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Happiness

Happiness

—after Jim Harrison

The wine and whiskey, I am certain,

do not compliment the anti-depressants,

as well as I wish they would; yet, “all this time

counting the mind, counting crows”—

I pour a new glass with a touch of ice

to begin this conversation:

Hell has come to us as a heaven

we will never know, like Sappho’s apple

dangling slightly beyond our fingers

which grasp only at still air.

Where do we go when things fall apart?


In 1978, Buddha’s birthday

was three days after my eighteenth.

I was a crumpled bag of emotion:

my father had died two months earlier;

I was in love (and still am) with the girl

I would marry. I moved, two months later, 

125 miles to the north, leaving my hometown 

forever, yet still trailing all my doubts and fears

behind like crows along a fence line

who caw and flutter, marking

their constant presence with darker eyes.


We think we can escape ourselves,

ignoring the crows flying in and out

between the twisted oaks nearby.

We flee burning madly as we go;

yet, we can only be ourselves,

and, most days, that is not enough

to keep our fears balanced tightly

like circus clowns spinning plates

atop long fragile poles through the night.

(September 15, 2021)

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Negation

I’m lucky not to drown,

second by second, as I 

walk down the street—

what with all the lies

and recriminations

I mouth, then swallow,

like a gluttonous beast

devouring itself wholly.

Perhaps it’s fate not luck

which keeps me afloat? But that

requires some god to blame,

and explain the curses directed

daily over rosary beads, like 

mendicants to a self long lost.

(September 5, 2021)

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Map a Return Into the Ocean’s Lost Metaphor

There is no causality, no maze

to transcribe into memory,

simply a chance to breathe

near the bottom of the stairs;

and, like a mouth singing 

arias, I crack open the bones

in my chest to find a way

into the warm flesh, to dip

my worn fingers slowly in,

to feel the heart’s contours

define the next last moment,

to map another return into 

the ocean’s lost metaphor.

(August 25, 2021)

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Teaching in a Time of Covid

Tomorrow I go back on contract for my 33rd year of teaching. Last year was one of the worst years because of distance learning and the lack of contact with my students. The Students are always the best part of teaching, and for the last eight years (starting my 9th) at Ann Richards, I have had the best students ever, every year. Last year it was important that we teach remotely. The students, their families, my fellow teachers, my family and friends were at risk to this horrible deadly disease. We stayed at home and did what we could through a screen full of little boxes, because we had to. This year there is a more deadly, more virulent version of the same disease, and even with the vaccine, which a too large group of people refuse to take, and with no vaccine for the under 12 group…. which means ELEMENTARY CHILDREN….. It is more dangerous than ever to go back. Yet, here we are.. going back into the classroom. Cases are already being reported at my school, and the district where my wife teaches, and across Travis county.  I fear for what will happen over the next few weeks and months, as we go full bore back into the schools.I fear for my students.  I fear for my grandchild who is starting in a pre-k program. I fear for my family. And all of this is not necessary, we could stay remote. At the very least the elementary schools should stay remote, until the under 12 children can be vaccinated. I don’t understand what is the end game of the politicians like the Texas Governor, who seem to want children to die. What is the benefit to them? I want to believe in a hell, so the people who are forcing this to happen have some place to go.

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Always a Model Nearby

“Props and other disinherited

paraphernalia are never enough.”

—Susan Howe

My hands cradle my face,

covering my dead eyes. 

Worn thin like ragged cloth,

I am tired of my life:

Before sunrise I wake,

slowly move down the stairs,

and start again. Morning 

rituals of coffee

keep the old dramas near,

private. I want to wail,

long howls into the dark.

Instead, I feed the dog,

whose tail wags happily

as she eats her kibble.

(August 9, 2021)

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Campfire Story

A nostalgic old man,

whose whispers adhere

to the flames’ tongue,

tells his one story again.


You are charmed.

So the chains slip

into your veins,

your heart, your lungs.


The air thickens your breath,

until every song you hear

is the only song you hear,

then you can no longer dance.


And the fire burns down,

for nothing’s left to say.

(August 6, 2021)