Saturday, October 27, 2012


No one noticed when my heart pissed blood;
my sweater hid the accident, no drips stained your pristine carpet.
I’ve never used a catheter, but these last few weeks
it’s been happening more frequently. First, it was only a drop or two,
then it was maybe a half-cup, now it’s gallons and I get light-headed.
I excuse myself with polite eye-contact, a half-smile, and nod.
In the restroom I use two rolls to clean-up, hiding the soiled tissue
at the bottom of the garbage, change shirts
(I keep spares in all of my close friends’ bathrooms)
and return to the party. No one’s the wiser, they just assume
I drank one-too-many glasses of wine, and made a quiet mess
of my best Christmas sweater. I study your face tipsy. Back and forth,
my mind wanders between blue eyes
and a subtraction problem—the sweaters I have left
minus social engagements we will both be attending. I’ll be fine,
at least until the end of January. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Roll On Columbia

or Sometimes I get pissed there aren't giant trees and salmon everywhere, and I blame old people

You could walk across the river on their backs;
it took teams of horses to haul them out of Lake Washington;
used to be you could hold out a net and Chinook salmon
the size of a junior high boy would jump in.

But then dams and logging and legions of nets and canneries
and lawn fertilizers and meth-heads and warmer temperatures
and erosion and population explosions and mining.

Diners in small towns on state highways still hang pictures,
black and white artifacts: five or six men posed
at the base of a sky-scraper fir, wedge cut out
two men laying down inside, five or six men holding
strings of dozens of kings, looking serious
in their civil-war moustaches and suspenders

The old-timers tell their fish stories:
“used to be you’d catch two steelhead a day
now you’re lucky to get two in a season,”
a not-so-subtle hint of generation blame in their nostalgia—
as if the facebook, cell-phones and MTV were responsible.

Listening to Woody Guthrie on my Ipod
sing songs about dams on the Columbia:
leaping salmon playing in the locks,
I get the urge to trample
some local geriatrics azaleas.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Patriarchs

Here's a collection of poems that work together. I feel they are more or less finished now--both the individual poems and the collection.

Then the Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Genesis 18:10

The Lord delivered with a straight face:
without a wink, or smirk. Still,
Sarah chuckled to herself.

He had a quirky sense of timing,
building tension to the absurd:
the Lord delivered with a straight face.

It was ridiculous—she was old,
a desert, withered and used-up,
Sarah chuckled to herself.

God’s humor was dry,
with unexpected punch-lines
the Lord delivered with a straight face.

When her son was brought out
from a barren place,
Sarah chuckled to herself:

With Israel He’d use a mighty hand
and an outstretched arm; but Isaac,
the Lord delivered with a straight face,
Sarah chuckled to herself.

Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Genesis 22:7

Abraham believed God,
was credited as righteous;
Isaac was unconvinced.

A slow, quiet ascent
stiff with anxiety; still
Abraham believed God.

If God could provide the lamb,
why make them take the trip?
Isaac was unconvinced.

Reminding himself
the Lord was gracious,
Abraham believed God.

Queer words tested faith,
still there was the promise.
Isaac was unconvinced.

Despite harsh pedagogy,
God blessed Abraham and
Abraham believed God;
Isaac was unconvinced.

“The first one emerged red, like hairy mantle all over; so they named him Esau.”
Gen. 25:25

After a bright red billow pad
came out of such a tender place
no wonder she favored the smooth son
no wonder she stopped after the twins.

Esau said, "I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself."
Genesis 33: 8-9

I was born with five tiny bruises
on my heel. That little shit
was good at grasping.
I still walk with a limp.

I grew up, my brother stole
my inheritance. I would’ve killed him then,
but my mother warned him. He slunk away.
Out of reach,
not out of mind.

I was left
to look after my lost inheritance,
with a father who gave it away,
and a mother who nagged me about
how Jacob would have done things:
it’s better to work smart than hard. 

I wrestled
with visions of my brother
wearing his hand-me-down blessing
in a land of milk and honey.
I spent my time revising:
if only I had packed a lunch.
I put my muscle against these thoughts,
and won only exhaustion. 

I threw up my hands:
enough is enough.
I learned to let go,
that is my blessing.

Now, I make my own lentil stew.
I eat it every day.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
Genesis 32:24

My father chuckled
when he named me

My mother taught me to grow into the name,
took me under her wing, showed me
where weakness lived in the family:
the slow-witted and dim-sighted,
where and how to seize my advantage.

I quit wrestling early,
after a half-dozen rug-burns
from my brother’s bristled fore-arms:
smooth skin learns to think
quick and shrewd,
looks ahead of muscle, finds contests
where victory is assured.

not by right but cunning:
ill-gotten, undeserved.

That night was quiet:
no moon or stars, only black.
I was alone with no trick to rescue me.
Whoever he was, he matched me wit for wit,
left me no chance to slink,
no advantage to seize,
or weakness to exploit—
I wrestled for my blessing.
The contest went through the night,
each move he anticipated and countered.
It was monotony, but I kept at it.
In the dim light before dawn I could see
he was unfazed: no heavy breath or sweat.
He stood straight, stared at me, waiting.
I lunged one last time, he stepped aside quick,
but I caught hold of his ankle and clung to it;
I did not let go.

The Man laughed, gave me a limp and a new name.

Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, 
Genesis 29:31

Jacob was a weak-eyed man,
never stopped to wonder
where his breakfast came from,
or why Leah would get up hours before dawn,
never noticed the way her laugh filled the room,
or how his kids smiled when they heard it.
Jacob never recognized the grace
he received by Laban’s deception.

Those nights Jacob spent with the pretty one,
the Lord came to sit with Leah, to enjoy her,
comforted with simple affirmations:
she was beautiful, she was blessed.

Leaning close,
He told her secrets:
she was the favored one,
there was surprise
yet unimagined
hidden in her.

Leah treasured all these things,
and pondered them in her heart.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Angry On A Bike In Everett

Airport Way and 99 are not built for bikes, five-lane highways
crowded with rusted-out sedans and an endless variety of suvs,
shoulders covered with sand from last winter’s
black-ice and broken bottles of malt liquor,
bike lanes and side-walks illustrating
quantum physics—bursting into and out-of existence,
windows rolled down with middle-fingers
displayed: “get a fucking car asshole.”

This road, city, county,
built to funnel union workers
one-by-one in gas chugging monstrosities
to and from the largest building in the world—

unwilling to share cars that seat six,
or a five-lane highway.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Binding the Strong Man

And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied "My name is Legion, for we are many." 
Mark 5:9

The emaciated voice crept naked amongst tombs,
dark skin clung to bones set unnatural, broken and bent
body hijacked, thrown to the ground in convulsions.
Dark skin accented with violet bruises, crimson cuts—
a legion of scars collected dust, unable to heal.
This was past, present, and future.

Then the voice became a man, and the man ran to tell
a future interrupted, an empire disturbed, a prisoner free,
a corpse alive: ominous happy news.

The testimony came days later along the lakeshore,
the beach littered with dead pigs, black clouds buzzed above
each rotting carcass, clothed with dark green hairs
undulating in the current, hooves lifted up,
bellies bloated and bobbing, bodies partially decomposed,
A drowned army washed-up along the Galilee.

And this was good news of great joy for all people. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

What Poems May Come

The orcas were all dead
stomachs vomited out
lying exposed on the rocks.

But it was ok, the children
informed me, it was Tuesday,
these things happen on Tuesdays;
tomorrow will be Wednesday,
then I’ll see—everything
will be back to normal.

I dismissed my class,
reclined back in a barnacle bed,
draped bulb-kelp over myself
prepared for a nap. A purple crab
scuttled out from under the covers,
found another purple crab, and the two
scuttled off together. Two beautiful friends
who decided to cameo in this dream
told me they understood,

it had been a hard day, but
I had done something real good,
purple crabs are rare, and don’t often mate.
This was a special day.

I looked at them, confused by their presence,
decided that this would make better sense
after sleep. I awoke under a flannel comforter,
concluded that even crustacean love
is nothing but mystery, also,
I should not eat curry so close to bedtime.