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No one understands

No one understands humans
who fails to recognize that human
capacity for illusions—illusions even
contrary to interest or how human it is
to love what so obviously harms us

We’re dust-based water infused matter that thinks

Howard failed to become a medical doctor
He got his doctorate in psychology instead
just like his mother—Howard’s unrealized
dreams “Your father, your fucking father”
she mocks me just before our break-up

Hope is our toxin

“I like Nixon” the young suit said
to another suit in the elevator
Didn’t care who else heard him “He’s
obnoxious but I like him” “He’s
obstreperous and wily, so I like him”

Those false fitful days are done

Mom once said “This family,
we’re not easily impressed”
Only an idiot takes seriously
the modern idea that the human
animal is somehow improving

Illusions our fellow beasts simply don’t need

I do love the smell of bagels baking
first thing in the morning
You’re two dimensional to me now
Your third dimension collapsed
and nothing I did could save it     

Our world’s a messy, fraudulent place

A hollow, heartless spectacle
Like the ancient gladiators’ blood 
Like the Aztec human sacrificial screams
Like a chaos of desire and violence
Like our fiery fierce first warrior loves

Order’s a thin veil stretched over chaos

The effects it produced—enthusiasm,
fanaticism, magnanimous sacrifice and
heroism, the usual effects of any great
illusionism, the actor’s larger than life
projection of our personalities

Her presence was a gift life gave him 

Deep down he’s kind of sappy
He cries easily over love, death
or loss stories—pathological,
subhuman forces beneath an
intermittent radiance of light 

In a mystification of dust


-December 26, 2020-

In relationships

In relationships what matters is what
we put into them, give into them, how
we illuminate them, invoke them to
ourselves from within

The essence of your sweetness

Wolves were seen in the city
Dogs were heard howling at night
Those who play politics with our
lives, who’ve lost the middle way

Pain’s just pain, however it rages

There she waddles behind her walker
Onlookers don’t find her heroic
as she endures the humiliation
of trying so hard to walk

Grand but not exaggerated

His authoritarian arguments
are more amusing than convincing
His elderly dotage, its sterling  
self-adulation and self-admiration

Fallen gods strum upon his heartbeats

Many will benefit from what we’ve done
for years after we’re gone—A cantankerous
road and yet we sometimes found a sensuous,
useful, universal, procedural acceptance

Thank you for this

The rich—so easy to mock, so
difficult to overthrow—He died
with those foolish beliefs, didn’t live
long enough to see them crumble

Brief binding moments of transcendence

“They complete one another” That’s
what we say if the marriage works
“They competed with, they undermined,
each other” we say when it fails

Our invisible, inviolable worlds

However closely I observe you
I can’t enter your skin—Personalities
don’t change much—It’s always
your own experience that you live

Throughout your life, there you are

-December 12, 2020-

A conspiracy

Pulsating bodies—
their hungers, lusts and limits

This was a conspiracy 

The integrity of an American
president—what’s that to me?

so vast and so successful

We no longer expect perfection—
and we’ve all experienced loss

that there’s no

We will all age, if we’re lucky—
the difference is the how of it

evidence of it

Actually, money can—
and often does, open the way

If it’s true,   

Promises were broken—
or were they even promises at all?

I really want to know 

Our president—
that pathetic, unraveling diva

the people who

Caught a mouse in my end table—
in a trap made not to hurt it

pulled this off

Took the trap and the mouse—
down to the mud and set it free

We need to hire them 

How relentless and—
indomitable life can be

to spy for us at the CIA


-November 28, 2020-

No one can

No one can quite visualize just what
quantum mechanics looks like—
“particle or wave, wave and particle”
Yet its equations accurately predict
future states—“Shut up and calculate”

We flirt with mysticism but
it’s not a serious part of our thinking
We try to stay close to the core
“We won’t just shut up and dribble, you
noxious right wing lady TV troll

You shut up with your white
supremacist utopian bullshit”
“You shut up, callous Kentucky
fucktard, with your cowardly
horrific, racist assaults”

When mom had a hysterectomy in
order to mitigate the noxious effects
of out of control breast cancer, our
friend, Gene, told us “This isn’t like her
gall bladder surgery and there won’t

be anywhere near a complete recovery”
Love can be generous and calculating
like the love of reason dedicated to
insight and not some tribal intoxication,
that churns us towards a byway of hate

Our method requires tests that might
refute the theory tested though no test
can forever establish a theory
“I try to console myself but the
grief of your death conquers

every lasting consolation”
If we give up eating chickens
and their eggs, how many chickens
will we cultivate and how many
chickens will live? The old-fashioned

way: that old timey mix of partisan
argument, political maneuvers and
rancid propaganda—freedom more
vital to them than equality—“The freedom
to use your fist ends where my chin begins”

She’s alive in my mind all the time
Newton preferred his own company,
the better to work without interruption
“I can’t believe in masses of people
I can only know them one at a time”

Newton compartmentalized—a part
of him required unrelenting empirical
testing for insights where all
other moves are forbidden—no
magical aesthetics, no sky hooks

But beauty generates ideas and provides
for delight, sterling colors in a private
autumnal world, life’s contradiction of the
nothing from which we stem and finally go
Beauty is, however, ineffective thinking

We hate most in others that which most
reminds us of our own sickly, vile foibles  
They take pride in a hate that should
shame them, shroud it in fine words
that are nothing more than words—

Propaganda with its blend of genuine
insight and malicious gibberish, societies
that normalize dehumanizing behavior,
murderous acts committed, not by outliers,
but by so many mediocre, ordinary people

Our illusions create our relationships
She holds the sick swan in her left hand
covered in her jacket while she props
up her bike with her right hand
That’s the kind of person she is

Can we ever count on good will
and good faith? There was Gene, bent
over, crying so hard at my mom’s funeral
She was gone forever and no one like
her would ever be with us again

-November 14, 2020-

He relaxes

He relaxes now in the rubble,
afraid of the cold and rain—Once,
he went all in for love and was hurt

A guy walks between two cars who open
fire on one another—Wrong place and
time, bad luck and he’s shot in the head

“How does anything happen except
spontaneously, by force, from nothing?”
When young he reaches for the sun

Passionate commitments expose us
She often pretends to be ill
“Life’s water, heat and impacts”

The sight of her is like a small
wound that he can’t stop picking at,
so shameful, itching and ignorant

Our union will always prioritize money
over morality, profits above principles,
in a curse of insuperable power

In the afternoon he spots a hole in one
of his socks, right at the left big toe with
its coarse somewhat overgrown nail

“It’s not what I believed
It’s what I thought I should say
Freedom isn’t just wants”

John Quincy Adams, when a congressman,
called a righteous southern gentleman “A
beef-witted blunder-head, drunk on slavery”  

“Why should we have to care about what
some fucktard from Kentucky thinks?”
His love for her was genuine

He had a commanding presence
that drew them to him, that wicked,
malign, dogged, strife-torn grifter

as if to say “It’s me, it’s
in-authentically me” like a country
united in the blood of its slaves

In all of us is some serious sadness, some
sad past wound, violent, conceited and unfair
“With a bit more bad luck we could

have become a nest of little republics spitting
and snarling, spattering from their dirty stills, all
against all, from first sunlight into darkness”


-October 31, 2020-

You and me

“You and me” she said furtively
“we’re not like the others—
Our souls are in the stars”

I can touch her but not too early
“Take nobody’s word for it”
That flower’s called a buttercup

“An unverifiable statement
is meaningless” “The police will
riot and Nixon will win”

As if to say “You’re a man
and I’m a woman” “His principles
are watery, supple and grave”

Grandma loved melba toast
Well, they make the stuff
so somebody must

“I was the cleanest guy in the whole
group” he said “I’m clean, very clean”
Left alone “Lonely but free”

“I can eat many things but I won’t eat that”
Butterflies and birds superbly fly
“Generosity is not one of her faults”

Can we trick ourselves into kindness?
Mom believed in the inherent goodness,
the basic decency, of the American people

“They move in the lower limit of normal range”
So light, they glide away in the wind
Ineptitude and deceit govern us for now

“This is too much retribution” “Yes, she was
wrong to call the police on me” “It feels like
piling on”  “What, she called them twice?”

Stupidity oozes out of his eyes,
that government sycophant in rimless
glasses, in his sordid dark suit

Random fear, coercion and conformity
No tough issue is ever resolved here for
long—We’re a diverse and fractious people

The best of us aren’t one thing or another
The best of us are grave, opaque shades
and shapes of underlying grey 

Precious stones fall from the stars to the sands
“No one tells the full truth in the desert
and all deals made here are final”


-October 17, 2020-

A relentless

A relentless year—

I’m the naïve sucker who bought
the fake Rolex on your street corner
The kind of person who always
has enough postage stamps—
An intruder, always meticulous

I’m not the man I set out to be

It’s the time when the job
of raising and protecting my
children is over—as if I were
asking those who can’t do it,
to give me what I need

It’s an important fiction

To have the trappings of a republic
outside of a plutocratic, fascist, imperialist
cult—They break the law and don’t even
bother to hide it—No one punishes
them, imprisons them, or busts them

The sexual imperatives of life

The brief term of this terrestrial
existence is for us the when that’s
always now—Its content through
compression is inexhaustible—It’s as
rare as a fighter, both great and good

He’s a solitary man

Sometimes when I spoke of dad
it was as though he was still alive
“What does your father do now?”
She’s right next to me and
here I am, still longing for her   

The excitement, the ecstasy

It feels like a gap—
If we can fill in the gap
then the problem’s solved
Always the same promise—
always broken

A mind that revels in its power

A government that requires
the inherent goodness of its people
fails when its people aren’t
inherently good—How do I yearn
for her when she’s so close to me?

Smug reprobate bosses steal from us

“Someone you expected to be there
won’t be there”— so said an adult
friend to me when I was thirteen—I’ve
since blocked out all the ruined holidays,
our bitterness and awkward humiliations  

We couldn’t get together and just celebrate


-October 3, 2020-

Nostalgic remnants

Nostalgic remnants pervade

A piece of chocolate cake
mostly eaten, its leftover brown
frosting, brown crumbs smeared on
an orange and yellowish plastic coated
paper plate—The leftover frosting clings
to a white plastic fork, like a special
kind of luck on your birthday

Origins are not easily found

It’s not a bright, sprightly love
It’s an intense, dark passionate love
founded in a churn of lust, guilt,
tenderness, excitement and grit
We couldn’t stand him, and yes,
we held a grudge—fretful,
forthright and small-tempered

Many years melded together

When a star explodes the universe
becomes more interesting, so far
away, so long ago—Compared to
that star, what are we?—As if the
world waits for a glimpse of our
genius—the true, the magnificent,
the profound, the godly, the great

She never wanted fame

Said John Brown “Let’s rise
up and bathe the slave states
in blood” He didn’t succeed but
a few years later and that’s exactly
what was done—Why’d they fight so
hard for slavery when most of them
owned nothing much and no one?

We develop ourselves through symbols

Super sensitive, bothered by little
things of no consequence to the
likes of you and me—There’s certain
things you don’t say if you want
someone to stay with you—Whether
you like it or not, Pagan, we’re just
singular stops in time’s slog

Unyielding probabilities govern

The language he learned when
young failed to reveal to him a true
philosophy so he made up his own
language—Oh the intoxication, oh
the illuminations—falsehood
is history and history’s damage,
both transactional and imperative

A restless, lucid, persistent mind

The old composer had had it with
rehearsal—The young violinist wanted
more—The old composer had had it with
his music for today—“Practice if you wish
but I’m going to the racetrack”—Can that
vibrant deaf drummer nevertheless hear her own
music despite lacking consciousness of sound?

Dark clouds break suddenly clear

-September 19, 2020-

He refers

He refers to his thoughts
with his thoughts, the I of him
enigmatic—In death’s face we
who live go on, pick ourselves up,
scream and go on—The critic’s task
is to find our best works—Works he
doesn’t need to fully understand

What grounds your I?
He thinks that if he’d been a we
and she’d grown old with him then
she wouldn’t be like she is now to him,
all wrinkly, saggy and dry—She’d
still be hot, juicy, buoyant, lusty—
still lovely in his eyes, alive

We continuously revolt against
rigid thinking imposed by those
more primitive than ourselves
What if your friendly guard dog
turns into a self-ravaging, snarl of an
inhumane beast?—Like a ghost who
becomes an aftermath of scars  

Luck, patience, skill and money
That’s what we need to make it here
What if your body won’t recognize
itself?—All of life’s related, all if it
stems from the same primal cells
“Oh Sheila is so brave—in so much
pain she still sits with us on the porch

all bundled up, conversing, with
her cup of hot tea” Mom thought
that a ridiculous sentiment—“I’m
dying, so what do they think I might
do, curl up by myself in some hole?”
A memory stack of the old—remnants
of little things course past

“Having Covid-19” said the star,
“is different than recovering from nasty
injuries, getting evicted, or being broke
all of which I’ve been there a few times”
I don’t get along with those
willing to be told what to think
Power is an intoxicant, the more

you have it, the more you need
Hitler and his terrorist thugs
admired that American knack for
maintaining an air of robust innocence
in the wake of mass lynchings, tortures,
ugly forced horrific labor—The blood
of endemic American oppression

It confused them, though, that this
treatment didn’t also extend to
American Jews—“Shouldn’t they also
be oppressed, brutalized, beaten and
despised, just like those Blacks?”
Democracy fails in a wave of
mass stupidity, stoked in power

Pat would go into the ocean tenuously,
stand in front of the ocean waves and try
to hold herself up as the waves smacked
her down—Too shy to try and leap over
them, too scared to dive under them—
What might it mean to us on any fine day
to be truly loved and authentically alive?

-September 5, 2020-

Past struggles

Past struggles, feeling othered,
looked at differently—treated
unfairly, unequal, disregarded
Under a veneer of shallow reasonableness
they set an unreasonable agenda,
their power unregulated, abhorrent
You refused to accept my gifts

A long metal spoon prevents
the glass from cracking
Full of hot coffee, some milk
she takes it Russian style
with a lump of sugar on her
tongue as she sips
It’s pleasant to be the best

You who have so much,
why do you crave even more?
“The existence of the gods
explains nothing because they
are a part of our natural world
and can’t exist without it”
Her ritual love is barbarous

Some say the Kohen priests
are forbidden to look upon
or be in the same room with
dead people because the sight of
death would incite a bitterness
against God, a relentless anger
and so as priests they wouldn’t be

able to lead us in prayer
with sweet hearts full of  
innocence and God’s love
Our silence is inevitable
Life’s tenacious but vulnerable
like the thirst for power, like
the vile desire to oppress

I thought those trees were
going to fall over as though
they were leaning towards me
like the little apple tree torn
from its roots in a freak tornado
Justice, truth, and health in ancient
Greek are all feminine nouns that

point us to nobility, worthiness,
life’s tenaciousness, in good temper
The bigger the task, the more your
mistakes matter—Said the slave
“I could run away but my mom
could not—Her young children
tied her to this place”

The tenuous veneer of civilization,
sometimes barely discernable like
a bland sheath that covers rage
Dad had only 40 years
When 40 I was far more
clueless than him—That
generation grew up faster

Contingent, provisional, subjective
glaring prejudice, long unemployment
lines, overfilled morgues, badly
germ ridden, soaked in disease
Sometimes when we seek a real
connection we just graze each other
Others say that isn’t it at all—

that the prohibition on gazing
upon the dead, is because God
is life and that a priest who
witnesses death is ungodly
I think of her a lot because she’s
beautiful and also because
she’s just as sad as I am 

-August 22, 2020-