Saturday, March 4, 2023

Disheveled rebel baby 

Yes, I was born disheveled. 

I felt precarious already, but also way precocious.  

Ready for action, said the nurses, so they say. 

A couple of years later, in the first grade, 

I was sent to the principal’s office for climbing up

the venetian blinds (those tough old heavy wooden slats) 

of my classroom. I had to stand in the corner. 

Something was going on. 

Some of it was sheer crazy baby energy, but also 

because somehow I knew that I’d been born 

with an unfair advantage, me, a little boy, 

and because of that kind of male delivery, the world 

and all the doors were ridiculously, unfairly open. 

I saw the little girls getting the short end of it all (later, 

they grew up, turned into women, and I still saw it). Well, 

fuck that, I said 

in some some sort of equivalent baby language. 

That’s not fair, I said to the principal, 

from the corner, and I’m gonna mess with it. 

And messing with it messed with my mother, a grandad, 

some of the teachers, most of the the male coaches 

and all of those gym classes and other classes from one end 

of school to the other. Jobs, and a lot more, later on. 

No matter what, I’d proceed, evermore—disheveled.

It’s not enough, I know, to change everything or maybe anything 

for all my girl and women friends, but I’ll do all I can 

to short circuit it all, stick up for my friends ... 

and fuck up my unfair advantage. 

Anyway—as women know as well or better than me—

the corner can be a real dangerous place. 

For the so-called principals in the room. 

I said, to the principal. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023


Birds both in leather 

I drove into the Whole Foods parking lot, a black bulge 

of weather rolling in over the mountains, Led Zeppelin 

turned up loud as I could get it (“When the Levee Breaks”) 

and slammed into I thought an empty space 

except for a bird sitting in a bush, looking me right in the eye. 

She didn’t move, I turned off the music, and the car. 

She cocked her head left, then right. I kept quiet. 

I got out of the car way more gentle than I usually do, 

came around the car door softly; she watched me move. 

The bird was propped up on a green-gone-brown limb 

and she was not getting ready to fly; trusting me as I got closer, 

I don’t know why; this was all making me softer— 

the bird watching me, trusting me, I don’t know why. 

The granola crowd was glaring, going into the store, 

still mad at me for the loud rock and roll; I was melting. 

The bulge of weather overhead was about to unload, 

the granola shoppers went shopping; I saw that the bird’s back leg 

was caught on the strap of an old abandoned purse, 

leather rotting, trashed-out, but still holding down her down.  

I got low, close, real tender, touched the strap, and just barely, 

freeing her leg instantly, I hoped not hurting her, but the bird

—a she or a he bird, either way we were birds of a feather—

went on looking at me, and still she didn’t immediately fly away. 

Then she did, she flew, and she was gone. 

I lost my train of thought, and the shopping list. 

I was thrown and touched by the entire moment, 

got back in the car, caught the tail of my leather jacket 

on the door, going too fast, forgetting for a second my new soft thing, 

then I slid in my Norah Jones CD and drove away from the storm. 

Sunday, January 8, 2023


One way or another, a Love Poem, at last 

There was a particularly wonderful woman 

and what I did to try to win her over 

is almost as unforgettable as she was, is. Almost. She wins.  

The Saturday of our date I got ready 

by going down to the independent bookstore, 

that was my first angle of impressing her. 

Well, second, my second angle, the first being  

Lemon-Pledging the shit out of my apartment, 

which made her cough a lot a little later. But Smilingly. 

At the bookstore, up and down the aisles, 

up and down the stairs, I picked out my book. 

Being and Nothingness, by Jean-Paul Sartre. Bingo. 

(I was probably smart back then 

maybe a little bit rustic

so I resorted to these sorts of subterfuges

and they always backfired. But it all always worked out.) 

I took the fat philosophy book home, bent up the pages, 

cracked open a beer, accidentally spilled it on hundreds 

of the thousands of pages, knocked over my cold cup 

of morning coffee on the cover and casually flipped the book

on the couch where I’d been reading all that day long.   

I had a spring in my steps as I ran up hers

to the top floor, her door flew open 

with a perfumed whoosh, and off we went to dinner. 

During which dinner I discovered that she 

was a philosophy major

in the university that we’d both attended, 

her, philosophically attended, to a PhD. 

She noticed me sliding down, a little cornered 

in our red-leather corner booth of the Savoy Grill.

She asked if I was having an existential crisis, but

having not really read the book, I hadn’t a clue what to say. 

After dinner, back at my place, after I opened the windows, 

and once she’d stopped coughing, 

she told me she was charmed by my “well-thumbed” book 

and I could tell by the look on her face, so close to mine

(as she flipped pages, reading all the places I’d underlined) 

that she was not making that up, she wasn’t just saying that. 

Our first kiss happened then, her up on tip-toe 

Being and Nothingness falling from her free hand 

to the floor between her shoes, 

already resting on their sides. 

We were in love for awhile. At last, we said goodbye. 

But it was easy, we still loved each other. We said so. 

When we said goodbye, she was still shaking her head at me 

as she walked away, looking back at me as if 

I were an un-subtitled French movie, but still, 

she looked glad. (And I bet she spoke French, too.) 

I would remain rustic a few more years 

but just so this poem doesn’t end narcissistically (sp?),

I want to say that, as I walked away 

I was looking back over my shoulder at her,

and I was shaking my head, too. 

She was great. 


Saturday, December 17, 2022

 Out the dog door 

I was watching a professional football game

and the crowd of booing bloated beerheads 

not to mention the belligerently ballistic head coach 

were all screaming RED at the quarterback

who was obviously doing his best,

when suddenly—I had a memory of my junior high school gym class 

and it hit me like a clothesline tackle. 

But before I go there, I had a simultaneous but not off 

the subject memory during the two-minute warning. 

Having to do with how I hate it when people speak of 

animals as dumb animals. I must have a vested interest. 

Once, I saw a little dog at a Christmas plus Hanukkah party, 

little holiday bells on her collar, she was only trying to love 

everybody in sight, not leave anybody out, running between 

everybody’s legs, looking up, looking up at everyone, 

but when she—eyes up, ears up, paws up—when she

 jumped up                                          

well fuck, that was it. 

The party stopped, everybody went berserk. 

They screamed at her so hard her eyes went wide, went back 

in her head, shaking so hard she froze, got low, then she ran 

out to somewhere away from the dining room, so fast between 

the mingling shoes until she got out the dog door, by herself in the dark, 

eyes wide and white like the moon above her

and she stared up at it like maybe, just maybe, there was something 

like her up there, somebody or something simpatico. 

I watched, having discreetly followed her out the dog door, 

and the moon must have helped her because when she 

looked back down to earth, over at me, saw me peeing in the bushes, 

she seemed to understand that I knew what she was going through. 

I sure did. And the first time I understood it was way back 

in the early 70s, one day in junior high school gym class.  

Maybe not anymore, but back in the 70s they gave you a shirt 

in gym class with a blank box on the front  

where you were supposed to write your name. 

After the bullying dull-eyed teacher, coach, father figure,  

future driver’s ed instructor 

had called me “bird muscle” and worse (to him, what did I care?), 

like disrespectful, undisciplined, maybe even unAmerican, 

made me do at least four or five thousand push-ups 

for my attitude, and for being good at all his sports anyway, 

even with my hairdo, 

I took out a pen and wrote clear and strong black and white 

bold in the blank box not my name but    OUT OF ORDER. 

I sure was. (He flunked me, and worse). I sure am. 

And the dog howls at the moon any night she wants to 

but no longer needs to long for the moon 

because she can see that there are no dogs on the moon

and she wants fun and love down here on earth.

And the quarterback, no timeouts left, 3rd and long, 

smiles, sort of festively 

at the line of scrimmage

changes the play, then he runs—

eighty yards

around the safety 

and any other sort of safety  

and dives into the end zone, head-first over the head 

of the head coach (athletically, rebelliously, 

surrealistically not going out of bounds)—for a touchdown! 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

No Dutch Uncles, no mansplaining 

after midnight (at sunrise, or ever again) 

Change (especially internal) 

doesn’t only come down political hallways. 

Sometimes you have to go up high, over the hill, 

through the magical moonlit smoke 

up to where the coyotes are running. 

But not for office. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Christopher Blue 

How I feel tonight is how I felt long ago, 

the night before going to school knowing the bullies 

were gonna get me behind the gym, and I couldn’t stop it. 

HOWEVER—that night long ago, I made a plan: 

come morning I’d lie to my mother (another bully) about 

going to school, then go off, play hooky. Everywhere. 

But don’t get me wrong; I’ve already bullied my way 

(fiercely, yet festively—in a shade of Christopher BLUE) 

into the voting booth and made my mark, way before 

heading off to higher ground. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Spinach for Popeye 

There’s a radio tower seen at night—blinking 

rhythmic red bulbs—for miles in all directions 

above 31st and Main Street in Kansas City, 

and below it one night we all piled out of a bar at 

a break between sets of music by They Might Be Giants. 

We smoked in the alley, the sun wasn’t down yet 

so I looked up into the steel tower and told them, 

these women and men pals of mine, that I could climb it; 

I pointed at the straight up ladder, they looked straight up. 

They didn’t go for it

thought it was the smoke talking 

laughed in a nice way, hugged me in a loving way, 

then went back into the bar for more independent music. 

The sun went down and I began to climb. 

The view got better and clearer, longer and farther, if 

at times colder, sometimes hotter, and I haven’t fallen off yet.