December 31, 2009

Purge

The smell of rotting fishguts
curls up from filthy hulls
like old humiliations.

Spilled menstrual blood.
Sour vomit-stink on carpet.
Take-out gone rancid
in a stuffy single room.
Flop sweats
after the flop.

Leave it all behind, honey,

leave it all behind, this
roadkill unraveling
from spinning tires,

painting a ragged red routeline
to future destinations
and fresher fish.


November, 2009. Portland, ME.

La Manche

Where mermaids gathered once to sing
for kings on rocky thrones,

past trees that grow up tall and strong
from the roots of dead men's homes

and a bloodless battlefield
where everybody lost -

there hangs a shivering bridge, alone,
above its brother's ghost.

To hear the mermaids, there, to sing,
their kings to sleep upon their thrones,

I slipped and blushed there, among the rushes
and the slippery stepping stones.

In the atomic cotton candy sky, the stars
may smirk and turn away, and roll their eyes
until they're cross'd.

Bugger the stars. There's nothing can be found
that hasn't first been lost.



September, 2009.

October 22, 2009

One Blood (lyric)

Once upon a lifetime,
Long before anyone can remember
I called you my neighbor
I called you my friend
We never bothered
Dividing up the world
There was one thing we knew back then,
We were all one blood.

Then we changed our directions
Chose our temples, chose our gods
Drew our curtains, drew our weapons
Drew our lines in the mud
Turned our eyes from one another
Turned our hearts to stone
Turned our children into soldiers
Built our castles on their bones

I guess somewhere along the way,
Everybody just forgot
That, once upon a lifetime,
We were all one blood.

We can think of so many reasons,
So many causes to defend
But you were once my neighbor
You were once my friend
How many more will go to die
For someone's ancient choice?
Our languages are different
But we all cry in the same voice

And when we fall, we all call out
To the same silent God
When the fields run red with the blood we shed,
It's all one blood.

In the end, as at the beginning,
We are all one blood.

October 15, 2009

poetry on the bed

You were reading
poetry on the bed
while I packed my bags,

the yellow lamp gathering the night
like a swarm of blinded black moths
filling the room with thick dark flutter.

I packed my bags, thinking
of all the men on all the beds, all
they had done, how none had ever read poetry

and how easy it would be,
how light the silence passed over us,
how the light passed over your face,
and how easy it would be.

But I packed my bags,
time ticking off till take-off,
folding clothes gently
around your fingerprints,

carefully preserving evidence
of night-gathering yellow light,
and you, reading

poetry on the bed.

September 17, 2009

The Weapon

When we met, he had a weapon.
A gun. Kept it polished, kept it clean.
Kept it smooth, a well-oiled machine.

When he left, he left
in a hurry. Left
the gun with me.

I didn't touch it for a long time.
Kept polishing
silver & mahogany, keeping watch
by the window, darning lace.

Then, one day, I picked it up,
the gun. Not so fearsome now,
still & dull from being put away,
clicking empty like a clucking tongue
without much to say.

I oiled it up, loaded it
with cherry pits and milk teeth,
polished it to a lethal gleam.

Now I sit by the window,
the silver growing dull,
keeping watch by the window
for his face.

September 12, 2009

Everything Else

Chilly morning here,
by the docks, Rory's
breakfast shack, listening
to the fishermen

reminisce on catches past,
the weights
and measures of great luck,
seagulls croaking

affirmation overhead,
winging on to find
luck of their own.

Well, I've lost,
but the waves are coming in silver,
the sky lavenders at the edges,
and the coffee is strong.

I've lost
what I wanted most in the world
but everything else is
a hell of a consolation prize.



Hull, MA. 8.21.09

Subterranean Nocturne (lyric)

2 in the morning,
the rats all asleep
Each bench on the platform
holds a soul to keep
All here with their luggage,
their lives piled around them
Taking time off the struggle
Down here, underground

The men off the night shift
Dirty shoes and dead eyes
Heading home to
Sleeping children and wives
Dreaming of weekends
Of their next vacation
Never quite getting
Past the last station

And the tourists from
Texas or France or Japan
Movie stars in their eyes
Subway maps in their hands
Trying not to look up
From their nights on the town
Stuck here with the locals
Down here, underground

And the trains keep on coming
They keep their own schedule
The minutes keep going
Too many to mention
And the wheels in the tracks
Make a high, homeward sound
Passes for music
Down here, underground.

September 10, 2009

Unfurled (lyric)

For a friend who gets it.

We've been walking for a while, you and I
Through purple nights and lavender mornings
Through the mountains of truth and the valleys of lies
Washed the mud off our shoes and kept going
We've been walking for a while, you and I
Long lost track of the miles we have gone
And, darling, maybe we will never fly
But we can walk as far as anyone

And if we are rivers, all we can do is flow
Through the grass of summer and the rocks of winter
And if we are flowers, then we have unfurled
And now it's up to us to blaze or wither

Maybe you and I have seen too much
It happens when you keep your eyes too open
Broke our nails, burned our fingers, but never lost our touch
Lost our way, but never lost hope
And the times that we stumbled or crumbled or wept,
All the loose ends that almost unraveled
All the cracks on our hearts - ah, they just make the map
Of all the roads we have traveled

And if we are rivers, all we can do is flow
Through the grass of summer and the rocks of winter
And if we are flowers, then we have unfurled
And now it's up to us to blaze or wither

June 19, 2009

In The Dark (lyric)

Seemed like the right thing to do at the time,
You and I just weren't making it work
You were driving me right out of my mind
But now I'm sitting alone in the dark.

And it's another glass of wine,
another cigarette,
turn the music way up,
I don't hear any of it
'cause instead, instead
there's only you
Only your face, your voice
Oh, I'm so far past
Thinking love is a choice
And there's only you
Only your taste, your touch
Never thought when I left
I'd miss you so much.

Phone rings, but I don't pick up
'Cause I know that's not you on the line
It's driving me crazy, but I just can't stop
Wondering where you are tonight

And are you loving someone else right now,
What's she got that I don't?
Maybe we could have made it somehow
Maybe I just didn't know what I wanted

And it's another glass of wine,
another cigarette,
turn the music way up,
I don't hear any of it
'cause instead, instead
there's only you
Only your face, your voice
Oh, I'm so far past
Thinking love is a choice
And there's only you
The memory of your touch
Never thought when I left
I'd miss you so much.

Well, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time
We just weren't making it work
But now I'm going out of my mind
Crying alone in the dark.

No Psyche

Cupid's fallen into my bed
and I am nothing like Psyche.

His face is exhausted.
There are lines upon it now,

and I am nothing like Psyche,
but I find myself
mesmerized by

the white threads
inside the arrows shooting out
from the corners of his eyes,
where the sun could not reach
as he squinted into it,

nearly going blind.

I am nothing like Psyche,
but I lie still,
marveling at the marks,

a million little acid burns,
near-faded freckles,
left by other women's tears.
And he is

wind-burned now,
sun-burned,
self-immolated a thousand times.

A thousand times,
he's risen from the ashes
of beds like these.

I am no Psyche,
I have my own acid burns,
and I am not afraid

of the quiver, nearly empty,
tightly clasped in his
old man's hands.
I'm past fearing their pricks,

my skin is a carapace
of calcified lessons,
and there is little he can teach me -

except that I still sometimes wish
I were Psyche, when
Cupid's fallen into my bed.

June 11, 2009

God Is Out To Lunch (lyric)

All the suckers are lining up outside
They've been standing for hours in the rain
Got their thumbs out like they're hitching for a ride
Waiting for the answers like they're waiting for a train

All the dealers are looking for a deal
All the customers are waiting for the sale
All the thieves are looking for a steal
And the stolen goods are all going stale

Well the only ones still feeling all right
Are the ones who've learned to hobble with no crutch
'Cause the local angels' union has gone on strike,
The messiah's stuck in traffic
And God is out to lunch

The preachers are closing up their bibles
The psychics are closing up shop
The father and the son are as stumped as anyone
And the holy ghost is giving himself up

The gurus have all gone on vacation
They're sick of never getting paid
Hey, I hear there's a cult still taking applications
But they're running out of Kool-Aid

Well, the ones who've learned to dance on their blisters
Are the only ones still having fun
The Salvation Corporation is going out of business,
The messiah's gone to voicemail
And God is out to lunch

They're still lining up outside the church
of Our Lady of the Holy Whatever
Waiting for the times to change
Like they wait for better weather

But, one by one, they're figuring it out
When there's no end or point in sight
Stop wondering what the hell it's all about
Stop watching the road and just enjoy the ride

Nobody's watching
Nobody's judging
The prophets are out golfing
The fates are getting drunk
Nobody's helping
Nobody's guiding
The messiah's stuck in traffic
And God is out to lunch

June 9, 2009

Canção do Mar (translitic, aubade)

This is a true translitic of "Canção do Mar" by Dulce Pontes. It is not even an attempt at translation - I speak no Portuguese. It's my interpretation of the music and what the words sound/"feel" like to me. I do advise everyone to find and listen to a recording of this song. I find it incredibly beautiful.

PS - This is one of the many excellent exercises suggested by Steve Kowit in his wonderful book "In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop."

Fools like us can never tell
A lifetime from an hour, a mountain from a storm,
Sand from rain, fire from stone, a desert from the ocean.

Tell me love, the night is on our side
That the dark will keep us safe tonight

Tell me, love, there is still time
Time before the sunrise comes and takes you from me
Oh, my love, we still have time, a lifetime till the morning

Close your eyes, the sky is still so dark
I can still see the moon and stars

You and I are thieves tonight
Tomorrow, we'll be caught and made to pay the price
But, oh, tonight, you and I, possess the only thing worth stealing.

*****
[Original text -
Fui bailar no meu batel

Além no mar cruel
E o mar bramindo
Diz que eu fui roubar
A luz sem par
Do teu olhar tão lindo

Vem saber se o mar terá razão
Vem cá ver bailar meu coração

Se eu bailar no meu batel
Não vou ao mar cruel
E nem lhe digo aonde vou cantar
Sorrir, bailar, viver, sonhar contigo]

June 8, 2009

Should I (lyric)

Should I have been weaker
Too unsteady to stand
Should I have been more fragile
Shattered in your hands

Should I have been quieter
Talked a little less
You know us uppity girls
We never give it a rest

Should I have been smaller
A little less consequential
Lost a few pounds
And that damned third dimension

Should I have been prettier
Would you have liked me more
Should I have been less pretty
Easier to ignore

Should I have been sweeter
Easier to tame
Should I have blushed for you
Acted like I was ashamed

I should have known better
Seen your full potential
When you said you loved me
I should have paid more attention

And you shouldn't feel nervous
I won't make a scene
I've never been one of those girls
I keep my garbage clean

And you shouldn't feel too special
You weren't the first
And I don't think you're gonna be the last
And I don't think you're gonna be the worst.

June 7, 2009

Angel At My Door (translyric)

This is a very loose translation of a French song, "Un Ange Frappe A Ma Porte" by Natasha St-Pier. So loose, in fact, I can't even call it a translation - the English lyrics match the music and there are shared images, but that's about all. Original lyrics below. Incidentally, the song is beautiful and should be listened to - it was a hit and is widely available on YouTube, etc.

A sign, a star
Too close, too far
Red fire in the sky
The truth wrapped in a lie
Too slow, too fast
The fragments of the past
Are coming back to wash up on my shore -

There's an angel at my door
Shall I ask him to come in
Ask him what he's looking for
Where he comes from, where he's been
There's a demon at my door
And he wants to come inside
He says all he's asking for
Is a moment of my time

A flash, a flame
A love, a name
A face behind a mask
Reflections in a glass
A glance, a gleam
An echo of a dream
A dream I hardly think of anymore -

There's an angel at my door
Shall I go to let him in
Ask him what he's looking for
Where he comes from, where he's been
There's a demon at my door
He's been waiting there all night
He says if I hear him out
He'll make everything all right

There's a storm that will not come
There's a stone no one has thrown
There's a sword that cannot fall -

There's a child at my door
And he says that he is mine
He's got your eyes and my mouth
And his face is full of light -

When I reach him, it's too late
When I reach him, he is gone
How much longer till I've paid
For whatever I have done?


Original lyrics - Un Ange Frappe A Ma Porte

"Un signe, une larme,

un mot, une arme,
nettoyer les étoiles à l'alcool de mon âme

Un vide, un mal
des roses qui se fanent
quelqu'un qui prend la place de
quelqu'un d'autre

Un ange frappe a ma porte
Est-ce que je le laisse entrer
Ce n'est pas toujours ma faute
Si les choses sont cassées
Le diable frappe a ma porte
Il demande a me parler
Il y a en moi toujours l'autre
Attiré par le danger

Un filtre, une faille,
l'amour, une paille,
je me noie dans un verre d'eau
j'me sens mal dans ma peau

Je rie je cache le vrai derrière un masque,
le soleil ne va jamais se lever.

Un ange frappe a ma porte
Est-ce que je le laisse entrer
Ce n'est pas toujours ma faute
Si les choses sont cassées
Le diable frappe a ma porte
Il demande a me parler
Il y a en moi toujours l'autre
Attiré par le danger

Je ne suis pas si forte que ça
et la nuit je ne dors pas,
tous ces rêves ça me met mal,
Un enfant frappe à ma porte
il laisse entrer la lumière,
il a mes yeux et mon coeur,
et derrière lui c'est l'enfer."

Same River Twice (Interrupted Dance) (lyric)

"You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you." - Heraclitus

Well, the last time that I saw you
We were saying goodbye
And when I let you go, my hands were shaking
But we knew we couldn't start a love on a lie
And so we went home to the ones who were waiting

It was all so long ago,
but here you are before me now
It looks as though we got another chance
To take the next step
Of our interrupted dance

But like the sages always say
All things change, nothing abides
And you can't step in the same river twice

You know, I never did forget your face
And I kept a place for you in my heart
I held onto the memory of our stolen days
But the lovers of that story
Are no longer who we are

'Cause, darling, now you're free and I'm alone
But this garden has been overgrown
With the weeds of disappointment, doubt and guilt
Yeah, I am free and you're alone,
And we could make a shelter, but not a home
From the broken bricks of the houses we'd once built

Like the sages always say
All things change, nothing abides
And you can't step in the same river twice

There's nothing I would rather do
Than hold you in my arms again
There is nothing I would rather do
Than pretend that nothing's changed
That you and I could have a brand new beginning
But I know it woudn't be the same
So, for the sake of who we were back then
Let's let our interrupted dance
Remain unfinished

Like the sages always say
All things change, nothing abides
And you can't step in the same river twice

May 29, 2009

Pearl Grotto (v. 2)

our mouths are oysters,
pearls growing inside
as quickly as they can drop from our tongues

catching on our clavicles,
sliding off our shoulders,
nestling in our navels,
sticking in the damp creases
of our elbows and knees,
encrusting our sexes
richly as jewels
on a crown,

and we are swift silver fishcreatures
streaking bubble-baubled fingerfins
through scale-scattered light,

lungs louvering,
lips dilating,

flicking, slippery and oblivious,
through a glistening grotto,

swishing, slick and silken,
against each other's opening shells.


A reworking of an earlier draft.

May 26, 2009

Volcanic Origins

I dreamt last night. A coliseum.
It was you and some other man.
He held a pike. You had no weapon.
You were a lion. I was sand.

The crowd cried out. Some foreign language.
There was commotion. There was blood.
You slid. You fell. Heavy upon me.
Your golden body. I was mud.

I held you close. I spread beneath you.
I made myself soft as a bed.
You breathed an imprecise staccato.
You moved against me. I was red.

We were the circus. The crowd watched us.
A shouting, stretching, swaying cage.
You didn't hear. You lay against me.
You were still. I was rage.

I rose around you. Rose around them.
I filled their ears. I shut their eyes.
I stopped their throats. I stopped their shouting.
They shrank away. I multiplied.

I rose around them. Higher. Higher.
Until I stood there all alone.
No sound. No movement. No one judging.
No witnesses. I turned to stone.

I held you, cradled, deep inside me.
Where hot, red, liquid life still flowed.
I stayed that way. Mute. Monumental.
A great reliquiary of love.

Then I wept. The tears welled slowly,
and, flowing over, scorched my cheeks.
They wrote in rivulets of fire
the words that sand could never speak.

I woke a human. Flesh and fragile.
Flushing and damp in summer heat.
My jaw like stone. Lips like obsidian.
Silence erupting through my teeth.

May 19, 2009

Walking In The City (lyric)

Last night, I went walking in the city,
Where the lights of Broadway burned so bright, they kept away the cold
And I'll be the first to say, they sure looked pretty
But I didn't see a single sidewalk that was paved with gold

I went walking down to Wall Street,
Where the boys in pin-striped suits looked as sharp as butcher knives,
And the ladies' heels were clicking
Like a million clocks all ticking,
And the taxi tires squealed like somebody's angry wife.

Then I went up to old Times Square
It was all aglow with a thousand neon stars
Yeah, just like it always is -
hey, the tourists groove on this -
Glittering and tempting as a hooker in a bar.

Ch - If you don't like where you're at, well, that's a pity
But like somebody once said, you just seek and you shall find
So move on down to New York City
Try your luck, try your patience, try to keep your friggin' mind

They can see you coming from a mile away
Give them your address and you don't need another word
You can dress like HRH of Wales -
honey, we've all heard of sample sales -
You are where you live and you live where you can afford.

Well, some say it's a bit too loud,
But you know, we like it that way
'Cause when the ambulances shriek,
You can hardly hear the freaks
Raving on about the end of days

And if you get tired of the city
Take a hike over the Brooklyn Bridge
Where they like to drop their R's
And some of them own cars
But they still take the subway, 'cause parking is a bitch

Ch.

Last night, I went walking in the city
Thinking that I shouldn't mix vodka, wine and beer
I was talking to myself out loud
But no one even turned around
'Cause if you turn around, that means you ain't from here.

May 18, 2009

Hold A Candle

The frame is in the shape
of an inverted triangle.

Below, the crowning
top of his head, above,

another frame, square, around
the room, the headboard
and my face. I look

like I am dying,
Jesus Christ,

maybe I am, and
that would be okay

right now. Now, now,
no, yes, please, God, God,
God, dear God,

dear God in heaven,
dear Satan everywhere,

fuck you both.

You couldn't hold a candle.

An experiment :)

May 16, 2009

Catfight in Vehicular Allegory

My dear, if you were a car
you would surely be a red Ferrari,
powerful & sleek,
expensive & assertive,
waxed & leathery,
sucking up road
& roaring while you did it,
so everyone could see you coming.

Me, I'd be
that little white Volvo over there,

parked in his garage.

Hemlock (lyric)

Where the sinners gather to cower
Where the atheists gather to kneel
Where the killers gather to pity
Where the dead men gather to feel

Where the holy men gather to gamble
Where the martyrs gather to preach
Where the healers gather to murder
Where the ignorant gather to teach

Where the powerful gather to grovel
Where the drunkards gather to dry
Where the debtors gather to borrow
Where the honest gather to lie

Where the addicts beg damp-fingered dealers
For just one more, one more hit
But the dealers all gave up the business
They're done, they've gone straight, they've quit

Where they pray to the moody messiah
To come back to the mess that he made,
Lighting leftover birthday candles
Building altars of used razor blades,

Where I brought the heads of your lackeys
To retrieve the bones of my spies,
Where I knelt at your populous bedside
And kissed the dust on your eyes,

Where the bar is always too crowded,
but a girl can still find a seat,
they make a good champagne cocktail.
I order a hemlock, neat.

May 14, 2009

Doing So Well/I'm Sorry

"It's good to hear you're doing so well,
But really, can't you find somebody else that you can ring and tell?"
- Nick Cave, "Far From Me"


I hear you're doing well,
that you've stopped missing work,
and everyone is so happy for you.
I'm glad to hear that.

I hear you're two months sober now,
that you haven't drunk a drop
since that morning
when I sucked you dry,

and I'm glad to hear that.
You're doing so well now, I know
seeing me must upset you a little,
and I'm sorry

because, I know,
it must have been hard. You were
such a good little bad boy
before, and I'm sorry

it isn't as much fun anymore,
now that you've prostrated yourself
before the mint-breathing court
of public opinion
in phony supplication,

and I'm sorry
for reminding you of that,
for being
that scar,
that odd dent in your car,
that story you'll never tell, because

you're doing so well now.
It must have been hard
to tunnel your way to redemption
across wrinkled hotel linens, and I'm sorry

if you can still feel me breathing, sorry
I'm still breathing, in fact. I would
self-destruct for you, but
I need your help to do that.

But look, you're doing so well now,
and maybe I even helped
in some small way, and I hear
your wife is happier now too,

and I sometimes want to call her up
and tell her
how glad I am to hear that,
that you're doing so well,

that you're stopped fucking up and
fucking around,
and all you had to do was
fuck me

over.

But I won't call.
I don't think I could take
all her gratitude. Besides,
she might start apologizing for you

and it would only be awkward for everybody.

I'm just sorry
that I'm here, making you work so hard
at pretending I don't exist. I promise,
I'll try not to do it anymore.

I just wanted to tell you
how glad I am
to hear you're doing so well,
and I'm sorry.

Sometime in 2009

May 13, 2009

My Orpheus

This is a short story. It's something I've had on a back burner for a very long time. About, oh, 4 years, to tell the truth. I finally wrote the bulk of it over the course of last week. I don't know why.

It's a turned-around retelling of the Orpheus myth. It takes place mainly in ancient Thrace.

It's about 42 pages long, which is why I am linking to it instead of putting the entire thing here.

May 6, 2009

Sleeping Beauty

This thorny, horny, hoary, punk-spiky
prick-thicket of swollen red
infection waiting to happen,
& pain-cries & suckled fingers
& never-agains,

snarled, snarling, shriveled, vicious, waiting
for something soft to come along,
something to stab & satisfy
its curiosity -

"What is that plant?"

It once bore roses, red
red roses.

"Is it dead?"

Not dead. They say, there is still
beauty sleeping
inside.

Te Quiero (a very private joke)

After Carol Ann Duffy (with all apologies, with no explanations)

As soon as I walked in,
I felt his eyes on me,
clinging and damp
as droplets on a sweating
glass of beer.

"I love your hair. You must be
Spanish. Dominican? Puerrrto Rrrrican?"
He rolled the rs, all maladroit
tongue. He had big hands.

I took him home
and fucked him
for a week.

"Say something in Spanish."
So I told him,
"Te quiero."

He loved that. So I said it again. And again.

He was in town on business. Left
before I started wishing
that he would.
We got blind drunk on his last night.

"Say it again, say - "
"Te quiero."

I let him keep his blanks
filled in with spice and tambourines.
He never knew

that, years ago,
a bartender in Acapulco
told me he liked American girls,

and later,
"Te quiero."

May 1, 2009

Weapen

You are the collateral damage,
stricken by the shrapnel
of my helpless honesty.
I hurt you every time
I put pen to paper,
and I'd like to kiss it better,

but I've got ink on my lips.

You are the innocent bystander
caught in my creative crossfire,
and when I see you bleeding on the pavement,

all I really want to do is
write about it.

Poets are like that.
We suck on poison so frequently,
we have developed a certain immunity,
and I

slip my tongue into your mouth, forgetting

you have not developed the same.



March 2009.

April 6, 2009

Nobody's Fault (lyric)

I am watching you climb into the waiting car
And this might be a good time to say don't go, but I won't say don't go
'Cause there is nothing I can do to change the way things are
And anything I could tell you, you already know
If there had been someone who came between us,
if there had been some kind of fight
It might be easier
For me to say goodbye

But you are leaving, and I won't hold you
I am not going to make this hard
You'll be somebody else's sunshine
I'll be someone else's star
'Cause when you take a flight of fancy,
Sometimes you fly, sometimes you fall
And there is no one to blame here
It's nobody's fault

I won't take the coward's refuge
And I won't say it was a waste of time, that you were wrong for me
You were the reward for all my patience
You were my lighthouse in the dark and silent sea
You were the coin inside the fountain,
a comet through the sky
The wish in the wishing well
But now the well's run dry

Maybe we just ran out of wishes
Maybe we just ran out of time
Maybe we just turned different corners
You'll have your journey, I'll have mine
'Cause when you take a flight of fancy,
Sometimes you fly, sometimes you fall
And there is no one to blame here
It's nobody's fault

April 5, 2009

Busker (lyric)

He'll never make a record
Or play any big stage
And the only hit he'll ever have
Comes in a ten-dollar bag
But he's playing to a captive crowd
Of thousands tonight
In the 14th Street train station
Of the downtown-bound F-line

His songs never will get played
On the radio
But you're probably heard his voice before,
Though I bet you'd never know.
Sometimes, he sounds like Dylan
Sometimes, he sounds like Waits
Ah, you probably never noticed him,
You were busy, or running late

His fingernails are dirty
But his notes all come out clean
When a coin falls, it makes a sound
Like a sleepy tambourine
And for your kindness, he will add
A new lyric to an old refrain
"Thank you, brother," "thank you, sir,"
"Thank you, darlin'," "thank you, ma'am."

He'll never make a record
Or play any big stage
And the only hit he'll ever have
Comes in a ten-dollar bag
But he's playing to a captive crowd
Of thousands tonight
In the 14th Street train station
Of the downtown-bound F-line.

April 3, 2009

Drinking from the Lethe (archive)

Maybe I should lean against the wall
And let the wall claim me.
And maybe I should lay out here,
And let the sky come down and stain me.
What use is my identity?
Does it mean anything to anybody?
If I die tomorrow, they will only know me
By the dog tags in my blood and body.

I'm mechanized, automatized,
I'm optimized to do my duties.
I'm sterilized, I'm socialized,
Lobotomized to be a beauty.

I've gotten lost between the circles,
I'm sick of offering resistance.
And all around me, addicts offer up their cells
For another hit of existence.
What use is my reality?
While everyone enjoys the songs of faith
They open their veins for another refrain,
While the conductor shoves a stick in their face.

I'm centralized, I'm normalized,
I'm strapped into the Great Divine,
Upgraded and revised, so I
No longer need to analyze.

And isn't it beautiful?
This passive perfection
Oh, I'm so grateful
For your helpful corrections
Yes, I am amazed
By what can be done. . . .
. . . . I'm hypnotized, I'm mezmerized
By all I've become.


Spring, 2002.

". . . what else do you love?" Part 2

I love the first real day of spring,
when everything finally fills its lungs all the way,
when the sun stops playing coy at last
and warmth comes naturally as laughter.

I love coffee shops that have an empty table,
even if there is a franchise name over the door,
lingering there, leaving lipstick on a paper cup
and my doodles on a napkin.

I love used book shops,
the held breath of untold, unidentified fingerprints,
the soft rub of grainy old paper,
the surprising curves of out-dated fonts.

I love park benches,
peeling islands in an ocean of haste,
careless evidence of past occupants lightly strewn underneath,
and my own temporary presence merely evidence of itself.

I love my notebook and pens,
the magic of the flowing line,
the creamy anticipation of an empty page,
the heavy, swollen silence of filled ones.

I love being able
to say how much
I love.

April 1, 2009

". . . what else do you love?"

I love my camera,
the feel of it in my hands, its smooth,
confident mechanics, the bright "click!"
of every capture, every release.

I love St. John's, Newfoundland,
the perspective up or down its steeply sloping streets,
the sound of floating wooden docks under my feet,
the silent milkmist of fog on water.

I love drinking coffee,
the crackling, dark aroma of it,
the slow white explosion of adding cream,
the warm solidity of a fresh cup, like a brown suede boot.

I love tea, too,
the languid bobble of a tea bag in water,
the spreading sepia rainbow of the steeping,
the bracing delicateness, like filigreed steel.

I love smoking cigarettes,
the sex-whisper sound of lighting one,
the casually assertive, masculine taste,
the downward dance at its tip.

I love whiskey,
the easygoing pride of flavour in a mix,
the four-second amberflash of a poured shot,
the over-heavy velvet with a coarse leather finish.

I love red wine, too,
the color like ink spilled into a ruby,
the dark spread in my mouth,
the peppered sweetness, like the taste of hard-earned trust.

I love dark chocolate,
the memory of treebark behind the sugar,
the yielding, growing intensity on the tongue
like melting together onyx and gold.

I love music,
the fact that it is a language spoken by everyone,
the dawning surprise of unheard notes,
the lust that thuds or shivers through it.

I love sex,
the blossoming of miles and miles of skin,
the muttered Pentecostal incantations,
the God-strong grip of momentary possession.

I love to laugh,
the rocking release of breath,
the flex of muscles in my cheeks,
the sudden reason to live.

And I love dancing
in dark places,
and boats,
and trains

I love train stations
and airports,
and planes and flying,
and long walks

I love the smell of rain-wet pavement,
talking to strangers,
and I love the moment they stop
being strangers,
and I love

I love, I love, I love, I love

so much, I will never be
completely happy,

but

so much, I will never be
completely miserable.



Inspired by this.

'Skine to skin

Open me up
like a music box
and I will sing you
your secrets.

Cover me in veils
of ink-spun silk
and I will dance
like Salome.

Leave gleaming tracks
like a worm on a leaf
and I will turn them
into light.



August 14, 2007

March 30, 2009

Song Without A Melody (translation)

This is a translation/adaptation of one of my favorite French songs, "Chanteur sans une melodie" by Isabelle Boulay. It is not a word-for-word translation; instead, I chose to adapt English lyrics to the same melody.

Now it's 6 a.m.
another sleepless night has passed
like a petal drowning
in some indifferent glass

And I know I will get through this
I know the dawn will come
But there's so much time left to wait
before the dark has gone

And I am like a singer without a voice,
a song without a melody
a boat without a rudder
lost upon your sea
I am like a singer without a voice,
condemned to sing no more
I've brought you everything I had
Just to leave it at your door

When I think of you
I remember all the words you said
They still fill this empty room
and echo in my head

Through the windowpane,
I watch the day begin
There must be sound somewhere out there
but I can't hear a thing

And I am like a singer without a voice,
a song without a melody
a boat without a rudder
lost upon your sea
I am like a singer without a voice,
condemned to sing no more
I've brought you everything I had
Just to leave it at your door



[Original text: Chanteur sans une melodie, by Isabelle Boulay
Six heures du matin
Je suis au bout de ma nuit blanche
Comme une rose dans un vase
Fanée d'indifférence

Mais je sais qu' j' vais t'oublier
Et que viendra le jour
Mais le temps est tellement lent
Et tout est tellement dur

Je ne suis qu'un chanteur sans une mélodie
Qu'un chanteur sans sa voix
Un bateau sans gouvernail
A la dérive de toi

Je ne suis qu'un chanteur sans une mélodie
Condamné à ne plus chanter
J'ai les mains pleines de cadeaux
Personne à qui donner...

Quand je pense à tout
C' que tu m'as dit, ça me fait peur
Comme ce grand silence
Qui est un océan dans mon cœur

A travers de ma fenêtre
Je vois les rayons de l'aube
Et dans mon cœur je vois des vagues
Mais je ne peux les entendre

Je ne suis qu'un chanteur sans une mélodie
Qu'un chanteur sans sa voix
Un bateau sans gouvernail
A la dérive de toi

Je ne suis qu'un chanteur sans une mélodie
Condamné à ne plus chanter
J'ai les mains pleines de cadeaux
Personne à qui donner

Je ne suis qu'un chanteur sans une mélodie
Condamné à ne plus chanter
J'ai les mains pleines de cadeaux
Personne à qui donner...]

Times Square After The Rain

The stars were floating
in the sidewalk,
alongside
gum wrappers
and cigarette butts.

Umbrellas were being shaken out
by strangers exchanging
looks of ordinary relief,
sending arcs of neon-colored droplets
flying outward like smiles.

The cars hummed along,
their tires rasping
on wet asphalt
like zippers
sliding down.

March 28, 2009

Come Morpheus

Come Morpheus,

with your eyes full of acid
and your mouth full of pearls,
your jacket unbuttoned
and your fingers unfurled,

with milk on your tongue
and flesh in your teeth,
in battered old blue jeans
with nothing on underneath,

with your heart full of garbage
and your head full of wind,
with a stamp on your wrist
and a price on your skin,

with the dust in your lashes,
with your old bag of tricks,
with the world on your shoulders,
with your perfect pink prick,

with your smile like a snowfall,
and the moon in your eyes,
come as you are
or come in disguise

for you know I will know you
whatever you wear
by the stain on your iris
by the scent of your hair.

So come, Morpheus
I've been waiting up
and the coffee's gone bitter
and cold in my cup.

With your horns all aglow
and your halo ablaze,
come for a while,
but don't ask to stay

for you know I would tumble
if you gave the command
and I don't think you need
more blood on your hands.

Have It All (lyric)

You take that step away from me.
I know, you always say
that for every stolen pleasure,
there's a heavy fine to pay.

There are lines that can't be crossed,
there are more that must be walked,
rules that can't be broken,
boats that can't be rocked.

You keep your hands away from me,
and you won't look me in the eye.
Yes, I know what you always say -
that way, danger lies.

But just stepping closer to the edge
doesn't mean you're gonna fall,
and I'm telling you, we can have it all.

You've always been so careful,
measured every choice,
though you think that spontaneity
has a time and place.
You always plan your tomorrow
when each day is done
and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
till tomorrow never comes.

And if you save all your colors for a rainy day,
the sun is never yellow,
the sky is always gray.

And if you gamble on a hand or two,
that don't mean you're gonna lose,
and I'm telling you, you don't have to choose.

Well, I have seen you watching me
and I know what's on your mind
But stepping into something new
doesn't mean you leave something behind

And, listen, it's the same for me -
I've made choices of my own -
Life is a pyramid of those - a job, a lover, a home

But I've gone dancing in the rain
and I've never caught a cold
And I'm telling you, you can have it all.

March 27, 2009

Reconstruction #1 (Desk Dreams)

He grins
from the flames of
God's fire,

crooking a finger,
encouraging madness,

and dances with quills,
leaving sooty footprints for me
to find

in the morning.

The top of my head blows off,
pink flying out
& landing like
a thousand discarded bits of latex.

Eleven sober suits hang,
shrouded, silent,
sightless like prisoners of war,
wondering which will go first.

And the cavewoman
can't stop laughing.




Fall 2006.

March 25, 2009

Pearl Grotto

our mouths are oysters,
pearls growing inside
as quickly as they can drop from our lips

they stud our bodies
like the baubles of Indian gods
or currants in a cake,

caught behind our clavicles,
nestled in our navels,
stuck in the damp creases
of our elbows and knees,
encrusting our sexes
richly as jewels
on a crown

are we a grotto
to be filled with such
dripping extravagance?

the passage is narrow
and I flow lazily through
until I reach the mouth
and then

I am a waterfall
plunging forever, crashing,
nowhere to go but down
to swirl and bubble at the base

and your knees are mountains,
moving together, crumbling
around me, a howling, triumphant apocalypse,
raining rock and sand,

endless grains of sand.
each one will become a pearl.

Villanavel-Gazing (villanelle self-challenge)

After Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art"

The art of rhyming isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be made music by some clever bastard -

like love. And think, how sweet it is to pester
the minister of your heart's government
in rhyme - which truly isn't hard to master.

Rhyme "never" with "forever." Ever faster
the couplets come; they must be heaven sent!
"My God," you think, "I am a clever bastard."

But then, you come upon a winking jester,
who goads you to a villanelle attempt . . .
and, Jesus, that one sure is hard to master.

The gauntlet thrown, the challenge rankles, festers;
you haven't slept in days, you're shaking, spent -
Could it be you are NOT a clever bastard?

The pen flies at the wall. "O @#$%ing blast - !". . . Er,
forgive me, gentle reader. What I meant
's the art of rhyming isn't hard to master -
but that damned villanelle sure is a bastard.


It is worth noting that, about 3-4 years ago, I tried to write a serious villanelle. About love. And poetry. And bodies melting together into music and light and all that jazz. I spent about a month hacking away at it before I moved on to another poem. It was at least a year before I finally gave up on it and admitted defeat. Probably another year before it stopped bothering me.

I wrote this one in under 30 minutes.

If You've Never Been Loved By A Poet

If you've never been loved by a poet,
you really ought to try it.
They love with an excessive tendency to beauty
and an obsessive attention to detail.

A poet will always remember
the exact shade of your eyes,
birthdays, anniversaries,
and the way your face looked in the moonlight,

and anyone who harbors that much passion
for a particular type of paper and pen
is probably pretty good in bed.

Best of all, when you are through
with being written about
and have started cruising Adult Literacy meetings,
you don't have to feel guilty -

she'll just switch to sadder poems,
and when that's done, why,
she might just put her head in the oven,
considerately leaving you with a good story to tell other women.

Yes, if you've never been loved by a poet,
you really ought to try it.

March 24, 2009

Fortune Teller

A man came to me, said "Can you show me
the way to a better life,
a bigger house, a faster car,
an easier job, a prettier wife,
the way to meaning and the way to God,
and the way to a love that is true"
So I took his hand, skinned off the palm
& said, "Here's a road map for you."

A girl came to me, said "Can you help me,
I've fallen for the wrong kind of man.
I'm so tired of this love, so tired of this ache,
I want to smile again."
So I gave her a potion, said "Just add a few
tears that you shed in your sorrow,
then stir in some arsenic, drink it all down,
and you'll feel much better tomorrow."

The day is near over, I'm alone in my tent,
my crystal ball's turned back to glass.
I take off my turban, pinch out the incense,
wonder where I've put the grass.
I idly pick up the deck of cards,
Shuffle, cut, take one out -
it's the Joker - for once, this shit makes sense -
we all need something to laugh about.

Dairy Allegory

The bowl of milk that I set out
for the faeries
has already been licked clean
by street cats
who can't digest milk
& now they prowl outside my window,
yowling their displeasure
& leaving white puddles
on my doorstep.

You ask what
this has to do
with puking cats.

Well, I've kept this bowl
filled for you
& every time you stoop to feed,
it doesn't seem to agree with you.

You make a puddle,
then leave.

One Night Only

We sweat,
crushed together,
slicked fish in a can,
hurled against the rails
like protesters or refugees -

- this is the front row -
- God's country -

the girl next to me
is on her tenth orgasm

she shrieks,
pounds my arm,
grabs my hand -

- OH MY GOD, HE'S SO HOT! -

someone spills beer on me

"He's hung like a rabbit," I mumble
meanly
and of course, she doesn't hear me -

- WHAT? -

- NOTHING, NOTHING! -
(it was a year ago)
I smile broadly
she grins,

shrieks again -
number eleven -

later, I will puke
on her shoes.

March 11, 2009

Love Letters

If I send up enough love
letters, letter by letter,
who is to say
they will not

find purchase, hook like horseshoes
on the edge of the moon,
lodge between the clouds,

like an earring
lost between couch cushions,

linger up there awhile
until a rain
carries them down;

and who is to know
they will not
find you somehow,

mingled with the raindrops, slide
over the sleeve of your coat,
into your shirt cuff;

and who is to say
you will not know
they come from me?

Whoosh!
Here comes another one,
with fondest regards.

March 3, 2009

Key West

Thank you.

It was a cold day
in the tropics.

We watched the morning sail in,
chill grey and glittering
with mist, the seagulls skimming busily
over the water below
your stateroom balcony.

While all the other tourists
paddled through T-shirts and tiki bars,
we would stay here until they all came back for dinner,
and we laughed like conspirators,
delighted with our discovery -

this was the best way
to spend a day in port.

March 1, 2009

Inconceivable

Look up and receive,
for you and I are
made for this,
and this too,
this is made for this.

Look up and receive,
what would he be like,
or she, and whom would she
resemble more,
or he?

Look up and receive,
and our bodies are rivers
running together
to the same estuary,
as rivers have always.

Look up,

but, "No," I say, "no,
not like this,"
and you stop instantly,
because you are a good, respectful
man, a dying
breed, obviously.

Look up,
it is like holding
a seashell to your ear,
imagining you are hearing
the ghosts of imagined origins,
but really,

there is only the sound
of emptiness crashing against itself.

February 28, 2009

Pearls for the Swine (lyric)

Yeah, I hear your big old boots
rattling up the dust
You got a fistful of carnations
and a pocketful of lust
I better get up and give you
what you came here for,
'cause I can hear you knock-knock-knocking
the dirt off my door.

Well, I've been taking meetings
with men of sound repute
My eyes blur over, looking
at the pinstripes on their suits
They say they can give me
what I really need
An easy, even trade
of loneliness for greed.
They're only tired soldiers, looking for peace.
Kings in search of another concubine.
Ah, but they're all just suckers, begging for a piece,
and I'm saving all my pearls for the swine.

And I know this one fellow,
he writes songs to make you cry.
Swears he found life's meaning
in the corners of my eyes.
His body's full of longing,
his mouth is full of words.
A few of them are even ones
that I haven't yet heard.
And it breaks my heart to refuse the pleas
of a poet who is searching for a rhyme.
But after all, he's just a sucker, begging for a piece,
and I'm saving all my pearls for the swine.

And the man I saw last night
had a body like a god,
a face just like an angel
and a name I soon forgot.
He's so used to winning,
that he gets turned on by defeat,
and he laid his beauty gently,
like a weapon at my feet.
But even though he looks good on his knees,
he's just another kill of time.
Just another sucker, begging for a piece,
and I'm saving all my pearls for the swine.

Well, I wear my jeans real tight,
and I wear my hair real long,
and the streets are mine all night,
but I like to sleep alone.
I'm so tired of explaining
I'm not just playing hard to get.
And maybe I should just give up -
but it's not over, not just yet,

'cause now I hear your big old boots,
rattling up the dust,
and the scent of crushed carnations
cuts the swimming smell of lust,
and then, I finally hear you knocking,
and it's what I've been waiting for.
You know, every man's madonna
wants to be another's whore.

And hey, I'm just a prisoner, waiting for release,
counting notches while I do my time,
ah fuck it, I'm a sucker, begging for a piece,
saving all my pearls for the swine.

Murder Your Mythologies (Survivor Parasite) (lyric)

I sat down in a tavern
by a horny unicorn.
He said, "Did you know, every minute,
there's another virgin born?"
Then he winked and wandered off,
but someone must have lied,
'cause that night he caught the virus
and, shortly after, died.

Once I saw a siren
near a record studio.
She said she had VIPs to see,
lots of high places to go.
She wore Manolos on her feet,
had lots of cash to spend.
Three months later, she OD'd
in the bathroom of the Bitter End.

Well, I've been reading the future,
just like the old ones taught me,
reading the entrails
of this phoenix I caught.
Found him in with the chickens,
probably up to no good.
Let's see him rise now
from this fire made of wood.

You see, that's what happens to the legends
Their blazing glory shames our humble light
But death is always lurking at the edges
And survival's too prosaic for their like

(And we who toil below with pen and chisel,
We wide-eyed, giftless, ordinary ones,
Our names may be forgotten - but our drivel,
Our cloying, lovestruck elegies live on.)

February 24, 2009

Close Your Eyes (lyric)

Close your eyes, my darling
You keep them open too wide
Close the doors and the windows
Leave the wind outside

Leave the world to its worries
It's half-truths and its lies
Take a break from its shades of grey,
my love, and close your eyes.

Rest a while, my darling
You'll see, there's nothing to fear
You've always seen too clearly
And that's been your burden to bear

Leave the fools to their follies
To their gilt, their glamour and guile
Turn away from their turn in the play,
my love, and rest for a while.

Close your eyes, my darling,
There's no storm to watch for tonight
There's no truth that needs to be shouted
There's no battle that you have to fight

There's no need to wait for the demons
No, they won't take you by surprise
They fall dead like dead leaves in the fall,
I promise, as soon as you close your eyes.

So close your eyes, my darling,
I promise to hold you all night
And I'll be very still, but you know I will still
be here when you open your eyes.

February 18, 2009

Orpheus (Alternate Ending)

Well, it's time for the Maenads to gather again
As they do every spring on the same riverbank
They cast off their clothes, they sing and they dance,
They don't see him come shuffling by.

He shows up alone, but he's wearing a ring
He's playing with one unbroken string,
Ah, he's still got a song that he'd like to sing
If his mouth wasn't so dry.

But still, he strains his strangling throat,
Forcing out a few mangled notes,
Just a weak and weary, worn-out old goat
With a lyre that can no longer lie.

So he watches them sing, he watches them dance,
And his fingers are itching, but he's got no chance,
He's used up his turns in the game of romance,
No one even looks at him twice.

And just when he can't be any more alone,
Just before he admits his strength is all gone,
He's joined by a harnessed and horse-shod faun,
And they lay down together to die.