Friday, December 28, 2018


You get so lonesome
sometimes you can’t see 
and what you can see
can’t possibly be there.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

happy hollowdays

Driving in the woods and the fog tonight 
almost the second car crash this week, 
the deer lit up scared in the headlights 
she went right, hooves down the pine needle bank
I went left, rubber down the asphalt slick. 

I turned my headlights into the woods
saw her breath puff out first, then 
her golden brown eyes 
coming around the corner of a tree
staring no blinking into my translucent blue eyes. 

She didn’t run.
Looked like she wanted to say
Merry Christmas. 

I knew exactly how she felt. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

A Fish Tale

I just got home.

But before I got here,
I was driving home—in a free, wide-open mood
from Trader Joe’s,
had some nice, highly-spirited conversations
with half the staff,
turns out they all like me.

I sorta thought so but now
I sorta know so, and I feel great.
Not that I’m so nipple needy
but it’s true what they say about community.
Guess I won’t hide from it anymore.

Well, anyway ...
I was driving home from Trader Joe’s
just now, feeling the loose and casual
but overwhelming ZING! of humanity
right down my spine.

But I lost control of my car in the blizzard
that is still going on out here and
I went into a long skid
sliding straight at a tree
doing 60
in a 35
the radio on number  ... well, way up Loud—
Tracy Chapman singing
"Give Me One Good Reason."

Yesterday was so bad, I thought
as I slid toward the tree,
back home a box of senior citizens down the hall
smelling like The End.

Give me one good reason not to go
straight into this tree, sang Tracy,
as I slid closer to it.

But today felt so good.
It had been such a friendly afternoon.

Still sliding, I thought:
if this is it, if I'm about to get killed
this is a good day to go,
a good way to go
everybody liking me out at Trader Joe’s.

I settled into the skid
turned up the radio
but the car began to fish-tail,
spin, ballerina around, and I missed the tree
and everything else

The car and I were facing back west,
the road empty, the snow still sending mail;
I drove back in that direction.

This not the end.
And I didn’t really just get home.
But I’m on the way.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Van, lonely at the airport

It’s cold and dark
then morning again, sun up
on the empty satellite parking lot
lots and lots of cars through the day
then night again, can’t see a thing, or anyone
all my metal chilled, my glass frosted over.

They must be coming back.
I watch the jets go over and over
over and over again, always the same jet sound
line of white smoke lays across the sky,
spreads out and goes away.

And the parking lot is empty again.
This feels lonely, even to me, a Van.
Especially lonely when it keeps repeating,
no change.

But they must be coming back.
Here comes the shuttle van again
and here come all the Thanksgiving families,
gathering somewhere, inside lots of houses, driveways
and garages full of motor vehicles, like every year,
and there goes that van again, emptied out
gone back to the airport for more.

You would think that someone would feel compassionately inclusive
about their own Ford Van.

I don’t think they know that I have a sense of compassion.
How would they know?
They don’t even know me enough to rotate my tires.

24 hours later

Well, ok. They aren’t coming back.
But I’m not going to let all my tires go flat over this.

I’m compassionate, but clever, too.
I have a plan, and I'm heating up my own wires
to turn on my radio—yeah, there it is—on!

Now I have romantic background music
for my romantic plan.
To start my own engine.

Been a while, nights and days revolving around each other,
so yes, the engine is cold.
I’ll keep trying.
Yes! There it goes, cough
so much smoke coming out of me,
I’ll let myself run awhile.

Listen to the music.
I'm vibrating all the way through;
my metal warming softer
my paint job coming alive again
my glass gleaming clear.

And the music, here, I’ll turn myself up.
Mozart, How I love Mozart. And I know this one well,
Piano Concerto #20 in D Minor, K 466 - 2. Romanza. 

They don’t know that, for a Van,
I’m compassionate, clever, and cultured.

But to hell with they. 
Always getting my pistons in a knot
worrying about they. 

I’m all warmed up, have my gas pedal down.
Goodbye parking lot. I’m off to race the jets,
leave my own vapor trail, but wait.
I don’t want to leave any kind of trail.

Twist a little to the left
again, again, once more;
I unscrew myself
and there go the license plates.

I’ll never run out of gas.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Call of the Child

And I was plenty wild.
The black and white future looked like a turned off TV set.

All alone, nerves on the bone, a silent black telephone.

But one night, through the gummy venetian blinds
the boring brick apartment buildings, past all the time zones
up into the snow and moon-scented green pine forest
something finally showed up, shook and boldly shone.

Then ... 

[Oh fuck this poem and give me that phone,
I still want to get out of there!]

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Je ne sais claus

I grew up in a narrow hallway of alcoholics
a family so dispirited that they mostly either died
or fell asleep early, watching tv.

There wasn’t a lot of esprit de corps around,
not to mention je ne sais quoi.

Because of all that I began to drink
and because of all that
I wound up in one of those meetings
years later
where a guy told a new kind of inspiring Christmas story.

He was driving drunk (naturally) on a snowy, frosty night,
it was Christmas Eve, the car windows all fogged up
the speedometer gauge fogged up too, he knew he was going too fast
and that he needed to make a right turn off the parkway
to get home to the prairie village where his family waited for him,
candles in the windows,
and since he didn’t want a speeding ticket
he reached through the steering wheel to wipe the speedometer clear
to see how fast he was going, and as he was wiping, drinking
from a vodka bottle with his other hand, watching for cops
hiding on side streets and behind snowmen, he came to his street
too fast
missed it
hit the brakes
went into a skid
hit a snowdrift and a curb with the front tires
which yanked the steering wheel spinning.

This broke his forearm, which hurt, of course
(made all of us in the meeting simultaneously flinch and spill coffee),
but he had toys to wrap for his daughter; he had milk, cookies
and notebook paper for her to write a note to Santa;
he knew his little girl and wife were waiting, probably by the fireplace.

So, with his other hand, he straightened the wheel
backed the car up out of the snow drift
took one more drink out of the vodka bottle
tuned in Christmas music on the radio
and carefully rolled home toward the candlelight,
through all the late-night blue and red twinkling, snowflakes flying,
broken arm dangling (he said) like droopy, after-Christmas tinsel.

That was some Christmas spirit!
In a whole childhood of Christmases
I’d never known anyone like this guy.

He said his daughter wrote the note to Santa later that night,
after they all got back from the Emergency Room.
She also gave Dad a bottle of Perrier in his stocking. 
“From Santa,” an attached note assured him next morning,
in her handwriting.


After the meeting I went to shake his hand
but got mixed up about which hand got twisted
in the spinning steering wheel, so I froze.
He noticed that and said, go on, put her there, that was years ago,”
but we hugged each other instead and promised never
to go through any of that again.

Coda 2

Then we both spilled our coffee, laughing!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Suicide packed

When I was ten, even younger
I was surrounded by all these old people
hanging around, nowhere to go, open mouth
yearning in their urine-colored clothes.

They were more drains than faucets.

I made a pact with myself right then
that if I got old like that, I’d get a special suitcase
take a little trip; I'd have way better clothes
and when the time came, I’d get all dressed up
and know exactly where to go.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Cub Scouts

I keep wondering why these old men
don’t scare me anymore.

It must have begun with my first and one and only
cub scout meeting, over before it began
because all us boys were left alone in the basement
a rumble broke out, biggest boys beating on the smallest,
as usual
until we heard the sound of sex upstairs
our Den Mother being raped.

I found that out later. Much later. She was raped.
Because of this, the Den Mother
went into her own den for years.

That day, though, I heard her, her voice upstairs
something maybe her bones bouncing on the floor,
elbows, knees, sound of a man, like a four-legged animal
growling, shhh-ing her, and her saying NO. NO. NO.

Underneath the rumble sounds downstairs
I said we better do something,
something bad is happening up there.
I got hit for that, red blood on the blue cub scout uniform.

Later, after it got quiet upstairs and down
and we all just sat around for awhile
me still bleeding where my Webelos badge
(or whatever it is) should be,
the Den Mother’s husband came down,
he was some sort of a scout leader, he saw me bleeding,
blamed me right off for all the broken furniture in his rec room,
and threw me out, told me to go home
go get some character somewhere.

Nobody ever asked who raped the Den Mother.
I thought it was the scout leader himself.
The Den Mother said so, later.
The cub scouts didn’t care.

So now, centuries of my life later
and the centuries still rolling along
men still mostly running the world,
why don’t they scare me anymore?

Because I know them.
That's why.
I’ve seen them.

I’ve seen them when they weren’t going off to church
and doing good for the community
coaching little league
leading scouts.

Supremely dependable, despicable
tediously predictable.
But better be fair (maybe), that’s just some of them,
like the ones in charge.

They may be in charge,
but take a look at them.
Nothing, nobody there.

I grew up in a thicket of widows
a close and sticky
lonely, prickly childhood,
for sure.

Sometimes someone would come along
and say, hey, don’t you need
an older man to look up to?

I’d look up and see the sun
later that night, the moon.
And always somewhere else
a lot farther away.

The Kids Table

I’m watching women this week, taking cues from them
about how to deal with all this pain I’m feeling.
I see them being wise, funny, sad, sharp, smart, alert, aware,
compassionate, furious, strong, irreverent, wounded, bold,
undiminished, and way alive! Their pilot light is BRIGHT BLUE!

They must feel this time worse than me, but something's been coming up in me, too.

I haven’t been raped (nearly every woman I know has been raped
or abused), but I feel sad, scared, alone, vulnerable to attack, insulted, hurt,
and really fucking mad.

I look and listen to the sexist men up there at the top and feel
my own childhood rising again; bullied, belittled, physically threatened,
patronized, verbally cut up and reduced, punished, ignored and isolated.

The men told me to be physically brutal, but later they said
(gym class over, the football game over): now it’s time to grow up, Man Up, 
be reasonable, be rational, be like us, calm down, grow up (again),
take a breath, be realistic, all of it meaning: DON’T get emotional.

Which made me even more emotional, feeling scared and crazy,
which, in their bloodshot eyes, put me out at the Kids Table.

“Grow up, what you feel is not feasible, you’re not a serious person.”
Said and say the old men. Sit at the Kids Table, let the Adults (men) talk.

I’m full of PTSD from all my own childhood abuse, a recovered
(even reupholstered) alcoholic, and I’m allergic to peanut butter,
though that last one probably isn’t relevant here.

Well, go to hell you sexist old men. I’ve seen you before,
I know what you do. If you ever die and maybe you have it in your mind
you wanna go to heaven, I hope when you get there
it’s forever fucking closed to you.
No heaven, no hell, nowhere to go. See how you like it.

Speaking of nowhere to go: we're out here, the women and men like me,
we aren’t going anywhere. And there’s a lot of us.

Bless your hard sexist hearts, you old men. But namaste the fuck away from me.

(Written during the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings) 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Blue Wedgwood China cracks across the midnight sky.

Then, black.
Silent everywhere.
Alone, bone cold, but cool.

Lonely like childhood, but all romantic
like I like it, anything can happen.
Tonight, the sky is literally the limit.

I say, in the dark, out loud, “Well,
you gotta die sometime
I may as well try for it right now, dramatically!”

I stand in a puddle of rain and wait
I count, wait a few seconds and—BANG.
A cool blue breeze, but no, not the end of me.

Because now, I glow in the dark.
The dark glows, too.

And childhood is over.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Chewing the Cud

A couple of cows, talking in the grass, in Iowa.
A bottle of white wine chilling on ice between them.

They look up at the jets flying low
lower their heads and focus across the fields
at all the cars on the road, all of them on the way
to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

“Here come those fuckers again,” says the brown cow.

“Yeah, look at ‘em. They oughta stop,” says the black cow.

“Why do they do it?”

“Beats me. And they call us herd animals.”

“I came up with an acronym.”

“A what? That's a little ambitious, isn't it? Ok,
let’s hear it.”


“Spell it out.”

“C for conformity.
  U for uniformity.
  D for deformity.”

“That's good. I think I get it. But why the last one?
Why deformity?”

“Comes from the first two, what happens
to whatever they were born with
when they come up here.”

“Well, it almost happened to me. Roll me
some hay. Is hay better with white or red?
I don’t think anybody'd believe that we could
come up with an acronym, as cows.”

“I don’t think they think we could talk.”

“I don’t think I think they can write.”

They aim and open a bottle of red
and the cork shoots straight up into the blue
barely missing a jet full of writers.

That’ll show em!”

Monday, July 23, 2018

Character Building

The minute I told that macho he-man high school gym teacher to fuck off,
I was free.

All the classes before his were like surgical waiting rooms
and I waited
worried in all of them, with a blank brain as dark and cold
as the inside of a refrigerated truck.

But it’s ok. He’s doing the pushups now.
Daises, I mean.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

No barbershops, no MFA

I don’t want my hair trimmed
not to mention my lush, lively, unmarketable eyelashes; 
not to mention my wild, wet grasses
or my high, swinging vines.

Burst of Bubbles!

I saw it all. I am the head chef at
the Trickling Minutes Nursing Home
and I even got it all on my cell phone camera.
It looked like this—

—Oscar, trying to eat his cantaloupe,
which kept sliding away on his plate like a
slippery orange canoe, said:

“You feeling alright, Lester? You look a little jumpy.”

“I think my heart’s gonna blow!”

“What? Hey! Where’s your wife?”


“What? At 90?”

“So what? She’s out there on the waves. Hey.
Did you like the Bee Gees?”

“Why would you ask me that in this moment?”

“My ex-wife's ex boyfriend—this was in '78—
he called them The Dolphins, because of how high
they sing. I just remembered that because we
were talking about the sea.”

“Say, I like this new ramp they’ve put in
for us and our wheelchairs.”


“Right there behind you. From the cafe here, all the way
down the hall to the new indoor pool. That will come in handy!”

“Hey. Yeah. Look at that! They put in that red wallpaper
and those yellow lights only last week, not to mention
all the paintings! And I'm ready for a swim, maybe even
today. I never could surf though, Oscar.”

“Listen Lester, why don't you read me from your book
while you finish that omelette. Take your time.
What is it? Moby Dick again? Is there any surfing in there?”

“It’s all I ever read, at this point. Where do you want me to start?”

“At the start.”

“Ok. Hmmm, 625 pages. Fuck me! Ok. Well,
here: Call me Ishmael. Some years agooh oh oh. OH!”

“Is this still Moby Dick?”

Lester had picked up his fat hardback of Moby
Dick to read out loud, but he'd picked up an end of
the tablecloth with it, and when he leaned back to relax,
and read—he’d set his wheelchair in motion—backwards
and down the handicapped ramp, taking the table cloth
with him like a long white wedding train.

Oscar grabbed onto the other end of the table cloth and
was pulled along like a panicked bridesmaid—in a wheelchair!

“Hey Lester! You alright? Hang on! We're headed
for the pool! How's your heart?”

“It's beating fast! I think it's gonna blow!”

“BREATHE! Try to meditate before we hit the pool!”

“Oh Oscar, is there time for that? Ha ha, this is fun!”

“It is, but are you alright?”

Lester rolled down the hall into the new blue-tiled indoor
pool room and splashed backwards into the water.
The long table cloth shortened, sort of bunched up and accordioned
into the pool as Oscar rolled down and splashed in on top of it all.

I couldn't see Lester from where I was, running down the ramp.
I threw off my apron and tall chef's hat in order to run faster,
and when I got there I still saw no Lester, but Oscar was floating
and flailing at the water, calling out for his friend.

Then there were bubbles. Bursting up effervescently like
the champagne I'd opened the night before at the
Trickling Minutes Friday Night Chess & Champagne Hour.

Lester bobbled up pink, spraying laughter!
I went back up the ramp and put my chef's hat back on, so relieved,
staying close to enough to hear and film the rest.

“Lester! Catch your breath! How's the heart? Did it blow?”

“Not this time, old friend!”

“I thought you died down there. I missed you already.”

“Not today, Oscar. Not yet. Maybe never, and who cares when it comes!
Isn't this all—hasn't this been—fun?

“We do have fun. Remember the time we accidentally set fire to the gift shop?”

“Those corny cards and stuffed animals really burn!”

They laughed and splashed and then they looked at me.

“What's for lunch, Captain?”

“What would you like?”

“Well, it's almost Thanksgiving, how about pumpkin pie?”

“And champagne?” I asked.

“And champagne. Yes.”

Friday, June 8, 2018

Gift shop 
in the Dada Art Museum
(1 a.m.)

Snowing outside, the night coming in blue 
and white through the gallery windows. 
Heavy snow, but dry inside in the dark, all the paintings asleep, 
the night guard walking around on his usual path. 

But something new tonight. A light, a flash—
like a signal, unusual after midnight in here tonight
inside the museum.

The guard, in the middle of a yawn, freezes 
like that, moves toward the flash, mouth wide open. 

The halls zig zag like modern architecture,
white walls (even in the dark) go right then left, 
and the flash is now a smoldering yellow glow on the walls 
getting brighter as he steps through the halls, gets closer.

The guard goes on and completes his yawn, 
comes out of the halls to the shiny glass windows of the gift shop
where the glow flickers like a campfire in the woods.
Or an upstairs window
on a snowy homecoming night. 

It’s a nightlight for sale. 
A Van Gogh (self portrait) nightlight. 

“Hi,” says the nightlight, as the guard enters the gift shop 
and goes into another yawn, a nervous yawn, the nervous yawn
of a first date, or the first time he talks to a nightlight. 

But—“Hi,” he says. 

“You're the guard, aren't you? It's good to meet you,” 
says Vincent. “I have a show coming here soon, it's good
to know that you’ll be here.” 

“Thank you, Mr. Van Gogh. But you know, well— 
it could be anybody doing what I do.”

“That’s untrue. Do you like it in here?

“I do, a lot. It’s peaceful and safe. Especially on a snowy night.” 

“Oh, it’s snowing out there?” 

“Yes. And when I walk around in here, I want to do it too, 
I want to make a painting.” 

Van Gogh’s straw hat flashes even brighter yellow and he says,
“Why don’t you?” 

“I think it’s too late for me to do that in life.” 

“And that is always untrue. I didn’t know that I 
was going to be in art galleries all over the world, let alone
become a nightlight,” says Vincent, looking the night guard 
in the eye. “Go on—when you walk around in here, live
in here, dream in here, stay in here, even when you go home.
But I think you're already doing that, aren't you?”

The guard lives on the top floor of a carriage house 
around the corner from the museum and behind a mansion
and as he listens to Van Gogh, he can see his new brushes
and clean white canvases waiting for him back there in the dark.
He also sees that he left a window open by the bed, the snow is getting in,
and his just-off-work waitress girlfriend's paint-splattered foot
sticking out of the covers is getting snowed on, but—
he feels that everything's going to be alright, after tonight. 

“I only sold one, you know,” says the nightlight. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Luggage carousel at the airport 
after midnight
going round and round  

Some people have kids and grandkids
and friends of the kids and then their kids
so when these some people are about to die, 
all these kids show up with jokes and food and fun 
and Depends and plans for what’s next, after death, 
sort of: See you soon! Get a good table! 

And then there’ll be us others, kidless old people
like the last luggage on the airport carousel, 
going round and round
in the empty airport
after midnight. 

But, it’s ok. 

There’ll be a new flight in the morning
every seat filled, but spread out,
ALL class
seats soft as clouds almost as pretty
as the white ones out the windows,
like the ones we slept on 
(in our imaginations) as babies,
though these are real
piled up and up and up endlessly
into the blue sky above the blue sky. 

And maybe is good enough. 

It’s a friendly flight,
endless champagne
shiny, soft, squirting fruit
no seatbelts
laughing kids loose in the aisles
acrobatic, loose in laughter
or sleeping, unalarmed. 

Us older ones watching them and loosening too,
learning from them and going in reverse,
back to before we got hijacked. 

No seatbelts. 
And a long movie! 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

No deposit, no return

A little early in the morning
I walked up the beach above Malibu
above the Reel Inn Tavern
the sand, the sea, and the sky all the same color,
and a seagull came down, gently
like a floating Kleenex
landed, walked up to me, and started talking.

I was drunk, but I swear it happened. 

“I don’t mean to hover,” said the gull, “but
I’ve been watching you, and it seems to me
that you’re trying too hard. You’re living so people
can say—at your funeral—how nice you were.” 

I looked away, out at the sandy horizon. 

The seagull walked over to a bottle on the beach,
kicked it over a half turn.

“C’mon buddy, isn’t it true?  You can tell me. 
We all do it. But look at this bottle—can you see it
from there? It says, NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN. 

The seagull flashed feathers and got up in blue sky. 

I flashed up there too, and followed her. Or him. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Here, and makeup

The sun comes up, hotel staff bubbling
like hot butter
in the lobby downstairs.

I sneak out the backdrop
while she goes to Saks shopping for “foundation.” 
I’m trying to hold onto mine. 

Exit, stage left, get the staff out,
burn down the stage. 
The moon comes up; now 
we're all fine. Coffee and chicory
on the moonlit flames, in the open air.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

After the life, after
the funeral 

I miss my mother. 
I always did. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Face your fears? Not me! 

You’re supposed to. Face all your fears.
Nobody questions it. 

Like this poem, for example;
I’m supposed to read it out loud 
in a month. Well, listen here ...

You can go skydiving, bungee jumping,  
go to endless seminars, webinars, conventions,
self-esteem affirmation confirmation macrame
circles (whew! out of breath), and read all the books.
I've done it, you've done it. (So, maybe I'm wrong.) 

Or, you can sit still. Can you hear it?

Many rooms in your own mansion,
so big in there, so many rooms less musty
than the library. All those rooms, your best friend
in every one of them. 

One of these ways of living,
if it had a smell,
smells like the inside of a K Mart 
underneath overhead 
lighting, dead moth-buzzing. 

The other way smells like 
the outside of a pine forest 
under a blue sky, polar bears still

I’m not going to worry anymore. 
I may die with some of my fears intact. 

Anyway, sometimes it’s not fear. 
It’s a choice. And Captain, my Captain
that feels good.  

Anyway, Van Gogh
(Look at all those swirling colors!)
needed external affirmation like he
needed an ear in the head. 

You hear me? 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Baby’s first words

The two year old baby boy rolled by 
like a yellow, blue-eyed tumbleweed of trickery; 
mother looked down
cracked the whip with her eyes, 
made his bed with her voice and said: “MIND!” 

The whip missed 
the bed covers flew off,
he looked up with his two blue two
year old eyes, said: "YES!
I have one. And while I do love you, 
I'm ignoring you!” 

He rolled on and out of sight 
towards his talkative future. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Out there, in here ... out there!

They say, “Put yourself out there!”

What’s out there is Fun Popularity. 
It’s bright and orange-colored, 
like a plastic hamburger. 

In here, there’s no walls or ceilings
(it’s not a community center, not the Oscars) 
but there’s a silvery blue velvet light
you can see no end of. 
Green mossy rocks underwater 
under feet 

No bullet points anywhere 
to be seen
or even checked off. 

You can control out there a little
in here, not at all. 

I was a baby and 
like all babies born wild, 
out of control. 

It’s too late to workshop the baby now. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Who’s your Dada?
(Nobody’s getting famous 
around here)

61 today, the sexily graying at the temples busboy
buses his last table and clocks out 
in the kitchen. 

See you tomorrow, says someone, theoretically
his boss. 

That’ll be the fucking day, says the busboy.

You’re fired! 
(the boss) For profanity! 

That’s more like it! (busboy) For perpetuity, too, I hope!

The busboy takes the subway uptown to Juilliard 
and applies for a job: Cello, First Chair. (Or, male chanteuse.)  
Amazingly, after the paperwork, he has an interview 
in five minutes. 

The music department chair pulls one up
and asks 

Can you tell me what a flatted fifth is? 

Oui Madame, I can 
(says the ex-busboy). 
It’s when you throw a gin bottle out the window
on the West Side Highway. 

You’re hired (says the musical chair).
Can you tell me something about yourself? 

I was fired an hour ago. 

Mon Dieu! Why would you tell me that?

So I can rhyme the end of this poem. 

Oh, I see. Fired, and hired. Good.

When do I begin?


The end. 
(Or is it?)