Tuesday, September 29, 2015


...I'm going to Napa for four days starting tomorrow morning.  Napa is always fun.  I love Napa.

...I flipped open "The Dark Sunshine" and scanned it.  What a dark book.  Holy hell.  What's wrong with me?
On Monday I'm speaking to my daughter's fifth grade class about writing and I thought maybe I could a story or section from my own book.
That would be a No.
Here's an example of why:

                                               The Truth about Leprechauns and Miracles

            If I am sad, will you be sad with me? 
There is a broken window in my right eye where it’s sleeting.  The left is loose without light.  When I open my mouth to speak, someone stomps on a pipe organ and I bray harsh, brassy sounds.  People who wanted to know what was wrong the first few months now just look away.
            If I am dying, will you die with me?  It’s not good to die alone.  You could hold my hand and teach your face how to make happy signs so that I’d be encouraged and more hopeful when I woke up.  Or you could just say, “It’s not okay, nothing is, but I’m here anyway.”
            My grandmother passed away when I was a teen.  I remember her blue bathrobe and her cheeks with their red and orange color like a peach.  Now she advises me in dreams.   Something she said recently was, “The dead get lonely, too.”
            So, I guess every does.
            Do you know there’s this thing you do when you are contemplating a brighter future?  Yes, you rub the end of your nose until it’s raw, as if hoping a genie might appear.  You do it without realizing and your eyes blink back white flashes like lightning. 
            If you knew how much I loved you, Jesus wouldn’t seem such an improbability and miracles would make perfect sense.   You’d understand that nothing is preposterous.
I’ll admit it: I’ve been watching you for weeks now.  So many fun times for you, huh?  And here I thought you hated the opera. 
But what about that day at the grocery store, in Aisle 13?  The second you admitted Lucky Charms were your favorite, I felt the razors go slicing inside me. 
He said, “No kidding,” and then did something foolish—something, if I were a brave man, I might have done—plunging his arm into the box, pulling out a fistful and stuffing his cheeks with marshmallow moons and pastel cereal pieces. 
You called him ridiculous.
He had to spit out a few clods of mottled goop before he said, “I’m not ridiculous.  I’m you’re little leprechaun,” which made you cry, because you were already laughing so hard, and then when you plucked spillage from his chest hair and ate it off your finger while people watched, a blow torch burned me out.
“How did I ever get so lucky?” you asked.
            So, you see, miracles do happen.  People get incurable cancers and then a month later the cysts and fibers disappear.  Babies often end up in homes with parents who love them.  The deaf can hear, the blind can see.  Couples get torn in two but re-sewn with new, better halves. 
Anyway, that’s what I tell myself.
Outside the window right now, gales are sending a garbage can rolling down the road.  Cedar shavings pelt the glass like claws and tree branches scrape the front door though there’s never anyone there when I answer.
What grandmother tells me that night is this: “There’s no mercy in nature or mankind.  There might be miracles, but mercy’s the myth.”


…In two days I’ll be in Napa.  I love Napa.  How could you not?  I wish they had all the water they need.  There’s nothing like running though vineyards with purple fruit hanging off the vines, staring you square in the eye.

…I’ve been writing a…lot…of poetry lately.  Maybe it’s not that good.  Or maybe it’s nothing.  That’s the thing about poetry.
Here’s some of it:

S & M Breakup

Today the lake is into S & M,
all black-whip waves and inversion current.
The fish wear turtlenecks
while the squirrels don flak jackets,
scurrying in the trees like paranoid socks.

I know how weird that sounds.

That’s what you told me after you said
you didn’t love me anymore.

Sometimes there are no reasons, but still
I thought I might have Necrotizing fasciitis.
I thought that was the reason.
Look it up.

I checked my gut as well as
the faint mustache above my lip
that you once called a cute little caterpillar.
I checked my legs—
Jelly Thighs you used to call me.
I opened my mouth wide to see if my tonsils were still gone.
I wrote I Want You Back
with ruby lipstick
across the bathroom mirror
while noticing how crocked my pupils were.
Everything seemed pretty normal.

Afterward I drank a broken glass
to see if I could stand it,
to feel my insides shred,
trying to deal with something
other than you.

 Reasonable Paranoia

The sky keeps following me,
even when I’m in the bathroom
or our windowless shower.
The sky, it has a million lurking eyes,
not one of them a star or moon.
Under the covers at night
the sky shows up,
making the sheets and blankets glow.
My parents are worried.
They call me “strange” and “paranoid”.
They say I’m imagining things,
same as when I told them
what Grandpa did.

 Better Off Dead

My skin is coming off in peels of leafy
orange rinds that smell of formaldehyde.
That’s okay.
My nose won’t stop bleeding and my hair hurts
even after I’ve shaved it all off, leaving tufts that
clog the sink drain.
But that’s okay.
My eyes flip upside down,
turning into lava lamp glowing worms of goo.
That’s okay, too.
The furniture moves by itself,
like chess pieces randomly moved by some bored giant.
Still okay.
Then a wide, hairy fist is flexing in my chest,
reaching up and gripping, closing tight around my larynx.
I don’t think that’s good.

So I call someone I know who knows someone else
who’s in touch with these kinds of things
and we hold a séance at my house
where the woman in charge
takes my unsteady hand
and shakes her head
saying, “Believe me on this:
you’re better off dead.”


The dogs are outside hiding
and the kids have been gone for years.
Three ceiling lights are out,
Did you notice?
A casserole is molding in the fridge
while we’re eating breakfast or dinner.
Time is a flat circle we keep spinning in.
and inertia takes us where it will
as we go on
married and maybe content.

 Reasons for Living

She wants to make love in a graveyard at night,
says it’s kinky and that she wants to be choked
or slapped around like Isabella Rossellini
in that Sand Man movie.
Hair pulling only goes so far
and new days keep showing up like
well-meaning Jehovah Witnesses.
But the graveyard, the choking and slapping—
those are real.
She says they’re something
to take the edge off.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


…Hey, it’s Saturday and the sun is doing its best to break through the clouds.  I can see the edge of its smile.  Can you?

…I finished “Narcos” last night.  What a great series, though the final episode could have been a bit fuller.  Afterward I watched some old news coverage of Pablo Escobar and the President of Columbia.  It’s amazing how realistic the show was.
Then I started the latest season of “Orange Is The New Black” and it was not very good.  Hopefully things turn around.

…A writer friend on Facebook posted five ways to make a reading better.  This was my favorite:

Take Drugs. Yummy, yummy drugs! Pop a Xanax. Down St. John’s wort. Throw back a Prozac. A lot of people will tell you that you can do things naturally, and drugs only give you false confidence. Those people want you to fail. Drugs are science! And I don’t know about you, but I’d feel pretty dumb if I turned my back on science. So get more loaded than a Palin family barbecue.

…Here are a few things I like on a weekend:

"I believe that one of the characteristics of the human race - possibly the one that is primarily responsible for its course of evolution - is that is has grown by creatively responding to failure." Glenn Seaborg

“Do what you can where you are with what you've got.” Theodore Roosevelt
"One doesn't accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity." Bruce Lee
“This life we have is short, so let us leave a mark for people to
remember.” -- Kip Keino (1940) Kenyan Olympic Gold Medalist in Track, explaining why he adopted and educated 69 orphan children.

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see except standing there on the balcony landing, holding the universe together.” J.D. Salinger“Words are all we have.” Samuel Beckett

“There is a time to fight, and a time to be clever.” Pablo Escobar

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Miscreants and Family

Elvis Presley is drunk again,
warbling “Burning Love”
on the balcony.
Mom is still in bed at noon.
The cats traipse across the sink
like tight rope walkers
or bloated spies.
My friends never come over anymore
and that’s just as well.
I blink and think,
blink and think,
as shooting stars land in my hair.
A firecracker explodes behind the left eyeball.
One thing is not the other
and no one goes to the moon anymore.
It’s time to face the fact that
we’re stuck here,
miscreants and family,
doomed to do our best
or bleed in place.


We float in the belly of a black cloud
or whale
wondering what to do next
while the Pope and Dali Lama
tour the country,
rock stars to both political parties.
You decide to fold yourself in half
and I follow suit.
The air here is ice cold beer and
the rain has silky shoulders.
You fold again and again.
Beneath us the Dali Lama is wearing aviator sunglasses
and tipping one back with Bono.
The pope kisses a child’s forehead.
Together we fold and fold ourselves
missing the child we never had.

A Game Of Cards

Clowns and scars
are the things that scare you most.
Hold onto the sleeve of a rainbow
if you must.
Tonight the moon is a bowl of whole milk.
while the stars look arthritic but swollen.
Across the lake someone is shouting obscenities
and half a world away a mosque is being bombed.
Whether the smoke settles or not
there is plenty to see.
Hope hangs in the balance.
The future wants to play a game of cards.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


…Baseball legend Yogi Berra just passed away at age 90.  He was a fun guy, and very funny, too.  Wise as well. 
Here are some of his sayings that I like:

1. When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
2. You can observe a lot by just watching.
3. It ain’t over till it’s over
4. It’s like déjà vu all over again.
5. No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.
6. Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.
7. A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.
8. Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.
9. We made too many wrong mistakes.
10. Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.
11. You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.
12. You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.
13. I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.
14. Never answer an anonymous letter.
15. Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.
16. How can you think and hit at the same time?
17. The future ain’t what it used to be.
18. I tell the kids, somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose. Just don’t fight about it. Just try to get better.
19. It gets late early out here.
20. If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.
21. We have deep depth.
22. Pair up in threes.
23. Why buy good luggage, you only use it when you travel.
24. You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.
25. All pitchers are liars or crybabies.
26. Even Napoleon had his Watergate.
27. Bill Dickey is learning me his experience.
28. He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious.
29. It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.
30. I can see how he (Sandy Koufax) won twenty-five games. What I don’t understand is how he lost five.
31. I don’t know (if they were men or women fans running naked across the field). They had bags over their heads.
32. I’m a lucky guy and I’m happy to be with the Yankees. And I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.
33. I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.
34. In baseball, you don’t know nothing.
35. I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?
36. I never said most of the things I said.
37. It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.
38. If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.
39. I wish everybody had the drive he (Joe DiMaggio) had. He never did anything wrong on the field. I’d never seen him dive for a ball, everything was a chest-high catch, and he never walked off the field.
40. So I’m ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face.
41. Take it with a grin of salt.
42. (On the 1973 Mets) We were overwhelming underdogs.
43. The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase.
44. Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.
45. Mickey Mantle was a very good golfer, but we weren’t allowed to play golf during the season; only at spring training.
46. You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.
47. I’m lucky. Usually you’re dead to get your own museum, but I’m still alive to see mine.
48. If I didn’t make it in baseball, I won’t have made it workin’. I didn’t like to work.
49. If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.
50. A lot of guys go, ‘Hey, Yog, say a Yogi-ism.’ I tell ’em, ‘I don’t know any.’ They want me to make one up. I don’t make ’em up. I don’t even know when I say it. They’re the truth. And it is the truth. I don’t know.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Big Oak

I am busy holding myself together.  In the mirror I am pulleys and strings and wrong answers.  My sister claims I am thinner than her, a broom handle.  She says she can make bows out of my skin.  She tosses candy wrappers at me and chuckles.  Mother watches from the kitchen, blurry-eyed and bored, drawing hard on a cigarette, as if self-emulating.
            Our house is a bear trap that I hate.  The walls smell like sins and sewers and burnt offerings, so I go out to the backyard.  I make sure no one’s watching.  I hide behind the big oak, use my hands to dig, fingertips going raw in seconds.  I shouldn’t have buried it so deep, but it’s hard to be trustworthy with the world.  The planet feels heavy and sluggish, a jug of gasoline, sloshing forward so obese.
            I dust dirt off the metal box and open it.  Unwrap the cloth and take out the photograph.  We were three.  My twin looked like me, maybe a little smarter with his lip cricked.  I feel guilty that I can’t remember him.  We would have shared meals together, TV time, sang.  We might have played tag round this tree.  Dad said we were playing Hide and Seek and that he didn’t see Jesse tucked behind the rear wheel.  I might have been the only one who believed him.  Still, he shouldn’t have killed himself.  Losing both of them has dried up all my sweet spots.
            I hear the new man’s truck pulling up, coughing like a dragon, stereo thumping full blast.  No matter what she says, no matter how many times she hits me, I’ll never call him Dad.

            I put back the box, bury it, stand up and watch the sun dart through the leaves of the big oak as if it’s a playground and the spackles of light are alive.

Friday, September 18, 2015


…Here are some thing I learned recently that you may or may not already know:

-There were 500,000 Americans in prison in 1980.  Today there are 2.2 million.

-1 in 9 African American children has a parent in prison.

-Someone’s identity is stolen every 2 seconds.

-Last year more than 400,000 books were published in the U.S.

-During the first weekend of pro football season, $27 million was spent on television advertising by the fantasy football websites DraftKings and FanDuel.

-Currently, one in three California homes is in danger of forest fires.

-14% of parents don’t think going to college is a wise financial investment for their children.

…I had someone say something really nice about me on their blog the other day:

"The Spaces in Between" by Len Kuntz
Len Kuntz could be one of the hardest working writers I know. According to Connotation Press, he has published more than 700 stories, in print and online. Awhile back, as the editor of a certain local Vegas publication, I had the honor of receiving a submission from him, a sad, beautiful story about a troubled boy, his nasty mother and strawberry-picking. Of course, I published it. However, that magazine is long gone, so I can't share it with you.

But I did find another tragic piece about a child suffering for all the fucked-up adults around her. Here's
"The Spaces in Between" from Fwriction: Review.

Love this? Want more? Kuntz recently published his first collection, The Dark Sunshine.

                                                            The Spaces in Between

            She is nine, nine going on something else.  Already she has learned to be brave and observant, as well as the correct way to unearth and bury.
            She’d never liked playthings, but still she bounces a Barbie on the sofa armrest, humming, acting as if she’s studying the doll’s palms when really she’s looking through the space in between Barbie’s perfect fingers where her mother is splayed.
            The girl knows a little about narcotics and too much wine consumption, but these are not issues for her mother.  This is something far more slippery and bleak.
            The girl wishes she were older and wise.  Adults have answers.  For instance, her aunt knows things, but she’s a shrug of the shoulders, a secret keeper or just plain greedy.
            “Why don’t you sing a little softer,” her mother says, even though the girl is just humming without using words to her made-up song.  “And could you close the blinds?”
            She does as told, looks the sun in the eye first.  Men have walked on the moon.  The sun’s surface is too hot for those kinds of shenanigans, and still it is her favorite thing that lives in the sky.
            “Momma, can I tell you a story?”
            “Only if you speak in your quiet voice and don’t get all jumpy at the exciting parts.”
            Her mother winces, reaching to the carpet, so the girl gets it for her, picking up the damp dishrag and laying it across the woman’s forehead.
            The girl whispers, “In a grand castle somewhere near Ireland, there once lived a damsel...”
            Everything is reversed.  The girl knows how it’s really supposed to work.  Moms get their kids up, make them breakfast, hustle them off to the school bus.  Moms are strict but like lots of sunlight.  They’re the ones that tell bedtime stories.
            The girl doesn’t mind.  She has an imagination that needs flexing, freedom to roam.  As she narrates to her mother, the girl pictures herself as a cement truck spewing golden tar, making a clean new road that the two of them will walk on soon, arm in arm, escaping to a fun land, like the yellow brick road leading to Oz.
            Her mother drifts to sleep.
            The girl’s dad is upstairs in his home office.  He is not a mean man, not at all.  He is quiet like snow and just as white.  It is hard for him to smile and sometimes she hears him sniffling when she eavesdrops.  She used to be angry that he wasn’t stronger.  Men are supposed to be able to lift heavy weights and fix broken things.   
            She’s not even half way through her story, or to the good part, when Aunt Sandy comes over.  The girl knows it’s her because she taps on the door like a sock puppet might, soft little nudging sounds, before just going ahead and letting herself in.  She breaks into a smile when she sees the girl, then the smile goes jagged finding the girl’s mother on the sofa.  Aunt Sandy puts her praying hands to the side of her face, closes her eyes and makes a sleeping motion.  The girl checks her mother, and nods to her aunt.
            They go into the kitchen, Aunt Sandy tiptoeing so her heels don’t click.
            Aunt Sandy hugs the girl, whispers her nickname, “Izzy, Izzy, Izzy.”  She’d prefer her aunt use Elizabeth.  Izzy is reserved for the girl’s mother and a fleet of make-believe friends that she trusts.
            Aunt and Izzy sit at the round table with the silver siding and bruised-blue Formica top.  They have dark pink fruit punch in clear glasses and Izzy imagines a cartoon fish zipping inside, burping at her and chuckling.
            Aunt Sandy has a long goat face with chin whiskers.  She looks sad today.  The girl asks what’s wrong, but before she does, Izzy decides that if Aunt Sandy tells the truth, then it will mean she really can trust the woman.
            Aunt Sandy shakes her head, the eyes flicking for an answer, and the girl looks at her lap knowing it doesn’t matter now what answer’s given because it’ll just be a lie, no different than the ones her father and the doctors tell.
            Izzy’s heard the word a thousand times.  With each utterance, though, one of the adults will introduce the term as if it’s thin crystal or a hot cake out of the oven.
            “Depression isn’t forever, Izzy.  Besides, there are new medicines,” Aunt Sandy says.  “Your mom’s going to get better.”
            Then Auntie asks would Izzy like to come live with her for a while, hmm?  She reaches across for the girl’s palms.  Izzy lets her have them and thinks, “Cold hands, warm heart,” but if that’s so, then the reverse must be true, and she snatches her hands back.
            “Hey!” Aunt Sandy says.
            Izzy stands.  She flings the pitcher, watches the faded fuchsia fluid loop and curl before splashing her aunt.
            She runs to the sofa.  “Momma, momma,” Izzy says, shaking her mother, but whispering even so, “wake up.  We have to go.”
            Aunt Sandy calls, “Peter!  Peter!”
            Peter, Izzy’s father, bounds out of his room, his footfalls loud on the ceiling.  And then he’s stomping down the stairs and Aunt Sandy is pointing at Izzy even though she’s right there, just a few feet away, and Auntie is screaming through her anger at being soaked.  “…blouse cost two hundred dollars!”
            Her father can’t quiet Aunt Sandy and soon they’re both yelling and so is Izzy’s mother, awake now and propped up on her elbows, and then Izzy’s mother shakes Izzy’s grip off and shouts for everyone to stop, to shut up, the noise is too loud, it will kill her if the noise doesn’t stop, it will, it will.
            And so they all go quiet.  Izzy checks to be sure her mother is serious, but the dishrag is pulled over her mother’s eyes.
            Izzy stands, biting her lip on the inside so they can’t see.  She floats over to her aunt and says she’s sorry; she has allowance and will pay for the ruined blouse.  She doesn’t look at her father.  She sticks out her hand and tells her aunt, Sure, sure she would very much like to spend some time living at her house.  When can they go?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


…Wow, so I was nominated by my publisher for this award:
Fingers crossed.

…A few days ago I had this published in One Sentence Poems:

…And a couple of weeks ago this poem was published at Blue Bonnet Review:

…And today I had these two pieces up at Boston Literary Magazine:

…So it’s been a good few days.

…Here are some things I like mid-week:

“Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.”  Howard W. Newton

“Time heals all wounds.” Chaucer

“The happy people are those who are producing something; the bored people are those who are consuming much and producing nothing.”  William Ralph Inge (1860-1954 ) English Theologian

“Words are also action, and actions are a kind of words.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Many a friendship -- long, loyal, and self-sacrificing -- rested at first upon no thicker a foundation than a kind word.”  Frederick William Faber

“Time and thinking tame the strongest grief.” English Proverb

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of.” Benjamin Franklin