Tuesday, January 31, 2017

while you still can

you see
one red
and then you start to see
them all

cool in
then a sigh


start to feel yr heart
on other than high alert:

horse-drawn Havana
calling out the names:
tiny fruit
red fish
sweet coffee
poured by ancient women
in a tiny window

back in the U.S. you
     (gotta laugh
dream room in a real house
what to keep inside
I guess nothing heavy
chapbooks and linens
dried fruit

and myself in this moment
washed out of plans
I am really airy
being a Libra
taking pictures and posting

trying to float above
jaws offered
as I've noticed
from this past catastrophe
anything that seems to save me
takes me

if it seems to save me
it takes me
opt instead to float above
I decide
where to sleep for now at home

Diminishing Returns

A flattened shopping experience feels like a symptom of
malignant narcissism.
I'm just trying to make small adjustments now,
I've got to be careful of rationalisations
they are the pathology, overspilling.

So one week I think I'm being haunted by home,
that a JD Sports will open round the corner,
be shuttered by autumn,
another and I think well, whatever informs my opinion
is just a constellation
and so my friends and where they live,
are a constellation and getting where they be
is of little consequence,
the arrival shall bleed off annoyance.

But diminished returns I keep referring to:
when the narcissist is borough bought
and sold on the town tale
to interpolate-

-that being surrounded is enough,
an elevation

but in the end dominion isn't
improvement, right?
If it's just a wrench to something familiar
if I accept JD
if I'm not running from the fire sale
I have diminished the return,
ready for the new wave
to churn the scatter,
toss out the cockles,
to wash us over.

Nu yu

Each spring I hopefully begin my to-do lists
which always includes some variation of

"have herb garden,
in kitchen?
in window box?"

The ghosts of mint and basil plants past
do not hover over me when I buy a new crop
at the farmer's market.

I want to try again and again
to remember to do something with care
to grow my thumb green
to be the version of myself
that pops up in fantasies
over and over again.

Last day on earth

Every cell in my body has a
last day on earth
then maybe floats somewhere else
past the smog
and ozone layer
and burns up
out there somewhere

carbon love

ok so we know
it all begins with
one, two, three (that’s you)
four etc (others too)

one: held aloft above the rushing
trout stream, birds chirp, bicep
warm: my nose shoulder torso forehead
all fit there

one b, one c, one d, one e
this is how they say it goes

one f, one g…
teacher, shrink, friend, actor,
actual lover here and there

i know the theory.
here’s what i see:

i see my wish to stop
and let the copies copy
one after another onto
your body, your words
your aspect

let them come layer
like dirt becomes rock
heavier and heavier
solid solid solid

though you are a

and can never
be mined

Front & Centre

Stepping behind this
grabbing its wrist and pulling its own punch
if I squint, or if steeped in coffee
and redding out a sphere encloses
perhaps this looks like
look at me
it's historic grandstanding
I haven't seen anything like it.

I'm in the seventh year here
and yes I'm from a place
where events are
knots on a 
cat o' nine tails
may as well be a
cat o' no tails.

The cat of, where?
History is not better served as the lego of facts.
And this is my observation here,
the endless hope that those knots
could be slid off like in a magic trick
scooped into a pile
vs the childish impulse
to start flicking them at those
still writing,
still perfecting their pen grip.


Moon. Dagger thin.
Midnight mistletoe over Bruegger’s Bagels.
If these nights were video art
that moon and all defense smiles
would flash in blurry filtered
procession – the God of guilt would
smash the family tree farm
with her resin mallet:
down with the domino
of everything –


The sweetness creeps up
in the costume of a lecherous joke
rooted in lust
or maybe just –
what would happen
if we showed our fondness.
In this case, if I pinned my hair
for the better part of a winter,
learned liquor, kept weapons in my belt.
Sweet one in his velvet suit,
walking home from jail.
Old wolf at it again but
more kind
this time.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Medieval Troubador Songs and Dances in Upper Manhattan

without a top-floor
southern exposure
slice of pie in
evening light you might as well
give up, why be political
without a clean apartment
why be anything when you
only have 40 years to decide
to be a tambourine virtuoso
a weaver, or luthier
a piper or whatever the shorter
your life the higher the stakes the
longer the life the harder the choice;
will you remain radical if you
start now, will someone yell at you
is your home too dark to look outward
your problems so small you can't choose
from among them the dinner you ate
too late at night and not with family
the way the screen looks when you want to work,
the work too worthless to inspire,
responsibility for a life expectancy blessedly
going down, not all of us will live 
that long, so
make a choice, the right one, which means

january 30 2017 poem

It’s so hard to write poems when I can’t feel my feelings

one year ago this morning someone I loved
last breath with my hand on their shoulder
someone who made someone who made me

shouting things and feeling like we won

in arms on a sofa
in arms in the kitchen

sitting on a bench in a stairwell
where the biennials used to be
wearing a skirt from that era
holding a three month old who held
my fingers in their mouth
our posture like a painting
for the people on their way from 3 to 4 to see,
impersonating living my idea of a perfect life
and feeling…?

shouting and cheering in the plaza
the night warm for this time of year

today i didn’t read the internet for hours
and then when i did i read someone
very intelligent saying that some people should
in fact start to make exit plans and that this is
a rehearsal for a coup and…

what we’re doing on thursday
isn’t a date thought it may look like one

the baby’s not mine

yet history is doing what it appears to be doing?

he was conscripted by the occupying army, was a police officer when the dictator was in charge
got out, got here, spoke so gently to me, died with me there


I might spread my fingers
into the current, or
it might freeze around
my cramping fist
like, people change
and stay the same
why the birds in Lansingburgh
jump sideways into bushes
why the boy at the corner
first lowers, then lifts
his Styrofoam strip


Here is the thing
so many times the shape is by accident
or maybe the same shape
has been this accident
for what feels like always
the men nod to the men and everyone
including some of the other men
wonder when the speaking will cease
the braids become ropes
the beads become rocks
carve a daisy into the bathroom mirror
the future will know
what you meant


Please don’t let that smug conviction
cloud your truth
don’t let the mirrors show you back
the hard eyes of what your thought
it meant to be
don’t contain
some act of loyalty to self
nobility of notions
at least they act
no you have to love you have to
cave to being concave to being
a plane that touches the lines of
all the other planes that make
the face of 
wet eyes,
glory be

My, what lovely lungs you have

My, what lovely lungs you have,
pressed up here against my hand.

So what if I made them myself-
or was that you?
Let's call it a joint endeavor.

With every rock of my chair
a new wave of nostalgia
for the present moment
washes over.

Take another breath
and another
and another
and keep going.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


generic proclamations pasted atop
the most spiral staircase

and than a hero comes along/
with the strength to carry on

anytime you need a friend/
I will be there

we don’t go dance
instead, cocooned
imagine new desperate
for new desperate

how do you party when
you’re going extinct
how do you kiss how do you
siphon your adrenaline
and not devolve into
submission syrup

(when’s the first time you
got really drunk?)

the choir fills
the halls


The flowers are dying,
they never really lived
we missed the pink lights of the dance floor
but drank free pink drink instead
I don’t know or remember
things like changing vase water
to encourage full bloom
or rinsing the rice
but I will always alter
the volume
just so –
I know what sound
sounds better

AF #2

As self and selfishness take form
blind contour quivering out from the grey
blackest mascara black –
give me a kind sweet snarky
gay disco God, a deity of
responsible release
give me a clicking heel across
the fresh but ancient tile
give me a beat to
catch, to clap to
against and for
the Sunday chimes

AF #1

no questions no wonder no dreams.
no secrets just gossip.
Is this what they had in mind,
from the stage?
Ripple white like the hem of a toga pulled aside
– voila for all the family men, all the polar fleece.
But fuck you from my bluetooth,
fuck you from my broom.
The tile will never be clean
the skin will never gleam
& meanwhile mineral earth 
remains unnamed:
to smell a thing  
this solemnly


We are crazed
to make these contracts
to become coiled with
such hidden organs
so I want to be lonely
in this
honor the blood bound address
of a woman with sons
diamond skin because
no diner food
would make me happier –
back of my leg confined
reminder to hurry up
and go



Friday, January 27, 2017


Somebody went to Morocco
Somebody broke a coke bottle
Somebody hated their mother, more
Somebody listened to Chaka Kahn
Somebody used the darkroom behind the door
where the smug wood angel hung
Somebody helped put the ornaments away
Somebody wrote limericks in broken pencil
Somebody missed their mother, more
Somebody abandoned somebody
Somebody made their little brother
hit himself then pushed him off the ledge
Somebody had the right jeans
Somebody went to a rock show
Somebody rolled a joint
Somebody went to boarding school
Somebody made too many jokes
took it too far, took himself too seriously
Somebody dodged the draft
Somebody held the puppy in his jacket
Somebody had secrets
Somebody cleaned the pool
Somebody was lazy
Somebody was a ballerina
Somebody explained praying mantises
Somebody stopped coming home
Four boys in autumn jackets
Four boys in the sand
Children go where I send thee
How shall I send thee

Stay at home

Don't make me,
peach boy,
don't make me go back on myself
all doubled over
in doubt.

I want to hold up the others and say
look what they do!
The proof is in the comparisons.

Don't make me eat my pudding
in hiding
Or glare at the keys rattling at the door.
Fair is fair is fair
and we've got decades to ride this wave,
but don't make me be the one to say

Birthday girl

The birthday girl
shared her sweet sixteen,
I think.
The razor wire of the Napanoch prison
wasn't far off.
Inside, streamers and hula hoops.
We worked on our flirtatious antagonism,
if there were boys there,
which I think there were.
Of course,
our hot breath in the winter air,
our whispers held aloft.


He sends his tongue out searching
and crosses his eyes in concentration
what are these feet?
his drool drips
betrayed face after the needle prick
I thought you were looking out for me.

A home on the hill

The fishing line drips
from the winter tree
into the pond
the skaters slide down the hill
near the nook in the woods
which is someone's home.

His back to the world
and pink helmut balanced on his bike,
settled settled,
like us kids in the gravel pit
staking claim,
but his is for keeps.

Another excuse

We've been bracing for
And the sun is out
But the day is too

I haven't made the phone calls
I haven't figured out how
To be

Baby love


Grab at my heart
I've filed your nails today
So I should be safe

I'll ride the train out to the beach
And watch your face as
your toes touch sand for the first time.

Maybe you won't notice.

Shared history

A small huddled masses
Whispering words and phrases
Shaking fists
And wiping eyebrows
Back in the email threads of hope-filled 2009
I could not have thought we'd be gathered
By this little flame 
Trying to comfort ourselves
And each other somehow.

These days

A stone like youHeavy falling slow through the water At deep hole
The beer cans arranged casuallyThe moss molded to the shape Of my butt 
We talked our numbers
and how being wanted 
changes you
(I wouldn't know)

On our walks through this city parkYou always stop at the big fallen tree and ask if I want to put my face againstThe tender green sporesAnd that's the reason I love you so muchEven though I don't like you that muchThese days.

Head in the sand

These dark dark days
Stretching out the long long horizon for years
And wondering how life has gone on
Under a dictator when there's
No clock ticking
Out in the distance


2:36 to 3:03 of Mariah Carey Hero.
Brief relief from Ariel perched
half woman half fish
on her episodic rock of ages.
My grandma gave me the Heroine book -
Joan of Arc, Pocahontas.
I spelled it Heroin in my hole punched summary.
Learned that difference, the easy way.
Cole always told me to be magic,
but every time I tried we both got sad. 
He would say right now how I’m *wrong*
and if I think about it (at all)
he’s *right*
– but then that’s another
viaduct/marble situation
and I’d rather just swallow the day,
however it tastes.
2:36 to 3:03 of Mariah Carey Hero.
Maybe just to 3:02.
That’s the most legitimate 
feeling I’ve had 
in a while. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

this, and not really This

“I love my fat

the Michelin Man
aka long distance runner/high
diver/deep sleeper
throw another penny away
foreign or domestic
and I’m not giving you anymoremoney

translucent plastic bondage rings
you toss w/abandon    ((6 pk
don’t rinse yr tuna cans thoroughly
how can you 

& the hole you peed in
will be filled w/yr crap
for millennia:

let’s start
by being


Remember: the resistance WITH joy not OF joy, Allison
keep it straight! You've had a pile on before the mind
in panic mode coming from outside in now but if you
can manufacture it out of nothing you can get around it
out of something. It's a neural net you know too well.
But of course you've been in the valley so long, old
cowboy maybe it's home now. No, you're out! You
Mountaintop gal you! Queen of the hill you see
the valley now you SEE the valley now tell them:
He's just doing what a panicked brain does, a disembodied
organ, barely used! And what helps? How does it always
end? Well that's the trick. That's the secret. With a pill
or a change in diet or the sun. Or just me tricking back;
tricking the brain back into submission, now, with JOY!

a letter to my parents

dear mom and dad,
sometimes it's hard to believe you created me. i think you get surprised sometimes too
that we're so different.
i have been thinking about this a lot and
i want you to know how your votes have affected me and the people around me.

on election night i went to bed crying.
i had trouble falling asleep
because i was so anxious realizing he might actually win.
i woke up at 3am to someone outside my window
screaming on the sidewalk "Fuck Fuck Fuck" and i started crying all over again
as we checked our phones and saw
it was over.
somehow he won. i woke up again at 6am crying.
i walked the dog and
overheard 2 muslim children crying
as their mother told them
"no one is sending you anywhere."
i cried all morning. i got to work and my coworkers and i looked at each other
 and cried. i looked at my students' faces-- red, puffy, tear streaked.
we sat in circles and talked about our feelings. some were angry, some confused. some apathetic. some asked why our country is so racist. why don't white people care about us?
i heard stories from elementary school teachers
consoling crying 6 year olds and trying to explain
"why the bad guy won"
and i cried some more.

i listened to the news the morning of the inauguration and
as reality began to set in, more tears came.
every day i struggle to get out of bed. i have to tell myself
that i can do something to impact change, that
there's enough of us to stop him.
go to a rally, march all day
keep writing letters
keep signing petitions
keep calling
keep emailing
keep up with social media
keep up with the news
but we're 5 days in and
i already feel defeated and disheartened.
every day i have to talk myself out of just curling up in a ball and crying.
every day i have to convince myself that life is still worth living. and
i don't even if have it that bad. imagine the people who don't have my privilege.
imagine what they're going through.

constant catch-up

she lies in snores on the floor
unaware that the world has changed
does she sense the anxiety?
i sit with my hand on my stomach
knowing it's time to eat but
unable to leave the screen
there's too much happening that can't be ignored
but i read that article that says
i need to ignore some things
and my eyes are permanently bloodshot
and itchy
and hurt
and the headache is moving in
but i can't stop refreshing the screen

poem #21

the 21st day was for marching
and i marched for 5 hours
and my knees ached
and my shoulders tightened
my biceps sore
but i made a sign that morning
and it has no words
but it speaks to me and my experience and what i care about
but it is not the only thing i care about
and the better sign might have been the one that said
there's just too many things to put on this sign
that sign was good
and funny
but mostly so sad

poem #20

i should've written you on the 20th day
but that was a sad, angry day
all i could think of was 
the resistance
poetry felt separate
until i organized my bookshelf 
pulled out
the spoken word revolution
poetry of resistance
poetry matters

On Your Roof

Pull me apart muscle by muscle
obsession by obsession.

Hang the tendons and regrets
from longest to shortest.

The wind can have my guilt.
The doubt will bake out above the tar.

I need to relearn how to carry myself
and I think just starting over is best.

You can use the lettuce ties in the kitchen drawer
to set my spine on the TV aerial because

No one really taught me how to stand.

Nobody said, things will happen
to make you want to look smaller than you are.

So keep your pelvis tilted up
and your ribs above your pelvis
and your shoulders open and repeat to yourself
I am a man I am a man I am a man.

It’s not that the parts are bad
It’s just the holding together that