Friday, August 4, 2017

Pilot Light

He beat her with a dead crow
clutched it by its claws and whipped her ears with it
The beak left deep scratches, raw angry welts

When she left the house she covered her arms and legs
Wore a hat with black netting over the face
Hid her bruised bones in a shroud of black feathers
She fled, thinking he would never find her.
He found her

Tied her to her perch by a thin silver thread
knotted around her ankle, a single strand of gossamer
that she could not manage to snap

When it got dark she could see,
in the distance, far off in the kitchen
a tiny beacon, a tiny flame showing her the way
She lifted her bony wings
and hurled herself towards it

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


You crawled into your sleeves
and it sewed your sleeves shut.
You curled up in your pockets
and it sewed your pockets shut.
It sewed shut the neck of your shirt
so you couldn't push your head through.
It stitched shut the cuffs of your pants.
It tried to clog your ears and nostrils and mouth
but you kept tearing away the threads.
It stitched your eyelids shut
and you welcomed the dark.
It wound its sticky strands around your fingers,
bound your phone to your hand.
It attached your crutches to your armpits,
stuck your hat to your scalp.
You managed to open your eyelids just a slit
and the sun burning through the threads
made the whole world shine silver.
Sounds dissolved in your mouth.
You gave up the fight for your ears and nostrils.
It sewed your ass shut and you knew it would be
only a matter of time before things got complicated.
You knew you could tear the silken stitches
any time you wanted to, knew you could easily
break free of those delicate bonds.
But you didn't. 
You didn't.
You didn't. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Bassoon Player on the Isle of the Dead [after Arnold Böcklin]

She's much too elegant to be playing
such a clumsy instrument, its sound
so comically mournful. The landscape is vast
and cluttered, not one thing claiming the right
to be the focal point over any other thing.
Piles of debris, stones, beautiful women
and men in business suits staring vapidly
into the distance. Someone politely jumps into
the cold black water. Someone runs, then stops.
But mostly they just stand there for a while before
picking their careful way across the steep, rocky bluffs,
around the clumps of woolly scrub.
The shaggy cypresses stand, ominous sentinels
between the knees of the bluffs. I tried to swallow
myself whole and now I'm choking. I only sleep
when I don't want to, the rest of the time I'm lost
in a dopey haze. Hitler once owned this painting,
you know. Die Toteninsel. How does that affect
its already rather bleak beauty? And then fucking
Rachmaninoff digs his nails into it and writes
this maudlin piece of...

She purses her dark, lovely lips around
the delicate reed of her unwieldy woodwind,
its deep vibrations booming like a splintery laser
out of the maelstrom of the orchestra
directly to where I sit in the mezzanine,
speaking only to me, saying Let's fall apart 
in style, my darling, disintegrate in one another's arms
Let's throw open the doors to this maggot motel,
assure them that there's plenty of vacancy.
Let's serve our last dwindling crumbs of consciousness
to the crows, buffet style.

Your dirge has stolen my heart, my love.
You keep playing while I book us a trip
on Charon Luxury Cruises. According to
the website, the ship hits no less than thirteen scenic
Isles of the Dead, where the leprous natives come
running from their dilapidated huts to greet you,
scorched skeletons on bone-white beaches,
throwing garlands of intestines around your neck,
spitting rotten teeth and screaming Aloha.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fury Black Grip

I trapped Cyndi Lauper in my locker
outside the computer lab with its black screened IBMs,
blinking cursors broken glass crashed cars piled up
Lyndon LuRoche and Dukakis, secret notes
buried in the margins of every blue-lined sheet
of college rule in every three-ringed binder
taped to every surface, rustling in the hot breath
of thousands of Middle School girls
in jean skirts and pantyhose
The Like a Virgin LP on display at K-Mart
I don't remember my own clothes,
every mirror plastered with pimples
Don't remember my voice ever changing, 
just all the masturbating and of course
the learning to curse,letting the words spit and slap
and loving it, like holding a knife
like the Fury Black Grip I found stuck in a log
in the woods beside the Little Lehigh
one one of my excursions further and further from home
Opening and closing the blade, I cracked my best
Bill Murray grin, rolled my eyes, said fuck.
Felt in control of something. 
Back in the tiled corridors, thus armed,
I still blushed and sweated in the presence of the girl
with the ankle boots and Simon LeBon haircut,
still tripped and crashed backwards over
my own tongue.
I could hear my heart inside the locker
of my chest banging to get out
but I'd forgotten the combination,
never did remember it, it's probably
still there, shriveled and starved
with Cindy, sadly whispering
the words to She Bop there in the darkness.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Great Plains

Last year my heart was
plagues locusts
The sky turned black,
atmosphere roaring like it was
raining chainsaws
The ground rustling, bodies
crunching underfoot
But they've since passed
and left nothing but
fields picked clean
miles and miles of desolation.
There may not be any life left here
but there's no noise, either,
no distraction, no distortion
no wind
No boot soles hardening the dirt
No bare feet running from
pounding hooves. 
I lie down in the dust,
feeling the dry stubble tickle the back of my neck,
watching a single heart-shaped cloud
drift across the blue sky,
watching it slowly lose its shape.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Anarchist Arachnids

There were cops everywhere on May Day
I saw a bunch looking at their phones
The anarchists wore outfits to mimic
and mock their beetle-shell riot gear
Protestors had fashioned a couple of
gigantic spider puppets
out of papier mache and shopping carts
Not sure what they were supposed to symbolize
-maybe it was about us all being flies
in capitalism’s web or something-
but they looked ominous
There were flash bombs
shattered shop windows
a couple of garbage cans set on fire
After the cops put an end to things
I walked to the grocery store. Walking back home
a young man stopped in the middle of the street
in front of me, waited for me to pass him,
then walked beside me for two blocks,
eyeing my brown paper bags and saying
“Yum yum food. Yum yum food”
over and over again with a big grin on his face,
at one point leaning in and whispering
Finally he reached out to touch my elbow
and I stopped and yelled, "Do not fucking touch me"
He just giggled and wandered off.
As I crossed the highway, I saw
in the middle of the bridge
the hulking carcass of one of the spiders
its carapace caved in and all its legs
spread at crazy angles against
the chain link fence
as a single helicopter buzzed overhead
flying too high to ever get trapped
in any web

Monday, May 1, 2017

Pony Express

I am curled up in an old canvas mailbag
hanging from a hook
mounted to the outside wall
of an old brick hotel
on what used to be the outskirts of town
but is now just another cluster of tenements.
There are still hitching posts out front,
tilting at crazy angles in the cement.
All the farmers used to come here
on their way back out of town
after hawking their harvest at the markets.
The bag is worn thin, patched in places.
I could easily kick my way out,
but I don't think I will.
I think I'll just rest here
another century or so,
wait for the horses to return,
listening for the hammering of their
rusted shoes against the crumbling asphalt

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Sitting by this nondescript patch of river
on an indescribably filthy bench
watching people walking their dogs or kids or both
riding bikes, skateboarding,
holding hands, being pushed in wheelchairs
It’s remarkably quiet
traffic from the freeway is a distant roar
nothing but water and clouds
and all of us, right at this moment,
in this place, all getting along remarkably well
I don’t get many moments like this
Sure there are cranes building new monstrosities
on all sides, and my hair feels greasy and my collar
is dusted with dandruff
But the breeze feels wonderful, and my belly
is full of bulgogi, and my coffee tastes so good
And a man goes through the garbage can
then carefully puts the lid back
and two young men are sitting on the next bench
with their arms draped around one another,
and it feels so peaceful here, feels so far
from the bickering and bellowing,
from the snarling mongrels intent on destroying
this world, though not until they’ve taken
the things they want from it. It feels so far
from everything, feels like a sanctuary.
I close my eyes and feel the breeze
and when I open them again, a girl in a burqa
bicycles past, riding alone,
a huge grin on her face, her garments

fluttering behind her

Saturday, April 29, 2017

1806 Writing Desk

Listen don't listen       high
Listen don't listen       wait
Figure 8
employee handbook
difficult to sleep with the door closed
square root   
ironing board         Done warming up? Good
Collect the cat hair
from the vent. Fill the swear jar.
door wind shut feet at odd angles.
1806 writing desk in the window of the Persian rug place
sold out from under my nose. $1500
Rubber door stops. Bent paper clip.
My aunt's teeth were ground down to nothing they
pulled them all to decrease the risk of infection.
Holzer words sink into teh ground like raindrops
Look don't look         fine
Look don't look         bomb
The engine roared between her thighs
The giant fried chicken bucket rusted in the back alley
twin winds battled one another
Every morsel snapped up. Every stitch undone, your garments
fall into scraps at your feet.
The constellations spin above you.
Tiny oval portraits from lockets swirl around
blending together into one many-headed
sepia-toned monster.
Feel don't feel         lock of hair
Feel don't feel         pinch of coarse gray
                    Irish sand
Feel the hard dry kernel
of your navel plug
saved in a plastic baggie
opened decades later
.......spoons full of pureed vegetables
zoom like airplanes through the heavens
  Taste don't taste           sugar packets and matchbooks
Listen don't listen          scratch, scratch
They scattered her teeth like seeds
planting them in the rich black soil of the night sky
"Finger lickin' good," whispers the Colonel
Butter churn
Telephone booth alarm clock powder horn
Listen        Stop listening         listen
Listen        Stop listening         listen
        scratch                   scratch

Friday, April 28, 2017

Pink Umbrella

In the narrow parking lot between the buildings
By the dumpsters
He was transferring his possessions
from one baby stroller into
a much larger one, moving
with the infuriating slowness
of the severely strung out.
He removed his baseball cap to reveal
a head of thinning hair, through which
his raw, scabby scalp was painfully visible.
He kept putting on and removing a pair
of hot pink sunglasses with graffiti scribbled
on the arms. His own arms were skinny,
covered in sores. He kept picking at
a huge red gash on his neck.
I told him he needed to move on,
and when he realized I wasn’t going to be
a dick about it, he asked me what
St. Anthony was the patron saint of.
I said I thought it was lost things, or people,
or something. He seemed skeptical.
Took out a rosary with a tiny plaque
of St. Anthony on the end, and took out a knife
and tried closing one of the metal links.
He mentioned he was from Philly,
and I said yeah me too, so we talked about that for a while
and then he segued into the Masons,
how the Shroud of Turin was actually an impression
of Jacque de Molay, the last Grand Master of the
Knights of Templar, then he talks about
vibrations, the moving of the stones of
the Egyptian pyramids, and how he himself
once was able, before he was so, in his words,
“consistently inebriated,” back before he lost
his house and his son, how he was able
to create manifestations, as he called them,
though when I asked him to elaborate
his descriptions grew increasingly vague,
talking about how in the beginning was the vowel,
absent in the Hebrew alphabet because of its
being a manifestation of the infinite
and therefore unable to be written,
and then came the consonants, to set limits,
to create order and structure and try
to contain the infinite. He intones the word
JWH over and over, so I can get a sense of how
the sounds begin in the throat and resonate
up through the head, and all the while he’s
scratching and picking and poking himself
with the knife, and rearranging all his possessions
on the baby stroller, he keeps picking up a
broken pink umbrella, putting it down,
picking it up, wedging it between other
useless items, aluminum rods and plastic bags
and finally he’s ready to move on, and he pushes
the stroller away, talking the entire time, nonstop,
talking about the vowels and the consonants,
talking about these manifestations he used
to be able to make come about, though not since
all the troubles, everything changes, he says
sadly, except for one thing, and that's gratitude,
and with that he finally finds the perfect place
for his umbrella and wheels his stroller slowly

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ad Blocker

We sit side by side by side on the bench in front of the bushes.
There is a box with a speaker on it bolted to a branch above us.
A bird alights on the limb and sticks its head in the back of the box.
From the speaker a male voice narrates the entire plot to the movie Grease 2.
You sigh and rest your head on my shoulder and tell me
that when you were a young girl you had watched this movie
over and over again, singing all the songs, never aware that it was a sequel
to what most people consider to be a far superior movie.

The bird pulls its head out of the box
and we can see that one of its eyes is horribly scabbed over.

It flaps away and a single long brown feather is dislodged from its tail.
The feather floats gently down and you reach out your hand for it.
You shriek and pull your hand away.
The feather has slashed your palm, forming a deep cut.
I pull out my handkerchief and wrap it tightly around your hand.
I'm too distracted to notice that a cicada has flown into the metal box
A moment later from the speaker comes a voice with a thick German accent
 speculating about the death of Franz Schubert.

The gray handkerchief is soaked in blood
and you say you're starting to feel a little dizzy.

A snake crawls along the branch, snaps up the cicada, sticks its head in the box,
starts telling us about a great deal we can get on car insurance.
I want to hear, it sounds like a really good deal, but you seem to be losing more blood
than one would expect from just a slice on the hand and I need to get you somewhere
so you can get it properly bandaged up, I suspect but do not say that it looks like
you are probably going to need stitches, and every branch on every tree is speaking
the forest is full of voices and I want to stop let you fall to the ground
so I can listen to every one of them

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Lost/forgot shirt. Left shirt on fence.
Tore shirt, tore coat lining.
[No one ever cared enough to tear down your house]
Thrown shirt, wadded up and tossed in your face,
damp and sweat-smelling. Stolen shirt. Shirt run over
by a van. Sleeves
sewn together. A sleeve you crawl up
and curl up and sleep in. Stretchy fabric tacked
to the ceiling. Strange low-hanging fruit.
Slung like hammocks in the elevator shaft
[Will you die in your sleep] In the back of the cave
Buried in the footnotes     A grand proclamation
reduced to a few jumbled words
in block lettering on the front of a t-shirt
Tiny hooks embedded in your skin    Up and down your arm
Ripped stocking, arguing in Tagalog, your wrists tied
above your head. Someone pounding down the door
egg slap     fell and cracked your head     nothing absorbed
a slick rubber mat     apples that taste like plastic
caterpillar shit glistening on a leaf     the hood of your car
Database of average prices          plastic hangers fused together
I still can't see what's driving you      I still can't see what
you're driving.      Every holiday always turns out to be Easter
Spray painted on the side of the blue dumpster,
NOBODY then underneath that RIP then underneath that CONSUME
I'm trying to smile more. More passion less precision.
Skim a little off the top       Face buried in a magic briefcase
Or maybe that was just the shirt with the company logo worn by the man
holding the mattress sign on the corner,
wiggling and flipping it until his arms are tired.
Letters typed by animals on an old typewriter.
[Will you sleep in my arms]
The philosophers stone which transforms plastic
back into oil so we can inject it back into the ground
Start a fresh marketing campaign we can all be proud of
Why bother using quality materials when
it all goes to threads in the end 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


The last person born in the nineteenth century died 
at 117, cooked for herself up until a few years ago
hadn’t left her apartment for twenty years
ate three raw eggs a day

Warships off the coast of Korea
I don’t remember this music being so gentle
I thought I’d have more messages by now

It’s spooky down here
I check to make sure there's
nothing under the bed

A python swallowed a man
in Indonesia
25 years old
as he was working the palm oil fields

Gabriel Garcia-Marquez also died (87)
and the guy who wrote Zen and the Art
of Motorcycle Maintenance (88)
outliving his son by nearly
forty years

and my coworker’s mother
in her nineties, living alone in some farmhouse
up in Canada
I don’t even know her name but I’ll bury
some pale whisper of her here
See if anything sprouts

The waves are dragged back into the sea
against their will
dragging their fingernails against the sand

And others

The wood paneled den
Two wood ducks, one female,
mounted to a plaque on the wall
in the semblance of flying

They found my coworker’s mother in the basement
she’d been dead since the day before
Some neighbor found her

Robert Persig, that’s his name

It’s been a long day, it’s too late,
I’m too tired, I’ll never get this

done on time

Monday, April 24, 2017

Creeping Jasmine

Kosher dill pickles
speared from the jar with a knife

I’m thinking about licking
I’m thinking about licking
There were only a few words
I repeated them
4over and over

Took a bite of the pickle, the cold crunch
Smooth and seedy inside
I’m thinking about repeating
I'm thinking about repenting
I'll keep thinking

There was a patch
of small, smooth bumps
on your inner arm
I was thinking about licking

Juice runs down my chin
I wipe it away with the back of my hand

Rain blowing sideways
Creeping jasmine petals
scattered on the wet terracotta
Exploded stars

I’m thinking about your skin, the pavement,
the disassembled blossoms

Like an octopus
you squeeze yourself into
you squeeze into
the jar

Floating diamonds
Swirling seeds

Lights of the drawbridge
reflected in the river

I take the knife and stab the last
kosher dill
lift it to the light
press its tip against
your skin
your skin

The terracotta
The repetition

the stars

Screw the lid on tight

I take a bite