Monthly Archives: April 2011

Untitled on Purpose IV–A Poem #poetry #writing

Here by popular (well…occasional) request, another poem from my files…rather dark. Thoughts?

Untitled on Purpose IV

Standing on vague borderlands
Foot in each country
Can’t see the landscape
Teetering on a great wall
The wind changing directions
Nearly makes you fall
American dreams
On one side on the other
The burn ward of hell

Screams–A Poem #poetry #writing

Written after a fight with an ex, and the requisite beer binge that followed…


The ex wife screams
Eugene O’Neill at me
In south Rhodesian

I scream at her
A Gertrude Stein For Christ’s
Sake For Christ’s sake For
Sake Forsake

And neither one
Can comprehend the one
Who’s talking but that’s

Mardi Gras Flash Fiction #fiction #writing

You say you want some apocalypse? Here’s a glimpse of a personal vision…    

     The French Quarter was a human junkyard, bodies piled on top of bodies, throbbing and writhing with music no one could really hear and would pay no attention to anyway, the movement less rhythmic than sexual, a collective thrust between the legs of the city. The man pressing against my back gurgled, about to vomit, and I knew it would splatter onto my head and run down the back of my shirt, but I was helpless to get away, to move at all save for the almost-gentle back and forth wahhh-wahhh of the crowd. The woman to my right was topless, her breasts too rigid in the chaos to be real. Beads hung from her neck and both ears, her dead-fish eyes glazed over. I watched as a hand snaked around her waist and began pinching her right nipple. She did not notice. For all I knew she was dead. In the thronging masses she would have had no room to fall.

An Introduction #poetry

Back when I thought I might be a poet, I wrote this as an introduction to a collection that I might publish someday. These days, I’m confident in my prose, but not so much in my poems, so I don’t know that any of those works will ever appear in print, other than on this blog. I offer the introduction here because it tells you how I feel about poetry–why I read it and still try to write it. Your thoughts are welcome.

Introduction: On the Club Tour and other Figures of Speech

     To most everyone but poets and academics, poetry is effectively dead. It’s part of our past, something that should be on display in the Smithsonian. And like many such displays, it is easily overlooked, a hulking shape that fades into the scenery of the great Museum of our lives. Most people look at poetry and nod, stifle a yawn, and move onto the next exhibit. Occasionally they might spot an item of interest, one that beckons them to pause and consider. But for the most part, they seem ready to get the tour over with so they can get home in time to catch the Yankees and Red Sox on ESPN.

     This elaborate conceit is not my metaphor of choice, though. I liken poetry to 1980s hair-metal bands. The genre ain’t dead; it’s just not playing arena shows anymore. Now you’re more likely to find it jamming on stage in the seedier part of town, where the smoke is thick and the pool tables have so many blood stains that they look like relief maps and the beer is stronger than the odor of the bouncers. Poetry looks older now, its hair streaked with gray, its eyes crow-footed and seemingly always on the verge of tears. The audience consists of die-hard fans with beer guts and twenty-year-old concert shirts; of the odd suit from the label, the one dispatched to measure how many tickets are sold and, therefore, whether there might be enough interest for a greatest hits package; of ambivalent drunks who hope to score with the slutty chicks with the big hair and fake boobs. In a lot of ways, the scene is pathetic.

     But put poetry in front of the right crowd and the old magic can reappear. Sometimes the singer drags that old barbaric yawp from way down in the diaphragm. At times like these, the lines and stanzas sometimes seem to come fully formed, without conscious thought or action. It’s the moment when emotion and human experience condense into a few well-turned phrases, when the raw truth of being erupts from the singer and into a deep place in the audience, so that all they can do is bang their heads, raise their hands in unison, and shout


     Moments like these are what poets live for, when just one reader finds that, for the space of a line or a phrase or a word, everything is exactly right. And one great, tragic truth of writing is that you seldom know whether or not such moments occur.

     Of course, for many readers (and for far too many alleged writers), poetry is nothing so transcendent. To them, poetry is cute. It’s the roses-are-red love poem or its bawdy parody that we all memorized in sixth grade. It’s the patriotic screed set to rhyme, inspirational didacticism in ABAB. These so-called poems have no rhythm, no meter, no reason to rhyme except that that’s what so many people think poetry is supposed to do. It’s enough to make you cry, and you would, except that somebody might write a bad poem about it.

     Others seem to have some idea of what poetry can and should be, yet they seem intent on ruining their own work by throwing in some all-knowing, here’s-the-point-I’m-getting-at statement. These lines hit the reader about the head and shoulders like a brickbat. Forget image and repetition and symbol; what we apparently need from these writers is meaning, and only one meaning at that. No room for growth, for interpretation, for experiences other than one’s own—even the reader-response critics could do little with these.

     I try to avoid these pitfalls when I’m on stage. I hope I got some things right. I don’t know if my work is another sad club date in a genre whose time is passing or a gig that proves the old band can still crank it up pretty well. I hope for the latter. All I know is that I’m still ready to pull up my stool and jam.

     This club’s got no drink minimum and a pretty small cover charge. Imbibe with me and let’s see how long the party can last.

What Is This, Exactly? #fiction #writing

A seven-year-old piece I found in my files–flash fiction or journal entry? You decide.

February 15, 2004

     Quentin Compson once broke the face of his watch and ripped the hands from its face in an effort to stop time, but he could still hear the minute ticking of the second hand as it spoke away the hours even in its own absence. In this house there are six clocks and two watches and three VCRs and three computers and one microwave. They all tell time. Sometimes this fact is too much to bear.

An Old Poem #poetry

Here’s a short one I wrote WAY back after my first divorce. I don’t know if it’s any good or not, but call it a look at one moment in time, lived in another life.

At Night

Sometimes I miss you
At night when the lights
Are out and I fail
To see who is not
Here though I still hear
Your breath

Flash Fiction for Your Consideration #fiction

February 12, 2004

     He awoke at seven that morning, knowing that the day would bring him more happiness than grief, and yet he still felt a cold ball of dread in his stomach, sitting there like lead, weighing him down. He knew that swinging his body around and allowing his feet to touch the floor would commit him to getting out of bed, and that standing up and getting dressed would commit him to leaving his bedroom, and that appearing in the house would commit him to staying for her party.

     His daughter was now old enough to drive. She could ask for the keys at any moment, and he would have no choice but to hand them over or be branded an uncool Dad. Perhaps he could throw them out the window? But then that would make it tough for him to use the car himself. Maybe he could drop them in the toilet. That would keep any self-respecting teenager at a distance. Hell, that would drive away most adults.

     But he was merely avoiding the inevitable. She was growing up. Soon she would be old enough to leave for college, to get a full-time job, to marry and have kids of her own, to follow that career or that husband to some city on the other side of the country. He might be able to see her once a year, if she could get away. They might talk a couple of times a week.

     He wondered if she would understand this, that he was not afraid of her driving the car or how much taller than him she might eventually become. He was afraid of the first time that car turned a corner and left him behind, waving, wondering if she were even looking back, the first of many journeys that he would not even be able to watch.