Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Soup Thrown Together

The planets and the stars
As shown in a crock pot
With potato and leeks,
Crab and white fish,

A dash of pepper
For some mysterious
Spice to confuse the senses.
O, to imagine the first

Real flavor passing
Over the tongue,
How it mixes with everything
In the stomach.

Bought that day,
The bags still holding the shape
Of all the ingredients,
The long shadows,
The empty oven mitt.

Portrait of the Artist

What goes on behind that locked door,
Man up late with a light on?
No matter how hard I squint,
I can only see shadow figures
Through those curtains.

Are those saints with cheat codes
At the game console?
Is someone cooking in the kitchen?
The black iron skillet appears to be melting
A scoop of butter on which an ant clings.

Could El Greco be preparing an omelet
Of phantasmagorical pigmentation?
It could even be a birthday cake
From the way the shadows seem.
He could be asking his imaginary guests

With their collars ruffled to make a wish,
Or he could just be stumbling up to bed.
Is that a bat on the ornate bedpost
He will confuse in the morning
For a pair of dark sunglasses?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Real Warning

Dear Master
Trying on a coat
Held aloft by bees
In a tree of

In a landscape
Of marching
Plastic toys
That exists

In the mind
Of a blowup doll
Your lease is up
By order of a prophet
Tightrope walking

On a human hair
Balancing on
A spider web
Representing the bridge
Between this world

And the next
You are tended
By the one
With hairy legs
Who frightens

The kids to death
Has the students in
Chemistry class
Stalking the corners
Of their dim rooms

With a fine spray
With mysterious
Latinate ingredients
A skull and crossbones
On the label.

A Savior by Any Other Name

He’s a son-of-a-bitch
Pigeon-toed limp-wristed
Party pooper

Who’s a yellow-bellied
Hippie scum papa’s boy
From the wrong side of the tracks

With a stick up His ass,
The preachy crybaby tool
Flip-flopper faith healer

Blood-sucking dipstick
Hoity-toity prima donna who
Was run out of town on a rail.

Coffin in a Field

An open coffin in the middle of a field.
Nobody around, a chill in the air.
What a strange occurrence, I thought.
Who placed it there, and for what purpose?
Of all things, I decided to take a nap inside.
How the world was quiet, how sleepy I was.
The red velvet like a magician’s cape,
The lid of the coffin mirrored.
One could make love and watch,
One could get ready for the world.
I dreamed of a zebra smoking a cigarette.
I dreamed other pleasant things,
Like of ducks forming a perfect triangle
In a whirlpool draining a lake.
It didn’t feel like a tomb, although it was dark.
It was the middle of the night when I awoke.
The stars were out. The black sky
Like a photographer’s backdrop,
The moon like a spotlight.
If only someone could have taken a picture,
It could have said something.
The coffin in the field. Nobody around.
Me walking from it like a bandit
With no way to conceal my icy breath,
No way to tell where I’m headed.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Dark Thought

It snuffed out the light on the Old Testament
It made the New Testament seem rather old
With its many prickly bushes with dangerous red berries
Its hypostyle halls covered in chalk drawings
Its still wind chimes and lifeless sock puppets

All vision was made holy and all vision
Was made dark and veiled like a privacy window
Lonely as a fax traveling the transatlantic line
Distressed as the permanent marker of a CIA censor
The black eyes of a doll getting saved from a house fire

With us since our days of rattles and pacifiers
Recurring like graffiti on some endless freight train
The world’s hammock given a spin by a brat with a flat top
Redirected to a parked page at the end of a string of queries
That offers medication for something intangible

I made my matter conjure up a particular horror
The flash of a blade in a moonlit back alley
The owls in the finger-like trees the only ones
Asking questions asking the only questions
One can ask of nothing but the empty street

Philosophy of Mind

The old mind body problem with its grim chimneys
And tongue-and-groove solutions.
I was trying to claim my mind as a dependent,
But my lawyer Kant said you can’t.
The entire neighborhood looks as though
It’s been brushed in soot.
The auditor in his economy car
Crashes through the butts and wrappers
And warms up his adding machine in my kitchen

With its cuckoo clock bird who’s scared to come out,
My old maid on her knees scrubbing the grout.
She looks up and puts a finger to her painted lips.
The world’s entire fortune will be expropriated.

The body of this table, with its many legs
And leaves, its veins and creaks, is reassuring as it absorbs
My accountant’s love note with its X/O salutation.
I’ve half a mind to burn it piece-by-piece.
Meanwhile, beggars have gathered on the sidewalk
To play odds with loaded dice.
Cop cars parked in a the shape of a cog,
The fat mayor in the center who wants crime stopped
So he can levy his dissertation on the blues.

The Doctor with his Clipboard

There is Good News and there is Bad News. We’ll start with the Good. He wore a fine suit, tipped generously, had nice posture, wiped his feet on the mat, and sympathized with your stories. The Bad News is there is no Good News, and Bad has been passing fake bills.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Zoot Suit

My woman was double-breasted.
She stood in the snow and smoked.
There was a car approaching in the distance.
I cannot recall much by way of details.
She was pleated and narrow at the waist.
I need help, I said. There’s this button.
I was at the Washateria.
It was in the Highland Targe,
I was clicking on a blind link,
Fighting at an auction of a nude.
I must remember to yell Timber occasionally.
You’re leaving fingerprints on my arm.
The whole thing is followed by death.
I do not own anything.
I do not pocket any profit, any wisdom either.
I think the tails suit you.
Morning dress, I say.
Meet me in the alley with shoulders padded
Like a lunatic’s cell.
Meet me with you cuffs and question me
Until I admit I know nothing at all.

Already Up There

I was brained.
I was in a love triangle with my drafting square.
I was an artist, but I knew nothing about art.
I was also a person, and knew nothing of that either.
What could be done to make me mend?
She said she’d think about it.
I said I can’t spare the time, and anyway I’m not in charge.
She dropped the dynamite into the bluish water.
Sardines live in a can; well, it’s not really a can.
I speak for myself. I am my own awkward audience.
I consider what I have as deserving.
I consider myself free for my class.
I consider my bandages in the bathroom mirror,
Which kept shushing me and crying at the drop
Of a tear the size of a man’s blurry face.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Noon Whistle

A row of old ladies under the blow dryers at a small town beautician. They were all named Pearl or Madeline, all frowning at some secret thought. The dog outside has worn a perfect dirt circle around his stake. A cement duck someone dressed in a yellow rain slicker looks on. Half the sky was dark with a storm, half empty and blue. The road with its heat waves, its urge to take everyone home to dinner.

Bermuda Triangle

To certain sad clowns,
The heavens are down and hell is up,
And to some they are sideways,
And still some say they are nowhere.
Angels swim, tunnel, take taxis,
Demons sleep in trees.
God would naturally be in the center
Of the earth, or in Cleveland
While the devil was in Chicago,
Or just an idea that never opened
Its bloody mouth in public.
That’s what’s said under the big top,
Where they’ve got a net
To stop their falling through the roof,
A ringmaster paid in meat,
And a lion at every door
With his paw in the baptismal font.

Friday, February 23, 2007

An Evening

It was a time of great sorrow that was expressed in pants. Dark pants with open seams, red pants that wanted to just lay there. We wore them and thought very little. Maybe an occasional wince at a stuck zipper, but we had the world to contend with, which as far as we could tell was exploding so slowly people forgot to cover their ears.

Little Animatronic Toy

To you who maintain my batteries,
Keep my screen clean,
I must admit that I’ve never seen you
And it’s making me doubt
My own existence.

On the nursery floor
I watched a slideshow
Of a magician pulling infinite
Rope from his sleeve,
And using that rope
To climb into the rafters

And escape to the sky
In a waiting helicopter.
It was a cloudy winter day
When it can’t decide
To snow or rain

And a child traces her
Profile in a fogged window
And delights in
Watching it fill in again
With a black-toothed smile.

Puppet Show

A few dead weeds
Dancing in the pane
Of my locked window

In the wind that switches
From east and west.
They’ve been rehearsing

All winter the same steps,
The same stupid smiles
On their bulbous heads.

Now the sun spotlights
Them, now the rain
Makes them take a bow.

I can’t get any peace
Until I catch the puppeteer
Who I suspect is a barefoot

Child playing hooky
From class when
The principal substitutes

For the free-spirited teacher.


It’s a day of dark birds dashing across the sky.
It’s threatening rain, and the wind has come.
It has come and it has announced its presence.
It’s whistling Dixie through the window sash.

I’ve been telling lies to everyone I meet. I’ve never
Spoken a confirmed word. Do they add up to anything?
Not on your life they don’t. Not even the woman
With her braid caught in a branch believes my nothings.

I go through the touchless car wash. It’s storming outside
And I’m getting wet. I’m naked and blind without my glasses.
The brushes whisper my fate. I am to congress with the infinite.
The water traveled a great distance to drip down my ass.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Life Sentence

A police lineup
And everybody’s in it.

The stoic sergeant,
The silent victim,

Point us out from behind
The one-way mirror

And we’re never
Seen or heard

From again.
Did you know

The English call it
The identity parade?

That’s the rumor
On the empty street.

The Plain of Existence is Narrow Indeed

In the garden of semi-rotten fruit,
In the plot of the overripe melons,
I’ve forgotten the motivation for keeping
The rows free of weeds, for keeping
The worms from gorging themselves.
They have grown fatter than I,
They don’t even hide when I wander by,
They whistle and wear straw boaters
And take their best girls to barn dances
In fancy new cars with cucumber wheels.

Dear garden full of suckers and leaches,
You are full of snakes and snails and aphids,
The lawn is creeping into your heart,
The trees are dropping seeds into your beds,
The sky is falling on your shoots and tendrils,
And I am your attendant and master.
I have a map in my head diagramming
What grows where, staging the corn to wave.
I have been in bed with the sheets over my head.
In my fever, with my swelling brain

And aching limbs, I wandered like the undead
Moaning and stumbling, my arms feeling the air,
Without a coat because it’s certainly winter,
Without a flashlight in the midnight hush,
And you were killed off by the snow
That seemed made of incinerator ash
That seemed to fly at me with malice
And threaten my thoughts, bully my body,
Reach its hands over my feet and bedevil
My blood, which was hiding in my heart.

I’ve been hoeing for a lifetime, turning
And examining the same soil over and over,
And I’ve found myself hungry for anything
That can be beaten from the garden
With the blackjack others have called a seed.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Next to Nothing

We are all drowning.
The wind can't even
Catch a breath.

From his high chair
The white-nosed

Doesn’t even think
Of resuscitating
The child in the deep end,

The man being swallowed
By an inflatable whale.
A black hearse arrives

And loads them up.
On the cracked road,
Between psalms written in tar

On the concrete median,
Everyone changes
Into their most somber attire.

The hearse is a convertible
And it’s a nice day.
The Beach Boys are playing.

The toupees of the dead
Are flying to heaven, but nobody
Notices a damned thing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Model Train Engineer

The dame tied
To the tracks is
Exquisitely rendered.
The train bearing down
Made lifelike
By a careful hand.
Her screams are so precise.
It even smells

Like a regular-sized evening
In this guy’s basement.
Faintly I hear
The tiny townspeople
Going about their miniature lives.
A dog barks, a baby cries.
All faked, the operator
Assures me.

Heavens No

Death dies and there is a little funeral.
But he can’t die, he thinks,
Who will come for me?
But he can’t think, something else thinks,
Death is dead and has no mind.

Black was his favorite color.
His cloak was black, the space
In his skull where eyes would normally be.
In death’s heaven, you sleep on black sheets,
Play a black harp and eat devil’s food cake.


A man led around by disbelief,
By doubting carnal knowledge.
In the north woods they yell “Nein!”
At a stuck hinge with expectation.
The woman’s pantyhose
All have runs in the thigh.
A hundred years from a tailor,
She complains to the wall.
The wall and its vulvular crack.
The blackbird spreads its long tail.
It is winter. The trees are gray.
A man singing himself a lullaby,
The woman’s sleepy eyes.

Eye to Eye

The eye studies its lid.
The palm that contains
The eye is wrapped around
A brown bottle.
The eye sees red and it is
Very cinematic.

It is here the landscape
Is cast, it is here judgment
Upon it rules with an
Aluminum fist.
An eye is brought up
Not quite seeing things as they are.

Even the eye atop the pyramid,
The eye of providence
With a beam of sunlight
Temporarily blinding it,
Wishes it wore
Stevie Wonder’s shades.

Eye to eye,
Everyone looking
At the world upside down,
Dreaming it in,
Dreaming themselves out.
The eye studies its lid.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Policeman Disperses the Crowd

Yes, there is nothing to see here.
The show’s over.
We’re staring at the empty scene.
It’s a street like any other.

A mob has a perverse intelligence,
But they are nonetheless suspects.
Most of them have been cuffed,
Most sleep in a cell.

Did you catch the face of the victim?
The perpetrator, we all knew him.
His father knew my father,
He delivered our children, took confession.

It’s just another crime scene.
The smell of sulfur in the air.
The chalk outline, it’s a familiar pose.
It could be my mother nursing me.

Mad Scientist

Dr. Faustus in heaven
Invents a synthetic parachute material for
Fallen angel henchmen puffed up
With maniacal laughter.

His big gray beard, pocket protector over his heart,
Tinkering with impossible experiments,
A man’s soul in a jar,
A robot who doesn’t wonder who created him.

His laboratory steepled,
Hidden in the forest like monastery,
Dimly lit and built of stone,
Where he worships at his instruments.

All alone, no wife to mend his lab coat,
He threatens destruction of the dominion
With an angel and a devil on each shoulder,
His shaky hand playing with the on/off switch.

Evening Lineup

The dead screen, black as the type in a religious text.
It cannot be summoned on, remote controlled.
The people who sit and face it, who look to it.
I spent my childhood in front of it feeding.

Someone hooks a video camera up to one,
Shoots the screen, stares at its many selves endlessly
Repeating, looks into the very soul of the thing.
Someone takes a rag and dusts one, straightens the antenna.

The blades of the ceiling fan stirring in the living room.
The newspaper lifting the corners of its war stories.
An abandoned drink sweating in the sunlight.
And on TV, a candid interview with the sound off.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


It’s a traffic jam in a tunnel,
A tunnel under a hill with a church

Perched in the clouds,
And our radio reception is gone.

Our speakers are all static,
Our minds left to think about

Bumper stickers of the car ahead,
The car going nowhere fast.

Christian puppets giving a show
In the rearview mirror,

Their handlers in all black,
Trying to unite their doppelgangers.

Everyone in on a suicide pact,
Meeting with the devil in his lair

Who’s only vapors, cold as cement,
Leaky as a crypt. And the crows

In hardhats, miners headlights,
Black lung and hay fever,

To lead us out, squawking
And picking our brains.

A Dark Little Hamlet

The dark keyboard.
It’s been making a show of clicking.
The man in the tragedy mask writing his biography,
Wearing a foil hat to keep the aliens
From peeking at his thoughts.

The dark screen. How like a dead man’s dreams,
How like god’s viewfinder.
It’s dark in the room too. How symbolic,
How existential.
Perhaps the angel of death cut the power,

Has the house surrounded?
The disk drive is spinning, saving something.
The window glass distorts the moon, the streetlamp.
The world’s lottery that dark night,
Close captioned for the deaf and dumb.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Prison Break

A sock police sergeant tied up in the corner.
Punch in his jester’s motley in for assault.
A hand puppet skilled at picking locks.
A marionette controlled by an invisible hand,
Who tunnels at night, who dumps the dirt.

A blow-up doll in the conjugal room checks his watch.
Ventriloquist dummies play cards to pass the time.
A tailor’s mannequin wonders what it’s like to die.

The stone-faced guards patrolling the towers.
They catch a shadow puppet in the spotlight,
Call the warden who wears sunglasses at midnight.
Let loose the hounds of hell, he says.
They give chase against the angelic curtain.

Friday, February 16, 2007

It’s Not a Sign of Anything

To the bitter end, we were scientists.
We discovered the sigh
While researching the anti-knot.
We were on our elbows tying one on.
It was smoggy in the city and we wore
Gasmasks, but fireflies kept tickling
Our noses. Old wives’ tales
In jars in the barn, a horse’s face
Peeking into the living room window,
The evening was an absurd puzzle.
Our own work was paramount, but we kept
Lashing out, sighing in unison, apologizing,
And then slipping up again. It was a tragic loop.
We were on the verge of discovering
The secret of everything – the frayed world
Like a big landfill, why everyone’s so bent out of shape –
But the smog kept getting thicker until
The air was like a swamp and it was laborious
To even breath. Our bronchi were in knots
And it was looking like we couldn’t be
Resuscitated, the sigh of life breathed back
Into us. Even so, we tried in vain to stay
To the bight of our research because we were not
Wearing the kind of lab coats one takes
Seriously enough to die in.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Classical Exposé

I said to myself
In a street comedian’s rant
Calling on a witness

I said to myself
Of which I know no other
Of which I cannot prove exists

A stutter on every syllable
A confession in every thought
With my bullhorn aimed

At dead flies tipped on their faces
With my walkie-talkie
And its band tuned the next life

I said to myself over the static
Speaking with a muted trumpet
Losing my inner voice

Sitting at a stained card table
Scripts all around
The other anonymous players

Who I met in a mirror
Who I costumed in my clothes
A panel of undead judges

Playing footsie with their bandages
I addressed as my true selves
Which made them fall apart in stitches.

The Sting of Truth

A child grabs a honeybee
It’s reluctant to sting
But takes its orders from above

The passing of the passion
Parade throwing baggies of nails

Some of which make their
Way into a coffin

In the living room
Of the mentalist

Who keeps forgetting
His glasses on his head

The circus is also in town
With its sideshow tent

Amazing smiling fetuses
Sorted by religious denomination

Jars being Windexed
By the world’s tallest evangelist

Who stopped to blow his nose
With a dollar sign hanky

The day a child caught
A honeybee in her fist
And got stung real bad

Stoked with Red Wood

A dog with gray hair
Nobody likes
Some enchanted evening
When the world forgot
It couldn’t explain itself

When we remembered
There was no mystery
Rocking on a freshly glued chair
The coals need poking
A foot of snow outside

Junk mail from an urgent
Carrier where action
Is required to activate
Something dormant
Where the fine print reveals

Very little
Getting up now to pet
The mutt who cowers
Getting up to stock the fire
With more kindling
From the casket maker.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Fiery Sunset

I have never lived, O lord,
And yet I am also quite dead.
The evening is so blue
Its vision must strike
Even common objects
As beautiful and sad,
Things that cannot otherwise
Form a thought.

The mountain man in his pelts
Two hundred years ago
Even stops to take it in.
There are his tracks in the snow.
This history book photo
Proves it so.

On a night such as this
Thoughts of a tyrant shaving
With a cut throat razor,
Thoughts of other things…
A forest absent of human presence,
A night that never ceases.

I watched the sun put to sleep
Rocked like a trashcan
With a child hiding inside,
Rocked like dead leaves
On a road with trees overhead,
Sung a wordless lullaby
By someone drowning
In the moonlight.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How They Go On

The sun makes its nightly journey under the earth.
We waited on a bridge between two worlds.
Nettles on one end, smoke on the other.
It’s the imagination, not the soul,
That continues when the world’s narrative ends,

We told the tinted ticket booth
In a story packed with plot foils and dead ends.
We were watching the torments of the damned
During a midnight showing,
Eating demon-colored cinnamon popcorn

Which we threw against the austere curtain,
Deviled by a couple
Obviously in love whispering in the next row.
Shhh, we said.
Love wore 3D glasses that gave her pink eye

When she turned to steam at us.
O garden of paradise, the city dump must be your hell.
Mice running in and out of mattresses,
The vial of heart medicine that expired with the patient,
A fortunetelling doll

With its head twisted off.
Blessed are the crows that perch on inner tubes,
The meek eating bread crusts from the trash,
Wrapped in rags as translucent as the soul
They straighten in a graven mirror.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hills Like Valleys

The mystery of the hills floating in the air around them,
So said the surveyor with a chart blown against his face.
The sun was continually strafing the landscape.
And also, continued the dispatcher, everyone’s cousins
With each other, keeping incest a family affair.

We came to the country to learn about ourselves.
Everywhere was a grave. A grove of trees was no different
Than a mole on an old lady’s face as she peered from a window.
That old foundation looks like my father’s favorite toilet.
That creek a trickle of blood down a fingerprint.

Now the sky drops leaflets on our heads. Tiny leaflets
Typeset in disappearing ink – they told us nothing.
Monarchs form a tiara on the crest of the hill.
And the crews working to put out the fire,
They smoke signal each other in romantic sonnets.

This Lump Inside Our Skull

Socrates in his pink bathrobe
In the garden of a rented country house.
He smells like a mouse,
Bringing to mind something that is not present.
As a deceiver imagining his ability to deceive,
He creates the nightshade of the in-turned individual
And tells the watering finches all about it.

“Disturb the indolence of the mind,”
The wig master exclaims, loaning him Christ’s wig,
Impeccably combed with a thistle,
Which Socrates uses to charm a doula out of her clothes.
During the act, the wig goes flying and lands on a dog
Giving birth to a pile of holy shit, the telephone
Poles like crosses that crucify squirrels.

Already condemned to death, the wise old
Socrates tending the peas and carrots,
Drawing circles around them with his stick,
A beautiful woman in a cloak looking over the fence.
Nearing nighttime with its risks and unknowns,
He stuffs his collar with dried grass and climbs the pole
To play scarecrow, a bag over his head to complete the look.

The Grave Digger Gets a New Shovel

And it makes quite a point.
Notice the hickory handle,
Same as a hatchet’s,
Same as a child’s blocks.

It appeared by
Order of requisition
From the dark office
Of the general manager

(For it is in a cemetery
That our scene lies).
His first shovel full
To square the edges

Of a fresh grave,
And then he lowers
The dummy cardboard coffin
To judge the size of the hole.

His lunch is inside
That coffin and it spills!
Now he tries to use the shovel
To scoop up his apple,

His liver sandwich,
But it’s no use.
He has to jump in
Before the crows descend.

Now he’s stuck six-feet under,
And there’s his shovel just out of reach.
Such a cold tomb, he thinks,
His teeth breaking the apple skin.


If you could just remember
How to play.
Let’s see,
You’ve got the dealer

Who is you,
And the entire deck
Upside down
On the cardboard box,

The alleyway
With its manhole steam.
Homeless all around,
And you flip
A queen, a king,

Other face cards,
To make a match.
It would be a child’s
Game if it wasn’t

So long, going late
Into the night
After the town’s asleep,
You under a street light

Marking the cards,
Trying to make a pair,
Trying to recall who
Goes with who.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

To Sit and Heel

The dog as philosopher with the invisible hand of truth leading him around. Hurry up, the hand seemed to say, and stay on the sidewalk. Meanwhile, I chased away a philosopher who was peeing on my tires. Every night under the ripening mulberry tree those hexagram paw tracks, the fruit like dark little brains on the gravel. I turned the light on and he ran away, the mongrel.

The dog is now in a fence condemned to be free. It’s funny how, as a dog, you can dig all day for no purpose at all. You can look up the leash and see what’s tugging you around. It’s nothing. It’s nothing you can name.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

What We Thought was Art

We called him Mr. Paintbrush Head because he painted self-portraits with his head. His hair was spiked up like a brush, and someone viewing it today might call it outdated. Although, strangely, he wore a sort of uniform that would never go out of style. Would rain ruin his hair, make it flat? I don’t know. It did take him forever to get ready. Sometimes a lifetime, so it seemed to me.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Listen, Yellow!

A man who never looked at the sun suddenly realized what a hoax it was. There is no sun! he told his friend. All these years of staying indoors for what? The sun is a fiction. What do you know? his friend replied. You’ve gone blind from staring at the sun. The man grew upset. Take it back, he yelled, putting his friend’s head in a headlock. Never mind that it was the toilet, and you can discount the apology he eventually squeezed out too.

Oh, to be Close to You

A hinge had a quarrel with the door. What’s your beef?
I do all of the work, while you get caressed
By the lovely woman. She pushes me around,
Responded the door. Yeah, well, replied the hinge,
You can look both ways at once into two locked rooms,
And all I can do is touch my feet to my nose.
Maybe you’re right, the door said. Perhaps we can switch?
So the door became the hinge and vice versa.
It remained that way until the woman
Called in a carpenter with crossed eyes
To put in a pocket door, which sexually excited the wall.

The Life of a Famous Grain Counter

It was my job to stand
In the silo and count grain.
I was young and brazen,
And I had a little wife to feed.

The mechanized ways of religion
Weren’t for me, but when
The Almanac predicted something
That gathered in the sky and blessed

The fields, I wept like a nun.
And still I kept counting.
Once a cool sad rain settled in.
How like grain, I thought.

To determine which seed
I had counted was now impossible,
So I ate them instead.
I grew fat and got trapped inside.

It was during this time that
I developed my great philosophy of life.
I was a giant, bigger than anything,
But I saw only the inside of my silo.

I achieved a measure of fame.
A man sold tickets at the door
And students would peer in at me
In the dusty light, shaking their heads.

Abjectly I ran out of ideas.
I only thought of women.
The grain fermented and drunkenly
I thrashed out my final words:

Stay clear of grain.
It’s a sad life; I can’t count the ways.
The silo’s shape suggests
The true philosophy of man.

The Age It’s Sensible

It was a time of great suffering and little joy.
We were mesmerized by our own shoes,
And we asked “Who’s there?” of empty rooms.
A fire alarm was always going off,
But none of the residents responded
And instead kept working to better themselves
At the folding tables we all sat at putting together
All-black jigsaw puzzles and endlessly turning
Potholders, which were essential decoration.
A self-help guru was wheeled in and slept
In front of the dry-erase board, and the clock
Always went the wrong way without comment.
There was no telling air from smoke.
Air and smoke were the same as far as we could tell.
I was forever waking up to pillows cleverly
Shaped like a wife, the newspaper on fire
As it landed near the coal shoot where hearing aids
Met to gossip about the end of the world.

The Neighbors from God Knows Where

The dunce with his positive negative number. He’s bringing it from the dresser to show his guests. It’s like a setting rising sun, he says. It’s like an inverted cone. Everybody oohs and ahhs. Outside his son is mowing the sidewalk, his daughter is selling the cow for a glass of milk.

Quickly Exiting a Hotel Lobby

The friendly fire wants to shake hands. The sinless man encourages you to accept his greeting. All of your past lives were having an intervention on your behalf. They were worried you’d kill yourself, imagine that! Pity you had to leave. It is such a lonely existence, and to think, not having seen them in years, all of catching up you have to do.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Devil’s Cake

Here’s your devil’s cake, said the mother. Good, I can eat it with my ghost teeth, the daughter replied. Take those out, they’re haunting. Besides, the mother said, you’ll get food poisoning. Now eat while it’s hot. Don’t be silly, the daughter sighed.

Going to Machu Picchu

I’m going to Machu Picchu to live in the clouds, said the son. But you’re so small, said his mother, who was becoming cocooned in the phone cord. Besides, we have clouds here. Let me take them from the oven. She bent over, and sure enough there were clouds! The son was engaged in the long climb upstairs. He watched the sun cross the sky before he even made it halfway. And there was all the gear that was always tarnishing. Yep, he mumbled, Machu Picchu is looking better and better, and it had yet to be photographed.

Open House

The groans of the oven sound like a giant.
Yes, there is a giant in there.
The heat creaks like a little stream running under the floor.
That’s right, we pan it for gold.
But the carpet, the carpet is made of earthworms.
Funny thing, and spotted too.
And the television is strapped to junior’s book bag.
A TV is also a notebook, my friend.
The light fixture is the color of gravel under a flashlight.
I believe it’s scared of the dark.
Your eyes! Your eyes have left rings on the wood.
I’m sorry, these frames have no lenses.

Educational Film

An engineered family at dinner discussing the day’s experiments. Father discovered the pencil, mother got water to boil, son researched the human response to being pantsed, and daughter alone in the attic all day filling out grant applications still managed to think about where she came from, and thus uncovered the element of despair. The table was set in paper plates, plastic forks. Everyone was huddled close around the pressure cooker, and mother pulled out the gray piece of meat. Daughter began to sob; it looked like a heart of a man who drowned in salad dressing. After desert, mother sat down to practice her artificial flower arranging, and father took himself to the garage to sleep as usual in the running car. It was another he discovered: being punctual.

The Slingshot

A slingshot,
To those who whittle,
Is the same
As a divining rod
That desires to fly.

Maybe a boy waits
For one to transform into the other,
Collecting small rocks
Or gullible neighbors
Who desire spiritual guidance?

They have a garden haunted by a crow
That stares them in the face
As it stalks the gourds
With a dirty fingernail
Clutched in its beak.

The idiots! Just shoo
It away, or throw a book at it.
The bible he always carries,
Provided the rubbery old man
Can let go in time.

Men are Dogs

Dog whistle
Makes me leap
From my basket

Drool down my beard
Scatter across
The library floor

Although my cage
Is expansive
My chain restrictive

I still try to tunnel
Or otherwise escape
To bay at the moon

Even if it’s only
A coin flipped
By the thugs who keep me

Napping on the rug
My food in a bowl
My tail a little in the fire

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Science Fiction Honeymoon

A man with a zipper neck
Waited intently on the bed
To lose his marbles.

His bride was certifiable
Dozing in a soundproof booth
In her bathrobe.

It was the first evening
Of their arranged marriage,
The first night alone.

Before any space journey,
Or expedition to the center
Of the earth,

A physician with a fake
Austrian accent
Must listen over their bodies

With a stethoscope
From a child’s set.
A funny bone was malformed,

Spare ribs were missing,
And each astronaut
Had a broken heart.

They were still cleared
For landing, minds secretly
Possessed by alien control.

There they are with animal eyes
Walking like zombies
Toward each other in the dark room.

It was now time for the voiceover.
Earth had been rendered inhabitable.
Space was also a vacuum.

Even women get the curse
On a pleasant evening homemaking,
Thinking of the plot.


What goes up that really wants to come down? Pants? Heaven, I think not, said the tailor. The spoiled twelve-year-old with a sunburn was naked. He stamped his foot and was handed a lollypop to calm him down. The tailor’s needle was fine and sharp, and he knotted the final stitches of the straight jacket. Even the child was impressed, as a tailor who crafts such a fine restraint is rare. Even rarer is one who uses himself as the dummy, silent through the many pricks.

Poker Night

It’s poker night at the amateur philosophers’ club. The window is open except for the bars. A cavalry of clouds in the sky, and they seem to be coming this way. Should we play John and Judas or Old Maid? Time to ante up, says the wise old man with an ace in his palm. Just then the cat drops a half-dead mouse on the table.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Modern Transport

A steamboat’s paddle is a mandala that is always half drowned. A man with a fortune-telling crystal almost steps in front of a bus. It’s the express to the Bronx Zoo, and its exhaust gave the sky cancer. Life is transient, says the girl on roller skates. The purple lilacs are in bloom. The world is so beautiful. It makes the old shopkeeper rush into the yard without any shoes. The sun through the blinds, his daughter's sidelong glances, looking up from her work preening nits from a rented gorilla suit.


The life of a date book thinking it needs to be somewhere. It’s a deluxe model so it can also recall where it’s been. It’s been in an undersea hotel lounge sipping Shirley Temples on account of the dry bar, waiting for a man with atomic bomb cataracts to write his number down. Now it’s on holiday somewhere else with a grocery list for a luau.

An octopus waiter told me this. One hand was calculating a bill, one was tearing up prayer cards, and one was pouring water sideways from a crystal pitcher. As for the rest, the magic eight ball told me to ask again.

The E-mail

A baby’s first word was “subject”. Ah, said the father, he must be an e-mail. That’s right, said the mother, an e-mail, just like me. Only a reply from the baby would settle the debate, but it never seemed to arrive. One day a letter from the e-mail who had been away for years in the service. It read: Mother, father, you coddled me with that wax diaper, the way you both kept pressing you initials into it. I am a blind copy on the forward march. Send more spam.

Customary Graffiti

A little girl in pajamas closed her eyes just as Night was shaking his can of paint. He sprayed his initials on everything so densely you couldn’t read them anymore. The little girl’s face was soon covered. She was dreaming of an army of woolen facemasks marching over her tongue. She was dreaming of drinking from a glass of water too heavy to lift. The kind Night would dip his sore thumb in to wash off the paint. If he could find the light switch to see.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Vestigial Structure

There was a boy who would simonize your car for a dollar. When he brought it back, the fenders shone like the Archimedes death ray. What kind of wax did he use? we wanted to know. He wouldn’t say a thing. He was a boy of seven or eight, yet he carried a cane. In the evenings, he was seen limping alone down a road that went nowhere. We called it Memory Lane because so many of us had broken our tailbones falling from his family’s tree. But he was going to the lighthouse to stand in for the beacon, who joined the Blue Angels after he fell for an afterburner. The town was shocked. Even the blind windows.


I lived alone in the basement of a boarding house.
I had only disturbances from above.
My light was a bulb swinging
From the drunken steps of the landlady.
She wore a cardinal’s pointed hat for beauty’s sake,
Although she was repulsive. The hair on her cheeks,
Her robe open for the world to see.
Every night she tangoed with a tailor's doll
To the angelic music of a eunuch choir.
And I played devil’s advocate,
Knocking dirt in my eyes with a broom handle.

And Another Thing…

Something simple and quiet is what the poem aspires to be. Me, I'm a man in a sheet wandering through the graveyard with one combat boot and one pink slipper. I look up at the stars through my eyeholes, piss on an unmarked plot, sleepwalk home through the old neighborhood. A fern in a noose hangs from the gutter, willows in the yard gently stirring like a woman’s hair. A woman in a mass grave with her eyes open, watching TV. Porches empty of sawdust. I stumble up one to my hammock covered with books. Doesn’t anybody whittle anymore? I think, taking out my pen.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Blind Date

I’ve got a date with Death. He brought flowers, black roses. Metaphysically challenged (with the headgear to prove it), we sat with his entourage of dirt angels in the peanut gallery to watch the local tragedy. It was a passion play and all the audience was on edge. On stage, a crow possessed Judas. The two thieves had abstract paintings hung from their necks. A gunshot stood in for thunder. Even Death flinched, and the blow-up doll he was necking began to whiz around the room. Luckily, it was otherwise unmanned. Jesus had to get down from the cross to unwrap its legs from around his head.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Our Watchman

Shakespeare’s ghost was haunting our houseboat. But in the fog it was hard to tell. We floated downriver as if guided by the rheumy hand of fate. The only hint of Shakespeare’s presence was the typing at night, which could have been the minute hand that shared his room. He was working around the clock on a tragedy he wouldn’t let anyone near. We slept with one eye open.

That morning, we looked in the mirror. I was made up to be an attendant with exaggerated red lips and two black eyes. My wife was a China doll left on the moon who kept slitting her wrists. The swans we were keeping for breakfast were nowhere to be seen. Shakespeare! we screamed. It had his name written all over it!

Raised by Wolves

My mother and father were feral. They went around suckling the breasts of strangers, barking like dogs. Scientists were always taking notes in boustrophedon writing to keep them in the dark. But they already were! The house was as black as a tar pit. Mom pawed at the batteries from a dead flashlight, and dad’s toupee fell over his eyes as he napped in front of the dark television, blood on his lips.

The Girl Next Door

Unlike other teenage boys, he was in love with the topography of Venus. How fitting, said the publisher of the science magazine that arrived wrapped in black cellophane. O the mons and folds, the impact craters on the exotic body. All night, staring from his window of opportunity at the naked sky, his best glimpse just before sunrise, when the lovely daughters next door stood in front of their window seductively looking for the epoch of breast lumps.

The Loafer

A loafer ruled the world. He sipped black tea with grains of sugar in it the size of stars. His mother brought him sandwiches and clicked her tongue disapprovingly. Such a smart boy, but so lazy. His dry ice beard smoked in the sun. To get up from the hammock, he needed to slingshot around the dark side of the moon. Even with that kind of momentum, it was difficult to predict where his feet would land, if at all.


If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Yes, but why not nothing at all? That too. The puppet maker and his cigar-smoking dummy agree. Something dark’s just run by their window, and the mechanical violin was playing half of a sad lament. The model train yard with its fixed shadows, painted grime on the church steps, and the train going once more around the circuit. That’s all there is, and nothing more.

Friday, February 2, 2007


She was a tiny little thing,
Practically invisible,
And every time she comes in
She orders Suspended Animation
Tea. It is unclear
Where she works, but I know
She repossesses livelihoods.
If they haven’t paid, that is.
It is true that without a livelihood
It would be impossible to pay –
I hadn’t thought of that.
I’ve never thought of anything,
This is the first thought I’ve had.
Imagine that, a whole life lived
In a dreamless void, no memory,
Never seen a single person before.
I’ve seen her – she told me about this place
After she dropped by, I can’t recall when.
I’m so thirsty my lips should be pried
Open with a crowbar. That's a joke.
I’ll take that Suspended Animation
Tea. Oh, wait, where's my wallet?

The Sacking

Each stylite was actually the right leg of a god
Who lost his in a boating accident.
Peg legs, they were known to move in fractured
Fashion, stumbling through the town square
Whenever the urge for a burnt offering strikes.
The men on top, the devoted mystics,
Were simply window washers caught
Without their scaffolding, who also sought
To be the center of attention, and so jumped aboard.
O indiscriminate truth, the townspeople
Moaned, the dole is otherworldly in its gifts.
They were, of course, speaking of what the leg bequeathed
To the town, be it a hole in a roof leaking steam
Or a beanpole from which time could be inferred,
(If one were to chance such measurements)
Before bowing, as was custom, to the deep sleep of worship.
Many fell down the wishing wells that sprung up,
Where only their eyes were visible in the dark.
There they found viewing the stars ideal, plenty of water,
And the many devils tolerable if not good company.


A man was putting a steeple on the church
In his model train yard, but he couldn’t get the glue
To hold it straight. There are other leaning buildings
In the world, he said. The tiny congregation
Was holding mass inside, and Jesus was shook off
The cross during the commotion. How embarrassing,
Some of the townspeople thought, that those nails
In his palms didn’t hold. And here we have a Jesus
On the loose, trying to swim in the plastic river,
Wondering why everything’s so lifeless and hollow.
Have you any thoughts on this, they asked the man,
Who to them lived in the sky.
I made everything the best I could, he said,
The nails were real, so was the blood in the chalice.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Pilot

World War I fighter pilots were heroic men
With often tragic fates. We’ve all heard the tales.
But there is one nobody remembers.
It’s about the fighter pilot who refused
To come down. He loved the soft clouds so,
Reminding him of his mother, and the cool
Spring air, much like a perfect meadow of flowers,
That he decided to live the rest of his life in the sky.
Ponderous, light, prancing over the tufts in full sun,
Even the dreaded flack from below could not
Touch him, even the famous Red Baron
Was loath to infect his paradise, instead wounding
Him only psychologically with thoughts of death.
Snakes, hippos, Einsteins, cuts of beef,
A cloud could be anything he wished them
To be, or not to be, even, for he was often sick
Of their company and dissolved them
Into abstract shapes, the kind a pink flamingo
Told him were becoming popular in the art world.