Sunday, April 11, 2021

What It Looks Like To Us and The Words We Use
-- after Ada Limon

I know the words we use define us,
but it looks to me like magic
when you use your mouth to talk.

To me, words are more than symbols,
they are what we are, we are sad,
we are tired, we are beautiful

when our tongues slip, when
we forgot what we were going
to say, or when we are struggling

for the way to say it.  The words
I would say about you look like wind;
I am invisible until I've spoken of you.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Thursday, February 09, 2017

-- after Ron Padgett

Down here in the laundry room 
I lord over a tiny city
made of cleaning products.
For these base-colored buildings,
I am a tidy act of god 
calling forth natural disasters 
named Speed Wash
or Delicates.  I hope
you'll come home soon 
before an entire civilization,
a brief history, the epic song
of our two dirty lives
is cleaned to death. 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

What makes you cry?
A cold and lonely road at night,
or a dead possum, or
a vicious National Geographic
magazine paper cut?
Sometimes it seems like ice
on a highway will be the last word
in danger, but sometimes
it feels like a high school
heartbreak can wreck
harder than any car.
Long-fronded cactuses
sit in West Texas
like plants made of swords,
and hurtful words
hide even in churches,
but right now the worst
of the Great Plains
is what isn't there.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


The sunset is focused and red

as a post-pugilist's solar plexus:

a pain never jet-lagged or

caught without a thread

in conversation: the bus

is a timeline of its own

and when we're on the road

we won't speak for hours;

our needs are all bandaged up

and clicked shut in a tight

white box, lickety-slick with

a red X on the side, and

at night we know

if we pulled over we'd cry.

The next town is an "oh,

what did you say?" and

the town after that is

the ring, and the town

after that is the card girl,

and the town after that is

a bucketful of spit. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


When the cold has cheated 
its way down into Texas,
and the wet orange leaves 
carpet Faust Street Bridge,
and we've all forgotten 
to wear our windbreakers:
The Guadalupe is spilling
over the shallow dam.

My sister speaks of life's
little things that add up
to the big things: the coffee
is the morning; the morning
is the job; the job is on the bridge,
and the bridge is historic:
each picture of gray steel
is a narrative waiting for
a couple of characters.

And my sister and I are quieted
by the digraph of the Guadalupe
flowing over the dam into itself,
and then a family of three
thumps upon the bridge,
all of us in a new history.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


for Mike Sammons, 3:04 AM, 3-19-13

One quarter of the compass can be divided into 
                            an infinite number of degrees;
I'll meet you in the impossible shadow 
                            between one of these millions,
like waves or plankton or the tiny little beans 
                            that turn into seaweed --
we are lucky and unlucky.  A sailor's trinket 
                            cast overboard will make a charm
or break a spell or bob along a deep tide 
                            towards another's home or our own.

Monday, March 05, 2012


It was 963 miles from Tijuana
to Fort Stockton, and each mile
was hungrier than the last.   Amber
said to the passenger window 
(and out into the blurred liquid
desert) "We should slow down,"
she said languidly "maybe we
should stop." Oddly-elbowed
cacti shot by, and disappeared
into the Infinite Behind Us. 

The car grew hungrier, and so
did Amber, and so did I, but I
wouldn't admit it (of course.)
Texas was beckoning, and 
I was reckoning a short distance
to the fine fare of Fort Stockton. 

But the sun fell, and a polar moon 
rose over the High Plains, and
I couldn't tell if the shining in her eyes
was tears or twinkles, but
her face was a rich lady's bracelet
with the dark desert behind her. 

Neither of us was surprised
to find Fort Stockton's fine dines
closed to our midnight kind,
and I watched while Amber tried
to hide her hungry anger. 

But at (what seemed to us)
the Last Truck Stop on Earth,
Amber's eyes were shining again
when the waitress told her of 
the infamous titty mountain. 
Their laughter put my Pacific
Reckoning far behind me.

Amber's chirp of joy 
as she looked back West
on our way out of town
brought me home again;
she saw the low rise 
with its tiny craggy pike
bathed in the early light. 

And I agreed when she told me 
as we nosed our way home:
"I'm never going back
to Titty Mountain."

Thursday, February 23, 2012


we are a tremendous
and foggy people;
your black jacket,
my black eye,
our memories
like ferns: older
than dinosaurs

and into the asphalt
and mud went the things
we would've lost anyway:
a painting that claimed
to solve the mystery,
my keys, and we were

paleontologists exploring
what makes an evening:
the smudge of a streetlight
in my eyes, the hypnosis
of "please listen to me"

Friday, February 17, 2012

Broken Slinkies

Power lines riddle 
back and forth across
Midtown like broken
slinkies, and I am
working on a mystery
of my own: how
does the fog 
seem to rise 
from the field;
how does your
memory come along
with the dew?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fireman's Lift

(for Anthony Gaudio)

everyone needs a lift;
sometimes a great lift
finds us free and easy
and it's a great lift to know
you're around; sometimes
we find we are miles away,
and a lift is all we have

big America lifted me up,
and you are big America too;
sometimes a lift is all
we can do; sometimes a lift
is all we needed; sometimes
lifting is magically achieved
miles and months away

Friday, February 10, 2012


Wide as an oar
and black as asphalt,
it twines with hair 
on the backseat
of my car. 

Some of my best friends
are poems, and some
of my friends are poems too. 

My busted backyard grill
is a Connecticut winter
in the summer heat.  
I am a kid coming home
from a few months at school. 

The older I get, the fewer things
I keep in my car. 

Thursday, February 02, 2012


If late at night there is a ringing

and it's the Colonel, don't be frightened.

Remember that the funny twists 

of the heron's neck are posture too.

Perhaps the hair on your cheeks

is bristling?  But the Colonel was clean-shaven.

The Colonel's prayers were more communication 

than supplication; the old phone

is more of an appliance than a relic.

 If the Colonel asks for a report, tell him

everyone's fine; the rocky island in the bay

is white with birds.  

Thursday, August 04, 2011


From the angle of the sun
through my bedroom window
this morning, I can tell:
it is 1986. The community college
parking lot is bursting with Firebirds;
stereo lights are constellations.
At night, the clouds thicken
into an empty map. They reflect
the light from down town. This morning
is one minute between rains,
and the drops on the leaves
are blinking messages from the future,
and while decoding them, I've forgotten
what year it is.

Now that I've scraped the house,
it is time to decide what color to paint,
but I feel like the work is done.
The house, streaked and ugly, is
what happens now; the house
painted grey-blue with white trim
is in the shady fortune-cookie future.

When I was learning to drive,
my first words were "floor it."
But now, in the future, I know
so many more. My foot eases
the pedal down; I repeat
the grocery list in my head.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Edgar the Crawfish

Ed's armor-like shell
is made of plastic, but
he magnetically points East
toward Chocolate Bayou
and the big Bay, toward
summertime canals
broken by cannonballs,
and toward redfish schooling
beneath the Twilight Princess

Away in New York, we sip
crustacean-colored cocktails
while we wait for hot Friday
night to fall. Follow Kevin's
curses from the back room:
we will lock a cherry beneath
the knuckle of a lemon
and twist up a straw for you.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Nearly to Bay Ridge, a girl in red high heels took one off on the 4th Ave. R platform to put a bandage on her foot, and I was reminded of you. Maybe it WAS you; tired memory could not tell me, but I was momentarily caught between the mystery of our present and a passion in my past, and the sight of your shoe alone on the concrete busted my heart up into a hundred thousand tiny red flowers.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ancient History

Curious. What we remember
from across an age -- eight years
ago, evening light like marmalade
on a tar-paper roof, and a girl
bent out the back window.

Coins clinking on the concrete
floor of the bar beneath the highway,
but there were no coins, but
there was definitely a bar.
Light the color of a dirty Popsicle
cut up on the floor by the blinds.

But the mornings I remember best,
the light reflecting blue off of your bedspread.
I'd find a dirty shirt for work while, in your sleep,
you pushed yourself against your bed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Sticky 'Rickshaw

Your manners are skittery, Mr. Agnes,
are you frightened? The sign of the sine as defined
by this sunguard's line is all we have to go on, how
is your gradeschool geometry? The click of hoof
and wheel on stone will tick a thousand blessings
until: silence, and we are at the embassy, Mr. Agnes,
your reckoning delayed once more.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Between the Grains

What hides down inside
these planks of wood?
Stringy cellulose
on a bed of lignin
or, in softer species,
tracheids. But probably not
my keys.