Results for category "2013"

28 Articles

He didn’t

He didn’t give a quarter
Didn’t ask for a quarter
Wouldn’t give a quarter
Didn’t want a quarter
They would pierce
his relentless, wily, toughest edge
Real fighters are just mean, they don’t
mean to win, they mean to hurt
Don’t just cry—
A man who travels
has an interesting tale to tell
Every good musician disrupts
your expectations, riles your confidence
The great ones do it to move you out
from under your skin
Little one visits today
so they play a game—
he gets to be the monster and
she’ll be the princess
Once the joys of coupledom stop
they don’t return
She looks like a gypsy,
like a thief in that black cape
He keeps his wartime memories
to himself
His bags are packed for exile,
for escape
It’s a world that won’t meet her standards
She thinks everyone’s the same
Just like her
but without her discipline
A cough that just persists—
“Doctor, is there something going around?”
Doc says, “There’s always something
going around”
It was an edgy, anxious time
They lost it— their tenderness, their devotion
Singers aren’t always wise and are
rarely dignified
Without violence
there’s no negotiation
Without negotiation
there’s no victory



-December 27, 2013-

Fallen Gods in Peru

They see a god’s face in the mountain
and build stone structures to guide the mountain waters,
to measure the shine from the winter’s solstice, June 21st
How he shines — our godly sun
How she’ll shine tonight — our goddess moon
above the downward flow, the descendant waters

Sometimes their hearts beat the same
They revel in their sensuousness
their tenderness, their fury, their grasp
Their bodies how they clasp and play—
their hands, their rhythms,
their lusty sexual sting and dance

They lived with nature, not against her
Didn’t build their houses too near to the rivers
They knew the anxious rivers could erupt again
and the muds could explode in cruel death
Height didn’t lead to a fall for them
Height is their vision, revelatory and precious

In the fifteenth century only royalty
passed through this gate
Now we all can go
because we are all kings (isn’t that so?)
You carry your country’s fantasies
in your heart, in your personal river’s flow

Those ignorant people—
The sun is no god
It’s just a ball of roiled gas
The moon is no goddess
It’s just a piece of grey rock
Why build your houses so heavy, so high?

Why make everything out of solid rock
like some immense Lego toy?
Stone within stone
moored by its weight alone,
built upon green mountain steps, greyish rock
houses that last 400 years and still we count

We don’t know why this odd planet
dots the universe, is a point in the multi-verse
is a quirk of here
These lives of ours like gestures of nature
wondrously random
No wonder we can barely stand it

The god that displaces the sun
is depicted in this fresco as dying or dead
with blood on his limbs and abdomen
and bitter thorns on his head
The goddess that displaces the moon
is his placid, merciful mother— a virgin

But in the corner of the fresco
is hidden the lively smiling sun god
and his consort, the moon goddess
Now, we peel away
these odd layers of damage because, after all,
the heart wants what it wants



-December 20, 2013-


Not too far


He seems tan, trim, happy, fit
He could so easily make you glad, that man 
You wouldn’t know it to see him
but there was irksome, physical pain everyday,
pain that was serious and his alone
He never complained

That is, I never heard him complain
He mitigated it a bit, I guess, and he could walk
with that back brace he wore, with his easy smiles
with that sweet grace, so famous, that fine-toned wit
overlaid by a slick semblance of good cheer,
charm and sunny, ruddy good health

As a kid, they tell you God is good
They tell you, the grown-ups know the answers
to every question
They tell you, truth will always find us
and justice is measured and faultless
You may even believe that for a little

After all, you’re a kid
(Did the tough world-nurtured naïve natives
really think their dances make cool rains fall?)
And then you understand that these are prayers
and not predictions and you become
all grown up, kind of circumspect and guarded

In the middle of massacres, hatreds, assassinations
the laws of elliptical motion
belong to no cult or tribe
Music is a hidden, mathematical enterprise
The mind calculates through every song
unconscious of its calculations

His assassin is a pretentious, self-pitying lout
with a cheap, mail-order rifle and just good enough marksmanship
(Once upon a time they rang the church bells to ward off hurricanes
and in wartime they fled to the woods for refuge)
The goddamn shots ring out to mark the end of a world
that’s gone for now and won’t ever return



They thought, “I have mad skills
and although the Nazis will kill everyone around me
they won’t kill me because the bastards need me”
Today the corporate-types ain’t real Nazis
but they’re often dumb and they can fire people randomly
even those of us with mad skills

They were picked to carry the coffin
because they were quintessential marines
At least six feet tall with a straight posture and narrow waists
And in his case an added consideration—
the man was black
Now, after 50 years, half the coffin bearers still live

My friend, a photographer, sought to express emotional truth
with a camera and I agree he had some funny quirks
For example, every time he saw a Mack truck he’d sort of cut him off
He loved the sound of their horns
but was too old to make that “Please blow your horn, Mr.”
gesture sign, like a kid does with his arm

In high school there was this math teacher from India
He wanted to teach us the austere, mysterious, cold beauty of math
but could barely speak English
One day he came up with an idea he called, “The silent proof”
He stood in front of the chalkboard where the proof was written out
He gestured at it and made odd sounds with his mouth

There are some emotions that rack peoples’ lives—
emotions we’re determined to suppress or deny
The silent proof—
cold, austere, beautiful, hard, like sculpture
in his head...
The man was sincere, I think, but ridiculous

We carried the coffin in a trance
We were kids really, 21 or 22, with this unbearable burden
Totally focused we wouldn’t trip, we wouldn’t drop the coffin  
One of the marines was later shot down over Cambodia
They managed to recover a piece of his elbow
and buried it not too far from the slain president in Arlington



-November 23, 2013-


Mean Streak

He swore—
No more tantrums, curses,
vicious rages, cantankerousness
He’ll keep himself in rein
He’ll keep himself on a leash, his inner
mean streak, his normal animal meanness

He grants nothing in argument,
not even his time
She says, hey I’m a party girl
Don’t expect anything but party from me
There’s no power without fear of reprisals, he knows
She takes the size of him, while he takes everything

Their home life gloomy, volatile
Their nightly cocktail hour escalates to violence,
ends in broken glass
Their one young daughter will clean it all up
Later, her mother gets cancer
Her 11-year old daughter accompanies her

on the three hour drive to radiation
and chemotherapy
She cries her tears over someone so dear
and that’s how she becomes
just another bull-shitter,
just another social climber

He treats his subordinates like shit
They’re all scared of him
He yells at his staff,
treats them terribly
He’s a mean, vicious, odious figure
He’s an animal

Our world models may let us down
For those who need revenge, revenge is what they see—
one sordid revenge scene after another,
in manic repetition, conflict
Their dry logistics against their juiciest anxieties
Their crass, sardonic crashes


He was gentle, tender and ruthless at once
No one could predict him, place him, know him very well
Expressionless, inscrutable, somber, withdrawn, remote
On stage he scowls, stares us all down, then smiles
What a relief we feel as he picks up the horn,
that golden sound, so golden and mysterious

Remember the tube radios
the kind where the tubes would light up
and come to life only when the radio was on?
Well, he was kind of like that too
“Hey guy, you have a good day”
“No thank you friend, I’ve made other plans”

In the middle of a meeting his expression might go blank
He’d stare out the window
numb with some unstated sorrow
I knew his wife had left him, and that was his trouble
I knew him well and saw beneath his smiles
I saw the sorrow in his eyes

He could play, he was great at it
But he was also one of the slimiest, greediest,
motherfuckers who ever lived
And he didn’t live long
Dead at 34 of pneumonia in some dirty hotel room
(or was it the constant doping that killed him, the heroin?)

Do you really need to stand in front of all those people
who are singing your songs and think
how many must love me
so I can feel okay about myself,
how many must show that I’m good enough for them
before I’m good enough for me?

He thinks he conducts but he can’t hear
The players revere him but ignore his false gesticulations
They watch, instead, the surreptitious conductor at the foot of the orchestra
After the music ends he’s still waiving his arms
The conductor taps his shoulder and turns him around
He shows him the audience, their enthusiastic mad screams for him


We compare ourselves to others
We size them up
They speak and we pretend to understand
But we don’t get comfortable with them
We can’t get our footing with them
We can’t find our footing

“Hey you, you don’t own stocks
What ya reading that for?”
As he idly turns the pages
of his favorite, dumb tabloid
One day I may own stocks but I don’t tell him that
I just read what I want

Captain, lonely captain—
Typhoons, shoals, breakdowns,
sicknesses and a disloyal crew,
congested waterways, alien cultures, alien talk,
language barriers, surly thieves, vicious pirates
He’s always the hardest, loneliest man aboard

He hadn’t forgotten—
Some things you let slide and some things you don’t
You must wait for the right moment to get retribution
Count on it, he’ll find out the reason
Then he’ll hunt that bastard down
and make him pay

If you die relatively young,
say in your 40s or early 50s
we say what a loss, what a shame, what a waste
But if you die old, 82, 83 or in your 90s, lonely,
decrepit, demented, deranged for a decade (the old alcohol slosh)
we say, what a terrible decline, what an awful end to his life

My brother was a gentleman and a human being
This man is not
He’s an animal, a decimated, frightened animal
Let’s count: 58,000 of our own dead, 300,000 wounded
and that doesn’t include the 2,000,000 dead
enemy soldiers and civilians



-November 9, 2013-

His Obsequiousness

When he didn’t need you anymore
his obsequiousness stopped
He became overbearing, domineering,
sneering, impossible
He managed up but not down
Like for so many,
that usually, if not always, worked

She half smiles as she walks towards me
You know, that half smile of feigned recognition
as though I’m a person that she thinks she should know
but can’t quite place
Intense lovers just months before,
that wire strung tight, tight, so tight
and now, she can’t quite place me

Truth is vulnerability, shock, confusion
Rich, well to do, or poor
you’re just another man in a room
The deepest views of the universe
are the same as our surface views
Yes, the numbers differ, the equations are plain—
but the view is the same

SARS comes from bats,
hantavirus from mice
HIV-1 from chimps
Ebola, again, from bats most likely
and every influenza comes from wild aquatic birds
Oh look, now see,
what they’ve done to him now

He’s got to get to know this place
He’s got to learn which tunnels to avoid
at which times
The basis of delight is wonder
like the echoes of some ancient music
She wakes from his death-dream
to a new and sadder bubble

He lies often
Often, he’s the obsequious yes-man
who surrounds himself with yes-men
Yet, however he got there,
whatever dumb gods put him there,
when he obtained the power he craved
he knew just what to do

Our universe is a bubble
In one bubble you can’t see into the next
We see the one bubble
in the great collection—
the multi-verse
Blood was all over that elegant dress
Look see, what they’ve done to him now


Pleasure’s about where you are
whom you are with
what you eat and drink
your good health
the grandiosity of your house
the wit, the generosity, of your tribe
Happiness is, in contrast, on you

When this man wears a mask
it’s indistinguishable from his skin
so thoroughly does he become
just what he pretends to be
He tells no one everything
His privacy, his freedoms are so precious
It’s not his real face you think you know and see

He could be good mannered, gracious and opaque
Understand this—
don’t think you can read the man
Love is not love if it changes like that—
it never was
What’s beneath had been broken
many times when he was young

His nemesis was an arrogant, narrow,
rude young man
If he himself was not guilty
there was his two-faced elegant brother
Their hatred for each other
was instinctual, visceral, ruthless,
stony, starry-eyed hatred

After he jumps from the Golden Gate Bridge
a fool in mid-flight may change his mind and want life
and sometimes, by chance, he might live
Bedbugs, tapeworms, cancers and
deep sea scavengers
You wouldn’t predict it but this man
is good in a tight spot, calm and decisive

What to make of the feelings you feel
when it’s just bad as it can be
The universe we now know
is mostly dark energy, dark matter
Add it up, the equations don’t lie...
We and our stars the few flecks of coarse light
We sparkle the light quick sparkles

Dad on the bed seemed to us kids to be recovering
I remember the hint of red tint to his skin
He had cancer and would be dead by the end of January
He talked to us about the assassination of President Kennedy
shot yesterday and said,
“I hope nothing like this ever happens again
in your lifetime”



-October 26, 2013-


My snowflake—
beautifully eccentric,
sustainably wise
My sparkle-white darling
here with me tonight
My freedom, my lover, my sprite



-October 12, 2013-

False Accusations

Unlike his dad, he was
pragmatic, cynical, tough, shrewd
“The most important thing a man has to tell
is what he doesn’t tell
The most important thing he has to say
is what he doesn’t say
Watch his hands, look into his eyes”

We think relevantly, valiantly,
validly, much of the time
Brief twinges lurk, vanish
below a conscious net
like a persistent ache
or a soothing coolness...
Like panic or relief

Small victories...
Two beetles crush together for warmth
Their hard shells pressed together
like two very encrusted humans
My father collected stamps
for a kind of smallish delight
Failure for him was terror

At this point, she hoped to be better known
She thought she owed that much to her talents
“They have taste cells on their wings
Their bodies are covered with sensors
and unlike us earthly bounders,
they fly!!!”
These aren’t the thoughts that terrorize

Here they are—
When bad things come to you, do you
decide that it’s all your own damn fault?
Does that thought make any sense
of your world?
Caught in a prison-like place
they’d try to get him to admit

to things he didn’t do
(He was always lying, lying, liar)
to feelings he didn’t have
to meanness that wouldn’t occur to him
But he wouldn’t do it...
Truth was, he didn’t harm or want to harm her
despite what they said

“If any one of you
(There were at least twenty of them)
comes at me
I’ll bash your goddamned face in
with this fucking folding chair
Don’t think that I give a goddamn
what happens to you or me after that”



-October 12, 2013-

Waiting Room 239

In the waiting room, Room 239,
   where we were all... waiting
A young girl and her brother, or maybe it was her friend,
   played with an old tennis ball
   They rolled it back and forth across a table, laughing
Then, I don’t know why,
   her happy face began to frown
   and her face, no, with her entire body, she began to cry
   and she cried until she stopped...
   and then she smiled
And I thought
   if only I could cry like that girl
   If only I could cry...
But I didn’t really know her grief
   just as you don’t really know mine
   and crying doesn’t always help
   and the fiercest love may fail
In the waiting room, Room 239,
   where we were all... waiting



 – Revised, September 24, 2013 –


Joy, so close—
He can feel it almost
Just past those orange rivets of sky
over there, over the grassy dust hills,
like specks of silk moonlight
A short way only from the dank, dust tracks
his joy glistens on the surface, kneaded
in tapestries of despair,
emergent and raw


He probably would have died
if he’d kept that up
All those hangers on,
all those sweet drinks, ladies, and drugs
It was easier with no family around to see it—
Easier, obtusely, to enter oblivion
“Don’t stop,” she’d say, as they fucked
“Don’t stop” as they fucked
He didn’t stop, no he didn’t stop...


“It’s clear, he cleverly observed,
that you have given up any pretense
of middle-class, bourgeois respectability”
She would somewhat resent gay men
She felt she had no real sexual power over them
He disdains the “marketing personality”
that “emotional intelligence” so admired today
Those who study what folks generally like and dazzle
us with their smiley charmed ways, accordingly


“I’m not a mat for you to pull out
and then put away”
An old song that, sung first
by a sage in ancient China
who lived alone in the cold mountains
The scars itch him like war wounds
She lacked, let’s just say, a certain loyalty
and hadn’t the discipline
for either friendship or love


The city flushed orange
with a surge of good cheer in the lights
500,000 or more of us in the streets
ecstatic over the end of the war
Craggy men and women I’d never seen
before smiled at me
Men who’d lost an arm or a leg
beamed and chatted amiably
next to buildings pockmarked with bullets


He came from a world
where certain things were discussed
and certain things were not
His voice, its tone, its resonance,
its understated power, reflects that world
She acts nervously along the way
Until she gets there its fear,
irrational fear, until arrival
He lawyers her for now, he defends her


Somewhat regretful
and a little forgetful
Without that searing golden bling
without those pearly jewels, alone
Just try to survive here,
just try to make it alone
It will cost you your good energy
and time, like unspoken violence,
like the silence between the notes


The others in the trade
had no strong feelings about his work
They couldn’t care less, actually
though they certainly envied his sales
He liked the way I played the acoustic guitar
she said, he wanted me to play guitar
Sing of our sorrows and desperation,
as only you can, he said
Trip through the notes like you can


The things we tell everyone
The things we tell to a few
The things we tell our lovers
The things we tell ourselves
The things we never tell
even to ourselves
You ask why these poems are sad
It’s because these poems are songs
and true songs are sad



– September 28, 2013 –

I thought

“He’s gay,” grandma scowls,
exasperation in her voice
A soprano in the day
she knew many and had nothing

against gay people
“Let’s just face it,
he’s gay”
She knew how tough

it was going to be for him
and besides, she sort of wanted great grandchildren
Funny in its timing though
this bit of grandmotherly insight

Because only the day before
he said, in answer to some dumb question
from me,  “Aren’t you guys
on to me yet?”



Those CEOs, bless ‘em,
they come, they go with similar
if not the same insane, wicked machinations
But Brody, Brody’s still here

doing those quiet rudimentary things,
the quintessential company man
You’d never guess how his skull
brims with virtual theaters

“Are these my father’s demons?”
No sir, Brody no,
you fight your own...
Autumn glistens clear and cold

That shark wasn’t hungry, Brody
That wasn’t her real bite
That was her exploratory bite
I know, because you’re still alive



A young guy...
He does some good
He does some bad
He gives what he has

He’ll get better at this
hopefully, by and by
So rich in her life
So generous in her gifts

You best let her be who she is
Everyday as I pass by his office
There he is in the morning
Crisp white shirt, bluish tie

suit jacket hung behind him
He leans forward, stares intently
into the computer screen
Types a few words and stares



Her long straight white hair
all down her back like a younger girl
Her dark, dark sunglasses hide a few
coarse wrinkles near her eyes

Her well-toned slinky stylishness
says all the while that she’s still got it
If, as you say, you have some heart left
I’ll take it for true, thinks Brody

A core of anxiousness
pervades their masterful play
“I can use that,” he’ll say later
“There’s something here that I can use”

“Don’t talk of the pain”
says the gruffest of the gruff
football coach
“Just show me the baby”



“Listen lady, you tell me how to play my axe?
Don’t you be telling me that”
He can’t stand those suburbanites
whose houses he sees from the tracks

their lock, in their heads,
on the good life and how he ought to live
When she had trouble getting pregnant
it seemed that every woman

she met was self-satisfied and pregnant
When he couldn’t find love
it seemed that everyone he met
was warmly attached, ensconced

and happily, vibrantly loved
Old now, the betrayer
reveals in her face the mess, the meanness,
the anger, beneath her old flare



Too ugly (he was kind of ugly, in a sweet
bear-like way, I admit)
Too liberal, too Italian
for all those white Protestants

down south and out west
They’ll never vote for him
Nope, not him, nor him—
too aggressive, too acid tongued

that bald Jew from Manhattan
They won’t hold up their hands for him
She won’t do either—
too ugly, too fat, too short, too Irish

Her bright red hair makes her look
like a clown (and did you see those shoes?)
Her high-pitched voice irritates everybody
Not in this town, not here, not now



I can capture just a bit of it,
just a bit...
I thought I saw
in some fog-like trance

It had to be my parents, holding hands
They walk in front of me
Their hair is gray, their clothes
old-fashioned, stylish

They seem so much in sympathy
as they walk hand in hand together
So much slower than when I knew them
But then they were younger than I am and

still vigorous,
still vital
their brilliance, their beauty
still living



-September 14, 2013-