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)


The Fire Consumes Us All

Yes, poetry burns in feral anger—

a knife flash fast at the shadowed church door

cuts through a dank cassock’s folded black cloth,

twisting quickly below the priest’s fat rib.

Yet, the mundane’s slow-etched eddy of truth

leaves its testament in the margins

of the more violent rush and tumble

relevance churning in the crowed streets.

My life is easily enough dismissed

with the trivialities of the day

dropping their dead petals across my path

like roses in ecstatic agony.

Yes, poetry burns in feral anger—

and burns and burns throughout the dullest day.

(July 26, 2021)

The Before and After

The you, like most pronouns, is me,
of course, except when it’s not.
Although my voice, self-reflective,
embedded in parentheticals, laughs
at you, meaning me, or perhaps you
depending upon the misdirection
intended, or stumbled across like
a rock on a random trail traveled
once in dark humidity, then again in
my head, as darkly before, metaphorically.
Who’s to know? not you – – certainly
not me: which is the true vision,
and which what we see? I am, like
you, shattered light within a prism.
At once fragments scattered, and
a mosaic pieced together as well
as can be, considering the difficulty
any of us have maintaining a strict
point of view, when we cannot even fix
on what antecedent takes precedence.
(June 7, 2016)

Anthropological Perspectives

“…excavated our mouths.)”
                        –Rene Char
What we said differs
from their fragmented
and curated reduction:
they heard only themselves
in what we said, never
the complexity of the song,
the harmony of the whole.
There is no discussion
without trust; we cannot
extract from the common
tongue of our understandings
a meaning which translates
the transcendent life
in the cauterized eyes,
the erasures, and shattered
lives. What words remain
embed in jaws clinched
tight with genetic anger;
our lacerated tongues
draped across broken teeth.

(May 2, 2015)

the task at hand

to speak honestly without fear
to slough off misunderstandings
to take a hammer to one’s beliefs
like a statue’s plaster casts shattered
across the sculptor’s studio floor
to be a broom to this disaster
to refuse the language that’s offered
to stand naked in the storm
to  scream one’s name back
to change the sounds around us
and any one else who dares
to define us in their words
that is the task of the poet
to exculpate the shreds of language
and make them whole again

(February 7, 2015)

The Problem With Critical Theory

I wonder at the morality
of pulling you from the crowd
in banal attempts to make you
into something I allowed
each pen stroke a manipulation
an ideological breach
through which to throw a body
another dead thought to teach
let me tell you how to live
as if a jailer to your soul
each idea you have yourself
flayed upon the whipping pole
how is this permissible
this imposition of a dream
homogenizing the others
until they are part of our theme
even this set of questions
troubles my sense of control
as if what I have to say
has any relevance at all
(January 28, 2015)

We Cannot Care Enough For You

You ask questions of others,
but never provide your answers:
others’ stories, others’ lives, pried open,
but what is your story – –  your life?
the psychically damaged mom,
the patriarchal dad, the gay brother:
where are you in this parade
of American middle-class clichés?
Standing on the curb waving a flag,
your lip trembling on the edge of tears,
worried someone might discover
the frightened secrets of your heart?
You stand in the middle of love
denying the possibility of its existence.

(May 8, 2014)