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as poet becomes poem

the voice goes first

given over to phrasing

every line its tune


vision diminishes

any room, no matter how crowded, recedes

eye contact reduced to resting the gaze

hungry birds, other eyes their nests

each nest exerting its unique attraction


posture, standing, become dance

any movement, sometimes personifying certain actions

body English, always powering the breath, the trumpet

hitting a sweet spot wah wah, kicking up a knee


soon clothes in fact the body gone

the poet not naked, transparent

all barrier removed, straight

through to the truth




brought to you by Coors, the Banquet Beer



a restless spirit yet with a purpose

a series of purposes, deliberately traversing our storied land


farm fields so big they make their own weather

a solitary tree striped brown across its canopy, such beauty


storied land, appropriated by my European forebears

its inhabitants, theirs the true history

I am a citizen by birth


driving, always driving

like many many of us, a helluva driver

highway grey, meadow green

rock mountains blushed deep red

what my eyes have seen!



O Chet! we will always have Telluride, that valley

those mountains, six or eight big ones, a huddle

their distinct peaks, imposing flanks, they’re keeping an eye on us


our cluster of skinny Victorians, some with purple trim

Colorado Avenue, five brick blocks of smart

the perfect gift for future girlfriend

those black and white backalleys, railings at wooden angles


our celebratory dinner, Chet

our hotel out of Edward Hopper! brick

pine green trim, our table at a streetside plate glass window,

sliced sirloin lightly sauced

two sparkling goblets holding big pours

so tartly enchanting we’d remember that wine forever

Happy Birthday, America !!!



is it history or progress

Chet! so many people finding what we

the two of us alone discovered

Telluride, innocent then, popular now

everywhere jammed with new construction


there’s lots of things like Telluride, Chet

politics, technology, little kids

Chet! if we appeared today

would we be excited inhabiting a movie set?



no fiction here, straight life

me and my car, Sinatra

turned toward home, wagging out tails


home, where mountain peaks are clouds

again, and my love lies waiting



Dear Poetry, for you I’d drive five hundred miles

seven days in a row

helping myself to big bowls of landscape

still photos in every direction

brown range to a level horizon

wind-bent trees around an elaborate compound

stepped from the pages of a magazine

soundtrack available from






down stairs to a basement, narrow room

blue concrete walls, low tables crowding an aisle

piano over here, the stage enamel red

you just paid ten dollars admission

includes one drink

it’s New York City!

I know, Cornelia Street


the whole show poets

their host a willow slender Lauren Bacall

ten poets, a diverse community

gracefully improving the silence for five minutes each

or banging shamelessly against the bars of time itself

plus open






it’s 2017, get with it

Trump in the White House

wolves are feeding


closer to home, mostly inertia

big money deals grinding like glaciers


most people don’t have enough time

to imagine a future


McBride Viaduct, imagine

its entrance, a banner

Welcome To The Bridge

an elevated walkway

height is exciting


serious businesses, some quite flush

the very example of a going concern

others, opportunities for an art project


trains a big part

the heart of the purpose for the bridge

carry us safely over the tracks

you can’t get much safer than this bridge

imagine a grandstand to watch the trains

concessions, bathrooms


a linear theme park to Industry

past, present, yet to come

maybe there's a reason they'll destroy the bridge

cover up their tracks



what could be better

than in the bar, a special bar

an entertainment venue

people come from miles around

all to dig the crazy sound


including you, your sounds

yours a small part

small enough to allow you to contemplate the afternoon

at a low level of fright, low fright level

big enough to bring you to the stage


dream life, a participant observer

among the heavyweights, the other players

liking the structure of the presentation

pressing a button with the thumb of your heart

dumb with grief it’s not television


a lovely linear display of beers their row of taps

distinctive food and robust coffee steps away

poetry to fill your ears until the music starts

you know you could stay all day






distant mountains, orange sky

closer in, dashboard, console, cupholder

you're driving, that vain liquid rattle

a medium Mr. Misty as empty as the highway west


you won’t throw the cup out the window

once you would never think to not throw the cup out the window

what year is it?



outside, the city swarms you

high-walled tenements in every direction

narrow alleys deep with black-haired men

you’ve been dreaming again



an unreliable narrator

the poetry stage opportunity to pretend

you rise from your miserable yet beloved mattress

wrap your loins in a complicated way with cloth

approach the little balcony and stand,

soundtrack filling with a rising wailing

a tremendous thumping of drums






on such moody days

I like to play the trumpet

standing alone with my horn

outside, under the roof of the bare porch

patio furniture stowed in the basement


I like the gray sky, the bare trees

the dreary dripping drizzle

a hiss from tires once in a while

street mostly empty


see me standing on the porch

it’s a brick house with a black roof

I’m wearing jeans and a sweater


I bring the trumpet to my lips

clank the keys, work the spit valve

pretty soon the honks and squawks

tentative at first, find their groove


hear my music, soon so blue

voice to a weather of sadness

entertaining the neighbors and you

notes crying like the rain

bent with the pain of returning to silence






Jinx, all it takes

say a name, identify a gender

unless you get stuck at gender

skin color, oddly critical

age, in relation to yours

maybe a few weeks older than you


Jinx, her historical context

present at the beginning

first responders find their voice

education detrimental, like Mao said

a casino developer buys the White House

what could possibly go wrong?


Jinx, thick hair dark to her shoulders

fair skin, maroon shift

bent over a record album

flipping it for more Billie Holiday

lifts her head, looks your way





hey, highway

hey, master of my future

we’re all a dream


you're a gift

your ability, some say loyalty

your sad history

in the context of timelessness

how long is it anyway?


you can’t move

you can’t even talk

if I seem angry

do not go gentle into that good night


hey, highway

we’re all on a journey



                                                                                                                                                                                                                        THE PITTSBURGHER


R. Crumb, cartoon artist

imagine a comic book, R. Crumb the author

all about a rooming house, its denizens


a big honking yellow sagging rooming house

its front a face, two windows smiling eyes

a tilted sign, The Pittsburgher


The Pittsburgher, at the far end to a long row

beachfront cottages on the shore of a big northern lake

warm enough to visit three months a year


The Pittsburgher, backed by a wooded bluff

a thin stream pouring over shale ledges toward the big lake

a footbridge crossing the thin stream, then the beach


all this setting established in just several panels

two guests pictured in a second-floor room

a man and a woman, antic seniors


see how big their eyes are! their index fingers wagging!

him kicking oversized brogans, her swinging a calico dress

the two dancing to a phonograph record


lettered names point at them with little arrows

he Dr. Natural

she Mistletoe


next room, numbered 7

a younger man with wild hair, wild black hair

his ear pressed to a glass pressed to the wall


across the hall, a narrow hall

hung with pictures of cannibals and sinking ships

in number 6, a lady, her name Crimson Singsong


we know she’s a lady as she wears a crown

a radio playing from a shelf behind her

short lines around the speakers indicating sound


Crimson Singsong writing a list

she holds the list up to us

a list of what she won’t miss


downstairs, three scruffy urchins jump on one bed

the next room empty

the next room a man opening a can of beans


we know it’s beans as the label reads BEANS

the next room the office

a frowning man in an undershirt at a computer


the man takes a broom, bangs the handle at the ceiling

outside more characters, standing around tables

even more characters at the beach, sitting on towels


in the sky, above the lake, a biplane drags a sign

the sign reads NOW IS SUMMER

the people on the beach applaud






Tibet? the cities of Tibet?

the closest I’ve been to Tibet is the Hopi Villages

people behind tall parapets

regarding great distances


London is smart, I’ve been to London

perhaps Beijing, or whatever city is the New York of China

the smartest city

maybe San Francisco? Buenos Aires?


a capital, beyond politics

the top of a mountain

visible from the stage of a narrow theatre

the theatre filled with enraptured ecstatics

clutching their tickets

uptown a television studio

maybe New Delhi, everybody murmuring


Nairobi must be a smart city

imagine the poetry of Nairobi


the poetry of Moscow

smart requires topshelf accomplishment

the human equivalent of Niagara Falls

many of that, everybody living their part

the grand style, bells ringing, people shouting

wagons banging through the streets





snow on the sidewalk

the sidewalk white

a white path through the white snow

one shovel wide


night in the city

bright night, bright city

streetlight shine on the white snow sidewalk


welcome to the top

this podium, that sign

our friends all over the world


snow is real, snow is reality

here at the top we live with snow

here snow has fallen

thus the snow-path sidewalk


ahead, a bar, Malarkey's

the word BEER in neon red letters


across the street, at the corner

the neighborhood gas station

an outpost of retail, my destination


the top, right here

Everest to our Himalaya


next block a park

dark with night, bright with moonlight

a cloudy sky over the traffic light, the black trees


the buildings, their porches, the snow, the sidewalk

walk the white path






line one

a poetry club

location adds weight

I like standing

it’s stand-up poetry


take two

location, a river crossing

you're driving, the last two miles descending

some of those hairpins



even here, familiar room

one false move and you’re all gone

every audience a tiger

every note spoken another hunk of meat

bloody chunks thrown to your imagination, eat them


location, the top of the mountain

a green summit, valleys packed with cloud

empty sky to the sun and the stars

an elevated perspective, serious and funny

some green mountains made of money


not every audience is critical

insert here a comment about Jesuits, their students

a next line suggesting participation

dissolve the barrier of this page

clap hands, encourage applause






both my paternal grandparents born in Sicily

an American, with an American mother

I share Sicilian heritage


to look at me you might not guess

Spanish comes oddly natural to me

I have been taken for Filipino and Jew

my hair dark but that hair straight

my hide barely swarthy

no angle to my face

see my features, all rounded

what is Sicilian anyway? a crossroads island

perhaps ancestors Norman or Moor


I have the personality of an inward people

observing the action in the sundrenched piazza

from cool shadows, rarely rowdy

unless with a herd watching Twenty Cartoons

friendly with crickets and burros

today we call these tendencies autistic


I wonder about other people

the Sicilians themselves, my cousins

exotic in their purity of breeding

attentive, gentle, on occasion emitting loud noises

preoccupied with agriculture, dentistry, music

but also the others, I wonder about them, the non-Sicilians

am I the bull in their china shop?


the English I guess

those neighbors prominent in their high place

as if I were a sailboat to hove into their view

would they find my bark rude?


another pezzonovante

my life complete just west of the Allegheny Mountains

the interior of my dwelling place so tastefully painted

just contemplating the wall colors

rum brown, firefly green

leaves a person pleasantly stoned

whilst outside all four seasons of which we are so proud







bland choices are best

a name arrives without any effort


a human shape approaching from shadow

suggests your wife and in bright light

the person resembles your father-in-law


you turn away in dreams

from what you turned away in life



I learn myself through my knowledge gaps

sleeplessness, gender dysphoria, ADHD

anxiety developing relentlessly

suggesting I return to the room maybe

or take a long ride on a trolley

my opportunity nay duty

leaving the audience, taking the podium

still kinda far but ever closer


I like it here in California

last night I dreamed an earthquake

speaking of dreams sometimes my words

some words take their own shape, saying them

sounded out to other ears, even the air

no matter how I hear those words


it takes an Irishman to find the blues

the afterparty taking shape already

everywhere around the world

poets anticipate their turn

living in the present moment

sharing their place with you and silence



stay classy, San Diego

I am enriched having met you

your knockout airport

your lovely bay, its big ships

their stacks disconcerting on the move


the grand hotel, please accept my deep appreciation

for elevators without televisions


spectacular dorm

filled with my annual friends

the same one friend at the beginning and the end

the friends I only thought I spotted

the friends I left at the bar


your stage, specialty society, while small, did work

the audience attentive, responsive

the weather clement

perhaps the children experienced a measurable uptick in wellness

here is my song for you






not my first rodeo, the S.S. Llewellen

400-foot lake freighter

hauling a load of windmill blades to Ashtabula

I’ve been sailing these lakes all my life


one of the better berths

this position, my position, cook

the ship is sound and so’s the crew

I like to visit the bridge, tending the coffee service

always a bold roast, sometimes a second offering


the mate prefers tea, I can do tea too

a great mate, he’s reliable, with a nice sense of humor

Captain has confidence in him

they share their view of our course

sometimes perilous, steep gray breakers

sometimes tight through locks


the engineer a jolly sort

likes to join us, takes sugar

a broad cat, the girth of a Jerry Garcia

had Jerry lived, the engineer squeezes

up ladders and passages to make the bridge

determined to gift us with his incorrigible blarney


the radioman is a woman

at least I think she’s a woman

she keeps her hair pulled back, severely

dresses in uniform, with pants

and goes by the indeterminate moniker, Sparks

maybe it’s me, my need for her womanhood


the Captain, I’ve saved Captain for last

not the most animated character in our teakwood cabin

just the opposite, calm is his thing

helming with a steady hand, the snarkiest of weather

sometimes as we sail Captain seems so at peace

I can almost hear music






slot the words into a proper order

every line with its own personality

some lines especially stunning or spilling over

to the next line, a little surprise but all the lines

measured, drumming their little songs


the presence of an alphabet supports the hypothesis

civilization precedes our consciousness






this train picking up speed

sometimes slows


we passengers amuse ourselves

a lady chases her runaway daughter

my seat-mate keeps his bag close

I post and text message


sometimes I write into my pocket notebook

now my notebook stays in its pocket


always the view, so compelling

looking away a little sin

less a sin during the slow parts I guess

but that’s when one can really look


I like when we travel faster

rock and rattle, rock and roll

I am nothing if not about being on time

and I am also foolish

so very foolish,

our destination will arrive soon enough




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