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Category: My poems

POEM: townhouses

From My new apartment


there’s a country music DJ
who never expected
to be here this long
he wishes he had a house
so he could spread out

a young couple:
he studies rocks
she teaches Irish dance
to mostly willing children

next door to me, a painter
exposing her watercolor heart
and a guitarist who,
with a little whiskey and a cold,
can sound just like Tom Waits

up the little gravel driveway
in an almost-tower
on the third floor
another artist is making
herky-jerky videos of a dancer

next to her is a guy
whom none of us has met
but we’ve seen the boxes
piled inside his door

the architect who
built this little village
is still here, wearing overalls
making small adjustments

so is his wife, the life
of our continuous party
always ready with
a smile and a hug

and then there’s me
writing in my notebook
listening to my new birds sing
enjoying the last rays
of the afternoon sun

3 February 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: historical fact

historical fact

right here
this is the place
the very spot
it was on this
little patch of earth
that our ancestors
made the fateful choice
that still rings down
through the ages
it was here
no place else
that they dropped
a firm anchor
“here we make our stand”
and stand they did
on this very place

wait, no
it was over there

2 February 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: on listening to Talking Heads


on listening to Talking Heads

and then we

                        we were

and the crowd made a

            but before that we were

the lights

                        the lights flashed

pushing against

then you said

                        and I laughed

CBGB do you see me

and I said

                        and you gasped

David tilted his head

            there’s something about a guitar

it was 1977

            and the buildings were on fire

1 February 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: distortion

From Visit to PA – Oct 2011


you said “give me that rock and roll sound”
(we were in the local music store’s guitar room)
I reached for the bank of pedals and looked around

then kicked on the distortion: with a massive boom
you strummed a chord that sounded like the Lost One
like you’d found a magical fingering in some ancient tomb

your eyes lit up and I knew you were my son
nothing’s as much fun as the stage
I watched, delighted, as your fingers did their run

the notes soaring skyward like hawks flying from a cage
beautiful and perfect and everything a dad could want
like the little boy who can’t be captured on this page

31 January 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

This poem uses the terza rima rhyme scheme.

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POEM: breakfast with Patton Oswalt


breakfast with Patton Oswalt

we sit in my Harvest Gold kitchen
eating Stella D’oro Breakfast Treats
Patton is reading The Brave
and the Bold
#28 (first appearance
of the original Justice League)
while I rekindle my 70s childhood
with the first issue of Nova

there’s something about starting the day
with Patton that makes everything brighter
admittedly, he’s a little grumpy when
he first gets out of bed, but by the time
the coffee is sloshing through his veins
he’s, if not a ray of sunshine, at least
a Lite-Brite glimmer in the breakfast nook

we have the best conversations, too
Patton knows a lot about the stuff I like
more than I do, and I’m not ashamed to say it
but he never lords it over me at the table
if he makes a reference and I don’t get it
he explains it patiently between sips
until we’re both on the same page

it took me a while to build him
the parts weren’t easy to get, what with
post-9/11 graveyard security and all
but my buddy got a job with the Diocese
and that made things a lot easier
after that, all we needed was lightning
and the awesome power of Jesus

so now every day is a beautiful day
here in Somewhere, USA
I make a joke and Patton laughs
he spills some coffee and I smile
if I’ve found a particularly fresh packet
of Stella D’oros, Patton might even pretend
to play the guitar, splackety-blackety-bloo!

30 January 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

Photo from Sub Pop Records

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POEM: Dear Bernie and John

From Christmas In PA (2012)

Dear Bernie and John

I’m all the way down here in Alabama
a thousand miles south of picking you up
from school or from skiing or from the Y
I wait like a kid at Christmas for Skype
to bring the fleeting gift of your faces
it’s been two and a half years

since I stood on Glendale Ave
watching the Subaru drive away
that weekend I went to New York City
stopping along the Housatonic River
to stand on a series of small boulders
and pluck a large flat rock from the water

I was on my way to visit my own parents
I no longer speak to them, just like I don’t
speak to my biological father, who left
when I was four, the same age you were,
John, when we left one another
you and Bernie and your mother and I

we never had a plan to get back together
just a vague promise that we would
but I decided I needed to make a change
to try to find a way to be happy again
and that meant striking out
on my own for a while, to search

I’ve found something down here
I can’t say what yet, boys
but I’m figuring it out, day by day
before too long I’ll be standing
on solid ground again, and when I am
I’ll be back, I’ll be back, I’ll be back

29 January 2013
Auburn, AL


POEM: gifts from friends

From My new apartment

gifts from friends

the Buddhist prayer flags in my atrium
the lentil and mushroom soup warming my stomach
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips
the moon seen from the rooftop

most days I miss the bridges and tunnels
but then I remember the flags and the soup
and the music and the moon
and I think I might stay here a while

28 January 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: consequences


it wasn’t until
the bucket hit the water

that I spotted the spider
I hadn’t meant to drown

27 January 2013
Forest Ecology Preserve
Auburn, AL

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POEM: touching bottom


touching bottom

I was six, maybe seven
we were all in the pool
at my friend Adam’s house
on a summer afternoon
at that age we mostly stayed
out of the deep end
but I got the urge to explore
I guess I was treading water
when my arms got tired
and I started to slip lower
just like that
I was looking up at the
fuzzy sun through a
rapidly thickening layer
of chlorinated water
my feet touched bottom
I must have stayed there
for an hour, maybe two
not needing to breathe
not really afraid
just accepting
I feel like I should
remember panicking
but it’s a peaceful memory
just the water and my
small body beneath it

/ / /

the way I heard it afterward
Adam’s dad realized
I was missing
and jumped into the pool
to pull me up from the bottom
I was fine, of course
well, as fine as anyone can be
who misses a chance like that

26 January 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: the stars in Grand Central


the stars in Grand Central

the stars in Grand Central
are reversed on the ceiling

as if painted by aliens
from a distant galaxy

or by the hand
of an omnipotent God

or, more likely, by painters
who set the star map on the floor

rather than holding it above
their heads as intended

Grand Central is for traveling
to the Hudson Valley, to Connecticut

without meaning to, the painters
added another destination

millions of miles away

25 January 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

(Photo source)

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POEM: Eli on fire


Eli on fire

the back of the room was so dark
I couldn’t see my hands

but I could see his hands clearly
holding that silvery trumpet

a cloud of mist around the mouthpiece
the bell burning under the lights

and Eli, still as stone
and every bit as strong

calling down the walls of Jericho
in a basement under the West Village

24 January 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: variations


variations [(variations) variations]

I don’t understand
(I’m listening)

I like the empty spaces

I imagine Glenn Gould

I remember the night
on the floor (with Bill Evans)

feeling like Buddha

I’m searching for the morning star
in the surface of the lake

23 January 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

The version above is the third version of this poem. Here’s the second:

variations (variations)

I don’t understand what I’m listening to
but I like the way it fills the empty spaces

I imagine Glenn Gould hunched over the piano
recording take after take

I remember the night I finally got Bill Evans —
sitting on the floor of my studio apartment

in Tucson, listening to Sunday At The Village Vanguard
and feeling like Buddha on seeing the morning star

I’m searching for that same enlightenment
with the Goldberg variations

but so far the essence of the music eludes me
leaving me with glimpses of the surface of the lake

but never the depths of the water

23 January 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

Josh Rutner wrote a variation on this poem called “Two Song.” You’ll find it at

This is my second try with this poem today. Here’s the first version:


I don’t understand what I’m listening to
but I like the way it fills the empty spaces

            (Glenn Gould is hunched over the piano
            recording take after take until the perfect

            piece is born, delivered into the world with
            a minimum of fuss but a lifetime of preparation)

I went through a phase where I was collecting
classical music, guided by a book I bought

I drove to work with symphonies and concerti
crashing or floating from my car speakers

            (Glenn Gould and Bill Evans are, to me,
            two sides of a coin, one interpreting, one

            improvising, both somewhat odd geniuses,
            to whom no one ever truly got close)

I listened to hundreds of hours of music
and certainly found a lot to love

            (I remember the night I finally got Bill Evans —
            I was sitting on the floor of my studio apartment

            in Tucson, listening to Sunday At The Village Vanguard
            and feeling like Buddha on seeing the morning star)

but like so much of my life, I think the essence
of the music eluded me, leaving me

with glimpses of the surface of the lake
but never the depths of the water

yet here I am again, Goldberg Variations
in the air around me as I search for answers

23 January 2013
Auburn, AL

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POEM: What to do at Schalmont (when there’s nowhere to go for lunch)


What to do at Schalmont
(when there’s nowhere to go for lunch)

On my lunch breaks I would sit
in a graveyard, reading aloud
the poems of Robert Burns in
what, to me, was a fair Scottish
accent. If this behavior struck
the dearly departed as odd,
they never said, which was
kind of them.

22 January 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

The image above is of the mausoleum at St. Cyril & Method Cemetery, which is the cemetery referred to in this poem. (Photo source.)

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all these feet and fingers and hearts and brains
all these lungs and muscles and nerves and veins
all in the service of the greater good

in these times, making art is a revolutionary act
beauty is a power that can vanquish despair
“this machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender”

if a banjo can change the course of history
imagine what all of us together could do
building a new world, one street corner at a time

21 January 2013
Auburn, AL

/ / /

PHOTO: Poets and others gather on Toomers Corner on MLK Day. [Photo by Brennen Reece]

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POEM: apples and peanut butter


apples and peanut butter
(for Sally T)

a Braeburn sits on the tabletop
it’s destined for your ever-present backpack
nestled between your Macbook and
a new jar of Santa Cruz peanut butter
(I haven’t seen inside your backpack
but that’s what I imagine is in there)

Braeburn and Mutzu and Winesap
are words in foreign tongues to me
I’ve never tasted any of them
(to be honest, I’ve probably eaten
two apples in my entire life —
I didn’t come from a fruit family)

you make me want to eat more apples
not in a Jack Nicholson/Helen Hunt way
but in the way the best people make me
want to explore new bits of my surroundings
peek around corners I didn’t realize were there
to find streets full of apple carts

20 January 2013
Auburn, AL

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