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Category: My poems

POEM: the bass clarinet

Listen to this poem using the player above.

This poem is the first in a series of pieces inspired by bass clarinetist Thomas Savy’s new CD, French Suite (Plus Loin Music, 2009). This particular poem came from listening to his performance of John Coltrane’s “Lonnie’s Lament.” You can learn more about Thomas Savy at his MySpace page. I’ll be posting more poems in this series in the coming days.

the bass clarinet

reaches down, scoops
out your intestines
causes your brow
to furrow, your eyes
to narrow then shut

lamentation, an old
fashioned word
from before these sounds
existed, before this
Frenchman was born

John William burned
his lament onto the wax
as he had inscribed it
onto the paper
black ink to red fire


POEM: Rain

Listen to this poem using the player above.

The quotation that begins this poem comes from the “Excerpts From Oliver Charming’s Diary” section of Jack Spicer’s “Unvert Manifesto.” I read that line and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Photo of Jack Spicer

(for Jack Spicer)

“there is a morning when it rains
in the corner of everybody’s bedroom”
Jack said, eyebrow raised

I never knew whether he was joking
or whether his little exclamations
were more like Buddhist koans

rhetorical devices that were intended
to get the brain juices flowing
opening the mind for something or other

“better give me that umbrella, then”
I answered, raising my own eyebrow
trying to fight fire with fire

but Jack wasn’t amused
he just turned away in disgust
and opened his well-thumbed journal

I felt like a fool, a novice
I rose to go,
witless and small

“don’t leave,” Jack said, “listen”
he put a finger to his lips
I held my breath, concentrating

and there it was, in the corner
of Jack’s room
drip, drip, drip, drip


POEM: Returning Zephyr

Listen to this poem using the player above.

My friend Matt and I found an unaccompanied dog while we were walking to lunch yesterday. His tag told us that his name was Zephyr and that he lived a few blocks away. We took him home.

Photo by Matt Leon

Returning Zephyr

everyone just
wants to go home
curled up
on the rug
in front of the fire
he was there
on the sidewalk
unattended, unafraid
you’ve felt that way, too
still, though
we felt we should
take him home
someone must be
missing him
calling his name
first warm week
here he was
still, though
we felt we should
take him home
why wasn’t someone
out looking?
no one answered
the phone, ringing
no one answered
the bell, ringing
then she was there
completely unaware
that he was missing
still, though
we left him there

* * *

I think
he would have
been just as happy
to come with us

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POEM: Crossing

Listen to this poem using the player above.


5 fingers
5,000 lbs of metal
she knows their names
her legs ache on the pavement
she herds them across
shortened crook
5 lbs of metal
5 fingers

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POEM: Building The Boat

Listen to this poem using the player above.

After Winslow Homer, Ship-Building, Gloucester Harbor, published 1873, wood engraving on newsprint, Avalon Fund
From the Winslow Homer section of the National Gallery

Building The Boat


in the beginning, it was obvious
they were building the boat to flee
resources were scarce
so they were meticulous in the
placement of each plank and the
sewing of each stitch in the sailcloth
carefully they provisioned the craft
and chose only such crew as wouldn’t
miss the homeland, having
no kin to leave behind
the boat was nearly complete
when the first earthquake hit
destroying most of the houses
in the center of town
that afternoon they dismantled the boat
using its planks to build houses
and covering the windows and doors
with the sailcloth to keep out the wind
in time, they sawed new wood for planks
sewed new sails and built a second boat


no one saw the attack coming
certainly relations with the neighboring village
had been strained of late, but the dawn slaughter
of so many innocents startled even
the most cynical among them
fortifications were built from the planks
and uniforms from the sailcloth
they turned away from the surf
and waited for the next wave
behind the barricades
this time the boat-building took longer
there were fewer of them than before
and they had to range farther to get the wood
most of which they gathered at night
when it was safe — or at least safer —
to move beyond the town’s boundaries


by the next autumn they’d finished
this hull was less glorious than the first
or even the second, having been built
from what wood was left
it was seaworthy, though,
standing in the harbor
waiting for those lucky enough
to have berths upon it
the crew had nearly finished loading the hold
when an argument started between the captain
and the chief shareholder
about the planned destination
one said west, one said south
and no entreaties by third parties
could convince either to relent
life went on much as before, and
the fully laden boat rocked on the tide


the submarine nosed toward the wreckage
disturbing the fish who swam between the planks
through the sand kicked up by the sub’s propellers
the doorway to the hold was just visible
it was through this space that the divers slipped
sliding past a hang-hinged door, beyond
the reach of the sub’s light
the divers switched on their flashlights
to reveal row upon row of unopened boxes,
casks and barrels, all neatly tied, waiting

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My first acceptance! (UPDATED: My second, too!)

I just found out that the audio version of “Eating Godzilla” was accepted for the upcoming “New Classics” issue of qarrtsiluni. That issue will come out from May to June, with new work posted each day. Watch this space for updates, and thanks, qarrtsiluni!

UPDATE: When I got home today, there was an acceptance letter from Blue Collar Review. They’ll be publishing “Lillian Dupree & The Ballad of Frenchman Street” in an upcoming issue.

That’s two in one day after never having any success with individual poems before. Huzzah!

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POEM: Blackout

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during the war he rode the English trains
asking strangers to wake him at his stop
they never did, and he’d find himself lost
in the blacked-out countryside
worried that the Brits would find him
and think he was a German spy
“They’d shoot ya,” he told me
holding on to the bar in the subway
and leaning against his wife
“My Ro,” he called her
they’d just been to the opera
to see Atilla, and now here he was navigating
the depths of this city, trying to
find the next connection and looking for help
to yet another stranger on a train
I grasped his hand as I led his Ro and him
to the shuttle for Grand Central
this time all the lights were on,
and no shots were fired

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POEM: Eating Godzilla

Listen to this poem using the player above. The music is by a friend who prefers not to be named. The laughter is by Bernie and John.

Eating Godzilla

for some reason, we started with the tail
you’d think that would be the toughest part
but after we’d sliced away the scales
the flesh was surprisingly tender
and no, it didn’t like taste like chicken
well, maybe a little
but it also had that metallic
just-out-of-the-microwave aftertaste
probably from the lingering effects of the radiation
Kazuhiro had insisted on serving side dishes
despite our obvious inability to finish
the great green lizard in one sitting
so we’d sautéed Mothra in a sesame sauce
and served him (her? it?) in lovely
sculpted bowls that fit perfectly in the hand
I’d suggested also eating Raymond Burr
just for old times’ sake
but by this time he was more fat than meat
and who can be bothered to pare all that away
just for a few grizzled bits of TV lawyer?
anyway, after the tail was finished we
cracked open Godzilla’s skull to get at
what we thought would be
the salty brain encased within
imagine our surprise, then, when
the skull turned out to contain
thousands of Pez candies
in a variety of fruity colors
Iwai-kun suggested handing them out to the children
who’d naturally gathered ’round us
for a look at the sundered source
of their nightmares
you should have seen the smiles
on their faces as he
reached his hands into the skull
and drew forth the rainbow
of sugary delights
he tossed the Pez out like Mardi Gras beads
and the kids scrummaged for them, squealing


POEM: Tea Ceremony Hurts Yours Legs

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Tea Ceremony Hurts Yours Legs

at 17, I studied the ancient art of tea ceremony
with my final host-mother
and a teacher who seemed middle-aged
but may have been just slightly older than I am now
I’m not sure about the sensei,
but one thing I do know is
tea ceremony hurts your legs
the insidious thing is that you
don’t even notice it at first
you’re too focused on
placing the bowl just so
the ladle along the crook
between your thumb and index finger
the sugary snacks on a piece
of pristine rice paper
floating above the tatami floor
after a while, it feels like
you yourself are suspended
above the floor, just slightly
is this enlightenment?
did I, at 17, achieve satori?
wait till my parents hear about this!
and it’s then, as you leap up
to spread the word
that you realize your mistake
and pitch face-down onto the mat
spilling your carefully whipped green foam
and crushing the delicate wooden ladle


POEM: Where In The World Is Weldon Kees?

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On July 19, 1955, poet Weldon Kees’ car was found on the Golden Gate Bridge with the keys still in the ignition. Shortly before, he’d told a friend that he wanted to move to Mexico to start a new life.

Where In The World Is Weldon Kees?

“It is still not known whether he killed himself or went to Mexico.”
— from a Poetry Foundation podcast about Kees

Or maybe both
perhaps all suicides go to Mexico
sit invisibly in the zocalo
and listen to the mariachi band
if unbaptized babies
are shunted off to limbo
and a beef jerky
can get you purgatory
why couldn’t a leap from the Golden Gate
land you in Guadalajara?

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POEM: Aomori

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standing on the cliffs of Aomori
is like standing at the end of the world
one more step and you can take
a refreshing swim in the bay
if you survive the drop, that is
squint your eyes and it feels like flying
pine trees level with the top of your head
and the waves continuing their
thousand-year attack on the rocks below
I kept better notes than this
but they were lost in a flood
nothing so grand as the sea
winning that final victory
it was just that our washing machine
overflowed and submerged the basement
who would have thought
after a thousand years
it would be a load of laundry
that would finally conquer
the cliffs of Aomori?

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POEM: Tsurumigawa

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Tsurumigawa photo by Ivan Kurniawan
Tsurumigawa photo by Ivan Kurniawan


ironically, we lived along the See Crane River
it sliced through the rice fields
that were just steps from the busy road

Tokyo and Yokohama and Kawasaki
are joined like an urban Cerberus
between them, hidden bits of unexpected farmland

bent old women in worn rubber boots
knotted bandanas around their heads
slop through the wet paddies

reaching crumpled fingers into waving rice
and plucking out the o-kome
the flesh of their people

in Ichigao, our town,
the women could have walked
a mile along the river

and treated themselves
to McDonald’s french fries
or the Colonel’s secret recipe

of herbs and spices
a bloodless invasion
leaving no cloud in its wake

I don’t think we ever actually
saw a crane on the river
that bore the bird’s name

like Oak Glen or Forest Heights
the name is simply a reminder
of what’s been taken away

gold flecks in green tea
gold plastic across the street
from the train station

and the Colonel standing there
arms outstretched, smiling
beckoning the cranes to fly to him

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POEM: Enclosures

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huddled under the umbrella
nestled in the sleeping bag
crouched beneath the spreading elm
encased behind the windshield

while the rain pounds
the hailstones plummet
the wind circles ’round
looking for a crack in the siding

it’s not an aversion to the elements
it’s the thrill of being protected
the joy at not being forced
into anything you don’t desire


POEM: Gerry & Lenny

Listen to the poem by pressing the play button above.

Gerry & Lenny

have the same vocal tic
an explosion of air from the nose
with the tongue in the back of the throat

each time it sounds like laughter,
a commentary on their own speech
then back or not back to the matter at hand

“I’m waiting for a Jew to turn Catholic!
Can you imagine a Jew submitting
to the goddamned pope? Jesus Christ!”

Like Lenny, Gerry stops in the middle —
in mitn drinen, they would say —
to tell stories and to follow tangents

Like Gerry, Lenny draws water from
a desert oasis and pours that water
into molds of his own design

“The Catholic Church has given the pope
permission to become a nun.
Just on Fridays, though.”

Gerry was born in Pittsburgh:
grew up with bituminous in his mouth,
ate the ash-gray snow

Lenny was born in Mineola:
within weeks, Sally was back on stage
and Lenny drifted from house to house

Gerry has been a poet laureate
and has won awards and prizes
and taught at prestigious universities

Lenny died on the bathroom floor,
syringe near his arm,
camera lens in his face