Skip to content →

Category: My poems

POEM: Water

Listen to this poem using the player above.

Photo of the Normanskill by Jason Crane.

(for Carolee and Jill)

all my poems are wet
soaked through with tears
of realization come too late

before the ink is dry
as my pen lifts from the paper
my eyes well up and it starts again

every missed connection
every just-closed train door
every unreturned smile

there are never enough pages
to soak it all up, to absorb all these years
why does it take so long to cross this river?


POEM: Come with me, Shelby

Listen to this poem using the player above.

Come with me, Shelby

come with me, Shelby
leave Dunkin’ Donuts behind
abandon the too-sweet smell of the batter,
the truckers’ glares,
long-separated from warm flesh
and soft mouths
leave your ill-chosen uniform
and the constriction of low wages
we’ll drive to the lake
sit in my pickup on top of the hill
try to spot the woodpecker
building a home
I’ll find us a tree
peck at it with my pointed intentions
burrow down
until the sap sticks to our skin
with a texture no glazed donut can replicate
we’ll have no natural predators,
feel no need to pray
content to perch
above the ebb and flow of this life
and to taste the sweet morning air


POEM: John, again

Listen to this poem using the player above.

A poem for my son John and his grandfather, after whom he was named. John Packard died in April 1996.

John, again
(for my younger son and his grandfather)

he’ll never smell his grandpa’s pipe
never hear him laugh or make a corny joke
he’ll never feel the rumble of the BCS
as it plows up the rich earth for planting
he’ll never sit at the oval table
never pass a bowl of fresh-picked veggies
or watch his grandpa butter warm bread
he’ll never be tickled by a mustache
or smell the sweat on an old t-shirt
never be picked up in a wiry embrace
or put his cheek against rough stubble
but he’ll carry with him the joy in the land
and he’ll walk with solid steps on country lanes
he’ll laugh when laughter is needed
and he’ll stop to help a stranger
he’ll see in his mother’s eyes
the eyes whose gaze he’ll never feel
and he’ll know what it is to be loved


POEM: Descent

Listen to this poem using the player above.

My first conscious attempt to use projective verse.

Click on the image to see a larger version.


POEM: Light

Listen to this poem using the player above.


from an essay by Kwame Dawes:
“to be at home in a lace that is full of light”

and to be held in its grasp, caressed by light
to feel the tendrils, the wisps of light
wrapped around your chest, softly
slithering down your thighs, grasping
the tender parts of you, this lace
penetrating flesh, seeping into blood
the soft glow in your veins, the rhythmic
pumping of light from the heart, spreading
illumined corpuscles, erythrocytes, leukocytes
traveling toward the extremities, pooling
in the fingers, the toes, rising
to the top of your head, the tips of your hair
to be at home in this lace of light
this lace that is full of light


POEM: Middleburgh Sketches

Listen to this poem using the player above.

Observations from a recent drive from Albany, NY, to Middleburgh, NY, and back.

Photographer’s Web site

Middleburgh Sketches
April 19, 2010

tiger-striped hills
cloud-down hovering
one goose in the April sun

* * *

Cachao’s bass at the root
I on the mountaintop
summer salsero amid spring hills

* * *

thick-grown budding trees
guards posted beside the road
the city is a surprise


POEM: Gingerbread Man

Listen to this post using the player above.

Gingerbread Man

“I’m uncertain,” said Heisenberg.
It was true — he was hard to pin down.
You have to get up
pretty early in the morning
to catch a man
traveling 66,000 miles per hour.
To meet him halfway is a challenge;
the distance always shrinking,
never quite closing.
We are, finally, unknowable.
Not fixed in both position
and velocity, evading
capture, measurement, taxonomy.
What’s in a name? And where? And when?
Heisenberg printed a label in neat
block letters, but could find
nowhere to put it. All his photos
were blurry. He could not
recognize the faces.
Who is the nucleus, who the electron?
Who is the fixed point, who
the orbiting satellite?

Leave a Comment

POEM: Roughing It

Listen to this poem using the player above.

Roughing It

“Could any of these people bear a week in Walden?” — Djelloul Marbrook

No signal?
Are you kidding me with this?
It’s a mile walk back
to the goddamned Starbucks,
and their wi-fi isn’t even free.
This was such a mistake.
I mean, I like burlap trousers
and a rustic fireplace as much
as the next guy, but
this shack next to a mosquito-
infested swamp is about as
pastoral as a prison camp.
When my agent suggested
Walden II as the idea for my
next book, I thought, why not?
If Thoreau could make a killing
writing about growing beans
and taking hikes, then so could I.
But come on, how is anyone
supposed to write out here?
The closest restaurant is
Karl’s Sausage Kitchen on Route 1.
I don’t know about you, but a diet
of sausage and West Nile virus
isn’t exactly the stuff great books
are made of. If I get a room
on the upper floor of the Ferns
Deluxe Motel in Saugus, I’ll be
able to see the pond
from the window. That’s got to be
good enough.
Thoreau can kiss my ass.


POEM: Guilt

Listen to this poem using the player above.



The scientist created a machine
that could look back into the past.
He called it Guilt.
When activated, his invention
could whisk the temporal traveler
off to days gone by:
the job left unfinished;
the lie told; the lover jilted.
True, this form of travel had a limited
appeal in the marketplace, but
it was a must for the connoisseur
of despondency, the rueful explorer.
The scientist kept his creation
secured in the topmost room
of his falling-down house,
far from the notice of the
established academic community.
Those who wished to take
a journey into the embittered past
were carefully screened to keep
out the crazies and the masochists,
for he intended his machine to be used
by the pure of intention, if not the pure of heart.


It was on Tuesday last that the scientist
heard a light tapping on his door.
He thought perhaps he’d forgotten
to let the cat in, but when he opened
the door he was surprised to find
a young girl on his front porch,
hair exactingly braided and white socks
pulled up just so. “Mister,” she said,
“I want to take a ride in the machine.”
He refused, of course, although his
interest was piqued. How could this
child even know of his invention?
“My dear,” he said, “there is nothing
for you here. Run along home.
Someone must be worried about you.”
She took one step forward,
hand on the doorjamb, eyes fixed on his.
“Mister,” she said, “I’m going to take a ride
in the machine.” There was something
about her, an emanation, an aura,
and before he knew it, the scientist
had stepped back to allow her to pass
into the living room.
“Where is it?” she asked, taking in
each feature of the sparsely appointed room.
“On the top floor, my child,” he said, pointing.
“But you must go alone.”
She nodded once and began climbing the stairs,
holding the railing with one china-doll hand.


The scientist sat down to wait, sipping the tea
he’d been preparing before the girl’s arrival.
He could hear her on the top landing now,
and then the soft creak of the door as
she entered the room where he kept the machine.
Ah yes, there it was, the throaty rumble
as the machine began to work.
Was that a whimper? he wondered,
straining to hear every sound,
every nuance from the top floor.
Eventually, he could no longer resist,
and began to climb the stairs.
He knew this was a breach of his
standard operating procedure, but this,
this was a special case.
As he neared the open door, the deep note
faded away, disappearing like a ghost
through the wall.
He stepped into the room.
It was empty, save for the chair
and the machine. But then
something caught his eye,
a white flutter under the chair.
He stooped to retrieve the piece
of paper. Written on it, in the assured
script of an adult, were two words:


(SAYERSVILLE) – Firefighters
responded to a blaze at a house on
the Sayersville-Freedom line Tuesday
night. The house, owned by Dr. B—-,
a researcher at the university, was nearly
consumed by the fire when the firefighters
arrived on the scene. They focused
their efforts on stopping the blaze from
spreading to the nearby woods. No
human remains were found in the wreckage
of the house, a no cause has yet
been determined. Police say Dr. B—‘s car
is missing, and he did not report to work
at the university this morning.


Buy my book!

My first collection of poetry, Unexpected Sunlight, is now available. The poems talk of love, family lost and found, music and musicians, and scenes from everyday life. These poems were written between 2006 and 2009. I’m thrilled to be able to share them with you.

The book is now available in the store.


The book!

Me with copy #1 of Unexpected Sunlight, my new collection of poems from FootHills Publishing.

POEM: Muse, Inc.

Listen to this poem using the player above.

This was prompted by a small contest over at the Poems Out Loud blog.

Muse, Inc.

Nothing happened.
I mean it, nothing.
I’d put my blank pages in
the Amazing First
Book Creating Machine
and pressed POETRY
on the display. I’d
driven to this bowling
alley in Duluth – all the
way from Plano, Texas –
because I’d heard that
Ginsberg and Olson
and Creeley and Ashbery
all used to bowl here
once a year. Scholars
always wondered, why Duluth?
Why bowling? No one ever
thought to check the Out-Of-
Order stall in the men’s room.
No one until me, that is. And
there it was. The machine
they’d all used to create their
first books. Howl, Le Fou,
Call Me Ishmael, Some Trees.

They’d all come out of this stall.
But when I put my pages in,
nothing happened. I mean it,
nothing. Maybe the machine
was broken?


POEM: Strings

Listen to this poem using the player above.


Perhaps Beethoven was wrong.
This may not be the best method
of organizing groups of tightly
wound cat intestines.

Or aren’t those used anymore?
That would be foolish —
there are certainly
too many cats.

Everywhere you look, they stare
at you with disdainful eyes
before turning away in disgust
to lick their own assholes.

There are too many people, too,
if we’re being honest. Of course,
most of us can’t lick our own nether
regions – we need help for that.

But we’ve each got 25 or so feet of
intestines. We’re each like our own
string quartet, just waiting
for someone to play on us.


POEM: Lottery

Listen to this poem using the player above.


Ida plays the lottery every day
walking slowly to the pharmacy
next to the pizza shop

she hands a worn sheet of folded paper
to the Pakistani man who
pushes the numbers into the machine

then she sits next to the display
of walkers and canes,
painstakingly checking the ticket

7 24 23: Eddie, her oldest brother
he always dreamed of being an actor,
until that day he hit the beach
and it never stopped raining metal

11 19 24: That was her. She was
the only daughter, Mama’s pride and
the light in Papa’s eye. She was the one
her brothers looked out for

12 24 26: Walter, born Christmas Eve
the same year they’d had to move
because Papa lost his job after Mr. Monroe
skipped town with the receipts

3 13 46: The war was over, she and Tom
had moved into their bungalow near the
rail yard, and along came Edie, named after
the uncle she’d never meet

7 1 49: That was Joe, the quiet one. He
didn’t say much, but he didn’t miss much
either, and she knew one day he’d
be there to lean on, and he was

10 14 74: Joe and Liza got married
at the old church. It’s a set of fancy
condos now, next to an espresso shop
that used to be Gianelli’s bakery

6 30 76: Edie was a June bride, thirty
year old. She and Tom had given up hope,
figured Edie’d be living with them until they died.
Then Edie met Leroy at a church picnic

5 9 77: The day of the accident,
when Edie wouldn’t stop crying.
The policeman said it was nobody’s
fault, just fog and a slippery road

1 17 80: Her grandbaby, James.
She loved her children, but she’d
never known anything like the shiver
in her stomach when that baby smiled

10 5 91: She’d been holding Tom’s hand
when the time came. Everybody was there,
and Tom was peaceful. She slept
on the couch that night, Joe close at hand.

Ida plays the lottery every day
the same careful numbers
she doesn’t play to win, just to remember