Monday, July 2, 2018

Our Insomnia

Something new. Still in a state of flux. Nothing great, but, you know, something.... A little vague, but briefly: A poem about 2 people who are not together but who share an interest in words.

Our Insomnia  

We are, the both of us, awake--Shakespeare's "soft nurse"
of sleep tempted away by the waning moon you have yet to see.
I dim the light on the table beside me. Upright, I settle
into a wingback chair and trace my fingers across our shared
words of kings, of strangers, of husbands and wives--
words that are secrets in the gravity of the moon.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Since We're Sharing...'s another one. A bit mushy and mundane, but what the hell.

For my grandfather

We are fishing before dawn.
My grandfather’s remaining lung
works for breath even as we sit
and watch the bright tips of plastic bobbers.
“What are your plans,” he asks
as the bobbers drift,
the spaces between his words
patient ellipses of inhalations.
But I am ten—basic and elemental,
and I cannot answer him any more
than I can understand what happens
beneath the water’s soft surface.
I know that I have not planned anything,
that I understand little more
than expectation and guilt.
Our bobbers are together in the shallow
pool between large rocks.
Waiting, my grandfather looks at me.
I want the sun to rise.
I want to step between the rocks,
then kneel there, then reach into the water

to find him an answer.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


Yes, it has been a long time. So what? Things have changed. But that's not why I'm here--to tell you that. Everything changes for everyone. What I want to say is this: I found some poems! Or, they found me, maybe. There are only 2 new ones, but here they are. Each is dedicated to a specific person. One of them is dead, so he'll never know. The other person is still alive, and he already knows.

            for Mark

I dream that the wife who divorced you
sits beside me on the patio. It is mid-January, but
the sun is warm. She has brought with her the harp
she plays at weddings, and she draws thin fingers
across the strings.

She asks me to tell her one thing that I know.
I regard the sun. Hummingbirds crowd
the feeder above the redwood planter box.
I turn to her and say that you told me
of dressing for dinner one night before she left,
that you had bought a new ring and said to her how
you would always love her, that she should stay.

She nods. She dampens the harp’s strings with the palm
of her hand, and the commotion of hummingbirds
ceases. She turns to me, then, and stands to leave.
She points to the two sequoias, noticing that they are
browning from the top down.
She rests her hand on my shoulder and presses her fingers
into my skin in a way that makes me see how any man
could love her. Lifting the harp, she frowns and turns
to leave. The hummingbirds are gone. She
raises the corner of her mouth, smiles, and whispers
that you are still dead, and that each waking day
I must know this.

for Shawn
What fish feel,
birds feel, I don't know--
the year ending.

-       Basho

In the winter of my sixtieth year I remain
ignorant of how the heron knows to fly south,
how the salmon knows to find better water.
I have risen hours before sunrise to sit beside
a small lamp to alternate between
Birds of North America and The Total Fishing Manual,
hoping to find this morning’s answers.
This habit of leaving the bed so early is new.
I want to ask someone—my sister’s therapist,
perhaps—if the change is typical, if I should
be sleeping more. And my eyes do grow tired
so quickly now, another change, and I have started
writing down questions to ask my young physician
who nods so well.
“Are these still my eyes?” I have written twice.
Soon I switch the lamp off and press deep into the chair.
How does this make you feel? my sister’s therapist might ask
while ignoring my eyes, and I would answer with arms
that were once wings, lungs that were once gills.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Home: Part 45

What follows is a work of fiction. Nothing here is either true or relevant. Read at your own risk. Expect nothing, and that's exactly what you'll get. Oh: This could go on for a while.

July 1958

The tent was pitched at the fringe of a soybean field that was an agricultural barrier between Mitchell's house and mine. The tent was canvas. A single wooden pole--two halves that screwed together--held raised the top-center of the tent high enough for even adults to sit up. The tent had no windows, just a single doorway. Mitchell's father drove moving trucks, and he'd given us each a packing quilt that we could use as improvised sleeping bags.

We were sitting outside. It was past midnight, and the sky was clear; the Milky Way seemed to stretch toward what Mitchell liked to refer to as infinity, a term that I was less sure of than he apparently was. At the far end of the field, the terrain sloped gently downward toward the highway that ran through town. The other sides of the field were bordered by dense wooded areas in which we had spent much of our free time exploring and improvising small forts in which we occasionally slept. 

The air was warm for so deep into the night: close, humid. Mitchell had pilfered one of his mother's Winston cigarettes, and we passed it between us, each drawing a small breath of filtered smoke. Months earlier we had tried a Lucky Strike from a pack that Mitchell had stolen from the Woolworth's. The Winston seemed less harsh to me.

"Another car," Mitchell said, gesturing toward the highway. "I wonder where people go so late at night."

"Work, maybe," I said. "Or home from work. Doesn't your dad drive a lot of late nights?" I handed the Winston back to Mitchell.

"Sometimes. Things are quieter then, he says. Easier to drive." He held the cigarette toward me.

"Nah," I said. "Hurts my throat."

He took another puff, looked the cigarette, then ground the butt into the dirt between his feet. "I don't think I could do this all the time," he said. "The smoke makes me a little dizzy."

I lay on my back and stretched out. We'd trampled some of the soybean plants, and they formed a comfortable cushion. Mitchell stretched out, too, and we both stared up into the sky. There was no wind. If it weren't for the occasional car on the highway, there would have been no sound. We lay still. Mitchell coughed and spat the phlegm off to one side. Directly above us, then, something that burned fell through the sky. It was gone so quickly, I wasn't sure of what I'd seen--or if I'd seen anything at all.

"Jesus Christ," Mitchell whispered.

I coughed and blinked. The first breeze of the night pushed through the bushes, carrying the scent of soybeans across my face. When I woke up at sunrise, I saw that neither Mitchell nor I had moved from where we settled.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Home: Part 44

What follows is a work of fiction. Nothing here is either true or relevant. Read at your own risk. Expect nothing, and that's exactly what you'll get. Oh: This could go on for a while.

June 1968 

"My parents think you're crazy," I told Mitchell. We were sitting in McDonald's.

"I probably am," he said. "My dad didn't really say anything, just kind of looked at me. My cried."

"You're their only kid. If I went away, at least my parents would have Cindy. Why didn't you just wait to see if you got drafted?"

Mitchell shrugged and chewed a piece of his hamburger. "I thought of that. But I was lying in bed one night and I thought that I'd like to be in charge of my own fate, you know? When the war's over and I get home, I can join the American Legion and the VFW."

"Everyone needs goals, I guess," I said.

"I just couldn't see staying here," he said.

I understood what he meant. The town we lived in was small, and there was little to do for those who were done with high school. I was taking my one-and-a-half-legged-self to college, though the campus was just a few miles from home so I really wasn't going anywhere. "You'll be a local hero," I said. "We'll have parades."

Mitchell laughed. "Yeah. Parades."