Wednesday, May 05, 2021

And these are the things I did

during COVID: planted mint and lavender
in my favorite corner of the backyard;
ground fear under my feet on miles and miles of sidewalk;
stood shoulder to shoulder with strangers
outside the courthouse while the air filled with teargas;
watched hummingbirds gather spider-silk for their nests;
stroked other peopls’s cats; went to
poetry readings on Zoom and gave a couple myself;
played blues on my computer and cursed
the fate that cancelled the festival at the Waterfront;
wrote like my life depended on it; struggled to breathe
wildfire smoke; counted hurricanes in Greek;
rushed my ballot to the dropbox the day I got it;
tilted against despair with a lance of yellow iris.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Old Home Movies

I look in the lens, curved black glass
expect to see myself, upside-down, reversed, fisheye distorted.

Instead, in grainy super-8 footage
there’s a curly-headed kid running around among dunes

on a breezy day at Virginia Beach
in March 1970, under the track of the solar eclipse.

She plays in the sand and grass.
Her brother and father bend over the telescope together.

The sky will darken, bands of shadow
sweeping in from the west to swallow the sun; false dawn

will tint the horizon pink.
Behind the black moon, a dazzling corona.

She will burst into tears
from the glory of it all. I will carry that brilliance

forever.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Monday, April 19, 2021

You Can Keep Your Tulips

Does everyone have a different way they know it’s spring—
for some, when each corner is spread with daffodil gold,
or cherry blossoms bud scarlet at the tips of twigs,
for some, the first unfurling of a particular tree’s leaves
like the hello, good morning, of a long-known neighbor
or the fierce twitter of robins fighting for the best tree-hollow

all signs you learn when you live somewhere a long time
that mark the coming of warmth, the end of winterime—

but for me, all these familiar trumpets ring hollow,
there’s only one sign I look for around my neighborhood,
flowers so small and green you’d mistake them for leaves
in clusters hanging from still leafless maple twigs—
that smell, half maple syrup, half tobacco, solid gold
is what tells me it is finally finally irrevocably spring.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Friday, April 16, 2021

Fear II

Half April and it’s summer-hot.
Dry wind sucks moisture from the earth
fans rising flames.

Somehow it doesn’t disperse the smoke
from starbursts of hot lead.

Somehow it doesn’t stir the shadow
of the thin blue noose that hangs above.

Somehow it doesn’t feed the starving lungs of the dead.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Difference Between a Quagga

and a zebra is, the quagga
is striped only in front
and solid brown behind.
It’s like an Appaloosa reversed.

The other difference is—
there are no quaggas any more.
Or there weren’t.

Selective zebra breeding got us
back to half-striped quaggas
in just three generations.
It’s like extinction
reversed.

--with thanks to the Quagga Project

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Eating an Elephant with Chopsticks

wasn’t the job I signed on for but
it’s the one I got. Is it cannibalism
if I use ivory chopsticks? Real ivory
not white plastic.

Carved and stained
with red-and-green ideographs
that read kinsman. I’ve heard
that elephants mourn their dead.

In my hand they lengthen and curve
the ends toward my mouth
grow sharp. I’ve brought the wrong
tool for the job. I should

lie down, they won’t trample
(flanks rising around me like
cinderblock walls) if they don’t
feel threatened. I should

pray.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

You Think You Know

I’m not a piece of dandelion down,
a glass gargoyle or a plaster saint.
An opera from Budapest, I ain’t.
I missed the free throw, didn’t get the rebound,
didn’t meet you for the final train
from Paris, or fight for the Underground.
I’ve never played for the Miami Sound
or forged an artist’s signature in paint.
Of destinations, I’m the overlook,
the wayside, not the trailhead. I’m the sinker
on the line and you’re the hook.
I’m terra incognita on the charts,
the monster drawn to occupy the blanks.
I’m the unknown country in your heart.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Fear

What we call a murder
sweeps the skies around the water tower,
ragged black shapes that fill
the spring air with sharp-edged sounds.
Some say it’s a funeral: somewhere below
a feathered form lies still, broken
by a speeding car, left to die.
Killed by flu or suspicion.
Shot to death for just being a bird.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Thursday, April 01, 2021

The 21st Century is Awake

the century is going to sleep” – Stephen Dobyns, “Lullaby”

Let’s say a century is like a 12-hour day; it gets
Up at 6 AM knowing the first twenty years will
Last through about 8:30. No time to waste.
Launch some airplanes into skyscrapers and
Annihilate a city with hurricane and flood,
Blast wildfires across whole continents.
Yes, this century’s awake, wide-awake now.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

How to Go There

Empty-handed to the ferryman. Headlong and ass-backward at once.
Fall into the whirlwind. Give it all up. Give in.

By train. By way of Ditty-Wah-Ditty.
Over the top and under the radar.
Faster than the laws allow, but slower than your sins can follow.

Like a bat out of hell. Like a pig from a poke.
With a bishop’s blessing and a con man’s curse.
Past the end of the line.

Overboard in a lead balloon. Off the map. Off the grid. Off the rails.
Punch a ticket for nowhere.
Go to Hell. Ride the flaming falls all the way down.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Monday, March 29, 2021

2015 Waterfront Blues Festival T-Shirt

With thanks to Gary Houston, Voodoo Catbox, and the Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival

They don’t make them like me any more.

I’m the 2015 Voodoo Catbox poster,
Crossroads. Robert Johnson and the Devil

printed over burgundy 100% ultra cotton
long sleeves. Too hot for summer.

Too hot for days when the festival puts up
sprinkler tents to ward off heatstroke.

Days when there’s no breath of breeze
on the river where the ospreys hunt.

Years when the grass was burnt dead brown
before the music even started

when the Safeway booth’s refrigeration died
and a man ran through the crowd throwing

boxes of popsicles, ice cream sandwiches,
Fudgsicles, Haagen-Dazs vanilla almond bars

to anyone who wanted them. The sky was white
with dust. The blues were red-hot brass.

I soaked up all that heat. I’m a winter-weight shirt.
I can warm you with just the color of my fabric,

the memory of drums shaking the Crossroads Stage
sweltering under shade cloth. The cross-hatched shading

on Robert’s hands, the Devil’s hellfire sneer.
I’ve got it all right here. They don’t make them.

They don’t make them like me any more.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Mama Raccoon

and cub, running across the street
at 7 AM on a grey fall morning
in a quiet neighborhood.

Cub hides under a parked car.
Mama turns toward me
and puts her back up.

I ask why the sudden instinct of mistrust.
Why my heart leaps with fear
at her bristling spine.

I ask for a wider street to pass on,
for a more peaceful morning.
I ask for more trust.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Map-Eating Blues

“The atlas-eater with a jaw for news” – from Altarwise by Owl-Light, Dylan Thomas

The atlas-eater with a jaw for news
swings wide, eats, swallows the bright day
as whale rising reaps krill, wide-mouthed eating.
Stars, living light-crumbs left uneaten
drop from careless corners of the eater’s mouth
swing, compass-rose, above the eaten maps.
The atlas-eater gulps, does not disgorge,
leaves us directionless, eating loss.

Say what’s new, something eating you?
Or disagreeing with something you ate—
know better than to eat off existential plates
my dear. Sing a chorus of Map-Eating Blues.
Eat a peck of dirt; rub it in your face.
No more atlases since Time ate Space.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Sunday, March 21, 2021

What Atlanta Teaches Us about Intersectionality

In what kind of ball game
Does the man on the mound
Call the strikes?

You’re a woman strike one
You’re yellow strike two
You’re a masseuse which he assumes means whore – strike three

Three strikes and you’re out, out, out.

Oh, no, it wasn’t about misogyny – that’s just one strike
No, no, it wasn’t about race – that’s just one strike
Not about any perception of sex work – that’s just one strike

Three strikes and you’re out, out, out

But here’s the thing: the victims had no bats
didn’t know they were at the plate
didn’t know they were in the game

where the man on the mound is pitcher and umpire
jury and judge
lord high executioner
throwing hot lead.

Three strikes and you’re dead. Dead. Dead.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside