William Wordsworth: Parking Attendant, Weehawken, NJ

Lincoln might be in the Bardo –
where spirits wait bewildered
in their Rubber Room souls –

But William Wordsworth is outside 
in my parking lot
waltzing with language and cars –

Foxtrots of Kias, nouns, and verbs,
Fords and Acuras tango with adjectives –
insensate and doleful dip and turn,
While the drivers, like inmates
of ballroom dance class, trip on overgrown
iambic feet, hoofing to Glen Miller.

In Spring he will gently blow adverbs and romance
into pistils of foxglove,
until magnolias faint in jealousy.

For him, Death is no purgatory, no dotage, 
he is as lucid as yellow,
as sharp as a blackbird quill plucked in flight,

Far less bewildered than I
between this world and the next –
if he writes of eternity, it must be so –

Poems to guide us
with the half-life of Uranium 235 –
fissile at room temperature –

Nuclear reactions of sunrise
breaking like egg yolk over the hillside –
Ten thousand daisies runny with light.

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM


I’m a tornado of bees,
a cyclone of buzz and hum
You have more sharp turns
than a toboggan of hornets
I’ll rattle your mullions, believe you me,
love storm of the century.
The sky is seasick
with hurricanes
We’re the full catastrophe,
no atrophy
No apostrophe,
no trophy
You ring in my ears like dynamite,
like a fight between samba and flamenco
Oh Nagasaki, oh hot ginger,
oh Ali‘s rhumba in the jungle
More fun than a barrel of mimes
tipping over Niagara
You are handcuffed to wind,
laughing about mortality
Eskimo my nose, my toes,
cuddle is the new tundra
The windows leak ghosts,
whistling for their supper
But this is a love poem,
gorgeous with leaves turning cartwheels
Rain weeps through the cracks in my hands,
wanders the damp maze of my bones

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM

86 That

Go ahead, tell your sob story to the spoon
and the coffee cup,

how your addiction to night sky
started with poetry, the gateway drug, 

and now you are mainlining – 
shooting stars – your veins twinkling

with broken bottles
and shards of Christmas lights.

Go on, lament to this plate of eggs
and Tabasco

the fate of words like tigers 
performing tricks 

with what's left of the magician's sleeve,
or the sound of violins

playing blackjack
on their shoestrings, hit me.

I listen to your sling, your hash,
your blather spread

on whole wheat or white,
your second, or third, or fourth marriage

to sonnets, to Surrealism, to Whitman,
feeding the doggerel scraps

under the table,
stumbling down 12-steps 

into the void.

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM

Combo Lock

There was a story I was supposed to tell 
about you,

About the candor of your fingertips,
their dampness on my skin, like vapor.

Instead, I walk outside – pigeons coo
in chorus from a hymnal of trash,

Rats run touchdown plays
heading into the season finals,

The grass is panicked, white faced, chalky,
at the approach of winter,

Trees gasp for oxygen
as their leaves dry up and drop away.

What did you open when you tampered
with the locks, thumbing the dial, listening

With your ear on my chest
tumblers falling in place one by one?

Why did flocks of birds fly from me
heading south, leaving me without their voice?

Gusts whip cold off the river, I am wordless,
a windsock gag in my mouth.

You are thief, lover, explorer.
Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

For Shay’s Word Garden & The Sunday Muse

Notre Dame

Like you, I watched Notre Dame burn –
a thousand years of prayer in the rafters
feeding fires hotter than devotion, 
a millennia’s fervor of hands and fingers 
pressed together like a flame.

“Our Mother” indeed. Though not mine.
Nations did not watch, no helicopters overhead filmed
what burned in her, how her brilliance 
consumed and engulfed the prayers of my family,
all the wreckage once that light was out.

What part of the flame, what color, what heat
is insanity? The blue? The white?
What raging fuel in the mind – 
timbers and rafters of the past? Gargoyles 
like whispering gas jets?

They said when she was a girl on the ranch
she built a shrine in a corner of the chicken yard
and prayed to Jesus every day, on her knees in the dirt,
before her brother honked the horn 
of the school bus he drove at 14.

And we mourn. And for a moment together
we all pray for something holy to rise back
from the ashes. If not our souls, that the stones
holding up our walls
might be saved.

Originally here.

Where the Keys Are

I'm supposed to list my obsessions. OK, fine:
  1. The ferry maintenance depot near my apartment.
  2. The human body personified as root vegetables – potatoes, turnips, rutabagas.
  3. I can’t remember Jack Shit, though I’ve met him often enough.
Mostly the last one – it's like trolls under the bridge have custody of my memory. Pay the fee in princess skin or thou shalt not pass. I look in my wallet, but no Ben Franklin. That look of his makes me think he feels sultry in his lingerie, hidden under his coat. I feel pretty too, Ben.
Maybe my missing to-do lists and kodak moments are lost in a time warp – if we rip the veneer of space away will we expose its mechanism, its springs and bomb wires? What if lost time is a pendulum swinging in the clock case with its balls cut off – fixed like a steer so it can't reproduce. Or memory baked into adobe bricks, daubed with mud, stacked into walls in reenactments of the Alamo, where we always lose.
Someone said it’s the journey, not the destination, blah blah blah. I feel miles itchy with distance under my skin, yet the tundra of my kneecaps and knuckles are insurmountable. The rocks quit, the mountains quit, even the pavement quits before it ends down the block. With light pollution the milky way is only a candy bar. Nowhere to go from here.
Just once, contemplate Powell in 1869 – shooting the fevered waters of the Colorado river in wooden boats. Make the shift from your first gear to fifth, fourteenth, infinity. From darkness to light to fugue to black holes that leave you breathless on a far shore.

For Shay’s Word Garden and The Sunday Muse


Rue de Rivoli – "It's you! Assassin! Mon frère! 
Ah, we were but children when we joined the Legion,
marching from Algiers under Rollet – 'Honneur et Fidélité,' eh?
You, brave flower, fighting like a tiger in the alleyways,
and me, bragging open brothel doors.
The Devil or God (And which is which, in the desert?)
a coward when we blindfolded him,
rag carnation in his mouth,
we shot him with our Berthiers,
bolt-actions genuflecting in the sun.
Did we sin? We were fools!
We ate our bitter hearts out in that desert,
boiled our souls with thorns and thickets.
Riders with wind and sand rasping between our saddles and thighs…
Oh the melody they make – say it! Sirocco!
Now, over there, to your left, Diguet and his Montagnards
who gave so much blood at Tuyên Quang,
'Français par le sang versé.'
Now I merely puzzle the streets of Paris,
a toad who buries himself in cafes.
You say you garden now? Shadows of songbirds
against the barn, netting and dressing them
for your pies.
Here! Violets for your dear wife. Tomorrow it will rain.
Treat your blindness with care. Adieu!"

For Shay’s Word Garden and The Sunday Muse