Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mired in the Wire

A pigeon toed its way over to me,
Orange feet caught in a twisty mess of thread
That needed human fingers to untangle
What the bird’s beak couldn’t snip away.
I wanted to swoop it up and cup
Its plushy breast in my weathering hands,
Using one to grasp, the other to save,
And unravel it to flights of greater feathered freedom—
New heights than what’s been stolen from it by a shackling string.

Like a slave promised liberty by its master,
It peaked up at me from beneath the bench
On which I sat, faking rhyme to pass the time.
It cocked its head from left to right, up
And down in sympathy-seeking blinks
And Jerks of the neck, looking,
Leaving me feeling helpless as it sought a savior out,
Pecking at my conscience like it would the trash that’s trapped it.
I almost bent down, but it flew away too soon,
Flapping the air with stuttering wings, unsteadied in its trajectory
As though panicked by a shortness of breath or the sudden loss
Of a heartbeat or by paralysis of the limbs and other such wordless sufferings.

It beat the air in a claustrophobic fit for more space
To stretch itself out in the mixed metaphors of my mind like
Ever-expansive sails, setting themselves wide over an old, exquisite sea,
As it streamlines the sky above, claws locked flat against its chest,
Perched in the shadow of its winged body as though tires
Retreated into some tucked away compartment of a plane.

And across the wet, sweeping-blue scenery
It could have traveled, were it free,
Some thousands of its distant-cousined species sink
In the mucky sheath of an off-shore leaked refinery,
Calling for Noah and his arc in cawful cries from the mire,
Searching for some clarion sign of that mythic dove
That’s prophesied to carry the arch of a new dawn
As the sunny start to a suddenly remembered covenant,
A peace offer hanging like an olive branch from its sacred bill.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Seal Beach

One Friday at the beginning of June
I walked a path along a metal post fence shaped in wide, oblong A’s—
All that stood between me and the edge of a cliff
Blotched with the red tops of green, reefy plants,
Picked at by the beaks of matching birds,
Their small skulls laced crimson feathers.

I watched the surfers weave in and out of the ocean's rollicking enormity,
Pumping their boards up and down against rolling crests,
Pushing hard to pick up speed.

Out of the corner of my eye, meanwhile,
I sought to steal some glances,
Make some trysts I admit
Would see me browsing Craig’s List
For any I might’ve missed.

The day was overcast.
The color of steel gray that made the blue sky shine yellow.
Hot enough to burn red if you didn’t watch it,
Or borrow some bottled mix of sun block like I did
From a friendly, long-haired chap who was scoping waves, spying
On the height, breadth, and depth of the elements
He’d be diving into soon enough.

I was struck happy by his courtesy:
“Take as much as you’d like,” he said.
I did, thanking him and moving on to find a family—
A mom and her three girls, teenagers—
Emerge from a cleft of rocks like mermaids.
The youngest one had a distant look in her eyes,
Like she had just been the unfortunate witness of something wrong.
Her eyebrows furrowed, head hung low
With a single braided pony tail curled around her nape.
I shuddered a bit and wondered what went awry.

And then I knew
As I soon saw from farther up the hill I hiked
People taking pictures below like anxious tourists,
Recording a thing they’ll never see except
In muted retrospect,
Without the death-stench of that baby seal
Sailing up and smelling of wet, dirty socks
Or a heaped mess of upturned sewage-dirt and rot.

The dead mammal, delivered as though an ill-fating omen,
Had me wondering how the scene would be different
Were a human corpse washed ashore,
Harkening the week’s end with a somber message,
Sobering families on vacation like that woman and her daughters visiting from Vegas,
Slapped awake from their California dream
By the plump smack of blubber hitting sand,
Likely confused and severely disappointed as in those first blinking moments
Between toxic half-sleep and jittery-stomached hangover.

The seal, as far as I could tell, was decomposing in flags of loosening skin,
Peeling off in a net of holey flab while the round thing’s blubbery body
Rolled about the beach where it plopped to corrode like a weathering landmark,
Signaling what else lie in waste at sea.
I stood there, leaning against the rail, guessing
At what ruin or reward the off-shore giants have portended for you and me

Back at the car, an invitation was waiting,
Flapping in the wind.

I later plucked it from beneath the windshield wiper to read
In big congratulatory letters from someone named, Ty,
An advertisement for Hollywood Paws' complimentary
Animal acting workshop and evaluation to have taken place
The following Sunday.

I thought, then, about lovers luckier than us
Who would be wrapped around each other like a caduceus,
Twisting their bodies in the spiral after-glow of Saturday night
And its lingering humidity, painted in short, panty strokes of steam
Across bedroom walls echoing the ecstasies of such little deaths
As I can just barely reproduce in dreams.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


A mother learns her daughter to fly a kite,
Arms raised on the wind like a pagan sun dance reaching
As her body cuts through breezes that lift
Lift the stealth shape of cheap plastic into flight,
Gliding stationary as though standing still
Surveying the treescape beneath and rising ‘til
It reaches its last inch of rope pulled tight
‘Round her fist and resolute
In riding on the string of hope
Tethered to the palm which first gathered to her heaving bosom
The body of an ever-growing thing
Now staring up in wonder at what a little wind
And the sun at its highest can do.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

To Beat or Not to Beat

I feel kindred with Ginsberg
And his metaphysical urge for uncreated worlds of bliss
While the real thing spins around me
And I play with my mind and its too-many axes to grind
In self-grievance for not sharpening my dull shape
Into secrets of which the living poets are born to speak.
Filtering through thoughts as space through time,
I skip towns and fly over cities and make for hilly meadows
Mottled with Whitmanesque procreancies,
Flowery poesies and other fading fruits
Of a desert mirage and its barren inconstancies
While new seasons change into more poor rhymes
And even less reason.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Last night the sea bid me to kneel at the feet of its wind-booming welcome.
So I pushed past the rough-hued texture of the storm as through a closetful of sailor wool,
Trembling for fear an earthquake would swirl the world into Aphroditic rage
And drown me in the corners of its water-black walls.

I leaned there like a ship steering my nose as though a pointed bow
Into the surf of the West's littoral regions,
Unsheltered by the cold and at a loss for sails just to say
I had stood there
Like that,
Drilling resolute into the shore of the East's sandy exhale,
Staring into its eye and ready to colonize my canton
If only to meet my captain's fate beside.

But alas,
In a fit of admitted retreat,
I scurried back to my sister's old gas-guzzler of a car parked on the hill,
Panicked and trying to preempt any aftershocks with my sprint.
My legs fluttered like white flags across the shadows of windy palms,
Outlines of swaying sentinels and other blurry bodies obscured and weighted down
By the adjoining width of a world-swallowing darkness,
An apocalypse proclaiming,

One day there will be a new world that's just now waiting to happen,
One with junk piles of computer chips and Styrofoam;
Oil spills and burning oceans that will outlive our children's children
And any irrational scares I have of being buried alive.
Am I the man I really mean myself to be?
A being human and praying after
The flesh-hold that others too
In their breathing seek.
A seeking on a foothold sturdier
Than the muck of our stagnancy
And cemented in the logic of the love we use
To guide our way before
All we've seen of us.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to John

I met a sixty-some balding type with a gray beard
The other morning at mass.
His name is, John.
He sat behind me the entire half-hour it took
To admit his curiosity about
My book.

I handed him Kinnell's.


And taking it in his grasp he
His way

Scouring haphazardly the text, hurrying the moment

Up with one eye on

For the right time to
Plumb the depths of my disclosure

And vault like the sharp edge of a flag-pole
Into the treasurefield of my journal's memory,

Mapping my exposure like creation
and God-conquest
To become suddenly and
All at once
A soulmate and stranger,
Late to receive the body because
He was busy drinking my cup,
Sapping its sweet but not unbitter pithiness
For capture of all the rapture I've dismissed.

I came back to my pew after communing
And with a glance
Furtively up over up and down,
Turned to cover my leather-bound, boring history
With a poem written on the palm of my right hand,
Its sweat inking blue while I tried to hide myself
And stare straight
So as not offend
This new proprietor of my psyche.

He got in,
Just like that,
Entering just as unassumingly as he left,

Though I imagine him hiding
A shyness in his non-chalance.

Either that or he called my bluff,
Inwardly disdaining and
Shaking his head at
The sad litany of my pedantry:
Pseudo-intellectual diatribes
And poesies full of unconjugaled panzy.

It wasn't until after the last
That I caught his name.
And that only happened because I swerved around
To ask
Just as
He was bending to retrieve and leave with his Christ-rote,
Bound in red and marked in hand
With gold letters on the cover in
"Christian Prayer":

David's songs and other psalms I've read
That search my ground with an airy tongue
To slake slake its thirst
On the bush-burn that rises in a swirling phoenix of alchemy
Chanting its ecstatic cosmos
Upward into narrow concentrecities of steeple-straight incense.

I've probably parroted worse incoherencies,
But I wonder anyway,
Whether or not this John will judge my truth as
The real truth,
So help me, God,
And not
Some nonsense,
Glossed over with the decaying sweetness
Of maudlin letters about love's impatience
And other trifles to which Kinnell would've given
A far-more patient

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Windstar

I sleep on the whims of fancies.
They pass like peds by as I
Lose more in my wake than all dreams
I've dared to ride:

Trips under pacific skies
That sound off suns like emergencies
Caterwauling me into that sharp awareness
Of post-ecstatic refractory,
Fractaling my inscape with residue's glint
And glistening eye I've used
To hear what prophets call in guilt-stricken sighs:

A marvelous love.

A home from where I'm prone to run on prodigal roams
Along highways on the border of metal pasturelands--
Cities farmed on shallow wishes, gathered up and chucked
Into one great horde of unhoned detail and image,
Junked to rot with the rust of a father's squandered wealth.

And yet I'm still struck like all of us
With a willful lust for a God I brush
With ash-black strokes across traveling books
That leave no more of me to reveal or look,
Not even all this skin and bone I've mused
To wrap its fleshy grasp around an open fuse.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Memorial Mass: April 20, 2010

I remember this funeral hymn,
Its melancholy sung in a chorus unmelodied.
It’s the note the angels evanesced by holding their breath
A little longer into the thin, church air,
Holding the hope
That they could carry the next note
Across the stain-glass shine,
Lighting up cares like candles
That shape the evening’s pattern.

The silence swifts through space between chapel-glass doors,
Sneaking into my hour's adore
Old voices flying on the wings of a psalm, saying,
There is still time, yes, still time enough to fill
The heart with a new hollow for growth
To seed its fledgling youth in a harvest of craving,
And the six-foot long past from which it sprouts
To collect like Church dust on Easter Lily-cusps
The stuff that gathers after
Our farmhand steps kick up life like dirt
In pursuit of many a missed surprise,
Hastening the work-day’s end
Toward tomorrow morning’s sun.

All this before it has a chance to star itself
Into night’s utter dark where desire lurks low
To thief the souls of holy men
And steal me with them
As the gold-treasured bounty of its bed-tide pillage
Under the spell of a spring-turned-summer moon.

There is no praise to hymn high enough
The unrefrained movement of this dance at survival,
Surviving all the ever-suffered stuff of poets,
So adept at choreographing God in tough-love-thrusts
That plumb the plush womb of eternity,
Offering their tastes of bitter grapes-made-wine
At an altar fit for humble feasts of bread-made-body,
Seasoned with Easter and the unleavened yeast
Of a human moment,
Remembered precisely
For its brief encounter
With levity’s life-long libation
To the seriousness of the brevity
Which takes us all.

715 Hollen Road

The pines out back speak their story in branches
Bending with the wait of witness and their close watch
For the loud import of childhood laughter
Shared like heavy plates serving dinner at night
While mom wondered how much longer
The floor could hold my two brothers and me,
Rough and tumbling in rumbles to see
Who could out-do who in brute-strength,
Pretending our victories like the buckle-shine of wrestling belts
Before offering our guts over to meatloaf and starch
And chugging more milk to fuel this march
On forward-moving streets toward new houses and homes
That could never quite keep us from moving away.

December 26, 2009

This Strange Island

Time reaches out as a cliff with treacherous claws,
taunting the sea that batters itself to pieces
like love
on the jagged reefs of
Such is a critic's apt description
for this deluge of an ocean's clamor
that's cracked open all my levees.

Morning, that beast, sucks me out in a place
now here,
now there
like the sun at its setting.

I fall somewhere in the in-between:
now half-way from self-contempt,
now half-way from God,
where everything is
only because it seems to be.

Here,there is
no architect for conviction,
no scientist for invention,
no artist for imitation,
no city for construction,
and no land to beach the blue endlessness.

Our unlearning is a shadow that falls forward
with the quickness of a shutter for a snapshot
of that first night we spent stranded
on the sin-stained shores of our separation.

December 2008

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Willows' Weep

This afternoon, under some weeping willows,
I sat on a park bench,
Watching time pass like an old-ager
Pushing his wheel chair uphill in slow steps,
Making progress with the strength of a skilled horseman
In his last chariot's race with death.

Behind me,
I heard a group of spring-drunk
Mexicans chanting love songs in Spanish, happy
To have an hour free from wage-labor and
Playing football as though wooing the first virgin named,

The birds sang in chirpy laughs
At the dumb merriment of us fools
While under those thousand leaves
I eavesdropped on other strangers' soft-speak,
Looking with their voices for a springtime romance
Or a willing ear to hear their loneliness
That not even God could understand.

Sometimes I see them—
Images of me at seventy,
Sharing stories about my failing health,
Appeasing the whims of homesickness
In exchange for the shelter of my former self.

Sitting where the forest meets the field,
I read the trees’ still, alive engravings
Of bygone lovers’ bodies,
Traced in misshaped circles on bark—
Hieroglyphs as ancient as passion and speech:
“Matt loves Natalie, ‘93” and other lost names
Carved inside the cartoon permanence of unbroken hearts.

An aging married couple, either ignorant
Or acutely aware of their own absurdity,
Passed me by on the border-path ahead,
Pushing their Shitsu in a stroller
As it stared back at me like a puppy-eyed child.

Looking away,
I saw the hills rise into the old-ager,
Stretching, arm-in-sling, from where he perched
To watch the soccer match end,
Readied and armored with his solitude
To finish that which fears lesser men.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hymie's Basement: Bolts and Hands

Lights flash in like camera angles on the planned-for symmetry of city streets and sidewalks,
Country-road vistas and two-lane highways narrowing into morning’s tree-lined mist,
Where the sunrise speaks East in barely audible whispers,
Softer than a white-coated kitten’s whiskers
And the light of a coffee-table candle’s flicker,
Written faintly on the walls like a suicide note for mom
When she finally gets home from work:
“I love you all,
But the world can go on and kill itself
For all
I care.”
And then she can share in a good cry, weeping with dad over the why
Of a mother’s spilled milk—
Across the kitchen floor before the last bomb hits
With the strike of a match
And the first chord of some distant angel’s harmonic
On a harp’s radiant string,
Striking us all still and dumb,
Though not unknowing of this eschaton,
Prophesied by the saddest children of sadder men.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Orange Sunshine in '66

One of these days I'd like to turn on, tune in and drop out.
Read some psychedelic pages from a book of the dead and come alive on a Harvard professor's trip.
Sing it loud for Leary and grin for Griggs
With a big toothy smile hiding wryly under wiry folds of golden locks,
And really mean it when I say,
"I love everyone."
Like the the gray, scraggly-haired Laguna greeter
Whose plaster statue stands like a monument for a lost and misunderstood generation
That beatniked like Ginsberg and his procession of sunshine-dropping proto-hippies
Across America's marijuana belt, howling at the moon
When it waxes full across a sky of Lucy-eyed diamonds.
I'll sing real sweet and low for sure and hold up the cross for Christ
As Hodgson did in the perfumed gig of a beached-out bungalow or
A secret hamlet in Dodge City.
Hell, maybe even shake Manson's hand like Wilson did before bailing
From the mansion to echo pet-soundish bells for the masses to toll
Across the shanty church air around Modjeska Canyon,
Bidding the leagues to transform time into space for the spirit's renewal and
Flaming like the fire of an orange sunset that rings eternal
Into the closed circuitry of a cosmic lemniscate,
Orbiting the earth while announcing love's new arrival
Like a satellite sending messages of brotherhood
To wash the brain of the world
In the great undulates of the Pacific Northwest
And rainbows too bright to be discerned.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Bird Man

I am the bird man and Alcatraz is everywhere
Inside my parents’ spare room,
Inside a complex of condos,
Inside a kushy Orange County,
Beneath too many power lines and towers full of coded info,
Spouting raw voltage like a fountain of electric cancer,
Sounding under the lapidary rhythm of loud Pacific waves,
Secret numbers told in the muffled fuzz of white noise:
Saying in snide catch phrases
Variations of one theme:
“Consume or be consumed.”

I choose neither and build my library instead,
Making of Alcatraz a sanctuary and bed—
A place to pray and a place to stay.

February 5, 2010

There is an ancient tribe becoming extinct right now
as its last member dies—
This was the first of the headlines above
a list of others in a news-ticking frame on
igoogle this morning.

Just another Friday in February,
dark and raining in Orange County
while the North East goes up in a drift of
nuclear snow.

Babette's Feast: For Madeleine

The table turns a cocktail into a banquet
Just like God changes the devil into a servant—one who gets it all done.
Give him his due
And he’ll give you yours
In some sweet laughter, a frivolity, and a dance more raucous
Than the wedding feast at Cana.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Utah Layover

Sitting at a dirty lunch table with a sticky top, I ate some part of a Quizno’s sub,
increasingly unappetizing with every reticent bite,
gross with the texture of wet vegetables, and
mushy with a mustard more like mucus.

Half-finished, it met its sad fate
with a "fleump" to the bottom
of an over-stuffed trash can.

So much for the starving kids in Haiti,
Or the other ones in China,
Who may just feel the trembles of my bad-turned karma
in the trails of a frozen yogurt,
flowing like icy lava through my veins.

And I absorbed all of it,
even after the first failure--
a mere drop in the bucket.

A View Found from the Bridge

I mourn myself—I admit it—with a certain alarm.
No, I’m not purely good.
But at least I am myself purely:
As much the despot of systemic corruption
As the betrayed victim in strange, psychological country.
I allow myself to be wholly known
And then end up alone, like Eddie:
A gullet swallowing the tonnage of the world,
A chorus for my own tragedy,
A stolen catharsis rife
With borrowed claptrap to heal the masses.

The Noospshere

My world exists between lifeguard stands 10 and 12
where I pretend to read about the Omega Point
while scheming God-chase scenarios of holy intrigue and seduction,
matched in volume only by the Song of Songs.

I pace this beach back and forth
in hot pursuit of whom I imagine
is a wayward sage with an earthen belly
and age lines on his smiling face.

Hiding deep in his expression
there is some ancient innocence to engage—
mine and his—
by joining our sex to make substance of our atoms
like foam after two waves thunder in that suck and boom
and delve into the sand’s uncreated infinitude.
There, crystals of brilliance spark like stars
born in Nature’s laboratory as gold in the refiner’s fire.

New centers will form in the complexity of our shape
and what we are shaping in our magmatic spirals
of quiet protest against all storms
that stay the progress of sharing our parts
from within the secret stratum of a world,
like an ocean, without walls.
One where we surf the gravity that pulls us close,
securing our wealth in the heat we hold.

Corpus Christi


There was a day like this in my infancy
When asleep in your pulsing womb I was shocked awake.

All of a sudden full grown and sorely groomed for an escape,
That cold departure from your warmth
Which alchemized for nine long months my small frame
Into muscle and skin and light, subtle
Like the last glowing vestiges of a fading California sun.


I never knew I could speak
—with the wholly naked command of a sincere prayer—
Something so inborn as that deep jolt, electric with the joy of surprise
At separating into a new and different birth
Emerging with tears for dear life at those shooting pains
That’ve shaped us as an artist would with chisel to stone
Into this quiet moment, cut
In smooth, manteling curves of maternal love
Sculpted soft like a living Pieta.


You’ll miss me when I’m gone, wandering on,
My back casting a long, cruciform shadow across your windows.
Wandering off if only to return with a lifetime spent scribbling
A million frenzied thoughts composed in bloody prose.

And when Calvary’s reached its longed-for peak
I’ll leave the moon to its ocean-bidding in big, swooshing gusts of high tide,
Alone. Without haste, I’ll make my slow way back home
To rope my two arms around your little warm body, worn,
Though willed strong enough to hold me up while I pull you in
To shoulder my head and rest my heart
As it beats its blood through arteries full of ache
That has this son still calling Mom—
Always in the dark.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Kathy in the Sky with Diamonds

A South Philly son has a story to tell
about his ma-belle's bout with cancerous spells,
committing her like age to a hospice cell

and a bed by her daughter's sleeping all
giving blanket to a mother's broken-bodied fall

down the still hour before birth where,
not long during the end of all care,

She awoke again. Again, like Lucy to light,
through cracks in the streets of a lily-flowering night

blooming over the weedy streets of all our Italies-
no home for the likes of the earth's Eleanor Rigbies.

A bird call and signal to spring,
Kath sings the anthem for the blizzard's end,
tapping water ice-fresh in revolutions of thaw.
The seed she searches out she becomes and sprouts,
thin like stalks into fruit's fragrant mist,
playing the sky as a teenage girl
who spends her heaven with Sgt. Pepper
and his merry troop of hill-fools,
tripping on magic down Blue Jay Way
while coffee percolates like vinyl's pop-and-crisp
in the early summer of strawberry-sweet fields,