Wednesday, December 21, 2011

gone to the sea, oh empty belly

Dreamt a plane spectre
crashed into the sea: come out the sky to drown
so many bodies in the blackgreen
Puget Sound.
Shoes, ineffably, flew into the air,
legs and arms and things untellable
on impact. I cracked ribs and coughed blood
with throwing up, bent over
against a park bench
in a pink vaporous evening's end.
Rat-ah-tat went my teeth
at the rail. I imagined your face
in a window pressed
against the heavy glass,
peanuts still salty
in your mouth, and I thought
how life barely fits
barely fits
in those little plastic cups.
The sun came up to prove against
your ending;
I woke with your nibbling
and was glad to know you again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

dear john

Toothless and hoofless, I defer
to the republic.
The Third World
swirls beneath the stumps
where once were my ankles.

Mine is a cash register
holiday, following the decorum
of the sanitarium, of the moments
next to John.

John? Come in John.

How are you.
Sing some more
to me now, sing ever. Register
with bridgeless jumpers and
leave the drinkers.
I need you here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Beard me not, unfaithful Beagle Phelps!
Scatter not the ravens and the craven
jaw-drop bridges, the ilk of the flavors
that make up my black skillet cornbread day.
Pittance my earlobes and raise up
the long-drowned Piltdown kite.

Say! I have found a nice brownstone beach,
floored with the two or three michelangelo
squeaks, which I found in the grotto with
them women! they won't to; they won't fro,
though Elliot threaten to fuck them so.

Friday, September 9, 2011

18, free


For the long slow funeral
with open parachute
you recognize the fall won't take long.
No pallbearers
or wanted.


From here the fields are yellow circles
trapped in squares, yellow
and clay-red,
made of corn
and rimmed with broccoli
coming up at full-tilt,
transmogrifying into trees.
Strands of wheat
in hot, vacant wind
turn the earth's teeth
into a roaring, boiling greeting.

Up above, your folks wave
from the plane--your father, his binoculars,
his victory cigar--and hope upon hope
upon hope
you'll pull your chord
and stop up short
like a coat hanger's hooked your collar,
halted above the wide mouth of stones, alone
in the free air
above the much-spattered ground.


As you fall you wait
you scream for a full stop,
and you look:
you can see your whole world, your mama
up there, waving.
The sea wheat is waving, too.
The view is good
but your ears are bursting open

and your chute,
the one you hoped would catch you
is already out
already failing, painted
by the blood from your ears. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"For a second he became a door, unhinged: he was flying through his mind, through the air around himself and Harold, like a malevolent magic carpet, a door become a blade cutting through the air: a dull razor for the severing - hacking - of veins and arteries and anything blood flows through."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

presidential portrait

I see Bush back in 2003
wearing that childlike grin:
he's thinking

--If me and Donald and Dick
drop a cuppla nukes on Iraq and shit
I can build a slip-n-slide in the backyard

and fill it with beer!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

i take no responsibility for any of this

In the west I see clouds stacked up
pancake style,

except dark grey like the barrel of a gun
and just as ready to burst.

A high pressure no sunshine system
we got here,

but tacos I got and tacos I eat.
Abraham kills Isaac,

God stops him not. What of that
story and that time?

I avoid what I cannot understand,
but rather I read

the op-ed than the comic strip.
The flowers on my casket:

paint them grey and green,
a tiny bit of red.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

marriage poem #3

Sometimes there's not enough time
to talk about the things I want to talk

to you about. Sometimes the time fills up
like a bowl of green curry with jasmine rice,

basil leaves and sliced chicken.
The time with you gets spicy and I forget

to talk about the things I want to talk
to you about. Spices fill up my bowl

anyway, time doesn't. Time with you really
can't be bowled, drawn, quartered

or pressed with garlic paste, distilled
in candy sticks, and I forget to think

what it was to talk with you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

marriage poem #2

Sometimes I am a dick to you without meaning to
those times you sit on the corduroy couch,
your eyes red-hued,
your sotto voce a quiet shout.
Then the balloon of my stubborn dickishness
filling the room with a sad silence,
so quiet the corduroy doesn't even ripple.
You ripple
down your face,
making a maze on your cheeks
clean from the shower.
I was a dick about it, I finally say.
I'm sorry, I say.
Me too, you say.
The whole sofa
applauds with delight.

Friday, July 1, 2011

marriage poem #1

When the purpleblack night grows soft,
blends its own sweet Billie Holliday tune
with the dark morning I shed my shirt,
my pants, slide in naked next to you
and feel the sweet soft ache
in my shoulders, in my legs, my chest.
I touch your tickling hand,
fingers sprawled open on the bed,
limp with sleep yet opening, closing,
the bitten nails tiny,
your breaths regular with a quiet cat-snore.
When I wake in the later morning
you will be on my chest there, there
in the place you love to set your head,
and perhaps, because we are married now,
the air will collapse or be in a state of collapse
under the weight of my many night-time farts,
and things won't get too terribly sappy.
But you will still love me, even then.
With morose laughter, at times, and moaning
at my morning murmurs and the awful
smell. Pulling the sheets up once more,
twice more, I may say, will say,
Welcome to marriage love. Welcome.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

sunday school fragment

The sundayschool felt-board
lives within us:
adam and eve naked
close to each other
but rather androgynous.
Oh aint they got fun.


Are poems that don't make sense in and of themselves making any sense of the world? My intuition is yes - maybe. What do you think? Is there a possibility for confusion to result in non-confusion? Or at least some comfort in it?

Monday, June 6, 2011


Out of spiced spiked cider and
spliced veins
we got chagrin, we got

we got worn out
brown couch
and 18 rainbow-covered pandas
for slept there and slept there,
slept there.

Faith's public swimming pool exfoliates
with the skin
of flacid emigrants--
at least it's closed on weekends.
Lay your sleepy head dear
here and here and here. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

mashed potato clouds

Clouds are piling up in the west,
huge mashed-potato trainwreck pileups,
piling up and greying faster than my father.

Thunderheading east
over Olympics tall, cold and wet,
mucking up all our sunshine

raining grey gravy from the sky.
Measure out thy worst, O great potato peeler!
I fear ye not.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

not-sonnet of jimminy cockroach

Crawling in my walls the cockroaches go
hithering thither, discussing the weather
as we all do: hello Jimminy Cockroach,
eaten the poison, or simply just shallow

in all your hopes: I will not touch the stuff
in the trap, mr mouse: am I, nothing yellow
for me, not for me. Mr. Roach, God is, how does 
he doing? Does he stimulate your marrow?

Tomorrow I will arise and fry eggs.
Throw strips of bacon at the corner where meets my
pillow walls. You may fight the open mouths of ants
and other cut creatures with mandibles,

with Mr Roach, for the chewable death,
Mr Roach, always, with his ever open mouth.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

english professorisms

A rolling pillar of half-tone smoke
half-tone grey in the tonnage
of the heavy effacing self,
heavy in the legs and shoulders,
I came crawling out of the fetor of a weasel:
I, I roared a sickness inside
and out: thunderheads piled
like poisonous sky-stone within me,
poised above my white-hot heat-death:
boiling oil, all I am is boiling oil,
heavy in the porkbelly and coinage,
potted basil plants with placid bookish
rage, thrown red clay and feathers
out into the yard, all the potshards
and lefty goatsherds to gather there
a third world mine own, a sandpainting
for my cross, a mother for my Christ,
a holy but whorish version of Mary Godmother
for you the students, 
the Christ-child born half-Jew and half-Roman
in the alphabet stew; 
no matter: we are in this soup together
now drinking the susurrant milk
of our manicultured fathermothereraser

Friday, May 20, 2011

the stephen king and john berryman write a sonnet sonnet

Welcome to the end of sunshine
and the end of picnic, which
you missed. Thank God. Here’s red rain,
red rain. Sally’s being a bitch—

surprised? Johnny say he’s in stitches,
she so funny. She so gurgle, plarp,
she gutter. Johnny get knife, swing for fences,
hit homerun. Oh God. Can you help?

Blood on my corndog. Blood in my cup.
We not got fun. Dick and Jane,
no, not here. Sally, all fucked up
and lips not here. Sally in real pain.

We need revenge, so let’s get Johnny,
he ain’t patient & his jokes ain’t funny.

This poem in response to Sherman Alexie's "The Facebook Sonnet," which can be found in the May 16 issue of The New Yorker.

panda porn is better than my poems

They say great art should edify
and enlighten. But fuck me
if I've ever enlightened myself
much less anyone else.
All my best poems make less
and more sense than the others.
You could watch panda porn
and you'd be all the better for it--
and you probably will.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

ivan walks away

My confession, dear Alyosha, is this:
I broke into quiet tears after
reading the Inquisitor's poem come to an end:
Ivan turning on his low-slung
right shoulder, pivoting

on a fractured limb,
a dove falling from the air
twirling on the severed
bloody stub of its wing,
blasted by a wounded little boy.

(My poor father, my poor father,
there's your money, THERE'S YOUR MONEY
and there, there alone, there's your freedom:
200 red rubles
balled up in the mud)

Where Ivan walks, no hand
to hold him; no extended arm.
No counterbalance for the weight
of the ears carelessly nailed to fence-posts
or girl left alone in the outhouse

all night to freeze.
His look is too familiar, Alyosha,
too familiar to me, like driving away from home
the last time it's still home.
I wish I could dissolve with you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

on the reaction to bin laden's death i will

Dance and sing the spangles,
all the angles of my swordy love
to vanish in the abscess
of the wound which is my country,
my country, my country, my country
spangled like an eighteenth
century street lamp with an amber
purple glow; fragile glass;
a tea light; a flamethrower
dying to die out or start a housefire.

when you don't come soon

Poodle-dog looks sad when she walks Riverside
Park, shitting on every bench,
and homeless people,
folks of the world with
pork and beans in their cans,
no fork, no spoon. Arrange
the call of a Canadian Loon.
Make it sad when it rains,
dear Father in Heaven,
so that I will be properly
prepared to feel bad,
'specially when and if
you don't come so soon.


"It is not miracles that bring a realist to faith. A true realist, if he is not a believer, will always find in himself the strength and ability not to believe in miracles as well, and if a miracle stands before him as an irrefutable fact, he will sooner doubt his own senses than admit the fact. And even if he does admit it, he will admit it as a fact of nature that was previously unknown to him. Once the realist comes to believe, then, precisely because of his realism, he must also allow for miracles." - Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (Pevear trans.)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

song for a sofa

Rundown sofa emblazoned with pink and blue flowers
full of sleep, remember me
when you are dumpstered for good.
When on the garbage heap full of GI Joe's
memories, remember me and my sleeping
on you. Throughout the night
think of my cloistered eyes:
I dreamt on you
of her whose couch you reluctantly were,
and drooled.
Foolish and full of sleep,
you the sofa kept me
She smiled at me. I smiled, mumbled;
twitched awake.
I regret everything I ever forgot to say.

Monday, April 25, 2011


And what if I were rip out your vertebrae
bone by bone

as if taking brick by brick
out of a government barracks-building,

could you give your ribs to the work
of holding you up? (Shorter, now, oh bloody flesh,

the epidermic, the thrice
swallowed cortisone. Now injection.)

And what if you didn't need that spine?
My spine spills the ability to kneel. To kneel

is to need, where the infinitive is more than
apropos of the wet snow.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

to you who know

To all our gone-down suns
we sing, to the waxed moons
and the spring that bloomed beneath us;
the noose that hung from our wind-chimes,
bottles on the bear rug in the basement.
Eight bodies on that rug,
too tired for the most part to fuck,
but we touched. We touched. Such a wonder.
I ask God now what we wanted and
what we got. We bought
happiness and sang it and stayed,
and began to leave, to Spokane,
to the bars of Ballard, the cathedrals of England,
to unknown far off sad Topeka,
and we sought what? What sought us?
Did God save us, those days,
from ourselves or each other, when
the devil brought his own liquor:
the holy veil torn up in a Biblical blunder,
a Messiah come in vein with a bang.
We sang?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011



The times I have most considered murder:
or rather, the time this evening:
When two girls who've not lost their cherries
speak with lilts of voice,
talk loudly in the library about the U.N.
as if it were a nice GAP location or
possibly even a Hollister; all this
whilst I try to calculate simple interest,
compound interest, or anything else
like Eulirization, the paths of Hamiltonians;
yes, that is when I grip my pencil tightly
as if it were a knife, and consider
the lives of these two bitches:
consider, grip, and shove the pencil
deep into the folds of my book,
pick up my bag and go to the other end
of the library, still an innocent man.


And I think of you, dear reader,
reading where I wrote "pencil"
and inserting "penis"; and I will say this,
which you probably won't think fair,
but I don't care much for you, either. so
Fuck off! Be quiet! It's a library for God's sake,
and I'm not a fan of Freud or Oedipus.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


"I may be vile, but you must not be."

- Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, trans. by Pevear & Volokhonsky

Saturday, April 16, 2011


American Soldiers die on;
you who for the common good go on dying
for the whole world, like Christ on the cross.
And you get your own bleached-bone crosses,
you boys and girls, who, armed,
seldom are unharmed in the crossing
from Hell to home.

Alone you came into this world,
alone you go. Baghdad, Fallujah,
a surge of dead burkas
washing up on yellow, sandy city shores:
they sang to some of you--

the burkas, the tunics, the animals.
Back home they made it a circus,
the whole war, and the sands of Iwo Jima
these weren't: these sands not Normandy,
not Omaha: the Nazis few and far
between instead of thick and thicker
on the dunes. Here every shepherd's flock
is a terrorist; Christ, Christ, Christ.
The sands of Japan suffered, too,
die on. You listen because you must listen,
ordered by Barnham and sons and
even his rivals, the lesser evils
too old to shoot a rifle.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

other things that don't exist

With a handful of mahogany-painted
peonies betwixt my fingers
I got between things.
People and places in Ohio got buried
under New Yorkers with large forks
and large spoons.
Shovels got drowned in graves;
it eases the pain of process.
Everyone everywhere required lattés
and one woman, a a very wet cappuccino.
When drinks are wet there is no foam.
Hers was dark and brown.
Foam don't exist now, nor Farmer Bob,
don't forget him, he who flowering now
a lot of the time. Away
his grandchildren went computering,
pornogrifying fire hydrants
without need of spectacles. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


They kick the soccer ball inches past my noggin. It's just a matter of time now: some hairy hipster will kick the ball and it will kerrang off some other smaller hipster's knee and then it will smash into my face, break my glasses, et al. No I should not have put my flower-plated couch out on the turf. You said we needed to take things out for a bit, I said no, you said we could plug in the TV, I said fine, will there be internet? no, no of course not, it wouldn't be roughing it if it were a coffee shop and the public soccer field ain't no coffee shop is it? No need to be rude, I said, I just want google, then--google is my dog, was my dog even before that other google, the one who wrote those novels. The ball whizzes by, and you're gone to get some wine: wine, out here, is a luxury. Ooh children, look at me. I've got hydrangeas for windows.

(This prose poem inspired by the art of Erin Shafkind.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

winter poem

The sound of elms, of oaks
rustling the molecules leaves
them for austere firs and pines.

The soaking brine of Pacific winter air
sifts over the bumps on my shoulders,
the blackheads on my nose,
the skin on my scrotum
shriveled tight and old.

In the cold there's a humanness to winter
that puts the aching in my knees,
the late February fade, the eldest child
being young right up to the end

of March, when April rolls
open the tomb: light
you never make it to,
never see. Just weep for it.
Wet city benches,
bare branches, shivering
in the thinner air.

Monday, April 4, 2011

with deep respect

J.B. says near in his last breath
that he does not think he will sing anymore
just now;
not ever

And his last song comes
just after, the last umbilical chord severed:
but I am a young man
and I want (most) to sing or to stand;

want that postpartum hands will say of me when I have reversed
placenta and kelly clamps
that him who sang!, who sang, sings
even now when singing no more he can;

that I was in him somewhere below the guts, the happy man
who in the deep ruts of his despair is no more
in the lemonade or the lemons
but rather,

in the roots of the lemon tree.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


When your socks are filled with glass
When your eyes are balls of flame
investigate the nature of your shoes:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

the company call

"We have twenty-one full-time paid staff assistants here
for the sole lonely purpose of assisting you.
Thanks for calling, but you are pathetic."
Thunderheads head in from the West
with women in black flowerplated skirts: They
work for us, but we had to tell them the rules: our women

(here, in the office)

wear pants, panties ("we wish, more rarely"), a shirt,
drab gray pants, starched pants, and more pants,
slack pants with gold stripes that let you know
catching your breath is harder than it used to be. But.
All I know is what I know: Men get older.
You could walk up a hill,

climb great granite boulders. You were a kid, after all.
Now all Doug's fir trees are missiles, the earth prepared
to take potshots at the moon.
You'll smoke, but she'll smoke too.
All your cigarettes will be gone. But you'll walk again. Walk again.
There're times I think I'll never go home again.
Tiresome juggling, this.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

third grade

There is an asshole deep within my
buttocks. You think it's obvious--I doesn't.
You have not eaten the tacos I have eaten.
Said to Steven, who said to me: You big dummy,
and gets up to switch seats on the bus
to sit with friends of ours edgier than me.

The fifth grade wasn't good to me.
None of the others, neither.
Not in the least.
Third grade was all right. No lie. Steven and I drew
pictures of strange stick figures who got blown up.
I read the Scriptures with a special red pen

in hand to see what the Lord said
while He was at the Devil's bed.
The Devil ate some tacos.
In the Bible Belt belts just get tighter. I got tighter
and wound more of everything up. A dickery dickery dock
and just barely a mouse--that was me.

Up the clock we go.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


"I set up The Dream Songs as hostile to every visible tendency in both American and English poetry."

- John Berryman, from his National Book Award acceptance speech

Monday, March 14, 2011

I have thrown out all my apples--
cracked crates and smashed pears
are all I think about. Rid of them.
An apple epidemic, I'd said before,
would be unethical
at the very best

and a way to get worms inside physicians everywhere
at the very worst. I thrown all of them out. Am rid them.
Farmers continue fitfully to exist;
they grow great sadness on stalks
and mutated salt-licks.
The hung head of Farmer Bob Fucking Maudlin, bearded,
you say, profanely, I maunder:

If the Spirit of Christ
works in us as in a tilled field,
but in a field full of Farmer Bob's sad madness,
the locust makes love & war
in the dirt. Flames spill out over the plains.
& the Reaper rides his horse over the red prairie.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

a bevy of complements

I wake myself this morning with a wake of longing:
I crawl to the edge of my bed
and glance down with some
displeasure at my flabby belly,
my cavity-colored teeth
flavored with cadmium grit.
I smile at the bruise on my neck, the Parthenon
of creased sullied & wrinkled sheets
drunk with the smell of you last night.

The room has erupted over the years
with clothes & congenital fluids,
and our year wears itself well, will become years
and rest in the repose of years with mornings
that are not this morning. This wake,
this vigil is a ritual I've repeated
many times, a sacrament
of last night's beer and a desire to let work slide,
a craving for Jim Morrison's Other Side.

In my bathroom, the mirror sucks.
Ain't exactly a bevy of complements.
Naked in the window of my living room
on this side of my third-floor glass
I think of you, of slapping
your pretty ass. Soon, you'll slap mine.
Dust motes floating in the sun-filled air
make their way, nowhere, fast.

In the morning,
underneath the spoken thing (I love what's true)
this--you--the thing I miss the most--
is listening to you sing. The morning moves
to afternoon.
I better go put some clothes on.

berryman on teaching


Well, that covers scholarship. How about teaching? Does teaching only get in the way of your work as a poet?


It depends on the kind of teaching you do. If you teach creative writing, you get absolutely nothing out of it. Or English—what are you teaching? People you read twenty years ago. Maybe you pick up a little if you keep on preparing, but very few people keep on preparing. Everybody is lazy, and poets, in addition to being lazy, have another activity which is very demanding, so they tend to slight their teaching. But I give courses in the history of civilization, and when I first began teaching here I nearly went crazy. I was teaching Christian origins and the Middle Ages, and I had certain weak spots. I was OK with The Divine Comedyand certain other things, but I had an awful time of it. I worked it out once, and it took me nine hours to prepare a fifty-minute lecture. I have learned much more from giving these lecture courses than I ever learned at Columbia or Cambridge. It has forced me out into areas where I wouldn't otherwise have been, and since I am a scholar, these things are connected. I make myself acquainted with the scholarship.

Suppose I'm lecturing on Augustine. My Latin is very rusty, but I'll pay a certain amount of attention to the Latin text in the Loeb edition, with the English across the page. Then I'll visit the library and consult five or six old and recent works on St. Augustine, who is a particular interest of mine, anyway. Now all that becomes part of your equipment for poetry, even for lyric poetry. The Bradstreet poem is a very learned poem. There is a lot of theology in it, there is a lot of theology in The Dream Songs. Anything is useful to a poet. Take observation of nature, of which I have absolutely none. It makes possible a world of moral observation for Frost or Hopkins. So scholarship and teaching are directly useful to my activity as a writer.

(This interview, done by Peter A. Stitt, appeared in the winter 1972 issue of The Paris Review, which can be read here.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

nonsense, you

I am the understood buffalo
who cooks real slow
in the kitchen of your dreams,
bitching about the lack of black kettle chips
and proper implements. Potato soup covered in corn mulch.
Things that you munch,
I'm in them, sliding from noun to pronoun
without a single stitch,
a regular Benedectine skunk.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

a prayer

You, Lord, took such pains with John B
I ask you take those pains with me.
Yet walk me not a drifter through the sifting sands,
or alone through the smarting cold dark city;

raise my thoughts to the jagged blue mountains seen
from the bridge, not down toward the swirling surf
and the drowning sea. Heavy weigh me down
with such a burden as I can carry,

only help me carry it Lord,
that I may not cease
to be.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

or just heartburn

Well pal I've gone gotten lost in the rain again
while watching blackbirds in a torrent.
God slogs on through a world of hurt.
It's taken too long to realize
a downpour scratches its own back
that lonely pyres don't wear
pressed shirts.
Inside my chest is a volcanic tearing
(or just heartburn).
I'm a sob-sack jerk
alone and drunk with it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


You still walk to the bus stop
with a smokey step:
a shimmer
that hovers over the sidewalk
like a mist.
And I remember when and you said to me,
your shadow covering us
on that funeral day
in Spokane valley
the best thing you've ever learned
was that God is a ghost
and ghosts don't burn.

Monday, February 28, 2011

ode to politics in america

Whoa boy, don't you think
there might be an easier way to get a subscription
to Time Magazine? There's always the
conscription of services from newspapermen
of a different age: the space age
or the nuclear arms race
would set the table straight.
Porkpie hat skinny black tie short pants
would work but you just want the magazine
not the swimsuit issue, which they don't do
in Time anyhow, no boobies in Time,
just political crimes new lies
new reports on the possible litigation
of doobies, got lots of pattern recognition
from them border stalkin rednecks
and no reason not to, neither
-- Goddamn
sometimes, I wish I was born a Canadian.

Friday, February 25, 2011

the right stall

Can a man in the toilet transcend?
The bathroom pulls dignity groundward,
pulls emotion through pipes
that lead to assholes, ever downward,
ever bowlward,
ever toward the awkward word,
if someone were to open your stall
mid-business - the slapping of hands
down to cover the balls - and the importance,
of choosing the right stall
and then, if that's impossible,
not checking the length of other men's missiles.
But what of my question? Is it possible
to see heaven whilst shooting yellow piss
into a urinal? No. How about shitting?
Prolonged sitting at the tribunal permits a book.
A book permits the momentary look at God
provided it's great shiterature;
God smiles. God nods, waves,
and sunshine bursts right through the ass!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

not as infinite as

Your drinking too much
is not as glamorous as they (the poets) thought (it)you was,

not as funny as
sitting in the middle of the road despite the approaching car

may be, Jetta though it is, haha-ing as a speeding train,
not even as effective as your going guts over brains

over barbed wire over depleted phone access
to friends and friend and ladyfriend you couldn't have

last winter, or previous winter, allwinters
exist in a contiguous line

of damning anti-poetry, not as infinite
as answering machines may be

when you are as sorry for yourself as
you are now, a dream in a loop

about doing maths, eating pi

Monday, February 21, 2011

dream a beautiful leap

Dream of carrying a letter to Switzerland.
Go ahead. Climb the Alps,
write your own Mont Blanc,
comb your fingers through her hair.
After everything that will have passed
in those dark spates your faith
can barely think of.
Passion does not give out
so quick as you think
or fear

(the turning toward the car door,
silence that stabs the gut as it spreads,
the goring dull roar of boredom)

no: The sick winters have gone;
her blonde hair braided
will become the wind
winnowing your inner ear, a
bracing snow; a blind leap
into the sheer
steep light of the unknown.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Love is
the song
we sing
even if we
can't expect
to receive

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I do not know when I became a stranger
to you. The amniotic fluid
glistened on my skin
so new in the first moment we met.

Did time blossom for you then?
Did my eyes see you?
Did an angel sing in your ear that this
flesh of your flesh
was now your son?

With my first scream the world must have
crushed in around you like water
bursting through a dam.

Was I strange to you then
as I am strange to you now?
Did we, could we have ever
known each other?

You were a child's giant,
bearded friend.

selva oscura

In the selva oscura,
I made peace with my scarlet cardigan sweater
and buried my dog Sam in the river-bottom sand.
I wrapped him up, buttoned all five buttons
around his brown fur body, fixed
his ears when they flopped inside out.
I dug out the hole
with my own two hands. Then,
in my great red plastic canoe
I paddled down river and left him.
The woods swallowed us
after I closed his eyes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Sometimes they dragged his body through the wheat
mostly when the field was covered in eighteen
or more inches of snow.
The red coat he wore turned to ice,
then his body and it became one.

Even after his coworkers and friends were done
and he thawed out a bit,
body and red coat were still one.
The snow receded, they used his feet
to dig the hole
and then his body went into the ground:
body, blood, overcoat, one.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I gyrated among the tomcats,
the tawny cats, the lady cats,
and I waited for them to hang
my bait above me, not a carrot
but rather a steak
on a hook
not a string.
It stung. I was that lonely. And.
Wasn't a cat. Couldn't catch a break.
The king of cats wore a turban
and the queen wore a shroud.
I drank beer from a pitcher
and sure as hell wasn't proud.
The music got louder and louder;
the cat orgy filled the room with sounds
of rude laughter from those at home
watching with their computers, click
by click and youtubing
laughter the cats enjoyed as they prowled
from sexual partner to cat-hookers
they paid in pale pink catnip
and dirty looks, feigned ambivalence
and unfeigned apathy. And I thought:
with these kids if you can't not give a shit
then you're probably doing it right.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

the movement of diapers

I write you not a poem of torque
and squalor, a poem
to turn the inside of your asshole
into a beautiful riviera,
a rushing woosh of intestine-cleaning,
bowel-moving beauty: what then
do I do? I write for you
a poem of nothing: no squalor,
dolor, tragedy, or even masturbatory
depth of self. I write a poem
of niceness: much shit
and much repetition, almost suitable
for insatiable toilet fodder
(much like cannon fodder)
but not quite, nope: a poem
for your educated liberal intuition
it treats you well, sits you down
on the seat with a thin-paper-disease
and says: "Shit you out
all your fears and depressing thoughts,
all your disobedient parents, children that pout,
your balding dog, old folks (especially the old folks
who've made the movement of diapers,
more, worse shit and less knowledge
of the shit than newborn children)
and flush and wipe and flush and wipe and flush;
you will then have made
the movement of the poem, O
knights and knightesses of the faithhood,
but come back, you! Your constipation's
dilation must be alleviated (even soothed);
dictated, not beautified -that's not
what toilets are most useful for.

Friday, February 4, 2011

in response to a new york times article on "sustainable relationships"


Once I spoke to you about the sacred art of ball-throwing. Now,
I bury every depressing thought
in the underside of your brain
and close the coffin
of your spine
like a book.


I drove west through the red dirt oceans
for three days just to get here.
I drank from a pothole:
I failed to purchase a pot (at Wal-Mart)
so the hole held some things
holes are not meant to hold.
Some things in the water
made it bad for drinking:
Rogue amoebas. Tar. Bird shit.

Some things without etymological roots.
Come down on routes not
made from words - like my pain - not from words,
not from you either, but drilled in you
while I drill, as the New York Times tells me
I should drill, for self-expansion, for my own
For my own damnable happiness:
If I can't find sustenance in you
or your body
then I'm just not digging deep enough.


There are some things in the water.
Dead raccoons. Hairs from the bellies
of dead possums.
Help me.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

travel books

I could write a travel book about Omaha
in under an hour.

No one's been there,
or lives there,
or for God's sake
is going there.

I'll just lean me
back and take a hack.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

someone has a birthday this week, and this is for her!


you know how a good meal
really hits the spot?

Real good-like?
Like when I think of good fun:

fried chicken with gravy;
or something (good) for you:

stir-fry with tofu, mushrooms,
a dish with pine-nuts,

purple-black balsamic vinaigrette;
or sprouts.

Well, in other words - you should know
what I know:

You hit the spot, sweetheart.

Monday, January 31, 2011

what makes a man

Sometimes I see myself walking wounded,
alone in a wheat field--
and I think of my father,
turning alone and cold,
colder, in his bed.
And I think of his father,
languishing tormenting
and tormented
in his armchair,
thinking of the words he's said
and not said.

When I descend amongst the dirt
down with the roots
I want to ask him and him
what is this mark they've left in me.
And why this wound, why
this pain that turns over
and over in me, flipping and churning
in my depths like a lost anchor
in the deep dark fathoms of the sea.
Why this long sentence
that links me, chains me
to this certain authority:
"You will go down without vengeance,
to the roots and the bones
and see nothing but the torn up
things inside you:
the truth of what you're made of
will tear you apart."

And the wound leaks out onto my shirt,
a thick crimson winnowing substance;
and finally there's the pain, and there's the hurt,
probing, throbbing, stuck in my throat.
All my words become glottal stops,
I can no longer talk.
The dream goes on, my fathers singing:
"I know, I know now what makes a man:
You must stand. You must stand."


Daddy do you remember
going to the river,
picking the body of a locust's
skin off the body of a tree? How I thought
it was a dinosaur
when you showed it to me, so sinister
and delicate? The clay-colored
crackle when I crushed the leftover skin
between my fingers?

Do you remember this?

I laughed, and wished it
wasn't gone.
Sin felt so simple then,
hanging on to the edge
of a post-oak's gray bark.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

sitting in o.m.h. after much math and a short walk to the canal

The Seattle night sky's polluted purple
haze makes the ship canal seem
illuminated from below.

Birds perched in branches overhead
shit in the water,
sleep, and pause
to consider the rest of the journey north
instead of the wounds still bleeding -
blasted by the barrels of
farmer's rifles, shotguns, whatever they had around to shoot.

They never knew each other.


“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

amidst all the shit going on right now

Know this, Laura:
I miss you.

Right now there's a small light
bulb hanging in the air

above my head:
and a clean clear memory

of your thigh pressed
to mine

on a dusk with yellow
light, into a night

with more time,
a night laid out

and bare.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

from a notebook from last winter

When the depth of now is eternal
our presence is all and whole,
the silence is openness,
the water is deep, and eyes touch
there: we become, inside the long home.

the binding

A single page lets
go from the binding

of the book that
I am holding, myself

becomes what I see,
and I see what I

think of - tearing
from the binding of

the arms that used
to hold me, I entered

a world falling
that fell away from

the sanitary walls
of certain sanities.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

behind all these parts


And why this body, and why this eye?
This friendly fire's not friendly at all:

I burn and embody a ghost in your (soon
to be our) car, which divides us from the Divine

and even the small:

look how I shiver under the weight
of my own anger, of my own wind:

roaring through my nerves
and certainly conquering the least of these

in the fire, and under the fall;

I backpedal there, sometimes even achieve
a neurotica of neurosis. And you the reader,

believe behind all these parts there is

a whole.
There's not.


The Greatest Achievement of Our Age is simply
a line of declarative statements that omit

all meaning except something like politeness,
whilst we expound the exponents of perspective.

And there is a perspective that there's not. Of
course. And there is, of an orange,

an orange I hold, peel, love briefly, and eat:

I know what is real when I taste what is real
and eat. My teeth puncture the skin

of the earth, of the whole universe;
there is enough dirt leftover . . .

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Let me introduce for you Judas,
as he winds through the produce
aisle in Whole Foods: looking for yellow

pears and lettuce for a salad:
his bed hair at 8pm a consortium
of the woman he slept with last

night and the wild look he's
been going for since he read Chabon's
book on literary style and being

a man - he's got his eyes set on
being healthy wealthy and wise,
the prize to be the gold herring of cool.

Open your mouth to the beer can,
draw that water in, draw it back out.
He's opining to be an opossum:

awesome, ain't it?

judas, me, need smokes

On your way home, honey, would
it please to buy Judas and me
some smokes? We have yet

to arm ourselves with clothes
and seriously face the day, but
seriously, who swings that way?

We've talked about you, lunging
from the sofa to the
broken yellow chair,

Icarus sailing above us,
all that golden-iron hair
I swear love, would you please

pick me Judas up some smokes?
The sea outside my window
is a-turning. He's gone blurry.

Come home. He's at my throat
and needs be me to relax,
needs not to make me choke

but now we're soaked, honey,
oh no! Come home! Fucking
come home: the flood from the rag

is rung, is rung

rolls of cotton (a gross poem)

Wrap me up
in rolls of cotton
until the swarming stops,
the hot turning of my eyes
and the dull ringing
filling my ears with cotton:
whole goddamn rolls of the stuff
whiter and denser
than a field full of toilet paper
made just to keep the shit
in my brains from pouring
all over us: the red
bloody brown shame.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

form and content

When looking for a form
to fit my poetry

I continue finding this querulous fact:

I know nothing: absolutely nothing
about form. Nothing at all.

They say form should fit content, but usually
I'm content when my ham & eggs fit

within the skillet in which I cook them,
but don't much want to taste the skillet.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

poured in the forms

Disambiguation: to remove
unmeaning from a word: a unit of conversion

from sound to conversation: absurd, née
Absalom, father of peace? bringer of death

oh father, father, daddy, Dad
I removed you; I miss you

am I through? no, Sylvia
not through. Well cooked. Over cooked

and not stopped at the burning (kept you)
or the poured into of forms


Your posture is a gesture
of disaster: poor

woman, thinking of the poorer man
who under all this is sleeping

like a log buried under depths of green
and black turbulent waters

your mother's been slogging through
for years now: I want to ask a question:

did she ever know the knowingness of love?
Or was it a maze of waves: one after the other

with a searing fear there wouldn't be
anymore when she surfaced

Thursday, January 6, 2011

dubliner jacket

I says to himself 'this is my dubliner
jacket' and walks out walking
towards sundown, carrying oranges in a sack
made of postconsumer recycled
recyclable paper. Brown paper, headed
west, that is, with
tangerines made out of who
knows what spice, and pesticides
(no pestilence, though!)
and perhaps sunlight
but maybes not, they don't need
that stuff these days

Doubled his chances of winning, too.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

inexorable wal-mart-land

Found myself lost
in inexorable Wal-Mart-land.
Knew I was in for a real treat
as I flew from Bentonville
to Denver to Sea-Tac,
mostly motionless in the
great steel bird of modern hoorayism,
the what
that travelers on their way to make
and because of money use;
oh inexorable relentless
I'm gonna miss you.

if i'd done worse you'd have known

Outstretched in my gray
the winter night settles into the black sand
as I think of theft. Different thefts. I, having never taken

even once
still see things in the dark.
(Thieves that I'm thinking of) they persist the things
in the twirling unseen stars. These are still city stars.
Not stars, here.

I am in the dark, outside the city.
The three black plastic buttons
of my coat lock
me in for the night,
and are not enough.

if I'd done worse you'd have known

No stars here
around the fire, where

you've got to touch the flames to feel them