"There's not much doubt in any of our minds that no complete idea springs fully formed from our brow,
needing only a handshake and a signature on the contract to send it off into the world to make twenty-five billion dollars.
The germ of the idea grows slowly..." - Walt Kelly

Sunday, December 30, 2012

All this weird beauty

photo by Lukasz Wierzbowski

It stood out to her, a lonely red impulse in a sea of green hedge. She stopped and tiptoed off the sidewalk, dropping her work bag next to the bush. She knelt down and reached out. The rose was trapped, having somehow found it's way into the shrubbery's dense inner lattice. She gently cupped her hands around it and extracted it. 

She cradled the flower in her hand like it was an infant, like if she juggled it only a little, shifted just a bit too far in any direction, it would crumble. It would collapse into dust - she just knew it - and blow away with the next odd gust that tumbled past her. She put her other hand over it as a safeguard and studied it.

"It's been quite a day, hasn't it?" she asked.

The flower did not respond.

"I know I'm pretty much done at this point," she continued. "Can't wait for tomorrow. Never thought I could use a new day as much as I do right now."

Several petals rippled as a soft breeze picked up, tossing a few stray hairs into her face. She picked them aside, rearranging them as neatly as she could before rushing her hand back to the flower's protection.

"I can't believe some of the things they've been saying, can you?" She struggled for words, her mouth opening and closing in wordless gasps. "I guess our first instinct has always been to look for the reason things happen. They always want to know why - they always want to deliver an explanation. I'm not sure there always is one, though."

A bird warbled unsteadily in the distance. The flower stayed silent. She scrunched up her nose as a familiar tickle of emotion built up int the corners of her eyes.

"But something like this..." She adjusted her posture, settling into a cross-legged position but slumping forward, defeated as tears began to flow. "If there isn't a reason for this, where do we put it? Where does it fit into the world?"

The rose, as precious as it was to her, still offered no support. It gave just a slight quiver, a motion carried through her splayed fingers by the wind. She began to laugh, even as saltwater gathered and dripped from her jawline.

"I guess there really isn't anything to say, is there?" She raised a hand and ran it through her hair. "Nothing more than sympathies and well-wishing, anyway."

Her hand came to rest on the back of her neck, her fingertips brushing an imaginary itch as her brain ran through one possibility after another - none of them making complete sense. She came out of her trance just long enough to notice that the tears had stopped. Then, in one inexplicable burst of instinctive energy, her hand was in the air and momentum was carrying it right down into her steadily outstretched palm.

She felt something soft and broken, something tragically at rest between her hands. She opened them, knowing that she wasn't going to like what she saw. The rose was a scattered mess, dented petals trickling between her fingers onto the grass. She dropped it, horrified, and knelt beside it like it was a dying relative.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

As the words drew slowly out of her mouth, she wondered why she was saying them. She didn't feel sorry. Whatever the feeling was, it seemed closer to disappointment. Or perhaps it was longing, like she was watching an old friend board a plane to another continent, never to return home.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Dawes, Take Me Out Of The City

Friday, December 28, 2012

The simplicity of human hearing

There is a sound that love makes.
It is the sound of a tidal wave
as it sucks up the last bit of ocean
before crashing down upon the sand.
It is the sound of the beast,
its stomach empty before a meal.
It is the sound of emptiness being filled
and in times of loneliness and loss
it is the deep sound of longing.
In fact, there is hardly a sound
that love does not make once or more.
And while this may paint it as cheap,
perhaps a song too commonly sung,
I'm sure it would simply argue
that it must be heard on every register.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Vocal Chords

Monday, October 15, 2012


There is an awkward humor in the way a battery-powered motor whirrs down its final rotations; or the way I've always assumed the flavor of blue-raspberry lollipops is how the color blue really tastes; or the number of syllables it took to ruin a perfectly good night on the town.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Wailin' Jennys, The Parting Glass

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why I could never be a philosopher

I haven't yet
scripted my entire life
to an ethereal soundtrack
reminiscent of something
the nature channel trademarked
to soundtrack the ocean.

I find nothing
in the sound of airplanes
other than the overly simple,
overarching principle
that sudden, very loud noises
make me uncomfortable.

I am no expert
on the state of the human condition
or the troubles we get ourselves into,
but it occurs to me that we should
install mirrors on our smartphones,
in case the weather apps fail.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Shad, Rose Garden

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wrong directions

Granted, it wasn't the best plan.
I've not been the "decent man"
kept behind shatterproof glass.
I've not been the busy executive
lost at air and sea and suite 1028.
But I've done my time away,
a stain that will never wash out,
beneath a rusted, dangling sign
that should (maybe) light up.
Despite the few extra miles,
I think you'll prefer the route.

From the newest edition of Thrush:

Sometimes the Blood Goes Cold, by Stephanie Bryant Anderson

Comparing Mythologies in Paris, by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Cage The Elephant, Japanese Buffalo

Monday, August 20, 2012

An expansive philosophical discussion

If I told you I had invented The Doomsday Device, would you believe me?

You shouldn't, because it isn't true, but that's not the point. Point is that since only recently I find myself in a position of power and everyone seems to look up to me and, for reasons unbeknownst to yours truly, put a great deal of stock in the things I say. So chances are that if I went on Twitter tonight, waded through the mountain of messages people have sent me and told the world - in 140 characters or less, obviously - that I am indeed responsible for such a heinous creation, a lot of folks would probably buy it.

This brings to mind quite an expansive philosophical discussion - obvious, perhaps, but no less important - that I am not interested in having with you right now, here, in the middle of this parking lot. Honestly, I would rather just sit down on the curb and eat this delicious sandwich my wife packed me for lunch and forget about all of the bullshit I'm about to force myself through today and, if I'm lucky, make it home tonight without some wacko jumping me on the sidewalk, claiming one of my fingers and selling it on eBay.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Two Door Cinema Club, This Is The Life

Saturday, August 18, 2012


We are the tiniest of branches
that are lucky enough to be born
in the final urgent inches
of an elderly oak tree's
upward, straining reach.
Even when the temperature drops,
and we are most vulnerable,
we'll still be reaching for something.

Also, read these things. They're pretty good.

How It Ended, by Liana Holmberg (from decomP)

Drawn To Scale, by Sean McCleary (from the stoneslide corrective)

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Bon Iver, Perth

Monday, August 13, 2012


This room is full of whispers,
and they echo down the hall
and out the door
and onto the sidewalk
and down the street
to the D train, underground,
until I emerge, and then
they aren't whispers anymore -
they're a phone call
and a tinge of panic
and a fight to stay calm.
Between steps it hits
like New York traffic
and despite best efforts
to brush it away, bat at it,
take that elusive gnat to task,
it will be found again
in the silence at the end
of a memorable evening.
A heart stops but once,
unless it happens to be twice
(and then you're pushing it)
so keep an ear to the receiver
and don't let it stop yours, too.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Brother Ali, Sleepwalker

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We gathered to wait

My voice bathes the hall's fortifications, stone and ancient, breaking left to right and up to down in constant, wobbling echoes. The masses stare up at me, not privy to the intensity with which I scan their ranks. It's strikingly funereal, which is ironic since no one has died. Yet.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Arcade Fire, My Body Is A Cage

Friday, August 10, 2012

Three, two, one...

You've made me wonder
about the last of days.

Something in the tone
of your quick-city bark

hits my ear as violence,
doubtful with just a touch

of salt, a weary longing
too intense to be healthy.

When we're finally able,
we'll recall our best memories -

those that still shine out
as the day they were born -

in encyclopaedic fashion,
something casual and cold.

Until the clock's last tick,
you can confidently bet

that something will set the spark,
one last entertaining grin

and a forest of warm bygones
we've happily never let alone.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Dodos, Sleep

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The last best thing

hesitate for just a moment
and find yourself
slipping heels up
frost on the sidewalk,
a giant foggy mirror
blurred by nervous sweat
a hasty winged portrait

and your choice will be
to scramble hands and knees
flailing restless for traction
or to get comfortable
and make yourself an angel

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Mountain Goats, No Children

Friday, July 20, 2012

The lights are hung, but the town is dry

Keep your air speed up,
my instructor always told me,
and you might make it there
without stalling, without crashing.
I always thought better of that
plummeting feeling before we
reached our terminal velocity.

In the heirloom of the city,
passed down through generations
of our fairest mothers and fathers,
they planned a celebration -
something to commemorate our
not dying in the broken-glass
plains of an unknown continent.

Above the lazily-muted whispers,
but below the clinking of glasses,
I observed a concentrated dose
of all of our wasted time, steaming
in the hot rhetoric and glad-handing.
I imagined the blades of my propeller,
scattered among all the fish in the sea.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Fleet Foxes, He Doesn't Know Why

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Six lines to sleep by

photo by Peter Erich

And at night, when you
are the last light to read by,
my eyes will stay shut.

There's something in the
darkness of eyelids that keeps
the mind more alive.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Sene & Blue, TheWonderers

Thursday, July 5, 2012

There's a girl in New York City

By the time I crossed Greenwich Street my embarrassment had burned away in the evening heat. Now, whatever was left just made me feel silly, perhaps even a bit juvenile, and I laughed aloud as I waited at the next crosswalk, the traffic careening by me in some sort of accidental rhythm.

At the edge of the river I picked the nearest empty bench and sat down in the middle. The Hudson rocked up against the concrete siding of the city, sharp claps of the water echoing in the darkness. The night had not yet brought a drop in temperature, so I sat there sweating through my work clothes and imagining how absurd I must have sounded. All that time spent calculating and trying to predict outcomes. Of course she was going to say no at the end. This sort of thing never worked out, right? So why would it be any different for me just because I tried harder?

I looked up across the river and saw movement in the corner of my eye. I turned my head and saw her walking slowly along the sidewalk, glancing back and forth from me to the water. She reached my bench and I slid off to the side so she could sit down next to me. She faced the river and stayed silent. I imagined she was trying to find the words to say, although I had never been fluent in body language. Finally she turned and looked at me.

"You know this is impossible, right?"

I laughed through my nose and shrugged.

"I guess so," I said. I leaned back into the bench and crossed my arms. "But maybe that's why it seems like such a good idea."

She gave me a look that half-conveyed interest, or perhaps pity, and then turned to the constellation of lights flickering and forming in the buildings across the water. She leaned back against the bench and rested her hands in her lap, and the two of us sat there waiting for anyone other than each other to break the silence.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Tom Waits, Come On Up To The House

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Beyond belief

It's a black sky, with clouds gathering in stacks
to tell you which mood you should be in,
to lift your eyes to the news that the thing
you always thought was unimaginable
was never too far out of sight, after all.
And there the buzzards wisely circle,
tearing the empty meat off the bone
bit by bloody bit, until the truth is laid bare -
a gleaming, sharpened taunt - perfection
amid the rot beneath the devil's sun.
Nothing escapable here. Just the inevitable
drawl of a clock's weakening movements,
the pace that it has kept for the better part
of a century, loud and reliable, slowly waning
to its final, barely audible tick, tock, tick.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Black Keys, The Only One

Thursday, June 7, 2012


The dull jazz horns of the city
blare out like a sudden scream,
captivating and violent,
cascading off the wind-dulled walls
of the fading neon facade.
The sharp fragments of sound
that finally meet my ears
are still biting, a cruel reminder
of the things I left behind there,
chances I never had the nerve to take
and voices mine could never match.
If, one day, I'm able to return,
I can only hope that the streets
still vibrate with that same energy,
a color so persuasive and imminent
as to never let you be still.
Then, maybe, I'll find the impulse
to do something I'd soon regret.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Fionn Regan & The Staves, North Star Lover

Friday, June 1, 2012

This is why the seats face backward

painting by Linden Frederick

The hail falls faster than your parents can drive to escape it, clanking angrily against the roof like a teenager’s first drum solo. The road is tinted yellow beneath the clouds and the warming twilight, and it falls into the blackness as we round each turn on a desperate, careening road home. I feel your fingers start to slacken as the looming dusk is preceded by a glimpse of roaring orange, peering through a crack in the sky. We’ll sit in each others arms until the brake lights go steady, pour out red the color of an entire world’s lost passion and, ultimately, go dark.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Sarah Jarosz, My Muse

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Even in the dark

My eyes open slowly,
as the first ripples of life
in a fresh-cut tulip,
sucking up water like
it's been starved for days.
The world's been changed,
heaven brought to bear
upon those who never
knew better, those who
only trusted their instincts
and felt the heat of the Devil
waning in the throes of love.

The trenches are dug,
made dangerous at last
and spiked to spite some
caterwauling temptress,
so criminally beautiful,
alive on the open ocean.
She has called out to me
more than once, loud cries
I've instinctively filed away,
preserved in ancient amber
as fuel for a former romantic
when all other lights go out.

My new home is kept
in the highest greenery
of the old mountainside.
Perhaps here the savages
will be too tired to climb,
too downcast, commanded
by the nature of the new world
to stay hidden at twilight,
lest they fall victim to the
many new hungry impulses
of whatever happens to be
more desperate than they are.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Staves, Winter Trees (simply gorgeous)

Saturday, May 19, 2012


See how she knows her own words?
They mean something to her. They mean
that when these gates close in her face
and the people who gave her life
cast her bags out beside her, cheap with dust,
that she will not be alone; not really.
She'll have the others, the ones who
know better than to be afraid of the way
someone else is made. And when the
undecided reach out with, "To each
their own," her words will mean more
than theirs. She knows she isn't better
than them, and she knows that acceptance
is a hard thing to come by, and she's
seen the true depth of human hatred.
And yet, she loves. As hard as she can.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Tallest Man On Earth, The Dreamer

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Time to be alive

photo by Kevin Lindridge

We'll group together in the darkness and then send out a flare:
          Sound the alarm! it cries, tears and spit cast
          like fire to a casket -

          before the apocalypse, that is - and to the tune of the three
          greatest symphonies every written, left in
          stone on the steps of

          someone wise enough to copy them down and keep them.
          Until our teflon-coated wings unstick from
          the pavement, consider

          our home a prison. The joyful noises you hear from the
          basement sound out in protest, stand-up guys
          who only mean to send

          a message, not to burn the whole place down at the drop
          of a lighter emblazoned with silver expletives
          stolen from a harder age.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Neutral Milk Hotel, Two-Headed Boy

Thursday, May 10, 2012

One day, you'll all be gone

drawing by Brooks Shane Salzwedel

A wiry breeze sews through my ear,
calls me to savor the taste of my time
and to lower my eyes to see beneath me.
Stand with me, grasp at dancing straws,

watch how our forebears stand so tiny
beside our potential, greasing the wheels
and bathing in the warm current of the past
until they shrink to historical invisibility.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Neko Case, Ghost Wiring

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Do or do not

Look at these marks.
Each one is a story
and each story
is a self-inflicted wound
borne on the sharp side
of whatever instrument
was handy.

But wounds soon heal
and stories grow to be
outplayed even sooner,
fibrous tendrils of language
we'd rather see buried,
languishing forever
in the far, green deep.

Together we've made silence
out of imaginative calamity,
a dark feat that shines
as a new pearl,
trapped in the world's gaping maw
until it is held, at long last,
on the steps of a lifetime.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Menomena, The Pelican

Monday, April 30, 2012

Ah, memories

Day 30: The last NaPoWriMo poem for 2012...Today's prompt is to incorporate at least three "I remember" statements into the poem.

I remember
when I held on to it,
reaching to a faint hope
far past its expiration,
dreams locked in cages
and epitomized
in the mud-darkened
puddles beneath my tires.

I remember
the rattle of broken parts
after it hit the ground
in a shower of frustration,
the only move that could
be made, a protest and
a solemn reminder
of where the time had gone.

I remember
the first time the storm
put me to sleep instead
of keeping me awake.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Yuck, Holing Out

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vase construction

Day 29: Not doing the prompt today. Just not feeling it.

painting by Dane Lovett

Our heads are heavy
and borne again on stock film,
watered-down visions.

Our hands reach northward,
a place we've never been to
but would love to see.

Our eyes hang loosely,
downcast and weather-beaten
on our dad's front porch.

Our legs hold no weight
but the burdens we give them
daily, like sad gifts.

Our hearts ask questions,
looking for the wrong answers
for a test we'll pass.

The house leans southward,
a tendency toward life
and beauty in it.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Deer Tick, Smith Hill

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Day 28: Write a poem of space, perhaps just a general one (a building, for example) or a specific one with meaning (such as the dining room table you used to make forts out of).

In here it's
a swell of music,
drifting past branches
and feathery-yellow
flowers that seem
to hold on to nothing.
It's almost
anything, a home
or an escape, tended to
and forgotten
until a time of need.
Follow the scent
of darkness,
just a bare trickle
of sunshine floating in,
keeping one body -
or two -
safe and sound.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Beach House, 10 Mile Stereo

Friday, April 27, 2012


Day 27: Definitely not writing a nursery rhyme. I really don't like rhyming.

This whole world
looks like a commercial
from the eighties.

I spend time
conjuring foggy excuses
to get myself out
of light commitment.
It makes living
much easier
on the weekends.

pass me by slowly
like cars in traffic
or grains of sand
dropped one at a time
from my palm
on a beach vacation.

This whole world
looks like it's missing
a color spectrum.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Surfer Blood, Take It Easy

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Day 26: Only four more left! Today's prompt is to write an elegy.

There isn't much now
          to keep you here.
Just pictures of you
          in faraway places
Taken with a fisheye,
          showcasing you with
Something sleek
          billowing in the breeze;
Something dead
          curling into a question;
Something ancient
          buried in afterthought;
Something flawed
          held at a safe distance;
Something stained
          pinning your arms back;
Something deep
          drowning you.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Antlers, Bear

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fruit cento

Day 25: Write a cento - a 10-line poem that borrows one line each from 10 other poems. My sources, in order, are Rachel Contreni Flynn, Tom Hansen, Grace Schulman, Frank O'Hara, Amy Clampitt, Carl Phillips, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Billy Collins and Brigit Pegeen Kelly.

If light pours like water
chilled from overnight cold,
let a loose apple teach me how to spin
a color: orange. I write a line
of living matter, sown and tended by women,
or as bees would, if they weren't
all aluminum and curves. Inside,
it's the mangoes, avocados
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
How many ladders to gather an orchard?

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Black Keys, Everlasting Light

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mourn the morn

Day 24: Write a lipogram/Beautiful Outlaw/Beautiful In-Law (explained in more detail in the prompt). I'm choosing lipogram for the letter "i," which means I'm not allowed to use it in this entire poem.

Bow before the sun.
After all, she rose early for you,
woke you from whatever
bloated slumber kept you
lost between dreams
far past your allotted hours.

Two years have past,
and yet spaces stay empty,
though you haven't worked out
whether your thoughts command
or your cosmos plays games
to keep you stuck beneath.

PS: It was so freaking hard not using any "ing" words in this. No need for further discussion; I just want you all to know how difficult it was.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Fool's Gold, Surprise Hotel

Monday, April 23, 2012


Day 23: Write a poem that responds to, or is inspired by, a work of art, whether that be a sculpture, painting, photo or whatever else.

photo by Lukasz Wierzbowski

She's been hidden for days,
a careful calculation she made
that told her things would
finally come up clean.

She managed it for a while,
the mobilizing hunger
reaching deep behind her
capacity for self-control.

To the tallest place
she thought she could reach,
she brought the best
parts of her composure.

To the death, she said,
for it would be a mistake
to leave anything important
up for serious debate.

She kept her post safe
until the love she waited for
finally arrived in a box
taped three times on the side.

It was a risk to come down,
but when the box moved,
the temptation was too much
to leave it sitting alone.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Shins, The Rifle's Spiral (watch this video...SO GOOD)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

That green fuzzy stuff

Day 22:

Life on
the backside of
a large rock has never
been so interesting
as the time
when there were
not three,
no, not four,
but five ants crawling
up and to the left
of the spot where,
one time,
Joey Bloom was stung
by a yellow jacket
and proceeded
to cry a most unhappy noise
that did awaken all manner
of resting forest animals.
It can
be exhausting
out here.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Broken Bells, The Ghost Inside

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The truth about things

Day 21: Write in hay(na)ku form, which is a three-line poem with one word on the first line, two on the second, and three on the third, with no syllable restrictions.

our house
there are monsters.

live quietly
beneath the floors.

they feed
it becomes louder.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Grizzly Bear, Southern Point

Friday, April 20, 2012

Not a holiday

Day 20: Write a traveling poem, focusing on the sights and sounds of the trip as well as your mental state and the state of things around you.

This is all part of some mutual agreement, I think,
though I've never seen the actual paper contract.

Something about

understanding that while we are here, we are not
talking, breathing loudly, or making sudden movements.
It's a well-known fact that daily commuters are like
wild animals, prone to lash out at the slightest provocation.

Glare through the windows, despite the specks of dirt,
obliterates any lingering morning fuzziness before the train
reaches it's destination, before the bing and the driver's
announcement - and then it's a shuffling hustle to the stairs.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
LCD Soundsystem, All I Want

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Day 19: I'm terrible at following prompts this week. Hey look, a picture!

photo by Jeffrey Stockbridge

They found him crouched,
knees caught between
launch position and a prayer,
sorrow strewn about like
a sparse rain, salt and pain.
He held a hand upon
the remains of a lifetime,
the work and worth of a family,
the combined willpower
of seven hardy generations.

"Right when you think you've
got it handled," he said
between the tears, "life proves
just how helpless you are."
He was in the house, chin up
as he stared through the roof
at the afternoon sun, a blazing
contrast to the storm in his
mind, the tempest that tore
through his composure.

They followed him, carefully,
through the dining room,
the hall, the living room, kitchen.
In the bedroom he could move
no more, rudderless before
a full-wall painting of
his wife's dream vacation.
They left him cross-legged
in front of that mural, breathless.
"Need to get away," he told them.

 Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Common, They Say (OG Version)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sight lines

Day 18: Don't want to write a lullaby, so...it's Three Word Wednesday (dependence, kept, rumple) and I have this weird thing:

Make the screen darker -
we'll slide in with new bones,
bits to whet the appetite
while the better meal roasts.
This dependence might cost us,

a point well made between
bites too large to chew and
sputters of our freshly rumpled
existence. Were we to realize
the year is past, might we make

a better run of things? Defeatist,
we imagine a backup plan
kept in accordance with the rules
we've made, cursed, and spat
upon, our wise and dearest friends.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The New Pornographers, Letter From An Occupant

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dear commuter train...

Day 17: Write a poem in the form of a letter to an inanimate object, using at least four of the six items provided in the prompt (see link). Of course I used all six, since I'm awesome (read: glutton for punishment).

Knock it off.
No, seriously -
never have I thought
that I would worry
that something as simple
as a slice of watermelon
on the track
could keep me
from getting to work on time.
I can't imagine
finding something more
tragically triumphant
than the seven feet
you just moved
after our twenty-first short-stop.
Have you ever tried to
step in my shoes?
Can you see where I'm coming from?
It shouldn't be such a struggle
to move from 215th street
all the way to 216th street.
After all, it isn't like we're
Chamberlain, calling for bayonets
down the slope of Little Round Top.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Shins, Past And Pending

Monday, April 16, 2012

Where heaven ends and the earth begins

Day 16: Write a poem inspired by this picture:

On a day of blinding beauty,
the boat launched unhindered,
no waves in the harbor
to send it skittering back to its berth.
When the wind rolled in,
they were already on the ocean,
and the man stared down,
deep into the harshest depths.

The boat rocked in the current,
a steady dream, repeated wonder,
the ridges of the water set aflame
by the afternoon sunlight.
The man's father arched his fingers,
done damage over his long years,
and wound the line tight,
as tight as his joints would let him.

The man adjusted his cap, a gift,
a treasure from his father's past:
"I had one just like it, you know,
back when I was your age."
He smiled at the old man,
saw the lines of the sea in his face,
the many years spent at the helm
before the water was too much.

To the north the clouds stood still,
and the old man cast his line,
a blurry vision laid out before him
of a time he scarcely remembered.
He saw young men scattered,
bracing against the roughest waters,
muscles bunched in curves of rope
as they fought the weather's might.

The colossus they rode bucked,
a raging bull adrift in the tempest,
and the old man grew dizzy,
reaching out hands to stay himself.
The wind tore his hat away,
sent it spiraling into the roaring mist
that permeated every inch of the air,
a blooming, cascading shroud.

A stable hand landed on his shoulder,
his son's, and he pulled the old man back,
back to the boat on the ocean,
seated calmly on the abiding blue.
The old man sighed and leaned back,
remarked to his son, and to himself:
"I don't think I miss the old days,"
he said, "nor the fury of the open sea."

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Rage Against the Machine, Born As Ghosts

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Day 15: Not much feeling the parody prompt today, so I did something else.

We can suffocate the abstract,
dance concentric circles around the truth
and bury our embattled vigor,
but until our eyes can draw blood,
you may as well count us out.

The bitter family is brimming, now,
stranded on the outrigger as sharks unravel.

Then we'll find a new shade of black,
trapped in a wooden frame, embellished,
while the red mist pillows outward
and tugs our sight away,
back to the cold case, the unsolved.

The bitter family is swimming, now,
cast away to the black sea and forgotten.

At home there will be a finer touch,
songs lifted from the old books,
a finely woven chorus of anthills
sewn together in a rickety loop
and cast around our reddened necks.

The bitter family is dimming, now,
dusk settles on their backs and they're


Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Tame Impala, I Don't Really Mind

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The one with a rhyme scheme

Day 14: Write a sonnet. Get it? 'Cause a sonnet has 14 lines. Ehhh? Ehhh?

Under new management: They've torn down the walls,
they've made it just one large, beating chamber.
While I wait for mine to stop, an inner voice calls
to tell me that she's gone, no longer a remainder.
A cage lifted? Too grand a cliche, I fear,
though the weight feels to have lightened.
But it returns, and while the reason isn't clear,
I can tell the heart's noose has been tightened.
A quick search leaves little to the imagination,
an easy mystery solved, for all to plainly see,
but tell me: Is this only my creation?
Or will there be someone staring back at me?
My only hope is to take this where it goes.
A sudden drop? A feathery step? Only she knows.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Modest Mouse, Bury Me With It

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bought and sold

Day 13: Write a ghazal (explained in the link).

An angry soul, he was, born alone, bought and sold.
All his life he lived a plan, stolen goods bought and sold.

To wit, a pot of wilting flowers, never watered
but cared for from afar, memories bought and sold.

Take time to denounce the plan, even before
it's been presented, skepticism bought and sold.

At the end he wore nothing, empty, bereft,
materialism at it's finest, time bought and sold.

They spoke quietly at the ceremony,
a gaggle of mourners, cackling, bought and sold.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Incubus, Pantomime

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fragment two

Day 12: Translate a foreign language poem homophonically (put simply, rewrite it how it sounds, not how it translates). I chose Jeunesse Dorée by the Belgian poet Jan de Roek (but I only did part of it...it's quite long).

In heated excellence his vermin lead upheld
and nameless. The mural vocalizes met verbiage,
words angered pending the angst of a goatherd as seen pared in her sleep,
tousled house pets and morsels.

Helpful legend hurdled in my house and larvae,
entrusted vendor.
The speaker, a raven elegant
stands in my eye.

My brother, genesis of miles, glee can't
meet empty handed, meddling bare,
meet in word and tryst; red mile
of tram in wonder and heart stock as
reeds nightmare the bewildered.
Glee waits, green dyer is chosen.

The tide late lightens now, in rust my helm knocks at
my hands in winters gloves.
The ripples shrivel under a rig of cursive and breaking
apple garden, in crossing
dust air taken of my war hooves.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Q-Tip, Breathe And Stop

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Day 11: Write a poem using all five senses (and in my case, since it's Three Word Wednesday, the words draft, locate and serenity).

The air turns sudden around me.
It's there.
It isn't.
It's there.
It isn't.
It swirls and the hairs on my arm stand up,
at attention, a deep prickle rippling across my skin.
It settles and disappears, and the world sounds
missing - someone yanked the plug from the amp.

A deep serenity separates me from my surroundings,
but I'm on the wrong side of the line, the passenger
who missed his stop, now adrift in a sea of loss.
The taste is new, a sinister, too-sweet mixture that
makes a harsh blend with my swelling, drifting tears.

I can see this scene from the outside, as they often say,
an interloper, casual and blunt, looking in upon myself.
It's an empty place, this dorm room desk, callous and cold,
a place to rest your head as it descends through the aura,
cutting a path as cleanly as a samurai would, sword
tweaked and tuned like the finest musical instrument.

A draft of dry air sharpens the notes, and it smells of winter,
cool and with a twinge of firewood, long since burned -
curling through the scent receptors with an easy haste - 
to some a life and to others a pyre, steeped in tradition.
In it we locate our own, the one we've lost and cried over.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Emanon, The Words

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A professional yawn

Day 10: Steal the first line from another poem. I browsed The The Poetry until I found something that stuck out. It was from Elizabeth Clark Wessel's The House Wakes.

no big subjects today
too tired to consider
the effects of my own dialogue
too tired to wonder
what would be different
if i ever got
a full eight hours
too tired to reflect upon
some small concession
i might have made
so many years ago
too tired for words
and most certainly
too tired for punctuation

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Johnson & Jonson, Wow

Monday, April 9, 2012

By any other name

Day 9: Couldn't get anything with today's prompt, so here's this, instead.

photo by Fong Qi Wei

An untethered urgency hangs from his head,
a crown of worry weighting him forward,
trapped in a formal bow to the afternoon heat.

And to the dockside he goes, a quiet man
bothered only by his own insistence on denim,
sweating in a greenhouse of highly textured blue.

And at the water's edge he sits, contemplative.
Here he finds something he wasn't looking for,
a small joy, buried in the furious eddy of the river.

And in its drooping folds he finds her, lost, crying,
a tiny jewel cast aside at the last - a tragedy, he thinks.
He peers side to side, hopeful not to find the owner.

An untethered urgency tumbles from his head
and his back springs up - a tall, unweighted coil
to lift a dying man back to life - back to love.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
St. Vincent, Strange Mercy

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Day 8: Go outside. Yeah, that's pretty much the whole prompt.

Dusk sets between the reflections in my window,
falling slowly, like we're both stoned

and drifting through a shared dream.
The pale skin of your leg sparks through,

a pearly moonscape, adrift without orbit,
though I'd give anything to be the harmony

that corrals your somnambulant tendencies.
I watch the spotlight spring on across the street

and with it rises my questions, deep wishes
you'll do most anything to make ring true.

But with distance fades the impact, a bulb
weakening as the fuse refuses to draw power,

refuses to make me more than a faint glimmer
you may have once seen in the corner of your eye.

I keep waiting for the harness to reattach, and ask
if you'd please keep me closer; please keep me lit.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Bon Iver & St. Vincent, Roslyn

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gray matters

Day 7: Write a poem based around one color.

Awake is a place beyond
the gray tips of my dead fingers,
behind the starry silhouettes
of her solemn gray eyes,
shimmering with something
just less than anticipation.

To the moon, Alice,
that lifeless gray sphere
blinking hopelessly

in the vacuum, a pulse
of slow, dark gray energy
ringing out like a singularity's
last call, violent, but clean.
A precision strike, straight
to the gray home of emotion.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Elzhi, Detroit State of Mind

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mountains out of anthills

Day 6: Write a poem about an animal.

There's something faintly military in the way the horns
     follow lightly in their footsteps, a dark residue of
     loss left to colonize the spaces they've made vacant,
     and only the sharp tones of the brass make it feel

     like this was once a home - not a proud one, perhaps -
     but to call it anything else would be an affront to those
     who built it, turned their spindly legs to earth movers
     and etched out a space in the dark, wild underground.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch & Nate Dogg, Oh No

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Center field

Day 5: As it is Opening Day (sort of, even though they've already played regular season games), today's prompt is to write a poem inspired by baseball. I'll avoid puns as best I can.

The view from here is better.
Sure, you'd love to be
the big gun, scorching fastballs
past the helpless flutter
of opposing lumber,
but who can argue with scenery?

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Dilated Peoples, Kindness for Weakness

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A dog without a crown

Day 4: Chose not to follow the prompt today...didn't feel like writing a blues poem. Instead, 3WW for NaPoWriMo using growl, hype and justify.

After the rise
comes the second rise -
no, not right, but correct.
The dark growl
of progress is shuttered,
sound-cancelling headphones:
"We spared no expense!"
What's left is only
to justify the thought.
So here goes:
"You see," he coos,
"I have an explanation
for this, I do, I do."
He scoops up the hype,
gathers it in one big net,
smashes it overhead
and calls his soldiers
to our graves.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Shad, Yaa I Get It

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Brighter than usual

Day 3: Write an "epithalamium," a poem celebrating a wedding in some way (I chose to interpret this rather loosely).

A ton of personality
is much heavier
than a ton of bricks,
but here we are with a scale,
measuring anyway,
singing in scales,
like the weight
of our words is too much to bear
without melodic delivery.

Overall, it's been
a journey through
the surreal, deep and
highly persuasive.
Funny to discover that,
until we fully immerse ourselves,
no manner of
hearsay, pleasant or otherwise,
can convince us.

Someone sang
that happiness comes in many,
vastly different forms:
an impossible touch or
hot gunpowder.
For me, happiness is
the way you blur in my eyelids,
like I've stared at the sun
for far too long.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Blu, Amnesia

Monday, April 2, 2012


Day 2: A poem based on the song that was #1 on the day you were born

The song for 7/23/87 is not giving me anything, so for today, I'm pretending I was born in 1986...WAY better. The song is linked below.

bunching breaking twisting tiring
and the lift:
straight up
to the sky.

A beat
starts with the quiet murmur of
burns loud
and jealous.

breathing is far more difficult
when she
rests upon
your lungs.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Peter Gabriel, Sledgehammer

Sunday, April 1, 2012

NaPoWriMo is back!

National Poetry Writing Month has finally returned! This is the first of 30 poems on the first of 30 days in the month of April, and this year I might even keep to the schedule and finish on time. Won't that be fun? This year I'm running with the folks over at NaPoWriMo.net, who will be providing participants with prompts every day to get the creative juices flowing. Now...let's do this.

Day 1:

It's simple when you
really think about it.

Stretch out a hand
and take another.

Buried in a constant,
blinding wave
of second-guessing,
it gets harder
to see what lies
outside your new
eight-by-eight cell. 

Blink against the
sunlight, bladed.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


With help from the below, by Adam de Boer

And can you hear the cheers go up?
A soft swell at first, 
perhaps a moment or two
for those in the back
to realize what has begun. 
But then...
Oh, but then...
A tempest does rage,

and for centuries, even millenia.

A lazy caterpillar to the top of the branch,
a stunning butterfly back down
to the masses,
and all televised! What luck!
The bird sounds mean nothing.
The pointy hats?
Even less.
But who's to judge?

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Andrew Bird, Danse Caribe

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Not on an empty stomach

Three words for today are fragrant, jostle and remnant.

To say it was "a mistake" would have been too obvious. Instead, Alby chose to remain silent, staring at me across the diner table as I buried my face in a plate of fries that were still too hot to eat. He took thoughtful sips of his soda and I could see that he was wondering when the spotty remnants of formerly boiling oil on the fries would finally do me in. I stared up at him and spoke with a mouthful.

"What, asshole?"

He raised a bushy eyebrow, unimpressed with my vocabulary. "A bit confrontational this evening, aren't you?"

I contemplated throwing a handful of fries at his face, eventually deciding that I was too hungry and the loss would be too great. Instead I returned my gaze to my food and ignored him. He waited a moment longer before speaking again.

"Max, you know you can't go home after what just happened, right?" He gave me time to respond, which I did not utilize. "I'm just saying...you fucked up pretty bad."

I was running out of fries, which meant I was also running out of good excuses to not respond to him. I snuck a glance around the restaurant, hoping a waitress would be nearby so I could order another plate of anything food-related.

"Max, you need to knock it off, right now."

I picked up the last strip of potato and held it in my hands like it was the Holy Grail. I turned my head sideways and stared at it, watching a grain of salt tumble off the side into the palm of my right hand. I began imagining it was a man in a barrel, plunging over the tempestuous edge of a more delicious version of Niagara Falls.

Alby's hand rushed by my face like a rocket and crashed into my hand, catapulting the last of the french fries toward the diner window. The wooden blinds clattered with the impact and the fry fell to the table, its journey ending with a dissatisfying thwok. I grasped my hand in pain and rose from my seat, staring down at him with all of the fury I could care enough to muster, which was not that much.

"Whatever, man!" I shouted down at him. "Just...whatever!"

"Whatever?" he shouted back. "Are you serious? I know he was a massive jerk, but seriously? Whatever?"

"Yeah, man, whatever." I sat back down, pouting. "I just couldn't do it anymore. What's the worst they throw at me? Juvie?"

"That might be the best you get."

"Thanks, Al. Best friends should always be as good at this as you are."

"Wow, dude. For real, just shut up. You have no idea what you just did, do you?"

I crossed my arms and did my best imitation of an impudent child. A waitress passed by carrying a burger and fries. My head turned on a swivel to follow the fragrant dish to the back of the diner. She delivered it and walked back past our table.

"Excuse me?" I said. "Could I get another plate of fries, please?"

"Sure thing, sweetheart." She smiled at me and kept walking. "Just a minute."

I turned back to Alby and saw him frozen in an incredulous shrug.

"You really don't have any idea, do you?"

I returned his shrug. "Can I just eat some fries?"

"You can eat all the fries in the world, but it won't keep you out of prison."

"At least I'll be full."

"You're already full. Full of shit."

I pounded my hands on the table in succession, then lifted a spoon and tapped Alby's glass to simulate a rimshot.

"Well done," he said. He settled his arms at his side and adopted a sour look. "Well done."

I sighed and turned to the window, wedging a few fingers between two of the wooden slats to get a better view of the highway. I could see the faint glow of faraway police lights bouncing off the streetlights in the parking lot. I sighed again and withdrew my fingers, letting the blinds close in a disruptive clap. Alby saw the lights, too, and his eyes widened as he turned to look back at me.


The waitress returned with my plate of fries and set them down on the table in front of me.

"Anything else, hon?" she asked.

I shook my head, not even bothering to look up at her. I didn't hear what she said after that, but I saw her walk away out of the corner of my eye. I picked up a handful of fries and stuffed them into my mouth, letting one or two spin out of my grip and onto the floor. The police lights flew directly into my vision now, and I squinted to concentrate on my food. In a few moments three officers jostled through the diner door and made a precision turn toward our table. One of them grabbed Alby by the arm and guided him out of the booth. The other two stood by my side.

I kept eating, taking care not to lose any more fries as I nibbled on one at a time. One cop's voice buzzed in my head like a broken stereo speaker, then stopped. Then buzzed again, and stopped. Then began buzzing constantly, and I saw three more fries plummet onto the smooth tile as the second cop grabbed me and pulled me out onto the floor. I felt the handcuffs slap on one at a time and I was lifted to my feet. I barely noticed the terrified look on Alby's face before I was in the back seat of the police cruiser, slumped forward.

I shrugged, for no one but myself. At least I was full.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Deerhunter, Helicopter

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Words today are amateur, diligent and nurture.

Oh, and also this from Marco Mazzoni, done entirely with colored pencils (which blows my mind):


Do you remember
where we left off?
The dark hail
of insults,
the diligent joy
of our agony.

Don't forget
     to trail the string
          of flawed, empty logic
behind you,
nurturing a clear path
upon which we'll tread
after you,
feet leaden
with anticipation.

When you stand
with your wings burdened,
amateurish attempts to lift off
over and done with,
meld back in
with the pinks and blues
and let the last memory trail out.
At last! A solar flare.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Lauryn Hill, Doo Wop

Thursday, March 15, 2012


How true it has become.
Like wires crossing in the night,
what's hard has become easy
and vice versa.
Business as usual

for the few of us left
who think we understand,
and just a small distraction
for the fearful, tired remainder.
Why bother learning

when we can argue just as well
as we can breathe.
It doesn't mean we're correct,
but we're always right.
No doubt about it.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Wailin' Jennys, Old Man

Friday, March 9, 2012

The bite is definitely worse

My writing is scarce lately. I'm thinking about forming an exploratory committee to consider the possibility of maybe pioneering a tentative expedition into uncharted lands to find more.

from Emil Kozak

Here we are,
where we've
always been.

Can't say
we blame you.
We would be too,
if we weren't
the ones
in charge.

Even when
light splits
the dark haze
and our reward
rests quietly
in the palm
of his hand,
is it the
sweet draw
of the carrot,
or are we
chased still
by the sharp,
phantom sting
of the stick?

Flashlight off;
back to dark,
back to basics.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Fleet Foxes, Grown Ocean

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Life on repeat

This is where I've been,
amid the stalks and grains,
buried somewhere
you'll never think to look.

That's my genius, they say,
and my curse,

to always find what I need
where I can't share it
with anyone else.
Not now, not ever.

On my bike in the winter,
thawed by my thoughts,

dreaming of that summer
and wondering, loudly,
a speech to the frozen trees.
Bold, they say, quite so.

And like the lights shine,
so far off in the clouds,

we can be an inspiration,
something to stare at
when the phone hits the wall.
Something beautiful, indeed.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Sufjan Stevens, All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands

Friday, February 24, 2012


It starts as nothing,
as all things do,
but it's not long
before it's crumbling
up my spine;
taking up residence
in my guts;
undermining the strength
inherent in my chest;
and cascading in loops
around my throat.
Never, though,
does it reach my head.
Nor does it tumble
the core of my brain.
Nothing may undo
what is already undone -
scattered and tossed,
hapless and joyful -
by one thought,
and one thought only.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Well, it's not on my iTunes yet, but - TalkWithYourFingers, Everlong (Piano Cover)


Thursday, February 16, 2012


Inspired by this picture taken by Margaret Durow:

It's a nervous habit
to consume one's own soul.
That's what she always told me,
whether we were knee deep
in the suds of the ocean
or trawling for deals
amidst the stumbling masses
of wily, veteran shoppers
and their peripherals.

She writes me letters,
or at least she used to.
In each one I heard tones,
her musical hands moving
in circles across the page.
On rainy Sunday afternoons
I may still be found asleep,
lulled by the soft, verdant joy
of her slow script.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
St. Vincent, Cruel

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

And the angels sang out of tune

Three Word Wednesday! Please help me get out of my rut! Today's words are angelic, foster and ruin. Just imagine me saying that in a game show host's voice. Awesome, right?

The top frame of my glasses spun and flashed with the glow of the dancing neon lights above me, like a thin, striped caterpillar was racing across my forehead. I watched it run, the never-ending trail lulling me into an otherwise unjustified daze. If anything I should have been wide-eyed, fearful of danger, whatever animal instincts I had pulsing harder and faster than any of the giant-sized billboards that transfixed me. But it was not so, and I hardly even noticed when she stole my wallet.

She stole my wallet?

The alley was darker, and so was my memory. She led me here, I think. By the time I found her she was already seated comfortably on a chair that had no business being in this part of the city. It glittered obnoxiously amid the various degrees of ruin that surrounded it. I watched her face, waiting for the cue, waiting for her voice to ring out in sweet, angelic beauty. She licked her lips and opened her mouth, and I tensed.

"You're missing something," she said.

I raised an eyebrow. Her voice didn't match her face. She was pretty. That's really the only word for it. Not gorgeous, maybe, but certainly attractive. She was dressed in plain clothes that fit her perfectly - fashion without even a hint of strategy.

But her voice? A woman's, to be sure, but lower, more meaningful. It wasn't high and golden; it wouldn't draw any forest animals from their homes. If it was any color, it was most certainly dark blue - something deep and pulsating, coming in waves like an ocean. Her face didn't tell me anything about an ocean. I was confused.

"What am I missing?" I asked her, acutely aware of what I sounded like. I sounded like a whimpering doberman.

She smiled, baring perfect, white teeth.

"It's not your wallet, that's for sure," she said. She motioned to my back pocket. "It's been right there, all along."

I patted my pocket suspiciously. She was right. She had never stolen my wallet. That's why I didn't notice. But if that was true, what was I doing here?

"It's something to foster your belief, isn't it?" she said, her smile twisting at the corners. "It's something to bring you back to where you need to be."

I stared at her. And then, suddenly, a loud laugh burst forth from my throat. It surprised me, and apparently her as well. Her smile shrank and then disappeared. Her eyes narrowed and settled into an intense focus.


"Oh, nothing," I said, coughing my way to composure. "I just find it interesting that you seem to think you know so much about me." I turned and began to walk out of the alley. "You may need to rethink your approach."

I made it to the very end of the corridor before she spoke again.

"She's gone, isn't she?" she said, her question not even really a question at all. "Just like all the others."

Her tone said it all: I know what you won't admit, what you can't admit. I swallowed hard, clenched my teeth, my nostrils flaring.

"She'll be back," I whispered. "Someone will come back."

I felt her smile return, a grimy surge of satisfaction radiating down the alley.

"It's time to stop waiting," she said. "It's time to take control, to be aggressive. It's time to make the world do what you want it to do."

I turned to retort, in some small way to take her advice, but she was gone. A grizzled homeless man stared up at me from a small nest of cardboard and blankets he had built at the mouth of the alley. His eyes were wide. I nodded carefully at him and walked back to the street. The lights were still flashing, scrambling about on the horizon. I hid my eyes.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Feist, Gatekeeper

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This poem has nothing to do with Valentine's Day

Tonight we'll be at rest,
decked in purple
and the hyms of protest.
That loudest wish
is severely planned, at best,
but yelled upon a whim.

Our shoulders ache
with the pressures of things
not yet carried, thank god.
And so, in our thankfulness,
we'll pray to hasten their return.

The ticket is bought,
but the train will never come.
That little slice of paper
feels so at home in the folds
of our wallets, doesn't it?

I lied.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
Bon Iver, Hinnom, TX