Saturday, April 30, 2016

every day

i wrote you a poem every day.
i don’t think you noticed.

this is a baptism;
this is everything made public.

this is a declaration of trust,
or at least that intention.

this is a sudden awareness
of the passage of time.

this finds you arrested,
facing accusations –
unspecified sins.

this is how we support the mystery,
gathered in a circle.

this is all the music,
or at least this song.

this is the only way
you will learn authority –

this is a pearl.
set it in gold and place it in your ear,
or on your finger.

this is everything
i wanted to say
at this time.

this is an end.

Friday, April 29, 2016

strong hands

she was a welder, and played the cello;
both required strong hands.

upon being betrayed, she betrayed –
that required strong hands too.

there are ways to reach out
across an ocean.

there are ways
to silence all communications.

there are ways to pretend
everything will be okay.

all will be well, and
all will be well.

there are lies that need not be told,
and truths that should remain unsaid.

there are many things in my power to change,
this is not one of them.

i realized that i was weakness
and put my hands to other uses.

i made a gift of my weakness
and placed it in better hands.

this is how i rebuild the world, 

one word after another.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

the blood, the blood

it was in that instant that my blood ran cold and i stood there gripped and handled with the desire to run and yet i did not run. i sweated blood instead (it’s called hematidrosis) brought on by every thought hard squeezed and pressed on every side of the questions i carried in my pockets. you can’t get blood from stones (let alone turnips) and so let every grain or drop be collected when the moment arrives in its full glory adorned with blood, sweat and tears; unbowed and uncowed, crowing and prancing by the side of the road. it’s like wading through water, though thicker – like blood – and i am afraid to count the cost, afraid of blood money and the many trails it leaves, afraid of the taste it leaves in the mouth – all that bad blood. no blood, no foul you said, and you walked away thinking that wound was a gift, traces of that gift on your hands and underneath your fingernails. and that was that. i am only flesh and blood and bone and skin and words – too many things are too rich for my blood and too meager for yours, or too meager for mine and too rich for yours. how we determine who walks in privilege and who walks in the cold. It’s not enough to say that anger runs in the blood, passes down through the bloodline, generation after generation until regeneration and the new blood. let me find some new words, to heal and not to wound; to fill and not to drain. start walking.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


i’m trying to ground my poems
in a body,
or something concrete.
it’s so much work –
giving ideas a skin,
muscling your way
through language.
i still write everything
by hand, a stylus
tracing figures
on the tongue,
carving angles,
breaking lines, shifting

it’s a delicate thing –
how one determines
how heavily to be present.
there’s only so much weight
the poem can bear.
i tend to step lightly.
i tend to whisper.
i would like to be a ghost
walking through rooms –
and by rooms i mean words.

(by words i mean thoughts,
by thoughts i mean hearts,
by hearts i mean prayers.
by prayers i mean to say
i want to trust you with this)

i would like to write something
where we are both naked.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

taking it personal

i just want you
to know that
it’s not personal.
it’s political.
by which i mean to say,
i take sides –
i didn’t take yours.
i have no regrets.
i did not intend
to be unkind.
there was neither obligation,
nor wasted time.

when we were
out in public,
there was something
precious to steward.
we did not.
we wounded
know only
how to wound.

the question was
who would govern
? who
exerts control
over the heart, who
the tongue
(a fire applied
a consummation, 

of a kind.

Monday, April 25, 2016

friday night writing group

we met more or less monthly
to share our poetry
more or less
while mushrooms steeped
and joints were rolled,
we drank glasses of wine
and bottles of beer.

a motley crew, we were
there by choice.
a chorus of voices
joined by a love of words,
a grasping for meaning:
the philosopher and the sci-fi nerd,
the hippie and the party girl,
the cheerleader and the engineer,
the earth goddess and the goth.

we made ourselves vulnerable,
and shared our songs.
we did that for two years.

later, there was dancing.
some of us mistook our love
for words for the possibility of love.
some of us never took that chance

and then all that remained
was the memory
of writing, what was
and what could be.

all those dreams:
that together we could build a new world,
that our words could change hearts,
that we could make someone fall in love,
that the attempt is beautiful.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

about painting

i don’t remember the moment
when art became important to me,
but i do remember when
i fell in love with mondrian.

while mrs. james loved pollock,
and would often sing his praises,
she at least made time for other voices.
i found all that splash and hiss
too bombastic, heavy-handed.
at that moment the terms were set:
it was either mondrian or pollock
(it would be years before i faced
picasso and cezanne, or
monet and matisse).
i suppose it need not have been
adversarial, but we must choose camps.

i loved the elegance of his project –
all those possible variations
with limited means. i spent hours
arranging and re-arranging
combinations of rectilinear bars
and blocks of red, yellow, and blue.
the elements seemed simple,
yet their effects maddeningly complex.

years later i visited the philadelphia museum of art
and visited the modern European art wing.
there, mondrian was paired with brancusi,
kindred spirits in their search for essences.
they were so small, and still
surprisingly thick and full
filigreed with cracks,
and no less elegant.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


let’s get the band back together –
all of us in the same room again.

i’ve missed the friendly bickering,
all those passionate arguments.

i’m not even sure why we broke up –
something about choices, i think

who was sleeping with whom,
and the reasons why.

perhaps we were too inseparable,
it wasn’t just meals we shared

or workplace, or classes, or holidays.
it wasn’t how we protected each others’ secrets.

there was never any jealousy among us,
and we held all things in common.

then again, maybe it’s a bad idea after all,
fueled by nostalgia or loneliness.

perhaps we’re better off now,
having sloughed off the impetuousness of youth,

having lived through our many poor decisions,
and having forgotten the taste of them.

Friday, April 22, 2016

good night, sweet prince

this is
i sit
at my
i’m not
sure why.
i did not
know you.
only the

a dynamo
in heels,
guitar –
in complete

(in your
i will

Thursday, April 21, 2016

old photographs

i regret that i may never know your child.
not that i ever thought it might be mine.
it’s just that we once shared something beautiful.
i see the photographs of you and your son,
and wonder what stories we would be sharing now
that we both have children. this is a mystery to me –
that we somehow both ended up with unexpected gifts.
to be honest, i never expected to have children.
i never anticipated being married. oddly,
i never imagined being married to you.


i had a dream about you last night.
that doesn’t happen often, or more rarely now.
to be accurate, i had a dream and you were in it.
i was sitting on a coffee shop patio watching people –
you were crossing the street and walked by the patio.
you didn’t seem to see me, and i found myself standing up.
perhaps you had forgotten my face – i am older now
with streaks of grey and extra pounds.
admittedly, i always thought i could never be forgotten.
it seems i might never forget you.


sometimes i am still afraid i will see you again
and i, being unprepared, will stop and stand stunned
into silence. i am afraid there will be words
unspoken, or worse, spoken and untamed.
or i am afraid there will be no words,
only my body remembering your body
and how our bodies together were beyond words.
i am afraid of the shadow that seeing you
casts on the present, the way it colours the past,
how the images stay with you, like rumours.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


as the poet reads,
all i can think of is flowers.

she reads like she is singing –
her voice drops and then lifts,
she gestures wide with her arms,
hands aflutter.

she obviously loves words.
she must enjoy rolling them around in her mouth,
trying them on for size,
utility, impact.

i once dated a poet…
it did not go well.
i fell in love with how she put words together,
and misread their sharpness
(recognized myself in her
poetry twenty years later).

that’s why i do not trust poets.
they always expect words to do more than their fair share,
they use them to wear down your will,
to encircle you and
mount your defenses.

they are sorcerers
conjuring fantasies and promises,
cajoling us to see more than the words
and yet the words elusive;
they place us in chains
and chained to possible meanings,
all our hopes and dreams
held in their busy little hands,
offering us these bouquets.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

gently, now

it’s all about the smaller gesture
whether dancing, or giving, or sex.
the intimate expressions of intention
and the hope of surrender
(or something like it).

i don’t trust anyone that tries that hard –
there’s something somehow desperate
and self-serving about extravagance.
better still to treat things as if they are delicate,
as if they are rare and beautiful and fragile,
like Fabergé eggs.

may these words be a gift to you,
from one royal to another royal;
let me be humble and you gracious.
let there be peace in the city
as you open them up;
let there be surprises
that bring a smile to your lips.

it can be a small smile –
perhaps even a sly smile.
we know what secrets we share.
we know these words
are larger on the inside,
there is always room for more.

Monday, April 18, 2016


watching the boston marathon
i am astounded by these runners
surrounded by the shouts of crowds,
shrouded by legacy, lined up
like a procession -- with flags
instead of guns, or candles.

how long have they been running?
only a few short hours;
it is already almost the end.

as they near the finish,
their pace never slackens –
steps tick off the distance.
they are superhuman -
all of them pushing a boundary:
the body, the mind, the moment,

some of them don’t even wear shoes.

i remember there were bombings there
only a few years ago.
the finish line filled with smoke and bodies
and parts of bodies.
for almost ten minutes after,
runners continued to cross
the finish line, unnoticed.

i have seen the resilience of people,
the way a city can dust itself off and rise again.
we can learn to wave our flags once more,
we can rediscover how to rejoice,
we can celebrate each other
and not live in fear.
let us not forget –

we’re still running.
choose the direction.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

starting verses (haiku)

today is international haiku day - there's even a NaHaiWriMo every february.

some of these are brand new haikus, and some are reconfigurations of some previous lines of poetry. anyway...enjoy.


my poems are getting
shorter. everything
is more measured now.


this is the moment
promises are made lightly
and i hide from view.


some words were exchanged
and emotions hard bartered
for scraps of meaning.


please come home and spend
whatever time is required
to make your way clear.


lay down your burden
at your enemy’s feet
and find yourself alight.


you are mostly empty
space and light traversing
the gap between hearts.


then come take my hand
and eat the words i lift to
your lips with longing.


the only thing known
to shift story from whispers
to a memory.


this and this and this
longing and desire for joy –
a settled embrace.


walking the slow path,
i stop to smell a flower –
a reminder of you.


the way to carve space
is to assign it new names
and set it loosely.


i only wanted this –
this thing i now desire –
this unending joy.


your mouth, delicate,

dances lightly across skin
all electrical.


the way a shell breaks
and light enters like a thief;
each desperate thought.


and then the flag raised
and trumpets sounding the depths
as we brace ourselves.


the earth will own me,
will claim my songs as ransom,
a verse to all change.


my face set like flint
against or towards mountains
and valleys and seas.


until our bodies press
next to time and flesh weakens,
spirit and blood rise.


again, the promise
to have and to hold and to
never walk away.


again the path, again
the light and sound of drumming,
echoing the bones.


and thus I am known,
and perhaps rejected, and
perhaps too, embraced.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


it’s an honour to see you
during these beautiful moments
of frustration.
                      you’d like to pretend
that doesn’t ever happen,
you’d like to
                    take those moments back –

recognize they are seeds
sown into the future.
make sure it is good soil
in which they find purchase.
make sure
                  you know to whom
the field belongs,
that the object of your longing
is worth your regret.

Friday, April 15, 2016


we left behind shadows
burned upon the rocks.

we left behind stories
that were shared around fires

children danced
and songs were sung.

there was no shame
in our leaving –

we had spent enough
time in the homes of strangers.

there were oceans to cross,
and mountains to compass,

we have heard the call,
and must follow it to the source.

embrace each gift
placed in your hands,

savour each promise
and wear them like armour.

there is strength in us yet -
hidden inside the bones.

you can bear the weight -
It is the easiest thing to forget.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


sometimes people get sick.
they just do. sometimes
it’s an attack, or feels like it.
sometimes we take it personally.
sometimes we fight.

but then there are other days
with syringes and side glances,
with groaning beyond words
and no way to attach meaning
and time is only a nice idea.

family looks like strangers
faces tightly drawn
like a veil or curtains
and loneliness is a warm blanket
happiness a loaded gun.

people stand around
whispers wrap around doors
opening and closing
and mostly closed
hands holding hands.

none of this really matters.
anything could still happen –
there might be a miracle
cure or otherwise.
there might still be singing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

old friends

i’ve been thinking about old friends:
how and when who reaches out to whom,
when friends become acquaintances
and then memories and why or how.

how each one is defined by an idea,
an action or (re)action or (in)action –
mine as much as anything else.

how moments are carved in time
with an image more or less accurate,
perhaps even true. perhaps even clear,
and not just shadows cast on the walls.

one could make lists of all the crazy things
we did, all the stupid things we said,
all the bullshit and bravado
carried into the present and held
near for in(tro)spection.
one could.

everything remains too close, i think.
i’m not willing to give you up just yet.

i think about the relationship
between my declining capacity
and my many regrets, or maybe friendship
is a muscle that loses its elasticity;
the way that nostalgia is a trap
we always seem to enter
even though it stands very, very still.
regardless, i miss them in myriad ways.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

harmony of the spheres

unity and harmony are not the same thing.
i just wanted to be clear about that.
we can speak at the same time, but that is not a conversation .
it is listening without any sense of beauty –
just point and counterpoint.

i spend my days and nights measuring words.
one speaks, and they insert themselves
into the equation, another element; a hollow
agreement – concessions to the argument
that all things are good in proportion.

they are not. their effects ripple through the aether
like a song as it makes its way through the body.

the sky is filled with sound – not unlike a song –
i just don’t know – or perhaps i’ve forgotten – the melody.

Monday, April 11, 2016


i have been counting all day.
your failures,
my offenses.
my failure,
your woundedness.
your grace,
my weakness.
my hopes,
your dreams.
your questions,
my questions.

the list of ‘druthers is long and varied.
we are not so different, really.

perhaps our memories fail us
with their (un)certain grip,
or should fail us more often.

it’s all in the way
we cook the books –
what we write; what we erase.