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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

end of the tour

Finished my beer halfway through
Thinking of blooming mushrooms in colored light
Kissing her or stroking the fuzz on his head
He is so proud of  or trying desperately to change.
By the end he whimpers and I am stuck thinking
In the dark room how much closer to this he is.
My life designed around shoring up against the real darkness
Of satisfaction by work or art. It will still be ok
Overworked, underpaid, an argument against guilt,
An argument against any one argument for life.

Next will be a manhattan and when the whiskeys done
Tequila or maybe the expensive stuff 2 floors up.
I am wanting to leave Philadelphia, not the place
But what it has come to mean of where I stoop down
To meet other people. They are not down there.
DFW as Jason segel nervous panning to outborder
The adversary that is not the interviewer,
He is uncharacteristically honest I think
Impractical for any human to be that anxious and so secure
In their way of life.

Today I woke up late and wiped down the refrigerator
Made my calls to ask what people were willing to give
To destroy the things that hurt us
Then sat in a room berated, only
Being able to think of my dying grandfather.
“this is a crisis>”
isn’t that addictive? Let’s get the great fix.
She is out there thinking of me with another man,
Waiting to call, waiting for my cock in her mouth,
She gets wet thinking about it. She sneaks into the bar bathroom
To send me a picture. This is a new conquering,
Something dark and yellow I am not proud of hidden like a kernel
Inside the life I am building up. I always seem to find them.

Taking our time, paul walks into the other room
I hear him pacing upstairs wanting to give me the space.
Does he hope writing here in the dark
Will grow like the weeds out back in the dead leaves
Or is it deeper and more loving even than a man like me can imagine?
Not about changing me, but seeing what it is that is happening
In the distinct clarity of his life and thinking

The poems on my blog have been seen 3 times now
And it is hard to imagine the fear of anything
A reader might say, or what touring might be like
When resigned to the flat field of snow deep in the woods
And walking in what I hope is a straight line out
I think of ryan testing out his hiking gear
Or john learning drums in 2 years or nate knowing he will be famous
Or kb with directing the labor movement or jo with being honest every time
Or my mother with caring in very specific ways
Or pauls voice emotional and discerning and constantly going
And in a very deep way I am envious.
I have walked these woods a long time
And forget the pathways.
For this deep gut feelings, hollow and whole,
Something important happening
And  questioning every which way I might go.
Knowing this is not a fraction of  the capacity each of them has
To voyage, to go out and find
The novel, the job, the life.
For the crisis of this that I want to take way down into the center
Of my soul, I have no metaphor.
And the things remind and the things forget
And whether done or doing or if it sits here and gets washed out
I am proud of their bravery and slowly, more quietly

I am proud of mine too.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

he and you

He smiles all the way to sleep,
Pockmarked skin shining amongst
A family he created. 48 dark eyes looking to him for laughter.

What does he read these nights as he wrestles with it?
What light does he turn on?
I want to know because he is doing what must be done,
The same way he would yell scat
Out into the dark before walking out.

He begins every story with “this is the last
Story, I promise” as if we all waited for this to end,
But everybody in the room is holding their breath
In awe that we are inside some magic bubble,
Shadow faces of despair only showing on the rainbowed perimeter.
He is telling us “the fuckers don't want to see us rise,”
He is filling us with air.

It is as if he wants to convince us
He is no role model. Mistakes here
And there, the house flooding,
Cops pissed off or shady clients defended.
The details grow fuzzy as they change with each telling
First it was a field of cinders, then a movie theatre,
A general’s plane or maybe the chaplain’s.
Always he is no hero, he told me he took
A deer’s life and immediately asked god’s forgiveness--
What shines through is his life.
His brutally sharp and strong life,
Muscling its way into the light
Like a seal to the top of the ocean.

Grandpa, is it lapis lazuli? When you read that did you think of me,
Or was that for you, the beauty and tragedy together defying despair?
You know how to look at it, hold it, find it again and again.
When you say, NO let us speak of life—
Do you grow frustrated you cannot give it all to me at once?
I am listening now. I will not wander off
To the cabin in the mountains. Let us turn this ageless stone between us.

You have been married 59 years and alive 85 and awake to all of it,
Alive to all of it as it even as it beats upon you like a storm against cedar panes,
Or bends you low like wind in the cattails.
Unafraid you are laughing
as we speed over the spray, as we break out into the sea.
Are you thinking of your youth now and do you see it in us?
I see mine in you, your intelligent eyes fixed on me
holding some conversation then another
up to the light and putting it down again,
Content and still searching.
Your laughter now is mine at 5,
Innocent and ancient as the struggle we both continue
To just... hold it within us completely for a moment.

I laughed as I tried to catch you between my hands,
But you were always escaping.

After you leave, your son and i
Wash the dishes together.
He turns stairway to heaven way up
and we both know this is something
essentially human,
not knowing and being afraid to know,
the sadness, the hope, the desire to reach across
and touch another human being
down somewhere that is deeper than where death can find.
If your cancer was a boss I would organize the shit out of his workplace and pretty soon he would have no power.

If your cancer was a book I would read it quickly to learn its lesson and then throw it away in a place where it would never come back again.
If your cancer were deep and I could only see the edge, a truth whose depths I could barely comprehend with my 25 years of life, whose life was tied to your life and whose meaning only you could see, I would long desperately to be with you, to talk about Shakespeare and agree about revolution, to read poetry and sing old songs, to hear you tell your life so slowly that I’d miss my plane

And stay for dinner and a Mel Brooks movie and I’d watch you lean into your chin and begin to snore and know that you are something that only comes once and every particle of this earth is blessed to have its shadow cast by your fire.

nes gadol

haven’t been home since
I heard—coasted along
Glistening streets from the airport to downightown,
Industrial grey forest enclosing a polluted river
Which as we approached we listened for harder and
Harder until we were on the single lane
Bridge, at the bottom of two hills
And we turned the lights down and then
The car off and we tried to listen hard then,
The moment hanging off the edge
By so much weight on the past and future ends of us.

It is hard dating an organizer, but something else
Dating KB. I played games with her
Family, lit and doused the depressed brother, held
The father a respectful fist away, and of course
Flirted with sue. It was almost enough—

He is up there in the stars in a plane he barely knows
How to fly, or out there in brookline
Sleeping fitfully in his chair as the news
Cycle changes. He is reading yehuda amichai
In his later years and so am I, 500 miles away
Drunk and sleep deprived in a man’s house he
Does not know, but would like. We are both
Feeling sore and leaning back trying to piece out where
We are open, where we have closed,
And what has been opened once again.
I am thinking of the gains he made for our family,
The house by the ocean that sings
softly in the nighttime to the birds,
And of how he was never drunk
in any of his stories—no matter
How debaucherous.

It is the first night of hannukah,
And the Aryan psychiatrist and Mexican
Union organizer don't seem to have a candle in the house—I am drawn back to the ransacked temple, heaving in pain, invaded and
Changed forever, the priests and peasants
Searching through it like a ct scan. I’m sure there
Are things they hoped never to find,
But did. But hope too. Borrowed time.
I am thinking of him and three months and
A great miracle happened there
But I cant hope that
Maybe in another version of the story
The oil really only did last for one
Night but it burnt with the light of a star,
So bright, blasting the ruins of the temple
And for a brief time turning everything there beautiful
And stark, highlighting what it was and what it did and all the ways that hands ands time had changed it. Showing the past overlaid on the present
Like an xray. And maybe like that
I think a great miracle is happening in the condo by coolige corner
Where my grandather sleeps
And my grandmother wakes periodically and looks over with a determined look.
Maybe that brightness and that miracle

Have been happening for a long time.

Monday, 26 December 2016

down there

At the bottom of kolob canyon
I face my fear in the form of a lost trail.
Hang ego up like wet denim
Or bang it against the impenetrable--without
Some way of holding it we are only
Slippery rocks beneath  the falls.
Road open for 1 hour 2 times
A day, home amongst burnt stumps
And aquamarine fields—how long
Have you longed to finally be sucked dry or
Flooded, stunned by sun or
Cradled in the shoulder of the mountain?
Sooner or later everyone moves
In their own way. Land is for sale
In the shadow of zion. The cool
Waist of the river is only a place
To suck blood for some. But wind
has found a way through rock,
Nate lies out in the sun hatless and giving
Sweat to the air—anxiety evaporates
When the river slides its smile between my toes and
Reminds me we are going everywhere.
Even if I never moved again

Love would find its way.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

night before

Back at it—drinking free
Across from michael’s father,
Alcoholic breath stinking somehow
Uncold December wind from the imperfect seal
At the pub door. Two of them are gone,
Garage door shut on their outstretched fingers
Rubbed raw by dishes and cheap detergeant,
Canning them as they tried to secret to the outside,
To the green leaves and manicured lawns—
But the speed of $10 per hour is not fast
Enough and the distance to the border lengthens
Like those camera shots of horror, seeming closer,
Even as they move farther away.

In the great dark hours between 11 and 1
When I wish my day alive, the streets
slide along whispersmooth tracks and homes
shut off one by one in a race to close me into
a drink or a lovers arms, or both, or lately
neither in the first sober spiraling out of the circle
since I started working and drinking at 13.
I refuse to be counted down to sleep
Counted out as I take care of myself discreetly
And expediently in the blue shadow light

Of a computer screen.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

coming home

It is a brave thing, swans in winter.
They are going up the part of the mystic river that still flows,
A small triangular path between plains of silence,
Bobbing cold feet beneath the surface and churning about with a calm air,
A dead air, a wind that does not stir. And on the ice their children sing.

In a dream state I sit in my filth outside terminal B
Hoping not to cry.

On the drive home, bottles of liquor chatter softly on the floor—
And my father points out the beauty of a tattered American flag
Clipping east across the bridge we’ve crossed twice
Trying to find the new mall turning Somerville gold.

“It’s too much,” he says. I am not sure if he means
for him, or for her, or for them together.
But my body understands that he is right
And once again begins unpacking itself to make room
For what is to come.

Some things have grown smaller. The pear tree
Beside the house has lost all but one branch.

When I enter the house, my mother isn’t there for the first time.
Pictures hang along the walls of the ones who are gone.
Mi shebeirach for the living in this house. Where they walk,
So love goes. I have spent 7 years
Singing my mothers songs into a darkness
Whose contents seem to hold no domain here, not now. I open
the front door to the sun. It is so warm

I can smell the resin of the pine.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

where the cracks run

This we do not talk about—on the third
Day of the third week that summer
In the yellow sands of the Jordan valley,
I rose to myself before the sun, in violet night slipped on
another man’s clothes that had been another man’s
before him, walked down the hill
past sleeping goats to shul to quietly
hold my insides calm and take stock of what kept me
keeping me alive, and then I climbed onto the tractor’s
side and rumbled with it up the hill in silence
as fire lit the field and my friend and I looked on
and shared something though we shared no language,
except the few words of our forefathers our fathers had taught us.
We stepped off and into the shed to pick our tools—white gloves with a few holes but good grey grips and a pair of single handed shears. Eli found us in the shadows, took us to the rotting choupa with grapes budding at its crown in the sunrise.
5/10 and 240 lbs of sun raw flesh, eli read passages to us
every morning, gutteral Hebrew beginning to lilt as he was overcome
by joy at the torah. That day he told us of the day leiah died, body blown across the sand by an exploding bus. A man from Jordan did it he told us.
And he told us of the morning when he gathered the other men in the dawn,
Before the sun rose, faces set like granite stones in the desert, how their tractors
And trucks started like the keening of the women by the water and then locked into step with the anger of a generation. They drove across the valley in a long line,
Past the other socialist kibbutzim where man made rivers trickled by the many tents. They drove a long time and the sun rose and they entered Jordan.
I imagine they each sang lo yisa goy to himself in his little vehicle,
And they shall be turned into plow shares.
And they drove onto the farm on the other side, in Jordan,
Where I am sure a man and his wife were just beginning to get to work,
Rising and dusting their knees and clearing their throats from prayer.
And they tore the land to shreds. They destroyed the crops.
They ripped up the roots and spat the living back onto the earth
In a heap of meaninglessness. And they whooped and shouted and menaced
The family, small children looking up from between their father’s legs
At the machines spraying blood into the sun.
And then they drove back, 
and worked, and prayed, and ate lunch 
in the chadar ochel and danced on the Sabbath,
And had a ceremonial burial for leiah and sat in her house
For 7 days. And later, when they drank the wine they made that season,

I think they tasted everything, though they could not say what.
they had lost the language for it.

Monday, 19 December 2016

both that it will stop or that it won't

Several times the question is asked
“is da levy dead if he’s here
with us?” but a book is not a heart
even in shaking addicted hands.

Sleep is coming to the cloud castle in droves,
with its knives. We thought
We might escape with love
a sense of purpose but while I was dreaming
every plate in the house cracked and
paul was naked out by the stuffed bear
trying to pick a fight with the bard,
the only one of us friends with sleep.

These games are more to the players.
While a john might go home empty
Handed one night and fill his hands
With his own cock, if one of my friends
At the airport loses, I think a gun
Is more likely. And I am beginning to
Feel scared the way men in the dark
caves are scared-- it is not about tomorrow
Or who might save or fight
for us, but the yawning wild
power of what is not me.
The power that closes mouths
And skitters your heart and sneaks
Into the lovers’ bed to tear them.

Heat is eternal
Hence why the bard’s primal fear is chemical
And lends its real self to the story self
In a confusing ink puddle which goes to show
Both are just damn ink.

It's a damn shame.
Where there is dust in these cluttered coves,
There is the possibility of mud, with a little rain.
And there, perhaps, a place where something might stick.
And the cliffs have begun to be covered in art,
The way up north on 5th the blocks of vacants bear
The burden of a hundred names. But—

I try to surround myself with poetry
Though I know I am nothing
of the sort. I want my father to shake me
and say “there is no reason to do that
or the other, and it’s all games the poor
and the rich and reaching for anything
is as much an attempt to get it
as it is sell it. And that’s true of the union, and walmart,
the police, hillary rodham,
and you and i. so snap out of it and get a better job,”
so I could slap him and find some fire but,
I am still not waking up. And while sleeping,
I can’t write, but if I only write,
To everyone on cobbs creek in the flooding,
And to the little jewish kid getting his face pushed
Against the chain link and learning to forgive his mother,
There’s no fight. And without the fight we all die in dust.

da died and I don’t know what he might
Feel about the ivy crawling
through the room he lost his head in in east Cleveland
Or the mattresses being dragged through streets
By bareback men in the summer heat but I know
That I ain’t dead and it feels better to hold a heart in my hands
Than a damn book. I’m not happy with dreams—
Redemption, salvation, paradise.
I’ll know we’ve got it when I smell petrichor.[1]

[1] “Readiness is all”

Sunday, 18 December 2016

December 3rd, 2015

Even as she pulls you closer
Overhead red stars and sweat, darkened wood grooves,
Oak fans spilling van gogh onto a crowd of upturned beards
As a recorded eagle cry ricochets through the soundscape—
You cannot help wondering about the laundry watered garden in tuscon,
Or the roof tucked with stars in the savage crevice of el paso
Or a thousand other cities and the love which goes with each.

Philadelphia shrugs up its hood in the December rain,
The street is filled with crawlers and limpers and fuckers and
Slitherers but in the houses, a sterile electric hum signals
Our inability to think of anything meaningful to do on such a day.

One such house is filled with boxed books and paintings turned
Into the wall. It sleeps the way half the city sleeps, without choosing it,
Up on its massive quads and dreaming of nothing but itself
Or an end to itself.

Another great grey ennui for the next bend in the schuykill.
After the dirty, but constant, factories curl around their own tails
And disappear, there’s a stretching that you wish would end.

When you first moved into a dorm room
And you wanted to sleep with the econ major
Whose eyes said “ I need you I need you Ineedyou
And I’ll do anything to make you know it”
You said “once you love someone, you
Never really stop.” It was a grand gesture in a superman t-shirt
And one year long relationship with a 16 year old under your belt.
There’s a picture of that night, dented tin can on a bedside table,
Someone’s hand over her mouth.

And since, with a deep green sweater over dead leaves
And an autumn of morning after morning waking
Up with nothing under your heart and it falling into the
Lower intestine where nothing but a muscle wall,
A tired muscle just like the heart, kept it inside you at all,
And since then a bit of playing and red lipstick on men’s suits
And several compliments to your bartending
And a couple bosses fucked with
And a couple nights impossible to remember with hands
On hard pectorals and business casual imposter laughing laughing
At the power you have, and the new people in your life
Terrified, terrified of the eyes you slip into
When you want to keep a room away from you by making it look
And LOOK LOOK all the evidence you are doing it right, from adoration,
To the $$ in hands unaccustomed to it spending it at bars and grocery stores
In southwest, to the great mess you make everytime you come home with a life so big, to the tension with your father not because of what he’s done but between
His body and how you tell him and LOOK LOOK the sadness which exceeded love, and LOOK the fear looming larger than she ever did and LOOK you’re not sure you’ve even loved once and now you’re here with somebody’s real life, real body, real choices of where to live and what job they take and where they go for pizza in your hands and LOOK everyone’s got to feel this way sometime so why not you now you aren’t responsible for shit except never stopping trying to figure it out with all of yourself and LOOK everybody makes mistakes but you gotta trust when you love it’s love and when you hate it’s hate and when you fear and hunger and run and create and build and show and look its all real its all impossibly real because LOOK  since you were 13 and had to reckon with death nothing has been the same except you, except the warm mind beating itself against the world to make a damn pretty image before it goes dark
It matters, it matters and the figs are falling
Around you soft as dreams
And light goes out in the houses by the applachian trail one by one
And the wolf of the night begins its keening
But you are waiting for 5 o’clock still when beer will go to $3
And it will feel, surrounded by faces you owe nothing to,
That it is starting over in a way it never could before
But it can everyday. you look around, annoyed
At a moralizing tone and the idea that any advice or truth
Can scroll through your life like a red news ticker beneath a handsome face
And just when you are ready to strike out
The voice disappears.

Will it touch? Her
Sitting on the dusty floorboards like a hundred bags of glass

Shaking. Asking for more.
When the woman from west Virginia comes,
She brings red handkerchiefs and kimchi
She brings the glinting of light from the mountains
And the anxiety of a small town.
Smell of 13 hours on the road, eyes from sun glare,
Unaccustomed to telling people what to call her,
But enough knowledge from where she started
To self consciously flirt as we pass a bottle of wine between us.
The feeling of ending is back.
Hollow echo. Call across the lake.
Phone out of batteries. Rain falling between the leaves.
Empty house. Packed bar. Seasons changing.
Nothing quite making it ok.
Knowing she is calling. One more word
And that’s it. This time you’ve got control.
Doesn’t make it much better, now does it?
Out over the field like an ocean
Corn subsidies poured out
A sun behind thin clouds
Spreads it all opaque and flat
And so easy to get lost in.
On halloween it all comes back.
Nobody is unmasking
You though that’s what it takes
To get you up nowadays.
Lipstick is smeared like blood across her lips
In the fluorescent lights and the thrum of a west philly happening--
All the good liquor on the floor in the closet
Beneath the blanket you won in college for swimming in 40 degree water
Hungover and watched by almost 100 people, you almost threw up.
At some point in the night, arms
turn into the seasoning that makes taste.
And so it all comes back up.

Saturday, 17 December 2016


She tells me I sang nursery rhymes
In my sleep and spoke of a clearing
In the woods. Staying away
from women is hard to do
 when wanting to be touched
Climbs up my throat like a ladder
And that fragile thing takes a long breath.

At the beginning of spring, the rains come,
Throwing flowers down into my lungs.
I stay behind the windows, curling and uncurling blinds
At different hours of the day like a lizard
Turning its body in the sun.
I venture out for food because the refrigerator holds nothing.
Coming back, I see the chimney missing a few bricks
And the birds perched there scattering.

Isa didn’t want me to see her like that.
She wears a smock to the bar.
It's the first time in months
And I’m 3 beers deep because she
was 15 minutes late.
Somebody died, it’s unclear
Because we haven’t quite figured out
How to talk to each other.

She cries when we make love that night
And wakes me in the morning unsatiated.

Later in the week, I drive by the building
That holds her studio on a grey day.
There is a gargoyle juggling stones
That weigh far more than the room I live in.
The red civic behind me honks
And I glance at the angry face backed
By city hall itself, squatting over the scene
Like some great arachnid.
Whose web is this?

Giggling with the last moments of diethylamide
I grabbed my brother’s hand and we fell to the floor
Weighed by the g force of the moment taking off.
“I am no fool about love” I begin,
but something about the lights tells me
this is no time for convincing myself.

There are no pews or knee cushions
for the eyes that look at you while
you look into the distance for something

Wearily I see anna pull back her hair
And smile crookedly at her last meeting with the union.
She is going south for love.
She wants to sit by the dogwood trees
And have weekends.
Something about her will disappear though
In those contented moments when she is still.
Some hunger, some void
Into which anyone might throw themselves
Like runners off a cliff face
To fall fall fall before being yanked back
By some bunjee saying “not yet.”

I cannot be the only one for whom
Finally loving something in themselves
Makes it harder to love another
But yet want it all the more.
Or if I am, better to be outted as an asshole
And have others stay away from the remains
Of a person begging for water but never taking a sip.

o go to sleep melodrama, have a drink
And take nyquill. In the morning perhaps
You will feel none of this and you can feign surprise

when you ensnare another you do not love.

Friday, 16 December 2016

last year today

It is the second night of hannukah
All the doors are still open
Years have passed since the decision
Not to render beautifully—
On the trolley home I run into a doctor friend.
He has more money than me.
We pull each other out—
Me his face from the book
Him my feet from the bar I would drop on.
As we speak, it strikes midnight and it is his birthday.
I go home and cash checks on the duct taped screen of the computer my parents bought me in highschool.
Certain things have to last.
The drawers with all the most precious things have holes in them
Where the first letter from sara goes missing
Where the years worth of half dollars my uncle sam collected for me
Can’t call back.
It is forced to be ok—24 hours in brooklynn
Whose final 3 are beyond memory
And then back without a word from anyone I saw
Or anyone I left.
My girlfriend is angry I don’t love her enough,
So these days we are drifting apart.
I won’t sacrifice feeling good about my heart
As long as it beats.
Some things catch you by surprise
Since you were 13—your ability to listen,
The distinction between you and you,
A willingness to sacrifice ad infinitum for an idea of a life.
Whose revolution? And when?
I am annoyed with the flamboyant educated black men I went to school with
For loving themselves more than I allow myself.
The candles are downstairs heating the house,
And a cat with 10 fingers and trouble balancing
Looks me in the eyes as I close the lights and decide
Tonight is a wash, tonight will not break me through
He asks me” have you moved on
From the road to yourself
From your striving into some great way
And some huge feeling
And something more?

“I do not think you have”

Thursday, 15 December 2016

before the tattoo

And where is my body now
Muscles taut and purple against morning light
A hundred year old cloth crutched across my back
And into a nothing day the fall stays warm on the skin
While leaves dance across each other into a folded blurry sketch
Of the backyard where we lie with the barnacle mushrooms and stumps

It will change and stay the same
With the kakaka of ink dug deep.
This will remember
This will remind

This will continue growing outwards with time.