Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Somewhere in the middle of an ocean
bobbing in the waves, there is a man
who’s watched the discovery channel
enough to know that the scrape on his foot
means that he won’t drown

Sometimes it’s good to list
the things I’m thankful for
to remember that life
isn’t all the depressing thoughts
that become regulars in my mind

Some days my list is smaller than others
today, I will start my list with the fact
that no sharks will dismember me this week
barring some unforeseen ocean voyage and accident.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sunday Morning

Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song

Cause there's something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone
-Kris Kistofferson

I sleep early
curl-up at eight
hope for hibernation

Hope fails
birds sound
obnoxious songs
sun bursts through
holes in the blinds

Nine hours—
God I prayed for
so many more

Peel myself from bed
profanity under my breath
praise far from my lips
hobble to my car
drive a half hour of sports radio
where no love song invades

Black coffee
awkward conversation
greet me at the door

Infants gurgle
spit pacifiers
interrupt adult small talk

Songs start in whispers
the congregation searches
to find well-rested voices
I flex my diaphragm
and learn to sing.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Nodding-Off in History

eyes squint
then close
under black-rim glasses

history documentary
drones soothingly
as soft light
pours through
window shades

his head slowly tilts forward
then jerks back up
the chin re-starts its journey
back to the clavicle

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Change I Wish to See

She sits under a poster of Ghandi.
Her face is tanning-booth-brown
borderline orange—she hasn’t stopped
putting on make-up since entering
except to text and apply saline solution
to her nose piercing. She carries on a conversation
discussing the finer points of Taylor Lautner’s body

Be the change you wish to see in the world

I will be a unicorn:
an articulate and imaginative unicorn.

Who always signals when changing lanes.

Able to: convince teens of the dangers
of consumerism and being an asshole;
shoot lighting from my eyes;
and reverse the effects of climate change
with the sheer warmth of my wit.

Or maybe just a substitute teacher
with the supernatural ability
to inspire unmotivated high school sophomores
to open their geometry text books
turn to page 212 and start work
on exercises 1 through 14.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lady Problems

I look up from my book.
A girl—pink bangs
dark baggy sweatshirt
holds her planner out:
Can I go to the nurse?

I see no cuts,
bones all seem intact.

Why do you have to go to the nurse?
Do I have to tell you?
Yes. I don’t want to.
Well, I can’t let you go
if you can’t tell—

A glare,
half fright
half anger,
cuts my sentence short.
I sign her planner.

Hope you feel better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Keep Your Prayers Coming

A pillowy white beard
in dark sunglasses
hair slicked back
with silver streaks

skipped introductions—
so what do you think
of this latest stunt
with Osama?

This was not
a rhetorical question.
He was waiting
for an answer.
I stammered: I don’t know.

He continued: do you think
Obama is setting up Pakistan;
see two weeks ago them
sold warheads to the
Now if you were the empire
what questions would you ask yourself?

This too
was not rhetorical:
if I was the empire?

Wouldn’t you be wondering
if there were any nuclear warheads
on that receipt? You don’t just
leave an empire. An empire doesn’t just
let countries quit.

His eyebrows raised
he leaned in
closed the distance between us:
I felt his breath
noticed a yellowed streak
in his pale mustache
above an unlit cigarette.

He whispered:
World War 3

Pointed to the door behind him
that I had been walking towards.
That one of them Rapture churches?
I’m looking for a rapture
to get me the hell outta here—
his tongue popped
finger pointed up—
when the bombs start.

Well it’s not one of those churches—
least not in the way you’re thinking.
I’m Jake, what’s your name?

See I started studying these shysters
back in Vietnam—he winked at me
like it was a code word—
I’m glad you still got some sense.
Keep your prayers coming.
We’re gonna need ‘em.

Blackberry Bushes

[While I'm trying new things, here's my second pantoum]

fine was never the destination
don’t roll your eyes
there are things left to be said
when the colors come out in spring, you’ll see

don’t roll your eyes
real stories don’t end
when the colors come out in spring, you’ll see
things with roots bounce back

real stories don’t end
they go deep and spread out
things with roots bounce back
like blackberry bushes

they go deep and spread out
fill the space,
like blackberry bushes
life is frustrating, relentless

fill the space
there are things left to be said:
life is frustrating, relentless
fine was never the destination

Monday, May 9, 2011

To Live in the Mercy of God

[on a poem by Denise Levertov]

She says
she feels it:
like awe.
A warm updraft
lifting wings
to live in
the mercy of God.

I don’t
feel it the same.

Maybe sometimes,
but those are usually
inarticulate or dumb.

Most times
(no one tracks
these statistics)
it feels more akin
to swimming up
an icy waterfall
with lead arms
to live in
the mercy of God.

Everything Sad

or Reflections on the Overthrow of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King

[I've been reading Tolkien and Denise Levertov, this is the result. It's a new style, and so it may be clumsy. Writing a bad deep poem is much scarier than writing a bad silly poems--at least it is for me, feedback would be appreciated. More to come in this style.]

Is everything sad going to come untrue?
Samwise Gamgee

what is true
will stay true.

The story will not be rewritten.
Tears will not cover their tracks
pretend like nothing happened.

Sobs will not
be turned to laughs.
Up and down
will not switch.

Pain felt
will not
be undone—
marks left
will remain.

But, if there is
a hope we can dare
it is this—
our tears will make
our laughs deeper
pains suffered will make
smiles honest.

And if any
secret magic
is revealed
it will not be
every sad thing
come untrue,
sad will come

Sunday, May 8, 2011


maybe not a rose
but flower, somewhat silly
springs up through concrete

In the depths of Aurora. In between dilapidated motels with vacancy signs and massage parlors open late. Nestled cozy in the midst of casinos, strip-clubs, and porn-stores—there is a tradition. National Champions more years than not, going back to the late ‘80’s. Whirlyball. Lacrosse in bumper-cars. The sport of kings. Home of birthday parties, skeeball, and bottomless fountain drink.

folks eight to eighty
celebrate each successive year
well in bumper cars

A cross-eyed girl with dimple piercings explained rules to disinterested half-drunk and out-of-shape athletes making clever comments. And then the ball was in play. And some were stuck in corners. Others were going in circles continuously. Most went backwards when they wanted to go forwards. The confusion was narrated by a bored but sarcastic Whirlyball employee. Every mistake witnessed by friends eating cake, pointing through glass, and laughing. Always laughing.

noted by those dear to us
taunts can be loving?

When the cars went where they were supposed to, and shots began to go in the general right direction: dormant competition was revived. Get that weak shit out of here! That’s what I’m talking about—Payton to Kemp! We must protect this house! Fists pumped. Tongues wagged. Funfetti cake was consumed. This was how birthdays were meant to be celebrated.

late twenties welcomes
another willing or no
so. . . Happy Birthday!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sewart Park

Wind strips flowering trees
sends pink pedals racing
whips up waves on Lake Washington
as we walk through the park

Trails carry heavy traffic:
runners in fanny-packs
skin-tight black pants
yellow sleeveless shirts
made with space-age technology

Big dogs
trailed by
small packs of children
pregnant mothers
pushing fancy strollers

We pass green lawns
under cottonwoods
with sex organs
hanging out
letting the wind
do the work
limbs supporting
communes of
fern and moss

We talk:
the economy
faith and
of course

The only conclusion we reach
on such weighty issues
is that it would be nice
to come here with a girl.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Unemployed and Exhausted

after a month and half of sleeping past eleven
playing video games until thumbs and eyes hurt
shaving only in patches and showering weekly
he was exhausted and pungent

in a pair of over-sized gym shorts
flip-flops and a Seahawk jersey
he reflects on unemployment:

it's not as easy as people picture
takes extraordinary effort of will
to ignore the bills on the coffee table
and concentrate on Mario Kart
filling out a single application
becomes a day-long project

thrusting his palm
into his eye-socket
rubbing it around
then staring out the window
he says, in half-disbelief:

I need a vacation.