Edges Soften in the Dark

I can no longer see

consequence. I walk home

and everyone has changed.

I feel the same now as

I did when I was nine:

ignorant and naive—

and unaware of both.

Like crows among the dead,

I worry our future.

When I take my glasses

off, rooms blur with motion.

I find comfort in that

like our bed’s warmth after

you have left for the day.

(March 21, 2023)


The More Things Change

In almost-spring, the trees green

the bare branch tips barely while

others feign death like lovers

reluctant to leave bed’s warmth.

I resist most change until

it has already occurred.

It rarely changes that much,

that I must not plan dinner.

Although time’s rituals resist

alterations, the stitches

still fray from everyday use.

I am not much different.

Yesterday was warm and wet;

today cold, windy and clear.



To say

one loses faith,


quite a bit:

foremost one has

a faith to lose,

more so

than just a given.

Variables exist only

the moment before

the dice settle

on the green felt.

A sentence ends

with nothing left to say.

(March 13, 2023)


apostate drift

a falling away





like dandelions

scattered without

tears or toil

until alighting


where always

has been

a beginning

an end

(March 9, 2023)


Preemptive Talk

I know what you will say—

So, I speak instead to change

the direction of your subject

before you think to speak

Too often I use language

as a shield to deflect

the slashing barrage

of each day’s small talk

I natter through scripts

only I can hear, tumbling

variations into possibilities

from the obscure to the germane

Social cliches constrain 

conversation from becoming 

too much to hold us together, 

and too little to tear us apart

(March 7, 2023)


Being There

Along the horizon,

light dusts the sky

in translucent

oranges and reds.

I’m here, not there,

on the back steps

sipping coffee

trying not to break,

and in that moment

remove myself enough

to see the moment

as always enough:

morning light through trees,

with a chorus of birds.


Open Curriculum

I let the cat in—

then let her out once again,

thus my life proceeds

My students read books,

alone with their thoughts each class,

we learn what we do

I must write a poem

I must write every day

Today, this is it

I’ll write a haiku:

they are simple enough, though

simplicity’s not

I have taught for years and years

I’m still not sure what happens

(February 28, 2023)


Prix Fixe Menu

“corpses are set to banquet”

–Ezra Pound

the dead are fed

without fear for

without awareness

without consequence

the dog licks

the negligent’s hand

as easily as

the master’s

the servers smirk

taking the plates


who knows

what is served 

at the end of the day

(February 26, 2023)


juggling knives

I despise my life—

the knife twist memory

each slight

slit across tendons

to fell with guilt

the dynamic

each moment compels

into the next

here now I hold

a third

flick it into the air

to release

with hopeless trust

it will be caught

(February 25, 2023)


Happiness is Easy; Contentment is Hard

Striving for happiness,

we worry so about

the then and when

that now’s forgotten 

in the world’s swirl.

Like a child’s top,

we wobble wildly

gaining balance,

losing equilibrium,

forgetting the moment

the top gyrates

into a stillness;

it seems unmoving

even as it spins,

and spins, and spins.

(February 21, 2023)


Note on Writing

“to combat the resistances of language you must keep talking”

–Anne Carson

I write most everyday. Since the end of last August, I have filled up two 150-page notebooks, completed close to 80 short poems.  I have written, if not so obsessively as now, since I was 15. I write poetry, with the occasional venture into essays like this one. I have trouble with narrative, one event leading into another befuddles me, as does conversation between people.  So I do not write fiction. Yet, I do have an interior running commentary on the narrative I am living, snipes and admonitions on my life as it unfolds. To push back against this cruel eviscerating voice, which adheres tightly within my skin, I write. I write to explain the world to myself, to explain myself to myself, to resist the world, which is lain upon me by the world. I write to resist the temptation to settle into myself without a thought. I am uncomfortable in most social situations. It’s discomforting when others try to define me, or attempt to interpret me from my writing. Yes, I am aware that all writer’s expose their minds in their writing. Even writers of fiction expose themselves through their fictional characters. Nietzsche wrote that in the end we only experience ourselves. Yet, I believe there is also a separation from oneself, a leap into the universal other, which occurs when one writes: a transubstantiation of individuality into a larger third person narrator, who watches and observes with more objective, more just, eye. Of course, I also know this is pure bullshit. I am as clotted with my biases and situation as anyone. But it is through writing, through the transformative nature of writing, where a third space can open, and one can enter along with whomever can follow into a changed world, a different, perhaps better place, if only for the time it takes to read the poem. And to keep from being defined, trapped even in these new spaces, I continue to write, to find a way to exist with myself.

(February 28, 2017)


There are No Demarcations to the Heart

My friend’s mother loved

to draw lines for people

to differentiate forms

of love; to justify

the margins; to define

what was proper and allowed

in the eyes of her god who

said to love one another.

So many words she used

to hone the finer gradations

of such a simple task:

an act of empathy, love

your neighbor as yourself;

We only have each other.

(February 19, 2023)



I’m trapped 

in broken brambles 

awaiting the wolves 

approach. I hear 

my shadows,

forms within forms,

ripple slowly 

through empty trees, 

like dry leaves

on an absent wind.


to inconsequence, 

I hover on the edge 


as I had a part beyond 

this tacit whisper.

These walls contain 

all the ghosts who speak 

of love and duty:

like dead lover’s memories, 

dark conversations ensue.

(February 16, 2023) 


the walls of the asylum

I know where I am she said

just look out the window 

I know I remember

the bricks of the wall she said

I’m not crazy she said

not like old Uncle Rudolf

I remember him there

I remember the walls she said

I was just a child she said

but I knew what’s what

I know where you’ve put me

I know where I am she said

The State hospital she said

I am not crazy I know

I was there once as a child

I remember the walls she said

I want out of bed she said

I want to go home she said

I’m tired all the time she said

I remember the walls she said

I remember the walls

I remember the walls

I want to go home

I remember the walls

(February 3, 2023)


Nothing to Fear

A mouse skitters along

the baseboard, stops,

then waits, apprehensive;

her whiskers alive

to the slightest air.

Shadows blossom on the walls.

Fear pads through the room,

aware of nothing but itself

growing inside others

like a worm in a rose.

What with so many cuts

and small pricks upon

our faces and fingertips,

fear bleeds into the air

like flowers from god’s mouth:

fear flourishes on nothing,

feeds on nothing, blooms

from the nothing we carry

like bags of broken glass

spilling into our hands.

The mouse sits still

surrendering to the fear,

surrendering to the waves,

knowing she will lose herself,

knowing she will drown.

(January 31, 2023)


What I Remember of my Stroke (Almost 20 years ago)

The med-tech said the MRI showed I had had three events— I remember two. A friend asked me a few months later if I had forgotten anything. I asked, how would I know? Another, whom I met for the first time months and months after the events, asked if I had aphasia since I was always searching for words as I spoke. If I had always done this, or was it a result of the stroke? Again, how would I know? I don’t remember being at a loss for words in the past— does that mean I have memory loss, or that it did not happen? I could ask people who knew me before, but then that would be their memories of me, not my own.

This is what I remember of that night. My in-laws were over for dinner. We were seated around the kitchen table. I don’t remember the children there, but they would have been, or should have been. I vaguely recall a roast pork loin in a cream sauce on the table, but that could have been another night with different people talking about different things. I was drinking a margarita. I had just taken a drink, savoring the salt and tequila as I placed the glass on the table. It was then that the first event I remember occurred. I felt odd, out of sequence somehow. My vision blurred briefly, as if I had just woken up. The world looked as if I was peering through a smudged lens of a camera. I rubbed my eyes, but my vision remained gooey. 

I still felt odd. So, I excused myself, and retreated to an overstuffed chair in the living room. Very quickly my vision cleared, and I felt normal again. I returned to the table laughing about how weird the whole thing was, and finished my plate. After dinner, Lisa and her parents went outside to sit on the porch. I cleaned up a little, then went into the front room and sat down in the Lazy-Boy in the corner. As I sat there the words from Pound’s Cantos we had painted above the front door: “To be men, not destroyers” went from one line to three as if I were looking through a prism. That was more than a little weird. 

Lisa called the nurse line. And after we described what had occurred, he said it sounded like a stroke, but not too bad of one since I felt normal. He said I should come in to the after-hours clinic in the morning and see a doctor. I wondered if I would wake up in the morning.

The hospital was a comedy of errors. The after hours doctor sent me there as soon as she heard my symptoms. We arrived, talked to a receptionist, who sent us up stairs for a room. The floor nurse had no idea why we were there, and sent us back downstairs. Finally someone in the ER escorted me back to a bed. They stuck wires and tubes all over and in me. Lots of machines beeped and blipped. Then they sent us home. 

Over the next few months I had a series of tests: my heart, my blood, my head (MRI), my arteries. I saw the amounts the insurance company shelled out rise to the tens of thousands. Luckily I had insurance through teaching, or we would have been hard pressed to pay it all. Then after all of that they sent us a letter to describe what had happened. Lisa demanded that we see the neurosurgeon who signed off on the letter. We went in; and according to all the tests, and the gobs of money the insurance company paid, he told us the results. Yes, I had had a stroke. Yes, I was really young to have had a stroke (45). No, they did not know what caused it. Yes, it could happen again. No, there was nothing I could do to prevent it. Take a baby aspirin everyday. That was it: take a baby aspirin everyday. Like the punch line to an ancient joke that no one laughs at anymore: take a baby aspirin, and don’t call me in the morning. 

(January 29, 2023)



We could not see the Mediterranean 

sky from the dive bar off the alley.

A neon-blue sign on the wall flickered

and flowed over us in pulsating waves.

We willingly began to drown, tangled

in the laconic kelp strangling

our naive hearts in a nascent love.

The twins behind the bar laughed 

at our tumbling and fumbling;

as, like sea glass on a foreign shore,

we danced in the neon-blue light.

(January 22, 2023)



Rising each morning,

he finds himself

falling into memory

and its patterned rituals.

Most days do not cohere;

stories slag off as he walks

unsteadily down the stairs.

He does not fragment,

like a shattered mirror,

so much as crumbles

like cheap concrete

into piles of disaggregated

data— isolated numbers 

floating in the air. The dust,

briefly, rises into the sun, 

then settles like a benediction

across a landscape of sin.

He finds comfort in his ruins,

where the darker horror hides

in the ashes of the mundane.

(January 21, 2023)


Loss of Synchronicity

My gravity slipped,

as she moved from time.

a radio signal wavered

one degree to the side.

The song grew static,

then solidified,

reinserting the melody

before vanishing

like dusk into night.

(January 20, 2023)


Blurred Shadows

Over time, I have learned

from youth’s cacophony

the world blurs to silence.

I can only hear myself

in slurred muffled whispers.

I am not who I was,

nor who I meant to be

had I but persisted,

rather a shadow of both

beneath a darkened sky.

(January 16,2023)



“all the borders of itself”

-Ranier Maria Rilke

The worm turns

into itself

to remember

the strands,

the traces,

which wove

the carapace

it will

leave behind.

I must change

my life.

(January 9, 2023)


I am Tired Most of the Time

By the time I wake, I’m worn out.

I try to convince myself I slept,

because I have no memory

of being awake. All night’s dark 

moments resemble each other; 

until incrementally, day breaks

shadows cleanly across the wall.

I can see I am awake. Yet still,

I’m unsure I have slept at all.

My thoughts too are like this now:

ideas and images enter, then part

with only a hint they were there,

like a lover’s perfume on the sheets

hours after she has left your arms, 

returning once again into his.

(January 7, 2023)



Most of my Life I have Been Uncertain

I sit at a window sill

and watch the people below;

I have too much time to kill,

and no place really to go.

My life is a broken gun

left hidden behind a door.

I forgot where I left it,

never needing it before.

(January 2, 2023)


Chronic Doubt about Writing Poetry

The time devoted to it:

futile prayers to a dead god,

or mere self-indulgent pap?

Either way—not much more:

no moon; no red rose;

no stolen kiss in the hall,

just thread bare cliches

to drape across trite sentiment,

like chairs in abandoned rooms.

(December 13, 2022)


No Words Left for the Dead

Silence and echos suffice

for few needs remain.

They do not speak through us.

Although we speak of them

in convoluted circles

with misplaced words,

and tangential voices,

as if we somehow knew more

than them about the language

required to navigate the stars.

(December 9, 2022)


Brer Rabbit Decontextualized

Even without the spoken word

as transcript, I fall through

context as if from a tree,

cracking branches and ribs,

finding solace in dislocation.

Alternatives are pointless

to parse, being unspoken.

Yet, a story’s happy ending,

too often, exists elsewhere.

Negotiating past conversations

into a tremulous present,

I am always somewhere else.

Rarely, am I here:

outside the tangled bramble.

(December 8, 2022)



Unlike broken Japanese bowls

laced with rivers of gold,

there is no art for a broken heart.

(December 7, 2022) 


How do we Begin

To rebuild the fables

after they have fallen

requires patience

to find what persists

in what remains.

A mother whispers

a song above a crib;

an old man remembers

his first taste of love;

we speak to each other

slowly across the night.

Within memory’s spaces

simple words are spoken

night after night after night.

(December 6, 2022)



like notes in a tattered Stravinsky score

starlings stand on taut electric lines and

murmur about the secrets of the world

as if a sheet the wind has snapped free

from the line out back they lift as one

and shimmer across the crisp morning sky

(December 5, 2022)


Self Portrait Before a Bookcase

I am the books I have not read—

perhaps begun, or perhaps not, then

abandoned like a sack of kittens, 

to stack on side tables until relocated,

years later in a flurry of decluttering 

before a holiday, to a shelf where 

the petulant spines whisper, beneath 

the dust, their clucking disappointment

with lost possibility, and false claims

of the myriad loose threads which lead 

directly from the maze I only thought 

of entering, when instead I opened a book.

(December 1, 2022)


Dana Prajna Paramita


Where are you going?

You’re already here.

Now, let that go—

but stay




It is easier 

to be the authority

and pronounce

bits of bated wisdom,

as if you know

anything more than now.


Listen, you are here:

the pulse of wind through the trees;

a loud distant sneeze.

(November 30, 2022)


Set and Setting

I wish I were drunk,

but I am not—

There are no soft edges left.

Rage waits. Boys, with guns

bigger than them, walk

casually into classrooms

and churches to kill.

The house is cold;

the Mexican blanket is not enough.

Plague festers the air; and, 

we breathe deeply. Savoring

the fear, we watch the street

humming darkly to the wind.

Again, we say what’s been said:

the same muttered rituals,

with the same fruitless results.

The world is broken, and I am

tired of this sober life.

Bit players, we dance awkwardly

in the blurred background

without lines to speak,

nor character enough to change.

(November 29, 2022)


Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense

Look, Sunshine,

the strippers at the club

are like the aurora borealis, but

never would I presume to tell you

the beauty of a jiggling moon.

I have too many privileges to grind

to toss that kind of monkey wrench.


after all, is the truth we pursue; and

never would I presume to tell you

how to pass a lonely afternoon.

(November 22, 2022)



This is my story:

a prelude to nothing

beyond this moment.

This is my story

as I tell it today

unrevised, unfiltered.

This is my story:

different than yesterday,

different than tomorrow.

This is my story

I must tell to myself

each day, every day.

This is my story;

I have not told, yet.

(November 16, 2022)



A student tells me

she cannot hear an

inner dialogue.

How lonely she must

be to have silence

as her only thought.

A flame burns without

a flicker, alone

in an empty room.

It illuminates

itself and the walls 

along the light’s edge:

nothing can be seen;

there are no echoes.

(November 13, 2022)



“there is no absence

that cannot be replaced”

—Rene Char

She sits in a hole in the room

where time drifts like dust motes

through sunlight. There is no time

anymore for resentment, or anger,

to fester their dark intentions.

Everything fades. The half-life of names

expands absorbing our vague desires

in the absolution memory grants

with each revision. She is tired now.

Patchwork obligations, like cages

without keys, contain her reasons.

In her way, she is dying, as are we all—

an obvious cliche, yet rituals

daily provide us with parameters

where we feel most comfortable.

Life is painful enough. Outside the air

clutters with snow, and rime forms

along the fence line. She watches the door.

Once, long ago, someone knocked, then left.

(November 12, 2022)


Wish List

You ask what I want.

I have no answer

that is not abstract:

Happiness, less drama, less stress;

no flagellant memories

laced in guilt and blame;

time to think;

time to move about the house;

time to take for our life.

time to remember:

who I am;

who you are—

to find ourselves

together again.

(November 9, 2022)



“To see a world in a grain of sand/and a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour”—-William Blake

An eternal pause

which opens in a moment

then vanishes

(like a leaf fall breaks

the still flow

of the autumn air;

or a stutter step

in a dance

almost breaks rhythm;

or a match flares

an aura briefly

as the wick takes flame)

is where we are,



place holder

in the dream this time

I wrote a line to start

then again inevitably

I woke to remember

nothing but the sense

that something had left

something consequential

something now absent

like the vacancy we fill

each time we move quietly

through an empty room

something that’s always there

outside the dream I write

myself through the delusion

that I have something to say

beyond my mundane day

beyond my awkward cliches

beyond my last glimpse of land

where gulls screech to the wind

their sneers of mockery and desire

where I’m stripped of my words

and left alone with what I am

a tongueless mouth gasping

for air beneath a dying sea

(October 20, 2022)


Causal Vacancies

Mist moves through the trees

which loom overhead.

The why of my way

trails vaguely behind,

catching on branches

like tufts of soft fur,

clinging to the briar.

The negligible

wind falters then dies;

and, the air thickens

as the earth reaches

for the distant sky

like a supplicant

to an absent god.


My Thought Provides an Easy Prey

My cliches wander in

with a negligent ease.

They have no compunctions

with rude visitations.

Like a tabby stalking

a yard of a neighbor

who fed her once

years and years ago,

they simply stray from

the page’s periphery:

an easy image

returned to repeatedly,

providing a brutish clarity

to a violent mendacity.

(October 6, 2022)


Waiting Room Allegory

He sits in a wooden chair

in the center of a locked room.

The chair is bolted to the floor.

The room is bare, but for a light

hanging above him like a sword.

The light is dim, without a shade.

He is not wearing a blindfold,

but he might as well be—

for there is nothing to see

beyond the industrial gray walls.

No one has come into the room.

He is not sure how he arrived,

only that he is here now, alone.

If he listens he can hear his breath

otherwise the room is silent

as if all sounds are absorbed

into the walls before they enter.

he sits with his back to a locked door,

or what he assumes is a locked door,

for he has not attempted to open it.

Every now and then a light flickers

beneath the door as if a warning

to him in a code he cannot fathom

even if he were able to see it.

The room is cold, not overly so, but

enough to cause his nose to run.

He would like to wipe his nose

but his hands behind his back are tied,

as are his feet to the chair’s legs.

He doesn’t know how long he has waited,

nor how much longer he must wait,

nor what he is waiting for exactly:

just that he waits in a chair, alone, 

in a room; and, he is just like you.

(October 4, 2022)


eventually we fall

Somedays I am here

more than most:

Thin flesh over fragile bones,

unable to hold a thought

from dream, I wander

from room to room

metaphorically lost

in a house I once knew.

My hand on a window,

I feel the winter sun

briefly at my fingertips,

before the shadow falls

between the bare branches

lightly laced in ice.

(September 30, 2022)


for days then years

the sadness grew

its tendrils

through the rooms

of their house




it touched

and troubled

their lives

staining all

in a yellowish

brown smudge

as if an old


tossed to the side

of an abandoned

dirt road

(September 27, 2022)



What can I say?

After years

of writing,

I am tired

of my life

as it is;

and yet,

I’m too tired

to change,

or stop.

So, I go on

writing toward night

as if I had

somewhere to go.

(September 22, 2022)

What was the best compliment you’ve received?

You’re the teacher I hate the least.