Saint Michael's Cave

a humble cave of lay poetry


Links to publishers featured on this page:

The Ignatian

Penumbra

Nota Bene

Amaranth

Into The Void

very boring books 1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)



1979

Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018)
1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)



Malignant

They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018)
1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing you I have failed. Published in Amaranth (2002) The Exchange They scramble Collecting papers And signaling across the room Where fortunes and nations Are made and lost This machine Our collective provider Operates on limited resources So as we succeed Others must fail They will forfeit At least half of their self-proclaimed Machiavellian prophecy While assuredly they bring the end It is neither necessary nor justified We should know better We who are educated and literate We who have access to research We who can afford to be conservative We refuse to yield Manufacture this A contemporary, disposable society Wrapped in plastic made marketable To be sold, used And piled sky high So too are our lives To be created and disposed Once we outlive our usefulness? How do we differ so much From what we create? Our legacy will be trash The declination of millennia Concentrated into a decade of profiteering To account for a popular culture With short attention spans But embrace this beast for it drives us forward In the name of progress Pushed by an arbitrary economy That will collapse without natural resources Published in the Ignatian (2006) Subtle Production Wheat stalks trade blows with my bare shins Swaying in the warm breeze Like dwarf palm trees, dyed blond The roar of pre-harvest Reminds me of a crowded stadium The way fans wave between innings The sun projects The sky’s shadow onto rolling hills And shaded clouds chase each other through flowing grain A faded windmill twirls On the horizon, trying to harness The energy of a fickle breeze Silky mounds Around me shift Like desert dunes As the breeze dies out The windmill screeches to a halt Grinding out a greaseless moan Motionless, the scene around me Could be a million straw brooms Flipped upside-down and stuck into the rich soil Coal plants burn black in the distance, Sending a dark trail overhead To cut through the clouds and dilute into the pale sky White clouds froth Under blue waves As the sky’s current lurches east The windmill starts slowly Its mechanical hum hidden between rushing wheat As gears below work through their metered cycle To power the home at its base. Published in the Ignatian (2006) We Sleep Well Changes were seismic And of unnatural inspiration Like trading flowing springs For raw sewage Degradation of nature Reflects degradation of natives And when locals perform this slaughter It deepens the insult They learned to strip-mine tradition Refine it, make it palatable Grind it into some obscure Reflection of mass production They transfuse industrial revolutions Intravenously advancing the collective “uncivilized” Force feeding colds and flues Until the populous learns European tongues Trees make farmland awkward So they’ll burn and flatten land Destroy cumbersome biomass To get an ounce of tradable substance Memories of a green skyline Fill gaps in the canopy Most would be thankful They didn’t live to see this They segment herd paths Harness flowing springs Domesticate predators Or carve trinkets from their flesh In biblical fashion They’ll save two of each Load them in a boat To be caged for our amusement They’ll justify this as The cost of progress Many will die at the hands of the elite Lives traded for profit margins They’ll allow nature to grow Checked and stunted Within designated confines As long as it remains aesthetically pleasing Christen the birth of modernity With the sap of old-growth trees Burnt fossil fuels prompt worldwide hot flashes Signaling Mother Nature’s premature menopause It is easy to speak of peace And dictate global policy When you are able To feed your family Published in Amaranth (2004) HAZMAT Things moved too slowly today The hours were metered in shifting shadows Minutes were measured in breaths Blinks were frozen and seen frame by frame Once instantaneous, now a three step process- Close, fade to black, open again Three gradual heart beats per blink Like the shutter of an upright camera Blood in my head sounds like whitewater rapids Not rapidly moving I wanted to leave this place I’ve tried to leave for a week Their chemicals hurt my head Hours of boredom perforated my patience Making it easy to tear. I hid these words on the back of a place-mat But they crept forward to the front On to my plate Into my mouth And now, out through my pen In front of me is a white male Aged 18-35 with a wife and 2.5 kids He’s telling me the secrets of alchemy In this confined, stifling air He describes, for hours The dangers of prolonged exposure And I know exactly what he’s talking about Whose idea was it to put me through this purgatory With poisons always within arm’s reach Slowly, his words fade away Sinking below the tide of blood in my head At the risk of being disrespectful, I sleep I can’t remember if I drank one of those poisons And I don’t care. Published in Nota Bene (2004) City The sun sets early morning clouds ablaze Burning cotton out of the sky as the wind Carries ashes east to blanket sleepy villages Dusty dawn hues make scenes two-dimensional and monochrome As faceless characters float through gray fishbowls at the feet of their Metallic Adonis, some with scaffolding leg braces to support a meaty carriage Giant industrial idols that reach toward heaven To bypass entrance requirements or to defiantly Proclaim that no such place exists, or is necessary When the smoke clears, few rays penetrate our metal-glass canopy And just as some parts of the city are lit all night My corner is dark all day I watch sunrises on color pixel displays Fed by coal plants that Spew this unwanted shade. Published in the Ignatian (2006)1979 Newborns became parents in between Her last breath And his condemnation When science caught up I remember the smell A mixture of rust and peat moss The scent of single malt scotch in a slaughterhouse Aged nearly 30 years Evidence bags bore signatures of the retired and deceased Red-turned-brown, now black As younger men They pick through the scene Like patient vultures Bagging and documenting scraps To sleep under dust for decades A lazy April breeze ricochets off the water Weaving through overgrown fennel Resting on her cheek Now cold Purple bruises hidden under clotted black hair His mark reaches through time Connecting him to this place Like an umbilical cord Her screams travel along the creek Only the animals hear and flee The sound diluted into highway hum Before humans can translate Hummingbird heartbeats Eyes flash in front and behind A whirlwind of thoughts Heels chopping the soil The sound of her shoes striking the concrete floor Echoes through the parking structure at midday Her gait altered by her condition He watches He waits At sunrise Family leaves the house as she does A few months until maternity leave And life changes Again Published in the Ignatian (2018) Malignant They read the tealeaves from his face Creases mapped tributaries Syllables circled sclera perimeter Consonants crumbled corneas Vowels vibrated quivering lips Eyes welled Swell of emotion Baited breath The youngest metered her breath Touching door handles through a sleeve Her shoes forced to touch linoleum And it weighed heavily on her breathing shallow Only through her nose Even her eyelids were partially closed As if this were contagious The middle child watched the windows Trying to teleport Or reverse time A strong coastal breeze held birds in place Her eyes fixated on their midair pause She wondered if time did stop Wondered whether the birds would fly backwards To a time before the doctor uttered those words Mother’s eyes searched for meaning in the words She could feel the rest of the room leaving her behind She tried to push pass the Latin and the science He was more comfortable behind the italics The youngest daughter translated And then she knew And then she understood Waters crested ocular banks Published in the Amaranth (2018) Lucid The silent cobalt latitude Stretches out before me In omnipotent panorama. Shielding Or camouflaging The vague uncertainties Of everyday life. The contrast, A gentle shift in shade... A nondescript, Shadowed Blue-on-blue. The tide rushes foreword, Pushed by that ambient force, Latent and elusive, Only to retreat Back to numb, comforting Wholeness. Hidden behind the blue curtain, Its pattern; The matrix of Liquid metronome, Repetitious and constant, Disguises the Slow, undetectable Progression and retreat. Published in the Amaranth (2002) Marcus I was your older brother Where was I When you slept under a bridge wearing the thick odor of urine and sweat Wrapped in newspaper like fresh fish Skin chapped and red, stretched over your bones like hide on a drum Chasing the same high that took our mother? I remember wrestling Sticking to plastic chairs in summer Running from dogs and stealing oranges Teasing the tweakers in the ally Dreaming about what we would do as adults, when we could escape this town Could you have lived a lifetime in thirty years? After years on Honor Guard, I’d carried more coffins than I could count But this was the heaviest And not just because the cheap handles cut into my hands Or because you shared my sweet tooth The bodies never look right They never get the face right They had 16 years to improve But yours was as bad as hers Those last few years I didn’t know you like I should have But whatever you were That leathery graying flesh is not you Wrinkled deflated balloon Where was I As you bled out Tarred gravel and dirt on your cracked heels? After nearly a decade as a prosecutor, I had read thousands of police reports Did the detective realize how closely we would read this one How we would recite every word, tracing the font with our fingertips Imagining what it felt like to stumble on the side of the road as life left our bodies? You were my younger brother Where were you When I returned from overseas When my sons were born? I thought we would catch up When things were normal at a wedding A funeral? You are my brother Where are you? Published in Into the Void (2017) Midnight Cinema I detect the audio The soundtrack slowly emerges First mono Then stereo And finally Dolby surround A low frequency white noise A river perhaps; wet static Then the screen lights up Not all at once. The picture flickers like a candles flame Until I can focus My body numb from the cold ceramic tiles under my bare skin I wonder how long the film has been rolling The pipe overhead projects the liquid visuals down at me Frame by frame My skin is dull from the pounding But it feels like 8mm The dubbing is a little off Those warm, slippery pixels drip down my body As I drift out of focus again The picture is brought back to screeching crystal clarity When the images turn cold, throwing my mind and body back into Consciousness I jump to turbulent legs so as to adjust the lens beaming down at me But I must have jostled the projector Or else it ran out of film Because that instant Before gravity caught up to me With my head in limbo The screen went blank. The sound faded out The theater echoed empty Without even rolling the credits Published in the Amaranth (2002) Stalking woman from a safe distance As light shifts between clouds Pupils dilate Radiating from center the way Impact breaks placidity on water’s surface Distinct olfactory signatures leave trails Like time lapsed photography Of boulevards at night The crowd covers the street Weaving in and out of itself Dispersing and regrouping to the rhythm Of light bulbs. The only people who aren’t moving Are buying Selling Or confused Amid the swarm One figure moves with patience Graceful, metered steps Part the crowd without interrupting its interplay Behind her, the crowd reforms Consuming the space left in her wake As she glides towards me I imagine the sensation of her hair Against my cheek. Briefly, Pet names bounce through my head And almost roll off my tongue It’s this way with everyone Before we speak And I realize that she is vulgar Or rude Or not worth the trouble By the time she passes me The sun has reached its peak So I’m not even left with the shadow Of someone I desperately want to be with Or know If only for a moment. Published in the Ignatian (2006) Arboredom The tall ones that start thin and bloom out like umbrellas I want to sleep under During a trickling rain Listening to the drops fall like uncooked rice on a tile floor With my head dry My feet sinking in mud, as I literally hug a tree Wait, would rain really make that sound? Would rice? The thin ones I want to chop down with an axe Full masculine swings, triceps and shoulders throbbing by night Hands numb from the impact, a strong bright white smile on my face Flannel torn and wet, covered in woodchips and dirt Cut out the middle, burn it, and make a canoe to glide across the lake To catch fish for dinner, to cook over my woodchip fire Wait, could I chop down a tree with an axe? Would it float? Do I own a flannel? The squat meaty horizontal ones I want to climb Run up the trunk barefoot and swing from branch to branch like wooden monkey bars Rub my palms and soles on the rough bark Watch the sunset while lounging on an outstretched limb Fall asleep under the moon and the stars to the sounds of the forest Drink the morning dew that collects on broad leaves Wait, will there be bugs? Can I even do monkey bars anymore? The ugly useless ones I want to grind down and process Chip the wood like a rabid beaver, then pulverize it into a pulpy heap Flatten, dry, and cut it into clean sheets And write exquisite poetry on it Readers will smell the paper and touch the words And understand the struggle Wait, how do you make paper? Do people still read poetry? Published in the Amaranth (2018) Burnt spoons I wasn’t completely shocked when Our spoons were missing I guess I knew But never had to see proof I was used to thin little papers Scattered across the counter top I saw money Film containers And baggies change hands In our apartment But that leftover campfire 1960’s habit was almost accepted I still regret staying home from school Silent, motionless, Breathing through my nose I sat on the floor of my closet/bedroom Through my parted cloth door I heard her inhale through clenched teeth As metal pierced skin below a latex armband Ten years later At her funeral I wondered if life was really so unbearable Published in the Ignatian (2006) Lex Talionis The scene spreads over my eyes like dripping marmalade on burning toast in the summer a Salvador Dali oil pastel in the rain on a sinking ship mostly monochrome focus fleeting twelve faces shuffle into the box twenty-two eyes chart the ground I read the verdict from hers the only one who sees me Did they know this wasn’t the first time? Did they know this wouldn’t be the last? Would that change anything? Her eyes narrowed and read the floor He smiled when we heard the words I counted the syllables of Hammurabi on my fingertips Published in Penumbra (2018) Cut-and-dried Cattle crowd in dense bunches Like grapes on the vine Clustered under shady patches From stubborn oaks On an otherwise burnt blonde backdrop A lonely well drips low echoing empty, early like a straw catching air In a large fountain soda During previews Production waits for rain Shallow roots crumble dry Life hides in the shadows Fire fuel overtakes Green pastures The rancher is up before the sun Black coffee and denim The house stretches And creaks itself awake Child embraces a few more minutes of sleep Subdivisions creep toward the wire fence Slowly surrounding the farm Like a patient SWAT team Vinyl siding shields advance Led by fresh asphalt Midmorning fog Rolls down from the hill Burns off the valley floor Over the dead grass on the ranch Over the green lawns of the tract homes Published in the Amaranth (2018) Downtown Smokestacks Tuesday was high resolution That bled through to the rest of the week Like a hangover I think the world stopped And watched from dusty lenses The fiery conclusion to 8 years of foreshadow I thought it was unsinkable Our dry titanic Whose fate redefined patriotism Five hours later Busy signals still throbbed In my ear Our morning speaker Choked on easy words Giving up mid-sentence Blurry color motion Flashed on screen And our meeting ended I saw expressions change Around our table Mouths gaping I slept well I hoped I imagined it And I felt guilty It was real Wednesday When our meeting was Full of puffy eyes and closed mouths Published in the Amaranth (2003) Dust bowl It’s been years… Since my feet touched this place Since my mouth tasted its floating dirt Since my skin felt the sting of dry heat I can still see The path we carved Dirty brown against fading green Where rubber ripped through nature Poor boys pushed their bikes Panting away from suffocation Towards these hills, the great equalizers Covered with veiny trails of ambitious youth I remember watching clocks roll As teachers rambled on towards two fifty-five When I raced to an empty house to throw my Backpack and pump my little legs to this place Fear and frustration vanished with the road When my tires hit the trail, because my holey Two-sizes-too-big shirt looked the same as my Buddies’ once we were covered with dirt Here I tasted the salty warmth Of blood, when we argued without words. I remember how thankful we all were Once we found those words Our slippery bodies raced home Beaded with sweat Hoping to beat the sun So we wouldn’t be beaten How comforting it was The next morning, stiff and sore When all of our wounds were Self-inflicted. Published in Nota Bene (2004) Flightless Voyeur The view from the dock Is a spectral blend of freshwater Saltwater And something in between Crawfish hide In the muddy shallows Beneath clumps of green growth Eating whatever they can catch A school of tiny fish patrols the bay Moving swiftly in formation Their silvery bodies shine Like fighter jets Mosquitoes swarm any movement like an angry mob Thirsty for warm blood. One hovers over my hand Like a hummingbird over a flower His bulging eyes give him a panoramic view of the bay Children on shore chase each other With crabs, while winged onlookers Watch intently with open beaks Glossy eyes reflect blue-green in monochrome One of these lanky creatures stops in front of me And cocks his narrow head to the side With one eye, he examines me And I examine him I think he wonders what he would do if he could talk He would discuss important things Engaging conversations He would not sit on a dock with a notepad And if I had his wings I wouldn’t walk anywhere. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Sedative A thick froth of dark baritone lullaby radiates from the restless midnight coastline The sea’s soliloquy plays below the moon for a captive audience The plot twists through a sandy gauntlet Stretching up on its toes to crash over the melting rocks Like the half full glasses found at the peak of evening in softly lit rooms The shore drips with a salty bitter intoxicating mist That cools summer pallets without quenching thirst Sending tired inhibitions into dangerously deep sleep Without arousing suspicion. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Inequity of Men Crisp air sharpens senses in the pale blue of autumn twilight. The streets are camouflaged with the changing hues Of deciduous jigsaw puzzles Thin plums of gray-white smoke rise from Burgundy brick chimneys Sending the aroma of treated pine into the streets Glass beads hang from a porch Smashing together at irregular intervals Trading beats with wind chimes next door All the songbirds have migrated, hidden, or died. The only birds left are on lawns, quietly pecking Through the damp remains of summer These large, black figures shine under a waning moon Walking cautiously, they slowly investigate The ground under their claws Thick, pronounced shoulders sit under iridescent eyes Obsidian beaks glisten like Kaiser blades Polished and sharpened for a late harvest Wind breathes life into An otherwise motionless field Hissing past rotten corn stalks Calico rats writhe below husks Gorging themselves on spoiled mush As children in town feast on Halloween hordes Between the rustle of westerlies Wet friction scrapes towards the rodents Who now sit still Tiny hairs stand erect Only their dilated pupils move As a flickering tongue leads reptilian scales forward Calm sets in Destiny is secure for predator and prey As greedy children return to the streets. Published in the Amaranth (2005) Postcards From Galileo Opaque. Off-white. Intangible variance, Slightly more perfect than perfection. A transparent reflection of the sun, In surreal, almost eerie synchronicity. The minute exactness of its color, A conceptual form whose appearance Is wasted on flawed senses, And, To be named, Is not what it once was. Published in the Amaranth (2001) The Circle Checkered? My past was not “checkered” Wrong side of the tracks Tracking track marks Premature births and deaths Checkered was an understatement. It was calico confetti, abstract jigsaw, modern art put through a wood chipper, plastered to a broken mosaic, Set ablaze during an earthquake And buried deep And I left it there, buried deep, with the dead, And I imitated normal until it became real. I sat through their stories Violence, addiction, poverty. We all went through it, But they stayed there. They still get their mail there. Not me. Published in the Amaranth (2017) Neptune’s Transcendencee Summer night Shimmering blue in the pale moonlight Light dancing seductively off of the surface The ebb and flow Rippling a long blue finger that motions to me The horizon rolls toward me Water swimming around me like silk serpents I lay limp as the sea gently nudges me Drifting far away from nothing Towards the horizon To become it. As the sky folds open to greet me I realize that I forgot to breathe. Published in the Amaranth (2001) Aeropagus Rise to piercing solar vulgarity Fragrant nuances still seethe in the stale, heavy air The dry, smoky flavored shirt I wore, now draped over The lamp, casts the room With numb ambiguity To subdue the light Burning through the curtains Foggy, muffled sounds of the shower Barely reach my ears, still dull from the night I should leave soon But how quickly beauty spoils I write a note Wearing the mask of a lover One who will call... But I won't. Published in Amaranth (2001) Afterglow Light bends through a glass On the window sill, dancing over parted lips Eyelids flutter Teetering between dreams Splinters of sun glisten off her hair To reflect and stretch back towards the open window Her mouth is painted a deep autumn hue That I have tasted before We are alone It’s quiet enough to hear Her shallow, silky breathing I watch the rise and fall of her chest clad in my white V-neck A breeze grazes the tiny hairs on her neck Her drowsy limbs flail blindly for warmth Without waking her, A smile moves from the corners of her Lips when I cover her This tender silence keeps me from leaving When I know I should Published in the Amaranth (2003) Leftovers From that dark drafty hallway I watched you sleep The effervescent flow of curiosity That helps you in to trouble but never out Has drifted away like your fair-weather "friends" Drowned in Dixie cups and shot glasses. Your scant wrapping paper is in a pile on the floor, It’s purpose; whether to punctuate your presence or distract from your insecurities, Remains both unknown and unfulfilled. When you wake up from my nightmare, I'm the reason you rebel. I am your safety net, And in not failing