Unembellished Truth

From the collection published in 2020, Use All Your Eyes to See.

Unembellished Truth

Gallery white walls
wear a necklace
of ill-assorted paintings
strung with care
exactly eye height
for the average eye
but spaced too close
to be at ease
and in any case
they are just awful
these paintings
every one of them
a pain in the average
or in fact any
and so

and so
in the end
the opening reception
is populated by
a crowd full of hands
held carefully distant
from any hint
of pulling out a wallet


Little Vines 4/8/21

New Little Vines. Here is this week’s array.

weak plus status plus unwilling
can you work out the equation –
can you reconcile these variables?

tight-fisted and
when you pry apart his clenched fingers

the psychology
of leaving a piece of pie in the dish –
you puzzle over it while I grab the slice and eat it

a frenzy of a rainstorm
clean sidewalks float beneath a dragonfly
on vacation in the city

I’m left with the residue of a complex partnership
of stove and kettle and tea leaves and water –
a sludge of sugar at the bottom of my teacup

The tree always looks all right
until it isn’t
and it topples onto your car

if she can’t cook,
as you say, well, then,
specify your dinner selections very carefully.

the forks wrapped inside
cocoons of white linen table napkins
await their signal to emerge into the light

I’ve got four kids
I live in a terrarium
I couldn’t be happier
Why are you looking at me like that?

with strange silver gold-flakes of
a perfume wafting in her wake, she moves on:
her spike heels stab the carpet like thorns into flesh

A storefront nightclub
The sounds of a séance/rock’n’roll oldies night
The plate glass window rattles. Bricks fall.

not new not sophisticated not quirky not edgy
Just creepy.

the pie is falling the pie is falling
it’s a clean entry into the digestive tract!

the skeletons of the junkies
rattle inside their skins
clacking to the rhythm of the dark song
with its cursed lyrics

slap slap slap the sound of
running footsteps and then
whimpers. prayers. screams.

opera singer
her voice
the sparkle of a sunrise in a jewel box

I walk across the lake
in slick-bottomed slippers
tripping on a swell or two
just before dawn

the casualness
of the toothbrush
stuck half-in the holder in the pink bathroom

the second place award:
a silver grape you can wear on a chain?
I tossed my cigarette into the canal and laughed.

hot dog and mustard
baked sidewalks in the sun
diesel fumes spewed from a bus
street aroma summer mix

sweet pea, I know
it would make any pea angry
being stuck in a casserole like this

I’ve made mistakes I’ve flouted rules
I’ve outlined the edges and then gone over
I’ve burned my bridges with gasoline
Not much for introspection, no, I am not.

The Merged and the Acquired

From the collection published in 2020, Use All Your Eyes to See.

The Merged and the Acquired

Yank the data out of its lineage
merge the pools of numbers
utter that astute amen
only the expert knows.

The company president
crosses her leg
rotates her ankle bracelet
with long thin fingers
setting up for a sniper shot
of salty language
shakes awake the snoozing wall art
splatters it all over the sterile room

The numbers shuffle in impatience.

Long thin fingers
toss a handful of numbers
imprinted on legal currency
from a speeding limousine
It does the trick.

The company president
rotates her ankle bracelet
with her long thin fingers.
Turns up the corners of her mouth.
Shows her teeth. All done.


A Few New: Snippets and a Collage Poem

I’ve had a box of phrases and words cut out from discarded books for a while and I’d been thinking about the idea of doing some snippets…this week I spent a couple of days working on a group of them.

I’ve written a lot about snippets in the past so I won’t rehash things. If you are interested just search under the term Snippets her on the blog and you’ll find lots of material. Otherwise, I think if you read along you will soon get the idea.

I’ll show you the scanned pages of what I did in these sessions (later I will digitally cut the scans apart so that each snippet image is solo, for later posting). And then I’ll give you the typed out versions of a few of my favorites. If you wonder about the numbers, I give each snippet a number because I keep a list of them.

Also – at the end of the session, there are some tantalizing phrases or words that didn’t get used. Sometimes I make a speed collage poem with them – just put the words together quick as they fall and see what develops. it can be surprising.

I did such a thing in this session as well, and I have included it for you to see.

Here are snippet images:

husbands and wives had married
to be together and
Now, surprised at occupying prolonged silence,
argue in the manufacture of something to say

It had
the sallow sparkle
of a vague headache

And she stared at me,
a remnant of a recognition
fallen out of the past

I wonder if that was
one of the rose bushes
dressing up as a potato.

a single bird
owned by

pinch the ceiling
said the voice in the upstairs apartment

should the kitchen become hotter,
I’m sure I’ll be
visible in the smoke

as it turned out
They became
another sort of unhappy

the house said,
you’re in luck.
I have windows

And here is the collage poem.

the eye to see

the eye
to see in darkness
the thread in the glass
The idea frequently told
the other way a lottery
the portrait in a room that pleased
you hear your name
wait for me
remember so clearly passing
the pinch of hope
the orchestra heard
The tearing sound of the old to drop away
the pattern
no longer alone
Yes. The only thing
the hand that held the thread

collage poem

The Very Modest Artist

From the collection published in 2020, Use All Your Eyes to See.

The Very Modest Artist

The critics have called it art
but I confess
I have never understood a thing about it

I just make it –
if you ask him or her or them
I wave my hand to show you
that I include
several people many people
maybe all people
no, they do not
either. Though understanding
isn’t the point, is it?
But they sell so beautifully
and there is such a thing as
the influence of
having a big influence
so of course I agreed
and made another fifteen of them
last week.

Don’t worry. Take your time in choosing.
There are thirty-one more in the back.
Any way you look at it
it’s a great investment for a buyer
it’s grill fuel
for next summer’s hot dogs.
Either is fine with me
once you pay and take it out of here.

In the bigger picture
In the larger worldview
I pursue the
the absurdity of it
Of any art, really.
Because next year
I will be stacking these things in my basement.
Mark my words.

What a question! You’ll need some help with
transport. Awkward shapes they are.
Let me get the gallery owner.
You see him there
lurking in the corner
wrinkling an annihilated page of red dots
with his nervous fingers
and grinning.
I’ll handle him.
You bring the car around.


As If It Never

From the collection published in 2020, Use All Your Eyes to See.

As If It Never

Years of winters behind you
and yet again you have forgotten
the square-in-the-face
utter indifference of a snowfall
The silence as it goes about
methodically removing
The steady supply of flakes
that settle and smooth out

and how you
followed by your footsteps
that will melt away behind you
in the next day’s sunshine
how you will stop and stand
in the bleach-blue light
of this afternoon
your red-gloved hand palm-up
into the falling flakes
How few seconds
it takes for the snow
to take no notice of you
to include you
in its indifference
to begin to settle and smooth out

Now you remember.
The snow falls.


Haiku 693-696

From Count Syllables on Your Fingers, the collection published in 2020.

Haiku 693

it’s never been blue
the old house at the corner
it never will be

Haiku 694

a cold jealous ghost
browned the pink cherry blossoms
with his frosty breath

Haiku 695

What’s in that suitcase
Mr. Thunderstorm? What strife
have you brought tonight?

Haiku 696

One of you three teeth
aching me hard. Two of you
waiting for your turn.

Portraits Drawn in One Sitting

From the collection published in 2020, Use All Your Eyes to See.

Portraits Drawn in One Sitting

Man talking on the phone
drinking from a pink soda can.
Long dark hair
sunglasses pushed up on his head
paint-spattered hoodie:
Dude she is a liar
I never took any of her clothes
when she moved out
She took all of her clothes
She’s a liar. I’m sick of talking about it.
OK. I’ve got to go back to work.
Call you later.

Lady forking up greens
one leaf at a time
from a cardboard container.
After she finishes that skimpy salad
will she dive into the
one-pound bag of
Smoky BBQ Mixed Nuts
sitting on the table beside her?

Grocery café worker
she says to me:
Is this your cart
pushed up against the next table)
or may I take it away?
I applaud the use of
may vs. can.
And that she is always cheerful.
But it is not my cart.
She can do whatever she wants.

Baby standing on the seat of the booth behind me
shouting into the back of my head:

Across the asphalt lot
a building and
Five men
one works the valley
another the ridgeline
three scatter across the landscape
of new plywood and flashing
rolling out tarpaper
over the shimmer of parked cars in the sun.


Haiku 688-692

From Count Syllables on Your Fingers, the collection published in 2020.

These haiku were all written on May 9, 2019.

Haiku 688

furniture polish
crammed behind the s-bend pipe
underneath the sink

Haiku 689

eleven minutes
in the life of a rosebush
could mean anything

Haiku 690

so there’s no upside
to a broken glass except
it did not cut you

Haiku 691

plenty of oatmeal
in the bowl on the table
where you never sat

Haiku 692

crow in a gray sky
above the old part of town
skims the black rooftops

Life Stories

From the collection published in 2020, Use All Your Eyes to See.

Life Stories

They set to it
as if the opportunity to argue
is what they live for
and doing it is heaven.
They give it heart and soul
dig into their positions
one balanced on the living room sofa
the other shouting from the dining room

Then comes
the talking in low voices.
the exhaustion.
the dried tears on cheeks.
the sniffles into tissues.
the embraces.
The promises never to argue again
mutual and sincere
always broken

Their double biography
a parallel series of prizefights
the prize never being worth much
the fights