After a 14-Hour Shift in the Cab

The fan hums at
5:31 p.m.

and the humans are

The birds
are cheered out

and the flies
fall like hollow

A coffee makes

my forehead sweat
and an ice cube

in a cup of tears.

is just one

dark corner
of life.

The Envelope with the Big Red Stamp

I got a letter from a guy in prison.
The envelope had a big
red stamp on it.
The guy had read a few of my poems
in a magazine.
In one poem I had used some swear words
and he didn’t approve of that
while another poem was about sex
which was okay
as long as I didn’t use the swear words.

He told me
he’d murdered his wife
and that he also wrote poetry
and he included several handwritten poems
in a tiny, beautiful
He said he believed in self-determinism
and wanted to know how
I felt about the improvement of
He said prison had freed him
from responsibilities like keeping
himself fed and housed in an expensive
and insane society
and had given him time
to read and to figure
things out.

I wrote him back telling him I didn’t
like his poems
(they were robotic)
and that I also had bars on my window
and worked 50 hours a week to
hold it together
and I told him I was not interested in
self-determinism or his
plans for humanity.
I told him if he wanted to save the world
he probably should have started
by not killing his wife
which was a cruel thing
to say
but then again maybe you should ask his
wife’s family before you
judge me.

I have wanted to murder many
times but never did.
Maybe that makes me a coward.
It’s hard
to be sure about anything
and anyway
he never wrote

Making Sense is Old News

Poets prefer nonsense
because it is easier to pass
off as genius.
The young protest society
while embracing it,
rebellion only a game
within protected boundaries,
and in the end most works
are nothing to
awaken, frighten, excite, but only
balloon animals.
Sometimes people will say if it makes sense
it is boring
and common,
while really it is the most unusual thing
you will see in almost any
poetry magazine, which prefer
dream idiocy
like the drooling of infants,
without message
and with a diffused spirit
which can’t quite speak
but delights the corpulent matrons.

What He Finds

First came the men
who carved figures in rocks
on the hills in the
Eons later the art teachers came
like lizards slinking
from the sea.
The teachers soon dominated the land.
Their philosophy:
the soul is a spring
you have to pay them to drink from.
They couldn’t understand
how anything had survived
so long without their
and they institutionalized art
so that it would never slip
from their sticky paws.
They brought it all inside
the safety of walls
and stuck stiff
to the single agenda:
preservation of the status quo.
These days it is a rare thing
that a student will summon the courage
to walk away to the desert
and fend for himself.
What he finds
out is how
strong those first
men were,
how small one feels
alone under
the stars, and how hard
that rock is.

You Can Talk and Talk

about some magical thing
you are going to do

with language
but language

has been around a while, and it isn’t
that easy to do something new.

Doing something new
is more than saying

you are doing something new,
more than saying

you have a mind
to do something new,

more than saying it’s new
because you’re too stupid

to know it’s been done before.
Try to make sense

before going beyond sense
and consider maybe

a blank mind is only
a dead nerve

and not a flag
waving over nirvana.

Between What They Said and Who They Were

When I was a kid we lived in the sticks.
I liked to play outside in the evening

listening to my parents talking
on the picnic table underneath

the psycho-looking sycamore tree
after work was done,

in the thin line between
screaming at each other

and snoring side by side,
in that barely breathable margin

of black cricket truce,
them drinking beer or wine,

the cherries of their cigarettes dancing
with the fireflies

and me out in the woods
just at that point

where I could hear their voices
but one step farther

and I could not, walking
that tight rope.

Flatliners and the Women Who Love Them

Some people don’t get fat,
don’t get wrinkled,
don’t get gray,
don’t get thin and worn out,
they change hardly at all
as the years go by.
Some insane and retarded people
are like this.
My uncle Don is like this.
He’s 64 but looks 40.

Uncle Don likes to sit in his chair
and watch TV.
He doesn’t talk to anyone but the mailman,
not even his wife
aunt Deb

who’s 59
but looks 80.

Here’s to Us

Boy we are cute
aren’t we?

We are pretty darn
clever, cool as

lilacs in Cleveland.
What’s not to love

between the look
of our handwriting

and the smell
of our farts?

I refuse to believe
we could get any slicker

or smarter
or hipper

or become better dressers
or come up

with a better hair style
or a lower way

to wear our jeans.
I mean really

what we’ve got now is
pretty freaking

perfect. We deserve to just take
some time

and meditate
on our own greatness.


When I was young
I saw the dandelions
in our yard.
They’d start out young
and green
then open and turn
and end as round
white tufts
like old ladies’ hair
blowing in the wind.

I couldn’t help but wonder
what reason
they had for living
other than to make
more of themselves.
And I couldn’t think
of any more reasons I
myself had
to live
than a

The thing is
it didn’t bother the

It only

After Andre Gide

After all this time
you finally understand

who start fires.

The things you
once detested

have become delicious to you.

My Secret

I had a secret
as a child
I carried it with me.

I built forts in the woods
to hide it
and to be alone with it.

It scared me
with its great weight
and its long hollow sound.

But it comforted me too

It was like an old cocoon
this secret
and when I tried to speak it
turned to dust.


My father was a horticulturist.
He told me a weed
is just a plant
growing where it isn’t wanted.
The Earth doesn’t need us
he said
the Earth doesn’t
want us here.
We are all in a way
And now
thirty years later
I smoke a joint
and think
a weed is tough
a weed doesn’t care
if it is wanted or not
and my father
is dead.