Monday, May 30, 2016


…Happy Memorial Day.  Do you even wish someone that?  Probably not.  In that case, I take it back.

…I didn’t write much last week, but I read quite a bit and I did learn these things:

-818 per second:  rate that Americans eat hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day

-For the first time in more than 130 years, Americans ages 18-34 are more likely to live with their parents than with their parents

-Rate of kids ages 4-18 who can’t swim:

-91 percent of the world’s deadliest animals live in Australia

-Five times a week in America, children accidentally shoot themselves or someone else

-There is a town called Big Ugly in West Virginia

…I did a couple of interviews.  One person asked me how I came about writing.  I was very honest.  It felt like writing a diary entry.  I was even a little emotional while typing out my long-winded answer.  Maybe I’m getting too sentimental.

…I wonder how you’d answer the question.  I wonder if it’s sunny where you are and if you’re happy.

-“Happiness: it comes on unexpectedly.” Raymond Carver

-“Everything I see will outlive me.” Anna Akhmatova

-"Accidents are a wakeup call to be grateful for every little thing in your life." Nancy Stohlman

-“Accept the fact that you will grow apart from people you’ve had significant relationships with. Understand when someone no longer positively affects your life. Let them go. Don’t hinder your growth.” Lyjeeria

-“[Fiction] doesn't have to do anything. It just has to be there for the fierce pleasure we take in doing it, and the different kind of pleasure that's taken in reading something that's durable and made to last, as well as beautiful in and of itself. Something that throws off these sparks—a persistent and steady glow, however dim.”-Raymond Carver

-"Write where the heat is. Write into the darkness." Zoe Zolbrod

-“Do what you feel in your heart to be right -for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.” Eleanor Roosevelt

-“You have one life.  Don’t blow it.” Kona Brothers

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Tuck, Tuck

I was thinking about that
Goose with the broken wing
How it kept trying to tuck its arm—tuck, tuck
—in order to get it unstuck
You said I should call someone, an animal shelter
And after I did, getting a recording saying they’d closed shop
I looked out the window and saw the bird was gone
The flat-bellied boulder empty but for itself
And two stray feathers floating
Like open palms in the lake
Trembling, you drew me into your chest
Where the jagged rhythm of your heartbeat
Tapped rapid code across my cheek
That was six summers ago
Before the storm and the slick roadway
Which wouldn’t let you slide straight
Now I lay my arm on the kitchen counter
Raise and drop a cement block
The pain red hot and searing
I stagger down to the lakefront
Sit on the slab, tuck and tuck
Trying to get unstuck
Hoping you can see me
From wherever you are

Friday, May 27, 2016




I find him crushing Dad’s beer cans behind the barn
Using his hand this time, his palm bloodied pulp
“It don’t matter,” he says. “Nothing does.”
Someone forgot to milk the cow and the hogs are snorting angry
The air smells like dirt, straw and piss and
Breathing in too hard can give you nasal splinters
I tell my brother he’d better stop that, dang fool
Dang, he says then, Fool smashing an empty Oly can against his knee
“It’s the water that makes O-lym-pi-a beer” he sings laughing
A little crazier every day, becoming more like dad
Whose new girlfriend has made advances in more ways than one

A million miles over, in what we call Fairyland
The sun is a russet Frisbee handing over the prison keys
The horses stir when the Caddy’s engine fires up
Though they don’t much mind can-crushing
Because they’ve seen so much of it
In a jiff Dad and his new one will be out dancing and drunk
Might take turns using the belt on us when they get home later
Might make us do a jig in underwear and high heels
This life it’s a movie set on rewind even if the women change
Even if I close my eyes or pray to every God there is
“You’re gonna need a doctor, tons of stitches”
My brother keeps crushing tin, won’t look at me, says
“Gonna need more than that but it’s too late.”

In in my bunk now listening to him howl at the night
Him wanting to become a werewolf or anything that he’s not
I wonder what the moon thinks of all this
If it’s even the slightest bit angry or frightened
If it’s a good thing or not that our nearest neighbors
Live a county away


What We Have Now

Are the sounds of other children
An overabundance of time, dripping, dripping
The magpie shriek of a door opening,
One that I will never fix
Because I want the shrill sound to pierce me
Each time I enter the room in brave, happy-face
Soaking in the gray and gloom of
The counterfeit space and dust-spackled air
Where our daughter once slept
As peaceful as the plastic doll
We’ve laid, swaddled with cloth,
In her place


The Sticky Gloom

And if tonight the demons win again
Holding forth a new bottle or needle
And you grab hold, plunging headlong
Into that gauzy, sofa air you seek so often
I ask only that you not take
The second hit, the sixth pull, but
Call me by phone or text or whatever means
Just give me the chance to lift you from the sticky gloom
And help you live and see the light
This is your brother speaking, goddamn it,
Your son and daughter
Everyone who loves you
And everyone who ever has


Wednesday, May 25, 2016


…It’s Wednesday, but it doesn’t feel like it.  Doesn’t feel like I’m as old as I am, either.

…I had a couple of poems, one—The Never-ending Now—I really liked published.  They’re here about four from the top:

…So, since it’s midweek, here are some things to ponder:
"Leave no doubt in people's minds why you are here." --Morghan King.

“It is the history of our kindnesses that along makes the world tolerable.” Robert Luis Stevenson

“If you don’t write a Paul Simon song, who will?” Phillip Glass to Paul Simon

“Twenty years of schoolin’ and they put you on the day shift.” Bob Dylan

“If we think we see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s the light of an oncoming train.” Robert Lowell

“Thank you for a lovely weekend.  They tell me it rained.” Kay Jamison

“I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars.” E.M. Forrester

Oscar Wilde: Do you mind if I smoke?
Sarah Bernhardt: I don't care if you burn.

"I have noticed that folks are generally about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Abraham Lincoln

"My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart." Maya Angelou

“Just for the record, the weather today is calm and sunny, but the air is full of bullshit.” Chuck Palahniuk

Monday, May 23, 2016




                                               The Boy with Breasts

The pool was murky and foul, but not deep enough to hide his shame.

He jumped in anyway.

His mother had demanded it, wouldn’t allow him to go swimming with his shirt on either.  Her wasp’s eyes wore swirls and x’s in them when she was angry or exerting power. 

“For an hour,” she shouted, as if none of the other tourists would hear.  “You’ll stay in there for sixty minutes, no less, or until you make a friend.”

The boy had no idea how he’d gotten them, but his breasts were considerable, about the size of Robin’s, his rotten cousin, who was eighteen and at least a C-cup.

Under the gray water, they looked like baby seals or liquid loaves.  They seemed to swim by themselves, floating so grotesque apart from his frame, yet monstrously attached to it.  There were many times he imagined hacking them off with a butcher knife or chain saw, guillotining the things and then subsequently bleeding to death while his amputated breasts flipped around his feet like suffocated sea bass.

At school kids called him all sorts of names.  Most thought he was a young she-male.  He wasn’t allowed in restrooms.  More than once, he ended up nearly being strangled by braziers other boys booby-trapped to his locker.

Fifteen was not so hard an age, he thought, for a kid with normal anatomy.

At the resort now, he stuck to the shallow end of the pool even though that’s where the dead bees and backwash collected.  A swollen diaper the size and dim pallor of home plate kept bumping up against the side ladder, as if it were alive.  Occasionally, a kid sputtered by wearing arm-floaties or being propelled by a parent and, though harmless enough, the boy with breasts would sink low and hold his breath and open his eyes in the bleak, streaky water, waiting until the figures passed.

In the few remaining photos, his father was only ever shown from the shoulders up.  If the deformity had been hereditary, the boy would never know.  He was far too ashamed to ask his Mom for details, and besides, the woman was a pathological liar.

When he popped to the surface, the boy nearly rose too high.  He caught his breasts and trapped them underwater as if they were disobedient dolphins.

“Hi ya.” 

He’d come face-to-face with a girl who owned a nice smile and some chin acne running like raspberry juice across her jaw.

He dumped under again, the motion a bomb of water.  His heart was a small animal, yet it booted him in the chest hard so his breasts wobbled like restless jelly fish.

When he came up, she was still there.

“You sure are a water bug.  Where did you learn to hold your breath like that?”

“My grandmother was a turtle,” he said.  He wished he could lie as fabulously as his mother.

“That right?”

“Yeah.  One of my aunts was a dyslexic mermaid with an eye tic.  The other aunt gave birth to twin salmons.”

When she grinned, he spotted a purple glob of gum.

He wanted to be more interesting.  Sometimes the truth was stranger than lies, so he thought he’d try that out on her.  “My dad accidentally set himself on fire.”

“You’re full of it.”

“He did.  Honest.  It was a faulty barbeque or something.”  The boy with breasts pointed across the pool to the lounge chair where his mother was sucking down another cocktail.  “Mom got a settlement.  She drags me here twice a year.”

“That really sucks.  I mean, about your dad.”

Not as bad as having boobs, he almost said.  This girl reminded him of elastic sweat bottoms and he didn’t like feeling so comfortable with her.  He went under.

When he came up, she asked, “Why do you keep sinking?”

“I’m part frog.”

“You’re an odd duck.”

“Yes, I’m one eighth mallard.”

Laughing, she choked on the gum.

“If you like aquatic things, you’ll dig me.”

She took an inventory of him, scanning the parts she could see—everything from the neck up.  Her eyes were like a blind person’s fingertips tracing his face.  It gave him goose flesh and made him squeamish.

“Hey, wanna go down to the beach?” she asked.

Hanging over the hotel turret, the sun poked its head out and winked at him.  He liked the sun.  Of all the things that lived in the sky, it was his favorite.

“Thanks, but I’ve gotta get back to the room.  I promised I’d babysit my little brother.”



She nibbled her lower lip.  She was actually awfully cute.  He hadn’t let himself realize that before.  “What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Probably just be here, in the pool.”

She smiled.  “Me, too.”

He watched her lift herself out of the water.  She glistened, blonde and thin, with breasts smaller than his.  She flipped him a wave.

He could almost make out his mother’s snoring all the way on the other side of the pool.  She usually sounded like a dryer with a heavy load.  He watched the rise and fall of her chest.  She was a mere A-cup.

Tonight he’d develop stomach flu, blame one of those pesky Mexican parasites he’d heard about.  He’d spend the rest of the week in the room.  But he’d make good use of that time, like an inmate studying law. 

He’d figure a way to become brave, or how to live with himself.  There was still time to start again. 



 There are signs everywhere, and each one, in its own vernacular, proclaims that my wife is evil.

Someone pelts the car with a ball of red paint.  A protestor cracks a windshield.  The police escort doesn’t seem to mind.

They hate me for a different reason, because I am supporting my wife.  That makes me just as bad, no different than if I’d been the one who drowned the twins and Ali.

For the first few weeks afterward, I fooled myself into thinking there was a way out of this, some chance of a reversal.  The sun kept coming up, dealing out new days, and for me, sunrises had always signified hope, fresh starts, so I bizarrely believed in an escape route, some sort of time travel which would rectify the horror that had been done.  Desperate men can get nutty.

Lately I have been replaying scenes in my head, dusting them off and inspecting them like an archeologist.  I always come away with nothing, however, just the agonizing dread that I should have known, should have seen symptoms or elemental triggers in Meredith’s moods.

My therapist pointed me to reality.  Meredith had been calm.  The day it happened, she’d been planting flowers in the garden.  That morning she’d started a batch of banana bread.  She’d kissed me goodbye, said she loved me.

The lawyer explained that I wouldn’t have to testify.  Meredith wouldn’t either.  They had her confession and the evidence.  I don’t know what would happen if they put me on the stand.  I doubt I could form a meaningful sentence.  Anymore, it’s as if I’ve had my tongue cut out.

The clerk at the hotel said, “How can you live with yourself?”  He was a young punk with chin acne, but he was angry nevertheless, and a manager had to come out to finalize the transaction.

Once inside my room, I put the suitcase on the bed and walked into the bathroom.  It gleamed white.  The air inside was tangy with the hint of glass cleaner.

I stared at the hollowed out basin, not much different from ours except that safety anti-skid strips ran down the length.  The faucet had a wide mouth.  I got in and turned both knobs on full.  The water slapped at my skin and my clothes stuck to me.  I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be held under, to know that the hands doing it belonged to a woman who was also my mother.  I tried, but could not.

On the bed in my bag was a sundries kit with a razor inside, a pair of scissors.  I could have ended it right then, but I needed a different resolution.

At the courthouse I’m pulled through a mob as if I’m some stubborn mule.  The cacophony of voices, some shouted from reporters, some from furious townspeople, is like a chorus of spears. 

They bring her out in handcuffs and leg irons.  Meredith’s hair is thin, her skin gray.  Her smile when she sees me is hot shrapnel ripping through my chest.  The crowd sees this and gasps.

My mind flicks.  There’s my Meredith, the first time I meet her, at the book store, sipping  cappuccino foam in the poetry section at Barnes and Noble.  I see her at Lamaze class taking cleansing breaths.  I see her reading to the twins, one bundle tucked under each arm.  I hear her voice sing a shimmery, “Hush little baby don’t you cry.”

I don’t see a furious struggle.  There is no water.  No pounding or panting, no screams.  I wish there were, I do, but all I see is the woman I fell in love with, swaddled, wearing layers and layers of forgiveness.


    I Used a Capo
            This is the dress I wore to prom when Ryan Hoff gave me his flask and Ty Phillips bumped me and fruit punch-mixed-with-wine spilled across my chest and shawl.

This is the mouth I eat with.  Sometimes this is the mouth that sends food the other way, violently, usually on days when I need to fix something.

These are my eyes, so dry from not crying, like wooden peach pits.

Touch this spot on my neck.  Isn’t it smooth?  My cat, Macaroni Cheeses, always rubs his head back-and-forth, back-and-forth there.

These lips are chapped by the wind but mostly from my constant licking.  3.01 people have kissed them so far.  (The decimal is for Father.) 

These fingers are long and bony, with gnarled knuckles, like string beans, yet they have drawn some pretty pictures.  The best of them won a prize.  It was a sunrise made to look like a belly carrying a somersaulting fetus inside yellow and pink swirls.

This is my room.  I keep the lights low.  Even the two lava lamps seem to whisper with their radioactive gleaming.  I’ve allowed them to hypnotize me before.  I pretend they are Day-go goldfish and give them Swedish nicknames.

This, well, this is not a birthmark, but a scar.  I’ve seen other people who have one.  Mine is a long, gray dagger that runs off the page of my face to my neck.  I grow my hair longer on that side so it will act as a curtain for the public, but when I’m home, I put my hair up in a pony and stare at the way nature has welded the scar tissue together so that it resembles an earth worm or chowder.

Listen up.  Here is a song I wrote.  I used a capo for the first time to get the high notes aligned.  The song is really just a tricked-up love poem that tells the story of my life.  I don’t have the ending completely worked out yet, but so far I’m pleased.




Friday, May 20, 2016



…Hey Friday, what’re you doing tonight?  Me, I’m going to see Billy Joel.

..I had a quite a few pieces accepted the last couple of days (974) and a few things published:

…Joanna C. Valente, over at Luna Luna Magazine listed my book here, which made me feel very nice:

 …Someone else passed this along, which is old, but also made me feel nice:

…And since it’s such a nice Friday, with the weekend upon us, I’ll leave you with these little gems:

“Don’t confuse progress with winning.  If the world is improving at ten percent and you’re improving at two percent, you might be improving but you’re losing.”

“My mom grew up on a farm during the Great Depression.  My dad grew up in an iron-mining area of upper Minnesota.  They taught my brother and me two lessons: There is no substitute for hard work.  And work before you play.”

“Buoyed by water, he can fly in any direction by merely flipping his hand.  Under water man becomes an archangel.” Jacques-Yves Cousteau

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Picasso

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” John Steinbeck

 “My belief is that art should not be comforting; for comfort, we have mass entertainment and one another. Art should provoke, disturb, arouse our emotions, expand our sympathies in directions we may not anticipate and may not even wish.”
― Joyce Carol Oates

“It I only had a brain.” The Tin Man

“I’m never as lonely as when I’m inside a crowded room.” Michele Filgate

“Every life from the inside seems like a record of failure.” George Elliot

“We all move uneasily within our restraints.” Kay Jamison

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do wrong, but by those who sit by and do nothing.” Einstein

Wednesday, May 18, 2016



There is seam in this bottle
Straight as a cesarean scar
Where the two glass halves kiss
I would like to be constructed like that
Bound and connected to another thing so perfectly
Outside on the dock by the lake hatpin girls
In string bikinis absorb midday sun
Believing it will cure something
Camouflage or strip away certain sins
So boys will see them differently
I’d like to tell them not to be so foolish
That perfection is a manmade hoax
A menagerie in photo-shopped magazines
But then I shouldn’t even be looking their way
Men under twenty maybe yes
But not a derelict fifty year old like me
The sexiest thing close at hand is
This table littered with drained Coronas
And an ashtray without ash
Gleaming like a colorless eye
Empty but for a gold wedding band



Someone left an infant on our lawn
Near the rose bushes my wife thought
Would make this shack look less tacky
Now the child eyes me unafraid
Though I must look like a redwood to it
Gurgle and coo, spittle spraying lips
It tries to tell me something
Its name or how it got here perhaps
My wife doesn’t think this is funny at all
“First you’re talking to yourself and now this?”
I clip off a few stems, find a vase in the house
My wife is nervous, so I tell her
“Geez!  I was only kidding.”
Outside the next day the child’s still there
I know it’s all in my head but
I give her a name anyway
The same one we’d chosen for our girl
Letters hand-painted on the wall
In an dusty room upstairs
Where no one ever goes



I keep looking for you in the seams
In the spring air flocked with cottonwood spurs
That look like bees dying from old age
I get it—you are not meant to be found
It’s called freedom for you, punishment for me
Juliet was only thirteen and Romeo two years older
You’d said, You don’t understand true love
Because you never had it with Mom
I look for you now on a bus in a train car
At the station at the food store
In a cathedral where I pray for the first time
Hoping forgiveness is not a hoax
And that this is only temporary
Like all the bee husks littered on the lawn



Early morning five am
And I have to coax the sun out of hiding
There’s frost on everything
Even the blood-red oven coils
The coffee hisses catlike
And the furniture whispers behind my back
On the bathroom mirror is the note
You left in wide lipstick letters
Saying This time I really mean it


What Is True

Your lips are on mine
Tongues entwined
Like steamed goldfish
Swimming upstream
Toward warmer water
Where light explodes
Fireworks over a lake
Cliff edge dangling
The peak of an orgasm
As we both rise and writhe
And the moment takes pause for us
To catch our breath
Before being the first to speak
Saying only, “Yes.  Yes.
More please.”







Sunday, May 15, 2016


…It’s early Sunday night.  I usually post Monday, Wednesday and Friday but I’m getting a jump on things because things have felt shaky of late and I need to get on track.

…Someone once told me they were the loneliest person I knew.  I’m thinking they might have been the second loneliest.

…Anyway, people on Facebook are either angry or very happy, or needy, and sometimes clever and funny as seen here:

-(After Trump sewed up the nomination): If you're a citizen of a country other than the US, or you have dual citizenship, I'm just reminding you that I'm SINGLE!!! #‎desperation

-My grandpa started walking five miles a day when he was 60.
Now he’s 97 years old and we have no idea where the hell he is.

-"My wife told me sex is better on holiday… that wasn’t a very nice postcard to receive."

-Whatever you do, always give 100%. Unless you are donating blood.

-A Buddhist monk goes up to a hot dog stand and says to the vendor, “Make me one with everything."

-I bought some new shoes from a drug dealer. I don't know what he laced them with, but I've been tripping all day.

-I know that many of you are having lovely Mother's Days, but if you're not, that's okay. It's a tough job. I just yelled, "That's not funny! We don't touch people when we have poop on our hands!"

-Earlier today Liam told me that sometimes our hearts crack, but we get new ones

-Not only are we made of stars, but so is your skirt, apparently.

…And there are these things I like a lot for various reasons:

“Be a tireless champion of other people, because that’s the point, the only thing we’re here for, really." Amber Sparks

“Things are beautiful if you love them.” Jean Anouilh

“In the end, we all come to a screeching halt at the same intersection and wait for the light to change.” Michael Maxwell

“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” Hafiz

“Find the things in the world that buzz with vibration. Let their dragons rise.” Antonia Crane

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Exhaust the little moment.
Soon it dies.
And be it gash or gold,
it will not come
again in this identical
--Gwendolyn Brooks

“I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful, but because I never had belonged to anything or anyone else.” Marilyn Monroe

...I hope you have a fantastic week...