December 28, 2008

Paradox of Plenty (The Blind Leading The . . . )

There is a scarf across my eyes,
black and silky; I wore it once,
I think,
to the office, or maybe
to deceive you, but now

you've tied it around my eyes.
But you didn't tie it
tightly enough; enough
light fingers in
at the edges to know

where I am,
with a black scarf across my eyes,
and a ribbon whimsically looped
around each wrist and ankle.
Ah, our props are pretty.

You are closer now, I see
the color of your skin edging
the blindfold. You twist my hair around your hand
and pull; you place your fingers on my mouth
and stretch it into screaming shape, and then

you pause. I know,
you will not do anything you have not done,
and maybe less than ever,
for when you are given everything,
you are unable to take anything.

It is the burden of choice.
It is the waste of surrender.
It is the paradox of plenty.
It is the secret of the cornered.
It is the weapon of the cold.

December 22, 2008

Phantoms & Mirrors

"If I could make the world as pure
and strange as what I see,
I'd put you in the mirror
I'd put in front of me."
"Pale Blue Eyes," Lou Reed

Was it his phantom
that moved past us,
lightly strumming our vertebrae,
playing Pandarus
while I flushed and stammered,
truth growing limp
in my sweating palms?

Was it your reflection
that skimmed across the mirror
behind him,
curving momentarily
into an archer's bow
as the smoke-slow arrow
found its target at last?

Were you the omen or the opening?
Was he the promise or the place-holder?
The cartographers are stumped,
but the numbers
work out,
as numbers always do
in the algebra of fortuities.

Here, x=y
and the answer is

December 18, 2008

Chalk It Up (lyric)

I won't say that you are unlike
Anyone I ever met
Anyone who says that is a fool
In fact, you look familiar,
Though I'm sure we've never met
At least we never have been introduced.

I've seen you around, I think
I might have even heard your name
Or maybe I just noticed it in the phone book's pages
It wouldn't be a tragedy,
But it would be a shame
If we passed each other by like perfect strangers.

I know,
You're probably running late
And I know
I'm about to miss my train
But I hope
You find a reason
To change your plans & chalk it up to fate.

Oh, weren't we once on the same flight?
The one that got delayed by an extra hour
Didn't I once let you bum a light?
Or borrow your cell phone when mine ran out of power

Didn't we once work on different floors?
For the same company in that big skyscraper
Didn't you once yell "Hold the door"
And ride up with me in a silent elevator?

I know,
You've probably got a date
And I know
Mine is waiting for me
But I hope
You find a reason
To change your plans & chalk it up to fate

Yes, I've seen you around, and
I know that you've seen me too
'Cause I recognize that slow, slow smile

And I'll get where I am going
With or without you
But it would sure be nice to walk together for a while . . .

I know
You're probably running late
I know
I'm about to miss my train
But I hope
You find a reason
To change your plans & chalk it up to fate.

What We Have In Common (Song For a Happy Horse)

"O happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony!" - Shakespeare, "Antony and Cleopatra"

Well, now I've stood where you were standing,
I have seen what you must have seen,
And I have lain where you had fallen,
Wanting to never rise again.

I have slipped on the cloak of silence,
Made heavy in the rain of tears,
And stepped, reluctant, on the journey
That you, too, must have once endured.

What did you carry in your pockets?
What weapons had you at your side?
Did you bring shining, golden trap-nets
Or honey-coated throwing knives like mine?

Did you ever stop to wonder
How the road got worn so smooth,
Except for all the broken pieces
Scattered like pebbles underfoot.

What did you struggle to hold on to?
What did you lose along the way?
Did you ever look behind you,
Or did you keep your eyes straight ahead?

You have no reason to remember.
It's been years since your happy ending,
Since you reached the crystal castle
And entered through the swinging gate at last.

You have no reason now to hear me.
You have no reason yet to fear me.
But was it worth it, was it worth it?
That is all I want to ask.

December 9, 2008

Roll On (A Kiss)

He said, "When you kiss me,
I can feel your soul."

She said, "When I kiss you,
I can feel my soul.
Can you feel yours?"

He smiled and said nothing.
The waves rolled on.

December 4, 2008

Your Body is My Country (lyric)

You call me at a quarter after ten
And for a while, it's all "How are you, how has your day been"
And anyone who heard us would just think that we're old friends
And then you say, "Wanna come over, we'll have a drink or something."

And twenty minutes later, I'm jumping in a cab
Your spare key in my pocket and my toothbrush in my bag
Tomorrow is a Sunday and I have got no plans
And even if I did, I know I'd break them

'Cause your body is my country and I know its map so well
I have sworn it my allegiance, I'm a loyal citizen
And I've been to all the temples of its ancient, pagan gods
But I still have never found my way
My way to your heart

At your place, it's no surprise I find
You've lit a candle and you've poured the wine
In all the time I've known you, you've never been unkind
To me, and, as far as I know, to anyone

And it's not true, what all of my friends say
That I'm just another girl that you've learned how to play
I think that you must love me, in your own way
And if you've never said so, well, it doesn't really matter

'Cause your body is my country and I know its map so well
I have sworn it my allegiance, I'm a loyal citizen
And I've been to all the temples of its ancient, pagan gods
But I still have never found my way
My way to your heart

December 2, 2008

The Passion

Upon a visit to the Prado. August 2003.

You -
who lived insensibly
and loved insanely;
you -
who made God
in man's own image
& gave us images
to pray to
were declared

You -
who lived by vision,
lived invisibly
and died
in penury,

You starved
& slept on naked earth
& were accused
of vulgar sensualism.

You wept
turpentine tears
& bled
in every color
of the
to give birth to
in great pain.

You fought,
you lost,
you loved,
you lost,
you gambled
& you lost,
& lost again,
& then were
lost entirely,
and yet,
you LIVED. Oh, how you lived!

And now,
I read between
your strokes
the words -
"Forgive them, Muse,
they know not
what we do."

December 1, 2008

Afternoon of the Wolf (lyric)

To Bigby, with affection.

I can't quite see you, but I can tell,
because it's true, fear has a smell,
that you are there, that you are frozen.
You know you've wandered too close.
You know who I am, you've been warned
that I can cause a lot of harm.

But don't be afraid, it's been a while
since I was young and fierce and wild,
eyes like moonlight, fur like silver,
a hungry predator, a killer,
sharp of fang and fleet of foot,
hunting flesh and trailing blood.

I made this whole forest tremble,
thought I was invincible,
and somehow, foolishly, forgot
you're only lawless till you're caught.

She was alone and wearing red.
I don't remember what I said,
but she didn't run, she didn't hide.
She never guessed what I desired,
never even looked away,
had no idea that she was prey.

Giving in to the temptation,
I took a chance I shouldn't have taken.
And then, I ran, fast as I could.
You only run until you're caught.

They tracked me down, they dragged me out,
shoved their hands inside my mouth,
wrenched the teeth out of my jaws,
clipped my ears, pulled out my claws.
Then, they let me go, laughed and said,
"Let's see now, wolf, who's big and bad."

This all happened long ago.
And now, I'm slow and weak and old.
So you can pass, I won't even chase you,
though you smell like something I once tasted.

You should get home, the day's near over.
Ah, but what's this? You're coming closer.
Your eyes are sad and sweetly tender,
your tears fall on my fur like silver.
Your arms slip round my neck so light,
and it's been so long since I was touched,

so long since I have played this game.
But I think I could win again.
I do believe I make you wonder
about the hibernating hunger
of wolves who can no longer bite.
Old habits rest but never die.

Well, your look of naked fascination
could make me rise to the occasion,
but I don't think that's what you want,
for this would only be a hunt.
So you should go now. Go, before
you get more than you're asking for.

And if you ever come across,
someone like me, who talks as soft,
and moves as slow, and seems as harmless,
and asks you for your trust and kindness,
stay clear of him. Take my advice,
beware the ones with moonlight in their eyes.

November 8, 2008

Mirror in the Sky

there was a mirror in the sky
and to see the truth
we had only to
look up.

And there was ugliness.
There was beauty.
There were clich├ęs.
There was original thought.
There was everything. Everything

but lies.

Then, came the storm,
and all we could see
was lightning;
all we could hear
was the thunder,

and the mirror
and fell to the ground,
killing many,

bloodying the rest.

We wandered,
looking skyward
only to be blinded
by empty light.

We gathered up small pieces
from the ground,
tried to see what we could.
It was all we had, so
we ended up settling

for fragments.

November 6, 2008

Great Big Double Dactyls (humor)

One Doyle of Newfoundland
Went down to Burlington
Which he did rock.

Then, with his custom'ry
Stood on a public street,
Shouting, "My cock!"

* *


Cometh the Shantyman,
Stealthily spyin' for
His bit o' fun.

Fear not, fair maidens, for
He seeks not your virtue -
Only your rum.

* *

Fiddledy piddledy
Hallett of Great Big Sea
Plays every instrument,
As is his wont.

Clever, and famously
He charms the pants off the
Good girls who don't.

* *

Hankety pankety,
The one called "the Bastard"
Decided to find a
Second career.

He remade himself as
Married a platypus!
. . . WAY too much beer . . .

* *

Gluggity sluggity,
Kris Mac-Daddy-Farlane
Has never been seen to
Take a drop yet.

Much to our chagrin, this
Recalls everything we
Try to forget.

October 25, 2008


After listening to Joan Baez's "Diamonds & Rust"

They say Venus taught him the art of love
but he left her all broken and blue
when he left one day without saying goodbye
after learning all that she knew.

He drove Athena to write long, awkward poems
but before the last line had been read
he was already rising victorious
from Diana's empty white bed.

Then he stole the sword out of Kali's hand
after slipping out from between her limbs,
and he traveled until he found Freya;
she moved to Miami for him.

They lived together for a little while,
she had just hocked her feathers and furs,
when he met Brigid, got her drunk in some bar
and spent that night with her.

He was later seen on Funadama's boat,
they were both sunbathing on deck.
She let him steer, it was her own fault
when he nearly got them shipwrecked.

It must have been in the Caribbean,
for the fishermen talk to this day
of the torrents of tears that Yemaya wept
when he told her he wouldn't stay.

He met Hathor in some Turkish nightclub,
they danced all night cheek to cheek,
but the morning after, he was back on his way,
and the cows wouldn't give milk for weeks.

You'd think that he would fear consequences
for this selfish, cruel, thoughtless game.
But he knows that the hearts of goddesses
and the hearts of women are the same.

The ones he abandons may wield power
far beyond any measure of man,
but he knows, though they could destroy him,
they'd rather just love him again.

October 18, 2008

Old Footsteps

I trace old footsteps in the dark
and fill them in with sidewalk chalk.
And if the morning rain washes it away
I'll do it all again the next night.

I find old flowers pressed between
the pages of old notebooks.
They crumble blindly at my touch
but the perfume of their final breaths
still lays upon the paper.

I scatter seeds behind me
so I might later find my way.
But if the birds get to them first,
I'll still find a trail
by the ghosts of trees that might have been

I keep a box full of old maps.
The roads have all got different names now.
But a road is a road is a road is a road,
and they all must go somewhere.

I trace old footsteps in the dark,
I turn the stained and scented pages,
I seek shade from a tree that never was
and make my way to the road's end.

Empty Glass (lyric)

There's a place in the middle of nowhere
With a bar shined with ten thousand sleeves
Where there's always room for another glass
Raised to honor your grief.
The night comes in like a barfly
Looking for love or a fight
And we all look the same, all vaguely ashamed
In the drizzling yellowish light.

On a little stage off in the corner,
Tuning up an arthritic guitar,
Our unsteady, broken-mouthed prophet,
They say that he once was a star.
I never questioned that story,
Anyway, it's some version of truth
If he never had claim to money, beauty or fame,
Still, I'm sure that he once had his youth.

He'll sing songs of heartbreak, he'll sing songs of war
In a voice full of whiskey and love
It doesn't matter that we've heard them before
The novelty hasn't worn off.
And our hearts stumble on every fumbling chord,
Every slurred, sentimental line
There's meaning even in meaningless words
If that's what you're looking to find.

The bartender leans on the counter,
Her feet are starting to ache.
Another three pints, she figures
Till her next cigarette break.
In the dark, she's a golden oasis
You never would guess her age
When the storms ripped through her story
She must have covered her face.

She'll pour someone another, clear off the empties,
Her movements are graceful and clean
Ah, she's heard all my troubles, and I've heard some of hers
It's enough to call her my friend.
We'll head out together, she'll borrow my lighter
We'll talk for a while outside
Her words always sound wise, and I'll take her advice
Unless he walks in here tonight.

Well, sometimes, I've come here with friends
And sometimes, I come in alone
If I wasn't afraid of what it might mean
I'd say this place feels like home.
But tonight, the dark feels too heavy
Thick and black enough to make you choke
'Cause I just saw a cigarette in the gutter
And it's the brand that he liked to smoke.

October 17, 2008

Of Melomania and Modern Romance (lyric)

Let's rent a room at the Chelsea Hotel
Let's pretend it's still tawdry and cheap
Let's make love like hookers and drifters
While the limousines wait in the street.

Ah, let's buy a twelve-dollar bottle
Though you normally drink Perignon
Let's wander the city for hours
Till we find Woody's black-and-white dawn.

Let's find a place to have dinner
With a checkered red tablecloth
Let's pretend the pizza's authentic
And invoke Billy's musical ghost.

Let's walk into the dingiest bar we can find
Sit down and knock back a few
Feed the jukebox, pretend that the dollars are dimes
And that the bartender isn't a student at NYU.

Let's pretend you're Leonard Cohen
And that I am Erica Jong
Let's pretend that we're in a movie
Or a saxophone-backed love song.

Let's sail right to Philadelphia
Or let's just hitch a Ride with the King
In that Fast Car on the Rocky Road
Down to that old House in New Orleans.

Ah, forget comparing mythologies
Let's just trade iPods instead
'Cause music is the blood type that runs
In that space between soul and intellect.

Tour Guide from Hell('s Kitchen) (lyrical parody)

To the tune of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner"

Let's get on the train
I'll take you
Uptown to the real
Tom's Diner

I know you like
Suzanne Vega
Well, their milkshake's
Just as good

I know you used to
Watch Seinfeld
Did you know that
It was filmed there

Well not really,
but they did use
the sign for
exterior shots.

Let's get on the train
I'll take you
To Times Square
With all the tourists

It looks just like
All the movies
That they make
About New York

All the signs are
Big and flashy
All the cabs are
Slow and yellow

All the shows will
Run forever
And the water
Costs too much.

Let's get on the train
I'll take you
All the way down
To south Brooklyn

We will go to
Coney Island
Try our luck
At the arcade

Take a spin
Around the Cyclone
It's not scary
Once it's over

Then we'll get around
To Nathan's
And pretend the dogs
Are good.

Let's get on the train
I'll take you
All the way back
To Grand Central

We can grab a
Cup of coffee
Just in time to
Catch your train

When you get home
You can tell them
That New York is
Really something

They'll go starry-eyed,
You never said what
"Something" is.

Night Terrors

When all is quiet and no one stirs
They tiptoe in on furry paws
They take their positions without a sound,
At night, the demons come around.

Their hands are cool, their breath is sweet
They hold your head, they hold your feet
In voices soft as falling leaves
They only say what you want to believe.

In the morning, they will be gone,
You will be safe, you will be alone
And you won't remember their honeyed attack
But come next night, you'll wish them back.

Good Little Girls

Good little girls should be seen & not heard
a pretty picture's worth 1000 words
Or even more, I should properly say
for who wants 1000 words, anyway?

Polish your nails and highlight your hair
wear frilly pink dresses with no underwear
slick up your lips, blacken your eyes
think about doing something with your thighs

Jack up the price on the auctioneer's block
If you can't cook a roast, learn to jack off a cock
For good little girls have to earn their keep
So learn to look pretty even in your sleep

Learn to smile up and learn to look down
Learn the difference between a pout and a frown
The difference between a drink and a sip
Between conversation and giving him lip

But even good little girls will someday get old
Their charms will grow wrinkled, their beds will grow cold
But before that day comes, between you and I,
Good little girls find it easier to die.

October 13, 2008


I remember when
my grandfather would take me flying
on the swingset in the playground behind the drugstore.

He would set the swing in motion,
and I listened to the old chains
creaking their approval. I cried out,
"Higher! higher!" through a mouthful of wind.

My grandmother would always shout at us
to be careful. But when I flew
toward her, I could see
her eyes were shining. She seemed to me
beautiful and old. My mother is now older
than she had been

when last my grandfather took me flying.
He would push me, once, twice,
until I was flying
on my own, sailing
far above him, sometimes wondering
if I might fall, then deciding
not to wonder. I never fell.

Every time we stopped, I would
plead to go flying again. But finally,
my grandmother would say it was time for dinner.
My grandfather would whisper, "Next time,"
and, as we walked home, I knew
there would always be a next time.


I wandered past a playground. I do not know
if it was the same one; probably not, but
there was a swingset. I climbed on,

pushed off,
scattering leaves the color of a fresh #2 pencil
beneath my oversized feet,
and swung up
to a construction paper-blue sky,

higher and higher, till I thought
I might fly,

if only
I could stop clinging to these old chains,
or maybe if
my grandfather was there to push me.


Wading through a river, feeling the
pebbles digging into my soles,

sharp little reminders not to trip,
for this is a swift one
and the drop-off is sudden,
and it'll take you under
like it's nothing.

Wading through a river, and it sure is
pretty, with the crowns of the trees
reflecting in the water
like curly-headed girls laughing together
beneath the surface. I'll never get
their private joke.

Wading through a river, the water is cool,
the sun is warm on my shoulders, I
hardly miss you at all anymore. I
hardly think of you at all anymore, you see,
I'm just too busy
trying not to trip.

Evil Poem

Board games bore you
TV rots your brain
Yoga does nothing for you
Knitting makes you insane

Puzzles stump you
Smokes make you cough
Candy plumps you
Phone sex can't get you off

And good songs only
Make you think
That you're so lonely
You might as well drink.

Yes, of course, Dorothy Parker.

September 26, 2008

Respect the Ashes of Old Fires

Respect the ashes of old fires. Do not
touch hopeful matches to them. Do not
douse them in water & kick at the muck.
You will only waste your matches
& muddy your boots.

Respect the ashes of old fires.
Bury them gently,
lay them down to a peaceful sleep
beneath handfuls of fragrant earth,
and leave them there to rest.

In a dozen years, or a hundred,
flowers may yet grow
upon that silent mound. And no one who sees them
will know
they sprang from ruins.

September 16, 2008

The Pirate's Last Plunder, The Gypsy's Last Ride (lyric)

He drew his breath from the deep blue sea
And the stars that lit his way
Trusted in his own two hands
Seldom took the time to pray
And maybe it all came too easy
The wealth, the women, the wine
Kept meaning to turn over a new leaf,
Never could find the time.

She found her peace on the open road
Never sure what she was searching for
Maybe just a few foreign words
Or a new street to explore
She sometimes wondered if she was taking too long
If she'd got lost somewhere along the way
Kept meaning to settle down
Never could find the place.

The sky was heavy black velvet
When they met on a soft summer night -
The night of the pirate's last plunder,
The night of the gypsy's last ride.

In her eyes, he found the answers
To questions that he had never asked
For a little while, it hardly mattered
That his best years had gone by so fast
And maybe it was a foolish thing to do,
An unwise step to take
A moonless midnight cliff-dive
A pre-dawn prison break.

The sky was stained in crimson
As the day fought to edge out the night
Of the pirate's last plunder,
The gypsy's last ride.

She traveled in his arms that night
To places that she'd never seen
To the darkest corners, to the ragged edges
Of her oldest forgotten dreams
She sometimes wondered where she would end up
But she knew there would be no way back
That the journey that brought her there
Would be the longest she would ever take.

And the sky turned pale as an eggshell
As a cloudy dawn scattered the night
Of the pirate's last plunder,
The gypsy's last ride.

He took his leave in the morning
Like a light vanishing in the mist
She went back to the patient man who'd been waiting
To welcome her home with his kiss.
Now, every once in a while, they might look up
At the sky on a soft summer night,
Like the night of the pirate's last plunder,
The night of the gypsy's last ride.

August 28, 2008

Seaglass II: Honey & Dust (lyric)

He's got a silver tongue
And the golden touch
He knows little of limits
Or maybe too much
He's learned to keep himself
Armed to the teeth
But his weapons backfire
Every time that they miss.

He's seaglass & sunshine
And corrosion & rust
Mixes poison with honey,
Mixes honey with dust.

Every time he says "please"
It sounds like a command
If he talked to the trees
Fruit would fall in his hands
And then, he says "Thank you"
Like it means nothing at all
Like the devil might say
While accepting your soul.

He can play on your weakness,
He can play on your fears,
And he knows when to tell you
What you most need to hear
But it's all chain mail armor
Worn over naked skin
Protects from the outside -
Keeps you bleeding within.

Perhaps in a past life,
He was petty or cruel
Cheated a good man
Or ruined a girl
But for all his old sins, he now reaps the reward
And he lives in a prison he's built for himself
Full of songs no one's heard.

He's seaglass & sunshine
And corrosion & rust
Laughter & pleasure
And anger & lust
He's the one you believe in
But never should trust

He'll mix your poison with honey
And his honey with dust.

July 24, 2008

Cactus Song

I'll never be one of those girls,
lacelike and sunny at the edges,
with yards of skin like farm-fresh cream
and guileless, wide, light-streaming eyes.

My thorns were sharp
long before
the bud had ever blossomed.

I've never been one of those girls,
who makes men feel
as though they've found redemption
in the crook of their elbow,
who makes men want
to cherish and protect,
as one protects a hothouse lily
from the elements
that may besmirch its petals
with the dust and dross of life.

I am a spiky, spiny plant
that flowers, on occasion,
to vivid, scorching color,

a flowering cactus,
always overly enthusiastic
to find a drop of moisture
in its familiar desert.
And my thick, bright petals wilt
as quickly and completely

as the shivering red bloom on the tip
of a cigarette,
pleasing for a while, then
sucked up,
used up,
discarded carelessly
and guiltlessly,
left in the dark to rot
or regenerate.

July 18, 2008

All the Time in the World (lyric)

Long legs in faded jeans
Some old movie on the TV screen
And a voice like whiskey in a dirty glass

Johnny Cash on the radio
Driving fast with nowhere to go
And I didn't care that it would never last

He said, "Darlin', there's more to life than breathing.
And more to love than talking about feelings."
He said, "Take my hand and follow me,
You know I got no place to be,
No clock to watch, no one to answer to.
I've got all the time in the world,
And if you want it, darlin', so do you."

A guy like him, a girl like me,
It always starts so easily,
The story's old, but worth another tell.
A smile across a pint of beer,
"Hey, why don't we get out of here,"
And we got to know each other pretty well.

He said, "Darlin', you know that I could tell you
All that stuff the ladies like to hear.
But you wouldn't believe it, anyway,
So this is all I'm gonna say,
I know that you are only passing through.
But I've got all the time in the world,
And if you want it, darlin', so do you."

Then came the day we knew would come,
My plane took off, and he went home
In that old truck he'd never let me drive.
While I, a mile up in the air,
I soaked a blanket with my tears,
But I guess heartbreaks make us feel alive.

And I thought, "Darlin', it might take me a while.
And I don't know if you can wait for me.
But this is not a one-way track,
Someday, I'll be coming back,
A little older, little wiser too.
And I'll have all the time in the world,
And if you'll still want me, you know
I'll spend it all with you."

July 16, 2008

Photograph (lyric)

A picture's worth 1000 words
But we spoke maybe 10
Before you had your arm around me
Like you were my man
And I said nothing, I just laughed
That's when somebody took
Our photograph.

I guess I have myself to blame,
Your past and future were the same -
I knew it, 'cause I saw it in your eyes.
Oh, I have excuses by the bunch -
You were so sweet, I was so drunk -
The truth is, I just told myself a lie.

A picture's worth 1000 words,
I just remember 3
When you leaned down and whispered
That you wanted me
I moved closer to you,
And maybe I shouldn't have.
That's when somebody took
Our photograph.

Then they put the camera away
And my plane was leaving in 2 days
And there you were, all lips and hands and skin.
I thought it didn't matter much
That I was tripping off your touch
I thought it didn't have to mean anything.

I guess I knew it from your voice
The way you said her name.
The way you said it not quite
A half-hour after you came.
But I said nothing, I just lit
My second cigarette.
I thought that I could stay detached.
I guess I lost that bet.

And everything that's happened since
Was all that I should have foreseen
At least I wasn't taken by surprise.
And I'll admit that it did hurt
When I heard you got back with her
But even so, I thought I was all right.

A picture's worth 1000 words,
I have no words at all.
'Cause this is moving through me like
A fist moves through a wall.
And I'm sure they had all good intent,
But really, they shouldn't have
Sent me a copy of
Our photograph.

July 8, 2008


First came the rains,
like a warning from the sky,
flooding everything nearly out of existence,
and it whispered,

"Do you still love me?"

Then came the fog,
like a veil across the eyes of a frightened bride,
obscuring everything that might have been beautiful,
and it hissed,

"Do you still love me?"

Then came the snow,
like white paralysis,
closing everyone's eyes,
and it rasped,

"Do you still love me?"

Then came the sea,
like a beast from the earth's round belly,
churning and howling and swallowing everything that was left,
and it growled,

"Do you still love me?"

Then came a breath,
like a prize snatched by a lucky thief,
bringing the memory of everything that was and might be,
and it gasped,

"I do."

June 26, 2008

The Guest Room (lyric)

I live in a house in the city
On a street that turns green in the spring
With the man who calls me his woman
And the woman that he thinks I am.

We've got plants on all of the windows
Our living room's sunny and bright
Our kitchen is painted soft yellow
And our bedroom gets plenty of light.

There are days when I feel almost happy
There are nights when it's almost enough
To see him smiling above me
As we make our Old Hollywood love.

There's a room in our house, on the top floor
Where nobody ever goes
There's no lock, but it doesn't matter
The door always stays closed.

And we call it "our little guest room"
To be used when the time is right
But, although friends often visit,
They never stay the night.

The sheets are always fresh on the bed,
There are fresh pencils on the desk.
It would be such a welcoming little room
If ever there was a guest.

There are times when I'm feeling lonely
Or when I want to be alone,
I walk up the stairs and open the door,
And pretend that I've come home.

I'll sit down at the desk and write a few words
On the notepad so thoughtfully placed.
Sometimes, they're honest, but always in pencil
So they can be safely erased.

I'll smooth out the sheets and the pillows
On the bed no one has lain upon,
And I'll wonder before I go back down
If ever a guest might come.

June 24, 2008

Dark-Haired Miriam's Song

One autumn eve, on a dusty street
He crossed my path and smiled.
He spoke to me, he gently asked
To walk with me a while.
His words were kind, his voice so sweet,
His hand was warm over mine.
And the evening breeze stirred through the trees
And made their shadows twine.

One snowy winter's night, he swore
Before the Lord above,
That never before had he loved more,
That ever more he'd love.
I trembled as he held me close
But never did I move from his side.
And my heart took wing, my blood did sing
As the morning dawned outside.

One fine spring day, I came to him
And whispered what I knew
Of what life brought, of what love wrought,
When love was strong and true.
To my surprise, he closed his eyes
He could not look at me
And he told me, too late, of the wife
Who waited for him across the sea.

On a warm summer day, I stood on the shore
And watched his ship sail away
And there, I swore, I'd not forget
Of how love is betrayed.
For, to keep his secret, I took our sin
Upon my mortal soul
I did the unspeakable, and ever since
Will I walk, unholy, unwhole.

So you who now speak to me of love,
I tell you, say no more
There's nothing you can ever say
To undo what's been done before
And do not offer me your heart
Don't reach out for my hand
For all your sweet, your pretty words
And your pretty poems be damned.

Inspired by Patrick Kavanagh's "Raglan Road." This is the imaginary response of his protagonist's object of affection.

March 19, 2008

The Man Across

There is a man across
from me on the downtown R train.

He reeks
of cheap brown liquor. There are beer cans
beneath his seat, scattered
like abandoned toys.

He wears a paper hospital ID bracelet.
His hair is matted and dirty.
He needs a shave.
His eyes are bloodshot blue.

He bears a wooden cross
upon a battered rosary that drapes
piously across
his dirty, spattered shirtfront.

He mutters to himself,
gesturing with a Gatorade bottle.
(It isn't filled with Gatorade.)
I think I hear him say,

"Kafka was right."

I want to ask him
what Kafka was right about,
but this is New York,
we don't do that here.

The train doors open
for me. It's my stop. I wonder
where his train goes after
I get off.

February 20, 2008

Hell's Waiting Room (lyric)

I once saw an angel, his wings cloaked behind him,
There was mud on his feathers and blood in his smile.
Said he's looking for God, but no one can find Him,
He must have stepped out for a while.

* * *

Scheherazade is slumped over the bottle,
She's tired of looking for stories inside.
Her room is too pretty, it smells like a brothel,
She's tired of thinking up new pretty lies.
She hates that invention's become her salvation,
That she's gotten so expert at playing pretend,
And sometimes, she wonders how all this got started,
More often, she wonders how all this will end.

The Little Prince, he's all grown up now,
He's taken the throne as a good son must do.
And he's learned to live with the weight of the crown
But he still orders roses sent up to his room.
Sometimes, at night, when he looks out the window,
He squints at the stars, wonders if he still can
Make out where he'd lived once, make out who he'd been once,
Recall when the ending began.

Alice is coiled on the floor like a flower
Pulled up too soon and wilted too fast.
She's been out chasing the rabbit for hours
And she's finally run out of cash.
Her apron is soiled, she's misplaced her ribbon,
There's dirt on her hands and there's dust on her feet.
She thinks of her sister, alone in the meadow
And she wants to wake up, but she can't fall asleep.

* * *

They've just put the word out, they've opened up Heaven,
If you know where to find it, admission is yours
For Hell is too crowded, they're taking no more there,
And the waiting room's filled to the doors.

January 19, 2008

How All the Stories End (lyric)

I know you believe it when you say
you love me, and I know
your body doesn't lie.
And I know you mean it when you say
you'll miss me
whenever we say goodbye.

But I know, when you get home,
you hold her tight, and you swear
that she's the only one.
And I know, one day,
you'll have to stay away
'cause I know how all the stories end.

I've learned to keep myself amused
on lonely, sunny Saturdays.
I walk the streets in my high-heeled shoes,
and collect the glances coming my way.

I do my shopping, I read a book,
I go out for drinks with a friend.
I don't stay up too late,
and I've learned not to wait,
'cause I know how all the stories end.

You come over on another Tuesday night,
bringing roses in a paper sack,
and a few hours later, you say,
how you wish you didn't need to get back.

You give me a kiss, and you hold me close,
and you knock back the last of your wine.
You button your shirt, slip on your watch,
and blame all your problems on time.

You met her too early, and you found me too late
and you wish you could start over again.
I just listen to you, I have no advice,
'Cause I know how all the stories end.

And meanwhile, a few miles away across town,
she waits for the sound of your car.
She sets up the alarm clock and the coffee machine,
and doesn't bother wondering where you are.

She doesn't think about changing her hair, or read
what Cosmo says about holding your man.
'Cause you might get there late, but you always come home,
And she knows how all these stories end.

George Street on a Sunday

Six p.m. on a Sunday, and the Street
is exhausted and showing its age.
The occasional cigarette flickers beneath
inquisitive and prickly blue eyes. It is not yet dark enough
to bring night's seedy glamour,
like a broken-mouthed alcoholic swaying
on a stage, haloed by charisma and whiskey fumes.

Six p.m. on a cold October
Sunday. A day of rest
for the wicked, who must all be
recovering at home, like instruments
resting darkly in their battered cases, lids
flung over them, like
an entry-stamped hand
flung across pink pillow prints
on mascara-flecked cheeks.

In Kelly's Pub, a man without a name
on a poster in the window
plays passable if listless Ralph McTell
for two old men eating fish and chips,
a group of restless business travelers from Halifax,
and a guy at the bar, who used to play
with a band who'd almost gotten famous once.

Everyone wonders
what everyone else is doing here, and there is
a feeling of guilt for disturbing this weary peace.
Even streets need their rest.

One bad Friday night

The icicles form strange shapes in the air
& a cigarette is burning down
between my fingers -

a cold sort of fire,
and it will turn to ash,
same as any other.

I will go home and live my life,
the adventure over.
It had to end,

really, & really,
I am almost glad. I know now

where I belong. Not to this
burning dreamscape,
but to the concrete
facts of life. To truth,
then, let me drink
to truth. And to my life

The Difference

Like paints on a palette, only
a few shades apart,
swirling together in the middle
and discovering a new color;

like earth and the river,
butter and cream,
like oak and mahogany,

we compare and contrast
like children

into each others' toy boxes.

Come Away (Dreamloss)

"Come away, O human child,
to the waters and the wild,
with a faerie hand in hand,
for the world's more full of weeping
than you can understand."
- W.B. Yeats, "Stolen Child"

Come away with me, my love,
down to where the stars go dancing,
where shadows come to sleep
like children tired from play.

Come away, oh come with me,
to a place where the ancients linger,
where the breath of forgotten gods
stirs the dust that had once been
their temples and cathedrals.

We will dive into a sea
warm as the breath of lovers,
and hear the music rise
like mist above the hills.

We will listen to the sky
whisper like a mother,
and walk the darkened paths
where memories fear to tread.

"Come away with me," I cried,
and he smiled, and made to follow,
and to this day, I still dream
of his hand upon my hand.

"Come away - " but it grew light
as my world grew dark and hollow,
and so much more full of weeping
than I can ever understand.