PURPOSE

I was born to laugh
and cry and dance,
to reinvent myself,
to clothe my shoulders with change,
to sit quietly and breathe deeply,
to look upon the stillness of a lake
before mischievously causing ripples,
to wonder why, why, why
there is some need
for such a vast universe
where an angry fist
and the back of your hand
stroking the graying hairs on my head
are brothers,
foretold in Joshua:
"For I know the plans I have for you..."

You do not need
an x-ray machine
to see I am perfectly broken,
but I'm gather myself
daily,
darning the tiny fragments of my heart
to my sleeves,
not so that I may again be whole
(for I never was)
but so that I may continue,
foolishly,
an attempt to be useful.

 

 

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BLUE MARBLE EGG

Someone I once shared a bed with
is now a complete stranger:
there are phenomena
in this overcrowded world
more important than
a feeling of melting away,
but how do you know the world is ending
in the moment between the smile
and a calloused finger on the shutter button?
Each firing complication
shows us, now, 
all of the subtleties avoided.

There is a daughter with a strong name,
difficult to say.
Her name is a sword I cannot swallow.
Her name burns a tattoo
in the lining of my esophagus,
a permanent reminder
of a temporary feeling.

Heroic memories
etched in stone
on some vase of my early twenties
are no stronger
than the weekends we spent
on the beach:
on those hallowed glory grounds, 
I would forget
(like Eurydice)
and I would look at you
and you would look at me
and, soon, my mouth was full of sand
and only --
only --
the ocean stood between us.

 

 

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GUERNICA

Imagine, if you will,
Beethoven counting out sixty beans of coffee
before making one cup,
and if you can picture that,
you may be able to understand the Eroica Symphony
or, at least, a few of the string quartets.

I often thwart sleep
thinking about Beckett
and why Krapp seems obsessed,
as if by name, with indigestion
when good ole Sam
would hole himself up in the siege
with scrambled eggs and red wine.

Then, there is Alice Munro,
like so many women,
who raised children and wrote short stories
(at the same time, mind you)
in a series of long midnights:
where is the time to be a Salinger
when there is duty, responsibility, all of that?

“What’s the point?”
one may ask,
when changing a dirty diaper
or mowing the lawn
or paying taxes
or visiting Grandma at the home.

I look in the mirror,
and I see the silent gray surface of the moon in my eyes.
I am an artist without a sketchbook.
My scars are not filed away in old drafts.
My regrets are placed neatly onstage for general admission.
My atonal future is dancing uncertain and unwieldy
with a limp on its left, bionic side.

The truth is that
my heart has been tattooed in blue-black ink
across the backs of napkins and in coffee shop restrooms, 
in the eyes of old friends
and in hugs that I hold on to more now,
five seconds, ten:
the real truth is that there is no truth,
that we all do the best we can in some way or another,
some do it with a paintbrush
or eight times a week
and some do it better than you,
but you should do it if you want —
make a cup of coffee with sixty beans if you want —
there is no point to this poem
other than to say
I’ll still be here
with my scars on display
because, truth be told, 
if I want a chance to understand
what survives of the truth,
I may have already said too much,
and that’s why I’m alive to begin with.

 

 

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HIGH DIVE

Somewhere between here and there,
one must reach his hands above his head,
back flat on the floor,
eyes closed,
and jump headfirst
into that storm brewing inside of him
so he may find
the cold, calm eye of a hurricane
where everything is noise
and promise,
flickering bulbs
and static on the radio:

There is a difference between
being alone
and
being lonely.

No boy is an island,
but laying on the beach,
the rocks warm,
the tide rises,
the sun sets,
and, at the end of the day,
when all is done
but not necessarily said,
even the footprints in the sand
(one by one by one)
march into the ocean,
despite lightning in the distance.

This is a place I could stay,
though the greens will fade with the years
and the distance in my mind
makes me question
if it was a pelican or a seagull
that landed on that mossy rock
or if there was a mossy rock
or if there was a beach at all,

but, for now, I'm back,
flat on my back,
alone,
arms above my head,
an island
surrendering to what once was,
save for a whispering breeze
and rust on my bicycle spokes
and a few slowing breaths
resembling a rallentando in 7/8 time.

 

 

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IDIOM

Look at you:

Burning the midnight oil,
caught between two stools,
your time worth an arm and a leg,
making a long story short and
discovering the method to your madness.

Piece of cake, isn't it?
Jump on the bandwagon, kiddo,
because in the heat of this moment,
your actions speak louder than words,
for when the cat has your tongue,
it's all out the door.

To add insult to injury,
it takes two to tango:
one to pull the wool over your eyes,
another to let sleeping dogs lie.

This bitter pill makes you
but a dime a dozen,
and, suddenly, you're all ears
at the drop of the hat --

back to the drawing board,
the ball is in your court,
but you're barking up the wrong tree,
beating around some proverbial bush.

The naked truth
is that you're not some hot potato,
but maybe that's a blessing in disguise
because you do have the best of both worlds, 
don't you?

Take it straight from the horse's mouth:
your guess is as good as mine.

 

 

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A FOLK SONG FOR MODERN TIMES

I say to hate is easy, to love takes courage,
an ounce of brains is worth much more than brawn.
And all those things must make me good,
so that's how I’ll go on.
That’s how I’ll go on.

Protect my friends, lift up my neighbors,
my word is stronger than a cop’s baton.
I think that’s what makes me good,
so that's how I’ll go on.
That’s how I’ll go on.

Let ‘em talk and call me stupid.
Let ‘em poke holes in my dreams.
Let ‘em say that folks are bad,
but folks are never half as bad as the best of ‘em, it seems.

So I’ll be damned for doin’, I’ll be damned for nothin’
like some seven-headed beast of Babylon.
Still, I have faith that makes me good,
so that’s how I’ll go on.
That’s how I’ll go on.

I am scorned just ‘cause I’m diff’rent,
choosing lovers' arrows while guns are drawn.
Isn’t that what makes me good?
It’s hard for me to see as time goes on,
but that’s how I’ll go on.

Let ‘em say I don’t know nothin’.
Let ‘em say I ain’t worth the reach
‘cause I know I’ll have walked with giants
by puttin’ into practice all those fancy words I preach.

Still, hatin’s easy, lovin’s different
when night turns on its side and faces dawn.
Sometimes, I don’t believe that folks are good,
but, still, I must go on…

Then, I remember that love takes courage,
so that’s how I’ll choose to go on.

 

 

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IN REMEMBRANCE OF PASSION

The earth shook
and we said some words
in a language we thought we both understood,
and at the end of it,
I forgot I was a poet,
not because it was forgettable,
but because the way the light
floated down between the birches
on that gray morning,
I no longer recognized the earth.

It was not a place I could see anymore.
I could not hear her song.
Sounds no longer danced lightly on my earlobes,
and my two fingers on her pulse
were reduced to a memory
of what I swore was there:
when I first blushed
at the sight of her strapless dress
falling slightly underneath her left shoulder,
when I tasted a ripe peach
only awaking from a dream, hungry,
etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

There is an absence of words.
I cannot shake that she is only hiding,
yet I suppose
I will spend the remainder of my days,
like a wandering, vacant Orpheus,
looking for what I think belongs to me.

 

 

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FAKE NEWS

I stopped taking most things seriously
since I found out that I could not,
indeed,
lose weight by clicking there,
and I did click there
only to find dashed hopes
and cruel intentions.

I remember where I was
when I discovered
Gilligan died a second time,
and scars from the first
(some ten years earlier)
radiated with the changing weather.

One of my relatives claims
ISIS IN TEXAS!!!!!
(with five exclamation points, no less)
on her Facebook page
with a link
claiming a source
from sourced sources.
Icy is her silence
when asked
why border patrol
would let known terrorists
into our country,
but that's a conversation
in and for another time,
I suppose.

The truth is that it is all terribly boring:
I struggle to pay attention now
as it is very early
and I'm driving to work
and I have just enough coffee
to remember to write down this poem later
when the Rolling Stones
remind me of the simple truth:
that I can't help but love
the French horn and guitar
being together in those opening moments,
like an internet video
of a chimpanzee
cradling a baby goat
(which I learn, now, is actually inhumane
because sedation is involved).

And it is inhumane, friends,
that you can't always get want you want,
but that's what keeps you
driving down this dark, dawn-lit road
to take you
everywhere you wish to be --
that's what you get.

In this morning,
and every other after,
that's what you need.

 

 

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THE "NOT-MY-PRESIDENT" RAG

Hmm-mmm…
Hmm-mmm…

What do you do with states of red and blue
and the amber waves of grain so grand
while plainer folks are the same old jokes
and politicians keep their iv’ry hides so tanned?
If only you were paid enough,
you probably could be swayed enough
though blaming is easy, and thinking? A drag!
Since the White House went black,
by God, you’ll take it back
and sing the “NOT-MY-PRESIDENT” rag.

What do you say when, to Jesus, you pray?
“I pray for all the heretics and fools,
the darkies and queers and the sum of our fears —
if only we had prayer in the schools!”
And while you scream and grip your rights,
the suits still try to strip your rights,
while, grinning, on your lawn, you don a flag!
Rather face what’s true,
you’ll sport a strip of blue
and sing the “NOT-MY-PRESIDENT” rag.

But tides will turn — this you’ve assured:
when you handed me silence, you gave me your word.
You tell me: “Abide!” “Take up my side,
despite all the rage and the scorn I’ve supplied!”
And for what, I must ask, and at who’s expense?
“A more perfect union” becomes the common defense,
but “a more perfect union” without common sense
and “a more perfect union” behind a steel fence
is “a more perfect union” that’s perfectly tense.
This is the offense, the threat to democracy,
and “crown thy good with brotherhood” is the example of hypocrisy.

“America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!”

So what to expect when we’ve lost all respect
for an office that once was highest in the land?
I’m choosing to speak for the mild and the meek
while you would rather sit than take a stand.
And though I’m here to fight for you,
I’ll do my best in spite of you
so, pardon me, should I choose to gag!
Now that the master race
has stared me straight in the face,
I’ll sing the “NOT-MY-PRESIDENT” rag.
(Now, it’s my turn!)
I’ll choose the “NOT-MY-PRESIDENT” rag.
(Pretty, ain’t it?)
I’ll use the “NOT-MY-PRESIDENT” rag.
(OH, CAN YOU HEAR ME?)
How much have we learned
now that the tables have turned?
Someone’s always singin’
the “NOT-MY-PRESIDENT” rag.

(That’s all I got so back to hummin’ I go…)
Hmm-mmm…

 

 

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WHO'S LIKE US? DAMN FEW

Old friends in new times:
both monuments in stone
and astral creatures
with a closed door behind us,

I, too, remember when
we have been strangers
more than I wish to say.

 

 

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LADY SINGS THE BLUES SO WELL

Civilization began
when the mother of the universe
dropped a crystal plate
on the black expanse of the sky,
shattering into a billion stars.

With a desperate ragged breath,
she knelt,
sweeping up the constellations
and putting bits of far-off planet
in her apron pocket,
knowing that, once broken,
nothing can ever be put back again
and thinking to herself
that we'd all
be much happier
should this one moment
and the next
and the next
be, simply, a beautiful accident
of necessity and circumstance.

 

 

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SYMBIOSIS

There are moments when
I feel so small
and so broken
that you come along
and inflate me
like a blue balloon
and, though I can only
go so high,
I am who I am
because you think I can;
and the thought
of a blue balloon
against the bluest sky
makes us rise
(together)
on short breaths of helium
and optimism
and what-we-could-bes
and hope
and just a little doubt
and all of those thoughts
that keep us up
in the middle of the night,
in that half-awake place
of dreaming and reality,
when, suddenly, it is very late
and you stand with your prosecco
and me with my martini:
we stare up from the same park bench,
sharing a twine string
and a blue balloon
and a few aspirations
which will get us through
some very lonely winters
and (daily)
of the moments in between.

 

 

 

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EXPIRATION DATE

Sometimes, I envy a ripe banana:
it is a thing that hangs,
watched,
until just the time
when it is ready for the world.

Instead, here I stand
with my shirt off --
my guts hanging out --
and either no one sees
or everyone does
while they quietly gather
the nails to drive
through my palms and feet,
checking my pulse
a forkful deep at a time
to see if the cake batter cooked,
only as if to say,
"You're sweet, really,
but you've never amounted
to much more
than pudding."

Meanwhile,
the avocado blanches,
and I take the pit
and place it on the shelf
as a reminder
that every ripe fruit
must, at once, know its core.

 

 

 

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A PARTING SHOT

It is a dark midnight:
I sit here living and alive
(two extremes, a duo of vast conditions)
despite it all.

 

 

 

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SONNET FOR INSANITY

You say the sky is blue.
I say the grass is green.
Yet, the road from me to you
is mixed up in between.

You're shouting now (oh so loud).
You say I do not hear.
I say that you are much too proud.
We're not listening -- that is clear.

For I refuse to see the sky;
you, to sit upon the grass.
Stuck in all the reasons why,
we wait for time to pass.

The world, unforgiving, keeps on spinning.
We've lost another argument that never was worth winning.

 

 

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DRUM

You can love someone
without liking them,
and that truth isn't a wound
as much as it is a drum
for things you thought you knew
but didn't.

 

 

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THIS IS WHAT BLACK FEELS LIKE

THIS IS WHAT BLACK FEELS LIKE, you tell me,
but I cannot see
for I am blind.

Inside of me,
there are rooms big enough for both of us,
but there are locked doors,
built long enough ago, 
giant gates we know we didn't put there ourselves:
they are welded shut.

And through these fences, 
I feel your soft black hands:
they are both a wisp of smoke
and a crown for the stars.
I feel your soft black hands,
but I still cannot see what it means to have my words called "slang"
or to have my mistakes searched for in defense of my murder.
My success has never been considered lucky given my circumstance.
The ratio of my achievement to my work ethic has never been unfair.
When I raise my voice, it is not because I am angry but because I am strong.
When I stand up for myself, it is not because I am defensive but because I have conviction.
When I question others, I am brilliant instead of unaware.
When I am smart, I am because I am
-- and it surprises no one.

THIS IS WHAT BLACK FEELS LIKE, you tell me,
but I cannot see
for I am blind.
Instead, I feel your soft black hands:
like me, you are someone's child,
someone's someone.

THIS IS WHAT BLINDNESS FEELS LIKE, I start to say,
but you've evaporated through the chimney
as if I could show you the flue
(you see, how will we call this world our home
if even the constellations have wounds?)

I relinquish my blindness,
aware of its removability.
I see only rooms inside of me
big enough for both of us
with cracked ceilings
and cold windows
and locked doors.

Drops of blood fall into my eyelids.

I rust.

 

 

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A LIFE IN ART: A MANIFESTO

An artist's view on being born
- An artist does not ask to be born.
- An artist must learn to love the parents he has.
- An artist must not hate his parents for what he does not have.
- An artist must not hate his parents for what they do not give.
- An artist must be himself from an early age.
- An artist must be himself from an early age.
- An artist must be himself from an early age.
- An early age is any age at which the artist realizes he is.

An artist's view on being conscious and somewhat alive
- An artist must watch and wait and be patient.
- An artist must not commit crimes against other human beings.
- An artist must not harm himself consciously.
- An artist must breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- An artist must breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- An artist must breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- An artist must sleep enough.
- An artist must work more than he sleeps.
- An artist must make things in order to be considered an artist.
- An artist must make things in order to be considered an artist.
- An artist must make things in order to be considered an artist.
- An artist must make things in order to be considered an artist.
- An artist must make things in order to be considered an artist.
- An artist must make things in order to be considered an artist.

An artist's view on theatre
- An artist believes the theatre is important.
- An artist believes the theatre does not matter.
- An artist believes the theatre is important.
- An artist believes the theatre does not matter.
- An artist believes the theatre is important.
- An artist believes the theatre does not matter.
- An artist believes the theatre has something to teach us. 

An artist's view on music
- An artist believes music is important.
- An artist believes music does not matter.
- An artist believes music is important.
- An artist believes music does not matter.
- An artist believes ALL music is important.
- An artist believes ALL music does not matter.
- An artist believes music has something to teach us. 

An artist's view on the visual arts
- An artist believes a painting is important.
- An artist believes a painting does not matter.
- An artist believes a sculpture is important.
- An artist believes a sculpture does not matter.
- An artist believes color is important.
- An artist believes color does not matter.
- An artist believes anything you can see has something to teach us.

An artist's view on dance and creative movement
- An artist believes dance is important.
- An artist believes dance does not matter.
- An artist believes dance is important.
- An artist believes dance does not matter.
- An artist believes dance is important.
- An artist believes dance does not matter.
- An artist believes physical expression has something to teach us.

An artist's view on literature and books
- An artist must read.
- An artist must read.
- An artist must read.
- An artist must write.
- An artist must write.
- An artist must write.

An artist's view on mathematics and science and the rest of the world
- An artist believes that everything that is not art is also art.
- An artist believes art is also science.
- An artist is unable to see a difference between art and science.

An artist's view on politics
- All art is an act of defiance.
- All art is an act of compliance.
- All art is political.
- All art is.

An artist's view on death
- An artist is not important. The work is important.
- An artist is not important. The work is important.
- An artist is not important. The work is important.
- There must be gratitude.
- There must be hope.
- There must be the unnameable.
- There must be every reason (and none at all) for a life of musts or manifestos.

 

 

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STARING AT THE CEILING FAN

When it is too late
and I am still awake,
I count the millions of tiny mountains
hovering above me
before drifting off into other.

I am never awake
long enough to count them all,
but I am able to see,
somewhere between
the fan and the roof
and an immovable twilight,
the ceiling wears a skin of gratefulness,
and I,
one of drowsy solemnity.

 

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GOODNIGHT MOON

Last night,
a storm woke me
by dancing on my roof
and, giving thunder a twirl,
it began a steady pitter-patter,
which gave me cause to open one eye
and watch the ceiling fan
spin and spin,
hoping I'd return to
laying on the beach with you
or winning the lottery
(boy, that one was hard
to wake up to),
but instead,
I found myself making lists
and reminders of what to do
upon waking:
pack the bags,
make the sandwiches,
read the other lists...

"There are so many places to be,"
I remember thinking
before drifting off again,
but maybe right here --
maybe in that place
between comforter and pillow case
that glows warm and cold
like a hopeful picture of the Earth
from the Hubble telescope --
maybe in this container
where I am safe
from the elements, at least --
maybe this is not where I should be
as, simply, where I am,
for now,
with only the sound of raindrops
on my eyelids
and the same gentle fan
whirring above me
as it has since the days of my adolescence,
ushering me back into some bewildering unknown
for the next several hours
or until the cawing alarm clock
beckons me to grow up,
grab my lists,
(futile, failing)
and get out.

 

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