Posts for June 28, 2016


A Small Picture of Somebody’s Former Lover

Who’s that, she asked of the portrait. I said nobody I knew, just an interesting painting that caught my eye. I didn’t mention it could have been you, even after a closer look. You’re not as tall, not as underfed thin. The red hair you sported in the middle of our life turned back to blonde before too long, and your breasts are far more to my tastes. Still, the two of you could be confused, if not for twins, at least for sisters. One of you a stranger holding no memories, one of you a ghost presenting far too many. 


Limerick with Neologisms

There once was an escapegoat incepted with diction.
He had an infactuation for any illiteration.
All texts he could owloominate.
Yet others cared not when he spake.
What else could he do but ignore the reaper cushion?


Buried angels

Don’t try to find breakfast in bed
my barefoot queen: friction and whiplash
and painted horses turn the mind
south of nowhere. A lack of temperance

and the lost art of gratitude drive
the pilgrim to sin and swoon.
All we ever wanted was everything,
breaking the rules on a ring and a prayer.

We fear the darkness, and the fire witnesses
the other side of silence.

(found poem: book titles on the shelves at the Eastside Library)


mal de coucou

When the teacher says to
get into groups of three or four
for a project on
or something
and you turn to your friend
on the right,
but she’s already paired
with her home girls,
and you turn to your friend
to the left
but he’s got his gang
all rounded up
and you turn to your friends
in the front and
in the back
but you already know
in the back of your head that
they’ve all congregated

You’re like that buckaroo
locked in a duel-
middle of town-
hoping one of them
friendly neighbors
steps forward from
where they’re watching
in front of saloon doors
and porches
to negotiate some sort of
rational deal instead
but nobody does


Speculating Genre

Speculating Genre    

If I could, then I would show you
there is truth in the spider
on its web, with sunlight slipping
through my window—her body
incandescent, bioluminescent,
burnished golden carapace
& iridescent web.

Is this magic? If it is, then I believe
we walk in fantasy, flesh & stars
& confluence in crucibles of time
& energies, surrounded by spirits
& all manner of elemental deity,
the strings of fate within our palms
if we could only learn
to see.

Or is this science? If it is, then
I imagine all the cosmos as machine,
theories & rules, stars & moons,
every living thing an ever smaller gear
chewing gears chewing shafts & pins
& springs gravitating toward
tighter realities, never metaphor,
never semblance, until the whole
is tinier than the whole
& what makes sense
returns to be
automagical, and thereby
fantasy, once upon again.

Even so, regardless, but:
My fiery spider spins,
never asking,
never wondering,
never noticing
she is all I know
or need to know

of wonder.


Teaching: A Backward Glance 1

Today’s Learning Objective: Understand the intricate relationship between Meaning and Form in “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” by George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Bell rings. I take attendance
(Never fail to take attendance.)
And then I  begin
In much the same way as last time: 

Notice, students, Byron’s use of anapestic foot,
Rare in the English language;
Note how it quickens the pace of the poem,
Mimicking the movement of the Assyrians’ horses
Galloping toward the destruction
Of their perceived foe.

Note the sibilance–hypnotic, soporific in its effect,
As if the sheen and shine of spears and stars
Morphs into some muted lullaby 
While the Galilean Sea ebbs and flows
In its eternal pattern.

Ah, but life does not always go as planned, does it? 
For we see in the assonance in Stanza 2,
How the gleeful connotation of the long e in the first two lines
Is supplanted by the sorrowful connotation of the long o in lines 3 & 4.

[There follows the inevitable “pregnant pause” in the lesson, as I wait for the students to figure out what just happened, so unmistakably revealed through the imagery and the sound patterns. It is usually a soft voice from somewhere in the middle of the room that whispers, “They all died.”]

Yes, exactly. They all died. Under the outstretched wings, no less, of the Angel of Death.

So then, students, note where Byron departs 
From his established metric pattern: 
Note the events in those lines that have, say,
Eleven rather than twelve syllables,
How those critical events are so masterfully signaled 
By the poet’s crafting of those lines.

And so it would always go.
I was the teacher,
Playing the part,
Sticking to the script, maintaining professional separation
Between my teacher-role and my life,

Never saying, 
Listen! This line! This one about how “their hearts
But once heaved and forever—stood—still”—
Hoping no one would notice those last two words
Sticking on my breathless lungs,

Never saying, Listen! This is true!  For months, 
Before he died,
This line raced through my head,
Through my heart—
Over and over and over,
Galloping like those ill-fated horses,
And I was afraid!

I listened,
I pondered,
I did not understand

Until the day he died,
The day the horses stopped galloping,
The day I knew that the poetry, however imperfectly heard,
Had been, after all, a preparation.

Heart-listening, of course, is not prescribed in the curriculum.

Learn prosody, dear students—
You know–
For the test. 



The Master Poet

                                     The Master Poet

Captures the post-modern
humor of pretentions,
the grittiness of ordinary life.

He says the shocking–
what everyone knows
but nobody says.

These are the insights
we’re looking for
rising out of silence.


Miles on Waves

Bitches Brew, Swallow
Mind quakes, feel
The groove, soundscapes

Record turns

C Minor, improv
Pentatonics flow like wine
A chromatic drive

Steve Cummings


I’m reading a book about the history and future of genetics

I’ve made progress but not yet reached the central plates de rigueur

The kind of book a dilettante reads in order to be one

And the author has explained that most genes don’t do just one thing

but many, at different times in different combinations, cascades

genes manipulating proteins manipulating genes manipulating proteins

And since I know, dear reader, that you’ve studied my other work

it’s no surprise to you that this, to me, might be another proof of God

that I am explaining to my wife and she says

“Then you live in a snowglobe.”

Which reminded me of a short story by Philip K. Dick

and It’s probably not anything like this but here’s how I remember it:

       The fifth grade project was to make a universe and the boy was real proud of     his, it was beautiful and whimsical, the peoples peaceful and happy.  He took it to school but it didn’t fit the political agenda – the teachers chastised and belittled him and the kids jeered.  On the way home, the other boys and a girl made fun of him some more and made him cry and, all alone, he smashed his universe on the sidewalk.

And I wonder: 

Would I do that?

Would He?


What Matters?

Monstrous sobs steal breath
Curl around fists of tissues
Choking frustration
Press vomit-scented carpet
Salt tears drying my lips tight