Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sonnet #121

Nothing's more Christian than the devil's shirt
Dancing in the moonlight like fools after candy
Mocking the devils that fume and stamp as dandies
Laughing away the fear and the dark, and what's worse
To the devil: We take all his toys, thrash them about
Cheap plastic nonsense that's abandoned to discounts
Beggar children earn better than devils; steal the horse
of the devil: tell stories fear and temptations, teach young
that evil is a posture, and can be taken off like a mask
And when the costume is empty, it has no power, no tongue
It only moves when people fill it, no devils exist, don't ask
for their black books, and when the devil is hung,
It was the man beneath the mask that did the tasks
Fear men, fear not the devils: Hell is a Christian song.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sonnet #120

We say we want the truth, but we also 

say that history is written by the victors
And I know I'm not alone in a little gloss sewn
into the edges of my tellings. So, to lectors
At the podium, what's the memory we speak?
Do we aim for unvarnished truth, glazing eyes
of undergraduates, and all strained, stern, bleak
The story without a destiny, without a prize
Just molecules smashing painfully against the walls
And memory is only what happened, how nothing rises
no path converges long, or do we speak a little tall
About the things we think the ancestors advise us
About the way to walk the tale we're meant to keep
Call back, again to myths that whisper in our sleep?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sonnet #119

To live at all we must become the brave,
We have to overcome the shame at nakedness
And let the doctors see beyond the skins
To keep our teeth, we face the drills and lathes
Expand our jaw beyond the point of pain
Let all our secrets lie exposed before the truth
That's carried in our blood and bones and tooth
Of how we live our daily bread and little stains
All that builds into erosion of the organ meats
All that scrapes upon the cartilage and bone
To live pain free, we must feel pain, defeat
We must close our eyes and gather all stones
Gather all the ghosts before us who walked in streets
Paved in pain by survivors. For them, be brave, alone

Friday, October 28, 2016

Sonnet #118

Sleep, if you can, sleep more, if you can

Sleep as if no one is watching over you
Waiting for you to finish all you need to do
Waiting, tapping feet, watching clockhands
Sleep, if you can, when no one is looking
Hiding in dark closets, bathroom stalls
Try not to snore, it will give you away
And draw unwanted attention to the resting
While you are trying to sneak the siren's call
Sleep when someone else is driving the car
Sleep on buses, sleep on benches, wherever fall
is wherever found a little rest. The devils come and mar
the rest with all the thousand little cuts of fearful
half-memories, tiny pinching fingers, whisper howls

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sonnet #117

The painting of the glaciers and icebergs,

impressive in their size, by Frederick Church
Who burned coal to the arctic, saw the watery lurch
of all the frozen, filthy castles, dramaturge
naturalists will exclaim the glory in prose
to preserve what we lost when soon this painting
will recall a time when glaciers hanging
above the slopes of Alaska smothered all roads
A mystery to the young, all that accumulated ice;
The species that lived there in a frozen desert,
The people that died to find the cap of all nights.

Wilderness, remember how to live in this part
When the ghosts of polar bears swim and fight
among drowned castles, without stories, without art

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sonnet #116

When the first fruits come on our perennial trees

The ones we planted years ago, watered, fed,
The ones we researched, cultivated, as well-bred,
When the first fruits come, there's only three
We see them green upon the branches, small
One will be thinned, so that one is gone
It will make the other two larger when done
Two will be eaten by the caterpillars and fall
A rotten mess upon the root, too late we saw
Too late to save. The third and final we absolve
of all sins, pour hope upon the roots and draw
the birds away with seed across the yard, revolve
around her daily, observe the color, feel the weight
We'll pick her unripe, overeager, and curse this fate

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sonnet #115

Imagine if we could reset to a point in life

We could go back and try again to build
the future we desire before we die, keep the wife
we lost, try the careers we wanted, climb new hills
then go back again. I think at first we'd see
The opportunity as a selfish one, a reset
To redo the places where we could not be
what we wanted, eventually we'd get it:
Which children from which line get to exist?
Which people did we help, and who's love burned?
And when we reset whose kiss will be the last kiss?
Eventually, we'd see the reset as a violence, a cosmic spurn
We could go back and climb again with younger bones
but the world we love can't stand on faithless stones

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sonnet #114

I live in a Hispanic district in a blue city
in a traditionally red state. Early voting
began today. 93 degrees, everyone sweaty
Lines long, long, volunteers doting
on the mysterious absence of enough
check-in computers, all these empty machines
not enough computers. It was rough,
but nothing, really, just a long hot line
Like an amusement park roller-coaster,
No guns, no dogs, no hucksters shouting rhymes
Just everyone politely complaining together
(Which is the Great American Pastime)
The revolution has come, we're fighting the power
Stick a thumb in the pain, just by standing some hours

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sonnet #113

What has three hands, a face, and a pulse
And power over lives as if a God, but nothing
resembling a heart, nothing resembling
A soul, a sense of decency, a power that's false?

What never looks back, never feels bad
for what has happened before, just pushing
onward, always pushing, forgetting
all that came before, never happy, never sad?

Study it all you like and see what comes of it
The mystery lies in how we fail to mend
The truth of ourselves into a single daylight
To balance what we really need against the end
The clockwork lie that we must push and fight
Against the ticking, ticking; Just accept, ascend.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sonnet #112

I guess I should write a poem, now
I have a moment in between chores
All morning, I was in the garden, mow
the lawn and prune back, mop the floor
There were dishes, bathrooms, dirty clothes
All the things that let us know we are alive
Is found in the mess we leave in piles and rows
Trailed like breadcrumbs in our wake, we strive
To keep the mess picked up, we make lists and throw
ourselves upon the list, we never quite arrive
At perfection, always one more thing, sisyphian stones
Built up and up we climb, and exhausted, write a poem

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sonnet #111

Experts will say he only portrays a third
of what the party wants and needs, the racist ones
the true believers in crazy theories. How come
we have to not throw out the appeasing two-thirds
over what one third stands and negotiates and delivers?
At what percentage point of racist, sexist madness
do we call those who appease a tribe of badness?
To negotiate with madmen, racists, true believers
in the wickedness of science, in race wars
A third of them still demand segregation,
A third demand to be appeased with Christianity
as an official state religion, the meanest version
where gay kids kill themselves. What sanity
is this? If a third of the club cast such aspersions?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sonnet #110

There's just one book, apparently, we need

The only one to read and study, about humanity
It's a good book, and I enjoy it, when I read
this book, I feel connected to some kind of infinity
But, the connection I feel is just as strong
When I stand in a forest and hear the birds
The crickets and rustling leaves, a peace song
played with the gentlest breath of cosmic words
That construct galaxies, fortify the stars, black holes,
And blow a little breeze through autumn leaves
There's other books I know where I feel the souls
All those histories and mysteries burning and free
So, there is just one book, for some of us to read
But don't pretend to me it's the only one I need

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sonnet #109

Sometimes in the woods, while walking, I picture

Life the way it was a few days back, just a few
When naked, born into the woods, one with nature
Our weak hands, weak legs, we had to make do
No schools and grocery stores, no job but fill
Whatever doesn't make us sick, we eat
Whatever we can reach and snatch we kill
And everything feels the same to us, all meat
All trees and spiny thorns out there, all struggle
in the dark to live, imagine what it took to build
a single piece of land into an orchard, learn to juggle
all the different seasons so we never starve, our guilds
preserving all we know so others will not suffer
We are specialized creatures, now, communities that buffer

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sonnet #108

Make sacrifices to the spirit, if you like
But, the body will demand a sacrifice
And claim the sacrifice, and when it strikes
It will be sudden, another day, then twice
a thing is lost, three times, all in an explosion
Getting older means watching what we think
what is our self is stripped away like an erosion
and sudden sacrifices come, big and small, we sink
Below the tides of what is truly us, what never leaves
Fight it if you wish, shout at doctors, weep and howl
There is no way to bring back the dead, the free
Will never fly home, the bones don't heal proud,
We are bent, and all our great plans are taken away
Our loved ones, our vanities, all sacrificed to stay

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sonnet #107

I planted seeds of Jujube, I kept exactly one

I grew her in a pot a while, The spiny spires rose
It demanded little care, just placement in the sun
When she became too big, I chopped down dead cenizos
She's in a desert spot, rarely watered, never fed
I merely mulch the base of her and pray for rain
Which rarely comes. By all rights she should be dead
A foreign, spindly trunk, a tough thorny palm of pain
Of beautiful yellow flowers twice a season for the bees
Of grape-sized little dumplings green, at first
Tart and sweet, when ripened into a deep mahogany
No named cultivar, just a wild seedling, worst
of all the fruits to grow, but tenacious and strong
I pluck the drying fruits for tea and sing a grateful song.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sonnet #106

The storytellers are to blame for all
The failures in this world of pain and shame
For politicians only do the voters' calls
And justice is defined by tribal lines that name
Responsibilities of the heroic one, how heroes must
Defeat the wicked sinfulness of this trajectory
of life unto death. Fiction is a sinful trust
For conflict and sin are children of a territory
Also shared by myths and fear of death
And shame and guilt and voyeuristic gossip --
Is it any wonder there is injustice in this place
When every story's hero must embrace the tip
of misery to become a great soul, we need to face
the demons, then, to be interesting, all our stories
Must include them, all our best imagined histories

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sonnet #105

Lay the burdens down upon the grass

Where ants may pick upon them from below
And eventually the rain will unmask
The wilted pieces of the load away from stones
Bury stones of burden without memorials
Except the scrape where dirt was pulled away
Eventually the weeds will get territorial
And leave no other marker on the grave
These burdens, now, the stones of them
Will sink through soil in time to join with lime
The weight and press of all the stones, the hem
of crust at edges of the rock, the lines of time
Will merge with all the burdens buried by us all
And we will wake from up the grass, renewed, full.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Sonnet #104

I'm pro-life, but I'm serious when I say that

I want to end the death penalty, end all war
I want to embrace all refugees, suffering so that
A man in a castle can be fat with power;
I want to end the drilling, end strip mining
I want to recycle, preserve the wild places
Against encroachment, No more polluting
No more decaying plastics, Intelligent races
Never live in fear of the knife and hook
Even the mindmute suffer nothing industrial
And the universe is to be explored, look up! Look!
We should be spreading life to the extra-terrestrial!
I don't think the label works with choice and women
Best make a system that's pro-life, not punish one sin.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sonnet #103

Try to imagine the very first square,
I mean the perfect one that could build
A perfect room, a set of cabinets, a chair
Who is the man who brought this out of skill
alone? To build with a hand a perfect tool
Is the beginning of building a human world
We are not the only creatures that use tools
We are the only ones who use tools to build
more tools, that we use again to build tools
And all of them began with a skilled hand
A perfect eye, a narrow piece of stone true
on each side in neat, careful clips, a man
Holding up what he imagined, thinking more
of tools, of futures, of building houses and cellars

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sonnet #102

Physical space is relative for ghosts, I fear
They do not seem to wander far from home
For they come back to haunt us every year
But if they are incorporeal, they should roam
For the planet on which we walk is spinning
And it spins around the sun, which spins
Around the arm of the Milky Way galaxy
Which hurls away from the place we all begin
So ghosts, they are tied not to a place,
but to a relativity, a proximity to energy
The microbiotic life that carries the trace
Of the host they knew. We carry the memory
In relationship to what we touch, to what we know
Unless most ghosts are in the void, above, below

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sonnet #101

How greedy when we pray to God to ask

for more than what we have. Is this not
enough? We are alive, there are flowers, bask
in the beauty of sunsets, the hugeness of what
we see and the smallness, the way drops
of water shimmer on the edge of the sink
the way cats pounce on feathers, crops
coming in, here is the clean water, drink
it all in, the stars shivering heat, decay
into more stars, the vast size of heavens
Where we know we will someday journey
The vast size of smallness, the bread leavined
inside of all souls, the rise that fills us up
And when we pass, the passing of heart's cup

Monday, October 10, 2016

Sonnet #100

Because I could not stop for life, it stopped
for me. Wait in doctor's offices for doctors,
nurses, fees. The body breaks, the will flopped
Life, the way I knew it, warped all projectors
Broke every wheel, changed the way I thought
I ought to feel about what I knew was real
So, life will stop. It will always stop.
All the things we think we must congeals
Into a list of tasks we never finish
The river of time bends, the boat we ride
Strikes rocks where all the rushing fish
Leap over, and we have to wait for tide
Or gather friends and heft the hull across
It's slow, and tedious, but life stops -- life stops.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Sonnet #99

The ones who send to war declare the need to win
And how it great outweighs the need for peace
Projecting strength, protecting home, preservation
of the way we choose to live. The drums of war wreath
the tombstones of the honored dead. Let me not
betray the beauty of their sacrifice, our martyred heroes
When I criticize the machine that had lives bought:

To what purpose were they killed? Our children go
to kill some other children, and we both shout infidel
always hated -- Why go to war? What use to throw
the grenade to shout our wants ahead with shrapnel
And we have to honor heroes to pretend we didn't know
The pointlessness of buried boys, crashed planes, red seas
All paid because we didn't have any better ideas

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Sonnet #98

They meant well, the men who killed the world

They didn't want children to starve to death
They didn't want darkness to frighten poor girls
Walking home late. The fast food killed health
But bought time for women who worked so hard
The oil was good, the car brought wealth
Buy a big house out where the schools reward
The kids who escape the pull of the streets
They meant well, these men, They built their hoarde
pumping good wells, grow so much food, winter heat
Pump so much oil, good jobs in the coal yard and oil fields 
for family men. This way our nation'll never be beat

Of course they scowl once the cost weighs down the wheel
They scoff at folks who tell them off. They'll never yield.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Sonnet #97

Measure a life, and count up the cleaning

How many days do we spend at the scrub?
The wealthy may pay for another for preening
the rest of us wash our own toilets and tubs

Obituaries rarely capture the days
They describe the moments of highest glory
The peaks achieved, the children who pray
We only measure successes, that's our story

Quotidian things, the dishes, the mop
Mowing the grass, and wiping the table
We measure the garden by flowers and crops
But there is the slow growth towards being able

Measure one perfect forgettable day, uninspired
We worked, there was music, then we were tired.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sonnet #96

They cut flutes from stems of papaya leaves

The children do it with a knife, they cut
the yellow stalk, slice a line and heave
their breath down through the hole, but
the song is not melodious, a thin and sharp
sound, like a deformed owl, a tiny loon
The old folk say a flimsy, worthless carp
of a man, a man without sand, just boom
They call him the papaya flute man, hollow
A bellowing strange, a fool's buffoon.

Cut the man from the stem of his fellows
Cut away the green of him, slice his grain
Blow him out, and hear a horn of toy raids
Remember these baubles are not born but made

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sonnet #95

Oh, so contrary, the Gulf Fritillary, marries

and mates on the passionflower vine, but
As soon as the deed, they're empty, they scurry
Away, no passion to keep beyond the rut

They fall like autumn when mating is done
All those long hours feeding, preparing
All to transform for a week in the sun
Desperately seeking the passion while soaring

The passionvine rambles and settles and sticks
It pays no mind to caterpillars nibbling
Ignores all weather, grows long and thick
These impossible blooms, lumenescent siblings

Of martyrs, give me art not of pupation but the vine
The grumpy, stubborn, sticking art made in entwine

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sonnet #94

It happens so fast, the creatures sneak in
They make their home in convenient places
They hunt and eat and chew the shoelaces
The drywall, the cardboard, the wires and shims
Everywhere they creep they make a home
To camp until they have to go away
Everywhere they slip they try to stay
No one wants the chase and fear and roam
Find a corner, find a hole, find a homey stone
Find the paths that keep you safe and warm
Find the food that makes you well, and atone
For all the times the fear has come, charm
the neighbors if you can, but know the bone
will gnaw, the cats will come, the rain, the storm.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Sonnet #93

I call on churches to redefine the family unit

We must not stoically embrace possessions of history
Where men ruled their household like kings of a factory
And obedience could be enforced by rule of state

Where people who are different cannot be safe
There is no safety. Where order works if everyone
Happens to be a kind and generous person
There is no order. Too many evacuees made waif

Too many runaways and castaways off the main
Stems of society, looking to build their own peace
Don't look away from their call to retain
The good of this world against the police
That tell them there is no place to live, to hide
For anyone trying to build their own tribe

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sonnet #92

We have such faith in microwaves that

nothing bad slips through the screen
That we must trust to bind the things that
we cannot smell or taste or see, lean
the hand over the handle, tap the toe
We trust the ones that made the machine
Not to fail and sip out whiffs and glow
of microwavity to pollute the kitchen
We don't even know their names, the makers
The ones who walk the lines and test
The ones who write the standards
The ones who doublecheck. Faith in the best
of man, faith in honesty and happy works
Faith the popcorn package swells to burst

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Sonnet #91

Glass is a liquid that appears so solid,
But to the trees outside the window who
are so old and gently wake and sleep, it
looks like a flood among the eaves, although
The rippling never seems to end, the droop
that descends and descends, weight collapsing
into weight, glass is living, glass is a goop
Translucent, so slowly it congeals, our draping
cloths and blinds conceal it, if we took a picture
every day for three hundred years, we'd see
The tide falling down, the thinning, the sure
certainty of melting into the ground in the
quick flipping of the animation. Our windows are
Simply the perspective of solidity, our frame
To all the whole solid universe:quaking plain