Thursday, June 30, 2011

Too Cute

A House-Warming Poem For Bobby and Emily

After bringing in

unorganized piles

of miscellaneous

and unopened

wedding gifts,

Bobby placed

two stuffed monkeys

outside the door.

I went to grab them.

No, leave them there.

Mischief was in his eyes.

Look what I found?

Emily came to the door.

Oh, our first house-guests!

Let’s give them a tour.

Modern Art

Two split-logs

leaning against each-other

sat on a pedestal.

It was in an art gallery

so I assumed there

was something to get

which was over my head.

I moved on.

A picture

of a steel pipe

Sept 84

written on it.

Next to this

was a series of notes

written on

hotel stationary.



with different

amounts of time—

but the same sentiment:

I promise

to be a good artist. . .

in 5 years,

in 15 years,

in 30 years.

I hope I’m not

the one who’s

supposed to judge

whether or not

he kept his promise.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Rose

[Here's a poem that me and David Loti matched up with The Rose by Bette Midler. It's a poem-song.]

Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower
And you, its only seed

I say love is five kicks to the junk
a sugar-high, and a hangover.

It makes you feel all sorts of things
all at the same time:
leaves you unsure
whether you’re laughing or sobbing;
your heart is smiling
while your colon is feeling pensive
and your liver can’t shake
an overwhelming sense of impending doom.

Love makes you want to listen
to a strange medley of ACDC,
Hank Williams, and Marvin Gaye.
It’s the most beautiful thing in the world
that makes you puke every time you see it.

Love gives you intense vertigo
then forces you to free-climb mountains.

It's the heart, afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It's the dream, afraid of waking
That never takes the chance
It's the one who won't be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul, afraid of dying
That never learns to live

I have no idea how love
enjoys such a great reputation.
It is a porcupine fetus
you give birth to
every time they brush up next to you
or laugh at your jokes.

It makes you want to punch Bette Midler
square in the face
even as you nod in complete agreement
to the sappy lyrics of song
you know you’re supposed to hate .

It’s a peaceful-easy-feeling
that pushes a Rototiller
straight through your guts.
It’s a railroad tunnel
painted on the side of a cliff
that you believe every damn time.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed
That with the sun's love,
In the spring
Becomes the rose

They say
when skiers get caught-up in an avalanche
their brains get knocked around,
so that when they finally stop
they can’t tell which way is up.
When they start digging
they’re just as likely
to go down as up. . .
Love is like that
except warm and nice smelling.

Love may be a flower,
but it’s not a kindly one.
It’s one of those spikey-asshole flowers
that everyone seems adore
despite it’s proclivity
for dolling out scrapes,
cuts, and other stinging injuries.

Learning Three-Year-Old

He yells
in three-year-old,

a language I’m only
partially proficient in;
so I paid it no mind.

I was playing tag-along;
he’d only met me
a half-hour earlier,
I assumed he was
talking to his nanny,
who is fluent and practiced.

“There’s a park!
There’s a park!
There’s a park!”

He repeated
with urgency
and bouncing.

Nanny offers a quick tutorial
on listening: “Jake—
he’s talking to you.”

“Oh. . .
There is a park.
Good eye!”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Reason to Hope

[This poem owes it's main idea to a Wendell Berry poem. Also, this and the previous 6 poems posted were all written in one hour at a coffee shop today. Most productive hour of writing in my life.]

A dark sky
littered with stars
ought to be celebrated
because it is not

At midday
even clear skies
give no reason to hope
for such a spectacle.
No faint glimmer,
no single clue
left to betray
the billions of suns
burning light-years
from the top
of blue skies.

When night comes
the thinnest layer of cloud
can hide all lights
but the moon.

City lights
obscure the view
on clear nights.

Living in a big city
on a cloudy coast,
it’s easy to forget stars—

Clear nights
far from the city
are treasures;
reasons to search-out
an empty field and lay down,
head on bunched-up sweatshirt,
at what was always there
invisible and now

Like Mildew

This Loneliness won't leave me alone
-Otis Redding

Living in a basement
is cool and dark,
good for long summer sleeps.

But an abundance of free time
spent alone
leaves me restless.

in dark cool spaces
breeds loneliness
like mildew.

I wonder how much
they think of me,
and imagine the worst:

eyes rolling
when they see
in the caller ID,

with everyone I know
and toasts
to my absence.

Living in a basement
thinking too much
about myself,
waiting for my phone
to save me
from these lonely thoughts.

I need to get out
and go for a walk.

Wealth and Leisure and Bunnies

On Jericho Beach
the retired and semi-retired
walk along the edge
of a field of black-berries.

with large
dangle from
their necks.

They bend down
to photograph
families of rabbits
feeding an arm’s length
from the brambles.

I run by
in fancy shoes
bought with money
withdrawn from an account
set-up for me
by my grandfather.

If I wasn’t
already prejudiced
against those with the
wealth and leisure
to photograph bunnies,
I’d probably find
the whole scene

But instead
I rolled my eyes
and turned up
the volume on
my iPod.

The Grandeur of God

The world is charged with the grandeur of God
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Light comes
bouncing down
through deep green leaves
on a day exploding
with the grandeur of God

Cheery thoughts swirl
through my mind.

I smile at curly-haired
midgets in strollers.
Nod at the East Indian
construction workers
lounging around a cooler
on a much needed break.

An appreciation for the Lord,
His very good creation,
and all his beautiful creatures
swells up from the bottom of me.

By my ear
a rush of air
presses close.

A crow swoops
up to an overhanging branch.
A dive bomb ambush
aimed at the back of my head.
Damn crow!

Caws rain down.

Fuck you crow!
I’m trying to enjoy
the majesty and wonder
of a summer morning!
Leave me the hell alone,

One Hour in a Coffee Shop on Commercial Drive

Coffee shop conversation
tosses back-and-forth:
stories of border-crossings
and Meat Puppet concerts
and Michael J. Fox.

Why do I always
feel the need
to document
my eavesdropping?

Apparently, Vancouver
is some sort of mecca
for punk rock—
talked about in LA,
London, and Toronto.

It’s when I kill time
and feel the need
to bring back evidence—
a souvenir, something
to show
I did more with the day
than nap.

Camou cargo-shorts explains
the necessity of firewall
and the rowdiness of Bellingham locals.


used to be suction—
caked in heavy mud
taking multiple tries
to free.

Now they pass
without incident—
wandering the streets
they used to live on.

I Knew I Should Have Brought a Sweatshirt

clouds laid siege
to the second sunny of summer
the sunshine was closed-in
starting to feel cramped

all this was worrisome
an hours walk from home
in sandals and jean cut-offs

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lepers and Prophets

And they said to one another, "Why are we sitting here until we die?"
2 Kings 7:3

The thing about prophets is—they’re all poets
so half of everything that they say seems like bull shit
and the other-half is non-sequitur
and the people who go into that disreputable profession
don’t have an ounce of common sense in their body.
Contrary to common belief, they don’t just start
spouting metaphors, parallelisms, and warnings
about locusts, and exiles, and the wrath of the Lord.
Those of us who’ve had the “privilege” of growing up with them know—
they’ve been saying crazy since they could talk,
and then people started listening to the crazy,
and then some of the crazy started coming true,
and then it went to their head, and then they started
beginning their crazy with the phrase “thus sayeth the Lord,”
and then their poetry wasn't categorized under bull shit
and non-sequituiers, instead it was labeled: “divine oracle.”

The crazy started a long time ago
but Elijah added something new.
There was a cocky swagger about him,
not a typical curmudgeon-ed hermit—
when the boring prophets of boring gods
challenged him and were clearly on the losing end of the challenge,
Elijah taunted them “call louder, maybe your god is on the shitter.”
After that he called for fire from heaven,
and God, ignoring what this action would do
to inflate the size of Elijah’s head, obliged.
The whole thing gained momentum,
and then he took on an understudy:

Through a series of events I don’t quite understand
our city came to be “under-siege,” which made our lives worse.
Leper’s already have a shit time, but add to the requisite
loss of feeling in limbs (and subsequent damage to them)
and being ostracized, labeled as unclean, and forced to beg;
add to that, living in the entrance of a starving city
and you have the recipe for quite the pickle.
This particular siege looked extra bleak
people were eating horses,
making deals with each other
to eat little boys.
There weren’t many food scraps
making their way into our bellies.

And then Elisha opened his mouth
“Hear the word of the Lord. . .”
This phrase is usually when I stop listening,
because it’s almost always bad news,
and the outlook for me is always bad anyways,
so I figure he’s not telling me anything I don’t already know,
but that time I listened.
“Tomorrow, at this time (ish)
a bag of flour will sell for 50 cents
and two bags of barley for 50 cents.”

Whether or not I believed Elisha didn’t matter (I didn’t)
because I didn’t have 50 cents. So I said to my friends:
“Why are we sitting here until we die?
If we stay here, we’ll die.
If we go out to those asshole Syrians
they’ll probably kill us, but maybe they won't.
They may give us some food.”
The logic was sound.

So after dusk we went out to look for the Syrians.
And their camp was a ghost-town—there was no one.
All their stuff was there, but they were gone.
So we ate—the best food we’d had in ages.
We ate until we were full, then we drank until we were drunk.
Then we pilfered all the shiny stuff we could find.
And then we found hammocks.
And then we lounged.

I was the first to sober up, and when I did
I remembered the people in the city,
and how they were planning on eating children,
and how it felt to be hungry.
And I realized we weren’t doing right.
So I rolled out of my hammock, found some nice gold necklaces,
and a silver bracelet (to show the gate-keepers
I wasn’t lying, and feel rich for awhile),
and I found some more wine
(because I was starting to sober up);
then I started stumbling back to the city.

Before I knocked on the gate
I remembered Elisha’s words,
and realized that this whole fiasco
would make that prick absolutely insufferable.
I killed the rest of the wine
then knocked.

They didn’t believe me at first.
But when they saw my nice stuff
and how drunk I was
they decided to check-in on it.
And low and behold the crazy leper was right.
But all anyone talked about afterwards
was Elisha this, and Elisha that.

In the years after the story got streamlined,
details were cut-down and pointed towards a particular lesson
about the faithfulness of the Lord and Elisha’s prophecy.
Most versions cut us lepers out of the story,
and none of them ever remembered our names.
But I suppose it doesn’t matter much
whether or not our names are included in a story—
at least the gatekeepers remember our part
and they always make sure we have plenty of food and wine.

Gatekeeping, now there’s a respectable profession.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Inefficiency in Rhododendron Pollination

A team of bees
and one butterfly
worked frantically
on purple Rhododendron.

I leaned in to watch.
They had no system:
no assigned quadrants,
they didn’t work from top down.

The bounced back and forth—
seemingly at random.
I wondered
what their supervisor would think
of such inefficiency.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Twins

The twins were small
7 pounds—he said
looking down.
He was a big man
and they fit on his forearms
like footballs—
their tiny heads
in the palm of his hands
legs dangled
on either side of his elbows.

I wondered
if holding them like that
ever got old for him,
if his arms got tired,
if it still stirred
the same deep-down feelings
as it did the first time he held them.

I asked him
how he told them apart.
He grinned
said the only way
he could tell was
the color of the booties.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Where Dreams Go to Die

A Poem for Black Saturday

All those dreams
carefully cultivated
then yearned into substance

were lost
in a quick succession of events
observed through eyes half-asleep.

The days after passed;
hours were weeks
prying at clinched fists,
till each man
hiding in a locked room
in confused impotence
gave up and lost hope.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Denizens of Mischief

There are hundreds of
henchmen, minions, and goons
all out to get you.
In poorly lit rooms
in empty warehouses
they listen inattentively
to super-villains and evil wizards
explaining needlessly complex plans
to entrap you.

So suspect:
dollar bundles of asparagus,
cheap flights to Portland,
by-one-get one free
packs of fancy underwear,
every beautiful girl
fascinated by your art
and topics ranging from soul music
to medieval theology.

Behind every one of these
is a half-dozen denizens of mischief
with bottles of chloroform and pre-soaked rags
ready and waiting with anticipation
in the blink-of-an-eye
you’ll be tied-up with scratching rope
dangled over a vat of a boiling liquid,
acid, you presume,
while a surprisingly eloquent miscreant
regales you with the details of his plan
for the doom of the city, after he rids himself
of your meddlesome menace, of course.

So be careful:
you have more arch-enemies
than anyone as mind-numbingly mundane as yourself
could possibly warrant,
each one focused on the single task
of removing you from this world.
They all have at least
five plans to ensnare you:
they know what you like,
where you live,
and what you do;

you would have been wise
to invest in a secret identity.


These thoughts are weeds:
coming up thick and fast,

Pulling them takes all my time;
my hands are tired, worn, and cracked—
I need gloves and hand-lotion.

But I wanted a garden (damn-it!)
full of bright colors, fruit trees,
and vegetables in orderly rows;
each happily knowing their place
in soil and season.

So I keep digging,
adding to the pile
of uprooted and unwanted;

maybe someday
it will make good