Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Acting In (For Sarah)

She struggles,
a naked, electric nerve
looking for reassurance,
calming succor
that may never come.

Some days
she is braver
and walks onto
the battlefield of
self-hating bullets
and grenades
whizzing by,
close enough to destroy,
but luckily,
not quite yet.

When they're younger,
we discipline children
into reigning in
their acting out.

When they’re older,
with access to weapons,
manipulative hustlers and pimps,
I worry about her
acting in –
cutting and suicide –
and beg her to reach out.

On the plus,
she did not renew
the domain name
and website
where she chronicled
her erstwhile journey
to self-destruction.

Whatever tipped that
in her favor,

whether it was
her beloved nephew Oliver,

or the promise of
things unbidden and unseen,

or she just
forgot about it,


[For Real Toads  - Post and Read!]

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


It’s inevitable,
I’m becoming
my old man.

That’s ok
he was the original.

He stood
in privileged rooms
but on the sidelines.

The inner circle
was for others
possessing the right pedigrees,
the right colleges degrees,
the right hair grease.

We both found ways
to sneak in,
to fit in
where we weren’t expected.

He was polite to a fault
and rarely traded in vulgarities,
unless there was
a conspiratorial laugh
to be harvested.

He had more
but I went more places
he was afraid to go.

That fear kept him
from visiting doctors,
to avoid any bad news,
and he was finally seen
when he was in the morgue
undergoing an autopsy.

He was humble,
an outsider
a servant.

He made me laugh,
never excluded anyone
and was generous
beyond expectation.

I didn’t envy his
(now mine)
receding hair line
but I did covet
his prodigious genitalia.

I have his smile
and his kind heart.

He was the original
and I am but
a mere aspirant.

(For the longest time, this was our only family portrait. My Pop is the tall one on the left.  Poem written for Poets United.)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Kate and Anthony

Once again,
outside the cultural orbit,
I watch the world
Kate and Anthony.

I don't buy
designer bags,
and I rarely
travel abroad
I like
exotic food.

strip away
all the fame,
the celebrity
separate them
from all their
noisy, affected

and look at
their eyes,

human, weary
just like my
when she
failed at
doing herself in
at 11,

and I remember
my own fear,
discouraged sadness
and helplessness.

My heart weeps
for them
and those left behind,
with their
days ahead,

unwanted days
of angry rattling,
aimlessly plodding
through their souls
with unborn memories,
empty embraces,
and unanswerable questions.

[Mental illness is treatable and recovery is possible. 
If you need to talk to someone, call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.]

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Yes, It's Me

it’s me,
the one you’ve been
waiting for
but didn’t know

I loved all
your songs
from the
open mike,
but I was even
more gobsmacked
that music
wasn’t your
first love,
but rather
your photos
that freeze
the truth,
the beauty,
the dream

let’s begin this
long courtship now,
wringing out
every new moment
until the anticipation
builds impossibly,
finally crashing over us
like a tidal wave
of butterfly orgasms
and warm electric pianos,
awakening days later
someplace safe and

I want to consume
every inch of you,
inhale your
singular essence,
melt in
your embrace,
tingle privately
when you
whisper my name.

Yes, we can have
Thai coconut
chicken skewers in bed
and watch re-runs  of
“The Addams Family.”

it’s me and
it’s you,
and yes
a thousand times more


[Not sure if I understood this prompt, but here goes.]

Monday, June 04, 2018

She Cobbles a Placid Moment

With kids asleep,
hiding from
unfinished chores,
she cobbles
a placid moment,

exhaling smoke
from the bathroom window
into the cool,
unaccountable darkness.

Spying a distant,
familiar cluster
of red, white and blue
police lights,

 “I’m so glad
that’s not my life

[Written for de Jackson's prompt: cobble]

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Disoriented, Then Surprised

I look in the mirror
expecting a reflection,
but all I get is

I stare at the TV
expecting programming,
but all I get is
my reflection.

I close my eyes
and experience
this world
with my other senses,

and I am
then surprised,

and eventually

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Transcending the Gray (for Tony Peluso)

On this gray day,
this slow cement
and concrete

I drove home
and the magic
lay waiting

in the notes
yet to be played.

two and a half verses in,

Tony Peluso

summons all
that is holy,
brings the tune,
brings the fuzz,
and transcends

and my life
is finally back
in color again.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Follow Me

Your lips are missed
as are the long weekends
we spent as one.

Replaying those old songs,
memories come back
stripped of any imperfection.

There was intrigue
in your kiss
and I became dizzy
with the possibilities.

I could spend an hour
holding your hand
and every moment
had the thrill
of finding
an undiscovered river.

Where there was once mystery
building a life together
has brought comfort
so I’m not asking for much,
except this:
slow down our
spinning planet of noisy obligation,
tear pages out of the calendar
and come away with me.

Let the world wonder
where we’ve run off to
because I’m still me
and you’re still you

and I was sent for you.

Follow me
into the deepest
most secret part of our garden
and we’ll find a mystery
as wondrous and exciting
as the first fire.

For D'Verse Poets Open Link Night!

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

All Blood is Red

The comforting illusion
is that each one of us
is separate

and the things that
separate you from me
are real.

Where my skin ends
and the air begins
and where the air ends
your skin begins
is an elaborate delusion.

Most of us see the world
as a collection of disparate
puzzle pieces,
but I’m trying
through prayer
compassion and forgiveness
to see the truth
we’ve been taught to

from the moment
of our conception
in our mother’s womb
we are attached

we are connected;

to one another and
to all beings
and all things
at all times,
in all space.

Honoring this truly
inconvenient truth
means not looking away

at the poor babies
with swollen bellies
and hollow hope,

those disenfranchised
from the dream,

abandoned mothers

and homeless vets
with limbs stolen
in unpopular wars,

and we might need to burn
the flags and the bibles

and lay the walls down
until they become bridges,

and look not only
into the sky for our deliverance
but within
and at each other

until we know better.

It means seeing the myth,
nay, the lie
that we are each disconnected
and meeting it
head-on with prayer
compassion and

It isn’t that hard.

Just remember
all blood is red
that is
the comforting reality.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Five Coitus

That first time
she took pity on me
but made me feel
like a king
by pouring champagne
and listening to me
babble about everything
before going again.

That midnight time
in the park
in the nose-cone
of that steel-framed
faux rocket ship
designed more for
a child's imagination
than adult coitus,
and how we had to
proceed quietly
as the cops
circled the parking lot

That ugly time
when she was
breaking up
our marriage
to be with another man
and I pounded
angrily inside her,
hating that I still loved her
but loving that
I was hurting her
without leaving
a mark
or even caring.

That liberating time
in Seattle
after my father died,
and while I betrayed
my live-in partner,
and fell into
an impossible
secret love,
she unlocked
that ultimately
help free me
from my self-imposed
prison of guilt and obligation.

That last time
it was the first time
and even though
I couldn't see
the path forward
(or even the next day),
I wanted
more of her,
more of her
and she is where
my heart has finally

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

We Sleep Together

We sleep together
deep through the winter
restlessly in summer.

We fall asleep holding hands,
sometimes curled like shrimp
sometimes we are a
human pretzel
of limbs
dreams and exhaustion.

In between our sleeping
we nurture small triumphs,
we persevere,
we work through
and unintentional hurt
but thankfully
we ripple with laughter too.

On nights
when I can’t sleep
I watch her sleeping
and smile so big
that I can almost hear it.

I study the
effortless elegance
that a thousand gifted sculptors
could never match
the inexpressible contour
and shadow
of the luminous moonlight
on her beautiful face.

Tonight makes five years
that we haven’t spent
a night apart

and that’s the plan
for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

That Lifetime Road

Every year
memories we made
get smaller
the details,

We didn't have much
but it was everything to

If we had
gone down
that lifetime road
would we still be
would you still be you
and would I still be me?

I don't talk about you
these days,
not because
you're a secret,

but rather,
you are a treasure
and I don't want
to break the spell,
the bubble our memories
live within.

Still, this time
of the year,
when the world
is alive and reborn,
is when I always
remember you.

My heart has beaten
a million, billion
since you set it
in motion,

but when it beat
for you,
it learned
what purpose meant,
what destiny felt like.

Those songs play
on the 80's channel
and I close my eyes
and surrender
my consciousness
to the memory
of our innocent,
undeniable love,

and feel thankful
to have known it,
and heartsick
as the pang
mercifully fades
like the sunset
we shared at
Hillcrest Park
that Friday long ago.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Your Weakness is My Strength

My superpower-
my gift from God-
is the ability to see
everyone else’s weaknesses.

Sometimes I spot it
sometimes it takes a few words
or a telltale action
but sooner or later
everyone eventually slips.

I store all your weaknesses
and I wait for the
most opportune time
to cast them upon
my unsuspecting victims:

your vanity
and crushing self-doubt
your undersized genitalia
your neglected childhood
I immediately calculate
for later sinister use,

because I always need to know
when and where
to strike
because while I appear
modest and mild mannered
I have my moments
of black spinning evil
that overtake me,
when I’ll need to lay you out
and I’ll consult
my mental Rolodex
and lookup your weakness
and strike with
dispassionate surgical precision.

Make no mistake
I’ll know just the right thing
to make you feel small and
to rob you of your

I’ll pull down your pants
in front of everyone
or similarly humiliate you
with the perfectly chosen word,

in all honestly

never employed
this superpower.

I always see
the scared and quivering humanity
in their eyes
standing before me
and I cannot bring myself
to destroy
that which I cannot repair.

I cannot be the cruel
that is my birthright.

I always succumb to
their silent and invisible tears,
the sting of humiliation
and shame
and my own
silent and invisible tears

and I cannot bring myself to do it.

So, while I have the gift
I cannot use it
and thankfully,

that is my weakness.

Friday, April 20, 2018


I want to deny
we ever existed
but that is
giving us
a cachet that we
did not earn.

We can admit it now:

after six years of dating
neither of us
wanted to get married
but we went on with it
anyway because we didn’t
want to lose face or
our deposit.

Even our honeymoon
in romantic San Francisco
lost its steam after
the first day.

Being married to you
was the hardest
141 days of my life.

Even as it unraveled
and I asked you to fight
for our marriage
you just defaulted out
with silent, apathetic

I always wanted it
to be better than it
ever was
and I was always

Even today,
I gave in to curiosity
and paid 10 bucks
to an Internet company
to show me your addresses
and employment history
for the past 15 years,
and all that came up
was your parents’ address.

after all these years,

Lan Anh,
you’re still a big disappointment.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sunday Morning

The world is vacant
this early Sunday morning

except for the newspaper deliverer

and the liquor store
and the customer who waited for 6am.

Mostly people are inside
sleeping off hangovers

slumbering in a warm bed
of post-coital narcosis

lone desperation
passed out at a kitchen table
splayed with overdue bills
and trepidation.

Some greet the day with reluctance
some will ride bikes
and some will never know
Sunday morning exists.

As I drive my daughter
to the early church service
I pass stray tumbleweeds
the occasional roaming coyote
and a multitude of other
holy beings,
all unaware
that it is Sunday morning
or that it is January
or that it is 2009

but they are completely alive.

They are also ignorant
of their enviable




Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Anger Island

Don’t look for me.

I’ve gone to Anger Island
and I’m not taking calls.

I hate coming here
because it’s never as good
as I think it’s going to be.

Rarely has it ever
been worth it,
but I am drawn to it
as some are drawn to
Israel or Mecca.

Anger is the bloody river
running through my soul,
separating me
from the higher aspect,
that divine sliver.

I’ve tried to resist
but the lizard brain
is in charge.

Sitting here
I try to reassemble
what this visit
has wrought.

I’ll be back
after I purchase
my return ticket
with regret.

Monday, March 26, 2018


As a former boy,
the shame impulse
when I cry.

This false
Kevlar masculinity
now breaks
easier than
an egg.

I worked hard
to retrain
these dry,

I don’t care
if it makes you


It makes me

[Written for]

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fire is the Best Teacher

It doesn’t waste time
with words or clucking tongues.

Fire beckons:
respect me,
use me,
warm your tired, rattling bones
by me.

The earliest memory
of my Mexican grandfather
who chain-smoked
was the accidental
cigarette burn
inflicted by
a tentative embrace.

I learned.

I watch wildfires
reduce drought-dry
California to crumbles
and check and double check
the burners on the stove,
the unattended curling iron.

It could all be over

is passion
and force,
an overwhelming,
impossible to ignore

If you’ve only
been singed,
count yourself

[Written for]

Thursday, March 08, 2018

The Last Hit

The temptation is to look back
and bask in the
two or three

but that is not
what this is about.

Writing is
about moving onward,

trying to dive deeper
and scrape a little more
pyrite from the gulch.

My hero is Lenny Bruce
who felt he was a machine
if he did the same bit
night after night

in his quixotic quest
for the truth and
the uncorrupted

You're only as strong
as your last hit,

and that's what keeps me
on my quixotic quest
for the truth
and the uncorrupted

Tuesday, March 06, 2018


When I do not ask
for what I want,
I feel bad,
guilty, ashamed.

When I ask
for what I want,
I also feel bad,
guilty, ashamed.

I just didn't think
I was so

Friday, February 02, 2018

I Let Her Sleep

In the chilly
pre-dawn February,
I hear her
gentle, soft breathing;

not quite a snore,
but a rumble
of blissful narcosis.

I curl up
with her,
our bodies
warm and soft
under a light
of blankets.

This is intentional
so snuggling
and cuddling
is inevitable.

I hold her close
and let her sleep,
taking care
not to poke her,
prod her
with my insistent,

I let her sleep
that is more urgent,
more needed
and I love her
that much.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I Wait for the Moon

I wait for the moon;
she is holder my secrets,
holder of my dreams.

I sent many prayers
her way,
wishes and kisses
I've bounced off her
to lovers far away.

She bathes
the windowsill
as I gaze,
eyes glaze over
and future plans.

I know
this cool, blue lady
does not belong
only to me,

but the essence
of this longing,
this incompleteness
in my soul

belongs only
to her.

I wait for the moon
and she never

[For Poets United at

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Phoenix, Arizona

We snuck away
on a business trip
and she really wanted
to be with me
as she had a fear of flying
and we met at the airport.

That evening
safely in another state,
we went straight
to the hotel
unpacked only desire
and made love
with all the lights on
as the tv flickered
it’s muted blue witness.

She let me eat
the ice cream sundae
we ordered from room service
right off her bare bottom.

She was my kind of girl.

The next morning we walked
and chanced upon
a tribal pow wow drumming festival.

It was strangest, most beautiful
music I ever heard,
and I knew it was no coincidence
she was there.

Providence smiled further
as we saw the Norman Rockwell
retrospective was also within
walking distance
and we marveled at the original print
of “The Marriage License”.

We stayed up talking
all that night
and somewhere in there
I realized
she was no longer some
causal hit-and-run.

I started thinking
in longer, broader strokes

and it awakened
something fiery
and powerful

that had been
asleep in me
for a thousand years.

For Open Link Night - read others and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Another Great Artist

I looked up
and she was feeding
our first grandchild,

and I regretted
that I wasn't there
when our kids
were that little,
that helpless.

Then I realized
if this were my son,
instead of grandson,
I'd probably be
too worried,
too anxious
to soak up
this moment
of The Divine.

All great artists
have a natural skill,
an inborn passion
for what they do,
and as I watched her
soothe and tend to
this little person,

I thought of
Miles Davis,
Pablo Picasso,
Charlie Chaplin,
Mother Teresa.

She is
another great artist
who belongs in
the pantheon,

and her work
is on display
in Oliver.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Swing Out Sister in Heaven

I imagine,
(perhaps, dream)
that if there is a
Swing Out Sister
plays on a continuous,
comforting silky loop
for all eternity,

the warm synths
whooshing slowly,
the kettledrums
gently thundering,

since this is my
version of heaven,
I will not have
to explain why
Swing Out Sister
is playing
to anyone

[For Friday 55 at Friday 55. Also, get Swing Out Sister's newest creation "Almost Persuaded" at]

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I (Take My Meds)

presses on this
growing pate
with the predictability
of gravity.

I see his
eyes squinting
in service
of his smile,
and I see him
looking back at me
in the mirror.

I hear him
repeating everything
just like I do,
like I do.

I'm a wee bit taller
than he was
but he was more lithe,
more trim
than his lazy glutton son.

I happily take
my chemicals
that sound like
foreign banana republics:


I have one
advantage of him:

I know how old he was
when he suddenly
had that one
kick-ass strong
heart attack
that claimed him.

I am 54 and
he died at 64.

I can do math.

I take my meds.

[Written for Poets United:]

Hey, Stupid, Wake Up (For Myself)

Hey, Stupid,
wake up.

So, let’s review:

if you’re not writing,
you’re not a writer.

If you’re not playing music
you’re not a musician.

what are you?

I don’t know either.

But I do know this:
wake up.

Wake up!

There are roses to be admired,
sunsets to be dreamt upon,
napes to be kissed,

ice cream to melt
upon your tongue.

Wake up
because you can’t do
any of this
if you’re asleep.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Christmas on TV

The musical cues
are perfectly timed;
the actors, beautiful,
the Thomas Kincaid lighting.

TV houses remain
impeccably decorated,
with wadded-up
wrapping paper
strangely absent from
the living room floor.

Any tears shed
are because
the two principals
finally found
each other,
and (of course)
they found love,
their cynicism replaced
by a sentimental gesture
that reminds of them
of their lost innocence.

No, Christmas on TV
lacks the wailing, moaning
and unremitting sadness,
longing for loved ones
long passed over
passed by
or passed away.

Christmas on TV
proves no loneliness
goes unanswered,
and everyone
has someone looking in
on them.

But life isn’t TV
and there are
dark, lonely quiet
living rooms,
with lone strings
of half-burned out lights
and dusty, faded nativity scenes,
valiantly trying
to imbue festivity
with warmth.

Christmas on TV
isn’t anything sad,
it sticks around
playing and re-playing
familiar fantasias
that rarely happen
in real life.

For some,
Christmas on TV
is the only Christmas
they know
as they wait
for December 26,
when it will all
seemingly overnight,

and everything,
for better or worse
or same,
goes back to normal.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


At the red light
a crow,
oil-slick black,
swooped in front
of my car,

on a dingy white
fast food

that had blown
into the busy

snatched it
and flew
to places
with the
speed and grace
of a jungle

in the
sliver of time

the light
turned green

and his
athletic prowess
was forgotten

in the rush
of drive time traffic.

(not a crow, but you get the idea)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Anita (November 28, 2017)

So much
has changed;

the obvious:

Less so:
momentary peace,
blissful pleasure,
a security
deep inside
a shaky heart.

Kids are a constant:

with two kids gone,
one still here,
a new generation
starts with Oliver.

What hasn't changed:

she is singularly
the most beautiful,
woman I've ever seen,

and the love,
this mammoth adoration,
never dissipates.

Simply put:
she came into my life
and made everything


Friday, November 17, 2017

Bra Straps Akimbo

The end of a Thursday,
she’s undressing
in the closet, and
I’m in the adjoining
vaping, listening to
America Top 40 re-broadcasts
from 1981,
my senior year
in high school.

All Jarreau’s
“We’re in This Love Together”
comes up,
and I remember
so desperately
to have someone to love
back then.

I wanted to be able
to hear that song
and think of her –
whoever she was.

I rise and
go to her
her blouse off,
bra straps

she is casually,

I tell her,
“don’t fight me”
as we melt
into each others’ arms,
as we have
countless times
during the previous
decade and a half.

We close our eyes,
hold each other,
sway to the music.

thank you for making
this dream come true,

a dream
I never had