Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The cuckoo in the dark
alone, takes fifty-nine
minutes to prepare.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Watch them on the footbridge
above the falls
that keeps us from hearing what they say:
he leans on the lake side, looking far across,
she, above the falls, looks down.

We can imagine what he sees
is moving with the water to the falls,
that the reflections of the trees, the clouds,
the docks and houses are a swirling
surface-film distorted as it

pours, silken, over the lip. Or
we can decide she feels the colors
bleed from everything behind her,
and that the brittle pieces of it
crash, continuously, at her feet

like an infinite stack of dishes.
He’s crossing to her now, his arms
around her from behind, his
fingers buckled at her waist. Look:
when she turns to him

he turns his eyes away
as if he’d begun to blurt the truth
then clapped a hand to his mouth.
She touches him dishonestly and gently.
We can imagine reasons

why they do not love each other
anymore; we can infer,
by their doubling back
the way they came, the touchy
mutual denial their conversation

had to steer around
to stay together one more day,
but neither of us, even now, knows
anything that either one of them can say
to make things right again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Driving home from the warehouse,
little jazz on FM, the moon low
and full over the frozen reservoir,
a powder polishing the ice.

those lights behind me, gaining,
were someone speeding to catch up
to tell me I’d forgotten something;

not this flatbed rattling past
with a load of empties.

Friday, July 23, 2010


My father handed me the flags and paid
out string from where he stood
at home, waving me deeper, waving me right
or left, “More left. A little less. Yes.
Good.” Then with the string held high,
a wind-rolled arc
between us, I ran hard across
the outfield and we set the Left-field flag.

Suppose the string were one thread of a sail;
the way it would belly, filling
with assurance. Say that where he stood on it
it entered the ground
so if I pulled I’d pull forever, all of it --
the whole ball -- one unbroken strand.
Or say I doubled back
to a snag in crabgrass or a patch of dandelion
too late and saw my father
chasing the end that got away from him.

Suppose the lines go on beyond the flags,
embracing houses, trees,
so many men and women, strangers
turning into friends or enemies, so many lovers,
towns, forests, lakes, rivers, stories
told and heard, forgotten or remembered,
understood or not. suppose the lines go on
because they do; imaginary, real.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The pebble my son
spraypainted gold

rests in my palm, a gift,
and asks, as if

in his sweet, high, temporary voice:
who taught me my life

is lead and needs great pain
to turn itself to gold?

And who taught them?
And for what, and whose, reasons?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


It’s a window next to impossible
to miss unless
you’re hurrying to a particular place
or obsessed with a recent song, or carrying
a face, not just anyone’s,
with you at the time.

I confess I’ve stood there
under the sign lettered GUNS - JEWELRY - LOANS
many times, the window full of
risked, lost, or stolen things,
grieving people’s or dead people’s things,
novelties and knives.

Guilt. Indecision. Everything
is used; each of the hundreds of watches
shows a different time. Guitars,
untuned, hang carefully, gratefully
silent. Which ones, of these alarm clocks,
above the guns, above the stuffed owls,

have cut off a dream and sent a man out
to his death? Some of these paintings,
stacked on the floor, have hung in the finest
banks, and, although it’s kept quiet,
there are those who’ll say the diamonds
were swept from the highway after a fatal crash

that no one remembers. Not even
the broker, the nodder, the blank-faced one
who asks no questions, who, come night,
empties the window, leaves the drawer open
and empty, leaves one light on, sighs,
locks up, drags shut the rusty gates.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The house itself, if it had a voice
Would speak out clearly. As for me,
I speak to those who understand;
if they fail, memories are nothing.

— Aeschylus,

We say what we know because we must.
You can cheer us or run us out of town.
It’s nothing at first, like rain on dust,

a hairline crack in the faultline’s crust,
a tentative first-person plural pronoun.
We say what we know because we must

recall, recount, redeem, and readjust
all that we’ve known, not for renown.
It’s nothing at first, like rain on dust,

or the first few tiny flecks of rust
on barrels buried underground.
We say what we know because we must

talk back to histories we do not trust,
relearn our own, and set them down.
It’s nothing at first, like rain on dust.

What does it mean to fear what’s just?
You can cheer us or run us out of town.
We say what we know because we must.
It’s nothing at first, like rain on dust.

Friday, July 09, 2010


Father Art, on earth, above those past
the hours of their deaths, thou Mother
under us for who knows how long now,
thy names be with me. Fruit of wills
repeatedly and variously done on earth,
who will pray for us? Sinners? I believe
in clay and constellations and what accidents
allow us to forgive ourselves again for being
in such debt, for owing bread, for being tempted
to make believe, to lie, to sleep forever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Another from Without Paradise:


I live entirely for my own sake.
I once had friends, some money, plans, a love,
but what the hell, what difference does it make?

These days it doesn’t pay to stay awake.
I’ve got what I need. I’ve got nothing to prove.
I live entirely for my own sake.

I was the best but couldn’t catch a break.
So here I hang. I should be hanging in the Louvre!
But what the hell, what difference does it make?

Just thinking of work gives me a headache.
I like it here, a bit above it all; why move?
I live entirely for my own sake.

I’ve taken all the shit I’m gonna take.
So take your shining mottoes, squat, and shove.
But what the hell, what difference does it make?

Your lives, your loves, your work: they’re fake.
You’re all stuck in the same timekilling groove.
I live entirely for my own sake.
What the hell, what difference does it make?

Monday, July 05, 2010

It's been a long time since I posted anything here. I only occasionally repost from another blog or website because I had wanted this to be a place where I would make my own contributions to the "genre" of the weblog. This isn't the site of my work, either; that's still my notebook. Having grown up writing with a fountain pen, not moving to the typewriter until my twenties, it is still a great pleasure for me to write in longhand, which is, I think, closer to the speed of my thinking. (I hasten to add that I am in other ways cutting-edge: facebook page, an iPhone, etc.) My point here is to define and more tightly focus this blog. For the next few days or weeks, I will post poems — sometimes with accompanying images — from my first collection, Without Paradise. Although the book is still available, copies are limited now. (I still have a box, and sometimes sell them when I read from the latest book.)

Here is the poem that opens that book:


— for Michael Stephen Hoffman, 1957-1970

Being in us in his new life
is as strange for him
as it is for us to be here

at his grave today
with no one else’s footprints in the snow
and only the trees that guided us

so let it not be winter there.