Category Archives: Poetry

Waiting Room

Central train station was
crowded, hot, and smelly.
I worried
“She’s a lady, maybe she won’t come in.”

I bought tickets
sat between
a snoring fat man
and a frail woman carrying a Chihuahua.

The Gruen clock ticked
my ardor faltered
enumerating reasons
She wouldn’t show up.

The station door opened
all the air
left the room
as Daisy entered.

Dragging a bulging brown suitcase
crimson lipstick
navy-blue dress
cream pearls.

Radiant
She pressed her hand
to my thumping heart
“Our life begins.”

Caverns of Silence

Embracing the silence
I enter
The grotto of my ancestors.

Treading carefully
Mindful of ancient
Baggage.

Familial stalactites
Traps designed to
Poison and pierce.

Bungled aspirations
Petty antagonisms
Nonchalant prejudices.

Skirting
Frozen portals
Of trauma.

Standing before
The speckled mirror
Of my forebears:

White, Anglo-Saxon, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, educated
privileged
ignorant.

Headstrong child
Crawling naked
Through razor-blade ancestral tombs .

Wolf Heart


Last night
I heard your howl
Felt your soft skin
Smelled your scent
Tasted your sweet sweat.

Wide awake
I understood
You didn’t take all my heart
There remains a piece
That howls in the night.

Breaking the Silence


After 45 minutes
of deep silence
Len stood up
in Quaker Meeting.

He was upset
by the amount of fruit
wasted
in Sebastopol’s gardens.

Len’s voice
shook
and he couldn’t stop
talking.

Marcy
tugged at Len’s sleeve
but
he wouldn’t sit down.

Len was angry
because so many go hungry
while the rest of us
wallow in  privilege.

Across from Len
in our small circle
sat Josephine
with two of her grandchildren.

She rose
and raised one eyebrow.
Len dropped
into his seat.

For five minutes
Josephine stood
in silence
and then closed Meeting.

Afterwards
Marcy consulted Josephine
I comforted Len
who was quaking.

Upgrade


My manufacturer
sent a message
“Your model is
scheduled for an
upgrade.”

I shouldn’t complain.
My model has been
remarkably
defect free.

There was that
issue with
running away from home.
Resolved by the
discipline
upgrade.

And that
issue with
insubordination.
Resolved by the

Hmm
Maybe I skipped that upgrade.

I accepted the
upgrade for
punctuality.
It irritated
my wife.

Now my manufacturer
wants me to
download the
sensitivity upgrade.

The logic:
Turn down the sensitivity
There’s too much pain
In the world.

Nonetheless
Thich Nhat Hahn taught
“Life is dreadful and wonderful.”
Am I really alive
If I deny the pain?

My Laughin’ Place

Everybody’s got a laughin’ place,
A laughin’ place, to go ho-ho!
Take a frown, turn it upside-down
And you’ll find yours I know ho-ho!
Walt Disney, “Song of the South” (1946)

I lost my laughin’ place
There’s no smile upon my face
Hard times have swept this space
I can’t find my laughin’ place.

I’ve forgotten how to smile
All the news is full of bile
Staying numb is not my style
I can’t find my laughin’ place.

My days are filled with gloom
Darkness shrouds my room
Now I fret and fume
I can’t find my laughin’ place.

Hark, I hear a sound
Nature’s music all around
Beams of starlight
Cleanse the night
My foot began to tap
My fingers start to snap
I cast my gaze above the ground
Notice beauty all around
Spring has broken through the cloud
Pulled away my fearsome shroud
Joy became my laughin’ place.

The Half-Life of Troubadours


Artistic prowess is a  gift.

Miles lived 65 years
flamed brightly to the end.
Bird lived half as long.

Leonardo lived 67 years
but had to move to France.
Raphael died at 37.

Ella lived 89 years
had her chops all along.
Eva Cassidy lived 33 years.

When the brass ring comes around
Hold on tight.

In the western tradition, spirit imparts
Gifts
Christians write of these gifts:
prophecy
teaching
healing
miracles…

Artistic prowess is a miracle.

I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see.
Miles helped me see.
Cezanne helped me see.
Leadbelly helped me see.
Stoppard helped me see.

I may not yet be found
but I have a map.

Weddings


Some weddings are brief
Some last all day
My favorite is
When I don’t have to pay.

Weddings are:
Complicated
Serpentine
Existential.

One of the few social occasions
Where you are obliged
To confront
Your family.
(Funerals are another.)

Of course,
The couple can always elope
Or not get married.
(“Shack up” or “Live in sin.”)

There’s no such thing as a
small wedding.

If you decide to
“tie the knot”
You invite your entire family
Even Uncle Bud who drinks way too much
or Leaping Lena who “sleeps around.”

Then you have to decide who sits where
What food to serve.
What kind of ceremony.
Should there be music
Who is going to pay for it all.

My favorite ceremony:
Everyone I know attends
Outdoors in good weather
Sit on ground
Wonderful food and drink served by robots
Lawrence Ferlinghetti reads
Ray Charles and Bruce Springsteen play
Desmond Tutu officiates
My children pay.

La Bulle

While I sat at my desk searching for artistic vision
A gust of whimsy lifted me up out of my senior routine
As if I were a wayward party balloon.

I hovered above my house
Slightly to the left of the solar panels.

To the west, a glimmering sliver of the Pacific
A tonsure of fog.
Cattle ranches separated by
Oak-dense canyons.
Around me redwood groves
the green hills of Occidental.
To the east, vineyards
Organic farms.
The dreaded strip malls of Petaluma.

Sanctuary
Unified by music and poetry.

Tabula Rasa


My poetry brain is empty.
Can I have a little help please?
Just answer these questions.

“Who is the first person you would invite to your (ideal) dinner party?”
“A bad place to take a first date.”
“Name the eleventh commandment.”
“How do we know God is a woman?”
“What’s the first thing you will do when you become President?”

“I dreamt I walked into a party wearing a ___.”
“I got a new filling and now I hear ___ all the time.”
“My dog ate my ______.”
“Don’t move, that’s a _______.”
“For every ___ there are seven ____.”

“Someone has to tell you this: ____.”
“I know I was speeding officer but _____.”
“I’ve been praying for ____ to show up.”
“I may look ___ but here’s what you should know about me: ______.”
“I know Susie and I are naked, but there’s a simple explanation ___”

Instruction Manual

Something broke.
Now
I can’t find
My instruction manual.

I remember
Leaving it
In my bottom desk drawer
Amongst the other manuals.

It’s not there.
However, I did find
Instructions for my
Dust buster.

I’m sure my mother
Referred to my manual;
She was always attempting to
Fix me.

The manual recommended:
Clean underwear
Short hair
Brushed teeth
Erect posture
Fixed smile
Closed mouth
Unblinking subservience.

Perhaps I lost my manual
During the sixties.
When my hair grew long, and
I turned to the dark side.

Nonetheless
I’m positive I had it
When I moved to Occidental
Eager to fit in.

Now something is broken
I’m bekloppt, and
Sure could use
My instruction manual.

My kids say:
“Locate your manual in the cloud.”
That requires a serial number
Which I can’t find.

There’s always prayer
But, after all these years,
My faith is fallow
Perhaps that’s what’s broken.

Ireland

1. The Island

As the sun kissed the rain-slick Irish hills
And the mist rose off Bantry Bay
I cried
From the joy of being present
At the birth of life.

2. The Music

What is the measure of a man?
Perhaps, his ability to sing
At the local pub.

An Irish bard named Joyce
Possessed a magnificent voice
When full of the bubblin’
His songs lifted Dublin
Until he made an unfortunate choice.

“At a key juncture in 1904, James Joyce almost won the most prestigious music competition in Ireland.. The judge Luigi Denza… was so impressed with his singing that he was prepared to give Joyce the gold medal—until the young author refused to participate in the sight-singing part of the event.” Joyce then left Ireland.

3. The People

“It doesn’t matter what the topic is, any self-respective Irish person will be able to talk about it and at a rapid pace. So whether it is the taxi driver or just someone you’ve stopped to ask directions, don’t expect it to be a quick conversation.” Guidebook

There was a lass from Cork
Whose tongue was shaped like a fork
Her spoken word
Was sure to be heard
Delivered with unusual torque.

“It is a much cleverer thing to talk nonsense than to listen to it.”
Oscar Wilde