(this is not a poem)

NC Zoo, March 2007
This is not a poem.
This is not a diatribe.
This is not a manifesto.
This is not much of anything at all,
Except one man accepting his 
Legacy from another.
He carried burdensome feelings of
inadequacy, imperfection, 
insensitivity, all of them
tamped down hard,
buried deeply, like
a stone in his heart. He 
layered it with each failure,
consoled himself with 
"At least I am providing for my family." 
"At least I do good work, 
support my co-workers with grace,
with fairness." And mostly with
"At least I fear God." Though
whether fearing God came
from his true heart or from 
his boyhood he never knew.
Each new layer of failure or 
consternation or losing 
control to anger resonated 
all of the other layers. Each 
new layer seemed heavier 
than the last. 
his heart-weight became
too much. One failure 
too many. He said to himself,
"I am perfect enough that never,
never should that have happened."
He said it again. And again. And every
day again. He repeated it,
haunted himself with it, 
layering and layering his heart 
until it only could beat 
when he didn't think--
and he only could not think by
shutting out his own voice, 
stopping up his ears to his heart-stone:
taking flight in sleep, 
in blessed nothingness.
Five years and five months he
stayed chained to that heart.
Then he died.
I saw that man yesterday. 
I see him more frequently
these days. 
I recognize his ways. It
seems I live with him more 
and more. I wish I could
cradle his rounded, load-weary
shoulders, caress the thin hair
of his head. Tell him it's okay.
Then ask him,
"Could you do the same 
for me?"
No, definitely not a poem.
Poems rhyme, 
poems have meter.
Poems make sense. 

Brain Dump, Open Tuesdays

Gnaw Orleans, population one.
Surrounded by tusked tasks, centered but not, paralyzed.
Icy tears bend old branches--will one break?
Violin music screams out its bow-stressed catgut attack.
By your aches shall ye know you're alive.
By my ass shall alligators gnaw me.
Hey, Thoreau, when the quiet desperation's gone,
Where's my motivation?
"You must sort like with like;
Unlike items may not be grouped. Please
Do not place viable problems among
Long-dead festerments of imagination which
Likely never lived in the first place. Your
Concerns must be separated into irritants, 
Road-blocks, and show-stoppers.
If you need help, please use the app on
Your phone--attendants appear only to
Add worries to your concerns."
Henry David, I'm gonna need a hand here.
Give the catgut to the alligator, melt
This ice offa me, distract a few of the tuskers
With your burdensome thoughts while I
Attempt to choose which of these ass-gnawing,
Branch-breaking stressors will be coming 
Home with me tonight...
June 2019, Houston, TX

When I listen to you

gossip-monger, September 2008, Orlando, FL
When I listen to You
I don't hear Her...
Voices telling me
(in words I've never heard before):
Things I've suspected,
Never knew,
Don't want to believe...
Never believed.
Your words resonate,
Sound those harmonies,
Those sympathetic vibrations
Deep within me.
Her disparaging judgment of me
Sits numbly in my soul--
This benign tumor neither
Growing, shrinking, or leaving.
Her close (convenient) friend
Blocking refuge's door:
"She doesn't want to talk
To you." But--
"I'll talk to him," She said;
A limited engagement.
What did She say?
To Her friends?
To too many?
How could this man,
So wanting conversation,
Communication, some
Shred of mutual effort 
To maintain a marriage,
Find himself wedded to 
Her non-talking cold
Judgment, spitting out
Her assessment:
Verbal Abuser?
When I listen to You
I can't see Verbal Abuser.
You paint me differently:
Partner. Spouse.
I see this. I think,
Maybe, this Her,
Might have erred.

Christmas conversation

Fearing language, tongues
Curbed, feelings thwarted,
Shells built, lacquered, 
Again, again, again…
Forever adding layers
Between heart, meaning,
Cell-fired knowledge; those
Truthful connections brought
By well-placed, -chosen 
Words--to favor
Tinsel-shiny, symmetrical 
Language trees grown in
Deception forests.

"I love your sweater"--
Its workmanship,
Its fuzziness, how its 
Fabric truthfulness 
Lets me see you; how
Its presence demands I
Explain why it's such an
Effrontery to my eyes.

"Ah, rum balls again! I
Look forward to these,
Every year!"  Yes:
Looking forward similarly
To property taxes, to
Week-long rainstorms,
To dogs humping my leg.
Intellectually accepting 
Privileges offered me
By these taxes. Loving
Dense greenery which thirsts
For spring rainstorms. My
Sardonic smile acknowledging
This dog's instinctual need.

"Didn't your mother ever
Tell you 'If you can't say
Anything nice, don't say
Anything at all'?"

I would like to think
My mother had more 
Character than that."
(I know my father had.)

Poetry walks narrow
Precipices. One misstep
Spells doom. Meaninglessness
Assails poems, surrounding
Them, attempting to breach
Their constructs. Poets
Cannot choose their weaponry.
What comes to hand,
Comes to hand.

Yes and No

is the No Where
that leads to
Some Where or
Some When, but
always to an
Any-When, an
whips Some Where
and Back When
into Here-Now:
No When,
No There.
is the Non-Where
that cannot lead,
cannot follow,
cannot do anything
but hang curtains of
illusion between us.
jerked out of Satan's mouth mid-plummet,
greeted Moses after Sinai,
cloaked Judas's lips
during his god-kiss,
takes little bites out of 
our daily redemption.
is the Here that 
pinpoints Now,
focuses our hearts like
candles mid-night,
like a scream on a 
quiet summer's night.
escaped Jesus's mouth
accepting pounded nails,
danced in Stephen's blood,
dissolved barriers 'tween
mortal enemies,
plasters o'er cracks
in our good intentions.
was good enough in
Its Day, made us look
more intelligent, more
urbane: critics, noses tipped.
But Now,
must be given Its Due,
must claim center stage
in our heart's theatre, in
our dreams of Perfection.
we'll move on to
live in Then-Now
making plans for

Single note poems

Single-note poems,

Listen up!

Solos, well & good,

Don’t cut it.

Today, complexities


Cacophonous sometimes,


Others, but…

“Collaborative teams” —

That’s our new cachet!

Okay, mister poet.

Slowly. Go slowly.

Add one-part

Harmony. Let’s see

How it goes. (Still…

Isn’t this is a

Single-note poem?)

Our beautiful fall

We are falling from the moment we are born.
Until forty, we don’t know this.
We think we’re going forward, outward,
Growing; not understanding we are
Shrinking, no, crystalizing into the final
Jewel we are, will be, maybe. So much
Wiggle-room, so many paths, so
Endowed with timelessness!

At forty, we understand, turn,
Brace for the fall—
Realizing we haven’t jumped up—
Realizing we’ve hurtled ourselves toward our doom—
Realizing falling’s inevitability:
We thought we’re responsible!
We acknowledge falling, but abstractly:
“There’s plenty of time!”

Our sixties—a.k.a. When Our Parents Die—we
See the barrier against which we all
Crash. We understand: not only
Didn’t we start anything,
We won’t be able to
End it, either.

These moments of clearer revelation,
Shorn of pretense (hopefully),
Our backs against the wall of our
Inexcusable behavior, our
Youthful ‘revelations’, our
Moments we thought were heart-rending,
Our happiness we thought
Never-ending, our
Aimless or purposeful existence, regardless,
Brought us here,
To this place where
Time is short—
Dreams are ending—
Fruition MUST occur or
Be buried forever while we
Begin to plant ourselves in the ground—
Then…then…we see clearly what can be done,
And what can’t, and
We do it.
Or we don’t.
As it always was!
As it can be!
It’s our best/worst time,
Happiness. Fear. Resignation.

Our diamond-quest involves vast pressure.
Let it come, let it come.
Harden, clarify,
Add color, sparkle, luminescence—
They mean something:
To yourself, to
Those who wait, to
Those who follow, and again,
To yourself.

Dance of Dense

'There’s a problem with poetry,'
He said. 'Today all poets
Want to compress meaning into
Too few words. This squeezing of
Words, accordion-like,
Displays the poet’s desire
To be obscure,
To force the reader
To find the meaning,
Giving away nothing,
Hiding mediocrity by claiming
My meaning is clear to those
Who know.’
Poetry today problems itself:
Compressing fruitful meaning until
Pulp disappears, leaving it
Compressed to star-dense
Proportions, a light-sucking
Mass. Makes me
Reading stuff like that.
Poetry today
Suffering from
Searching for meaning,
This reader finds only
Consider today’s poem—
Dense with meaning—
Makes me sick!