Tuesday, 25 May 2021



i am very comfortable in my white tee. i sit long legged, unclenching my jaw, sipping tea.

the women were strongjawed, proud, south shore salt and bitter,

offering words of welcome and strategy and approaching the table already embittered.

strange in the fight how dear our strength, how thick our salt, how pleasant

it is to do battle some days, no words, approaching love full fisted, pleasantly.

flowers across the street stoop with rain, loose with pride, dark purple ring--

a bee approaches with no strategy, bends its knees in mid air as if to kiss a sunring.

when we died in those days there were no flowers, nothing flooded the streets

but us, one by one three hundred thousand goodbyes, swollen knees kissed streets.

smart in a black tie, a mask never bore with it so true a face

as these millennials entering, swollen, purple, indebted, even death about-facing

to complete a dream balancing act, born black. born back

to my childhood as i age out of it, sacred ink scratches my back

raw. incomplete always, but especially at the turning points.

adulthood is a dream act. place a sacred marking at this point

and remember, especially, the other raw moments of song--

connected with thrill and remarkable mundanity. this song

will continue. virtue lies in the body, in our body, its health,

well-being, good sleep, lack of attachment to mere ideas of love, unhealthy

platitudes, platonic heavens hiding earth. you cannot hide the body. here

where we sit, the breeze, not smelling so sweet of city, ruffles lightly the leaves, here

is a place i call home.

home is a place i call

here. health sings, points back

at faces in the street. a ring of pleasant but bitter tea

all that’s left of unhealthy longing. this black night

welcomed to a rose moon, full of selfless love, awaiting

nothing, blinking at the waypoints of so many children,

across the choppy waters you see

a ladder to yourself sitting in a white tea

and jeans, content, turning 30.

Monday, 19 October 2020

old friends

there is a boomerang path to where we started.

thick duff, two bit road,

old new england granite, slate,

web of walls and moss and bright color,

all conspiring to filter the air we breathe.

we each swallow pain

at different paces,

bark crawling over the wounds.

we mark off private property,

but in lucky moments, tell a story,

share in laughter

as we straddle the artificial lines.

play with me, at the top of the hill

where the light gleams out from all things

and we see the children running to each kingdom.

hold yourself stone when your places feel hollow,

when the rains won’t come for weeks

and you don’t want them to.

some day soon it will all come down.

some day soon the well worn grooves 

will shade your smile once again.

after death, after birth,

follow the river running.

it follows the thinking of your blood.

this is the changing of the guard:

autumn’s shimmering reflection,

sky exchanging sky,

yellow, green, brown, red leaves falling,

seasonal cleaving,

hand letting go of hand.

Monday, 12 October 2020


two rabbits stretch their snouts to snuffle the crabgrass.

it is nighttime at the city elementary school, 

all fences and fluorescent light, a shallow tuft

of color stubbles beneath the chrome and flag in the wind.

surrounded by a sea of velvet mulch, 

the few remaining summer flowers give 

cover to two grey bunnies searching for clovers.

they do not know it is a pandemic.

but they know the nights are growing colder.

a young woman strolls towards me, confidently muscled,

feet of a smile showing above her mask.

night after night we wade together,

forward and then stepping away--


dancing, describing the ways I would kiss up her thigh.

our shared heartbreak. these rabbits 

stretch their bodies long

without moving their hind legs.

first they look like lovers, then dogs,

then rats,

pupils wide as the moon.

she and i gaze warm eyed in front of her door--

i want to hold her chin up to a street light

and stand in summer together for a moment.

no matter the words we use,

as we stand 6 feet apart,

a generation is learning loneliness

and to sniff out the good greens.

Sunday, 11 October 2020


philadelphia on the other line

shallow voice in an extended stay

drunk union organizer

longing for another man’s honest touch 

for years. i’ve seen it when 

drunk again he lets his hair be touched,

the loose unravelling of desire, 

the power in his voice, his sharp eyes softening,

the short string of apologies,

need ignored by hard hands and cocks

for years. oh

to be a gay man in a straight city--

to spend your nights on grindr,

and your days with housekeepers

with your feelings in your pocket

and them grabbing for a pen.

tomorrow he knocks on doors in a pandemic

trailed by a host of unwilling canvassers.

he who yes wants to defeat fascism,

but also just wants to be held.

i have seen him on the picket line,

and in the union hall on a war path, 

but never so brave i think 

as him asking on the other end of the line

“will you call me sometimes, or if i don’t pick up,

leave a message so i know someone wants me?”

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Baracoa 2018

the pierced blue sea
rolled away from its wounds

each morning. fresh coffee.

rolls. mango. guava juice.

soft fried eggs in the sun.

we meandered through a 

brown stone valley. almond. pistachio.

blue crabs in the shadows.

she spoke the language.

i did not. in the crazy sun, sweat

draped over us like shade.

paddling in our rowboat,

skin singing at every touch,

we may never have been so in love.

it was as if all life could spill from us there

in those rich green waters.

that night, storms. hotblooded

thunder and screams. her anger,

the inferno that ate the light 

of the stars. we are all

we had, at least for me.

i did not speak the language.

when the madness broke,

we made love with the fans whirring,

thin sheets caught in our legs,

the world holding its breath in the heat.

nothing combustible remained.

when she left, i caught a fever

and didn’t eat for days.

i dreamed of a serpent without end,

tongue of fire and skin melting

to cover the world in the scaled texture

of glass. on my final day,

i wandered through a dissolving city,

filled my lungs with smoke

and came to a huge white cross on a hill.

alone then, i sat 

anonymous and happy for a time.

but when i returned to the states, 

i was nauseated, weak.

we began again to plant seeds,

again to lose them in the great rains.

it was years before i was done

with the sweat and salt,

the heat and thunder,

and could travel,

taste sweet juices, sing

in the sun, melancholy now,

without language,

cradling a wound for which

i still seek the sea.

Monday, 5 October 2020

accident 1

he’d lost a lot of blood. ambulances never quite come as fast as you think they will, and when they do, they’re a hell of a lot more expensive. he was thinking this to himself as a young woman with grey-blue eyes and a sharp voice was saying something insistently and slapping her hand against his face. 

that woman was carolina. a 5’10 broken slate edge of a woman with a notably small amount of patience for bull-shit and a tendency to mythologize events in her life. carolina had been dating Pat for 3 years on and off and they’d never gone through something like this before. I mean, how many couples go through multiple major car accidents in the course of their hiccuping existence?

“do you remember your name? god where is all this blood coming from. i’ve never seen you bleed before.”

“mhm. my head, carolina. it’s coming from my head. and just stop hitting me. that’s not what you’re supposed to do.”

a grey honda accord, his, was pulled off of the turnpike on a patch of glass-littered grass. in front of that was a male deer. rich brown fur, simple pattern of white, interrupted. it’s stomach was crushed and one glassy eye reflected a bit of foreboding grey clouds thickening overhead. the blood was already dark brown and soon would be black. like tar. a bit of the fur was burned off the antlers where they had hit the pavement.

“it isn’t your fault” were the words she kept saying. but he couldn’t quite understand them.  he looked from her blonde almost platinum hair, full lips, a thin scar by her chin, skittered over her eyes, then to the deer, neck oddly tilted as if to survey the scene before going back to sleep. to her again, eyes searching for something, always searching. and then he caught the eye of a strangely handsome man with short-cropped silver hair as the man slowed his car and glanced out of his side window. longingly? 

the rubberneck is a strange phenomenon. like many other times in life, most people are just passing by. they glimpse pain. real pain. observe, formulate some coherent thoughts on it, like “looks bad” or “was probably texting” or “I’d fuck that EMT.” something to do really. then move along. the incredible capacity of people to witness others’ suffering and then immediately forget it is astounding. it happens so frequently, this type of watching, thinking, forgetting, that it seems a fundamental part of the fabric of our lives. the obsidian stitching holding each of the moments we think of as our lives together. Pat was not thinking this, however. neither was carolina. neither of them could be said to be thinking at all. carolina’s stomach growled. they both smiled tightly. 

when you lose a lot of blood, the corners of your vision start to go a bit… fuzzy. there’s white, like clouds, dark spots as if you’ve been staring at the sun. and the whole thing feels sort of nice. that might be the adrenaline too. but it was in this state that Pat felt he saw his girlfriend carolina for the first time. he wanted to say i love you, but didn’t, because he wouldn’t have meant it. it would have felt nice though.

she stood up, walked a few yards away, pulled out her phone and moved her thumbs around a bit. then came back down to kneel in the grass. 

“hey, you’re okay”

“Hey is for horses”

“i mean i’m not telling you. but you seem okay. are you?”

“sometimes for cows”


“hey is”

“oh…. you’re so fucking weird… i love you.”

“I killed a deer for you.”


“you have no idea, but that thing was going to kill you. meanest deer in new jersey I can’t really speak for anywhere else and he had a huge grudge what with the way you blew past him last summer while on a work call and scared him and his kids half to death. heard you saying something about the flyers. so he’d been training--”

“pat. shut up” she kissed him, smearing blood on her forehead.”i’d never talk about the flyers”

he winced. she looked. “oh fuck courtney is calling me, i completely forget about the conference call. i’ll just tell her i can’t--” she walked off a few paces and put on her enthusiastic work voice.

“fuck me. where’s the poetry in this, huh buddy? is this my whale? you telling me to pronounce judgement?” it started to drizzle.

carolina put the phone in the pocket of her jean shorts and walked back.

“i’m sorry.

“you know, i bet i could’ve thought of a lot better ways to avoid spending thanksgiving with your family. like, we could’ve just said this happened” he really was full of himself sometimes.

“is it weird that i want to have sex with you right now?” the way she reinforced it didn’t help.

“yes. but i like it.” beat. “driving always makes you horny.”

“Can you count backwards from 10 for me?”

“what? c’mon.”

“I don’t know, that’s what you’re supposed to do”


“just fucking count, we can argue about something else”

“10 minus 1 is 9 minus 1 is 8 minus 1 is minus the bear carry the one, stop by a diner to get some pancakes, over the river, through the woods-- hey if there are a hundred doors and you close all of them that are divisible by one then--”

“you’re going to be fine. i bet this bleeding is just like topsoil or whatever. a lot of capillaries. let me call my mom, she knows fucking everything. she’ll probably come pick us up”

“babe it’s 2 hours away”

“she doesn’t care. you know her.”

“what the fuck am i gunna do with my car?” he reached his hand up to pat the gash in his forehead and immediately regretted it.

Pat had wanted to break up with carolina for months but just couldn’t bring himself to admit he didn’t love her anymore. he liked thinking of himself as someone in love, who would do anything for a partner, whose life revolved around the finer, less practical things.

“that thing had a death wish.” carolina said crouching down, putting one hand on his shoulder and running the other through her hair. they both were quiet. there was a line of traffic starting. the ambulance was about a half mile back. “i feel really bad.”

“how do you think i feel?”

“you know what? i don’t though. it’s just a dumb-fucking animal.” more people passed by in their cars, telling stories about the slightly overweight man in his 30’s, the 300 pound deer, and the beautiful woman who seemed to be simultaneously interrogating him and loving him.

this is one of those stories. told by a 28 year old man driving between his own strange fantasies of a childhood and a lover who no longer wanted him. but every two weeks he would drive 350 miles to Portland and 350 miles back to keep it going. usually he didn’t remember anything. he took work calls and scrolled facebook with his hand next to the emergency break.

the goriness of the deer was startling. the look on the man’s face like a wild animal. the woman who in caring for him was caring for herself. obviously. all of this he painted with a blunt brush he’d been using all his life. trained eye though.

he snapped his neck back just in time to see the white suv in front of him. he slammed the brakes, swerved, skidded, in a moment of panic grunted like dog, and then came to a stop with his tires half in the grass. 

the smell of burning rubber.

fuck, he thought to himself. no more stories. he eased off the break and the car started to roll forward. he began to make a list of the ways he was going to change his life. overhead, two seagulls were flying low below thick grey clouds.

stop drinking. start exercising. work less. call grammy more. use a hatchet to break up wood in the backyard. cook dinner for housemates. clean, definitely clean. have more patience with his girlfriend. want the things he wanted less.

a strange feeling of numbness crept in after that. and the minutes passed quickly. it may have been a result of the adrenaline leaving his system. or a return to his usual state of automatic union organizing calls while driving 80 on his way to what would be his first blowjob in weeks. or it may have been some life-blood leaking out as he let go of another of those dark pillars that holds a roof on the house of the soul. but that would be pretty dramatic. 

it’s going to work this time, he thought. i can live anywhere, i can be anything. i’m an animal. so is she. we’re just trying to be comfortable and happy.

he thought of the deer with its brown blood and the look on the man’s face. the despair he read in the man’s face the second he saw him.

“this time will be different” he said aloud, “we aren’t going to stop loving each other.” a hint of resignation, like smoke thinning. “so it needs to be.”

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Vidui--first take

Normally, Jews confess to noone, everyone, or themselves.

Craft beer cans bobbing in the shallows.

A pair of ducks paddling by

practicing a kind of funeral rites--vidui.

Overhead, the sky crumbles

soft end of summer rain.

Broken glass, tar,

scuffed boats racked

by an overpass.

Across the water a family runs

along the bank in the approaching dusk.

A small child with a yellow hood pulled up

turns back to make sure

they are still there.

Orpheus. Like any of us

preparation of the body means

fasting, tearing, slowing,

closing, turning.

The crumpled poem “forest” floats on the surface

of that dirty water, silently unfolds,

and sinks.

Evening light, apartment complexes

at the edge, horns in smoke,

a shifting stain of starlings on the sky.

Turning means

a fresh start but it also means nothing.

You cannot know that towards which you turn--

fall with its lush decay

winter with its numb song

spring with all its sun tidings

or simply back to summer, home again

(different from before)

        (noone, everyone, yourself)

as the gates close!

The sun sets,

the world alights 

as all things end.


your wateriness,

your weakness,

your loam--

noone is watching but you.
Do not be scared to be forgiven.