The Mouth of the River of Death

chaffed, flogged, and veined with hurt
this rooftop
laid in cardinal directions
and raven shit
burns each day in the sun

the supine posture of humanity's mark
leering into mists of ozone and nitrogen
shining in spectra we don't see
the imported SUVs parked in
mobile malls and cuddle factories pant
and suck the migrant dust spiral
curling out the talk cavity of a West African lady named
the Seasons

Rattled Loose and Waving

i'm in the turbulence brother
unsure i can hold the ends of these paths
what frays us all like this, at each other's edges?
a madness of Wanting Better and so trading our sight,
devoted to juggling fire and bent
on adding knives

Bless My Lanterns

you slay me, brother
so do kiss my lanterns
and bless my tent in the rain
and write more,
leave us lifeless

Brother in the Back Meadow Looking

each free afternoon he wanders outside
and I know the ache inside him
he gulps water and chews a few bites
so as not to need return for sometime

I remember those days

easily because there was only one way forward, then

no memory to stop you running the trail

and look back.


He has sat long here, for his friend, waiting on the dock's farthest seaward edge.  On the south border of this port town, hung legs into the tide's break, he watches the queue of ships stretch in hundred meter intervals out there on the world's crust, waiting to come to port.  They all experience the evening together, the act of a monarch sun relinquishing its seat till day and night are equal, and we all are shepherded into the jurisdiction of that cold stone's glow.

His sandals lie just inside the door to his home.  Ragged, they are painted the trace of his foot by four years of oil and wear.  He steps them on each day as evening comes into view and turns toward the water.

He does not count months or tally seasons on his wall.  This is not the sort of thing on which a person should hang burden like expectation or schedule.  The clock in his chest does not tick in elucidated terms but keeps its watch, nonetheless.  At its urging, whether a month or a year in time, he'll return to the water and wait for the sea to return his friend.   Then, he'll take him in, help him back into legs for the land, and they'll start an unpacking of their own, not unfamiliar to a port like this one.

I Carried Your Name Four Years First

one spring, i won a pile of books
which i did not read, but kept

and carried from state to state,
four years later i found a poet

who crawled inside of me and sat down
on a cool stone veined with evergreen leaves

near white water
to tell me of all the things i ought to admit about myself,

i watched him pound them out of the boulder
with a chisel of marble he said he found in Greece

with the woman who'd wrote the poetry
i did not read,

after he waded into the river
having warned me he wouldn't return,

i opened one of the pile:
For Jack Gilbert

It Was Like Being Alive Twice

Laymen's Arrow of Time

One cannot curve space without involving time as well.  Thus time has a shape.
- Stephen Hawking

he identifies the clay bricks that build time and pats them
to soften and stretch their passing

by this he fingers the temporal fabric of which everyone feigns knowledge
and keeps count the wrinkles in it that so please him

his weight is to overhear the condolences passed from tree to yellowed leaf so he
does not pour out his minutes in buckets of replicate seconds

Porches Near the Beach

Since moving to this block, near the beach, I have made habit of watching a summer morning ritual in play at the neighbor's house.  Each morning in the half risen sun, my neighbor carries three ceramic pots to her porch railing.  Having set them, she scoops a careless grip of dirt from the porch planter and whips it with a dash of water in the bottom of her pots.  Occasionally she drops in a dandelion or a green bean or a bite of basil from her garden.

Flash on the Lightless Sea

some breaths, I think I can feel you sitting
in my living room, witless work of your fingers knotting frayed string from
the couch, while you read and swig good beer

Colors of Bodies Next to Us

though he brings the rain,
perfumed and pea coated,
you won't see the wizard.
I rub the hail into my eyes, make melting
diamonds of my pupils that you
might see the insanity that he is and you
ride the nothing train to drinks and laughter you'll soon forget, I just
don't get this, how
we spend our time

A Hundred Miles

it hits me like she's
drowning in someone else's body
that her mind, has twenty years of
sunsets by the window and Las Vegas benders while
her lungs petition for eight months of exhales, just
can't stretch at that pace
no more
and her wide eyes know it

I have a friend who says she
likes to be done with a place before she
leaves it,
this is not that, it is
walking St Paul to Savannah and dying
a hundred miles to the gulf
what can we do now

That Weight

we touch every curve of hwy 51
the spoke between the tube and the hub
hang our hands to the pavement as we careen
my voice deepens and hers becomes sharper
and we talk about things that happen in the space
to which others do not pay attention

forgetful are we toward the
caverns where we unearthed our voices
the tall grass that grows there like the curved
backs of old women
who have stored their stories in the soil
hoping for just a pair of wanderers
to go digging in the night life

The Also Sacred Story of Drowning

i hope you remember
the undertow, son
not just the day that almost killed you or how
you should not have swam that beach

The Heights

can you imagine Daedelus as I can
watching his son
first lean into his wings and
point into the sun
do you think for even a moment
the old man whispered encouragement
higher, my boy, fly higher
don't stay down here as I've done

Sex on Video

i think i hate it like i do
because it's banging rocks together
for the thrill of the sound, not
climbing them or watching them with your slow looking palms or
allowing them, and thus finding that
they're able,
to speak

All of this Together

remember the four of you in bed
Gilbert's Ovid in tears over the dance,
and the evening air in Rome,
remember the sons of old pickups
in country night and
why all of it together is important
these lands are not disparate
they are closer than leaves
seeing each other in the forest

A Thing Left

when they die we talk not about where
they were found but
their bodies, while they're presumed to be elsewhere,
report to one another the
condition of the remnants
the leftovers, and still
speak in the possessive,
incredible that in death the body is both their jettisoned thing
and not them,
as if we'd return it, given the opportunity
a scarf we'll hang on to on the off chance
Mind the integrity of the intervention, he says.  Talk of comfort is
nonsense, you live only with broken ribs and a small blade making
a little sprint in your throat. Wisdom is not a position of comfort. It is
the doing according to the knowing and a devotion to what must be.

Creatures of Wonder

you know them
the creatures of wonder
your love for whom might startle,
in your knapsack you carry a gift you crafted
precious little with which you set off
you find them orchestrating the rise of marble towers
and wild beasts they've tamed to wander leashlessly, there
nevermind the majesty, they say, leaving it all
let's see what you've brought


The Trains

i want to crawl up
into this concrete dome, with you
pitch a hammock and a plywood table top
we'll watch the trains rattle by
and unload from our pockets
all the heavy things we know

Imagine the Breadth of It All

my heart breaks in the magnitudes
of difference
between my abilities of tongue and breath
and all the stories that rush me

Remembering to Collide

he chases what he'll never be around a collection of stones
under willow trees in the pasture
none of the neighbors wonder, anymore since
they can always hear his yelling
what is strange and exciting are
the collisions, where one of the
others running there draws blood and
accidentally, they're not alone

In the Panes

she is at once grateful and unhappy
and he knows she's right for it
but can't get fully around it
like tapping at moisture between the glass panes
how can you fix that
without taking everything apart

the house after the hurricane

near the window, they're probably seventy
traveling north toward new york
eating crab cakes

she becomes distracted
and looks at nothing

she is still, in his tired eyes, which are kind to me
he taps her plate
with all lightness,

reminds her to eat

Out of Port-au-Prince

we've never lifted fists of its soils
or drank its whiskey
death is a land unvisited
a myth we all believe in
none are expert
rumor is king
and we hate it
it is a reckless fool
for the still, answerless organs it leaves us
and the mad silence that it sits up in our chairs, just there, at our tables
outside our daughters' rooms
upon the shoulders of our sons
it doesn't know its own calculus
audacious enough to call away
our loves, to populate itself
and send us, mutilated
to look for them in the trees and cities we never
wished to know

All that Wasn't

i wonder how many conversations
in this café
my ring has stolen from me
what sort of messages were left
beneath the band
without the knowing that the ring
is sworn to silence
the unusual repellent gleam, turning about my skin

but then, how many for her?
who's worn rings, a decade, on her cheek bones

Saying Untidy Things

weighing the risk of saying all with you
i feel the same heft
as that chest of costumes
i parade joyfully in my dressing room
before fixing my cufflinks and bowtie
assuring groomed straight edges
for the ball

The Rest is Suspect

i imagine a thing to be a cube in time and essence
a stone or tree growth or the pulse in my wrist
all cubes
we climb the near face of the cube
we sniff and scrutinize and dig small divots in it
sounding for depth

unleashed and crawling on that face of the cube
are our creations, our capacities, our notes
on the nature of the cube

history and calculus and biology inform our metrics
of the cube
poems wander about and instruct us to the edge
and we can imagine the other, untraversable faces
of the thing-cube

Maybe Riots

imagine the devastation
the Louvre in flames
a deep chemical white
sure to melt and pervert
what it doesn't make to soot
wailing in the streets, i think
Paris and Sao Paulo and New York in vigil

While the Trees Run their Roots

these nights are the ones
i feel i'm going to die
not for despair but for a bursting heart
the trees seem happier
or at least
settling into themselves
retreated to a place I can't go
but one I've named in myself
happy for their digging,
for their search
for the dark they're enjoying,
I dance at their feet while they're gone

Home in the Head Frames

Stewing on the northwest corner of Butte, Montana, just north of the Highlands Range, is the Berkeley Pit, a sprawling strip mining caldron half filled by an uninhabitable lake that my friend Colin points at in the early morning dark and says, "this is why I can't be confident in my drinking water." 

Our tread was better than a stumble and softer than a tromp, yet definitely not possessing of all the coordination of sober people. Fireball is a Canadian-whiskey based liqueur that punches of candied cinnamon like little kids' Atomic sweets by the same name.  Turns out, Butte drinks it like Denver shoots Jameson, like D.C. bartenders gulp Grand Marnier, and it's well chased by Milwaukee's blue ribbon wearer of 1844.  Butte welcomed us generously.

Writ into Bone and Mouth

his nakedness near the wide window
all honesty and long relief
this is the first the world stretches
for him
it trembles pulled taught and
free on its back,
just as she'd been minutes ago
this is summer afternoon
shed skins on the floor
toast to new tastes
and having no answer for 'why would we wait for this'
understanding writ into bone and mouth
in this, the After, the sun finishes
on his opened chest what her mouth started there

Wandering Back

i am wandering back to him
embarrassed that i lost his hand

i know its strange
but i miss my friend

The Leaning

i found what shattered 
after them 
under those exposed 
beams, in the bay window room 
they'd pacted to face 
one another

Jack Gilbert

he is in the same space
whether or not
the room is worth a trip for anyone
i can't see anymore
he is in the same space

Isn't That a Cold Peace

has put his hand on my shoulder
to calm me
and i am.
i just wonder
if i am an aside,
and for how long
his travels have brought him

Where the Dust Settles

While he sits, he notices the cabin does not work well in all it does.  Its seal, if ever intact, is long broken.  The little house breaths with the outside.  The east window leaks, sweating cold into his refuge.  A slow creep of moisture steals between the panes.  But the place is not broken.  It's got cracked skin and a rickety heart, like lots of the old things we love.

The Good We Can Sense (Slam Revision)

Middle school hung a steel box from the bottom of my sister's chin,
so that she'd feel rejection twist and drift from her bones
every time that motherfucker swings.

The door to the box is itself littered
with the postmark of passing rejections
the graffitii of young gangs that roam these hallways
and tag what they can with the swift tongue scribble whips
of the hate they learned from their elders

Exit the Swamp

at the city center in your brain
is a hole,
a myring, swampy stillness knotting tepid life to reason for it,
next to the headwaters of a stagnant river called Easy Commiseration,
fed by a drift of ditch streams, callow mistaken for simple

that black vacuum there brings the world in to sit down
to placate and forget but mostly to stay seated, dusting over
quieter all the time.

Don't Stray So Far

you interpreters of bar tops
and asian plateau trains
all you who come from music and its makers,
the hands who've carried the intentions of
foreign sunsets and plastic starlight
the awkward waking of
you've run, well out ahead of me
don't stray so far,
that i can't find you

the Teller

he is our story teller,
limp and listless coming up the beach
from an ocean where others are dying

amongst us looking are his friends
who lean forward on taught leashes
forward like dogs toward a shuffling on the porch

Causation (and Intentionality)

A good friend of mine took to his blog, Saturday afternoon, an idea about violence and its endemicity in America, titled Causation.  I am interested in responding, or supplementing, having a bit of a back and forth, and seeing where we land.  Thanks for playing Jake.

Rifle Making

i am looking for the boys
who grew big in the barrels of muskets
one in particular

When the Lions Come to My Dreams

I dream about lions, sometimes.  They do not appear as one of a larger roster of predatory characters; I do not see, with equal frequency, emus or sperm whales or ptarmigan.  No, stowed in my basement or roaming my lawn, the golden-maned monarch has thus far proved immutable.  And in the suspension of reality that dream architects have so mastered, I do not doubt the validity of its presence, not in Minnesota, not passing my windows, not padding up my stairway.  Often I descend to the dream state in a moment of irrational but overwhelming urgency to enter the backyard.  You see I must do it, I walk a sequence I did not author.  When I see the lion there, I do not assume it has escaped one captivity or another, or contemplate its origin at all.  In fact, its wild. I know it is.  This here is a destination for him.  The dream self knows too.  A cold, disturbed concession always follows, "it's found me." There is no recourse outside of the lion's decisions.  There will come a chase and a resolution.  There will be no messianic fire arm and more importantly, I find no comfort in the prospect.  Mine is not a novel's narrative, I award him no majesty and his magic eyes tell me no noble secrets.  It is just the animal and me.  Somehow, it does not threaten me with death so much as the permanence of its presence.  When the lions come to my dreams, I am no longer atop a great ladder, I do not look downward at all the land and let my thoughts take me recklessly.  I am aware and wideeyed, lest I linger too long or think to far and my hunter find me.

A Lasting

you are the tree i've watched for years
you do not bend too far
in the wind you only respond
and acknowledge that the wind, too, is good.

The Good We Can Sense

Middle school hung a steel box from the bottom of my sister's chin,
so that she'd feel rejection twist and drift from her bones
every time that motherfucker swings.

The chain is dotted with the fingerprint fog stain
of the men that take these links
and run like dogs the women shrouded in Myst
to the waters where he makes them drink.


we loved to watch her leaving the river
for obvious reasons
for reasons we smile over

and we look at the mountains here, knowing
this is the paradise that doesn't exist

she crests the little bank
blown dry of the drips in a weak breeze
of the wind that draws to her
we watch her stop
and crumple and splash up in the dirt
and shoot roots deeply