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Category: My poems

stone #3

Listen using the player above.

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Talking Heads’ advice is to Stop Making Sense
that’s easy wisdom to accept — it’s been years
since I had any idea what was going on

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Part of a river of stones.

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POEM: Perchance to dream

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This is the first poem of the year for me, although it’s the third one to make it to this site in 2011. One note: The person 99% of you know as my father is not the person mentioned in this poem, which refers to my biological father.

Perchance to dream

On the first night in my new apartment —
after fifteen years of sleeping in our bed —
I closed the door to my bedroom,
pushed it tight until the latch clicked home.

On that first night I was a boy again,
waiting for the yellow eyes to appear
around the corner at the end of the hallway
like they had night after night when I was a child.

For years I was afraid of partially opened doors,
preferring to see nothing or to see everything;
to know what fate had in store the moment it
lumbered around the corner, thirsting for me.

Even earlier in childhood I’d had a similar dream.
I was in my bed in my pajamas with the feet on them,
and the door to the hallway was open and I could hear
the footsteps, the heavy pounding on the wooden floor.

One night my mother came through the bedroom window,
snuck in under cover of darkness and spirited me away
from the party going strong in the living room
while my drunk father was supposed to be watching me.

I don’t know when he first discovered I was gone
or what he did next. I like to imagine him in a panic,
searching for me, tearing the house apart, tears on his cheeks —
like he failed to do all those years.

But I’m sure it was nothing so dramatic. Probably a phone call
to my grandparents’ apartment on Main Street.
My grandfather would have picked up the phone in his quiet way.
“Yes, they’re here. They’re sleeping.”

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stone #2

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the wood floors are shining
even the dust is put away
waiting for uncertain company

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Part of a river of stones.

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stone #1

Listen using the player above.

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Like so many good ideas these days, I got this one from my friend Carolee Sherwood. Further explanation of the idea of stones can be foudn at a river of stones.


Richard Hawley’s “Last Orders”

shimmers through my basement apartment

I wait for my friend to come

drink peppermint tea

this time when Janus beckons

I’ll follow him through the door

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POEM: The Angel and the Eye of God

Listen to this poem using the player above.

When I was in New York last week, I went to the American Folk Art Museum. One of the pieces that caught my eye was this woodcarving of Matthew the Evangelist by the artist John Perates. He was born in Greece but lived much of his life in Portland, Maine. I’m not a religious person, but I tried to capture what it might be like to create art while feeling divinely inspired. You can click the image to see a larger version.

The Angel and the Eye of God

John makes furniture —
finely cut cabinets,
stout and purposeful bedposts,
tables to hold a family.
He is seeking refuge in this city by the sea,
so much colder than his island home.

Alone in his workshop,
after the orders are shipped,
John puts down the patterns
and turns inward, carving
the wood in the shape of the Word.

He has seen the angel who points
to the eye of God. He has heard
the song of Matthew the Evangelist.
He is not afraid.

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POEM: icicle

Listen to this poem using the player above.


At first, one drop freezes, so small
you wouldn’t notice it. Then
another drop attaches itself to
the first, freezes. Over time,
slowly as regret, the icicle
forms, its weight pulling
the branch toward the
cold ground.
the only
is which
will break

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POEM: half

Technically, my sister and I are half-siblings. But that’s only true in DNA terms. I wrote this poem for her as her Christmas present. The picture below is of us, just after I read it to her on Christmas morning. I love you, Sis.

(for my sister)

that word has no meaning
Watson and Crick might say half
but I love you completely
love isn’t based on a sequence
of nucleotides, on the order of
adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine
love has to account for history
has to factor in changing tables
and wide smiles in baby seats
remember when —
but of course you do, your memory
is better than mine
I’ve been away much longer
than we were together
I’ve missed too much of your life
I don’t know the stories
don’t recognize the names
if it weren’t for photographs
I’d remember even less
and yet you’ve never wavered
never had a harsh word
you’re what everyone hopes for
what I hope for
you’re a gift I’m still unwrapping
a mirror in which a better man is reflected

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VIDEO POEM: maple leaf

I wrote this poem a couple years ago during a train trip from Albany, NY, to Rochester, NY. (The poem is in my book, Unexpected Sunlight.) I shot the video yesterday while traveling by train from New York City to Albany. As always, I like to acknowledge my debt to Dave Bonta for inspiring me to try my hand at video poems.

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Small world moments

Several things happened today that reminded me how we’re all connected.

First, a poem I wrote ended up on a show I love, The Basketball Jones. The poem was inspired by a line one of the hosts said on the show and I Tweeted him about it. I certainly never expected it would be read on the show. The reading was hilarious, as were the hosts’ comments afterward.

Second, in the comments for that episode of the show, one of the viewers said that in addition to The Basketball Jones, his other favorite show is The Jazz Session. How crazy is that?

Finally, I went to a job counseling meeting yesterday that was part of the requirements for my unemployment benefits. Today I got an email from a guy saying that he was sitting behind me at the session yesterday and that he’s a fan of and follows me on Twitter.

Totally crazy.


A vintage picture poem

When I was in high school, my friend Cocoa Walsh and I used to draw this snail and the accompanying message on notebooks, blackboards, homework, etc. I can’t remember how we came up with it, and I have no idea where Cocoa is these days. But I’ve never forgotten this image or the message, as evidenced by this version, which I drew this evening.

Oh, and I still think he’s a pretty smart snail.

Click to embiggen.

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POEM: tell the story when the ball is in the air

Listen to this poem using the player above.

The title of this poem comes from a surprising place — 3:03 into this episode of The Basketball Jones. Tas Melas says it, and based on J.E. Skeets’ reaction, I think it may be something originally said by Stan Van Gundy. In any case, as soon as Tas yelled the line, I paused the show and wrote the poem. It just about wrote itself. This is not, of course, a poem about basketball. Like much of what I write, it took a turn into Relationshipland.

On a side note, if you’re a basketball fan, The Basketball Jones is a must-see show.

tell the story when the ball is in the air

not after she’s left and the crowd goes home
tell it when he can still be the last-second hero
a hometown Jesus on the shoulders of adoring men
tell the story before she cried, before he made her
tell it while the boy in the nosebleeds
clutches a program to his chest and yells because
this is what men do
tell the story so we can all cheer and buy the jersey
so we can tell the guys at the bar that we were there
tell the story when the ball is in the air


Two picture poems in honor of Kenneth Patchen

Today would have been poet Kenneth Patchen’s 99th birthday. I read his brilliant book Hallelujah Anyway today. I found a first edition of it at a bookstore in Albany a while ago but had never read it. It’s a collection of his picture poems, several of which can be seen here.

I’m a terrible visual artist, but I decided to try my hand a two picture poems today in honor of Patchen. You can click either image to see a larger version. Caveat videtor.

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POEM: longevity

Listen to this poem using the player above.


an expectation of longevity
as if the glaciers don’t melt
given enough time and a tireless sun

on a human scale they’re eternal,
you might say, having no other
scale on which to measure them

everything is eternal, just
not in some magical way
that fits you with harp and sandals

there is still all the matter
there ever was, “every atom
belonging to me as good belongs to you”

where will you be in one million years?
spread out among the stars
or covering the back of a dog?

there are still dinosaurs, they’re just
shaped like toasters and raccoons and
a little girl eating her ice cream before it melts