If I Was Ever Going to Say It


Last night, everything still,
I still, all the people still, the world still,
A dream slipped in
Like a memory, not a dream.

He didn’t say Hello
He just said, Hey.
Hey. I got over it,
He said. The way you do.
It wasn’t so hard, or so bad,
And anyway it’s past,
And the time we live in now
Is the important thing
And it’s not a remarkable time
And nobody has to say I love you
Which is really Goodbye
Because nobody’s dying.

Then he told a joke
Which I don’t remember
Just because I don’t remember it,
Not because it didn’t happen.
Then I learned there wasn’t
A single moment
I could have changed.
Just all of them.

I didn’t just know it,
I really learned it,
The way you do when it’s real life,
The way you don’t in dreams.

Later the stillness broke,
I waking, everyone waking,
The whole world waking
As the line of dawn runs around the world
And the sky brightens and then
Everything starts to hum
Like there’s something inside everything.

That was the time to say Goodbye,
If I was ever going to say it.

Continue reading

The Geology of Slush

SONY DSCThe dirty snow
As it retreats
Leaves small moraines
Upon the streets;

But melt that flows
Into the drains
Deposits eskers
Not moraines.

A moraine (as the Encyclopædia Britannica reliably informs) is an accumulation of rock debris that has been carried or shoved, then dropped or abandoned, by a glacier. A moraine is a jumble, for all it may deposited more or less neatly:

Glacier National Park, Montana. Terminal moraine at the foot ...

An esker (says, again, Encyclopædia Britannica) is a ridge deposited by a subglacial or englacial meltwater stream, with the deposited material generally sorted by grain size–the sort of attention to detail one would expect from flowing water. “Eskers may range from 16 to 160 feet (5 to 50 m) in height, from 160 to 1,600 feet (500 m) in width, and [from] a few hundred feet to tens of miles in length.” So:


A tip of the hat to James Harbeck at Sesquiotica, for his learned discourse upon the history and flavor of the word esker.

Continue reading

Question Mark

We’re not so happy in the future,
Are we, dear? Indeed, we’re not as happy here
As once we were; and what’s the future, but the past
Sharpened to a point at last?

Time’s our sentence, marked with doubt
Just as a question ought:
So from its terminating period, a plume
Rises like smoke; like foolish hope; like doom.

Continue reading

A Message from the Future


Not quite the end we thought we’d get, is it?
Where is the monster rising from the sea?
Where the single earthquake that sucks Gomorrah into the earth’s bowels?
Where the finger-and-thumb of God that pinches the sun out like a candle-flame?

Is this all of it, this the end-time carnival, these rickety rides, the blarey music,
The paltry freaks barked up for all they’re worth and more? This too-slight sleight-of-hand?
Where is the burning wind from off the desert sand,
The trumpet blast that screams the Temple down?

They said that there’d be no stone left upon another stone,
That mountain ranges might just crack like skin and rivers run like blood,
And that we’d see the moon hatch like an egg and what’s inside unspool.
When will it come? And will it come? And when?

No, no, says the slim man selling candy floss,
You must have misunderstood the invitation you were given,
You must have read some inappropriate books as a child.
Let our instructors disabuse you, since
We have the finest educational system in the world.

Let’s all settle in for story-time now,
Mummy will give us a kiss when she gets home
And then we’re all for bed.

Listen to me, I will do the police in different voices

and the bankers in different voices
and the software developers telecommuting to Silicon Valley jobs and reading Ayn Rand in their spare time in different voices
and the day-care staffers in different voices
and the Live at Five reporters and the Eye in the Sky reporters and the political pundits in different voices
and the parish priests and Archbishop of Los Angeles in different voices

And when I do them, whenever I do them, and whoever is done,
They will all sound like the same voice, trying to sound different.

I will do them all, listen, listen—listen up! You! Yes!
And then the drawing for the after-hours show,
The first month free, after which you may cancel at any time.
Meanwhile we reserve all rights, meanwhile
We may employ tracking tools, we may
Combine your information with information from third parties.

Meanwhile the World-snake sleeps in the warm bathtub of the ocean;
Meanwhile the Horsemen, having abandoned their inefficient mounts,
Drive to work in fuel-efficient hybrid gas-electric cars,
Have their pay automatically deposited;
Meanwhile Ragnarok, having run over budget, having fallen behind schedule,
Is still in the works, will happen in due course, assuming the political will
To accomplish this great work does not falter.

Meanwhile Mephistopheles has taken to the airwaves mumbling,
Trust us, smiling, eating a candy bar, asking, want one? Have one,
They’re good,
Try one.

And then for bed. Sleep tight, sleep tight,
After a story, before any dreams.

And if I die before I wake
Some shall cry, and some shall take

If I expire here in this cot
Who shall acquire what I have got?

I should have prayed not to be dead
Should not have strayed into this bed

Away from here I should have kept
Or better, dear, have never slept.

Meanwhile this is not the end we were promised, this
Is not the end we thought
We’d get, this is
Not the end we
Deserve not

Continue reading

The Promised Hand


(with apologies to Bruce Springsteen)

Well, I had a little accident when I was just a lad
I burned my hand, and listen, man, it hurt real bad
A couple years later, I met Doctor McGee
He saw my thumb and he said son, I guarantee
If you just give me a chance, I’ll make it good as new
I’ll make your hand perfect, yes I swear it’s true
I’ve done it many times before, I know just what to do –

McGee, he’s gonna howl
He don’t understand
But the judge found it simple, so he put it on remand
He said, “Son, you’ll get the damages that you demand
’cause you believed in the promised hand.”

He told me that my hand would be one hundred percent
I thought because he said it, that was just what he meant
Now I will never recover, my whole life is a wreck
When I think of that day it makes me mad as heck
He said your hand’s okay, but you deserve the best
He took a knife and then he cut this skin from my chest
Now my fingers are itching and I can’t get no rest…

McGee, he’s gonna howl
He don’t understand
But the judge found it simple, so he put it on remand
He said, “Son, you’ll get the damages that you demand
’cause you believed in the promised hand.”

The jury monetized the difference, it was quite a lot
Between the hand that I expected and the one I got;
And I’ve come to find out that I’m a famous case
Prominently featured in The Paper Chase
But what is all of it worth, when I can’t sleep at night?
My hand is matted and unsightly and it looks a fright
If I could take it all back, I really think that I might…

But every graduate of law school
All across this land
They may forget my name but they recall my hand
I’m more famous than that guy who killed the fox and ran…

’cause I believed in the promised hand
’cause I believed in the promised hand
Yeah I believed in the promised hand.



This may require some explanation… Internet, take it away:


Also, the guy who killed the fox was Jesse Pierson (in case you’ve forgotten). The image illustrating this little fiasco is “The Beast with Five Fingers” by Dave Wild, published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license. Finally, a big if belated Thank you! to MAD Magazine for establishing legal precedent, in addition to generally sticking it to the man.

Stealing Firewood on a Snowy Evening


I thought I could
Just chop some wood.
No one was near,
So that was good.

My horse’s ear
Flickered with fear —
Or maybe chill,
It wasn’t clear;

She waited till
She’d had her fill
Of polar air
There on that hill;

And then my mare
Shot me a glare
And left me there
And left me there.


Continue reading

Grandfather was a longshoreman

and as he went along the shore he hummed,
Grandfather hummed, and not for feeling gay,
but as a signal that his work was well begun
that he had well accounted for another day.

The cranes along the waterfront, grotesques
with names he’d mastered in a foreign tongue,
were marvels that yet left him unimpressed;
were giants he walked fearlessly among.

The immigrant assurance in his breast
rode him to a new world, and made him brave.
He passed what he presumed was each new test
and strove until he landed in his grave.


Continue reading

In Cold Comfort

8507444415_5681bcb8bc_oThere isn’t much left for me to do
During this dead of winter
While the snow covers me up
Like language, like bitter
Hexameters, like a cold poem.
Like a long letter from home.

Like the fall of words
That piled up years long
That thawed and froze and thawed and froze
That one fine day were dislodged by a mere nothing
That avalanched all at a go
And strewed our bodies to the far reaches
Of the meadow, from which they
Couldn’t ever be recovered
When it turned out spring
Didn’t come.



Continue reading

The Panther


From so much eyeing of these bars
The panther’s gone cage-blind
So that it sees a thousand bars,
And not the world behind.

Lithely padding, circling
In movement without cease
It coils its body like a spring
That cannot find release.

And sometimes on its eye within,
The silent pictures start–
That rush through sinew, nerve and skin,
But vanish at the heart.


Rilke drew me in again; I’m not quite sure why. His lyricism? His romanticism? This particular poem’s fusion of imagism and philosophizing that, though it stops well short of banality, is certainly situated somewhere along the obviousness spectrum? Likely enough it was over-exposure to the slavish word-bound accuracy of over-respectful translators who run roughshod over sense and sensibility to turn–for example–this:

Sein Blick ist von Vorübergehen der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält. (Ranier Maria Rilke)

into this: Continue reading