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It’s a Familiar Enough Lie

With a headful of sighs,

I move from room to room,

stand in the doorway, then turn,

followed by dark regrets

which waited to slither back 

from all the obvious corners.

I promise myself again

as I slip further away: 

it will only be a moment;

then days, then years vanish

before the wait will stop,

before I walk out the door.

(September 19, 2020)

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As in the Last Days of Pompeii (a reading)

As in the Last Days of Pompeii

In these next darker days,

Shadows walk in laughter

upright and self-righteous,

and we have no where to hide.

Ash floods the bitter sky

filling the streets, the rooftops,

our lungs with  thick death.

With no time to cast bones,

our glazed eyes watch

the portents unfold into heaven.

Panicked, we rage in the street,

or cower next to a wall,

 a silent witness to the fall.

(September 17, 2020)

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As in the Last Days of Pompeii

In these next darker days,

Shadows walk in laughter

upright and self-righteous,

and we have no where to hide.

Ash floods the bitter sky

filling the streets, the rooftops,

our lungs with thick death.

With no time to cast bones,

our glazed eyes watch

the portents unfold into heaven.

Panicked, we rage in the street,

or cower next to a wall,

 a silent witness to the fall.

(September 17, 2020)

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there is no life outside of this

this body holds no answers

other than its own


I listen to its stories

all the iterations

the looped variations


as if razors inscribe each word

labyrinths within labyrinths

a slow-cut scratch through skin

to bleed heal and cut again


until what is true

what is believed

what is said

intermingle


their incestuous scars

like runes carved

across cave walls


and I have nowhere to go

and nothing left to say

(September 9, 2020)

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What I Imagine When Someone Explains my Poetry to Me

He stands on a small rock

in the middle of a river;

the water rushes past

an obvious metaphor.

He ignores the danger,

and leaps the gap to land

on the next wet stone

barely within his compass;


And there, as he teeters,

searching for his balance,

he hears the falls hunger,

then is neither here, nor there,


but lost in the churning froth

of some other’s creation.

(September 6, 2020)

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No One Watches the Train Fall From the Broken Bridge (a reading)

His problem has nothing to do with the train which travels steadily through the night. Everyone is content, if not happy, on the train, reading opinions they already agree with, drinking champagne, eating delicacies imported from foreign countries. They pretend they do not like the food, but wish they could eat as well at home.  All of the people on the train are facing the same direction, which gives them all a strange comfort.  A few of them look out the windows, but it is too dark to see the trees in the forest. It all follows along so logically, like a math problem in high school where rats scuttle east over well-polished wing-tips at a variable rate of three feet per second. They stop randomly to nibble on discarded bread crumbs dropped with nonchalance by the passengers on the train. Meanwhile the train travels south at a consistent seventy-three miles per hour directly toward the crumbled bridge which once traversed a chasm one thousand feet deep and a mile wide. There is no question at the end that one must answer. However, there is an answer; there is always an answer. No one watches the train fall from the broken bridge. No one hears the explosions as it crashes into the rocks below, or the last cries for help of those who are momentarily still alive.  

On a trail nearby the train tracks, a monk moves through the dark as if he has been here before, thinking vaguely of other things. He pauses, peers into the dark, then wanders off along his way. The monk’s tangentially wandering mind is not enough to mark the train’s passing beyond the silence which lingers in the mountains for several hours after the sun has risen again.

(July 6, 2018)

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Structures and Forms

I started a serial poem back at the beginning of January. The plan was to write 140 poems, each poem’s length pre-determined by a random number generator, ranging from 3-140 syllables. It was to follow vaguely the rules of a renga, where each poem grew out of the one before it somehow, whether through theme, pun, image, or a reply. The number of poems was determined by the number of syllables in a sonnet. 

I have reached 80 poems in this series. I hit 40 back at the end of March. I have 60 more to go. I would like to finish this by the end of December, which means I should speed up a bit. LOL.  I have never really written under a deadline except for required essays in grad school. However, 80 poems in 7 months is a fairly phenomenal pace for me.

I will now begin to move forward with the third ‘stanza’ while collecting and tightening sections 1 and 2, in hopes that as I reread and work over the first two sections, the third stanza will continue the conversations, if you will, that began in the first two “stanzas,” and the themes and images will continue to echo and grow organically in section three. 

A little obsessive, but then what about life is not.

(July 27, 2020)

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Fear Lies

“Why aren’t you bold and free of all your fear?”

-Dante Alighieri, Inferno, Canto III

as smoke 

infuses itself

throughout the house

long after the fire’s extinguished

so fear 

circulates in silent eddies

flowing like ravenous minnows

nibbling sharply at our toes

.

my fear lies

within doubt

it breeds

in the crevices

in the misunderstood word

in the scene not played out

it’s brood hatches

hungry needing to feed

skittering along memory

like spiders alive to every

web strand’s tingle

it descends to attend

to the fly’s quick dispatch

(July 21, 2020)

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a darker shape was always present

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (78)

after the worst of summer’s heat

we’d sit in the grass

beneath the pecan and cottonwoods

away from the radiant streets and sidewalks

the adults spoke of friends 

far away or long dead

they’d laugh and tell stories

which we were not a part of yet

we ran wild through the night

afraid of nothing

(July 18, 2020)

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templates

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (76)

so many boundaries

are employed

in any definition


the outlines cut

from what is not

are as important 

as what remains


a pattern

even with

a patch

bears a pattern

if not original in intent


with care I fold my words

into this conversation

like origami cranes

from crisp white paper


(July 14, 2020)

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Metaphor’s Threat

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (74)

It is hard to hear 

what must be said

easy to fall 

into cliche

a pair of shoes 

softly worn old

they know the way 

to take you home

as cows wear down

 a simple path

between one place

 and another

no difference

 really matters

our thoughts carve out

 the same channels

and run like rats

 trapped in a maze

never pausing

 to look for more

than what was there

 the last time here

repetition 

a common thread

comforts us all

 with old ideas

and traps us too

with such fools as I

(July 11, 2020)

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even now I hear them (a reading)

even now I hear them

from a work in progress: process, not a journey (72)

“Sea, I am like you, filled with broken voices”

—Guillaume Apollinaire

insistent demanding attention

soft whispers curl at my feet

like cats they claw at me

with their sharp reminders

lightly pulling at my skin

until the ground is awash

in the blood of memory

and then slightly below the surface

small phrases embedded in dead

conversations rise like tattered faces

from the sea to mouth their silent

vowels like fish dying in the sand

until the raw scraps of language

in which I am tangled 

are cast out in a storm surge

far out among the dark waves

and I drown choking 

with nothing to say

(July 6, 2020)

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even now I hear them

from a work in progress: process, not a journey (72)

“Sea, I am like you, filled with broken voices”

—Guillaume Apollinaire

insistent demanding attention

soft whispers curl at my feet

like cats they claw at me

with their sharp reminders

lightly pulling at my skin

until the ground is awash

in the blood of memory

and then slightly below the surface

small phrases embedded in dead

conversations rise like tattered faces

from the sea to mouth their silent

vowels like fish dying in the sand

until the raw scraps of language

in which I am tangled 

are cast out in a storm surge

far out among the dark waves

and I drown choking 

with nothing to say

(July 6, 2020)

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there’s no time

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (71)

some time after sunrise I wake

go downstairs book notebook

pen in hand make coffee take

my meds check various

social platforms eat some thing

shower get dressed

sometimes read sometimes write

sometimes nap wake

cook dinner wash the dishes

watch TV listen to music and

then after some time go to sleep

(July 2, 2020)

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Afternoon Light

from a work in progress, “process, not a journey”(69)

the grey cat sits

on the table by the window

and watches the mockingbird

on the elm outside

.

I watch her patience

today and yesterday

and last week

and think she’s oblivious

to sit so stoically

day after day

without hope

of any desires’

consummation

.

I lose my way each day

throughout the day

thinking of this

then distracted by that

as if the unspecified contains 

some mysterious truth

more than a cat

sitting in the sun

(June 28, 2020)

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past imperfect tense

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey: (68)

“I cannot keep my dreams straight.”

-Franz Kafka

some nights most nights

after a whiskey or more

years if not decades

swirl like blue smoke

at my feet

and I forget

where I am as time

falls away like an old drunk

stumbling on my way home

the familiar story

the soft path alters

and strangers step out

of the dark laughing

vaguely  and I have forgotten

why I’m laughing

then laugh again

(June 23, 2020)

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Lines Written in a Pandemic a Few Days After the Summer Solstice

from a work in progress: “Process, Not a Journey” (67)

our earth wobbles its way

about the sun like a drunk

unsure of her footing

moves again

toward the bar

*

day by day minute by minute

plods toward darkness

for the next six months

each day grows darker

by one minute

*

not quite disturbing

the dullard doves

who coo complacently

on the fence

cardinals and jays

fussing constantly

slip after each other

between tree branches

I watch and listen

to this dance

for hours

and can do nothing

*

as it was in the beginning

world without end

(June 23, 2020)

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nostalgia’s a desire for the present

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (64)

what he remembers now

is different than what

he remembered then

.

now he is old

and does not remember

as well what happened

.

then he was young

and foolish and remembered

trivial things

.

of little use then

even less so

now

.

as he holds 

his aspects together

between fragile hands

.

facets of the past

spin off light

for a moment

.

and he sees her eyes

that first night

they almost kissed

(June 16, 2020)

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charmed life

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (63)

DCF 1.0

inevitably

we would join hands 

twirl a circle

with wild abandon

then fall into laughter

on the fresh cut grass

.

summer was summer

for longer than a summer

could be or ever would

be again

.

when the kids on the street

were everyone we knew

and the world was safe

nearby

(June 16, 2020)

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limbo (a reading)

limbo

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (61)

months of laconic weeks drift

past as the centuries two-step

a dance macabre about the village

square like old lovers late at night

dance slowly arms entwined 

in a practiced grace

your death’s not important 

to them any more than mine 

only this dance matters

the horror of it lies 

in the death head’s grin

which does not pretend 

to hide its deception 

there is no skin to map 

its laughter into flowers

across our blind eyes 

no dead platitudes to act 

as balm for our world in flames

(June 14, 2020)

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limbo

from a work in progress: “process, not a journey” (61)

months of laconic weeks drift

past as the centuries two-step

a dance macabre about the village

square like old lovers late at night

dance slowly arms entwined 

in a practiced grace

your death’s not important 

to them any more than mine 

only this dance matters

the horror of it lies 

in the death head’s grin

which does not pretend 

to hide its deception 

there is no skin to map 

its laughter into flowers

across our blind eyes 

no dead platitudes to act 

as balm for our world in flames

(June 14, 2020)

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Surface Tensions

“stop, children, what’s that sound

everybody look what’s going down”

—Stephen Stills

Another day spreads across the sky

as the flood waters continue to rise.

There is little to stand upon now

that does not tip into complicity.

Ice melts along its edges. One moment

we are there watching the turmoil

below our feet, then the ice is gone, 

and we are all breathing water, 

floundering in the lies we live. 

Our words fill our lungs, and

silence gurgles past our lips

as we slip slowly deeper

beneath the cold gelatinous sea,

to drown in our undeserved comforts

(June 8, 2020)

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Contained & Vanishing Point (a reading)

Contained

“I contain multitudes”

-Walt Whitman

I am not a voice,

but an echo of silence—

before and after.

Like dried flowers in old books,

I live pressed within these folds.

(May 27 2020)

Vanishing Point

“Falling is one of the ways of moving.”

— Merce Cunningham

Finding walls

where there were

none before,

I stumble,

and fall

toward a point

perceived as distance,

yet, always here.

What I see is

only what I know;

perception’s a deception

one swallows entire. 

The eye’s led on

from the outside in.

(June 2, 2020)

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dark earth (a reading)

dark earth

from a work in progress: process, not a journey (60)

obsessively the earth gives birth

to its dead rich and fertile

safe inside itself unseen

unvoiced like ecstatic dancers

beneath a moon-bright sky

the earth lifts the rose

the oak twisting and throbbing

into the air so i burrow deep

beneath the black soil a worm

gnashing rocks like prayers

until i find a darker god

and somewhere in the black clay

an old woman natters

lost in perpetual disappointment

as a death skull’s laughter’s

trapped in his life’s delusion

(May 7, 2020)

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dark earth

from a work in progress: process, not a journey (60)

obsessively the earth gives birth

to its dead rich and fertile

safe inside itself unseen

unvoiced like ecstatic dancers

beneath a moon-bright sky

the earth lifts the rose

the oak twisting and throbbing

into the air so i burrow deep

beneath the black soil a worm

gnashing rocks like prayers

until i find a darker god

and somewhere in the black clay

an old woman natters

lost in perpetual disappointment

and a death skull’s bored laugh’s

trapped in his life’s delusion

(May 7, 2020)

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Infinite Watched Pot (a reading)

Infinite Watched Pot

“That is, if you write it has it happened twice”

—Michael Palmer, Notes for Echo Lake

I woke and now it is now; the sun’s setting.

Was the writing the thing that happened?

Would today happen without being written?

Are they two events or one?

I see something—

like a car crash,

or water boiling on the stove.

One’s disconnected,

one’s intentional, possibly

even a causation; for example;

I’m hungry, so

I hop in the car for a burger.

She was in a hurry. It was

raining. She slams through a yellow light.

The driver in front of me dies

on the wet street. Or,

I’m still hungry. I hold dry

pasta knowingly, and watch

as the tiny bubbles form

on the bottom of the pot.

Did anything happen?

I am hungry, and will be

each time you read this,

even if I was the driver

who died, or I just wrote

it down; even if something

more than this

was in my thoughts

as I waited for water

to boil.

(May 3, 2020) 

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Infinite Watched Pot

“That is, if you write it has it happened twice”

—Michael Palmer, Notes for Echo Lake

I woke and now it is now; the sun’s setting.

Was the writing the thing that happened?

Would today happen without being written?

Are they two events or one?

I see something—

like a car crash,

or water boiling on the stove.

One’s disconnected,

one’s intentional, possibly

even a causation; for example;

I’m hungry, so

I hop in the car for a burger.

She was in a hurry. It was

raining. She slams through a yellow light.

The driver in front of me dies

on the wet street. Or,

I’m still hungry. I hold dry

pasta knowingly, and watch

as the tiny bubbles form

on the bottom of the pan.

Did anything happen?

I am hungry, and will be

each time you read this,

even if I was the driver

who died, or I just wrote

it down; even if something

more than this

was in my thoughts

as I waited for water

to boil.

(May 3, 2020) 

there is no life outside of this (a reading)

there is no life outside of this

this body holds no answers

other than its own


I listen to its stories

all the iterations

the looped variations


as if razors inscribe each word

labyrinths within labyrinths

a slow-cut scratch through skin

to bleed heal and cut again


until what is true

what is believed

what is said

intermingle


their incestuous scars

like runes carved

across cave walls


and I have have nowhere to go

and nothing left to say

(September 9, 2020)