Untitled (on writing)

Those shy wallflowers,
paper and pen,
demure in the shadows
of wordplay,
where language hovers,
collecting dust
in the vast corners
of my mind’s great room,

Page after blank white page begins to glow
as daylight slowly brightens the gloom…

A blur of shadow and light
now dances, now jousts
until sword and song collide
in black and white cacophony
—like early silent film

Timid of rhythm and melody and beat,
cautious of forte and medio and debole,
fearful of the slashed lines and rolling curves
of l’ecriture sans le sang

Elegy for Oklahoma City

Elegy for Oklahoma City (draft)

Even before I enter the “Gates of Time,”
My face reddens and my throat swells,
And I weep for a city I first saw in silhouette
Through an early morning windshield
On a cross-country road-trip one year after

The towering gates measure that eternal moment
Between 9:01 and 9:03 when a bomb blasted a building open,
Carving a gaping hole that remains unfilled into a city’s heart

Even Jesus Christ stands outside of space and time, a statue
Frozen in weeping at the south gate, his stone hands covering his stone face.
Unlike Lot’s wife, punished for her forbidden gaze and sentenced to look at sin forever,
Jesus turns his eyes away from what remains of human assault upon humanity.


At night, clear plastic chairs glow in the dark to light up these excavated ruins,
Re-counting the one-hundred-sixty-eight dead like the white tombstones
At Shiloh or Chickamauga, another graveyard shrine to failed democracy.

On clear nights the reflecting pool mirrors all the stars in heaven,
And downward gazers can see themselves mirrored between two eternities:
the past and our collective memory of the past.

Looking down diverts our gaze from nineteen small chairs that glow like ghosts
Chairs upon which children, most of whom were not yet school age, will never sit.


It was Hawthorne and not Emerson who knew what unifies us in our human-ness:
Not an over soul, but “the sanctity of the human heart.”


Once a year on a late a April morning twenty thousand runners gather,
To keep the rhythm of memory alive by coursing through the arteries
of a wounded city–like blood–running circles around its broken center
As their hearts beat in unison:   remember   remember   remember

The circularity of ritual only barely stitches closed this gash,
Only as sustaining as the runners who cross the finish line whole,
Throbbing and panting, and sweating as if their skin is crying
In unison with our eyes.

Four years ago in Boston, blood and body parts rained down at the finish line.
In Oklahoma that same year, the cold downpour melted into our tears
As every red-socked runner crossed the same threshold—whole,
Symbolically re-membering a leg. A community. A country.
The descendants of Houseman’s athletes dying young…

In this city where to-day
The road all runners come
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Remember…    Re-member…   Remember…


Will Jesus ever  turn around and let us see him weep?

The Inadequacy of Memories, Photographs, and Dreams

Oh, father! Art thou in oblivion?
Beyond the scope of any visual lens?
In an unparalleled universe of sparks
And hopeless impulsive flashes
Of neon-creviced memory?

Where can I find your smell?
Your laughter?  Your pensive sulk?
Those dark grey eyes that reflected
A wearied bitterness for the boundaries of your pre-mortem existence?

Watching too much television–
Penciling in wrong answers to finish the crossword–
Picking catshit out of a litter box too unwieldy for you to lift–
Folding laundry & lighting cigarettes you chain-smoked with your good hand–
Dropping loaves of bread you cradled in your arms like babies as you shuffled
from grocery shelf to grocery cart, while I hid in another aisle so you couldn’t see me crying–
Draining the last can of Miller High Life, which only every brought you down–

You are two-dimensional in photographs where you smile a premature old-man’s grimace and slump in defeated body posture.

You are two-dimensional in my dreams where you crack and fall apart and die all over again while I collect fragments that refuse to fit when I try to put you back together. Again. And again.

You left no words—written or spoken—that hold your Brooklyn accent or the molasses baritone timbre of your voice.

You are strangely present in those blistering pictures and in my Surrealist dreams, your silence pensively distant and helpless, so eerily yet alarmingly yourself that I can almost feel your nearness…

But you remain a virtual intangibility, a dimensionless phantom, hovering in absence, a chilly fog that never burns off, an impish ghost playing hide and seek with the key I need to unlock Sorrow’s door to pass over the threshold between us.