Wednesday, November 30, 2022




Poetry Unbound  /  Padraig O Tuama, part one


“…in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.” Christian Wiman


Knowing how to say multiple things in a short space of time is a rich art. 


Emily Dickinson once said that a good poem should take your head off.


It can be difficult to be kind to yourself. Even writing these words, I feel awkward, as if kindness towards myself is a luxury. Sometimes a poem helps me to step outside myself and let some wiser voice speak back to me, looking at my own failures with clear eyes, offering understanding and compassion. This, too, is a certain kind of bravery.


The things I say to myself are worse than the things I say to anyone else.


A single moment can open a door to an experience that’s bigger than the single moment might imply. Sometimes that opening is a challenge, sometimes it’s a comfort, other times a question. Very occasionally it’s an answer.


Sometimes it hurts to read a poem.


All griefs will need to be carried, and revisited. There’s wisdom in realizing we are not undone by such re-visitations. This, too, is part of letting go.


Another time, also in Union Square, I sat and listened to Hare Krishnas singing for an afternoon. I love the music of that tradition. A man sat next to me. Anyone looking at us would assume we knew each other, but we were strangers. After half an hour, he said, “Are you here because you need this?” I said, “I am.” “So I am,” he said. We spoke then, for a long time—two men in need—listening to the music and trying to figure out how to pay attention to our lives.


Greif is a complicated ghost; how a crowd of friends crammed in the back seat of the car is the whole world.


Every time a poet writes a poem, they give a shade of themselves a voice.


Often in life, a person wonders whether they’re alone. And when I say a person, I’m definitely referring to me, and hoping many others are with me, too. In wondering about aloneness, I often look for a text—a story, a poem, any kind of prayer—that can be some echo of someone else who is wondering what I’m wondering. In this way, poetry has become a conversational scripture to me.


Belief and doubt are part of the same thing.


My friend Daniel says that we all need five friends. When he says that he often also says, “I’ll be one of your five.” He’s a generous man.


Wiman is skilled enough as a poet to know that skill isn’t enough. He’s interested in pairing skill with love, observation with commitment, bewilderment with dedication.


Why are we lonely? Because we are alive. Why are we happy? Because we are alive.


People can destroy joy because they wish for it so much. It takes courage to welcome gladness while you’re carrying something else.


Isn’t advice one of the hardest things to ask for, and one the hardest things to take?


I think I had to learn to hate myself enough to grow up. Anger was its own intelligence, but I had to learn to listen, to turn away from turning it on others or myself. All this took time.


Say any word often enough and it’s likely to turn peculiar: word, word, word, wrrrd, wrd, whurrrd, whorrrde.


Every now and then Paul, my partner, will say, “I like you” to me. We’ve always been an affectionate couple, but those moments when he says like have a lovely quality to them. Maybe it’s just me, but somehow, I like you can feel more casual—but also more intentional—than love.


Monday, November 28, 2022



Almost School


I tuck all the grim clouds into my socks way down by the holey heel pad where the gloom will either smother or bloom again It’s Monday after all my backpack overloaded with nothingness the bus hiccupping disgust lurching a plume of charcoal exhaust sucked up my nostrils like a coward genie gone missing as I clamber aboard with eyes stuck to the steps as if they’re free pennies just waiting to be plucked I take a safe seat in the long back but then bad Houdini is there Mickey Purcell Irish kid whose dad burns cigarettes on his own son’s thighs and so the trees twirl and swirl and the world does too for a short while until Mickey grabs a shank of my hair forces my head to his crotch and winds it like a well wheel crank as if I’m bobbing for apples gasping for air Mickey saying Suck me Fag saying You know you want it And upon release I swallow every fiber of cloistered air before saying back Mickey I’m not gay but you are and that’s okay it is Let’s talk about it and I’ll just listen

Friday, November 25, 2022




…I hope your holiday was, and still is, fantastic.

Here, we are celebrating Thanksgiving today, with a very full house expected.

I have a great deal to be thankful for. One of my best friends sent me a text the other day, (after I saw Elton John perform his final concert at Dodger’s stadium) that read: “You have a pretty glam life, do you know that?” Indeed, I do know that, and I feel grateful all the way down to my toes.

One of my other friends shared this poem with a group of us. It seems pretty fitting for today and the times we’re living in, and I’ll leave you with that…



      by W. S. Merwin 




with the night falling we are saying thank you

we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings

we are running out of the glass rooms

with our mouths full of food to look at the sky

and say thank you

we are standing by the water thanking it

standing by the windows looking out

in our directions


back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging

after funerals we are saying thank you

after the news of the dead

whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you


over telephones we are saying thank you

in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators

remembering wars and the police at the door

and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you

in the banks we are saying thank you

in the faces of the officials and the rich

and of all who will never change

we go on saying thank you thank you


with the animals dying around us

taking our feelings we are saying thank you

with the forests falling faster than the minutes

of our lives we are saying thank you

with the words going out like cells of a brain

with the cities growing over us

we are saying thank you faster and faster

with nobody listening we are saying thank you

thank you we are saying and waving

dark though it is




Wednesday, November 23, 2022





on the beach


on the beach they’re all eating sand handfuls of grit the tide a retreating monster surly and selfish starfish curdle and bake beneath the huge orange boulder a marmalade star pus-colored and infected grown obese and too proud for the sky I write a message on the low-hanging arm of a cloud and watch the wisps shred into ether one question too many another prayer begged too late

Monday, November 21, 2022




The Emperor’s Old Clothes


      And you can have it all, my empire of dirt. “Hurt,” Nine Inch 




Afterward I sat on shag, 

ensconced by two dozen 

mounds of thread and cloth, 

a million intricate stitches, 

my tailored life all there,

a thousand different disguises

 eyeing me askance, 

each garment an alarmed juror 

just daring me to fling the match,

to make a torch to see by.


Friday, November 18, 2022





…Expectations are a tricky thing.


…Waiting to hear from someone is a yearning that’s completely out of your hands.

…“Love is a battlefield. Love is a murderer.” Ezra Furman


…I try to never complain about the weather, but I really do hate the way it gets dark so early this time of year, plus I’m totally awful at driving at nighttime. Like, sometimes I don’t even know what lane I’m in.


…I’m the last guy that wants to make someone feel bad, or stupid.


…Regrets: You can have them, but they just sit there, like kidney stones.


…I’ve never met a person without regrets, and I hope I never do.


…Sports may be stupid, but they’re better than a needle full of heroin.

...On the other hand, surviving fantasy football Sundays may require several needles full of heroin. That, or a garrote. 


…I’m not certain about many things, but I know I’ll never stop loving this lake.


…Meeting a new best friend late in life is one of the best gifts ever.


…Everything in life is a bet on something.


…Sometimes it’s hard to imagine being too thin, even though I know that’s wrong, even though I know how that sounds.


…Reflect on the past, celebrate the future.


…You have to love a Veteran. You really just have to. Nothing else matters. They're a fucking Vet, and you're not.


…It’s usually dirtier than it looks, or at least more complicated.


…It’s ridiculous to think anything is possible, yet I still do.


…It shouldn’t, but your friend’s stance on politics can really affect your relationship.


…Yesterday I found where Lucy’s blanket and crate were stashed.  For a long few moments, that stopped me from moving, or breathing. 


…The past doesn’t ever want to let go. Mostly it wants to ridicule you.


…Darkness is one of my best friends. I keep trying to break up with it, even though I know that’ll never happen.


…Too many useless details can create a lot of confusion and apprehension.


…“The thing about saying No all the time is people just stop asking.” Jay, Modern Family


…I miss getting handwritten letters in the mail, but the last one I got, I wish I hadn’t. 


Hi, Lucy. Hi, Lucy. I love you, Lucy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022







It’s winter and everyone I know is dead or dying. Nothing will thaw. The wind kisses me with her raw cough and chapped lips. Gnarled leaves scud down the lane like orphaned children with nowhere to go. The glass-topped lake, cubed now like a coffin made of ice, sits free of geese or even waves, while the beaver, who usually greets me, must be hibernating or else frozen and lifeless below.

You said leaving was the easiest part, that there’s kindness in every edge of cruelty. You said you loved me again. 

You said so many things you couldn’t possibly have meant.

Monday, November 14, 2022






for God’s sake 

I don’t want 

to quarrel 


after all




dripping off 

a stem 

dew glistening 

like a clue or 

glossy un-kissed lip

and the sun

it wants a hug 

and this tree is 

telling me 

all her secrets 

and tomorrow 

looks divine 

while today’s got 

nothing left to lose

so let’s just

keep our traps

shut for once

bury all the malice 

and suspicion 

put the car 

in park

make-out like 

we’re teens

or get a coffee 

from the nearest shop

you decide 

I’ll be right here 

waiting for your answer

Friday, November 11, 2022



...It’s been a long week, what with this last savage storm, the power outage, loss of internet (I’m currently at the local library), etc., yet it’s still been a good one.

I really hope yours was, as well.

I’ve been feeling very grateful, reflective, and nostalgic, of late. That maybe means I’m getting older? But still…

Thanks so much, by the way, for being here. It means a great deal to me.


…Here are some random things I really like for the weekend, that give me pause and make me think. I hope you feel the same way… 


“When we’re with others, we’re all sort of acting to a degree, right? I mean, aren’t we trying to look our best self, or to posture in a certain way that impresses? 

The conundrum is that this very manner of acting, or staging, helps keep us safe in the moment, but it’s not really who we are. 

When we have enough trust to forget about pretenses and be vulnerable, everything changes. 

Maybe we show others our awful scars. Maybe we don’t have the perfect answers. But when we’re simply being ourselves with others, that’s when real life happens. That’s when love shows up for the win, which it always does, if we’re being authentic.” L.A.K.


“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” Mother Teresa


“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Mae West


“To be running breathlessly, but not yet arrived, is itself delightful, a suspended moment of living hope.” Anne Carson


“I’ve failed over and over in my life, which is why I succeeded.” Michael Jordan


“Whoever is happy will make others happy, too.” Anne Frank


“The point is not to pay back kindness, but to pass it on.” Julia Alvarez 


“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Walt Disney


“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.” Steve Jobs


“Between the wish and the thing, the world lies waiting.” Cormac McCarthy


“A man’s made by patience and odds against him.” Power of the Dog


“If life were predictable, it would cease to be life, and be without favor.” Eleanor Roosevelt 


“Your grandfather used to say, ‘You can’t fix a broken wagon wheel, but you can use the parts to make a new one’.” Yellowstone


“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” Margaret Mead


“I’ve made two decisions in my life based on fear, and they cost me everything.” Yellowstone


“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt 


“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas Edison


“You know, when you boil life down, it’s funny just how little you need, isn’t it?” Yellowstone


“It hit me that God is everything. Everything good, and everything bad.” Outer Range


“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” Babe Ruth


“Live is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” Helen Keller


“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” Franklin D. Roosevelt


“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, November 9, 2022




I Wake 


to birdsong in winter 

an aquamarine sky

you jogging barefoot

and naked in the snow 

after having made an imprint 

of an angel in the drift

the beach encrusted 

with glittering diamond ice  

whales offshore breaching 

the surface like a pair 

of synchronized swimmers 

everything topsy-turvy yet 

perfect and dipped in magic 

a sonnet of bewilderment 

I follow your footprints 

and the sanderlings do too

all of us out of breath 

tracking as fast as we can

calling your name on repeat 

saying wait saying come back 

saying tell me you love me please

Monday, November 7, 2022




Blue Crocus


     after Roberta Beary 


All of my weight 

is on the wrong foot 

this morning 

trees falling on homes deer and 

children up for sale 

You could call it Armageddon

or chance 

if you knew what 

those meant 

Me I’ll name it 

Another Monday 

blue as any sick flower 

I’ll tie a string 

around the key

put her snug in my pocket 

stroll the longest lane

and try to whistle 

louder than the wind  

Friday, November 4, 2022




Trash Boy Language


     for Said Shaiye



my relationship 

with language 

is complicated 

askew and always

leaning burlesque

like mother-son juju

like fight-or-flight juju

like leather-on-skin 

shrieking and squealing

in a squalid bathroom

nowhere-to-run bad juju

this-is-your-Ma after all

bad juju

when you’re baby-soft

and white trash 

no one’s listening 

it’s just another 

bloody avalanche 

shooting bone marrow 

hieroglyphics across the floor

and so after a while 

the days stopped speaking 

and the nights did too 

the months weeks 

and young years

so me age nine 

little trash pimp 

that I was 

I grew futile 

grew a third thumb

third middle finger

grew numb

grew a forked tongue

a second harden skull 

and I did what a 

trash boy does when 

there’s nothing left

I taught the rocks 

and boulders how to sing 

broke off a branch 

and swung that 

motherfucker everywhere 

like a batshit conductor

I led every living thing to 

their hooved feet 

during the climax 

and crescendo

well past my sacred 


I made them 

play that symphony 

on repeat like 

a mantra or curse 

over and over until 

the sound buckled both 

the treetops and heaven  

when I knew for certain 

that I was alive

and not dead

that I at least 

meant something

to someone 

or something