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Category: My poems

POEM: constantly fellating Orion


constantly fellating Orion

I want to get a tattoo
of the constellation Orion
not on my arm or leg
or even my shoulder
but on my face
his right shoulder
above my left eye
protecting it from harm
his left shoulder
above my right eye
steering my vision straight
his belt across
the bridge of my nose
with the sword dangling
down my right cheek
and one of his knees
on either side of my chin
of course then I would be
constantly fellating Orion
which seems fair
in light of all the pleasure
his presence has given me

15 February 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: after the gig

after the gig

when you’re sweaty
from the exertion
I want to kiss your
warm lips and smell
your delicious skin
I want to run my
fingers through your
beautifully disheveled hair
and help you carry
your things to the train
to your place or
my place or our place
I want to make love
then tell stories
laugh till we
fall asleep

12 February 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: to the students gathered on the concourse


to the students gathered on the concourse

I want to run into their midst
tell them to stop what they’re doing
ask if they’re truly happy
or whether they wouldn’t rather
be hiking in Colorado
or taking a rickety bus over the Andes
teaching English in Tokyo
or working on their paintings
in a rundown studio in New Orleans

I want to tell them these things
because I wish someone had
shaken me awake
when I was their age
told me to make a run for it
that the walls look high but can be scaled
that there is more to life than this
that in the end you will have to live with
even the choices you don’t make

14 February 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: Ahab

rockwell kent mobydick


of a series
of white whales
has left me
to the wheel
of a drifting
the thick sky
for a patch
of blue

13 February 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

The first part of this poem is a slightly paraphrased version of a footnote from this piece by Chris Higgins. The illustration is by Rockwell Kent.

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POEM: the women on the steps


the women on the steps
(for Hal Smith)

where are the women on the steps
even in the photograph they look
like ghosts, haunting the Old Main

which of them died in childbirth
or caught some wasting disease
that is now no more deadly than a cold

which gave birth to strong sons and daughters
who in turn had more children who in turn
had daughters and sons of their own
in a long line running through today

which of us — in a hundred years —
will be little more than props on a tour
our names forgotten, our ghostly faces
haunting the afternoon thoughts of poets

12 February 2013
Auburn, AL


POEM: sound and vision


sound and vision

raspberry iced tea and cashews
David Bowie’s Low
and a weird misty sun
photos of the greenhouse
        near Greenwood
one more connection severed
it’s mostly OK now but
sometimes there’s a tightness
in my chest that stays a while

11 February 2013
Auburn AL

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POEM: she kept not dying


she kept not dying

so we stayed by her bedside, listening
to the bleeps and bloops, the hums and whirs
that had long since replaced her speech

how can I explain those sounds to you
make you understand that they were shouts
bludgeoning our ears, stinging our cheeks

all we wanted was for her to be released
set free from her enforced mechanical existence
allowed to drift off to a place without machines

we talked into the night, there around her bed
coming to terms with the decision we knew
was being forced upon us, like it or not

until finally we called the doctor into the room
explained that it was time for this to end
the noises stopped, and we wept into the silence

10 February 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: fish tank


fish tank

his entire world contained within careful boundaries
he can only go so far and no farther
he can’t grow his own food, eating only what others provide
he spends entire days without speaking to anyone
people peer closely, trying to understand but failing
it’s not clear whether he’s happy or just making do
moving around and around and around in the same patterns

but enough about me
let me tell you about the fish

9 February 2013
Auburn, AL


POEM: brutal youth


brutal youth

I’ve tried to forget
that part of my life
most of it was the drudgery
of counting other people’s cash
sneaking a poem
onto the back
of a checking deposit slip
while the coin counter chugged
and clanked at the end of the room
my shoes were falling apart
I remember the backs were coming off
a fact I tried to conceal
by walking only when necessary
the tape deck in my car still worked
so I played Elvis Costello’s
Juliet Letters and Brutal Youth
again and again and again
imagining myself on stage
a far cry from a teller’s window
most days I’d drive home for lunch
ramen noodles, blue corn chips
and a glass of Wegmans root beer
dinners were usually stir fry or calzones
stuffed with cheese and pepperoni
the two saving graces were
the poetry readings at Java’s
and Wendy from the bookstore
at Java’s I felt like I might do more
than just balance a register forever
with Wendy, I thought I might find more
than just another good friend


you can only count other people’s money
for so long before it drives you mad
so one morning, as the sun was coming up
I packed everything I owned
into my tiny black car
pointed it toward the west
drove away
not because I didn’t love her
but because I needed saving
and the desert was my only hope
twenty years on I’ve forgotten
most of what happened back then
I can’t remember names
I can barely remember faces
but I still remember her holding my hands
in the parking lot
and I regret not kissing her goodbye

8 February 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: my once-a-day


my once-a-day

getting out of her car on Magnolia Street
sitting on the new/old sofa at Mama Mocha’s
walking past me with friends in Starbucks
at the table next to mine in Amsterdam
two barstools down at The Hound
laughing with a friend in The Gnu’s Room
on the sun-covered Thatch Concourse
coming down the aisle at Kroger

she’ll be played in the film by Michelle Monaghan
and of course John Cusack will play me

why are you laughing?

7 February 2013
Auburn AL

/ / /

I see a particular woman in Auburn nearly every day. It’s a small town, so there are many people I see often, but not like this person. I see her so close to “every single day” that I notice if a day goes by without running into her. I finally introduced myself the other day, so I can at least greet her by name when we pass. Having just seen her this morning, and inspired by a good question and a good phrase from a friend, I wrote this poem. There’s no more to the story than that. Honest. The photo is by Jamieson Pryor.

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POEM: skylight, revisited

skylight, revisited

I awoke
to the rain
on the skylight

and though
this isn’t perfect

it’s more
than enough
for a Thursday

7 February 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

The poem that closes my forthcoming book is called “skylight” and it’s very sad. So today I tried to capture a more contented view of that same set of conditions.

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POEM: agonism


(for JM)

she says he doesn’t
understand her meaning
he says she never
says what she means
soon they’re raising their voices
he flails his arms
like an inflatable man
outside a used car dealership
like most arguments, after a while
the initial point gets lost
in the ever-lengthening litany
of past injustices
until eventually both
are too confused to stay angry
he laughs, a toe in the water
she laughs, the tide coming in
both say they’re sorry
lace their fingers together
walk upstairs to make love
tomorrow or the next day
or next week or next month
another spark will light the brush
clearing out the dead wood
making room for new growth

6 February 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

Today a friend explained to me the meaning of the word “agonism.” This poem is the result. The Tiananmen Square photo is by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press.

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POEM: desert guitars


desert guitars
(for Daniel Boling)

approaching Tucson
you couldn’t see the city
just a wide column of light
beaming into the night sky
signaling the weary traveler

I’d awakened that morning
in a trucker’s motel on the
outskirts of Amarillo, Texas

I was driving a tiny Ford Festiva
with an engine like a mosquito
I’d used all the money I had to buy it
when I was kicked out of the house
after my one and only year in college

my little go-cart had a tape deck
but it had broken in Tennessee or Kentucky
so I was scanning the dial for company
I remember I spent a couple hours
listening to an on-air swap meet
from a Navajo reservation

this was as west as I’d ever been
my first time in the desert
and even at night when I couldn’t
see the impossible horizon
or the swallowing sky
I could tell I was on alien ground

like any kid who grows up
watching westerns, I hear guitars
when I see the desert
minor chords like Arabic music
and the fast strumming of the gundown

tonight as the six-string balladeer
sings of blue-corn enchiladas
tierra encantada
I find myself back in that night
heart pounding, hands on the wheel
approaching a column of light
and the new life it promises

5 February 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

This poem was inspired by singer/songwriter Daniel Boling. At a performance in Auburn, Alabama, tonight, he said, “Desert guitars in humid country occasionally go ape.” That line started me remembering.


POEM: yardbird


I’m in love with the sound
of the dove that sings in my yard

even the mangy dog who lives
behind the split-log fence

in a pen designed for a larger animal
can’t hen-peck that dove off her tree

(I was once chased from a pond
by the suggestion of an alligator

and though I’m no hater of reptiles
I went, I can tell you)

but not this bird I love
this dove faces danger

the dog barks a bright orange warning
not a mirage but real quicksand

yet the dove keeps to her shade
ignoring the parade of yaps and snarls

I associate doves with being blue
the same way I tack meaning to the moo(n)

or assume the flight of a crane
is welcoming me home again

5 February 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

This poem is based on a challenge by the poet Daniel Nester, who said to use specific rhymes: love/dove dog/log pen/hen alligator/hater love/dove orange/mirage shade/parade blue/moo YourName/rhyme.

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POEM: out of nowhere


out of nowhere

what she did, she planned to do
from the NAACP to the Highlander Folk School
she had prepared for this moment
it wasn’t even the first time she’d done it
a decade before, that same driver had
thrown her off that same bus
for not entering through the back door

when we ignore the preparation
we turn an activist into an impossible saint
we turn resistance into a miracle
we say that what she did only she could do


we must all refuse to move to the back of the bus
we must all get educated, get organized, get ready
we are all capable of throwing our bodies
onto the gears of a corrupt system
we can all be — must all be — Rosa Parks

4 February 2013
Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday
Auburn, AL

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