Friday, December 28, 2012

For Elizabeth Dagenhart

when the stars like claws
  and the night sky like someone else's secrecy
  and the city lights like false nature
  conspire to make beauty
when yesterday's pages of armed robbery
  and last night's phonecall of attempted rape
  and this closed car's best attempt
  to pollute planet earth to death
conspire to invent safety
  we know we're home

they come up on us like hydrophobia
  panhandlers turned muggers
  hunters turned predators
  hustlers turned rapists
your sense of safety like a dead bird in the gutter
no sophisticated victim

welcome home city of god
  remade with rapist's smile
         robber's claws
         murderer's scent for news
welcome   home
  that won't last
  without collapsing
that blesses us
  with our own blood
    only at certain points in our histories

from The Troubles (1993)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Steamer to Greece

in medusa
the seeds of pattering feet under the volcano of innocence
plowed under interplanetary foreheads' 
intimations of time bomb
soloed at la scala    presented the prince's pin
at the end of the time of the blueberry sandwich
the traded for a polar bear
declared at customs left the officer a harsh glare
which he took inside to sharpen his motorcycle
leaving her to a steamer to greece

she arrived steamed
nine-headed dogs hounded her feet
television sets glared from serpents' heads
the rock cafe where she ordered butterscotch
refused her babylonian money
she grew fat on a ranch with a one-eyed giant
watched her island shrink to respectability
adopted circe for establishment of ages future
then went to the caves     to her stay-at-home sisters

in medusa we have her two sisters
plowed under by the sharp motorcycle of babylonian money
nine-headed at the time of blueberry sandwiches
teeth declared and traded for a television set
medusa alone among them alive enough to die

from Twisted History (1999)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What Saw

art is large floors
brought to crowds and workshops

three exhibits attract films   seasons
art along influences

it was heart orphanage

yet another canonization

calamity of downtown royalty

survivor house

   and you must walk through the showroom
   grew up to be a new york journalist
   thousands of immigrants arrived
   i see their eyes   through eyes of my own
   the long deep line at the edge of the sea
   a young divorcee called civic duty

from Purgatorial (2004)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Missouri River 1820

the one in the front is about forty
leans     on the oars
and the grizzled hair on his chin
and his closed and toothless mouth
and his worn green wool cap
all add up to the mystery
of why he is still
out there on the river
as he glares at the painter

this painting is from my childhood
i will never be
a grey toothless bear
i will be maybe
then look like that forever

my children will
always be children

the young man with him
holds his chin in his hand
he has thick black hair
and a hand on an oar
he knows lord byron
he swivels toward the painter
he seems close friends
with the older man

from Twisted History (1999)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Compare But Only Behind

i'll hold it in uses its brain
sing hymns to a basketball
treat it     blue eyes and
as my own with psychiatrists
when it hears country and western ballads

and never got fixtures humming

i'll marry it and to mandalay
maybe it fits right under your pantleg

i need a heart
never bleeding
i'll name it pants are loose enough
and in its tropics
i'll compare drink enough saxophone to find out
but only behind vomit passenger ships
whenever you think of her
and talk about the road to mandalay

the road to mandalay
where the frozen dinners play

as if i were     dogs
mouth shrinks it has blue eyes and
uses its brain for a basketball
dogs     that have more taste
not above more taste
i need heart fixtures humming
electrical like a vein called back
regular     the road's about to go off
sing hymns to treat it
as my arm

originally published in The Flying Dog (1993)

Thursday, November 8, 2012


you follow your dog out of the subway
into the forum of pompeii
     a few decades
     that's all you get
he walks on two feet now
you know the forum from this morning
     a few decades
     that's all you get
where are the floors?
where are the roofs?
why are the paving stones
set so unevenly?
why is my house
so terribly ruined?
all the temples
they're ruined too
     a few decades
that's all you get

from Twisted History (1999)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cutup From A Chain Letter

god created me from harm
made me better for all seasons
eat us not grow consideration
overwhelm us with most merciful
we need    of the state    of a mortal
there is pleasure    in misery    overcome
i have dinosaurs too     chained dog town
your heart and life
    love with your sins
    even apparently evil thankfully
    so they can grow up
    love does not hurt others
    so just wait
    your life will give you spice

from Purgatorial (2004)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

po mo

po mo o no
po no o mo
o mo po no
no po o mo
o po no mo
no mo po o
mo o po no
no o po mo
o o o o
po mo po no
from Purgatorial (2004)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

If Another

if i had a hamburger
for every fingernail lost at sea
i would be codfish
if i were a     tin     can
of marmalade
fewer bandages would get lost in the tundra
all of this
is true somewhere
     so soothe yourself
     moisten the tiles on your roof
     the shingles over your eyes
     cry upside-down
     laugh     to the fish
     tell them mountain-climbing jokes

from Purgatorial (2004)

Saturday, September 8, 2012


watching the light
as the pen
extinguishes it
with words

from Oedipus'First Lover (2009)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

1350 AD

i remember the hour
when only rich men could possess fish
because the legs of fish
were too expensive for common people
to polish
i remember
the taste
of gold paint
on my tongue
merlin asked us to construct his castle of air
we all breathed in and out
then out and in
then exhaled mightily
and the countryside flickered
and the film began
i remember
silver tunics on mice
rats dressed in black
with white lacquered crucifixes at their necks
i remember     the fleet river
carrying its tribute of dead garbage bags to the thames
i hold a lantern
the link between your sinews:
are you the link
between pieces of cloth?
his teeth fizz
as he contemplates
the immanent death
of several articles of clothing

from Twisted History (1999)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

As If You'd Added to Your Flesh

once the electronic is looking for you
camels are no longer imaginary
everyone agrees    broken pieces of detectives
are traded at pawnshops
as if you'd added to your flesh
as if you'd added
get it back
four months and twenty days
you made languages about
brush away the crusty lining
you warm to the mice
under her consciousness you have civilization
under the fingernails
under her consciousness you have fingernails
like civilization
under her civilization you have flesh
like consciousness

from The Troubles (1993)

Thursday, July 12, 2012


tomorrow i leap
tomorrow the rest of the world leaps with me
leaps fences
leaps bridegrooms bridges
hotel siestas
the kind of wool found only in plantlife
broken bricks     tired eyes
enema asphyxiation lights the color
of night warrens smooth diamonds
furry wrenches hot dogs chilled cats dirty rats
of all sizes and dimensions of nod
     all the 
             you never
your housebroken home in the suburbs of mudville
unlike casey we will leap
and leap
and leap
and land leaping 
on new ground

from Thebes (1991)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

people walking

people walking / their heads
in fishbowls
my dear / the moon
is full tonight

from Thebes (1991)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance

i once thought of life as a play
one's own play
with one's seat center stage for the duration

but now i think that that isn't true
that one's life really is a play
that all the characters one knows are in it
that they are all in the play their entire lives
and     still     that one's one's own main character
but that that character is born and dies
in the middle of the third act

originally published in Transcendant Visions (2012)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Three Dictionary Poems

I free:

     a political of speech

     being able to



II ice:


     come motionless

     cover with to preserve

     formal or

     ice cream

III fragile:

     to break


     and staring

from Oedipus' First Lover (2009)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wall Awe

alL nOW awake
awake All now
alL AwaKE now
NOw aWAke aLL

from Cyclone Fence (2007)

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Industrial Revolution Finally Expresses Itself

thank god
your car screams
when you set off the alarm
from outside it
grey shadows chase in its intestines
dreams of wrought iron cough out of its grillwork
agony propels behind its blinded headlights
unlike blood
unlike phlegm
unlike flesh that knows to feed itself
this is metal
we use
to transport ourselves
that needs a kick
from outside
in order to say anything at all
from Twisted History (1999)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Wall Street

get get get     yi! yi!
get get     want want
now     now     now     now
buy buy buy buy
sell sell sell sell
adding machine     adding machine
yi! yi! yi! yi!
yoop yoop yoop yoop
buy buy buy buy
sell sell sell sell
yoop yoop yoop yoop
yi! yi! yi! yi!
put up the wall
don't let the deer
don't let the antelope in
from Twisted History (1999)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to Teach Your Kids to Be Smart About Money

time     jars
most that when a dollar
on the sharpness of upturned wheels
one that as a changed child
in itself the screams
time jars
that make up for the whistle that's now smashed
family for others old by some act of terror
all the lives so strung out back over time
machinery at which hogs moved
expense patio on the desert
tooth pits choosing
but now complete animal carcass adventures
time jars
make game identifying
all the lives will grow from this
not even fire slipped on the blood
safe under the umbrella of a present time
once hooves will grow from this
an open pitted scream
o bury it you'll hear it yet
your hands grab the rail
the train coming at you any moment

originally published in Milvia Street (2010)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Freud's Cigar

the heat you engender when you cut deep into the bone
its marrow imaginary as a subterranean river
dream of the voices that have kept you waiting
deep inside the meat of your computer
electrical waterways passages of zeroes and dots
open socket to a paradise that seems too wet to touch
and a clown's nose at the end of the trail

     congratulations kid
you're in heaven

painted on the inside of your eye 
is an image of the empire state building
in thirty or so years it'll have been there a century
it's still in front of your eyeball as you sleep
as you walk your leggy poodle round and round it
which leg the dog sniffs which leg to use
everything's a fire hydrant sometimes
and the butcher shop's closed
and all the loose bones are locked inside and safe
so which leg to lift now
which leg to lift

Originally published in Bay Area Poets Seasonal Review, Spring/Summer 2010

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Wake Up Early

maybe it was light
reflected against my glasses in the early morning
but in the mirror the pupils of my eyes
had taken a feline shape
a straight line widened slightly at the center
vertically down the middle of my irises

     i tilted my head to the side

looked again
the pupils had widened into circles
all the leonine adventure gone

     if i'd believed in the vision at first
i'd had been relieved

as it was i sighed
no shape shifting this time
another chance at a new exciting life
gone like a worn-out toothbrush

the only part of the adrenaline left
the memory of a startled look on my face

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Aardvark's Tale

like clouds out of a seamless sky she floats
in her peasant dress a full foot over subway tiles
aarvark and ant both raise heads to listen
trade eyes the ant eyes don't fit but aardvark
sees colors a train goes by into darkness
he thinks ice cream she digs his shades
and she gets off at the next station
past night
the day is down to holes in the sky / stars
and the spurs of latter-day businessmen hang blind in a corner
the train bounces streetlights try
to mock the slack in light and cars
pass by lit small

this light is constricted
he grabs time back
he can still see her heels even though he's
regained his eyes he retains the vision
let's say laughing sam's dice again
motivating inside his eyeballs
and she passes by before him again
and he walks along beside her agreeing
to get off together at the next station
past streetlights and blindness
he looks down
to see
his shadow under a streetlight
watching both of them

from Thebes (1991)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Telegraph Avenue Relic

i've walked down this street so many times
that they've set sidewalks over my footprints

even the pavement
is more transient than i am

i remember languages these buildings used to speak
in the stone ages before this century
hello black cat on the psychedelic poster
your green eyes are still following me in their madness
as old buildings resurrect across your path
and i continue my conversations with you

ohlone earth     vaquero earth
student earth for over a century
all these earths would touch the soles of my shoes
if i could step through
they layers of footprints people have put down
beyond the fewer than seventy years
of my own


Monday, February 20, 2012


i want to
get drunk
this halfways water won't hold me
want to
go to the sleaziest alkie bar in san francisco
place even hookers won't go
professional place
watch some guy die of a heart attack on the floor
turn back
to my drink
get ruined my badge of professionalism made
on someone else's death
get drunk after proving
i'm beyond whoredom
drink it damn it drink
now an obligation
as my small patch to hold up
of the vast weight of a professional universe

from Bar Room Ballads (1992)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Year's

on this day of beginnings
nobody cares to begin anything

everybody's automobile has a hangover
all locomotive dreams outmoded

even the confetti has unwrapped itself along the streets
rolled after itself down the sewer grates home to bed

the sun rolls over sick
an icepack of fog lessens the pain

i am out looking for you     new year
all the stores are closed

have you forgotten
all the promises we made each other

last night
when we were both drunk?

from Bar Room Ballads (1992)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lady at the Bus Station

she was about my age
about thirty
about to remember where she was going
unless the going was unpleasant
then she'd just talk
and once she was sitting
you couldn't tell the crank
had put a bend in her back
ruby tuesday yesterday

she started on the kid behind her in line
who was wearing a walkman
and after hearing her chatter he lent it to her
to shut her up and maybe off
she marvelled probably forgetting
that she'd seen the things before
and put it on and sang along
in a voice made raw and naked
by cigarettes and whiskey

she sang through a few songs
and the line got longer
and she looked back at her followers
and looked bored stood up gave the walkman back
and said
i've got to go to the ladies' room
she left the bus left
she came out again
trying to remember where she was going
hoping for better companions

from Bar Room Ballads (1992)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Anticipatory Egg

in the small room     of a tin can
on air wheels made stationary
sleeps a dragon smoking the afternoon
to dreams

and from his snout
in reflected greenness of the room
the simplicity of his smoke congests
and the dreams in the tin room
grow clear

as people walk by the tin can
on a day for a sunny day strut
inspired by the air and the fullness of a life
not all of them want to comprehend
the dragon dreams again
of hatching

from The Troubles (1993)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Urban Teenage Dream

all the chores are
the dinosaurs are
the red
bores are downstairs
in momma

so the view
in the hour
and sleep are
the time of night
of reality of car
from Thebes (1991)