Natural Disasters

We met in late Spring,
a time of birth and storms.
Sat at outdoor cafes,
birds in the background;
Nature’s Muzak.
We held hands,
our wedding bands
in purse and pocket,
toying with our coffee spoons
and each other’s hearts.

A few years afterwards, late Spring,
the time of storms and deaths,
I finally saw the vortex
surrounding you, dark and swirling,
and realized you had pulled me
into the Eye of the Storm
along with other men.

Now, we live in the wake of
your terrifying dervish dance;
empty and broken homes
scattered over the countryside;
crazed birds with feathers stripped.
You left us all with
splintered two by fours
blown through our hearts.



Hard going

Those Hidden Places

Poetry begins when your
friend plays with someone else;
when the one you love says
she only wants to be your friend.
Poems come from that secret
place where your uncle touched you
while your Aunt wasn’t looking.

Poetry comes up from the bottom
of your soul, slowly rising like
stinking fumes of sulphur, like
bloated corpses that will not stay underwater,
that must find their way to the surface.

Writing poetry is like pulling your
own teeth without anesthetics,
like chewing your leg off to
get free of the trap; hanging
yourself in the cell to cheat
the electric chair.

What we call poetry
has many seeds; some
grow into flowers and
some into weeds.



Traveling to Mars

A close friend died today
and that’s when it hit me…
not that death could claim an old friend
but that it would also find me someday.

Perhaps it will walk in the front door
pretending I have invited it in
or will just stick its foot in the door
so I cannot shut it.

Or maybe it will climb in a window
in the dark of the night like a burglar
while I am unprotected, sleeping naked,
dreaming one of those dreams
where I have just met the love of my life
even though I am in my seventies.

Waking me by placing shaving cream
in my hand, then tickling my nose
so I will wake with a start
splattering it across my face.
Or give me a charlie horse
so I will awake in pain
furiously ratcheting my foot
to divert the cramps.

Well, there’s really not much choice, is there?
As they say, when the time comes, the time comes.
Just gotta look it in the face and smile,
and let death know I appreciate the visit,
as I was feeling lonely anyway,
so many friends gone already.
That I had already made up my mind
I wasn’t going to argue or struggle.

That it will be no different than traveling to Mars
where I will find myself in an alien landscape,
red rocks, deep valleys, and ancient dry rills,
and will need to learn to quickly adapt
or die again.


Cleaning house


They are waiting
to take away your desk
they will find another
piece of furniture to move
into its dusty place
they will throw away
the blotter that has over the years
caught your spilled ink
the kaleidoscopic Tiffany lamp
will be sold at auction
your grandchildrens’ photos
moved to the fireplace mantle
the paid bill receipts
tossed into the trash
along with the empty dull orange
prescription pill bottles

Well, let them pitch it all…
outside in the furrowed rows
the resolute stalks of corn
continue to grow
ears straining to hear
the quiet rustling of silk
as it dances
in the changing air.



Ebb and Flow

Sitting together at the beach
waves charged us
like wet furious bulls
then quickly receded
as if a sea god
suddenly granted a pardon
sparing us the drowning
we both wished for.

My wife
and her husband
had slept together
and like handing over
a buzzing hive of bees
told us the next day.
We were in shock
from the toxic stings,
or worse, it felt like
bullets fired point-blank
into our raw angry hearts.

We regretted
we had not done it first,
that now it would be revenge
not love, that now
it would only cause the hurt
to spread
like an infectious disease.

Moving to each other,
the sea spray caressed us.
The wounds were not deadly—
our blood did not stain the beach–
and someday we would
remember the pain as only a slight
irritation of prickly grains of sand
pressed between our bare skins.




Not easy writing poetry

Naked in Dreams

Poetry is just too damned embarrassingly personal,
airing your own dirty laundry in public,
or writing unpleasant truths about your friends,
praying they won’t see themselves in the poem,
hoping they will see themselves in the poem,
trusting they won’t kill the messenger.

Reading a poem aloud is like
coming out of the closet to your parents,
like standing red-faced in the bathroom
with your pants around your ankles,
like loudly breaking wind in the middle
of your onstage plie’.
Poetry doesn’t always smell like roses.

The audience stares with blank gazes,
yelling, “Take it off.  Take it all off.”
looking for their money’s worth,
wanting to see the poet’s naked soul,
even when they know that souls are invisible,
even when the poet thought
he had it lit in flashing neon.

Poets will continue to be caught and embarrassed
putting their hands down unbuttoned blouses,
sneaking back in their windows late at night,
slipping the magazines under the mattresses,
trading quick kisses with other men’s wives,
walking naked in dreams while others are dressed.

But, poets go on with their singing—
eccentrics in their own home towns—
with stains on their shirtfronts
and their flies unzipped,
wishing their voices carried better,
wishing for the silver tongues of gods,
reading poems with pebbles still in their mouths.



Kitchen Fire Fight

You hear the sudden warning
sounds of her staccato voice,
and don’t know you’ve been hit
until you smell the blood flowing
down your chest–
warmer than the sun,
thicker than tears,
redder than her lips.

“Rat-a-tat-a-tat,” she says
with a deadly aim and
you look for high grass,
for a shallow hole,
a burned-out building,
a dead body to hide behind–
for shelter at any cost.

You walked right into
the ambush ignoring
the sound of something breaking,
of your sense of survival,
of the hair standing up
on the back of your neck–
even the acrid smell
of cooking in the air.

You’ll live through this
moment of terror, however.
There were no Bouncing Bettys
waiting in the ground to de-man you,
no incendiary bombs from overhead,
no screaming mortar shells–
only a machine gun firing words
without pause to cut you off
at the knees.