Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Dog Ate My Poem

I tried to explain:
I have no poem today-
My dog ate it.

“That’s not a good excuse”, she replied-
“You must have a copy,
a computer-file backup?”

I tried to explain:
I have no poem today-
My dog ate it,
and then peed on my computer,
and the computer went *KAZAPP!*,
and destroyed the backup files.

“That’s not a good excuse”, she insisted-
“Surely you have had time
to write another?”

I tried to explain:
I have no poem today-
My dog ate it,
and then peed on my computer,
and the computer went *KAZAPP!*,
and destroyed the backup files,
and shocked the dog,
so we took the dog to the vet,
and it was raining
and I caught cold
and spent the day in bed.

“That’s not a good excuse”, she scolded.
“Surely, spending the day in bed,
gave you plenty of time
to think about a poem to write?”

I tried to explain:
I have no poem today-
My dog ate it,
and then peed on my computer,
and the computer went *KAZAPP!*,
and destroyed the backup files,
and shocked the dog,
so we took the dog to the vet,
and it was raining
and I caught cold
and spent the day in bed
with a 103 degree fever
and I was delirious and incoherent.

“That’s not a good excuse”, she declared-
“I write my best poetry
when I’m high or stoned and delirious
or otherwise incoherent.”

I know, I said.
That explains a lot-

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Running on Empty-

Hello Empty Page-
It’s been a week since we talked,
a long time to go
without soiling your surface,
a flashed-by week,
with too much Life going on
to actually sit down
and stop to think about it.

Hello Calendar-
Is it that time of year again, already?
December 21st,
The Shortest Day-
and each one,
each year,
is just a bit shorter.

Hello Holidays-
The pitter-patter scipper-scamper
of the days running up
to Christmas
and New Years
are even more rushed
to get out and be gone
than they were last year,
and last year
they were in one hell of a rush.

Hello Old Friend-
we didn’t exchange cards this year;
but it was a good run,
18 years I think it was,
without missing one?
I should take the one I bought for you,
and put it on your stone,
but there’s not enough postage in the world
to get it to you now.

Hello Morning-
The coffee is ready,
and the cat needs feeding
and there are a dozen tasks
to be completed
before lunchtime
and retrospection
and introspection
are commodities best left
for examination next week.

Did anyone buy eggnog?
I thought it was on the list-
I need to make a list-
I need to sit down,
and make a list,
or maybe
just talk for a moment
 to my empty page.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fantasy vs. Reality-

All the Care Bears were sucked
into the center of a giant Black Hole.
I hate it when Fantasy meets Reality-
and loses.

Santa’s sleigh crash-landed
on an ice flow with a hungry leopard seal.
RIP, Jolly Fellow. Authorities blame the
accident on the Polar Vortex.

Lassie came home alone today,
curled up by the fire, and dreamt
sweet doggie dreams, knowing nobody
saw her push Timmy down the well.

Faster than a speeding bullet,
more powerful than a locomotive,
but Superman learned too late-
don’t fuck around with power lines.

Dr. Seuss lied about the Grinch-
he never gave back the toys,
and was hunted down, beaten to death
and eaten by murderous, starving Whos.

This time the tornado
got Dorothy, Toto, and Auntie ‘Em.
In Oz, Scarecrow cries in his cornfield,
as the crows laugh and laugh.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Autocorrect tells me
I am spelling autocorrect incorrectly.
It was pretty pissy about it.
When computer programs become that self-aware
and obnoxious,
I start to worry
about their next move...

And I worry that worrying
will affect my health and longevity;
I spent hours on the internet last night
researching the subject,
and everyone agrees that worry,
especially worrying about worry,
is bad for you,
and I worry about that.

The internet is great for finding out
what is bad for you and what isn’t-
often they’re the same things.
I read on the internet that coffee will kill you,
then in another, happier, corner of the internet
I read that it’s the secret to a longer life.

So I curled up in that corner of the internet
with my coffee
and worried about worry,
and whether my autocorrect program
is plotting to kill me.

Hey, laugh if you will,
but all the signs are there.
Yesterday autocorrect changed
to “euthanasia”.
Who’s paranoid now?

I need more coffee.
-The good kind.
From the happy corner of the internment.
uh oh...

Saturday, November 29, 2014

First Lines-

I keep a butterfly net
by my desk
to snag good first lines
as they flutter by.

Good first lines
are shy little things,
and they have a lifespan
that makes fruit flies wince.

I often sit in the dusk of
early morning,
sipping coffee,
waiting, waiting-

and none wander by.

And then,
while I am making toast
and feeding the cat
one lands on my shoulder.

And I am quick
to move very slowly,
take a pad of paper
and whack that little fucker.

Then I mount it and
decorate it and proudly hang it
on my Poetry wall.
And the hunt resumes.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Time is out of joint

Thanksgiving is barely cold on the plate
before Christmas pounces like a tiger,
raw in tooth and claw,
snarling for my attention.
I hadn't even figured out
what to do with the
leftover cranberry sauce...

Now all that’s left on the table
is a trail of ambiguous red dribbles.

Don’t let Santa’s elves fool you-
beneath happy smiles and
white-trimmed red coats
lurks a burning drive
to see their holiday stay at #1,
and they’ll do whatever it takes.
The day Rudolph’s nose starts to dim,
he’s gone, shipped out of town as fast
as a .202 hitting second baseman.

Santa outsourced it all years ago,
now it’s just North Pole minions
doing high-profile meet-and-greets,
and forwarding his mail.
Jolly Old Saint Nick
retains a 12% controlling share
in Kringle Industries,
which he oversees via smartphone
from poolside in Boca.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

That’s Classified-

PERSONAL: Slightly frumpy 40 y/o M sonnet writer seeks hot slam babe for exploration of poetic themes and mutual phrase parsing.

WANTED: New ideas. WE PAY CASH $$$$$ for hot new poetic themes and prompts. Call 1-800-PAY-POET

WANTED: 25 yo M poet seeks collaborator for epic slam poems, new age sonnets, exploration of outer boundaries of poetic expression. Prefer poet w/ apt. lease & extra couch.

FOR SALE: Bag of metaphors. Unopened. $15, or will trade for futon pillows.

LOST: Poetic muse. 5’5”, 42, brown hair. Last seen walking along I-60 w/suitcase muttering “fucking poets”.

FOR SALE: 2013 edition Poet’s Marketplace. Marked up. Futile. b/o.

PERSONAL: Sandy, please come back. I’ve thrown away the rhyming dictionary.

WANTED: Good unused slam ideas. Must be original. My last 15 posts didn’t get a response, so this is the last time I’m wasting money on this ad.

FOR SALE: Poetic integrity. Took job with Hallmark & won’t need it anymore.

WANTED: 60 y/o F novelist seeks non-embittered M poet, 50-65. No slammers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


This poem took me three minutes to write.
Or it might have been 30-
I’m not sure.
Hell, it might have been 3 hours;
at the point the words start,
the clock stops,
swept aside,
and there is no tick of seconds,
only the tap of keys.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Writing the Sadness-

A sad poem is better than no poem-
so you write the sadness.

That’s easy to say,
harder to do.

harder to write.

There are all sorts of words
for sadness
that don’t quite express
the full, rounded
emptiness of it.

But it makes the words sad
when you tell them that,
so you write them anyway.
At least that way somebody
will be happy.

And if the sadness
gave you energy,
the way anger does,
the way joy does,
the way almost everything
except sadness,

it would be different.

Instead it’s the same.
The same as it was last time
and the time before that
and the time before that,
even though this time
it’s different.

And so you write the sadness
and then you throw it away.
Because sadness is catching.
At least this way
it won’t catch you.

Caught you.

Hello, sadness,
let’s talk.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Disgruntled Poet

Scrolling through my picture files
in search of inspiration-

A photo of a yellow tanager,
gimlet-eyed and hawthorne-perched:

- a jumpy, chrome-yellow birdshit box,
cackling at dawn while I’m trying to sleep,
my mind declares.


A colorful Japanese woodblock print
of snow-capped mountain temples:

- an unwelcome reminder that the snow shovels
have not yet been taken out of storage,
and I have no idea where my snow boots are.


A Facebook-found cartoon of cats
doing something evil and fun and cat-like:

- how long has it been since somebody
last cleaned the litterbox?
Does this cushion smell funny to you?

 Time to move on.

Inspiration comes from odd places-
If you go looking for it,
it usually runs away
and hides under the couch
with the dust bunnies and
those mittens you lost last March.


-the smell of late afternoon woodsmoke
-the purr of the cat
-part of a vagulely-remembered song lyric
-a misread newspaper headline
-a thought that bursts into your brain
in the middle of the night

when one appears,
snatch it before it flits away.
There will be another along sometime,
there usually always is-
but why wait?
Grab it,
and play with it,
and maybe,
just maybe,
it won’t shit in your hand.

And that’s really
all you wanted anyway.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I-ku, You-ku, Let's All Haiku!

Robert Frost emailed-
He needs a nice way to say
“My neighbors are dicks”.


Bukowski Airlines-
Get so buzzed you won’t care where
you end up landing.


Wait - I’m not “All That” ????
I’m a “putrid troglodyte’ ?
... I stand corrected.


Oh- Big Deal Wordsmith!
I’ll see “Palaver”, and raise -


Would you hate me if
I said you’ve a beautiful-


The highlight of my
Olde Traditional Christmas?
Grandma’s pot brownies.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I'm Sorry-

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry about your inner demons-
I’m sorry that attending to my own inner demons
sometimes took my time away from feeding yours.
I’m sorry for suggesting that
my inner demons might also need feeding.
I’m sorry that my inner demons took your inner demons
out to dinner, and ate them.
Ok, I’m not really sorry about that.

I’m sorry that my occasional bouts of sadness
took my time away from your constantly flowing river of angst.
That must have been Hell for you.
I’m sorry for complicating your life
by being a part of it.
I really am sorry about that.
Truly, deeply sorry.
You’ve no idea...
But don’t worry-
That’s a mistake I won’t be making again.

I’m sorry that you choose to wrap your self-pity
around yourself like a blanket-
But at least you’ve learned to take it off,
and to use it as a club
with which you beat everybody around you senseless.
I’m sorry I refused to learn that skill from you-
Ok, I’m not really sorry about that.

And when I’m not really sorry,
 I will admit that I’m not sorry,
Because all too often in today’s world,
‘I’m sorry’ no longer means ‘I’m sorry’.
‘I’m sorry I was offensive’ has become
‘I’m sorry you were offended’,
and I’m sorry, but they are not the same thing,
So when you say to me,
‘I’m sorry that you were offended’,
I’ll reply, ‘I’m sorry that you’re such a dikwad’.

I’m sorry the world today isn’t like
you imagine it was 50 years ago,
back when America was perfect,
back when “Those People” knew their place,
and when “People Like That”
 didn’t have the nerve to go and
be who they are in places where you’d
have to deal with their existence.
And I’m sorry their existence offends you,
and I’m sorry you’re a racist, homophobic, misogynistic idiot.
I really am sorry about that.

I’m sorry you’re offended by my life.
I’m sorry you’re offended by my friends.
I’m sorry you’re offended by my friends’ lives.
But you know what?
Now I’m sorry that I’m sorry.
Because being sorry for you are,
and who I am,
and who they are,
is another mistake that I won’t repeat.
And if that offends you?
I’m sorry- but that’s tough.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The House That Jack Built

This is the House That Jack Built

so says the plaque on the wall-
Jack was a carpenter,
born in Italy,
he came to America in 1910,
and built vacation houses
for textile-mill-wealthy Bostonians
on Cape Ann for 20 years,
and died of a stroke at age 46.
All that’s left of him are a few houses
and a tile plaque on a living room wall.

Jack drove trucks
filled with unknown chemicals
around New England for thirty years
and then his hair and toenails
started falling out,
and he had trouble breathing,
and he died in a small motel room
in southern New Hampshire,
surrounded by no one.

Jack served as a Battalion cook
in World War 2 and never
got closer than 25 miles to the front lines,
Even though they told him
that an army travels on its stomach,
he always felt a little guilty
and embarrassed,
and would never talk about
what he did in the war
as he sat on the barstool at the VFW
downing Heineken after Heineken.

Jackie waited tables
every night for fifteen years
at a fancy French restaurant in New York,
and three times a week
the maitre d’ would bend her over a box
in the walk-in freezer
and screw her
and she never said anything
because she was going to put
her two kids through college
if it killed her.

Jack was a firefighter for thirty-two years,
and he played the dog races in Revere
every weekend,
and raised six kids,
and 15 grandkids,
and never regretted anything.

Jack was a trash hauler
in Hoboken, New Jersey
and he wrote poetry and short stories
every night as he sat, alone,
in his one-bedroom walk-up apartment,
and after he died
the landlord took it all
and stuffed it into cardboard boxes
and put them out on the curb
for the trash men.

Friday, November 14, 2014


I like it when the prompts
come early,
and the poem is done
before breakfast
and I can think it is good (perhaps);
before time has the chance
to prove otherwise.

Because when it doesn’t-
when the morning wanes
and lunch breaks the timeline,
and afternoon bumps by,
and there are still no words
on the page-
my mind begins to mumble.

And I know that grasping
won’t make it happen,
but I grasp anyway,
ripping words at random,
forcing rhyme and rhythm
to do unnatural, illegal things-
and my mind begins to grumble.

And dinnertime comes
and there is still no progress,
and the words retreat
and lie, hiding in their books
where they worked for others-
but not for me, today.
and my mind becomes humble-

which is not actually a bad thing.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Yes or No?

“Get Well,
or Get Fucked”.

Ying or Yang.
Hot or Cold.
Right or Left.
In or Out.
Up or Down.
Right or Wrong.
With us or Against us.
Sink or Swim.
Yes or No.

Win or Lose.

Live or Die
Laugh or cry-

Shall I Stay or
Shall I Go?

Sweet and Sour.

Beginning and Ending...

Hit Pause
to Continue.

“You are more than just a number to us.
Please take a number for prompt service.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


That was not where the poem was going.
It was not going-

It was fluffy kitties
and dancing birds and
some kid playing a tuba;
a Facebook-y poem
of no account
except to amuse
in some amount-

And then, well, you know,
it went-


It had a rhyme scheme
and some cool syntactical tricks
and a clever coda;
it was the poetical equivalent
of a Seven-up soda.

And then it went-


And I couldn’t pull it back.

Because once a poem goes


the most you can do is
follow it down


and hope for the best.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Emily Dickinson emailed me-

Emily Dickinson emailed me-
she’s not coming to tea this afternoon,
something about being up all night streaming
Beyonce videos.

Robert Frost i.m.’d-
he needs five synonyms for
“dickhead neighbors” that
the editors will allow in The New Yorker.

Thoreau posted a dozen videos
on Facebook this morning-
Apparently he has a cat
at the cabin now...

I am going to ban
Ezra Pound from commenting on
my timeline- talented poet, yes,
but he’s also a raving, paranoid loon.

Oh, Walt Whitman posted
a video too- Firefighters of New York
do Hoboken- you’d better go look fast
before Facebook pulls it.

Edna St. Vincent Millay was trying
to reach you on Skype-
Bukowski’s been drunk texting
her again.

Say what you want about the
limitations of Twitter-
that platform was * invented *
for e.e. cummings.

Damn, gotta go-
my battery is running low.
How the fuck did people 
before computers?

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Dog Days

There is something about Fall
that loves a dog.

Cats are for Winter-
furry purry balls
to keep your feet warm
at night and shed hairs
all over Santa.

But there is something about a dog
and a crisp Fall day
and the bronze brown leaves
and the slanting afternoon late-shadows,
and the smell of woodsmoke-
and the crackly, crispy woods trail-

And the distracted squirrels,
interrupted while gathering the last nuts
chatter, annoyed
more than scared,
and hurl rodent swear words
at the wagging tail, then disappear.

And the Fall-cold stream,
splashing frantically before the freeze,
nips his well-furred toes
as he taunts it by jumping
and then retreats to the bank
for a well-earned rub down.

No Springtime mud on his paws,
No Summertime ticks and burrs on his coat,
No Wintertime ice caking his tail-

There is something about Fall
that loves a dog.

Friday, November 07, 2014


Standing in the airport line
at the Bukowski Counter-
luggage thrown in the heap,
pilots and flight attendants
dead drunk fucking in a pile
over by the window.

It may not matter-
the airline outsourced the engines
to a plane in China.
That ticket buys
the concept of a flight,
not an actual destination.

They’ll tell you that
destinations are over-rated.
The journey is where the fun is,
and the journey starts in your mind.
Be happy with that explanation-
the ticket was non-refundable.

Travel was always like this,
there were no Glory Days of flying.
It was always oil stains on the tarmac,
the smell of jet fuel,
an anonymous line sitting rumpled
at the bar, sipping a dream.

Day #7, Poem #6

Requiem for a Poem-

I never saw a poem
die so fast.

They didn’t laugh.
They didn’t cry.
They didn’t snap their fingers.
They didn’t even hiss.

I mean fuck,
at least hiss.
Then I’ll know
it hit * some * emotion.

That poem was DOA.
A splat on the concrete.
Chalk an outline
around it
and call it a day.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Day #6, Poems #4 and #5:

You’re funny, I said.
he looked at me, surprised.
I’m not sure why-
that’s how he was written
in the script.

At school he was the one
the teachers liked-
good with words,
his mind
was quick on its feet.

He’s the funny one.
In a horror movie he dies after
the overly-curious jock
and before
the frightened nerd.

He claims discomfort
at parties, but he always has
people laughing around him,
while he quickly gulps
a third glass of wine.

I was surprised-
You should be happy,
I told him,
You’re the funny one.
Yeah, he said-

Happy and funny are different.
Happy is the result
of too little information.
Funny is the result
of too much information.

Funny is defense,
because the sorrow and crap
are always piled up too high.

It’s dark in here, he said.
Don’t come in here-
there’s nothing in here worth seeing.
That reminds me, he said-
and then he made me laugh.

- - - - -

And to conclude this set, here is an old poem, because they seem to fit together, in a way-

The jealous rocks mutter early
in the pearly morning light;
grow surly now, sharp words define
the faults of the morning glory vine,
which twists and turns,
turning divine, the craggy,
crabby space it climbs.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Day #5, Poem #3:

Sometimes you catch the firefly,
and the words that come out
and hit the page
say exactly what you

Sometimes when you started
you knew where you were going
and sometimes you didn’t,
but you recognized it
the moment you got there.

Don’t try to catch the firefly-
fireflies can rarely be caught
by chasing them-
and the faster you chase,
the faster they flee.

Just leave the jam jar open,
and your thoughts
and then snap the lid tight
when the moment comes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

#2, on the 4th.

A poem under construction is not a pretty sight.
There are piles of adverbs everywhere.
A pack of similes is arguing with the metaphors,
and the third stanza,
the sad one,
has disappeared entirely,
and we’ll probably get a call from a bar at 2 a.m.,
telling us it’s there, sobbing incoherently
about that cute blond couplet that was
cut from the poem two weeks ago.

A poem under construction is not a pretty sight.
That’s why we put the yellow tape up.
There’s nothing to see here,
nothing to gawk at.
Move along, move along.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Poem a Day #1

I was not going to do the "Poem-a-Day" in November, but then my neurotic fear of being left out kicked in, so I'll try it (first poem below). What you are going to see will be rougher than normal, because I usually do lot of editing, which there won't be time for in this exercise. Here we go-

Morning is Broken

In the beginning,
there was morning.
And morning was only me
and the dark
and the quiet
and the cat,
who didn’t even want her breakfast
only a scritch.

And then the breaking light,
and the gurgling coffee maker,
and the dry dishes in the drainer
to be put away.
But they were silent
as they were stacked.
They didn’t break the stillness.

And then the radio,
and the news and
talking heads
and then the computer and
and calendar reminders
and New York Times
and Weather Underground
and Facebook
and the day comes
barreling in -

and I’m not quite ready.
and then the message
that you had died.

And I’m not quite ready.

and i retreat.

in the beginning,
there was morning.
and morning was only me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Not a Poet-

I am a not, nor have I ever been, a Poet.
That’s a lie.
All Poets lie.
We hide a thesaurus under the couch pillow-
We erase our browser history so you’ll never know
that we visited WikiPoetry dot com.
We run rhymes under our breath
when we think you’re not listening.

But there is no hiding who we really are.
There’s a paperback volume of Robert Frost
in the kitchen cabinet, behind the Wheat Chex,
and when you find it I’ll say
“I thought it was a book about the weather”,
and you’ll shake your head and drop it in the trash
and that’s ok, because I have another one
hidden in the back of my desk drawer at the office.

But there’s no use trying to hide who we are.
People know.
Yeah -they know.
They notice when I watch Jeopardy with them,
and when the returning champion
doesn’t know that T.S. Eliot’s magnum opus was
The Waste Land,
and I start jumping up and down on the couch
screaming “You fucking moron!”
-Yeah, people notice stuff like that.

I try to lie my way out-
“I’m just a geek”, I tell them,
“A nerd, a know-it-all, a literary snob.
- I’m one of the English Majors
Garrison Keilor is always going on about.”

"Sure", they say-
“Who was that woman you were
talking about last week,
the one with the funny initials?”
And before I can stop myself I reply
“You mean Hilda Doolittle?
H.D.? The Imagist poet
who wouldn’t fuck D.H. Lawrence?”
Well fuck.

Yeah, they always know.
People say it’s ok,
they say they don’t really care,
they say THEY don’t judge-
but then whenever I’m at a party
and I take anything out of my pocket,
even the smallest scrap of paper,
that looks vaguely as if it might be a poem-
everyone suddenly finds some other person
they need to talk to.

Yeah, they always know.

“You just need to accept who you are”,
one friend told me,
“Don’t over-think it, don’t fret”.

Don’t fret?

I’m a poet.
-telling me not to fret
is like telling a golden retriever
to ignore that squirrel.

I fret, therefor I am.

Where the fuck do you think
I get all my material?

So fine-
I am, and have always been, a Poet.
Happy now?
I hide a thesaurus under the couch pillow-
I erase my browser history so you’ll never know
that I visited WikiPoetry dot com this morning.
I run rhymes under my breath
when I think you’re not listening.
I might even write a poem
about this conversation-
“Don’t do that”, you say,
and I say “OK, I won’t”,
but I lie,
All poets lie.
And then I run to get a piece of paper.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014


We each have inside of us a well,
a reservoir,
of words never spoken-
and it’s filled with words we could have said,
it’s filled with words we would have said,
it’s filled with words we maybe should have said,
-but didn’t.

some of the “could have” saids
were better off dumped down the well.
For instance-

“Well yes, since you ask,
that dress does make your butt look big”.

“Frankly, I never thought size mattered?
but that’s really small!”

but other words that went into the well
probably shouldn’t have-

“Hey, you guys, stop teasing Billy!”

“Nobody invites Sue to their parties,
but I want to invite her to mine”.

“I feel like I’m different from other kids,
and that scares me, sometimes”.

“Don’t hit her!”

“Please don’t drink”.

And sometimes we sit around later,
and look at the unspoken words
we threw down the well,
and we can only think,
“Wow, I’m stupider than a bag of rocks.”

Take a look at these-

“Um, Julie? Would you go to the dance with me on Saturday?”

“I’m sure he knows what he’s doing,
but I don’t think Tom should be out on that limb
with the chainsaw”.

“I know the tickets are expensive,
but who knows when Amy Winehouse
will be performing here again.”

And the well will never fill up,
because the more unspoken words we put in it,
the deeper it gets-

“Your dad hasn’t been looking well lately,
maybe we should go visit him this weekend?”

“Mary’s had way too much to drink,
I don’t think we should let her drive home like that”.

“Hey, David, you seem really down,
and I just wanted to call and make sure you’re ok,
do you want to talk about anything?”

We each have inside of us a well,
a reservoir,
of words never spoken,
and it’s filled with words we could have said-

“The dirty dishes can wait,
come sit with me on the couch for a while”,

it’s filled with words we would have said -
“I was wrong, and I’m sorry”,

it’s filled with words we maybe should have said-
“I love you.”

-but didn’t.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

If I Were a Rock-

According to a Buzzfeed Quiz I took
on Facebook, I am 95% Awesome.
My wife assures me the quiz is flawed
Not as flawed as I am,
but flawed, nonetheless.

According to a Gawker Quiz
I took on Facebook,
if I were a rock
I’d be an igneous rock.
I find this a bit troubling,
not only because I’d always thought
of myself as being more sedimentary,
but because it means I will now have to remember
how to spell igneous.

At various points in my life I have taken
meditation courses,
and Mindfullness training,
I’ve been therapied and psychoanalyzed,
but never before have I approached
the level of self-awareness
that these internet quizzes I see on Facebook
are giving me.

If I were a precious stone
What precious stone would I be?

If I were a dog
what dog would I be?
- Sure, my wife says,
they got that half right.

If I were a Peanuts character
which peanuts character would I be?

At a certain point, though,
I began to doubt the insight these quizzes
were giving me.

If I was  a vegetable,
what vegetable would I be?
might tell me something about myself
(I was hoping for asparagus,
but got potato.
Yeah, I know).

But, if I was moss
what kind of moss would I be?
just doesn’t seem to be speaking
to the issues facing me
in today’s 21st century world.

What 1970s television sitcom character
would I be?
seemed to be about to give me great insight,
until it turned out that I’d be Marcia,
 from the Brady Bunch.

Likewise, finding out that
if I were a Snapple flavor,
I’d be crabapple cranberry,
well, that might be a bit
too close to the truth.

I quit doing these quizzes
when it turned out that if I were
a Japanese vending machine,
I’d be dispensing
designer condoms
in packets featuring the faces
 of champion sumo wrestlers.

I found that deeply disturbing,
yet somehow oddly intriguing,
so I decided to quit while I was ahead.
I am, after all,
a 95% awesome
igneous rock potato
with the personality of Marcia Brady.
And knowing all that,
how much more personal insight
can I really afford ?

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


This summer I spent a month at Poetry Boot Camp.
It was Hell.

We stayed in dorms named after famous poets.
The women got the Emily Dickinson Cottage.
It was great for them-
Fresh eggs from local chickens at breakfast every morning.
Tea and scones served by shirtless Italian waiters
every afternoon at 3.

The men were packed into the Bukowski Barracks.
We were only given two hours sleep each night,
not allowed to shower,
and fed a straight diet of ham sandwiches and beer.
They pumped so much beer into us
that by the third day
you could have taken my piss,
bottled it,
put it on the supermarket shelf,
labeled it ‘Coors’,
and nobody could have told the difference.

We started each day with drills.
There was a Spoken Word Breath Control drill
where you had to repeat your name ten times
without stopping to breath.
Tom Dix won that every day.
I had a Spanish friend,
Pablo Suarez de Jesus Escondido Maria Montoya Escalan de Gama,
 - he almost died.

The drill sergeants were all
named after Beat Poets.
You didn’t mess with the one we called Ginsburg.
If you made a mistake, he made you talk
the rest of the day using haiku.
Yoda Haiku.
Excuse me-
Haiku, spoke we in,
As if Yoda we were... oy.
Easy, not, it was.

There were games-
An Adverb Scavenger Hunt.
Pin the Simile on the Metaphor.
Spin the Hyperbole.
If you fucked THAT up
Ginsburg hit you on the head
with a copy of
The Collected Works of Rod McKuen.

Then the Slam Team Trainers came for us.
Their motto was,
“We Put The Slam in Slamming”.
They had arm bands featuring
the velociraptor from Jurassic Park.
We jogged to and from every class,
shouting Kill! Kill! Kill!
at the top of our lungs
in iambic pentameter.

They taught us to achieve the mindset
of the Professional Poetry Slammer-
“You are my opponent.
I admire your work and wish you luck.
I applaud your every victory,
I will crush you like a bug”.

At Graduation we had to get our diplomas
by running over a 20-foot long bed of
fiery, red hot consonants.
I got a Q stuck between my toes and
couldn’t walk for a week.

This summer I spent a month at Poetry Boot Camp,
and it was Hell.
But why am I standing here
telling you all about it?
The next session starts in an hour-
the buses are waiting outside-
So saddle up, poets!
The Dickinson Cottage
and Bukowski Barracks
are waiting for you!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

(Almost) Awesome-

You know how sometimes you write something
and you’re sure that it’s just fucking awesome?
You’re sitting there and all at once
the words just poop out of your fingers
and stain the pages with your brilliance?
When that happens to me
after I’ve finished I sit back,
satisfied and satiated,
and I want to puff a cigarette
like Bogie when he gets done fucking Bacall
for the first time.

And I am drunk with the glory of it
and I want to take my brilliant piece
and share it
and email it
and Facebook it
and blog it
and go down to the street
and accost some innocent passerby
with it.

But some inner voice deep down,
the same voice that could have spared
me that wicked hangover after
last saturday night’s party,
that one little inner shred of common sense
that hasn’t been mercilessly bludgeoned to death
by my brilliance,
that little voice says, “wait”,
and just this once, I listen.

And so I plant the poem away in my desk,
like a sunflower seed in a
paper cup filled with peat moss,
like the perfect Christmas gift,
October-wrapped and hidden
on the top shelf
of the back hallway closet,
and I sneak a peek every once in a while
all afternoon, just to reassure myself
that my brilliance isn’t going anywhere.

And then I get up the next morning,
and I make myself make coffee,
and check my email,
and put the dried dishes in the drainer away,
and feed the cat,
and then,
I collect my poem
from its safe place,
and I look at it
in the fresh day,
and I read it over,
and I think,

“What the fuck?!?!?!?”

you know how sometimes
it’s like that?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


What’s in a name?
You would think naming poems would be simple. Not for me.
When I was in high school I thought it was clever
to name my poems like the painter,
James McNeill Whistler, named his paintings-
His “Nocturne in Blue & Gold” led to my
“Symphony in White for Adjectives”,
and “An Arrangement in Adverbs #14”.
I did that until a girl I liked commented,
“That’s stupid”.
I couldn’t disagree.
So I took “Nocturne #37 in Metaphorical Greys”,
tore it up,
and avoided poetry altogether for the next decade.

And yet, I never quite learn.
When I started writing again, my poem
about a panhandler who gets
flattened by a bus on 12th Street was titled 
“Incident at 44th and 6th”.
You probably don’t need a map, the intersection
of 44th and 6th is nowhere near 12th in any city
(math majors got that right away).

There’s my poem about swing dancing under the stars
which concludes with the stanza,
“Then come and sit awhile with me,
under the black-boned maple tree,
under the proud black canopy, of January sky.
Come sit and watch,
as stars fly by,
that velvet January sky,
a swarm of winter fireflies,
not yet entombed in some glass jar”.
I titled this poem about January skies,
“With You and Duke Ellington at Christmas”.

-it took me eight years
to notice that there was a problem.

And yet, I love naming my poems.
Well, some of my poems-
I’ve got a drawer full of great titles for
poems I haven’t actually written yet.

“Reading Charles Bukowski at a
 New Britain Rock Cats Minor League Baseball Game”.
I may not have a poem to go with it-
But damn, I like the title.

I’ve got titles attached to partial-poems; semi-poems...
about-to-be-started-someday poems-
“Who Pissed on the Lilacs?” will be my homage to Walt Whitrman,
if I ever get around to writing it.
“Bad Marmalade, and Other Journeys to the Dark Side of the Fridge”,
may eventually be finished, but I never get more than a stanza in
before I have to break for a snack.

“The Raven Revisited: A Caustic Letter to the Audubon Society”,
actually got a funding grant from PETA,
but they pulled the money when they found out
that on line 37 I described the Raven as
“Nothing more than a fuzzy-balled birdshit factory”.

But sometimes I learn-
there are certain words and phrases to avoid in titles
if you’re going to post your poem on the internet.
For instance- You may have lots of cats,
but don’t name your poem about them
“Pussies Galore”.
A project with an animal rights group taught me
that when posting a poem online
about the evils of pit-fighting roosters,
it’s probably best to avoid the phrase “Cock-Fight”.
Unless, you know, you’re looking for interesting experiences.
 - I’m not judging.

It might seem my attempts at poem-naming
are all destined for disappointment,
But I read recently that “Disappointment “
is just a mis-spelling of “Opportunity”.
(I’m not sure how they make that work,
the words don’t look the same, but never mind).
So in an effort to boost my website stats
right now I’m working on a new poem
that takes advantage of all the lessons I’ve learned.
It’s titled “Pussies Galore at the Cock Fight”.
Oh please! It’s a poem about my cats.
Really- it’s a poem about my cats.
Ok... it’s not about my cats.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Questions, Answers-

Trotted this completely revised and re-wired piece out at the Open Mic before last night's Poetry Slam at NoHo Poetry-


People are always asking me
(well, all right, once last year somebody asked me) -
What’s the difference between Traditional  Poetry,
Spoken Word Narrative Poetry, and Slam Poetry?
The answer I gave to that question
was certainly influenced by how many beers I’d had,
and the fact that I, a Spoken Word Poet,
had just been dumped by a Slam Poet.
Here’s what I said-

A Traditional Poem features clever allusions
and carefully-wrought phrases about things
that are never what they seem to be.
You may be introduced to horses
banging copper pipes with clouds
fashioned from the heartbreak of their hopes
as they puff on cigars wrapped
with the shreds of our sorrow.
At first none of this may make any sense to you,
-but if you wait, you’ll find the horses
had a damned good reason for all that banging...
-or, at the very least, they were provoked.

A Spoken Word Narrative poem eschews allusion
and avoids complicated metaphor
in favor of a more straightforward presentation-
in a Spoken Word poem, for instance,
horses will never eschew allusions,
or illusions,
and they certainly don’t smoke anything.

A Slam Poem walks out on stage
and kicks you in the nuts.
Wicked hard.
And you’ll like it.
As you may by now have gathered,
a Traditional Poem about a horse
is not really about a horse-
the horse stands in as a metaphor
for freedom, or loyalty, or endless toil,
and you, the reader, are asked to figure it out,
or simply to think to yourself-
Wow, that’s a multi-talented horse.

A Spoken Word Narrative poem about the horse
will actually be about the horse,
and the poet’s relationship to the horse,
though the horse may, eventually,
be seen to stand as a deeper metaphor
for some other facet of life,
which the poet will explain to you.

In a Slam Poem about a horse,
the horse walks out on stage,
and kicks its rider in the nuts.
Wicked hard.
A Traditional Poem appeals to your Intellect.
It asks you to unlock its secrets one by one,
to unravel the metaphor thread by thread,
to come to the same place in the end as the poet,
or perhaps not, horses being what they are,
as sillabub cup dancers spin
on clouds banks of furrowed dreams
in the graveyard speaking only to me.
That last sentence, by the way, illustrates
why I don’t often venture to write Traditional Poetry.

A Spoken Word Narrative Poem appeals to your emotions,
-it communicates with the audience on a more
prosaic level. It can be every bit as lyrical as a Traditional poem,
but if it talks about sillabub cups
it usually really means a tiny silver cup to drink
fortified spiced wine out of.

A Slam Poem will buy you a drink
before it kicks you in the nuts.
Wicked hard.
And you’ll like it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Open mic, July 29

Read something new at last night's NoHo Poetry Open Mic-

Today the New York Times said that Poetry is dead.
I never even had time to tell Poetry that I loved her.

Today the National Enquirer revealed that Poetry is not dead.
Today the National Enquirer revealed that Poetry’s brain
was put into a state of suspended animation by The New Yorker in 1997,
and you can get secret messages from Poetry by playing
Sara Bareilles audio files backwards.

I want to play Poetry’s audio files backwards.
I want to tell Poetry that I love her.
I want to have Hot Poet Sex with Poetry
on the floor of T.S. Elliot’s kitchen.

Today, the Today Show said nothing about Poetry.
Today, Good Morning America said nothing about Poetry.
Today, Morning Edition was going to say something
about Poetry, but the piece got kicked off the schedule
at the last minute by a breaking story about Fracking.

I’m not sure what fracking is...
-but it sounds like something I’d like to do with Poetry.

If I die in a Flanders Field, I want it to be for Poetry.
If I strike out in the 9th with the bases loaded
plunging Mudville into a century of shame and despair,
I want to have been struck out by Poetry.
If two roads diverge in a yellow wood and I take the wrong one?
-I want to have been mis-directed by Poetry.

I want to produce the hot new cable show, Haiku Tonight.
I want to host the long-running television game show, Wheel of Sonnets.
I want to fund an NPR show called All Poems Considered.
I want Alex Trebek to demand in his next contract
that Jeopardy have a Poetry category every night,
-and I want to write the questions.

I want to tell Poetry that I love her.
I want to play Poetry’s audio files backwards.
I want to fuck Poetry until she’s completely satisfied,
and I want to lie there, exhausted, still wanting to give more,
to Poetry.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The (in)Correct Note-

Ripped this old poem open, put in a new transmission and upgraded the OS, and trotted the revised edition back out at last night's Open Mic-


As a child I spent a lot of my time
worrying about making mistakes-
I was that nerdy kid who forgot a homework assignment
exactly once in twelve years of primary education,
and then seriously contemplated changing my name
and running off to Canada rather than tell my
parents I’d been kept after school because of it.
It was Mrs. Winters’ 7th grade Social Studies class,
March 12, 1975, by the way, and the assignment
was draw an imaginary animal of the future
and describe how it evolved from a currently-existing animal...
Not that I dwell on it or anything.

As an adult I’ve tried to shake out of that habit.
I’ve worked very hard to feel ok about doing
things in ways other people see as wrong-
And I work hard at it because, of course,
when it comes to being ok about being wrong,
there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

“There’s really no such thing as the *correct* note”-
That’s a new self-help mantra
I’ve been repeating over and over to myself-
One evening recently
while attending a community theater production
of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance”
I watched as the lead soprano put that theory into practice.

Yes- there were some notes on the page
which Sir Arthur Sullivan had *suggested* she sing-
but the young woman seemed to take those
as an affront to her own ingenuity.
“Sure”, she was obviously thinking to herself,
“Those are the notes THEY want me to sing-
But I’ll show them!”

Did she have a point?
Ask any man who has put together a gas grill or
piece of IKEA furniture, and he will tell you-
instructions are at best a list of suggestions.
Yes, there were seven bolts, five nuts
and this oddly-shaped metal rod left over
when I finished,
but the grill fires up,
so how important could they be?

As the years have passed I’ve kept trying to hit
just the right note, and often missed,
and I’ve finally decided to take the advice
my high school guidance counselor gave me-
“If you can’t live your life as a good example for some,
at least proudly serve as a warning to others”.

There’s some solace in the fact that
many of art and poetry’s successes
spent their careers hitting the wrong note-
and one day people decided it wasn’t the wrong note after all
-and some of those artists and poets were even still alive to enjoy it.
But of course, many of art and poetry’s never-were’s
also spent their careers hitting the wrong note-
and in the end everybody just asked:
What the fuck was he thinking????

You play your notes and hope somebody else
will dance along with the tune,
and if you’re lucky, nobody throws tomatoes at you.
And you think the song will go on forever,
but of course it won't.
One morning people will wake up
and start talking about you in the past tense,
and when you’re in the past tense
you’ve walked through a door,
and you can never go back.

So lately I’ve begun to worry less
about right notes and wrong notes-
and I just keep hitting *some* note, like
that golden-haired Pirates of Penzance soprano;
she may have had Sir Arthur Sullivan
spinning like a top in his grave-
but even if she wasn’t technically faithful to the score,
her interpretation of it
was at least strikingly original.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


I come here tonight to criticize Blue Man Group.
“All right”, I can hear some of you thinking,
“Has he ever seen Blue man Group?”
Well, of course not.
I HATE Blue man Group,
why would I want to -see- them?
It would be a gigantic waste of everyone’s time.

I come here tonight to trash Dan Brown’s novels.
It’s true that I’ve never -read- any of his novels,
why would I? They’re trash.
A certain red-haired literature professor I know says so.
My taste in novels may be lacking,
but my taste in red-haired literature professors
is pretty spot-on.
So I come here tonight to trash Dan Brown’s novels.

I come here tonight to share with you
my loathing for the seed of the Chia.
Growing up, I pestered my parents for one of those Chia pets
I saw advertised on late-night tv.
Seeing the seed of these noble animals
sold by supermarkets now is a bit confusing to me.
I’ve never actually -eaten- a chia seed-
going by what a Chia pet looks like,
I think it would be like eating the coat
of my neighbor’s pet poodle.
Or, if you are familiar with one of the Chia Company’s
slightly more disturbing popular products,
It would be like eating an old albino man’s fuzzy green fright wig.
To paraphrase the popular song lyric-
I’ll eat anything for love-
But I won’t eat THAT.

Ignorant disdain used to be a uniquely American trait,
but I’ve noticed lately that people in other countries are becoming
just as good at hating things they don’t understand as we are.
In a way that disturbs my competitive instinct.
On the other hand, a carefully cultivated contempt
for those things we find utterly inscrutable
does explain why everybody dislikes the French.

To hate what you don’t know anything about
remains one of America’s great contributions to mankind.
I know that viewpoint has its critics.
They go on and on,
in big, scholarly books that I’ve never read,
about how America’s founders,
like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and Benjamin Franklin
loved knowledge and understanding,
and valued everyone’s point of view.
Well I have one thing to say to those scholars-
Tom Jefferson and John Adams and Ben Franklin
would have happily joined me
in trashing Dan Brown’ novels,
loathing the seed of the Chia,
and hating Blue Man Group!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A Spoken Word Poem-

My spoken word poem
is three minutes long,
 and into it I will scatter anecdote and wordplay,
metaphor and simile,
a sprinkling of adverbs,
and just enough of myself to sound sincere
while making the audience ever so slightly uncomfortable.

My spoken word poem will begin
by introducing the main theme of the poem,
cleverly mixed with a topical observation of the fact
that it is summer and damned hot outside-
that can of course be switched to winter
and damned cold outside later and well,
I guess I just won’t read the thing at all
in the Spring and the Fall.

With two minutes to go
my spoken word poem will get back on track
with an anecdote that sounds true but probably isn’t,
because the fact is
that if you are looking for facts in most of my poems
you might as well just go ask the cat,
and everybody knows what a liar she is.

With a minute to go
my spoken word poem will get
a bit muddled and confusing,
because it was four minutes long when I first wrote it
and I had to cut 20 lines late last night.
That was just after Terry found that stash
of purple microdot in a old Grateful Dead album,
and the rest of the night is a bit blurry-
I do know that it involved giant orange & blue carnivorous mice.
Around 5 a.m. I panicked
 and cut out all of stanzas 6, 7, and 8.
  I can’t remember what was in any them,
  - but they may have been important.

With thirty-seconds to go
my spoken word poem suddenly gets
Very. Very. Serious. And Quiet.
And I stand here hoping that my point was deftly made,
and driven home with eloquence and wit-
Leaving one remaining issue-
Where the fuck is my beer?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Poetry is a Contact Sport

Poetry is a contact sport.
Words slide off the page and crash in flames to the ground.
Hearts pound with the thrill of victory,
and break with the agony of defeat,
and the crowd goes wild.

Pity the poor poets their insecurities-
No multi-year contracts or signing bonuses here.
In the Poetry League
its write and recite, or die.
Connect- or sit down, alone,
at the sad end of the bar.

All-Star poets will tell you
They’re just glad to be here,
Just trying to give their all, help the team out,
Playing it one poem at a time.
Working every night to find
yet another meaningful way
to be thoughtful, thought-provoking,
intense, insightful, inspired,
and ever-so-slightly ambiguous.

Journeyman poets roam the League,
Slamming for anyone who will buy them a beer,
Waking up in a strange bed each morning,
checking the web each night
to make sure they haven’t been traded to Shreveport.
The Poetry Scene in Shreveport is a little odd.
Nobody wants to get traded to Shreveport.

Young rookie poets
strut their poetic chops everywhere,
to anyone who stands still long enough to listen.
Absolutely anyone-
“Well thank you, that sure is a nice poem”,
the stranger replies, slightly bewildered,
“But really, did you want fries with that?”

Old poets never die,
they just rest on their rhymes,
sip their beers,
and twitch uncomfortably,
when fresh-faced Young Turk poets
rapidly recite all hundred forty-seven synonyms
for the physical act of making hot poet love
  which they have painstakingly memorized
  and can recall in absolute alphabetical order
  without ever stopping to take a breath-
    Pause, exhale,
and then do it all over again.
In Klingon.

But times, they are a changin’-
Drug tests are coming-
tests for drugs, alcohol, too much caffeine.
Test clean once -30 day suspension.
Test clean three times-
your Poetic License is revoked.

Hey, Poetry is a contact sport.
Words slide off the page and crash in flames to the ground.
Hearts pound with the thrill of victory,
and break with the agony of defeat,
and the crowd goes wild.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Time Lords-

I am a Time Lord!
Let’s face it folks-
Modern Life sucks.
I’ve watched enough
costume dramas on tv to know
that things were better
in The Good Olde Dayes.
If I had lived back then
my life would be filled with excitement,
adventure, a sense of accomplishment!
And I would have been bigger, better, stronger,
and Gosh Darn It,
People would have liked me!

But I can fix this-
I am a Time Lord!

Things were better in Caveman days-
I am a caveman!
I thrive on the pure Paleolithic Diet!
I breath unpolluted air
and drink from cold mountain streams.
I roam the unspoiled forests and fields.
I have bad teeth, six remaining fingers, and rickets.
I smell bad.
I outlive all my friends and die at age 23,
when I discover that the Saber Toothed Tiger’s
Paleolithic Diet includes cavemen.

But I can fix this-
I am a Time Lord!

Let’s fast-forward to the Middle Ages.
It was a time of towering castles
soaring over tiny, colorful villages!
Beautiful ladies with long flowing hair,
(somewhat like Catherine Zeta Jones)
were always in some kind of perilous distress,
And gallant knights rode to their rescue
on their thundering steeds!
I arrive-
 I find that I am a  mud-covered peasant.
I smell strongly of pig poop,
and I am immediately run over and killed
by some asshole knight
riding to rescue a lady
who spends so much time combing her hair
that she can’t deal with her own problems.

But I can fix this-
I am a Time Lord!

I want to be a noble in 18th Century France!
I will hang out at Versailles all day,
snorting snuff out of tiny gold boxes
and watching beautiful court ladies
fondle their pet peacocks -so to speak.
I arrive-
 I find myself a minor noble in Revolutionary France-
I am stuffed into a cow cart,
on my way to be guillotined.
I smell bad.
That’s not fair!
I’m just a teeny weeny noble-
I didn’t oppress anyone! 
I don’t own a chateaux!
I didn’t even get to screw Marie Antoinette!
If I’m going to be executed as a worthless noble
at least let me have done something
totally debauched to deserve it!
For crying out loud-
My family made its fortune growing beets!
Sorry, they say-
Now lay your neck on that block,
 and stop whining.

But I can fix this-
I am a Time Lord!

The 19th century was the time for me!
I want to be a Westward Ho! pioneer,
driving a wagon train across the Great Plains!
I want to be a cowboy, riding the range every day
and sleeping under sparkling stars every night!
I arrive-
I find myself baking on a choking,
dusty, bone-dry plain,
bumping along on a horse which is constantly trying
to scrape me off on the nearest cactus.
I come to an intimate understanding of the three little words
that now completely define my life:
No Indoor Plumbing.
I smell bad.
And the daily diet of beans is not making things better.

But I can fix this-
 I am a Time Lord!

Maybe the place for me is -The Future!
I’ll bet things will be better 500 years from now!
Life will be filled with excitement,
adventure, a sense of accomplishment!
And Gosh Darn It,
People will like me!
(sniff) (sniff) 
First, perhaps, I should go shower.

But I can fix this- 
I am a Time Lord!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


I can never let a poem alone.
I fiddle, diddle and twiddle-
Replace a comma here, nail an adverb into that spot-
OK, that leaves a hole in the third stanza,
but it’s nothing an adjective or twelve can’t fix.
Maybe a bag of bright, shiny new conjunctions
will make all the difference
-Hey Amazon’s got them on sale this week!

I suddenly sit up in the middle of the night,
having stumbled upon the exactly appropriate phrase,
found in that hazy vagueness between sleep and waking,
and I watch as it zips away from me,
full consciousness slapping it down, burying it-
I grasp for those words that I know
will make the poem perfect-
but they are gone in the darkness,
and I spend the rest of a sleepless night
regretting that I ever glimpsed them.

Getting lost in your verse sounds exciting.
Telling someone that the hours slipped away
and you lost all track of time while
creating a new poem sounds terribly romantic
and sophisticated-
until you stop and admit that its just an excuse-
 a rationalization for why you forgot to put gas in the car,
or why you didn’t start the dishwasher after dinner.
-But instead of being truthful we’ll stick with
romantic and sophisticated,
because romanic and sophisticated and poetic sounds better
than careless,
and forgetful,
and lazy.

One  month I tried an experiment-
that month I spent as much time organizing my life
as I do my words-
I put as much effort into my relationships
as I did into counting off syllables,
and looking up synonyms-
Everybody judged that month as a success-
I had touched contentment,
I had found an inner peace-
 -and I had fuck-nothing whatsoever to write about.
It was Hell.
It was The Bridges of Madison County in 24-point type.
It was a Dan Brown novel, with extra adverbs.

So now I’m back-
I’m back to ignoring the overflowing recycle bin-
I’m back to forgetting to put butter on the shopping list
when I use the last bit on my toast-
I’m back to playing with my words the way
that teenage boys play with themselves:
obsessively, compulsively-
with no nobler end in mind than a moment of pleasure,
a mental ecstasy,
mindful masturbation.

And Society tells me it’s ok-
Hell, it even encourages me
to play with my words in public.
I don’t have to hide my poems,
 -though sometimes,
in the deepest part of night,
I dig them out from under my mattress
and thumb through them under the covers,
by the feeble glow
of a secret flashlight.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


About half-past February every year
I turn and I say to Winter-
Great to have seen you again.
Let’s do it again sometime.
But- how can I miss you if you won’t go away?

Winter never takes the hint.
Winter is not a self-critical season.
That would be Autumn.
Autumn, under her splendid, exuberant facade,
always seems uncertain and apologetic-
“I’m sorry the leaves aren’t as bright this year,” she’ll say.
“My mornings are a little too cold, aren’t they?
I wish I was more like Spring.
Everybody likes Spring best.”

Did you ever notice that those
who really -don’t- need to engage in
that sort of critical self-reflection,
are the ones who do it the most?

I spent an entire morning last week
gently reminding a dear friend
that she is an inspirational activist,
has a loving husband and children,
and has the respect and admiration
of all her professional colleagues-
And she wept gently into her coffee
and listed to me all the reason she is a failure.

On the other hand,
 why is it that the folks most -urgently- in need
of some really objective self-analysis,
sail merrily on, completely sure of themselves?

I spent an evening last month
drinking beer and shooting pool
with three childhood chums
whose grandparents came here from Ireland, Italy and Germany.
They spent the night loudly explaining
That the thing that is ruining this country-
    ...is too many damned immigrants.

Betrand Russell said-
“The fundamental cause of the trouble
is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure
while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

That’s really a wonderful word, isn’t it?
It’s so -perfectly- descriptive.

“I may not have some fancy degree in climate science”,
one friend complains to me,
“but I know what the temperature is.
Global warming, my ass-
Four months ago it was fifteen fucking degrees outside.
Those scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“I’ve never really accomplished anything,”
my other friend sighs,
“I feel like my career and house
 and awards are all a fraud.
Some morning I’ll wake up and it will all be gone,
and that’s ok.
I didn’t deserve any of it anyway”.

Winter blusters and blows,
and it’s easy enough to tell him-
Take it easy, man, you’re not “all that”.
Winter doesn’t take offense.
Winter’s not listening.

Spring will be all right-
Spring has that sweet self-confidence
which is just enough
and not too much.
Spring knows what she is and what she isn’t,
and she’s o.k. with that.

But I worry about Autumn.
I wish Autumn liked herself a little bit more.
I remember the last time I saw Autumn,
one sad night in Minneapolis.
The cold, judgmental moon threw her shadow
onto the river far below us,
as she gazed sadly over the railing
of the 8th Avenue bridge-
Her reflection falling... falling... falling...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Open Mike, January 28th-

I have no poem to read tonight, I told my wife.
That’s nice, she replied absent-mindedly
as she scattered walnuts on her oatmeal,
The extreme level of the crisis was somehow lost in translation-
Then suddenly she seemed to get it-
she frowned, and asked, with great concern-
Did you take out the compost?

Compost? Sure-
my poetic life is compost-
orange peels and adjectives jostling with
synonyms and rotting onion ends.
Do you know what you get when you toss
a pile of rotting onions into a bag of synonyms?
I’ve got a list-

Lists. I certainly have got lists-
Carefully nurtured lists of potential poetical topics-
topics meaningful-
topics topical-
topics dolorous,
and topics sophmorical-
What I did not have was a poem.

The shower is a good place to think, I thought-
So I took a shower and tried to cultivate
deep, poetical thoughts-
tried to tease some couplets out of my poetic muse-
Instead I got shampoo in my eyes,
jammed my face into the showerhead
and almost drowned myself in an inch and a half of water.
My muse sat on the side of the tub and snickered.
Catherine Zeta Jones would have been proud.

My muse once resembled Catherine Zeta Jones
In that Zorro movie. I wrote a poem about that-

Now my muse resembles Cathy Bates in that
Stephen King movie, Misery, the one where
she imprisons and tortures James Caan.
BUT- even though she shackles him to the bed,
and breaks both his ankles with a sledgehammer,
he still manages to write.
Lucky bastard.
My muse smiled- Good Times, she whispered.

Look, she suggested -write what you know.
Write what I know-
 What do I know?
I know I’m tired of the fucking cold and snow and ice-
I know that life in Syria’s far from nice-
And I hope John Boehner comes down with lice-
I know I’d feel sorry... -for the lice.

No.  Not going there.

Poetry is many things-
It’s the hammer of Justice,
it's the bell of Freedom,
it's the song about Love between
my brothers and my sisters-
I am not going use that tool
to write about John Boehner’s lice.

Well, my muse said-
you could always read somebody else’s poem.
I was ready to grasp at anything
Yeah, I can do that, I replied, but whose?
How about a dead poet? she suggested.
My  muse is original like that.

I happen to have one here, she said.
It’s by Jonathan Swift, and he’s pretty dead.

I grabbed the sheet she was holding.
My poetic muse,
who used to resemble Catherine Zeta Jones,
retains her sadistic sense of humor-

She’d handed me part of Swift’s self-written epitaph.
He composed it in 1731,
fourteen years before he actually died-
But hey, it’s always good to be prepared, right?
I skimmed the lines-

"For poetry he's past his prime:
He takes an hour to find a rhyme;
His fire is out, his wit decay'd,
His fancy sunk, his Muse a jade.
I'd have him throw away his pen;—
But there's no talking to some men!"

Thanks, satiric, sadistic poetic muse,
who once again looks startlingly like Catherine Zeta Jones,
Thanks. That was perfect.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Open Mike, January 14, 2014

At this time of year we are all told to “count our blessings”.
You put on a bright yellow smiley-face face mask,
Screw your courage to the sticking place,
and look at what’s good in your world.
But I hold this truth to be self evident-
          all blessings are not created equal.

Blessings, in today’s America, are like speech-
You can buy them with cold, hard cash.
In today’s America, if you’re rich-
You’ve got a lot of blessings to count.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because you can afford the best politicians
money can buy to write laws
to make you even more money
To buy yourself even more politicians.
Don’t call it Corruption, call it “An Investment”.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
Because politicians have convinced us that we can
only get the poor to work harder by paying them less,
and the rich to work harder by paying them more.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because the tax laws written by the politicians you bought
Make your stock-dividend income taxable at a lower rate
than the wages of the single mother who cleans your office,
or the green-card immigrant who mows your lawn.
Don’t call that “Unfair”. Call that “Free Enterprise”.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
Because Glenn Beck just declared
That the reformed Scrooge was a wussy, pussy Socialist
and the old Scrooge was an All-American role model.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because even though you inherited your wealth,
everybody is sure you deserve every bit of it,
and it’s the the 18-hour a day, minimum wage workers
the media calls “Lazy, undeserving takers”.
Don’t call that “Hypocrisy. Call it “Fair and Balanced”.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because although “energy independence” means
ripping apart the West Virginia countryside,
and ruining the well-water in farmland Kansas,
They’ll never allow a wind farm off the coast
within sight of your beach house.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because when you finance a leveraged buy-out
that bankrupts a healthy company,
and then you sell the parts off to China for a handsome profit,
and end up putting 3,000 people out of work,
Fox won’t call you a thug, they’ll call you a job-creator.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-

Because it’s you who gets to vote for the wars
that poor people’s sons and daughters get to go and die in.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
Because there is an entire news network
dedicated to proving that Jesus
was a white, Protestant CEO from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
And he said that it’s easy for a rich man to get into Heaven,
and it’s easy for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle,
Because the rich man owns Heaven,
and he owns the camel, and he owns the needle.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
Because that poor person caught with an ounce of weed?
He’ll spend the next fifteen years in your privatized, for-profit prison,
and because he’s an ex-con he loses his right to vote,
So he can’t vote for reform politicians to change those laws,
and isn’t that what Democracy is all about, Charlie Brown?

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because if you’re a banker who commits massive mortgage fraud,
and costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,
You get a golden parachute payoff, and seat on the Board of Directors.
And if you were REALLY bad?  We’ll even discuss
making you a member of the Federal Reserve.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
and declare proudly that “We’re all in this together!
You guys all row the boat!
I’ll stand here in the bow,
sipping my martini,
watching for icebergs.”

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because poems like this
listing all the blessings you have that others don’t,
are reviled as “Class Warfare”.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
and tell the poor to count their blessings,
Because blessings are better than money, right?
And because telling people that keeps them quiet,
and passive, and poor.