Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 30

ant vs. Ant

she watched an ant
dragging the head of a bee
by the side of the trickling creek
weaving erratically back and forth
far from home, probably lost,
lugging an enormous millstone
it had no idea what on Earth to do with
unwilling to just relax its grip
and open its jaws and let
that enormous burden go

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April 29

California Poppies [Nice Sandwich]

California poppies
flicker in the Oregon wind
at the base of a guardrail dividing the highway
that runs in a trough that cuts the city in two.
I watch them from through the chain link fence
of the Jefferson Street bridge
in the exact spot where a house once stood
where Lew Welch rented a room when he was a student,
a few blocks from my own rented studio.
These days I've been spending a lot of time standing on bridges,
staring down at the dark water, at the rushing traffic,
dreaming of gravity and exhaust
and razors and dissolving pills.
Next month it'll be forty four years
since Welch stepped out of Gary Snyder's house
in the Sierra Nevadas and into the wilderness
with a sandwich and a Smith & Wesson
.22 caliber rifle. I'm not sure about the sandwich
but I like to think he packed himself
some kind of nice last supper,
a pleasant picnic looking out over the landscape.
Or maybe I'm just hungry. Food is one of the few things
I still take pleasure in. I will no doubt leave behind
 a corpulent corpse.  Lew's body was never found,
He left nothing behind but his poetry and rocks
and scrub and an occasional clump
of California poppies.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April 28


The UPS truck bleats
and I raise the metal gate
for the brown truck with the brown driver
in the brown uniform
who will hand me brown boxes to stack
on the concrete floor of the dock.
We see each other every weekday
but we don't talk about
the unarmed brown man
who got shot in the back by the cops
or the other unarmed brown man
who also got shot in the back
by the cops, or the... well,
we don't talk about any of them.
We talk about the weather, the rain
or lack thereof, the distance
of the weekend.
But smoke is rising from a burning squad car
on a Baltimore street where the storefront windows
have been smashed in, and all I can do
is sign the digital tablet
and hand it back to him,
our hands never touching,
and lower the gate.

Monday, April 27, 2015

April 27

Tip Spittoon

They slouch about in their black hoodies
emblazoned with the logos of their favorite watering holes
to watch the country band with the gravelly-voiced singer
everyone wants to fuck
The guitarist is decent but the songs are bland
and colorless, forgotten the moment they're over.
Everyone looks like someone I know
from someplace else. It's early and the place is filled
with families and young children:
three tiny girls link arms and jump wildly about
while a little brother stands and stares,
wanting to be included, or maybe I'm 'just projecting.
My ex and her new man are sitting at the bar
beside me, holding hands. I try to focus
on my wild boar tacos. The joint has wooden floors
and faux Victorian wallpaper. At some point
the drummer's gorgeous wife sashays around the room
holding out a brass spittoon for tips.
A bearded blob in a yellow t-shirt that reads
"Don't be a Dick" dances with a much
slimmer girl. He can barely shuffle
but her hands are all over his girth anyways.
There's a tear in my microbrew,
the spittoon of my heart is about to tip over.
My tongue is a tangled lasso.
There are tumbleweeds between my legs
and baling wire holding my sides together,
keeping  my guts from spilling out into the sawdust.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

April 26

Spalding [and everything is fine]

Stare off the end of the boat
at the water churning in your wake.

That's your past, a mindless froth
returning so rapidly to gentle
ripples of velvet.

The other figures on the ferry are
flickering shadows. The mist
is thick and welcoming and resistant
to reflections.

It would not be bad
to be embraced by arms of fog,
smothered painlessly, soundlessly,
all those spinning gears instantly gummed up,
the echoes stifled, the racing images erased.

A single motion and all goes dark.
And that would be fine

if it wasn't for the fear of pain,
if there could be some guarantee
that there would be no pain, both yours
and of those distant others who keep insisting
they love you.

Who knows, maybe they do.
In the meantime, I watch the water.
If not tonight, then soon.

There are plenty of boats, plenty of bridges.
A generous stretch of river
with an endless supply of current,
and, on certain nights, that wonderful
annihilating fog.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 25

The Rain is the One Who Owes You a Fucking Apology

The sun lurked right on the edge
of the thunderheads, its golden gaze turning
the downpour to piss. The bus shelter was crammed
with drenched transients and their sopping sacks.
The rain had stopped by the time my bus arrived,
but the gutters were flooded and the streets were still slick
and turning right onto Mississippi, the bus smashed
into a parked car. The scrape and tear of metal
was awful. The car's front bumper
was ripped clean off, its front left corner
crunched and shredded. There was no
apparent damage to the bus. Unlike me,
when I collided with you, the driver stopped,
asked if everyone was okay, and got on the phone
with the dispatcher. He didn't just barrel forward,
pretending nothing had ever happened,
never looking back at the debris strewn on the wet
asphalt in his wake.

Friday, April 24, 2015

April 24

Where the 24 Hour Church of Elvis Was

It was right around the corner from here,
to my left, in the alleyway and up a set of stairs,
an odd little room crammed with custom-made pinball machines
and of course Elvis Presley memorabilia, most of it home made,
all of it presided over by a bedraggled, batty woman
who, if you paid her, would disappear into the back room
and return dragging a sleepy man dressed as Elvis
who, being an ordained preacher, would preside over
a brief- and possibly even legally binding-ceremony
after which you and your new spouse would be fitted
with cans around your ankles and forced to march
all the way around the block to display your new
marital status.

The Church was long gone by the time I moved here,
even though its location was still marked
on the map I bought to find my way around my adopted city.
The woman who ran the place showed up at the art museum
where I work a few times. She wanted to pitch some kind of
art show. The curators declined. The last time I saw her
she was drunk and standing out on the sidewalk
in front of the museum in the middle of the afternoon,
screaming at passerby. This city has changed so much
so quickly, trying hard to become just like everywhere else.
The King is not marrying anyone at 3Am in Portland anymore.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

April 23


No one glances around. No eyes meet
across the crowded room. All attention tethered
to irresistible screens. Every sharp arrow of focus ends
in a smooth glowing wall across which swim and flash
endless images. Phones, televisions, tablets
and on the end of the bar, the Megatouch machine
with its touchscreen matching games
and hidden picture games
and puzzles hosted by animated sexy women
and leering monkeys. A gloved cartoon hand
hovers over each scene.
You control it using your own finger,
your one physical contact with the world
sliding and swiping and poking
that sensitive yet impassive mirror

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April 22


A couple of prostitutes step in and out
of their uncomfortable shoes
in front of Ruth's Chris Steak House.
It's late but the restaurant is still busy
with elderly tourists and Japanese businessmen.
Right across the street is the stiff solemn column
we spent hundreds of years trying to bend.
Nearby rests the ancient cicada spaceship
that spun down through a hole in the clouds
to land on a single hair curling out over the edge
of our mother's fleshy cliff.
I call myself the smallest pinch of fuzz,
the tiniest patch of bristly weeds,
I call myself the perfect scratch,
the suicidal smile. The elevator always breaks
 at the same time as the washing machine.
A white van with its headlights off
glides through the intersection against the signal.
Out in the courtyard a metal detector
curls its neck back, beeping frantically
as it detects itself.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April 21


There were two men
and she leaped like a bolt
from one to the other.

Can you feel your eyelashes
brush against the paper?
Can you find the strength to turn
your back to the light?

You'll have to.

They moved around within the sweltering box
with nothing but the crimson light to guide them.
And of course their hands.

Did you feel your body turn into a sculpture?
Did you feel your three dimensions 
flatten out?
The flash lasts only a moment,
and then you are two shadows
fused forever into one.

The slides blink faster and faster
The photographs curl their corners
And it's too much. I fly from
the stark white room
 filled with the skeletons
of black folding chairs
to escape to the soft gray
world outside.

Monday, April 20, 2015

April 20


It didn't scare you enough, your father's warning
that if you went barefoot in the garage
you'd get hookworm. Likewise what he said
about fleas giving you tapeworm,
though I have to wonder about the accuracy of that one.
It was Southern Baptist country
and worms were everywhere,
chewing through apples, measuring cubits,
raining from the sky, whispering in the ear
of the recently no longer dead.
And then there were the elders
 draping worms around their necks
and holding them up and feeling the worms
within their mouths
flop out to speak to them.
It should have scared you,
but there you stand, arms spread,
feeling the worm wriggle
from fingertip to fingertip,
your entire body convulsing
as it measures you.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

April 19

No Bridges

I don't trust the stones not to shift beneath my feet. Just because they've held so far doesn't mean they'll continue to do so. I stare in the folded mirror at a face has slipping between the cracks in the glass. Hair parted down the middle, standing with one foot on either side of the San Andreas Fault. Bridges are always collapsing, walls crumbling, houses sliding into fissures. Lightning splits the sky and cracks the stump. Sheets of paper folded in half, torn. I waste hours trying to tape them back together. Clenched hands wrenched from one another. I feel like I am constantly followed by a cloud of hornets that sting my face, perforating it down the middle so it could tear in two. Maybe then I'll be able to keep myself company, one eye staring directly into the other instead of both staring in different directions with a gaze that is never returned.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 18

A Dead Coyote by the Side of the Road in Nisqually Country

We squinted through the cellophane shade
of the recently built old-timey diner
at the choppers lined up in front
of the Nisqually Bar and Grill next door.
Guys with beards in leather vests
milled about in the parking lot
in the blinding morning sunlight.
The waffles were overpriced
and bland. The coffee was bad.
Our cheerful young waitress
had long since disappeared.
American flags hung limply everywhere.
A banner congratulated the Seahawks,
who had lost the world series
six months earlier.
Oldies were playing on the piped-in
satellite radio.  Love is All Around
played twice in a row.
I popped a couple of Advil and prayed.
Five miles up the road, along the side
of Interstate 5, a dead coyote
lay in the weeds, its pale fur
ruffled by the gentle breeze.

Friday, April 17, 2015

April 17


Her tongue was always dipped in glitter
and it would glint gold and apricot
when she stuck it out and wiggled it at the sunset
You look remarkably like her, you're the same age
she would have been by now, you have
the same wrinkles, the same sags, it's uncanny,
it's like she's wearing your skin, but I want to know
for sure, before I slap your ass, before
I bend you over and continue where we left off
before we were so rudely interrupted by
her metamorphosis into a box of ash.
So as soon as the sun prepares to drown itself
I'll ask you to open your mouth
and stick out your tongue
and let me see if it has
the familiar metallic sheen
of the sun sticking out its naughty tongue
back at her

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April 16

I could feel the wall of feminine disinterest rise
effortlessly from both of them the moment
we were all introduced.
Maybe men do this too, flick on that forcefield
of aggressive apathy. Without my uttering a word
they had sentenced me guilty of having
nothing to offer. I'm not saying they're wrong,
but still. A fella likes the illusion of having
a fighting chance.
Now this is the point where more assertive dudes
make their voices heard, begin the game
of lassoing their attention.
But not me. I nodded politely as they chatted
and built that wall higher and higher until I couldn't see
their faces. Luckily there was a chink in the brick
through which I pressed my eye
and spent the rest of the conversation staring
at their decent -though in no way extraordinary- racks
with the impunity of the invisible.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April 15

Milkweed Hand Grenade

Every hair and feather, every blade of grass is gone.
Every leaf and every bristle, every whisker, every plume.
The world is shaved, completely bald and smooth.
There will be no more ticklish kisses,
no more soft nests or pillows to rest your weary egg upon.
All the fur has been sheared and swept away,
every bit of fluff, every tuft, every cotton ball and dust bunny
blown into the breeze with one puff.
The planet has been cleared of every silkworm's excretions,
every shard of milkweed shrapnel.
The earth has been slathered with shaving cream
and scraped raw, not a single stump or bit of stubble remaining,
the dirt beneath your feet still tingling with aftershave.

Monday, April 13, 2015

April 13

Deer Tick

I know you are a gentle, skittish creature
mincing cautiously through the darkened thickets.
Wide-eyed, sensitive, easily spooked and startled.
But I know that somewhere in there lurks
something kinky and perverted,
a part of you that longs to be bent and broken
over and over again, longs to be bound and bitten,
longs to let your usual murmur rise into a moan
that bursts from your throat like a flock
of screaming birds. rising from the trees.
You say it's not true, that I'm just projecting
my own twisted fantasies, that I'm the sick one.
But you can't look me in the eye when you say it.
The limbs of the trees cast shadows across your face
like bars of a cage. You don't have to say a word.
Just look at me and nod and I will free you
using nothing but these bare hands
...and, of course, my teeth.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

April 12


When I was young, someone told me blood
was blue within your body and only turned red
when it hit the air. You could look at the blue veins
on the backs of your hands if you wanted proof.
Now I know better, of course, having learned
that all blood is black and every circle is a hole
and that if a thing flows beneath the ground
you should never let it out.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

April 11

Spin Your Hat Around and Tell Them You're a Quaker [Lectio Divina]

The coffee shop's a veritable canine ark, especially days like this with rain
hammering the dogwoods. Voices weave together into tapestries of nonsense,
patchwork conversation shawls spread across our shoulders. An elderly gentleman
lectures his date about the spiritual aspects of Eminem and Philip Glass.
Teacup fuzzdog rests its paws on the edge of a bench, begging for scraps.
The old man tells a story about a man who held his hands clasped together
in supplication for so long, his fingernails grew intertwined, the hairs on his knees
rooted themselves in the sod. A woman gripes about the overly spicy won tons
she had the night before. A Shih Tsu in an argyle sweater presses its wet nose
into her palm, dripping yolk. The air is clogged with pollen.
"Last night she was out there eating the grass like a tiny little sheep."
An angel with acne and a nose ring munches her bagel with intense concentration.
A huge bear of a dog shakes the water from its silver grizzled head.
In case you're wondering, the soup of the day is New England clam chowder.
The old man muses about lectios and how difficult it is to find them.
His date talks about writing divine poetry.
"What is the difference between a chapbook and a zine?" he asks her.
We sneeze our sticky prayers into virgin handkerchiefs. No one says gesundheit.
Spaniels prick up their ears at the chittering of a squirrel, just one of God's many
irritating messengers.
"Spin your hat around and tell them you're a Quaker,"
the elderly gentleman says. I have no idea
what it means. A bat-eared mongrel leads its owner on a hand-woven leash
and all the other dogs start barking murderously.
"Better to use your water pick than your floss,"
the woman says. The rain stops, the sun glows
between the young leaves, all of us forgiven,
even those of us who would dare to try to sort
these utterances out, unravel the babble
as tiny pink tongues slurp the floor.

Friday, April 10, 2015

April 10

Blue Foxtongue

The hills were blanketed with the furry cerulean petals
of the invasive blue foxtongue
which was choking all the native vegetation
and driving the local wildlife insane
with its intoxicating fruit.
Gnats crazed amongst the fermenting berries,
and cardinals and woodpeckers grew drunk on the juice,
their scaly feet getting snagged in the brambles.
A famished coyote lapped at an inky puddle
then munched on a frothing raccoon's anus
while the creature was still alive.
Hairy old men flapped their rubbery wings
and opened their beaks to swallow mugs
of wormy foxtongue slurry.
A one-horned elk bared its metal teeth,
black juice dripping down its chin,
then lowered its head and charged an ivy-covered
Eldorado that had been rusting in the woods
for half a century.
The hives overflowed with rancid honey that year,
and we filled our hats with it and buried them
in the cool dirt to coagulate into something
we could put in our lanterns when the sap
of the crimson bearfat trees stopped flowing.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

April 9

I dreamed the phone rang, her voice
was on the other line, talking dirty
just like she used to when she was still alive.
Just as I began to grow aroused,
a thousand flesh-colored spiders
began to pour from the phone,
scuttling all across my flesh
wearing fishnets and stilettos
doing kicks and I woke up
erect and screaming
my entire body covered
in tiny heel prints


The HR assistant at work that day
wore a tight black and white checkered skirt.
Her hair was frizzed out to here.
I asked her if her ankle was feeling any better.
She stuck out her leg and twirled her black pump.
"It was so swollen up, it looked like a loaf of bread,"
she said. I stared at her leg in its black stocking,
tried to imagine a loaf of bread at the end of it.
It was kind of hard to picture. She beamed, a wide smile
full of gleaming teeth. I smiled back nervously
and left the office in a cold sweat.


As I crossed the bridge over the expressway
heading home after work, I saw a girl
in a tiny scrap of skirt
and boots with a long stretch
of creamy white thigh in between
striding behind me,
and I clawed my way up
over the chain link fence
and hurled myself off
into the churning current
of rush hour traffic.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

April 8

Pet Rock (Other Beautiful Creeps)

Along with all the other beautiful creeps
we washed our hair in one another's mouths
then found ourselves sucked into hourglass quicksand
to emerge on the incrementally swelling dunes
below that pinched glass belt
We trod across the moss, trampled heather,
scratched the lichen from the boulders with
our jewel-encrusted press-on fingernails.
We tore pictures of eggs from magazines
and sat on them, hoping to hatch them into paper chickens.
We went to a children's theater production of The Bald Soprano
and spent the whole show dropping long strands of saliva
from the balcony towards the bald spot of a man below.
We rowed across each other's chests, digging our oars
into the rippling flesh. We dropped our lines and fished
for oily eels that writhe in the depth of the pores.
We saved our shed skins, wore them as crinkly stoles
around our hairy necks.
We threw back the shower curtains
hung across the stalls with zip tie shower rings,
surprising the couples having sex on the hoppers
without using seat protectors.
We held a seance to talk to the ghost
of the inventor of Skee Ball,
went to a wake for Gary Dahl
who held the patent for the Pet Rock
for Sand Breeding Kits,
for Red China Dirt
Along with all the other beautiful creeps, we swore
we'd never make another list again, and then
we immediately set about making another list
of reasons why we couldn't bear to stop,
as all around, the scattered boulders turned
their backs to us.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April 7

Dishwater Blonde

Hail pelts gravel eyelids 
that part to expose
milky salamander cataract puddles
Bra strap slips from one shoulder
Smoky mascara, liquid ash, asterisk eyes
Strings of hair plastered to the back of her neck
Fogged over microwave door
overturned Tupperware
The boom of a passing jet, lightning crack,
car backfire, the ding signifying
that your soup is done
Steam rises from the holes in your throat,
from the water collected in your cupped palms
She smiles and tugs a strand of hair
away from her mouth, staining her fingers
greasy red, counts aloud
as the brave droplets release their grip
from the lips of the faucet.

Monday, April 6, 2015

April 6

Ten Year Forecast

We walked hand in hand along the bank
with all the other tourists.
Eleven years later, I sit here shivering,
staring through the fence at the water.
The wind's picking up. Buses roar
across the crossed bones of the drawbridge.
Buds are fresh and raw on the trees.
It's a minor river, leading nowhere, too shallow
for shipping, too filthy for swimming.
There are more tourists than ever these days,
zipping back and forth on rented bicycles.
Cranes bristle across the skyline.
Darker clouds are closing in from the east
but it won't rain.
A pair of Canada geese skim low across the water.
Boats bob across the bridge's shimmering reflection.
A group of street kids cluster on a bench as if
on the carcass of some downed animal.
My glasses become speckled, I was wrong
about the rain.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

April 5

Easter Sunday and a bunch of guys
are swinging sledgehammers
at a pile of old furniture outside
the apartment building that towers over
the neighborhood.
The place is mostly student housing,
and the furniture is all old desks, futons,
particle board shelves.
The men wear dust masks pushed up
onto their foreheads. They laugh and yell
at one another in Spanish, taking turns
running toward the pile and swinging
with all their might, cheering the destruction.
Splinters and screws and chunks of
compressed sawdust fly everywhere.
The crashing reverberates along
the tree-lined streets, bounces off the walls
of the condos, of the few remaining Victorians
that huddle in this hollow beside the highway.
They toss the remains into a tall green dumpster.
He has died, He has risen. New students will arrive
in vans filled with new furniture.
He will come again.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

April 4

In the invertebrate amputee ward

the centipede moans about
the pain in its phantom limb

It could be worse, says the pillbug nurse
pointing an antenna towards the snail

in the next bed over

Friday, April 3, 2015

April 3

In the tangled threads of spit, the net spreads
down your chin, down your body
to cling to your thighs.
That tendency you have to trip,
and in the process spatter juicy globs
at your own feet, then paint
wide wet saliva footprints across
the packed sand of the pavement.
Nothing in your life is absorbed,
nothing evaporates.
The viscous river bubbles from
between your legs, hangs from the tip
of your tongue, mirroring
the cavern it originated from. 

Splinters, shards, slivers, scars.
You are not one thing, you are
millions of things, many of them
similar but subtly different.
You are not a single utterance
but a cacophony. You leave
scraps and flecks of yourself
behind, bits which mix 
with the remains left by others
to accumulate in the corners,
to gather in the culverts.
Stuffed beneath bridges, snagged
in the hems of hurricane fences.
You spend the centuries breaking down
into ever smaller particles, 
being scattered to the farthest
reaches of the planet. No wonder
you find it difficult to concentrate.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

April 2

Exit the Imperial Arms
Cross the bridge over the 405
Ignore the voice from the doorway
asking for change.
Pass the low income towers,
Pass the youth shelter
Pass the Plaid Pantry
Pass the gaping hole in the ground
that will soon be yet another
huge glass tower.
Sidestep the dog excrement,
the Doritos bags and crushed
energy drink cans.
Avoid the college kids striding forward
staring at their cell phones.
Beware the cars that disregard
the walk signals.
Pass the Safeway and swipe your key card
and open the door to the staff entrance
of the museum.
Ignore the staggering gray skeleton
staring as you enter the building.
The whole journey takes about
five minutes. Retrace your steps
at the end of the day, once again
disappearing into the Imperial Arms.
Full circle, every weekday.
Do you hear how hollow
these footsteps sound,
echoing between
the buildings?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April 1

I think I've forgotten how,
but I was at a reading at Powell's Books tonight
to celebrate the first night of National Poetry Month
there were three readers, the first
a comfortable old Buddhist
writing comfortable old Buddhist poetry,
the second a thin bookish women who kept chickens
writing thin bookish chicken-keeping poetry
and a young, loud, confident girl yelling
young, confident girl poetry, and as I sat there
politely, drifting in and out
of paying attention, I felt myself
brimming over with impatience,
felt the impatience curdling into hate,
and the more I hated the more I thought,
well shit, I should try writing some of this
crap again, even if I have forgotten how,
because I don't know what else to do
with all this bile that's accumulating
in every corner of my life, threatening
to drown me here in Goose Hollow.
As I walked home from the reading
past the cars with tinted windows
and couples with eyes gleaming
in the candlelit restaurants,
a man in front of Fink's Luggage
twirled a handkerchief like a flag
of grimy surrender and asked if I had
any change. I shook my head. No change.
I still don't know if I can write a thing.