Waiting for Rain

Anne Sexton wrote:
"God has a brown voice,
full and soft as beer."

But I think no, 
more a shot of cask-strength bourbon – 
"Wow, shit. Woo! Hoo boy." 
Or "Hoo-ah!" like Al Pacino
in Scent of a Woman.

Holy – fiery midnight 
tossed back without sentiment,
the stars sway and shake
as they did at creation.

No sotto-voce stage-right, 
no sorry Romeo in crestfallen overcoat,
no sentimental trombones
stepping on valentine shoes
doing the boxing-step waltz.

Or if God has a soft voice,
maybe like asphalt gone formless
on a burning hot day,
the sky a void – 
no place for bare feet
on the road.
Waiting for weather.
Waiting for thunder and rain.

For Shay’s Word Garden

Ferry Service Terminal – Weehawken, NJ

Here, an overdose of pigeons –
brown and grey as a dime bag of scag –
they needle at french fries and trash
in a proximal race with rats
for bloat and blessed anesthesia. 

As do I, as do I.
I sit on a bench by the river,
mainline the romance of rusty barges,
the charmed smell of diesel and transmission fluid
In the wasteland of a ferry repair depot.

It is thusly Charon and I converse.
He, a charming industrial ghost –
part ferryman, part dilapidated
freight warehouse in tux and spats –
we veer into conversations on jazz and sports,

What 'Trane and Billy Holiday 
had to say as they crossed over,
their eyes and livers hardcore,
burned out Detroits of the soul –
the Babe too and Jesus

A chatterbox who wouldn't shut up
and didn't leave a tip.
I have no axe to grind with death,
but also no yellow bricks to lay end to end
then say goodbye – a road
paved for the caisson,

Its distant drummer's march. 
A cop drives by, shines his light.
At this late stage, it doesn't take a brainiac
to come in from the park.
I'm a junkie for the dark.

For Shay’s Word Garden


Sometimes a cheroot is just a cheroot
said Anna Freud’s lover, chomping a lilac cigar –
embers flaring like sunspots,
peony juice jetting into the spittoon

As brass as the reign of George V’s 
morganatic mustache –
where a century later on Hampstead Heath 
I pull hairs from the beard of Modernism 

Declaiming poems in front of her house
and biting heads and arms and legs
off those gingerbread men
of literati, history, badinage,

Stanching the wounds of PoMo amputees
with crumbs and frosting – 
while we carry on alive, unfettered,
in ecstasy of symbols.

For Shay’s Word Garden

For Jackson C. Frank

I heard you sing “birds burn alone”
thinking you meant to rise,
a firebird

Now I see you standing lost and lonely
in Piccadilly Circus,
a ghost wrapped in curls 

Of carnival red and yellow flame –
not standing tall from the ashes,
but leaving a residue of hunger

Like water marks on stone
where you live under bridges
burning memories and trash

to keep warm


When Lorca held a dagger
to his poem's throat
and demanded angels
forsake their voice of haiku,
but must crow in telegrams
inscribed on carnations,

Those red roosters of heaven,
(you said only that their host was feathered –
did you not notice their craws, their combs,
Gabriel's stud-strut across the yard?)
crazed by their silencing,
voices locked forever on wax cylinders,

Like heavenly accordions
playing dust polkas,
like a cricket whose chirp
cannot be found in the wimples
of a nun, the mad search
and beating of sacred cloth with a cane –

Then oh Lorca, oh Basho,
outside, the smell of fruit trees
in Valparaiso:

The lemons, so sour –
Transubstantiation drinks
Scent of angel skin

Rags and Feathers

It is snowing dead angels, 
a blizzard of choir robes 
and feathers 

Bombs and tanks 
and guns do that, as Suzanne 
told you long ago 

Her voice an echo 
from the harbor, 
now you finally understand her 

There never was 
such a thing 
as a Salvation Army 

A song blown out of the sky 
by .45's 
with a clip of sorrows

For Shay’s Word Garden

(Song for Randy)

My breath was hissing sand in a dry arroyo,
Joni Mitchell sat at our campfire, toasting butterscotch s’mores
as I was dying, the sulfur taste and smell of dried apricots
tying my throat closed with laces of fruit leather

Anaphylaxis in the New Mexico desert the night
cold, the stars cold, the cold blue lips 
of the Milky Way trying to shout no, no Joni, I'm
not going to be a free man in Paris unfettered and alive,

Not a free man even back in Taos or Denver or in the car 
10 miles down the trail since I'm not going to be alive
in a few minutes please conjugate "hejira" in the Arabic 
hijrah "departure," from hajara "to depart" because 

I'm departing all right, the wolf of your song circling the fire 
with silver smoke in its teeth, Kevin trying to make me sing 
"Both Sides Now" which was a sick thing to do if you think about it
but he must have decided better I die laughing 

except singing along with Joni Mitchell saved my life,
can it save yours? Try it. Let the words form up in your constricting heart:
"No regrets Coyote. Just how close to the bone and the skin and the eyes
and the lips you can get." Do it. Save yourself if you can.

For Shay’s Word Garden

A Donald Barthelme Reader

Where An Online Hot Tub Buying Guide from Popular Mechanics
Is Dazzled by Hollywood's Bright Lights

Cup holders, multicolor LED lights, and removable headrests – budget aside, 
when in the market for a hot tub consider the features most important
for actors to play submarine and avoid their unpaid agents.
The first thing to nail down is how many people 
you’ll generally need to accommodate, including
her bodyguard and Natasha in her gown and streamers.

The majority of options out there are for four to five people 
or six to seven people, so yes, bring the man from accounting
with a face saddened like a porcupine.

But there are a few large models 
that can accommodate eight or more adults:
a couple of cops, the fire chief, the mayor. Maybe you are Gatsby!

As well as extra small hot tubs ideal for two. 
Square inflatable hot tubs
for blackbird-boned lovers who want a quick coo.

Next up is the number of jets. At least 100 jets.
Or should have at least 170 jets. A lot of jets.
Jets are as necessary as a good hero role.

Always check the number of jets 
to ensure you'll get the experience you want –
the shocking welter of water, so peculiar and wonderful.

Check water capacity (measured in gallons) and overall dimensions.
Remember, size is important! 
Please do not gape at the pool boy.

For Shay’s Word Garden

Small, Smaller, Smallest

On a cold winter day, I squish through the streets 
of Greenwich Village 
until I stand before 75 1/2 Bedford Street,
the "Narrowest House" 
in New York City.

Where lived the widest mind –
her words expanding like swan wings in flight 
over the quarrel of water tanks
and tarpaper rooftops
endlessly arguing the city. 

Clearly what ails me –
I take up too much space.
I must move to smaller and smaller rooms, crawl
into an overpriced, cubbyhole of my mind and write
crabbed on a stool.

Or maybe jack into one of those 
video game follies 
where the walls slowly press in 
and squeeze –
a giant lemon press for poems. Or garlic.

That’s it! Smash myself 
paper thin, 
pressed like a stricken butterfly
between the pages of a dictionary. 
Yes, that is how it’s done.

To grow bigger, get smaller, 
said Alice.
Squeeze and squint and scrutinize 
the margins, annotations, punctuation,
the endless inky spaces 
within words.

Smaller. Swooning past atoms,
forgetting even the names
of electrons and protons.

Smaller still. 
Silly-string theory 
squirting from mathematical cans.

Smaller. Past the hearse whisperer. The ferryman.
The exquisite, infinite, idiocy of nothingness.

The Quantumverse.

For Shay’s Word Garden

Lament of a Wool-Spinner’s Husband*

Beyond the porch, hydrangea weave a blue and purple skein,
your fingers spin naked kisses on the wheel – 

wool leaves a honey smell of earth on your hands.
I listen to rain the wheel makes.

I taste crabs, tide, when you say here, feel this, it is so soft 
and beautiful, I say is this for Pablo's socks? 

Yes, I can see as you spin, you will then knit this yarn 
into loaves and fishes. His feet, so white, will know 

salvation and charity, they will be an origin story, feet 
that create the world like Enkidu and Gilgamesh – 

wild man, bull man, who beats his shield before the gods, 
his song immortal. If only I had such socks!

Dear wife, I see a cortege of right whales and topaz, 
hawksbills and vole-song emerge braided from your hands, yet 

when I try on the socks, they are heavy as iron. My voice
sours, I bark like a dog, my words falling down stairs

like malediction, take them, please, I feel silly
In them, they are bluebirds of misery. I

peel myself off, skin turned inside out, hamper rim-shot 
my soul – I will be sweat washed from Sunday's laundry,

then drain and spread and seep down through sandy loam, 
where I am salt that feeds the flower beds under our awning

and stain your lips again
hydrangea blue.

*Ode to My Socks by Pablo Neruda

For Shay’s Word Garden