in her virginity.
She was no virgin.
That hadn’t mattered before.
I’m not sure it matters now.

Friday, June 2, 2017

the weeping

Today, in the shower,
nursing my migraine,
as the hot water hit my neck,
I began weeping.

Years ago, after 3 accidents in 2 months,
I was getting a message and,

as the masseuse broke up the fascia,
I began weeping,
my body wracked with sobs
as she pressed out pockets of flesh
where I had stored fear.

Now, I sit in the dark
and close my eyes.
Lean my head back
and strain to hear your voice.
It has become so small.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

this is how

we gather in a circle
join hands
i’m going to pray now
i will pray in tongues
the language of heaven
bathe you in confusion
until something bubbles up
and i find the words

i would burn the incense
i would anoint the altar
i would sacrifice the lamb
but you would not understand
why i won’t let go
even now
i recite the words
half-believing them

Saturday, May 6, 2017

cento for lisa 2017

the way to fall in love with you
is to walk your muddied fields, your lanes, leaning into the light.

mostly, my tongue leans to the good side,
casting out a mile long line of filament words, thin and flimsy.

did you hesitate? i wish it was enough;
a simple question reaching out its tips
to call them back
home. we soak them in, sustained.
you think you know the preparations you make.

i’ve missed you so much
lapping at the edges
and I can't stand here all day waiting
at the thought of missing you.

still, i see clearly what today will do for yesterday,
where the purpose that has been written,
the divine, shines through this final dwelling.
we sit in stillness.
walk in measured steps
searching, desperate amongst the garden stones.
a boulder of a day, they say.
a walk through the thickest fog.

in the beginning it was always there;
it chased me down in my dreams:
whose face had been freshly kissed enough
to measure? to fill? and then?
spill over. and then? repeat.

when all the serious questions get answered,
we are finally here in a room with no lies.
i need to tell you something
whispers when i have trouble remembering the dream you dream.
sometimes the words return.

the sound of your laugh
is enough. i lean into you
sometimes. i think i've forgiven you. sometimes
we buy back time by sacrificing
one another.

Sunday, April 30, 2017


1.   this is where i ask you for permission.
2.   there are things i must tell you but i must tell it slant.
3.   i weigh the words carefully, and you weigh the words carefully.
4.   polish. over and over.
5.   there are no containers for holding light.
6.   unless bodies.
7.   so emptied we reach for stars.
8.   or other bodies.
9.   permissions.
10. more bodies.

11. sometimes the way forward is through.
12. i know that’s a cliché.
13. does that make it any less true.
14. do we embrace clichés because they are true.
15. truth is derived from the proto-indo-european root deru.
16. or is it dreu.
17. they’re both true.
18. i’m working at being steadfast.
19. let me find my roots here.
20. shape my hands into instruments of peace.

21. there have been so many conversations.
22. volleys and volumes and side glances cast askance.
23. grant me an audience.
24. friends, lovers, countrymen, lend me your ears.
25. gather to me.
26. all the prophets.
27. open up the dark.
28. gather up everything that leaks out.
29. build whatever best houses. 
30. i give you permission.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

and so, poetry

Art is anything you can get away with. Andy Warhol

Art is anything you can get away with. Marshall McLuhan

and so, poetry. this thing that demands you be brave.
that doesn’t mean confess your sins. though sometimes
that. unburden. who does the heavy lifting?
Leonard said the Spirit does. maybe. pfft.
all I know I haven’t the strength to convince you
of anything more. any more. this poem is a weak container.
just you sit there and wait. there’s more coming.

is this the burden of language. the hope
something sticks. i’m doing my best. i really didn’t
have fun doing it. i haven’t always done it
since i was a child. not really. not really.
because this is poetry, and the intent is an invasion.
inter/ruption. infection. in. let me in. inne. with/in.
so there you have it. good luck.

Friday, April 28, 2017


she was beautiful,
though a boy.
i can only speak of my ambivalence
about that.

she wanted to be a poet
“because poets know about words
and how they mean.”
i’m not so sure about that.

there are always gaps
between intention and perception.

“poetry is like dancing,”
she says. then again,
you never know who you’re getting
as a partner.

she likes to go dancing.
she mostly goes alone.

she likes to go dancing.
it is the only time she feels beautiful.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

how often we say

we’ve had ten thousand
conversations, you and I,
and still you refuse to change.

are these whispers or prayers?
how often we say flesh.
how often we say spirit.

the arguments keep piling up,
the excuses forming walls.
accusations are flung from the towers.

we need more watchmen on the walls.
hand them trumpets and torches,
let them hail strangers and guard the gates.

we have invited guests carelessly.
i have no idea whose side they’re on.
something sniffs around your door.

i tell you the room is haunted.
you tell me you speak with ghosts.
i no longer recognize these voices.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

soap opera

let me tell you about the gods.
with their petty jealousies.
their sense of entitlement.
their utter disdain.

or not. so easily swayed,
and frail despite their power.
all that scheming –
the soap opera of divinity.


so you slayed the lion,
its skin now a shield.
then they kept you
outside the gates.

you entered a cave
with sword and torch.
you gathered the blood,
saved it for a rainy day.

you kept moving;
you ran for a year.
how long will a man run
to find forgiveness?

you were assigned a task,
so you met with a friend
to plan and drink wine.
then killed your friend. maybe.

you found yourself deep in shit.
you asked for a tithe,
your efforts and time.
the courts were kind.

be careful when planning to kill something.
determine to whom it is sacred.
try standing your ground and scaring it away first.
make as much noise as you can.

you wrestled it to the ground,
rendered it unconscious.
so much wasted meat.
and still rejected.

your unnatural appetites.
every breath like flame.
you fill your belly,
your kisses bridled.

you thought it was all going so well.
you fought hard and long for every attention.
she was ready to give you her belt.
i think that’s a metaphor.

how much you labour!
and that labour so often fruitless.
or tedious. you defeat your enemies.
you use so many poisoned arrows.

you have grown tired of apples.
they are arbitrary symbols.
too easily shaped to other uses.
yet you still yearn for the garden.

you knew you required more preparation;
you were not ready. death visits us all:
hierophants, initiates, contemplatives.
you hold it or it holds you.


you sought guidance
from the gods
and received a jest.

when I told you that
every labour is a gift,
you hid your face.

over and over,
it was never enough.
until it was. until you
confronted them with death.