Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Sonnet #280

the shadow we cast is as much of us
As any bone or strand of hair
For to be a presence here
To be a living moving being must
Needs create a shadow; my shadow
Is alive because I am alive
It dances when I dance and tries
To reach long at end of day’s bow

Extending what I think of as myself
My physical presence into the shadow
Means my footprints are also myself
And the paths I have shorn as I mow
A footpath with just my feet, my lonely self,
To take the trash beyond the kitchen window

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sonnet #279

To all the trees I've killed, an apology:
No death is ultimately devoid of meaning
But all of yours haunt no dreaming
I do not regret my mistakes of botany
That knocked you down to sticks and mud
Also, I stomped upon such seedlings, kicked my feet
to send the birthing acorns to tar and concrete
I took the axe and hacksaw -- traded sap for blood
I failed to plant you well, or failed to water well
I failed, and I will fail again, and trees will die

This is my apology: I'm sorry that life is felled
before it has a chance to paint the sky
and those old bones plane down into my citadels

Your justice will come after three rooster cries

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sonnet #278

The woods are a sacred place, but like all holies
The woods will take your blood, your body
It will drain you, and devour you slowly,
So remember to dress for this church, properly

Wear boots, and tuck your pants into them
Wear long sleeves, a hat, bring water, a small knife
Or, if you're really going on a pilgrimage, then
a big knife, a big axe, bring food, prepare for strife

We left these forests, once, recall, and we killed
wolves enough to scare them off, killed bears
enough to make them skittish. The trees will
welcome us home, but they will rend and tear

Where we hold each other. There will be blood,
Ticks. There will be the suffering of roots.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Sonnet #277

Every sentence must be doing, being

Every thought we have must come in sentences
An actor or participant engages in a thing
We move. We seek. We scurry. We fence
ourselves, inside our minds, to moving, moving
Always doing. We think this way: get busy
living or get busy dying; as if death is a thing
requiring our participation, as if the hurry
is the sign of life; what did i do today?
What did you today? What accomplishments 
will line the walls of your obituary?
We need a new way of talking about existence
That does not demand anything of anyone
To speak without speaking, both did and undone

Monday, December 10, 2018

Fiction Coming Soon: "Tiger" in The Reckoning

"As a one-star Inspector General for the UN’s military police, I was uniquely positioned to assign myself any case that I chose, particularly after many years of hard assignments. I had chosen the matter of the mysterious Doolittle, a sort of multi-national guerrilla artist whose work I had encountered in my time amid the water riots of Bangladesh. The machines were dangerous, like wild animals."

Here in a week or two, my short story "Tiger" will be available in Michael J. DeLuca's The Reckoning 3.

Watch for it here:

This publication is eligible for awards for the year 2018, as well, so read well and adjust your ballotry accordingly.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Sonnet #276

If I am supposed to be a man, to earn
my place among the ancestor ghosts
who earned their place among the holy host
who earned their place when light was a burn
And every day was scratching and long knives
And still they found a way to love another
And still they found a way for peace to cover
All festering coals, I think I should live
a little leaner, then, and walk a little narrower
Where the barrows beckon and hard games
play hard ways until i fall down into the harrower
Let me be a man like they were, if I am to blame
myself for all my sins, allow me strength of scarecrows
To stand strong in the skyline, scare birds with no name

Monday, December 3, 2018

Sonnet #275

Before they burn in autumn sunlight, they
will feast on candlestick trees, golden yellow
as the sun where the flowers feed their fellow
firebirds, to burn without a puff of smoke, they
eat a feast of sunlight, fly to heat, burn with no clouds
Cloudless Sulphur on the wind, the beating wings
Flicker brimstone, dead oak leaves falling
And these little golden flames fly proud
About the place; to decay is to burn a little
To feel the energy being peeled to gone
And in this gentle, slow fire's spittle
New life follows seasons' longest song
Where the leaves fall, brimstone butterflies flicker
And the ruins' end comes quicker, quicker

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Sonnet #274

"We who own the wind," they say, "We own
the sky and ground. We own the wind, how it
blows through the canyons, how it screams, sit
down in a field that we own, too, and know
these men who came before you and took claim
of the water in the sea and the minerals in soil
We planted flags on moons and invented water's boil
We own the process of the boil, we own the same
things everywhere; nothing is new, nothing is not ours."
That is what they say, what they always say to us
That come after them into the canyons and valleys and fjords
That we owe them just standing. At first, we believe because
We have heard this song so much, until we shout
loud enough into their wind, and decide that no one owns us

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sonnet #273

In morning twilight, the moon shone bright beyond
the whisper clouds, a purple blue, a brightest white
I thought to snap a picture of the moon, but I
had left my phone inside the house, the moment gone
I knew, and would be broken if I went and came
again out here, beneath the orange tree; the range
of twilight colors, the shift of clouds, all changed,
the grandeur of this moment moon will never be the same

(At my mother's house, last week we scoured old albums
She said she was amazed at all the pictures with no one
in them, monuments and mountains, wasted ink, common
for now the things she wanted most were family, her children.)

The greatest meal I ever had, I think, was a glass of cool water
On a warm day in summer. Life's beauty lies in such simple affairs.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sonnet #272

The dead leaves and dirty ground will keep the roots
So leave the mess where it is found until the spring
Be patient, for until the music of the frosts unstrings
We never know what swell of song will stomp the boots
What keening winds will come, these broken ruins
Will bear the worst of all these songs to come
And leave beneath the grotesque twisted bones
The sweet of green wrapped up inside the cambium
Be gentle, be patient, leave all the leaves to blow
Allow the stalks to wilt upon the ground
Where fireflies root and salamander stow
Until the rise of sun and heat comes round
There the worms devour and there the toads:
A messiness is living when the symphony resounds!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Sonnet #271

The stone fruits in autumn are an exhaustion

I can understand: They pushed so hard
Into the light, reached every root until exertion
swelled into the bloom of life, a hundred new words

hang from every limb for weeks, and then they break
The wind blows, the dry times come, the storms
And the sun, itself, yawns apart, leans back;
What else can be done but decay a little, let the worms

among the fallen leaves, and let the leaves
we lost become the soil we eat, devouring self
And devouring those we welcome as thieves;
From the outside, we are sleeping, that's what they tell

But what no one sees is roots reaching, ever creating
The stonefruits and I look snowstorm still, roots reaching

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Sonnet #270

The line between nature and man is easy
There is a trail along the ground and mowers
Come to clear the path, but tractors
Don’t travel into trees, so there, a line you see

It follows us home if we let it, where the line
could be anywhere, hidden behind a fence
In empty flower pots where anything's presence
Is allowed - spiders and ants and weeds, it's fine

Let the line fall over the night sheets, where dreams
and possibilities wrestle in the dark, wild places
kept and unkempt, a hidden shadow kingdom
where the eyes look out from darkness, faces
unknown by even us, carry this unknown seams
loosely in the daylight, be vessels for feral graces

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Sonnet #269

All the elders come together, all the young men
and women come, gather where the kings
will stand above the dais, where they ring
the new season of the lord, and we can bend

the ears of heaven with our sacrifices, our prayers
At the very top of lungs, where no king shouts
back and is heard above the din of our voices out
loud, where all the songs we sing are greater

Than all the noise of kings, the cymbals and din
of commanding voices, where no gunfire quells
the fury of the voices, we can shout the bullets down
We can shout them all down, where all is not well
And shout and sing and shout until the bells
of heaven are all that's greater, and rings the crowns

Friday, November 2, 2018

Sonnet #268

My body is here; my mind is not
I get lost on the old trails of memory
Lost in the books that I carry and that carry
Me in return, lost in the way I wish what
I could do to make things better for us
And what I want to do to make my hands
Still, my head still, to try and fulfill plans
And finish what I started: to leave no mess
When I am done. My body is here, but I
Am an energy vibrating in time’s shadow
I will never be here with you, never just lie
In the darkness, where the wood shadows
My face and we can pause together as I
Am an energy, moving and dreaming and off I go

Monday, October 29, 2018

Sonnet #267

We could take it all, someday, you understand
It is possible that man and woman mine it all
And nothing's left in the ground, and drills fall
silent and all the rock down to the lava lands
have nothing left to take -- We live in a finite world
It only feels infinite because we are far more finite
We couldn't possibly make our way among the firmament
We will birth, love, death in only corners, gather pearls
Where we may, and never know the cost of what we take
There is a limit to the soil, a limit to the oil, a limit
One day, we'll scrape it up, and that's all we'll take
Because there'll be nothing left but climate
Burning off what's left of us, the oceans boil to lakes
of fire, and the fever breaks; this place is finite.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sonnet #266

I take great pride in little things, like this:

Any time of day, any time of year, I go
into my little southern garden I know
that there will be butterflies, their whisper kiss
alighting on the flowers, there, planted
to call them down from the clouds --
the bees are always there -- I'm proud
to say they bustle in the vines and shrubs
while I refrain from laying poisons down;

The work, when I am getting to it, shove
a few words down, a few more, grown
from meat in great discomfort, grubs
gnawing and i yank and pull and throw
I know someday they'll be beautiful ones


Monday, October 15, 2018

Sonnet #265

the stories we tell to our children
are the stories we tell to the future
the stories we tell to each other
are the stories we tell to the days olden
It sounds like perhaps I have this reversed
But, listen, when we speak of the past
to the children, we're telling the stories that last
about ourselves, about life's trajected, projected
And we mean them to carry down the line
When I tell stories to my peers, I say
I tell you what, man, I say do you find
that we are alike? Do you remember the way
the same way I remember the way, I'm tryin'
to be sure to take the shape of myself, have my say

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sonnet #264

Even as I know the dreams we're sold are broken,
I dream the dreams I'm taught. The big house, the big,
big kitchen, with the big island and the big, big, big
yard far avenues beyond the reach of subway tokens

My dreams of what it means to be a man break
The world that will be here when I am dead
Our children will stand in ruined suburbs, having spread
our ashes in the fall; whisper curses to our love, how we take

More than we give to the ground, how we
Break more than we heal, how they must
come after us and mine the tombs of cities, how we
hoarded all our failed ease in buried heaps, how they must
look into the sky we burnt for our dreams, how we
Make money and call it love, how they must

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sonnet #263

These men who think they rule the world unto dust,
Do they truly believe their children's children
And their children's children's children will bend
Enough guards to their service, hold against rust
In compounds and bunkers and underwater kingdoms
While all the rest of us are burning and drowning
And all the moneys of the world will have meaning
When there are no countries left to honor income?

The wild places of the world will avenge upon
The ones who believe so much in science and technology
That they don't believe they have to stop open
-ing the tombs of time and burning all the geologies
The men who think they rule the world yawn
Where teeth rise in the shadows of hollow apologies.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Sonnet #262

We never know what will be kept of us

Locked away in memories of those we know
We don't own the memory of us, don't own
The way people talk about the best of us --

The snout butterfly, late summer rains rise strong
So swarms scurry to seek nectar and appropriate leaves
The hackberry's a weed tree, I kill all I recieve
A fast-growing thing, thank god snouts devour on
And on, great numbers accumulating, press towards
horizons and winds, grackles scatter among the drifts
Snatching between cars that smash through herds
Each fluttering tries to carry hope, tries to sift
the sky itself for signs of nectar, the proper tree;
Some live, some die as food or badly - whatever will be

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sonnet #261

the obscurity of my work is a warm blanket
I don’t know how it came to me or when it goes
But here is it, upon my shoulders this throw
Of void between the work I do and the thanks for it

I leave these messages in empty places, ships
In bottles, floating on the sea and if the glass
Shatters I like to think the ship sails past
The battering, and for a while, before it slips

I hope. Without acclaim as a virtue chased
All work exists in my workshop, where I
Know Best what woods to use, what place
To leave it on the shore, where noise rise
And take what I give to the world, to be played
Where I can’t hear the song, my warm happy lie

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Starlight that I see tonight, I wish

I may and wish I might say magic words
To open doors and unburden lords
Of the yoke of history, hand this
To all the little ones with little
Need of war, who see instead with mercy
Or desire for mercy, or burning heresy
Upon an altar of mercy, the fiddle
And the cat that plays fiddles, and a cow
That jumps over moons and dogs laughter
Each piece of a story of starlight and how
The work of night is for miracle workers
The little ones dream unburdened by our history
Invent anew what wishes go to stars, what melody

Monday, September 17, 2018

Writing Talent Doesn't Exist

So, there's this thing we say and take as a kind of intrinsic belief system about literature, wherein some people are just "talented" at writing. I don't buy it. In fact, I think it is more about readers than writers, because saying someone has writing talent is just another way of saying "I don't really understand how this is as good as I think it is, but I really like it." or "Wow, you're younger than ost of the people I like to read, and yet you manage to tell me a story that inspires me! How talented you are!"

This isn't a mark against writers, or readers. But, this shorthand is damaging to writers because it presumes that there is a mark of quality that can only be achieved by the select few, blessed with some kind of miracle that others don't have or can't achieve. It ascribes what is essentially a lot of difficult, plodding and driving work, to the angels and the muses.

There are fields of human endeavor where talent matters, and exists. Music comes readily to mind. There is dexterity and mathematics involved, in very precise measures, and we see children born as prodigies, performing as prodigies, who have such manual skill so quickly, and such mathematical precision. Mozart is a kind of miracle. There's nothing like that in literature. Nothing. Literature has no manual dexterity. You can type with one finger if you like. Or a toe, if that's all you have. There is also no level of complexity or skill that demands advanced mathematics most of the time. There is no Rachmaninoff Concerto to challenge the skill of the person constructing prose. Nothing like that, at all. Our youthful prodigies, in prose, are grown adults in their twenties and thirties. They've been working for years, in some fashion or another, and had to take quite some time to get their work to a place where it is marketable and good enough, much less great to the serious tastemakers of the world. It took time for them to grow as humans before they even knew how to speak in such and such a way, about such and such things that people turn to literature to find. I think if experience matters more than ability, as the age question of authorial "prodigies" indicates, perhaps whatever we're calling talent is something else, entirely. And, one person's amazing talent, is another person's reviled one-star review.

Let's take as our example of "writing talent" James Joyce. To many serious readers, he is perhaps the greatest novelist to ever put pen to paper. There's nothing like the depth and complexity of his work, and the love of serious readers has kept his work alive for decades beyond his death. My dad reads a lot of books. He hates James Joyce's great masterpiece, ULYSSES, passionately, thinks it's absolutely terrible, and complains about it at any given opportunity. A lot of people were forced to read this great, talented author, like my father, and think it's absolutely terrible, unreadable dreck. For every cultural icon constructing meaning out of anguish in the pages of serious literary journals, there are a lot of readers that think that stuff is awful and boring and terrible. Calling these readers unserious does us a disservice, because they are serious about reading what they love. For every reader in love with the work of Dan Brown, of which quite a few exist, there are serious literary scholars who ridicule and mock and despise this work. Bear this in mind, then, as I try to explain why talent doesn't work. None of these readers, the lovers or the haters, are wrong. One of the problems of the idea of talent is that we assume that there is one literary mountain to climb, and the measure of talent is the ability to scale that single mountain. There is room, in literature, for Dan Brown, Danielle Steele, James Patterson, and for John Steinbeck, William Carlos Williams, and Ford Maddox Ford. There are Westerns, and Biographies, and Romance Novels, and Mysteries, and everything in between. Asking me to write a romance novel is going to make me look like an untalented buffoon, at this moment in time. (Give me a chance to take the time to study the craft of that form of literature, then we'll talk.) Asking a great romance novelist to write stream of consciousness about a disillusioned schoolteacher and/or failed actor in Dublin, is likely also a doomed endeavor, without granting them, as well, the time to study that form in-depth. So, in this sense, the idea of talent reeks of snobbery, of this book or style of book being better than that one, this narrative goal being more worthy than that one. Different people are going to love and hate different books. The community of readers that concatenate into a genre community, in their way, will celebrate what they enjoy reading, and call the authors talented, whereas other communities will dismiss them and speak their praise to others, entirely.

Also, and this is very important, calling an authors "talented" attributes to the miraculous and unknowable what is inherently just a matter of work, good ol' fashioned butt-in-chair-stick-too-it-iveness and effort. That effect was constructed not out of the depths of some authorial soul, but from someone poking at something until they thought it sounded right, or angling their head towards one method of speaking versus another that they think sounds more interesting, or some other trick or technique. Getting to the point of something being poked into shape will be different based on the methods of the author, perhaps, but shall be driven by the gulf between what the author wants to make, and what effects are currently extant in the draft at hand. Talent is a phrase that people use to mysticise this process, make it inaccessible, and ascribe people who perhaps do it faster as more gifted than those who do it slower, when both instances are individual creators who are aiming in different directions in different ways, following a voice inside their head and their confidence and their sense of whether they can make it better or not.

When I have heard people talk about what makes someone "talented" it is generally just some combination of the natural voice of the author combined with skill of the writing craft, and that natural voice is an awkward way of describing what is, in effect, an artifact that has more to do with readers than writers. Everyone can learn the craft of fiction, and will learn it differently based on the genre that is the most natural to that voice, or author. It is not useful to ascribe to talent, also, when some writers seem to pick up the craft a little faster than others. Different aspects of craft will be apparent in different forms and techniques. Each story will use and feature different aspects of craft based on what specifically is being attempted. How many of our great authors have trunks full of stories abandoned, stories that failed? Does that make them untalented? We only see their successes, not their failures. It constructs an illusion of skills, when we are not granted the chance to see their weaknesses on display. (If I had a dollar for every successful, working YA and/or genre author I heard describe how they felt like they failed as writers of literary fiction in their college writing workshops, resented it...)

People have always been telling stories, ingesting stories. We ascribe to talent when it seems like it comes from nowhere, but it came from somewhere. Writing teachers and literary critics encounter students who, in their opinion, are further own the path than their peers, and mistake that for talent, when all the variety of skills and insights that combine to form writing craft can come from practicing a lot of different things in different ways. Plotting skill can come from watching television, or playing a sport. Skill with character creation can come from drawing portraits, or engaging in negotiations in business or with difficult siblings. It can come from all sorts of different sources. It is not something that just sort of appears in a child at six or seven. It takes some wisdom, which is always hard-won. Nothing of it is effortless. And, for each and every student described as "Talented", we also suggest unintentionally that they're just going to be good at every aspect of writing when we say that. Every teacher knows that different students come with different gifts, so to speak. Our challenge is to help students identify those parts of narrative craft where we are not fulfilling our potential. That is also our challenge to ourselves as authors. Presuming talent exists, then, is license to sit back on our laurels and coast on what we can "naturally" do without effort, as if even on that path that that is going to be all that happens: as if we will not learn more about ourselves and our dreams and goals and skills along the way each time we start anew.

We ascribe to talent when we see an author with a distinctive voice. Creative turns of phrase, or cultural insight that bridge gaps between mainstream and outsider culture is often ascribed to talent. Again, everyone speaks uniquely to them. Everyone dreams uniquely to them. Everyone has their culture, their histories and memories and nostalgias, their interests and the music in their heart that they love. Everyone has their own unique voice. The application of the craft of fiction to that specific voice can lead to successful literature in a variety of genres. And, no matter how successful it is, some people will think it is terrible, others will adore it, and some will say it just meh, okay, whatever. Authors define for themselves what success looks like, and measure their success against that. What, then, is talent?

As readers, critics, and teachers, we need to abandon the notion of inherent writing talent. It is part of the force in literature that tries to rank things on a scale of greatness, to create some list of the best books of all time, as if that is even a useful exercise, and to push one form or goal of writing as the best one. It is part of the push to make the authorial process a mysterious one, an ineffable divine. It is an excuse that is used by people who do not meet their goals to explain why they (or you) failed - no talent! It is part of the force of literature that measures your success as a creator not by what you think of your own work, but what others think - more specifically, what others in cultural power think of your work. It is all well and good to pursue that imprimatur, if you like, but do not mistake your ability or inability to do so by anything so useless as talent.

There are much more useful ways of describing authors and their work. Focusing in on the very specific things that make that work speak to us, as individual readers, for example, is more useful. Trying to understand why different people love something we do not love, to get out of our own heads, for example, is useful. (That, in fact, is the foundation of literature study in school: Students are forced to read a lot of things much of which they will not actually like and are asked to take it all very seriously and learn from it and understand it.) Focusing on why the author felt that story was worthy of our time, what makes that story important or unique to us, is more useful than saying this or that person is a talented writer, and more helpful to others considering reading that work.

As creators, as well, there are far more useful questions to ask. How do I make my work the most mine? How do I let the things that I know, which no one else really knows, shine through? What form is the most interesting to me as a reader and writer? Where can I go to learn the things I'd like to do better in my own work?

Work hard enough, long enough, and eventually someone will call you "talented".

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sonnet #259

The Word of the Lord comes to all of us

If we let the Word settle in to our skins
If we pause and dream of larger things
Than what we want and what we hush
The Word of the Lord will settle in for all
Who bother to clear the path, unlock the door
And stand at time of darkness shouting for
Our sweet Lord, come in from the dark, we call
Seeing nothing, hearing nothing, feeling It
Rise inside the hearth, and once ignited
Tend with logs as needed to this voice lit
To burn the things that burn through our insides
The Word of the Lord belches brimstone
The Word of the Lord crackles truths to bones

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sonnet #258

When the storms come, the soil swells with water
Four days' rain, it swells the ground, the seeds
Were there, already, they just needed storms to feed
The rise of them; When the storms come, the water
floods the low places, blocks the low streets,
There's terrible accidents, and the weeds
They rise up in every crevice and mud-soaked gutter
They rise up, this bindweed, this amaranth and pigweed
They rise, all those lost bits of rye and zoysia, marigold
and poppies flung beyond the proper beds, these seeds
Were always there. Don't let the pictures of cities sold
to you, those perfect, coiffed bare patches or grassy greed
for all spare ground: The weeds were always here. From storms,
They grow. All seeds root. All drowned -- devouring worms.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Sonnet #257

If everyone is sick and no one is well
(No one who is well stays well for long)
And everything is dying, and everything is wrong
Each ecology breaks against our buy and sell
And every body, too, it breaks, we’re bought, sold
The diseases are investments to the ones who own
They also own the things that sicken, and break bones
But no one is to blame, each share is tinily held
By the very people who are sick and never well
That own the shares in the ones who harm
And the ones who sell the medications to get well
We own our own destruction. It’s ours. It’s warm.
Wrap up in the happy death, the bright slow death
Invest, while you’re living in the graves and wreaths

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sonnet #256

I think I know what comes next for you,
You'll lie awake at night, exhausted, unrested,
Dreaming of a world you can control at its best
And seeing around you all the shoestring and glue
That keeps a day together for you and yours
The signs all point to glory: ads sell beauty, grace
A pathway to material expression, all friends' faces
smile in pictures where they give you tours
of lives best lived, and late at night the trembling
comes, the fears of work and unwork, the horror
of the next interactions with your own dissembling
I know - I know - I know that sleep's a tremor
Passing in shadows, where dreams do no mending,
I say: Abandon These Dreams. Hope, love -- these feed no terrors.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sonnet #255

Things that clean the skin and kill infections:
Salt and acid waters pouring out from inside skin
The sweat that drenches washes us from within
And sunlight dries the damp and mold, is our protection
And moving bodies flush the blood through stiff
The way we move, the hard or gentleness depends
Upon the manner of our frustrations and how well bends
Still it heals, it all heals, all this hard summer heft
I have a stump in back and when I am sickly take the axe
In all weather, I take the mattock and dig and churn
It is not so mighty of a stump but it still grows back
And racing roots I work to break the deepness and spurn
Where all roots spread, to haul it up from earth, my back
Cracks where the metal hits the tree, it heals — I burn.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Sonnet #254

Flow like water, In your life, be water, say the wise

Where I live rich men drain the aquifer
They reroute rivers and bottle up water
From the delicate places, wrap in plastic fly
It over land in huge trucks, or sell water rights to cities
Desalinate for cities, huge, impossible palaces
Cool and soft in hard, dry places, crowded offices
Pull water in pipes up, fountains, green grass, pretty
Where ten miles out the sand blows like Ozymandias
Waiting out the rich men and their water, all that water
Water everywhere, and all of it to drink, our land of this
Rerouted stuff, to reach a limit.
                                                    Flow like water
Say the wise, let life’s flow pour like water, towards the rich
Pour into their labor forces and desert mortgages: don’t resist.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Sonnet #253

Beloved daughter of the beast in question,
Has no words to speak to how her parents met
In fact, I've never heard it spoken, yet
How mother was tricked, held against her intentions
Until the monster's mask was shaken free
By their great wrestling and shouting matches -
She speaks so highly of her father, she latches
to his great work, his great kindom in the trees
When asked about the curse, she says we are all
born with original sin upon us, let us move on
From such tedious subjects as the sins we share all
done in the name of, and let the servants' son
in to serve us tea. Beloved son of candelabras
He was born inherited to serve, and to sing a little opera

Monday, July 23, 2018

Sonnet #252

Let's say we walk away from Omelas
Out into these wide wilder fields
Where the bracken chokes the grass
And the clustered trees scratch not heal
Let's say we live among the trash
That floats into the mangroves from the city
Construct our lone utopias, gather, lash,
what sticks we have to lean-to in the trees

Let's say the seasons come, it's cold
Let's say we know the starving time is here
Let's say Omelas in plenty casts it's hold
In trash we gather to eat and scare the bears

Did we walk far enough, Ursula? Is this enough?
When we are wilder creatures, lean and rough?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Sonnet #251

The vine is handed down from masters,
The methods are more modern, digital tools
An electric range, clean sugar, free of bone...

Wait until the halfturned grape, grackles’ laughter
In the leaves, then pick them tart like fools
To soon to eat, too soon for wine, leave none
Behind. Okay, let’s clean them up, for starters
Knock the spiders out of them, be not cruel
They are good friends, help them back home

And they’ll help the vine next year, the clusters
Must be gleaned, of rot and ruin and insectivores
At last crush, mill and now we’re finally at step one

measure out the sweetness, start the fire, pure the jars
The work more the vine’s, not ours: a sun, long green arms

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sonnet #250

This is why we fight: Because the happi-
ness that we were promised comes in fits
and spurts at best and in between the bits
of time we fill with toil and nothing, lacking
joy while striving for it, there is no contentment;

The rose will bloom in summer, seasons turn
and push and push as miser's advisory burns
the forest down to weeds, empties night music
where the toads are silent, crickets gone, the bird
bones decay in falling nests, where void breaks
no song of memory, the absence of life is a word
that forgets to speak itself, a field of rocks
that forget how to be awash with trees and flowers
No echo of them, either; this is why we fight.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Sonnet #249

The skin of snakes resembles corpses eaten hollow
Upon this open grass, I wonder why she chose to shed
Where no shelter from the sky is, nothing's hid
She broke the scales, and peeled herself anew
Abandoned this particolored cape and pushed afield
On open ground, a busy road, hawks in all seasons
Wild dogs run in the twilight, filthy and mean
The coyotes sneak in, too: in darkness all reveals
The skin of snakes betrays the snakes, extends
Their territories, shining brighter than scat
A dazzling display upon the grass, a jeweled end
A brazen scent for the sniffers, a warning to cats
and all creatures, rattlesnakes roam this bend
Devour themselves hollow, from the inside-out

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sonnet #248

Cicada songs of summer, come to me,
Where life drones on despite the heat
I watch a tiny insect sing above a street
In evening twilight, starlight breaking free
A galaxy around us, an infinite expanse
And this precarious insect's tiny love song
He was born in soil, died in soil, rose strong
from death to sing of life and to dance
Behind them always death, the shells,
a life in transformations come; how
weak we were, we ring our churchbells
Fall in water, say we're transformed now
And transformed again as our husks all fell
We sing among the stars, someday: we know.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Sonnet #247

I will fail again, I know this, so will you,
We'll fail at what's important and what we need
We'll fail also at what matters little, and we'll bleed
for those tiny things. We'll fail, and fail, and be blue
I nearly killed three birds: I thought their nest
was empty in the attic vent, it was not, and their
faint chirps for two days felt like echoes, there
where so many birdsongs echo, until they pressed
against the new metal screen, sad and desperate
Fledglings ready to fly, but trapped, they had hid
While we had reached into the corners, nest despots
Yanking all the down and straw away. We did.
We did. We monsters stapled metal, and it's hot
I failed the birds. I cut them free. I hope they live.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Sonnet #246

I heard some word that God won't give
a weight to you that you can't carry;
I don't believe it. With crap like this, be wary -
It's the thing that people say who give
A little more weight, a little more
Just one more piece, until the straw
Is made of heavy iron and they hem and haw
at you, blame you for your pain and sores;
A camel can't pass through the eye of a needle
Unless its crushed under the weight of god -
He smashes you down, with help from the Beadle
to smash you down more, more weight, more rod
cracked hard upon His errant child, God will wheedle
You can carry what I give. I know better. Be awed.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sonnet #245

We call it a moment but it is all movement
We are always dancing to a song we might not hear
Of storms blowing through, of leaves curling up
Of insects cracking through their own shells
We call it a moment, this picture of movement
Held Still, smile for the camera, if you can hear
The click of light remembering how we lift up
And lift each other up get fat get thin - the shell
Of us is always changing, we are in movement
Pass between each others’ hands and listen, hear
The way we sing for each other as we speak up
At a cosmic sky we point our children to the shell
Of earth and sky and claim dominion here as if a moment
As if a permanent domain, but we are in movement

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sonnet #243

"What was my face before I was born?"
My galaxy was neither born nor is it done
Swirling into some final dance of bright suns
Still, considering how these things are worn
At some point, yes, my galaxy was born
To answer the question, and think of the truth
A poppy seed, once, was stuck in a tooth
Inside the seed was everything, everything! Torn
Burst, busted, blown up, kablooey; Before this
My galaxy's face was a pressure plate
A condensed kineticism smashed into a hiss
But before this? Before this? Can I make
any sense of what was born before this?
And before that? Before all my shiver and quake?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Faith is a Fine Invention

We talk of god the way we talk of godfathers
I sinned against Your amorphous will
It's my fault.
I am lucky and grateful You only hurt me to here
And decided against what I deserve
How kind You are to hurt me
To correct what You would deem unworthy

And the interest rate builds up
The points on this loan of life

We talk as if grace is a mercy upon the unworthy

If faith is a burning flame
If faith finds us in our hollow places
If faith cannot be negotiated or moved
If faith can be the one that moves

The icon of negotiation, of points accumulated
Of angels with their protection racket over prayers

Perhaps God walks like a devil, dresses sharp, takes payment weekly to protect
In prayers and papers

Or perhaps we speak the devils work upon ourselves
And call it heavens' kings

Instead consider fire in a hollow place
The light will fill us up
The shadows on the walls are just the shape
Of us.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sonnet #244

Alas the money runs away along the path

Where clever men set snares for money
And wicked men will club and take in wrath
And we all need the money, chase the money
We must follow and shout and grab 
Money is a misty ghost with eight long legs
It moves like water through the labs
Where pipes arrange the faucets and plugs
But once upon the ground so swift
The money runs down hills and melts
Into the air itself, and seeps into the snowdrifts
We chase the money, grab for money, feeling felt
And dissipation auguries and screaming in the wind
Where did all the money run? We lost it all; money wins

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Sestina #2


“Spring is the prize of the birds that survived,” cackled grackles
The pigeons have no language like theirs, they coo and scratch
the first worms, the first seeds, the firsts of all the things fallen down
“We remember when the world was only ever spring,” say sparrows
“When every day bloomed and rained and never rested.” They sing
And give the music to the mockingbirds, who will always shout from memory


This is how the birds will know what to do, what’s in their shared memory:
(Except the clever pirate birds, the frigates and crows and rooks and grackles)
But the way to think is the repetition of thinking, so what birds sing
is what they know, and Spring, immortal, ebullient, where the scratch
comes up to breathe with full bellies after so long hollow, so many sparrow
hearts that couldn’t keep going, they fall but shared songs never go down


“Once upon a time the world was always warm and wet,” sit down,
find a perch on the rock and listen to the music of collected memory
“Once upon a time, when the world was new, and so were the sparrows
We flew in a forest as thick as an ocean, before winter, before the grackle
Before the pigeon and possum and snake and cat, where every scratch
upon the ground was a fat nut of insect or nut of the flowers, we sing, we sing


“Trees of our memory, forest eternal, we learned to sing
By calling the way wind creaked and swelled until down
came the timbers and up came the cinders and scratch
all you like upon the burned ground, then cinders’ memory
haunt us forever with the great smoke’s ash echo. ” Laughter of grackle
Who listens beside this, wisest and wiliest, forgives all that’s sparrow


“The simple foragers of this world, the tiny sparrow
amuses and confuses itself when it tries to sing,”
Life is a moment, after all, and all is a struggle for grackles
Ascribing a reason to misery is placing courage down
Fight, bite, and grapple, live each day with memory
of the survivor’s victory song, a hack laughter of scratch


And the pigeons coo and dance while they scratch
the ground to live, waddle through the herd of sparrow
bob and weave and dance to coo of all their memory
of Spring, oh, Spring! Oh, Love! Oh, Green! Oh, Sing!
The oldest dance is the dance of ecstasy, come down
beloved, and lie in this fair field… The grackles


tackle the discarded and departed in all seasons, the grackles
on the power lines when spring storms sweep hunker down
Mudwise, black-eyes, bitter warrior kings, laugh but never sing

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sonnet #241

The absence of things is the greatness of things
The greatest war that ever was was never fought
The greatest fight that ever was was avoided
The greatest crime that ever was died in the mind that imagined it
The greatest poem ever written is a blank page
a single line moves down that page
Recreating this poem

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sonnet #242

Where is the patron saint of happiness, of things
and people never lost, of a health that blossoms
self and painless mornings and easy losses?
All our prayers to call away the sufferings
Seem to breed dependence on the Lord
As if this world of suffering is built to bleed us
Until we must cry out for grace to relieve us
And saints must help those tuggers on their cord.

Lord, grant us saints of happiness, of everyday
Get out of beds, of Morning coffee, whistled tunes,
And tousled hair late in the day, where we stay
Among the rushes, among the birdsongs, stay
Lord, grant us patron saints of all those lazy afternoons
Of peaceful copper sunsets, and brilliant early moons.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Sonnet #240

Everyone I know and love, and everything I need
Exists upon an eggshell, hung by a handshake
as light as a feather; sewn needle and thread
is some landscape cross-stitched at best, that bleeds
in mud patches and most of it is water what's left
is all weeds, a few parking lot moonscapes lean
a few cities together where we think there's hem and heft
Except a single breath could wash this eggshell clean
Of all we know of living things in all the darkness --

Bees dance to guide to flowers; we dance directions, too
But our maps are of interiors deep and warm and blessed
Let me guide you into darkness, where my darkness blooms
Let's work a dance to skylines dark and vast and yet unknown
Where eggshells upon eggshells can be reborn into our homes

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sonnet #239

Blackberries are roses. Don't let anyone forget.
Also apples and cherries are roses, the bloom
has the blush, the center familiar, the plum
is a rose, all of them showing their past

Say one is tall as a tree, or as small as a cane
Say the leaves are different, the climates
Say the histories dispute the details of the diets
And the nature of the frosts demand their changes

But, they are roses. See them bloom. The petals
blush as petals, and smell so sweet they fill a room
Every blossom is connected, though the meddle
of the men that came pretend to divvy up and fume
The details of the rosehips that they peddle --
Smell the peach upon the table, know it's bloom
is roses, all just roses: how sweets are made is settled.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sonnet #238

In which the demon speaks is that which lives
For nothing dead can carry demonology,
Those determinate souls who will certainly
Go down way down will unperturbed slide
Into their days while those too good for words
Will never speak the language of the gloom
In which the demon speaks is that which fumes
The furious nights, the chattering like a bird
Upset at birds, trying to lift up the birds, perhaps
Those things that only fly and never recall the reason
The long memories flow in which the demon laughs
is where the soul carrying tries to laugh at demons
The ones who try to build in an image, burn off chaff
Clean the skies of clouds, cast magic at the seasons

Friday, March 23, 2018

Sonnet #237

We love in the kingdom of broken toys
Yet often forget that we are of them
But — let’s be truthful — nothing works right when
It’s just removed from box, girls and boys
Must bend the limits of designers into shapes
And as the wearing happens parts will scratch
Some will shatter or disappear, unscrew, unlatch
Until we settle in to our familiar limping gaits
And melt and stumble and be made new
Unfinished until broken, all designs a start
Where the hands of builders stop, the true
Shapes emerge from happy abusers, faulty parts
We live in the kingdom of broken toys
Play until ruined on costumes and joys

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sonnet #236

Believe in darkness, for in shadows truths reveal
The shape of shadows, the way the room traverses
Where the foot breaks on wood and remembered curses
How the forest of the night is holy in how it feels:
Terrifying. An all-consuming shadow, all jagged places
Rapacious. Believe in darkness, for darkness walks
Behind you. You cannot see the steps, but talk
Into the darkness, whisper, beg for mercy, race
if you dare, but the faster run the faster trip
The harder fall: Believe in darkness where the holy
Stalks behind you, in the rising hairs, the slip
Where hidden boundaries and subtle, slowly
grasping, paths of vegetation and lost steps
Each footfall made in hope, each prayer made truly

Monday, March 5, 2018

Sonnet #235

We bloom at night when nothing but moths
are pouring from the shadows, our perfume
calls all their tongues to dip into our womb
Where we hold ground and make, our worth
Is measured in the memories of souls
Where bent by us, the moon's refraction,
With the gesture of our palms,concatenations
of our scents, intoxicate all strolls
with echoes in the air, our silent songs,
This scent of flowers shining from the bark
Where petals hidden pale and focused strong
 to call the moths of midnight, they embark
in dreamlight off their hard cocoons, but not for long
We feed these shadow countries, cool and stark

Friday, February 23, 2018

Sonnet #234

To sing of miracles, let us sing the spiders' song
This misty early spring, rains crystallize the webs
the architecture glistens like a crystal silk and strong
so strong to hold the weight of water; how did
these tiny minds build up to this from Darwin's years?
Surrounded by such miracles we can't even stop
to enjoy in all this rain, I sing of tiny spiders
how small their arms, how small their lot
Inventing in the corners of the world their dazzling
Made for no one, beauty for no sake at all
Despite eight eyes, they never admire the puzzling
shapes and countershapes that form their whole
The tremor in the web beneath their feet
is all they know, a tense vibrato of life and defeat

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sonnet #233

For years, they've heard us all complain
About those kids, how they are doing things wrong
How they do not know anything, their songs
are not even music, and they're lazy and complain

We have told them they are ruined by trophies
They do not deserve, in skills they'll never master
Better than anyone that came before, We're the faster
We're the ones who know things, our stories

Are the best stories, we tell truths to them
and they ought to listen because we accept the dust
of how things are, we know, we are powerless, then
We say, nothing ever changes: If things get hard, all must

They've seen us howl, seen how we will not save them
It seems, now, instead, they have decided to save us

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sonnet #232

Would you sacrifice your life for gas
station burritos? Someone did. They bled
with all their friends and lovers dead
And carved into pieces, saran-wrapped, passed
into machines; also every bean contained
the possibility of flowers, the hope of mothers
Every kernel, stalk of green, all other
pieces of this tepid slab had holiness

This is why to make food poorly is a sin:
Oh, Life! What did these beautiful ones die for?
If we must kill to live, let us honor those done in
Who gave their children for our children, nor
should we allow the hungers quotidian
to permit us to forget how death's head roars

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sonnet #231

As I live, I hide these nests inside my hair
Where songs are born, slip out, take wing
I try to say the growths are merely things
Long lost, leftovers of childhood. ignore the singing.

As I live and work, just mind gradiations,
Foraging patterns, all that stuff that spirits do
With all of us, passing through their iterations
As if they never stopped to hatch and grow anew

But autumn comes, and I see my leaves descend
And I, uncaring who may know or see
What's been hidden until the wind rends
loose these dying papers, scattered leaves

These nests I hold, here, all of them are mine
I lift them up; I protect; the birds return in time

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sonnet #230

Everything we see and everything we touch
Began as a dream in somebody's head
All tools are imagined, all laws come from beds
where dreamers rise to wake their world as such

All the dreamers I know live out on the edge
They tread water in dreams, burn all their wax
They work twice as long, pay twice the tax
Every time the bills come due, all bets must have hedge

The state of the union where dreamers are poor
The state of the union where dreamers work late
The state of the union where delusions of grandeur
Are met with terror and mockery, hate
The state of the union where making art and poetry
Means fool's uselessness, merit so hungry

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Truth About Microwaves

This is very simple, the new spying we do
Say you build microwaves. Every office has one.
Every kitchen. People tell the truth in kitchens.
Kitchens are honest.
Say you build microwaves.
You put a GPS in the microwave.
You put a small microphone in it.
You sit in some distant cubicle, under a bunker, and search out
You must be very careful how you do it
If you are caught, it could be a problem for you
But, still --

You turn on the microwave.

Say you are the country that builds all the microwaves
Your mountains are stripped to the bedrock for the building of them
Your rivers are the rivers of mercury
Your people live in cots, die in cots
They wear full-body suits with goggles for eyes
while they work
they work a long time

you turn on their microwaves

It doesn't have to be microwaves
They build everything

At night, the technocrats sit up and listen to the world that exists
outside their factories
Where people have time to cook in their kitchens
Where people talk about their day, tell the truth about it
 And you get to hear what it's like
In offices where people have time to talk while they eat
In all the places that don't build the microwaves
And people tell each other the truth

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sonnet #229

Who owns the poem and knows what it means —
Who writes the questions on the test —
Who chooses what is good and what is best —
And understands the truth inside the lean?
Oh star crossed letters, I do not know
Why ever would I stop to explain
When what I know is written plain
And never made much sense to me, so
Work it out upon a word, these little steps
Into the hills, walking round the mountains
Where the bird songs should be kept
And rainstorms come — Oh, star crossed mountains
Every step is lost and lost, inept
Others say what footprints planted claim

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sonnet #228

At first, when we find life on other planets
We will ooh and aah and protect their wild
Better than we ever cherished our own child
This will not last, and then we will man it
This other world, we will choose to keep it kill
As it suits our plans, at first lip service to peace
the gingerly process of planting our flags and trees
Just a little, just to try, just to study, just this hill
For a while we will restrain ourselves
Then, in time, the lines between the worlds
Gets blurry, we take what’s there we sell
We push the wild into gardens, walled
Then wilderness of worlds will hurt each other
Where the escape of visitors spreads on either

Friday, January 12, 2018

Sonnet #227

oh my pigeon heart where will you fly

When eggshell-colored skin cracks open bleeds
And shakes, and surgeons come for all they need
And my pigeon heart will leave me to die
And carry on a pulse in another’s chest
Will it be a monster or a man, will they love
One another as I have loved you, and move
Together when the dancing starts, try their best
Will the pigeon heart be soothed? And how long?
How many caverns can carry a heart, someday,
 will organs pass down like a children’s song
Learned at cradles, returned to cradles to play
Another round, hearts passing down where wrongs
In air collect, but my pigeon heart is strong — it stays

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sonnet #226

We are so careless with our wild and precious world
We live as if the size of us is endless horizons
As if there will always be another mountain
Another valley, another lake, new boys and girls
As joyful, as safe, as fulfilled and fulfilling
As if progress is measured by the gravity
of money, how it seems to magnetize more money
into heaping imaginary mountains unending
As if the imaginary mountain is greater than
The one that is blown apart, all waters polluted
We cannot eat the imaginary mountain
We cannot live beside these forests denuded
We cannot promise that there will be life again
So broadly this poem, beat it hard, prosecute it

Monday, January 1, 2018

Sonnet #225

I took my prayers to the oldest tree
And blew them up into the branches bare
In some few weeks I hope they sprout in green
When seasons turn, but I know what grows is rare
The winter branches catch what ghosts they can
But most will drift into the clouds, and this is grey
All those low, bleak winter clouds, all plans
That have been lost, dreams that escaped this day
I took my prayers as well to Balcones Fault
Where the crevice in the rocks cuts deep
Old Gods inside the earth with wounds of salt
Will they accept what clouds will weep
All lost prayers become the green eventually
Just give it time, an earth, a sky, you’ll see.