13 December 2013

a sonnet for Manila, Calif.

13.12.2013 says dennis the small,
fist pumped, glorious, in regal repose.

these are the dreams of the fingers and the toes -
beards entangled in barbed wire fence.

it's not for lasting glory that we fix these leaks.
20 miles per gallon and all the juice you can drink.

herman melville, in a fatal leap,
makes it somehow safely to the other side.

each refusal keeps us warm -
each remnant's where we hang our cloak.

- a broken record's siren song.
- a box of staplers interrogated by a flood.

telephone call from invasive doves -
the surf's ceaseless roar, the nearer shore.

10 December 2013

This Poem is Titled 'Emily Dickinson's 183rd Birthday.'

Here's what you do - 
Take what you have -
make it kindling.  
Chop the table -
smash the chair. 
Split the trunk. 
Expose the heart. 
Build a fire -
stand within it. 
Wait for what flies.

We follow the gull along ocean drive.
Dreams colonize.

Every beast is driven by hunger - we with an
     instinct for god's own grief and a place in 
     our breast for beauty to abide -
     a pigeon smeared across pavement, 
     with lifted head, strains to rise.

Desire is the mold that longs for the model.
Desire is the model that dreams of the mold.
From the splintered remains of yesterday's axework, 
find in the wood grain a small bird's eye. 

14 October 2013

first few days of the new cycle (field report)

a week since our completion of the yearly circuit
and still we are finding these muddy flats
under the
generous bright paw filled and poised below
geese have their seams across sky and chuck.
let these few minutes stand for those.

we find our instruments are not key.
these largely un-moorable instants -
the calendar flows like honey and the cupboard is bare.
waiting for the next remittance.
allow extra time as a tax
on the poor.

in the air we have seen all manner of great things.
we find these waters fine, though bruised, and needing
further care.

our last entries are not final. if we take the temperature of
the sky we will find a layered delight and more.
every blackbird will find us - and still we
hear of gunned down pelicans and their allies.

we cannot speak this code much longer. please find this
under the leaves, under the weighted winter moon -
our plea is what any would consider - the lengthening day - the pearl blue corner of the set sun.

12 October 2013

the wild jersey cape -

an introduction

true, i was born in new jersey,

sandy soil, farmland, glass factories -

ten miles from the salt marshes and pebbled

beaches and horseshoe crabs of the delaware bay -

and the ocean a million years away -

necklaced in boardwalks, rollercoasters

now casinos and condominiums

boarded up motels and neon pizzerias

held two miles at bay from the mainland

and the trees by causeways of

falling down custard stands and

houses up to their knees

on the muddy banks of

the pavement and

bays that sometimes freeze -

and the ice rises and falls with the tides -

and now and again snow

knocks the common reeds,

what i thought we called winter wheat,

into the cracked and meandered sea -

one way of looking at it

i ran loose and free

in the oak and the sweetgum

and the hickory and

turned my eye plenty

toward the grey sky to

watch the turkey vultures ride

what thermals they could find.

i saw the difference

between pin oak and pine

and knew what i knew

from an unremembered dream -

i ran loose and free without a map

of the world and didn't learn

the names of things -

i marked the way by the

slant of the sun and the

sliding perspective seen

mostly from cars and

of course tv.

robins, blue jays, buzzards and crows -

gulls and sandpipers,

mallards and geese.


i can't think of another kind of bird

i knew as a kid.

ducks paddled by the shore of the lake where i swam.

i knew the big dipper, the little dipper

and that's about it.

pigeons, i guess.

i was thirty-five years old

and on another coast

before i learned

the path of the moon,

from my place on earth -

not a diagram or a description

in a classroom


two more ways of looking at it

you can take jake's

      landing road off

           delsea drive

past the hundred year old pines

      planted perfectly in

           rows and grown over -

to the edge of the marsh

      and follow the leads

to the bay.

there are too many kinds

of memory to count.

now i can stand under

the night sky on fire

and whirling.

the galaxies,

           it is proven,
     are spread.

           i can walk

through the

moonlit woods.

i am anxious to

           sail on my own

      taut wings -

now and again a

      long fingered feather


a frothy wave

i can tell you

there are hollies with sharp dead leaves

dense at their base and berries

no kid

ever eats twice.

three directions short a world

in 1986

we sit

around the table,

the four of us.

jessica sleeps in her bed.

the dogs

are nosing

the kerosene heater -

the cat is alert with

eyes closed on the back

of the couch.

the weather slants hard against

the east windows.

trees, marshes,

toll bridges, hotels,

motels, beach houses,

fishing piers and spidery

amusement rides

separate the dining room

from the surf.

it is easy to imagine

a boat in trouble -

some pair of eyes

that prayerfully watch

the lights of the cape

grow brighter.

but here it merely

winds and rains

while we listen to

joan armatrading and

smoke the joints flavia has rolled.

rosanne drinks red wine.


i watch catherine,

her brown skin,

smooth and timeless,

her hair cropped close to her head.

she laughs when

something is funny.

flavia laughs

when something is


talking, we talk.

i watch them mouth the words.

rosanne is silent.

and the wind and the rain

whistle and hiss

and sometimes rise to

a dull roar

and our bottles clank

and the songs behind it,

like the covered moon,

swing by

as fascists fight

for scraps in a world 
that is strictly junk.

four men three of whom are dead

sometimes it snows

sometimes the long legs of a frosted wind 
just coat the whole damn place in ice

its a time of seething automotive violence and 
maybe getting one's skull knocked against one of those

rare big cedars

or maybe its just a mother's fist well aimed

its hard to tell

once the storm was howling across

the delaware bay and i sat with chuck and eric 
looking at tea stains on rice paper 
in his little wood shack

on sunset beach -

the concrete ship sunk and battered

and now getting battered some more -

for years i carted a

tape recording made that night -

i don't know where it is -

chucks handwriting on the label -

      "conference at swept away bay"

that was in march

of 1986

chuck now dead - as well as his

old pal bill -

and eric's a carpenter the last i heard

somewhere in south jersey -

no one i know is sure.

and you think of the good

that can come from just about anything -

although death is still death

and won't come to any other name.

20 September 2013


it's not the comforting heat
of the hot sheet metal
of the car door
under an arm propped
out the open window -
the panamints on the right -
speeding toward
stovepipe wells.

    - a self-shattering dream. you
know what i mean.

the unease is palpable in the
weight we all carry.

our collective breath: where does it lead?

yellow eyes -
tongue lolling,
as they say -

a fish in the sea
pursued for his life
by a bird who will
fly beneath waves.

these naked clouds that cover the

now is a good time to love
bare rock - the skeleton.

the feather pressed in amber
we are real.

15 May 2013

15 May 2013

the actual world is not an imaginary friend.
the moon in the sky is farther out than we can conceive
but we can imagine what we imagine
without end.

we can walk to the foamy line where the surf
runs up the sand and see the curve of our
mother's side - the old wine-dark sea.

and then after swimming in
rosario strait - the taste of salt on her skin -
her salt-dried hair: these mysterious traces.
i could show you a photo of the day.

still we have a heavy heart - our errors and
arrogance that cost lives - this empire of
small shovels and pails.

wind through leaves or my grandmother's
bones - the ache is real. who doesn't
dread the piercing wound - gutshot and
too strong to be found?

hunter says you walk following blood.
says eat when you can. with teeth and talons
on painted barn doors, writes free them.

10 May 2013

coyote poem

a prologue to 'coyote poem'
to be posted
at all meetings
once the photocopying
budget is approved (action item)

first allegiance
second allegiance
more coyote
third allegiance
chorale practice
fourth allegiance
fifth allegiance

(hint: coyote likes life
stuffed with

preface to the coyote poem as requested by coyote:
a past reference in
that fails
        Road Runner, the coyote's after you.
               Road Runner, if he catches you you're through.
“that song, if you call it such,”
said coyote,
one eye watching the
ticker tape,
waiting for a ship
to come in,
“wants for intelligent rhymes,
a meter that doesnt feel
like the kind of wagon an
okie would build
just to get drunk in
and crash,” said coyote.
(coyote laughing)

said, “this ditty
shows a real lack
of knowledge.”

coyote said,
“i hate this song. ugggh.
it makes me want to scream.”

coyote wears glasses that
make everything
and says
“pop music, pope music,
poop music.”

coyote likes to listen to
the nuthatches and monk
trade licks.
its also true
is sometimes so lonesome
yes, coyote cries.

coyote impersonates
smokey r.,
spins on his
heel – winks.
wags his well-groomed
coyote says, “really,
i'm sad.”

and now, coyote poem, proper

on the question of
where to dig one's den
said, “i fall
into the category of them
who say
if its draws you,
follow -
like the earth follows
the sun...”

coyote said
“dig your den
at home” and
coyote had to

after dark,
when its only
headlights and
taillights and
those bright yellow

head tilted,
tongue out
- “you sure
kill a lot of

looked over and
“your freeways are
why she dont love

“and that,” said
coyote, “ain't

coyote on edge,
looking over shoulder,
looking back, “can't you
think of something
good to say?”

coyote pissing
on the vinyl siding, cold fall
night, steam rising,
owl screeching
said, “there's enough in the
grocery store to last
me 300 years -
once you guys are
out of the

coyote's wet tongue,
licking - “wake up,
wake up -
i was only
coyote kind of worried,
kind of sorry –
cant stop laughing.
“oh brother,” coyote
said, “i didnt
really mean

coyote under the stars
asked, “who doesn't
like old cheese? - who
doesn't want
a few extra
mice in the cupboard?”

meteors shooting
from the back of
coyote's head and
coyote said,
“ssshh! these new jokes
are sleeping.”