Toreador Song

Again I opened all the mailboxes 
at the bottom of our road,
left the doors hanging open
like mouths – opera tenors
singing the Toreador song
from Carmen:

don’t spit on the floor-a,
use the cuspidor-a
that is what it’s for-a!”
Nearby woodpeckers, an aviary on loudspeaker,
hammer out the Anvil Chorus.

My wife, in full detective mode:
“What is wrong with you!?!”
wants my head examined
by Dr. Edward Anthony Spitzka
who autopsied Leon Czolgosz’s brain
after he shot McKinley.

My mind that bubbles like an aquarium
in the dark with the light on –
radiant GloFish, neon tetras,
darting guppies –
where even the tiny plastic diver
gets the bends.

Across the room
grandfather clock's round belly – a cello
that plucks and murmurs
the hours – time now
to eat my telephone
and speak from the gut.

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM

Mummy Weather

Your voice a dove cooing
in an Egyptian sarcophagus  –
a radio left playing for the dead.

Not buried with me 
and my six best suits, no,
not fly me to the underworld

and pad my stone nest
with your feathers and bones,
a gold clown painted on my tomb.

Grab ahold of what knots 
us together
and fly –

Spin me like a top
as you always do,
and I will dance, dance.

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM

Piper Cub

I am as failed as any
mechanical falcon

littering sidewalks of the galaxy
like abandoned e-scooters

I cannot hear the falconer
in my push-to-talk

phone app
things fell apart

no air in cold space
I swoop

without guile, gyre,
crashing onto the globe

where you remind me
I am balsa and rubber

a thing of this world
where you rewind my

rubber band propeller
soft hands on my wings

launch me back
towards the sky

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM

Laundry Day

I pour Wheaties of ruin into a bowl–
Across the room,
iron, zinc, and B12 good for the blood.
Scarecrow’s feet at the edge of my eyes,
you say look at me.
a tattered squint hung on rough wood.
Skin as dry as cigarette paper
I ask can you forgive me?
rolling out of bed on Tobacco Road.
Sushi took me for a swim
You know about drowning.
to the bottom of the river.
Does the mirror taste like glass?
Your tongue lingers
Hard water.
Jolly Rancher stuck in my pocket,
so sweet.
lint and sugar, Fireball cinnamon.

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM


If I could just reach out and pluck
the jewelry of lights, emerald and ruby,
atop the Empire State Building –
kiss your hand and place them on your finger...

But tonight they shiver white.
I know that we too are the city
waving a handkerchief in surrender –
we all give, uncle.

Ambulances hot up the West side –
flashes rising red like mercury in a thermometer,
EMT’s listening to playlists in someone’s chest,
searching Spotify for melodic signs of life.

Sphygmomanometer, hematocrit, xylophone,
osmosis, music of the spheres in syllables
strapped to a gurney, bang bang tangs
of the street’s tuning forks vibrating against our skulls.

In darkness, we watch the film-flam
towers of chocolate, their veneer of sweetness
crumbling under its own weight,
summer will come soon and melt us all down.

Sitting next to you
the rushing solar system of the Roomba
circles in our ears.
Tell me what “vacuum” means to you.

And yet let us marvel at my lack of a manbun,
and all our peculiar luck, all
that is still pregnant and topsy-turvy
in the thrift store of our lives.

For Shay’s Word Garden

Me, Thee, ChatGPT

My wife inside the hospital of riddles, 
My wife with demolished codebooks.

My wife during the wedding cannons,
My wife since syntax of the peculiar.

My wife toward a coy ambulance,
My wife beside reluctant knockers.

My wife above the river of fog,
My wife beyond foreign spectacle.

My wife to translate heroes,
My wife before initial index.

Too much to fully narrate here, but “They,” “Them” have been working hard to strip AI of surprise and discomfort. Apparently the only acceptable output for the masses is predictability. After my first experiment a month or so ago, the poems generated by ChatGPT have become more and more bland. Of course, surprise and “the road not taken” are the beating heart of poetry. Many hours and attempts later, I seem to have found a crack in the Algo. The above is a request to write line completion based on André Breton’s surrealist poem “Free Union” which has lines starting with “My wife…” My editorial hand is in/on/within the above, but the majority of the language and imagery came directly from ChatGPT.

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM

Haibun – Trash Talk

No way my love you were asleep during that garbage truck catechism at three AM, counting the rosary of bins hitting the pavement, bags tossed long and high Hail Mary after Hail Mary, charming the rats with plague and kielbasa and wine and stale bread, Eucharist and crumbs of the True Cross, your delirium shouting hosannas in dialect of jesusfuckingchrist, your Passion erotic, skin electric and making a folly of sleep, OK, hey yeah, French kissing and hallucinating we are still those two kids in the apartment on 11th and College, hyenas braying all night from a frat party down the block, or is it now, in this moment, only a random dog out by the river barking the icicles off boats in the boatyard, nothing lazier than my lying here waiting for fruit to fall from sleep’s orchard, phantom apples and pears the playthings of dreams and seasons, I rise and shamble the waterfront.

Sleep loss vagabond –
Stalking trash cans until dawn
A wolf counting sheep

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM

Breakfast Butter Eyes

As to you, my obliviana: 
she who nods off
as I lift to my mouth a forkful of ob –

obtuse, obligato, obsess

The consumptive chewing sound of my mind,
cicada swarms stripping the dictionary
to a field of stubble and vowels

obstacle, oboe, oblast

Poems like a wallet of mad money, 
when words explode, you jump out of the cab
in front of the library lions 

obloquy, obi, obit

verses an ATM of rage –
no withdrawal limit 
on the dying of the light

obelisk, obol, obtrude

geysers & fire hydrants 
metaphors for anger,
drug dealers with confetti in their eyes

observe, obviate, obscure

Startled awake, you clear the dishes
gently take the phone from me before I start again –
Too late! Ah you, my inamorata

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM


Lo and I am like an armadillo, jolted and rolling into a protective tuck,
safeguarding scrolls of Tibetan mantras, chanting Avalokiteśvara – compassion –
as we are shot from the barrels of our phones, armored rounds
of blood-warm arms, legs, intestines, and organs
into the oncoming warships, worships

My skin knows only that tomorrow it will be stretched tight, immense
across the diamond vision screens of Times Square –
thin and translucent, burning pixels of news and all the colors of M&M’s
looking down where the naked cowboy sings in his rodeo boots,
no leather left on the sole, dubious, dub-stepped and pious

Please, mercy, I can't hear my own heart beat
over Kerouac jungle drums in the ChatGPT jukebox,
can't see my breath exhaled and frozen against the collapsed horizon
some genius left in shambles,
malfeasance and malediction

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM

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