one You to rule them all

Mongol pencils from mid-1960s

I’ve waited more than three months, I’ve written it in prose, then verse, then a different verse, then rewritten the prose. This may be as close as I get, and it’s not to my liking, yet I’m publishing it to get it off the e-desk and out of my mind.

Two Voices Debate

“There are rules,” she said.
“Rules rule.” Pitiably, I 
Know what she means.
Put the colored pencils in
Sequence according to height,
Says my ten-year-old inner voice.
Nice. Now rearrange by color,
Rainbow-like. (Look up the spectrum
If you must, Kenny.) Now,
Place the colors violet through green,
Left to right, into your rack 
with space between, because…
Double back the ‘light’ colors from
Right to left, ending with red between 
Violet and blue. Good! But now,
Arrange them alphabetically 
By color name. Now put them
Away. We’ve no time to actually
Do anything with them. Besides,
You’re no artist anyway.
When you walk to school, step
Precisely between the expansion
Seams of the concrete sidewalk.
If there’s a crack, step in the bigger
Piece still between the seams.
For extra points, step equidistantly
From each seam. No care for 
Mother’s back in all this—just
Walking how you color…
Oh, beautiful algebra! Lovely
Geometry! Your rules so pristine,
Your road to explainability, to
All’s-right-with-the-worldness. And
Diagramming sentences! Who cares
If it’s useless? It’s beauty cannot
Be denied! Science, though,
Its physics, its chemistry, its 
Squishy biology stuff, no,
Not abstract enough, not
In-your-head enough. Too
Practical, too mundane.
You have to call her, man.
But…today? Is three days a
Proper amount of lead time?
Would twenty-four hours be
Too little? Would it be better if
I called in the afternoon or 
Evening? Oh, why did I ever ask
Her out in the first place?
“You know, I think I’m not going
To go to the prom this year after all.”
”No, I’m not going to wait twenty
Minutes to eat, especially if I have
To wait outside. It’s cold.” He drives
Off spending forty minutes to 
Save twenty minutes.
“We could gas up there.” Wrong side
Of the road. “There’s one.” Nope.
“Too seedy. There’s one!” but, 
Crap, every pump’s occupied.
Ding! Your car says, "feed me".
“Isn’t life too difficult this way?”
Asks Creative-Emotive Voice. “Can’t
We take it easy? Just roll with it?”
Try that. Good too. Shut Obsessive-
Controlling Voice into its compartment
Deep within one’s gray cells. Overrule 
Edicts for living, for walking, for performing
“If you’re going to be A Writer, how
Do you expect to do it listening to 
That Guy? Feel your heart surging? 
Sure you do. How can you ignore it
By following these silly rules?”
Drink too much. Eat too much. Drug
Too much. Watch movies while
Neglecting one’s bills, one’s friends,
One’s social reason for being…
One’s stated creative urges. But:
Give Rulemaker his short leash.
Gentle grid of rules on fields of
Creative abandonment. 
Create. Create. And create. Short 
Circuit all words with singing,
With photography, with poetry (yes),
With—of all things—computer 
Programming. (“How can I fail 
At explaining what I do 
When I program?” Sorry, 
Dude, no words involved then,
No words available now.)
Uneasily, after many misstarts to
One’s Life Direction,
Let them both talk. Let one
Over-rule the other, let one
Overrule the other. Blend,
Mend, learn Selective Voice
Attention Mode. Leaving one
Question, one conundrum: 
who selects which Voice? 
Who are you? 
Who are “You”?

It begins like this

(to my mother, a bit, but mostly to me)

It begins like this, this
path toward normalcy,
the funeral two weeks past:
One less beer before bed.
Dreams versus nightmares.
Willingly entering the jail of work.
Discovering your face is smiling.
Telling jokes.
Wondering why your friends
can't get along--then
not caring.
your life may continue as
once it did, an insensitive, joyous
expression of "Yes I'm Alive"...
Undermining this carefully
cultured mourning pose you've adopted.
And guiltlessly saying goodbye to it.

(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?)