Soap Song

“The life I live,
The one I hoped
To live—
How seldom
They coincide.

Sometimes, briefly,
They do;
Sometimes, in the city.”
—Gregory Orr, from The City of Poetry

And after all
that commotion
attraction betrayal
ecstasy memory
loss anarchy sexual
tension breaking
open night by night.

And after all
that walking waiting
crowding into a small
room sipping and spilling
coffee onto an unfinished
factory wood floor watching
it run

down the sloped boards
into seams
between checking
to see if the dark
river has dried up
smiling at the man
who asks

how are you

when he sits next to me.

This seat
will do.

And after all that
the reader

who is a writer
who was a punk musician
who stands on
an invisible stage
before us

is shorter
with a much warmer smile
than I imagined the founder
of the Blank Generation
to have.

This ragged sometimes damp
sometimes arid line I walk along
separates the punks
and rockers from the poets
and storytellers DJs and
critics from spoken word
artists and the rest of us.

And after all that
I see the line
wasn’t really there.
I’m just rambling
through it. Imaginary
borders don’t dissolve
till we outgrow them.

How To Define Punk to a 12 Year Old (or, Richard Hell at the Soap Factory)

Who lives
in this post-post-modern polyphonic
blitz? Blitz—not
bliss. I love

that anarchy—murder
of the omniscient
narrator. Reliable, or
not. Or,

is it an assassination? Did she
(or he) hold
political office? Or, at least
run? I could be running

to go to Hell
on time. I have a VIP seat, but
I should get
going. Don’t want

to miss a word. Think
of all those voices shouting
out of turn

their individual versions
of what it means
to burn in, burn on,
burn out.

Third Person Polyphonic

Narratives flood the garden
of sound. Why does rocking
a cradle calm them—shake
trebling from all those voices?

She can only hear two
knocking about
in her head now.
When it comes down

to a single
deepening whisper,
she’ll know she’s arrived
home for the night.

It Will Bend

A big, bold-faced metal paper
clip causes a bump
in her writing. It affixes
a lost father’s
face to a daughter’s
daily desire to become attached

to just the right
image. A reminder—like the callus
on her left
middle finger. Not a gesture
of defiance, but a gentle nod
to left-handed beauty

and respect. And a big black
bird scrapes the sky overhead.

Seven Months

No ode—pastoral
or urban
myth—will do. No
flag raising
in any pattern or
color. No parades—though
he loved them.

It’s an odd.
A prime.
The current count:

7 days to make a week.
7 notes on a musical scale.
7 attributes of physicality.
7 words to Step 7 begins humbly.
7 home states plus one.
7 children and grandchildren.
7 months to make a preemie.

Some say seven is
this world.
What comes next? I might ask him.

To listen for an answer
in night-falling murmurs
of an otherworldly pulse becomes
the point—not the answer itself.

Color Mnemonics

Fear is the only four letter word
I need to say
to be free. Another season begins

to break
without him. A patch of sidewalk
ice melts

into a small lake, freezes again
overnight. Spring
can’t get any traction. Somewhere

an empty suitcase, an empty raincoat,
an empty tomb. Don’t forget (a parent
or sister might say)
to snap

a mental picture
of those ocean waves breaking
open another calm
after a late winter storm.

Open Channel Loading

“Love’s a Spanish word to be sung.”
—Jay Farrar (Son Volt, from the song “Brick Walls”)

He would live in a pop-up
hotel, watch water
drain from a claw
foot tub, walk
the length of his own city
without a license. Not

to speak
a single word
for ten days and use
that vacant space
to recall each
and every train

he’s boarded. In English,
it all hinges

on a Rio Red 747.

A False Force After All

Dog-eared becomes
a symbol, a brand, that act
of defilement your grandmother
warned you about. Who remembers

where they were? The angle
they approached the image from? Who
remembers which image? To recall
the young woman nodding off

next to you in a packed auditorium,
the color of the floor
beneath your feet, how her head
bobbed and drooped

toward her man, then you
(no drool) is
to be

a bookmark floating
on an liquid crystal display sea.
The height of the podium,
the last thing you drank

before entering the ball
room. The play
of words suspended
from an unidentifiable drop

ceiling before they settle
onto a page—folding down
a top edge of translucent
thought. Dog-eared.


I can almost taste
the snow—nothing
good ever comes

from that. A late March double
espresso might neutralize
the palate. Might

not. A family
reunion in August resuscitated
to honor my father. I

never went when he was
alive. How can I
go now? August is

the month of grand
gestures, spiritual releases.
August is

the month he left
us. Yes, I told him
he could let go, but

how could I know
what it would be like
to live in a world without

his heart beating
in it? August is the month
when water

falling majesty just
might return.

Vernal Equinox—What?

This one isn’t talking
into his cell—
he’s just talking
to himself. The first day

of spring and a Caution—
Falling Ice sign
still stands outside
the crime lab. Notable

wind chill and not a blade
of grass to be seen
anywhere outdoors. Inside
the skyway linked

towers, little plots
sprout everywhere.