wrap the mugs with care
she loved them all equally
even the cracked ones
butterflies and birds
in paintings of sad children
live longer than you
laughed all the way down
the stairs of our shared castle
just to dance with me
give me a number
in terms of encumbrances
that I will avenge
I imagine there’s a heavy
old door that opens
only with force, especially
in the rainy season
when it swells tighter
I imagine it’s stained
dark black-brown and holds
scars and splinters of
old paint from a hasty
restoration and a glass-diamond
knob and hinges that shed
flakes of red rust.
I imagine there’s a light
under the door and
that like in the movies
we’re leaning on either side
of it, bracing, listening hard.
I imagine I ask you things
and I feel your tender,
noble rebuffs coming through
the door like a song, in stanzas,
hushed tones, unrhymed.
I imagine someone made
this door by hand
a hundred years ago, and
I’m reminded that
at home surrounded by
the sure, sturdy persistence
of old wood.
I imagine that I can always
push away from the door -
retreat to a hearth
and a good chair and build
a faulty fire of hickory,
underseasoned, that pops
like a sprung latch.
I imagine taking a chance
to trust the peace and
silence that surrounds me -
I imagine that from where
I sit I can still see a sharp
channel of light under the door
and I can feel the rain
starting up again.
It ripples deep in my belly - a noisy need
that settles in my bones, too, in purple marrow -
inside the inside,
resting and growing under layers, behind
and within my rack of ribs, wet and dark
warm and messy. When the song says take
another piece of my heart,
I worry. I could carve it out to give it the harmony
it deserves, add sibilants for brightness
isn't it silly
isn't it a waste of good music to squeeze
lyrics into snug spaces where
there’s no sound? The auditoriums
are dark and closed anyway. Naturally,
my belly reabsorbs, words seep deeper, I keep thinking
I risk distortion here
if the bleeding isn’t sound-checked.
So I do as they say,
as if I were a child - I wait until the last minute,
until I must confess:
turns out I would like to be judged.
One day last week I found my work interesting.
The next, it was quite something. It is finished now.
I could just keep quiet, but my insides rumble on,
so now everyone knows that
none of this can be stopped.
Heaven is doing well today, he declares,
filling up nicely, skewing young -
after the dust settles, the graph
rises prettily up the page
Hell continues to sell shrewdly
the liars are getting stronger
while we’re numb we check the line
place our bets and follow the money
Item: princesses are in a pickle this week
crowns want straightening
peas await soft skin - damages should
show up soonish, the man says
jutting out and blue like twilight
There’s thunder in the forecast,
and I think to myself it’s the same
as asking for a fight - stand there
scowl at the sky off camera, alone
Heaven sent this too, the poets will say
I’m sorry about all of this, it’s too much
I’m not surprised that you sleep
through it all and read about it later
with gin, or something sugary
It sure seems that coffee goes cold
quicker than it used to, and
points of view morph before
our eyes into status reports and truth
Find me a recipe in the folds somewhere
I need to eat more colors
inedible bars and pies, glasses half empty
I’m learning that I don’t do that right either
the report says I’m failing, do better
I nod, and turn away again
When should I stop listening? I ask you
but you still sleep, eyes open
Someone else is talking now, saying
this news is breaking, and I think
well now you tell us
Preselected words that follow a cry
come out smoother, much more believable
after whiskey, making satisfied sounds.
The moment of reset feels right. Unwound,
blunted, a positive emerges: clear
plans that appeal to surprise. A softer
kind of thwarting, this decision matters
more than others. Sitting still with precise
thoughts strikes me as manageable. Now, more
than yesterday, solitude means something
has gone right. Well done, well said: tolerate
these pauses, I challenge, don’t fill them. Take
stock only sometimes. Do not spar with your
own breath just to make rent. Notice that rocks
change color, the lemon tree is budding,
the bass still waits in the corner, untuned.
Time can be carved now - wisdom tapped. Offload
probability that solves for weakness.
As you listen, filter for resonance.
Your own voice never sounds like you expect.
for the University of Utah football team
and the memory of Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe
Bring roses in red boxes, for mother’s arms
for the bond, for the blood of youth
red as their numbered days, for September
and December, for young brothers.
Bring roses for the jump, for the lights,
for the MUSS, for mili in the endzone -
thundering through grievous thorns,
let love bleed. Look up, and out, and roar.
Bring roses for the champions of sharp sorrow
for jubilant redress in the bright desert -
renew pride and wonder for these brothers -
hold them in favor, for home, for family.
Bring roses for hardy Utah men, brothers a
nd coaches and fathers and captains -
adorn Mesquite arbors, plant vast gardens
of grief and absence and legacy and joy.
Bring roses in procession, in tight rows
horse-drawn and regal, befitting survival -
let them celebrate with roses in their teeth -
with laurels of crimson that fade, but never die.
Cheer up! The hissing bomb inside the chest
commands. In order: acquiesce, compose,
contract. How will the center juxtapose
delight and grief? To live under arrest?
Articulating sorrow, we divest
from joy. The order stands: the path we chose
may trip the wire. With that, the body knows
to brace - a flash, and then await the rest.
But in the end, the shell remains intact.
The threat of detonation falls away;
the only wound: a meager artifact
of spoiled love. Subdued, the risk at bay,
renewed enigma rises, rashly stacked
atop the prospect of a brighter day.
Leave it right there.
Let those be the last words you said:
leave it right there,
then go in silence - anywhere
but here and now. Don’t pull the thread;
no tenderness, no qualms - instead,
leave it right there.
Forty years of reaching high to hang
the last of the gold glass ornaments -
well, that’s something. Unbroken, still
shining like a lost and found diamond -
it’s love: pent up, grown, swept up
in a pile of white Gulf sand. Settle
there: knowing, full, content. Within
that warm, distant comfort, reclaim
sturdy orbs of magic and memory,
gold and whole and glowing.
She said picked flowers die faster
and that water isn’t enough -
that I must let them live in rough
dirt. She admonished: my aster,
once purple, would die, disaster
in my hand and my heart. I lied,
excused - she mustn’t know I cried
to grasp my gift of death displeased.
Dull words - amends - I posed, then seized -
I quit that ground, unseen, denied.
To win my heart, paint words with dirt -
I cannot stand hyperbole.
There is no better way to flirt -
unseemly sweet talk holds the key.
If there’s a spark - if chemistry
should seek a bond, don’t balk, inert.
React with volatility -
to win my heart, paint words with dirt.
Compose discourse; try not to blurt
a string of words. Do offer me
semantic sense, but brief, and curt:
I cannot stand hyperbole.
I crave your vice, to some degree.
I like a decent, bold pervert.
Just hold my gaze and count to three -
there is no better way to flirt.
Please - state it plain: don’t controvert
desire. With charm, there’s no plan B -
don’t shoot for tame, I reassert:
unseemly sweet talk holds the key.
Above all else, we must agree
on how to play the game; subvert
the rules of mild society.
Just make me blush before dessert
to win my heart.
One morning’s lines, misinterpreted:
begin again, this time with textures
anyone could feel, if they would
just open their hands. Buck up -
go now and invite judgment. Wear
your version like wings, tilted,
insufficient. Take a seat near the back
of your mind and count other heads.
While you’re keeping close track,
a voice, aggressively passive,
cautions you again in whispers:
that poem about a dead moth
remains unformed, discounted,
crossed out and page-broken -
untested, but not unplanned.
You must move to the crumbled curb
where the streetlight is brightest.
Look up at the spiraling swarm -
follow the flight of the one that falls.
There’s the one about a dog
sleeping behind a wood stove
an elegy to Mother’s lost
and dissonant Silent Night
opening lines about how cold
it is without you beside me
a couplet for a child’s chagrin
when icicles taste like dirt
the draft of a harsh sonnet
featuring frostbite and hunger
idle portraits in quatrains
of unrelenting, bitter chill
scrappy stanzas wrapped in wool:
a winter night watch biding time
A smattering of wishes
hovered there, straight-backed,
on principle, poised equally
between latent prospects
and all of my future: I chose.
That same close afternoon
I found diamonds in the dryer
that I forgot I owned. Our back
porch steps were stones too.
Indivisible - the mind’s eye -
unreliable, indelible. Isn’t it?
dented, and spent,
I change my mind
in a hurry.
not satisfied -
still, it’s not that
it didn’t sting
or tickle -
just that I won’t
stand for torment
that doesn’t heal.
There should always be a fireplace
that knows how I take my coffee
A chair that listens and nods along
I’ll need plenty of paper and pillows, and
if possible, a screen door that inspires
a reluctant front porch swing
A window over the kitchen sink that
tolerates awkward pauses
And a vase of pink roses that
doesn’t mind if I wander off
I’d like to have a drawer or two
that can stay quiet for a while
A closet big enough for rage
A room for music, beauty, and age
And one small shelf for regret.
terza rima sonnet
Lost in the shuffle of fleet feet, I bluff
my way out of the game. I cut out, stay
home, make it an email, hedge and rebuff.
Jokers are funny; I laugh and leave. Play
with house money to keep the noise down. Fold reasons why into piles. Clear my airway.
You can meld your energy. I withhold
mine. Quickly and quietly, no big deal.
Antecedent: too many hands. Too bold.
Dark corners follow suit - smoke makes it real.
I’m good at hiding. Don’t come looking yet.
Draw me instead. Take the chance. Spin the wheel.
Understand my state of play. I can get
lost in the shuffle. Always my best bet.
It’s not enough - a house with air.
Invite the dirt, and leave it there.
Emancipate the child’s excess -
all joyful splotches, every mess
in candy-coated disrepair.
Let tiny palms hold worlds, and tear
apart what they’ve assembled. Rare -
these sweetest days, without redress.
It’s not enough.
An instant twinkles past, then where
it travels next, we do not dare
conceive. Inside of our best guess
we breathe our air, we whisper yes,
for one more footprint on the stair -
It’s not enough.
with dim consent -
as bodies take their leave,
expunging torment in the wake:
Proof of life: low lamentations
borne by shadows - none will
dare to mark grief