Thursday, April 30, 2020

Certificate of Participation

Edging your way around the rim of a hole
you're pretending isn't there.

Good try, it said. You did all you could.

There's a little truth in every joke,
my mother used to say.
Not just her. Lots of people
say that.

A single warm drip flowing
sluggishly down your leg
There was no testing available

You gave it a shot, it said.
You gave it your all.
A for effort.

The small pleasures
have shrunken down so as to barely register.
The world glimpsed through a peephole,
and poorly lit besides.
Every feast is a mere crumb on your tongue,
every orgasm here and gone so fast
you’re not sure it even happened.

With no facial expression
or vocal inflection
You'll never really know

An entire world in every drop of water
A entire universe melting in your fist

You’ll always be a winner
in my book, it said.
I admire your perseverance. You’ve
really got guts.

When you’re tumbling
and tumbling
and tumbling
and just wishing
you would hit the bottom already

How do you keep the poison from annihilating you
when it’s in the air, the water, the very sunlight

It eats you from the inside
it hollows you out, leaves you nothing
but a thin, brittle shell

Good try, it said,
erasing you completely
with a wave of its hand.

No one noticed.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


No more Mardi Gras, no more mezcal,
no more wild nights hopping fences,
no more honky tonk parade,
No more grocery store orchids
or floppy irises,
No more juncos or chickadees
with their maniacal chirping,
now its all mourning doves and woodpeckers,
now it's all crow.
Soft pretzels petrified, Grey Goose turned to dishwater.
We no longer get tipsy, just hungover.
No more joyous reunions, no tearful reconciliations.
There's just this cold morning
with an endless cold day ahead,
a mask of sidewalk cracks,
and in my back pocket, a taped-together snapshot
I can't bear to look at.

Monday, April 27, 2020

A Child Stares at Her Palm

I am your sister. Your legs were shiny and stuck together
and I tried to unstick them. Roots dug their claws into you,
spread their tentacles deep. Leaves pushed their way out
through your skin, turned their faces toward the bulb.
Your sister lined the shelves with decorative paper.
Your bare feet were also shiny like mirrors
and they sunk into the ground and stuck there.
Your fingers were slender and slightly bent,
the angles were slightly too sharp.
Your sister crossed the empty parking lot diagonally
and burst into feathers. The rain forced us to crawl.
The lizard trainer's booth was in the back of the room,
next to the concessions. You would always remember
his generosity, his charity. You placed
the cuttings in jars of rusty water on the windowsill.
A globule of saliva clung to your lip
but would not drop. Your sister ironed the tablecloth
and folded the heavy napkins. They placed
a sheet of rubber over your body
before sliding you into the machine
in order to take pictures of your insides
before it burst into seed. You wrapped your prey
in sticky threads so they'd still be there
when you returned from the dry cleaners.
The lizards' tongues darted out and
became entangled. You watched the trainer
patiently unknot them, stroking their scaly heads
to soothe them. He never taught you anything.
Your sister spread the wiring underneath her
so it might become coated with her creamy drippings.
You were always handcuffed together. Filled
the back seat full of soil.The trunk grew
right through the garage door. The doctors
were baffled. The mirrors were flyspecked.
There was always a space between the fence
and the wall. I am that fence,
I am that wall, I am your sister.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Hunting From the Car

Water balloons, paper towels, dirt
Grease turned black in the pan

Iron crumbs, a magnet
A blue tipped match in the sink

The eye of the nail, the head of the needle
The taming of the screw

My lips to the rim
My eye to the hole
My fingers in a knot

The tip of my tongue touches sandpaper
I swallow a wax lozenge
Cough up a soggy band aid

Comment on the smell of the fence,
on the taste of feathers.
Post your agreement or dissent
with little embellishment.

I am a parking lot I am a waiting room
I am a sieve of mindfulness
A photocopied pizza
A hole in the postcard

I'm listening to you melt
To the wild slapping of the sun
The the sound of air exiting a blossom

Our fractured attention spans
glued together. I run my finger
along the maze of cracks,
never reaching the center

All this, sure,
but at the end of the day
All I really wish for
is just one woman
to undress for me

Thursday, April 23, 2020


Buried bombs go off
at random times during the day,
seemingly triggered by nothing.
A song pops into my head
or an image, or a remembered smell
 and suddenly I'm tearing up, sobbing,
unable to stop missing her.
Like a moment ago, I was just sitting here
and suddenly thought of that Italian restaurant
a block from our apartment.
We passed it every day but only ate there once.
The decor was over-the-top tacky,
all mirrors and marble, faux fancy.
I don't recall what we ate, except that
we both agreed it had too much garlic.
I don't remember what we talked about,
if we dressed up, if we had a good time.
I hate that I remember so little
and yet even the vaguest scrap of memory
creates an explosion of pain.
Who laid these mines? Who set the tripwires?
Love did, slipping through the underbrush
in its camouflage gear. The war
is long since lost, yet unexploded ordnance
still litters the countryside, likely to maim
no matter how carefully I step.


She was a custodian at the museum
where I was a guard. After she quit, she told me
her favorite piece had been an ivory statuette
of an old Japanese man feeding some ducklings.
The man was crouched down beside a bowl of feed.
He had a kindly smile on his face
and an enormous crack bisecting his skull.
She would ask about him from time to time
and when I told her they'd put him in storage
she couldn't believe they'd do such a thing.
I didn't see the piece for over a decade
until this afternoon, when during a patrol
I came across it on a shelf in back of the vault.
The craftsmanship and attention to detail
weren't as impressive as I remembered,
but it was good to see the old man there,
and I said hello from her, though it's been nine years
since she too disappeared, devoured by her own grief,
Maybe someday I will come across her again,
a pale figure in some dark catacomb somewhere,
smiling that gentle smile of hers, waiting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Cooking With the Lights Out Again

Substitute memory, switched at the last minute
for the one which was going to annihilate you.

He goes back to make sure he's locked the door, goes back
and checks it again.

The whistling stopped when they boarded up the door
The anthills grew considerably after the rain

Some of the people I've loved the most
have the worst taste in movies
Get your things we’re leaving
right now

Scuffed his shoes on the carpet then touched
the metal banister
Savored the shock
You can't just list random things
and expect it to satisfy
Another list of things
that hollow me out

Get in the car
What more do you want
I'm dropping you off
at your mother's for the weekend

It breaks our heart to say
We’ve shuttered our doors for good
Thank you for your years of patronage

A little flutter of femininity
Discarded on the gravel
A single kind word
would have sufficed

What do you want me to say?
That I shouldn’t have eaten all those eggs?
It breaks my heart

When we moved the table
the legs left square impressions in the carpet
When we moved the filing cabinet
The metal scratched the linoleum

I’m dropping off some soup
I’m dropping off some leftovers
I just wanted to give you a head’s up
I didn’t want you to be surprised

The whistling stopped when they
stomped the anthill flat

And who might you be?
I’m that memory that is going to
knock you on your ass

The ceiling tiles stained
by water from above
Shirt caught in the car door

There were no kind words left
Pillowcases full of potatoes
Satin sheets covered with spiders

I can't walk this slowly without toppling over
I can't figure out how to keep
this sleep-stain from spreading

He goes back one last time
The door is still locked

Monday, April 20, 2020

The Ship Whisperer

She presses her palm 
against the iron hide
of a ship the size 
of a skyscraper,
its belly stuffed 
with bulk products 
from China.
Toilet paper, detergent, 
antifreeze, jigsaw puzzles.
Bullets and greeting cards.
Diapers and diaphragms. 
She murmurs to it, 
asks if its journey
was pleasant, if the ocean 
was selfish or generous. 
She listens for its answers
but all she can hear 
is the barking of the sea lions
on the pier, the sound 
of the hungry aisles
at the end of the empty parking lot

Friday, April 17, 2020

Bum of the Month Club

Can you cut through the scramble, can you focus
on your feet for just a
slight slant to the right regain your balance can you
matador those zip ties, wash through the
slingshot selfie stick revolution
with a bandana tied over the bottom
portion of your face, you haven't earned
any of this and I refuse to pay until
there are some changes made to the cage
Can you probe with your blunt antennae
until you find a crack in the plaster
Can you duck beneath the right cross
and somersault the bondage clap
Can you carry those blows within you
and not let their weight drag you down
Can you straddle the fence and end up
ass over tits on the right side of history
Not necessarily the winning side
Can you cover your tracks and leap
like a spider across the gap
Can you convince them you’re not
just a scared, beaten boy
a false idol of crazed clay
Can you rattle your false teeth like dice
and shutter the milk booth without
spilling a drop, can you present 
a compelling case for either your guilt
or your innocence, can you stretch your legs
so wide you split your slacks and ride
that cleaver like a saddle
Can you make the bellhops carry you from the
train on their shoulders
Can you go trawling for silverfish
with your hairnet
Can you lower your lids kind and gentle as a cow
Can you dynamite that chimney with
your shy, harmless smile
Can you line the inside of your mask
with tacks
Can you stuff newspaper inside
the crown to make it fit
Can you perp walk the architect, frog march
the facilitators, learn to fucking spell
even when the rain drips in to smudge your words,
even when the ash blows sideways
Can you accept the fact that
when it comes down to it,
all they really care about is
Can you win

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Who swallowed this wee morsel,
This minuscule tidbit?
Whose hatch, whose trap, whose pie-hole
was it crammed into?
Whose slavering maw
closed down around it?
Whose greasy gullet
did it slide down?
I wish I knew
so I could hunt the glutton down,
slice open their belly
and reach into their steaming entrails
to rescue it before it gets digested
and evacuated: this crumb, this scrap
this tiny speck
I can't bear to see it devoured
It's all I have left

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

a small miserable fable

I set the sandwich aside
and refused to eat it
until I’d eaten
everything else
and it was all I had left
and by then it had been
sitting there so long
that when I finally ate it
it made me sick

I set the sandwich aside
and refused to eat it
until I’d eaten
everything else
and it was all I had left
and by then it had been
sitting there so long
that when I finally ate it
it made me sick

I set the sandwich aside
and refused to eat it
until I’d eaten
everything else
and it was all I had left
and by then it had been
sitting there so long
that when I finally ate it
it made me sick

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Every Impossible Day

To encircle it without ever looking at it,
to tell its story without
ever mentioning or describing it,
while knowing that it informs everything you do.

To say it so softly, to let it slip
gently from your tongue

To move with slow, deliberate movements,
each following the other
with an almost painful grace

To sweep away
everything unnecessary
Everything harmful, everything
that stands in the way

To glimpse its face
out of the corner of your eye
To just barely register
its sound

To stand right on the edge
To accept, rather than fear,

My Trajectory

I took the brick and pinched it into a pebble.
I took the feather and sharpened it on a strop
to bleed the air.
I took the creek and snapped it across my knee.
I took the slope and rattled it along a picket fence.
I took the rolling meadows
bursting with flowers and weeds
and pressed them flat
and shuffled them like cards.  
I took the branching network of burrows
and draped them over my shoulders
like a robe.
I took the village in my palms
and held it over the coals
and turned it, and turned it
and let it drop.
I hurled the country straight up into the air
then covered my head with my hands
as it fell to earth.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Up to Your Eyeballs in Venture Capital

Best laid waste investing wisely
Flushed those precious prophylactics
Knotted braids and woven baskets
Optimists with desperate talents

Unhooked barb wire dripping spastic
Deep state head case in Miami
Sour Patch Kids and Laffy Taffy
B-list spokesman tilts the axis

Maxi-pads in backseat writhing
Exit poll opposes praxis
Journalists expunge molasses
Rigid tender is the nightlife

Yesterday is for investing
Seven mile panhandle backflip
Jokes involving rubber vomit
Your shit stain's a hidden blessing

Honeywell would stiff the waitress
Plumping up the bootleg timestamp
Cattle on the highway off ramp
Liquidated market phone sex

Walmart sponsored burning manhole
Bitcoin robocallers sponsored
Texting from the buried rocket
Station closed just north of SoHo

Destination runway tunnel
Masked man stuffed with beta blockers
Minnie Pearl and Margaret Walker
Bare feet stick out from the oven

Bridesmaids carrying bolt-cutters
Hold your breath as we go under
Tax the starry-eyed invaders
Ankle-deep in eggs and sugar

Sallow checks and violet startups
Sunchoke microphone eruptions
Divebomb devils dropping acid
Wallowing in ectoplasm

Bloody loaves in muddy waters
Putty bubbling on the stovetop
Buried lovers, shattered glue pots
Pound cakes laced with broken bottles

Spooling out unleavened sweethearts
Menthol wrappers stitched and numbered
Wall-eyed death cults hanging laundry
Half-baked terrorists in Yonkers

Chain gang rolling pin marauders
Oven mitts scorched in the ruins
Push up bras to boost mirages
Weeping willow undergarments

Best laid answered prayers and whispers
Burning bush potato salad
waist-deep in the outer limits
All mitzvahs declared invalid

Flaccid strands of oily laughter
Garbled songs of warm saliva
Swan dive last gasp lost horizon
The dams are done. The water's rising.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Tower of Meaning

A reflection, an echo
or maybe just a shadow
A house with no basement
A newspaper hat on the coat rack

Bells rusted in my mouth,
a moth fluttered beneath my tongue.
I curled my fingers around your toes
as you slumbered in the tub.

Webs of cracks covered our skins
like crazed fishnets.
Silver sparks arced and twisted
from the curtain to the faucet. 

We had furniture of cigar boxes
upholstered with mats of our own fur.
Ants crawled in a line into your pocket
to feast on the sugar.

And all that is left are snippets,
and fragments, and never completed projects.
Sentences never finished,
unwhispered secrets.

I want to once again become immersed
in those droning waves, to replay
that soporific drifting of the days,
the heart's loop of murmur  

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A mother flatback turtle lays her eggs in the sand.
The eggs hatch and the young make their awkward,
frantic way towards the sea.
We've seen this scene in countless nature programs
which always play up the perils of being small and weak
in a world where you are food for everything.
The camera crew follows one little turtle
as it hurries through some puddles.
The ground is bumpy, the going slow.
From out of the shallow water
stretches the tentacle of a tiny octopus,
scarcely bigger than the hatchling. It wraps itself
around the turtle's body. The baby wriggles free
but the octopus keeps throwing its arms
around and around like lariats
and finally drags its prey under for good.
Why do I keep watching? Do I really need
one more reminder that nature is cruel and arbitrary,
that the only gods with any leverage
are the gods of luck and chance?
The octopus is beautiful, with its dark, graceful limbs,
each undulating like a separate being.
The crew films it all, then to try to soften the horror
by escorting a luckier baby, walking beside it
to fend off the birds until it staggers into the surf,
where thousands of other dangers await it
as it spreads its flippers and soars
gracefully into the current.

Monday, April 6, 2020

I’m afraid of ruining it
before it’s even begun

A word can ruin it
I probably already have
after all, the first word I’m,
the second afraid. What a sad way
to start a world

Tiny porcelain heads
a cheap brass menorah
bundles of weeping cherry twigs

The world ruined
the world not ruined
the world ruined

And I can’t even hold you
as it happens

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Lookout Mountain

Sometimes it’s better not to sing

Body bag beside the curb in Topanga Canyon
Dusty mailbox with the flag snapped off.
Cracked wooden sign warning of worms ahead
Polka dots wobbling through the fog

Stripes that disappear into a wall of skin
Up that steep winding road lined with gold
Mouth stuffed with velvety petals

Silver flashes in the asphalt
Bronze flecks in her 
colorless eyes
She opened her mouth
and nothing came out

All the trees fell at the same time
All the fence slats, all the ladder rungs,
a sluggish river of honey flowing
between chunks of concrete

Shredded tonsils
Shuttered donut shops
Cans of coconut water on
a stump for target practice
Crawl space stuffed to the brim
with jonquils

I woke up in a sweat
on a lumpy mattress in the guest house
pit and the pendulum
Reached for a cigarette

Angry hummingbirds alighting on dead sticks
squealing and hissing like snakes
A manhole cover hiding a beauty mark

Rusty gates, twisting tendrils of iron
Unicorn mane, ribbons snapping in the breeze

Sometimes it’s better to keep that song to yourself

Saturday, April 4, 2020

A bird flew in through the window
I disassembled it piece by piece
A bird of light, a bird of dust
Stained glass feathers
I took its gears apart, watched it gasp
Flapping page wings
I enjoyed the precision
every word fit together like a cog
I cherished the echo it made
when I wound it up
When I tore all the pages out
leaving only the cardboard cover
A bird flew in the balcony door
I opened my mouth and it flew right in
I waited for it to lay its eggs
that would hatch into the words
I wanted to say to you
It got late. Night blanketed the rooftops.
My nest was dried out and empty,
perfect kindling for a bird
with wings of flame.

Friday, April 3, 2020


A pair of black rubber gloves, tugged off and wadded
inside out, beside the jar of pens. The material
 is soft, satiny. The landscape is dotted with holes,
one of us standing in each one, we can't see
over the top, can't reach over
to the next chamber, even though the walls are thin
and we can hear our neighbors thumping around
on every side, the tips of the gloves
are sticky, the air is thin and crackles
with layers of whisper, onionskin paper
wrapped around a tree branch,
a tape dispenser, smooth black screen covered
in sharp cracks, empty black stapler,
file cabinet drawer gummed shut, I can hear
 a buzzing from inside, and the bumping around
of small, soft bodies, I work my fingers
into the gloves and work to pry it open 
Inside there is nothing but a black comb,
a single strand
of yellow hair
caught in its teeth.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The chandelier tinkles inside my chest
as my body sways to and fro
on the rolling deck
as the music swells

I remember kissing her in this room
With a mouthful of glue
Not realizing she had a glass eye
hidden beneath her tongue

She kept boxes of scraps and patches
bits and bobs and odds and ends
Snippets and clippings, chunks and crumbs
Parts of broken objects and devices
To reassemble into endless self-portraits.
She would smash mirrors just
to make mosaics of the shards
Broken plates and bottle caps and teeth
and hedgehog quills and feathers
and curved needles of glass
like scorpion stingers

The flash of a diamond necklace
plunging into the icy waters
A tiny reflection of her face
in every facet

After she shattered, I kept those cobwebbed fragments
in a cardboard suitcase deep within the closet.
Stored that fistful of pale sand, and the darker one,
mixed them like salt and pepper in a jar.
Kept the porcelain doorknobs and rusty nails
The naked wooden spools, the locks I'd forgotten
the combination to
I knocked and banged them together

but never made anything from them
like she would have

Why have I held onto them so long
Why do I keep breaking into that echoing chamber
to stand beneath the chandelier
with open arms
as it stretches out its legs
and prepares to descend

Wednesday, April 1, 2020


Spell check suggests
I change it to

In the dark, in the wet, the process
is not the same, the stench of damp, the smell of rot,
crawls across your face, trying to decide
the best way in

My fingers cold and raw and very clean
Carcasses in the freezer, not yet skinned

She gently bangs her forehead
against the window, leaving a spot of grease
to gaze through at the world
as its surface wavers

The moths we discovered in the vault
Silvery fluttery things
nibbling at the weavings
I found them so pretty

Slow-motion trauma,
long-acting euthanasia.
Sometimes it takes your whole life
for the chemicals to take effect

That look on her face that says
more than her voice ever did

Things I said
with someone's stolen breath

In the dirt beneath a stone, beneath a log, beneath
a blanket of wet leaves, a splintered sheet
of plywood, a rotting board
slowly going soft, I roll
onto my back
expose my belly

A fistful of whelk shell beads
A few scattered teeth

My heart is freezing, she said,
when in reality

A flattened snake twisted into
a black figure eight
used as a bookmark

Flakes of dry skin cling to my face
If I scrubbed the mask away
would there be something left

The poison seeps up the food chain
 until it lodges in the liver
of a golden eagle, its feathery husk
stiff in the South Dakota snow

And I'm gobbling it too
feeling too bloated to move
trying to scrub the dishes clean
those hardened particles,
these scabs, this crust
I'm tempted to give up

This melody

I'll never