Light ‘em up America!

In the middle of a rain storm,
snow storm,
wind storm,
shit storm.
Read by lighter light.
Make love in the dark, then spark those blunts and butts.
Set the drapes and rug on fire, watch it all crumple into ashes of what-could-have-been.
Who the hell were Ozzie and Harriet anyhow, right?

Light ‘em up America!
Burn down the schools,
wherever people still gather.
Any place you are reminded the meek did not inherit the earth.
Burn all the books and start over.
Make a new history, the old one sucks anyway, right?

Light ‘em up America!
Go downtown and torch the tires of cars,
the tar road,
the traffic lights.
Take back the streets!
Take back the night!
Smash all the store-front windows.
Take whatever you want, it is a free-for-all, after all, right?

Light ‘em up America!
Make a shimmering wave with others listening to the band.
Pulse with the beat,
lick sweat off someone’s neck,
let whomever bite into your flesh,
spark a love fest,
a flesh fest,
a fluid fest,
let everyone drain their veins, make love not war, right?

Light ‘em up America!
Sojourn to the wooded grove,
torch the sacred tree,
smoke the druids too,
the worshipers,
the sacrifices.
Toast marshmallows off smoldering embers of faith,
wash it down with spicy fireball shots,
howl the moon in bare feet, we are all animals, right?

Light ‘em up America!
Take down the whole edifice!
Blaze the federal offices in every city,
create a pyre from the fingerprint and DNA files,
the spools of taped phone calls,
the visas and passports of all those entering and departing,
char the driver’s licenses,
the SS#s, the dental and school records,
get a new smokin’ tattoo and slow roll the burn.

Within My Lane

They told me I couldn’t do it

Wasn’t made of the right stuff,

They smiled sweetly, too sweetly

Hinted I stay within my lane.

Ma insisted this would happen

Said to keep my head bowed down,

Eyes on the floor, no hint of thought

Happy to stay within my lane.

Dad mentioned this could happen

But believed I’d rise above,

Insisted only I could determine

Whether to stay within my lane.

I dug deep for what was in me

Pulled out all that I could find,

And ignored the looks and whispers

Tried to fly within my lane.

Proven mighty in their privilege

Turned out lights and walked away,

Shook their heads, shot looks of pity

All alone within my lane.

Subsumed within my rage

Every name I could recall,

I threw at them, in my head,

While I stayed within my lane.

The anger passed as time does

Random musings took its place,

Strange turn of phrase it is for one

To stay within one’s lane.

Repurposed from the start

To mean conquer and control,

How elitist to demand that one

Should stay within one’s lane.

Reflection led to wonder

Who creates the lanes we know,

And has the right to say to all

Just stay within your lane.

Whispered prayers eventually led to stillness

In the silence I heard the Word and slipped out from within my lane.

Five Homage Poems


Four for Shepp




Gatefold album covers of orange

inside of which Archie Shepp manifested

statements of art,

social responsibility, tradition—


serious texts to accompany

a serious music

a fire music forging

socio-aesthetic felt fabulae




poems propounding pleasure and protest (both),

a tone propolict, gooey,

propitious in its gutturality—

it’s gonna be a good night—


to lay down those scratchy slabs

of vinyl, their heavy covers,

their heavy register finding

the ingate then the path




“[James] Joyce went back to the Druids.”



which is to locate the spirit

in the word and wail, the recitation

of knowledge—be it mystic or felt,

felt textures, a texture of foal’s fur


a text, printed or pressed in wax,

the bees fly us there then erase it,

wind out of a horn, born once more blow

the location of a spirit underneath the mind




“This is a black music. It is a form that black men have given to America . . . havegiven to America . . . out of love!”



acknowledgment or reference to tradition

back/front-garde, thing nouvelle

revolving to a gutbucket beat or

no beat where the wail warps itself


in a pome tenor-throated, of the stage

or in the studio threaded with tapes

revolving and tender, impressions

of birth, and by which art


« murderers

« they shall be destroyed »


and for which art—

for what it’s worth,

I offer my humble




Archie Shepp: 1960s-70s free-jazz saxaphonist and poet.



Bill Evans (Juxtapositions)



Swirls of notes and

shimmering rolls,

or the bittersweet note,

the sad simplicity of

the out-of-key jab—


not always entirely in the blues,

the complexity of bop and

the lyricality of something

I don’t know,

be it fast, or

s l o w


—you listen to Bill Evans

in those places in

your chest or mind you didn’t know

were there, yet there

are those weird places,


a vein

you both share


Bill Evans: Mid-late-twentieth-century jazz pianist.



For Richard Realf




doomed as Burns and Byron,

stabbed and wandering


whose guesses at the beautiful,

whose petting lissome ladies

whose draggled torn-up pages


to Five Points, then to Kansas

to fight against the slavers

—guerrillas American of the soil,


militant rhetorics of poetry

composed upon the prairie ground

at night, or daylight in the leaves


Realf, secretary of state

in John Brown’s provisional govt.

in secret meetings and orations


his Jesuitical responses

to Jefferson Davis

in the federal inquest committee room


and in the outright war

fuck the South, its “chivalry,”

bullets, bullets galore


Realf, post-war wandering

city to town breakdowns,

Pittsburgh panic and poverty


who desolate had burned with love

and swum the hashish skies,

his primal mystic texts, reports


whose mistakes kept coming back

like bad metaphors,

to hurteth him as he hurteth


and ever on he fled his own flaws

hawking rehashed poems to papers

doomed finally to Oakland by the bay—


Realf, I glimpsed you, hoary,

turning a wood-clapped corner

down a hallway of the Winsor Hotel


peripheral visions of poison suicide

daisies round your grave,



Richard Realf: 1832-78, mysterious and storied poet.




Homage to Peggy Pond Church



Once she held this book

to sign it—

and if in dream the dead

return to tell you something—



does she hand you the golden flower?

do you fly above the mesa

pursuing her vision of beauty

the bulge of twilight

the bird that finds its exit

from amid the beams

of the box store


this pink book with green endpapers

of hills, dry riverbeds, ski trails,

and arroyos filling with rain

that she held cupped in hands

till it ran through and down

the atomic air


Peggy Pond Church: New Mexico poet, 1903-86.



Elegy for Leroy Carr



Preceding the blues

of the southern fields,

the Indianapolis avenue


on which human being

sang his sogged refrain

and folded the chords of a traum-time scene


rain along gutters

of the Avenue,

black holes in the white wall of the back room


a becoming-wax—

a becoming-train—

there’s rats in my bed, and booze for my tomb



Leroy Carr: Indianapolis blues pianist and singer, recorded 1928-35,

accompanied by Scrapper Blackwell on guitar.

Poetry Collection

40 Martyrs Church, Aleppo


A deacon points to each saint,

identifies well known iconography in cracked French:

St. John with his head on a platter, St. George and the dragon,

Mary with Jesus and the Baptist, St. Joseph, the Last Judgment,

the altar and the pulpit.

The patriarch, Gregorius, severe Armenian,

as if he expected to bear crosses


buried beneath his feet,

the fourth-century entombed

strata below these medieval stones

and the rest massacred.

Once remembered here.

Near the door, a vase of flowers riffled for one red carnation

handed to me without apparent thought for history.




Aleppo’s Citadel

Early March haze barely hides the sun

strong enough to make a donkey blink

as it climbs the ramparts of the castle and bows

its head under a pannier full of cola bottles

prodded from behind to find the rough grid

meant for Arabian stallions passing by two pairs

of stone lions, one laughing and one crying

at the ceremonial casket laid in state, St. George

taken from the crusades and entombed;

having risen to heaven, he’s left an empty box

draped in green silks, woven in local looms

perhaps on the main avenue of the castle’s

now shuttered souks beside empty cisterns

bleak as prisons. Arrows at right angles

mounted, difficult to imagine flying as torture

in the porcelain pots shaken from earthquakes

and excavations. Scattered pieces, catapult

with cannon and there the eunuchs’ quarters,

like Allah inscribed in stone as witness

to what’s been done and can’t be restored.




Learning to Write in Two Languages

English requires space, asserted autonomy

in separate seats expected to fit average knees


and arms kept an understood distance

from neighbors, untouchable,


a caste kept to the exit rows on airplanes

assumes the necessity for order


before dislocated rivets and bones

break from bodies arbitrary as letters


standing alone in Arabic: A not S, O not N

set apart by design revealing where they are


not where they’re going. L nudging B or T,

squeezes their sides, physicality


taken for granted like bumping into people

and boys holding one another’s pinkies.





Elba in June Without Tourists

would have been preferable to Jehovah digging in his Old Testament heels,

nodding at the pillar of salt and spousal disobedience in Sodom, as if history

didn’t make Assad nervous enough, this pile of stones as read by an Italian

archaeologist could be the very stuff of war, or at least guerilla action,

the Massad sneaking across the border and scooping out new territory,

carrying off armfuls of Syria and rewriting it as if it were Roman.

All those clay tablets, records of what came in and what went out, words.




This Year’s Living Legend


Mario Vargas Llosa

bows his head

for a thick ribbon

with a shiny medal,

accepts applause,

and says,

“I do not want to die dead,”

the weight on his chest

not to be mistaken

for his working heart.

He’s eighty this week–

his new novel

a gauntlet.

It’s no December Dean.

But discreet, like his hero

with plans, a rebel

to epitaphs of praise

for what’s past.

Poetry Collection

Moscow’s Rejected Margaritas


Before they found Margarita Nikolaevna, Koroviev and Azazello did most of the searching.


Behemoth did some searching too, but was distracted by altogether too many things to be of much use—

chess matches in the park

a pawn shop (with a set of excellent dueling pistols for sale)

a polka band, which he changed into flamingoes

a stray child


a very nervous poodle




Hella stayed home with Messire

(we think)

where she did embroidery

(we think).


One does not ask

what Messire does

when he is out of view.

(We are quite certain of this.)


Sixty-eight Margaritas had no royal blood, not even a drop,

not a smidgen, not a hint,

despite twenty-three of them thinking they did

with eighteen hoping for a restoration

two planning to leave for France

three being staunch Party members

and all of them terrified

that someone would find out.


Six Margaritas were under the age of twelve.


Three Margaritas took the appearance of

Azazello and Koroviev at their doors

to be proof

that their neighbors had been poisoning them

and that they had in fact become delirious

as a result of the toxins.

Neither man undertook to disabuse them

of this notion, although Koroviev did take a

glass of pear juice from one woman

and left the other two with oranges

and pocketknives.


Two Margaritas were being poisoned by their neighbors,

but were not hallucinating.

They were merely unpleasant

and agitated

and too ill to leave their beds.


In addition, one Margarita was in fact

poisoning her neighbor,

a cruel but celebrated man

who died instead of tripping over

a poodle (not the one Behemoth saw)

and breaking his neck.


Four somewhat elderly Margaritas

and one very young one

entertained thoughts of becoming nuns.

Perhaps they were delusional.

In any event,

they were ruled out as a matter

of suitability, although their spiritual states

did offer some amusing if entirely imaginary scenarios.


Eight Margaritas were already witches;

two were also literary critics;

none were appropriate

for various reasons


fear of heights

poor hygiene

an allergy to dust

and gout.


Seven Margaritas said that cats

made them sneeze,

although one,

a large, older lady,

cuddled him against her

voluptuous bosom—

in which he fit quite well,

given his own large stature—

for quite some time,

fed him cream and (definitely illegal) caviar,

and brushed his coat with her

own silver-backed (possibly fake)


Behemoth argued for her

but no one

listened to him.


One was a sculptor

whose eyes burned so intensely

Koroviev was certain she had already

met their master.


One was a ballerina

whose talent was so clearly

derived from diabolical sources

that she too

was passed over.


One was a Jew, living alone,

writing under an assumed name.

The searchers, feeling compassionate,

whisked her away to

an entirely different


for her own safety.


Four Margaritas brandished ancient-seeming ikons,

pulled out from beneath layers

of sweaters and cloth and memories

at them. Two more threatened them

with bronze heads of Lenin

and one drew, clattering it in the scabbard,

breaking bits of rust onto the polished floor,

a cavalry sabre

of a war

long past.


One Margarita called the demons her sons

and was so pleased that they’d come to visit.


One served them tea with jam

but could not speak—she’d lost

her tongue

and toes

and fingers

and husband

and daughters

to purges and pernicious cold.


Five Margaritas were ecstatic

and screamed yes

and yes and yes

and circled about the rooms

that they were never allowed to leave.


and four Margaritas simply,

perhaps wisely, perhaps foolishly,


no, for we do not believe in devils.



Lady, Maid, Invocation


I have raised up my arms to console her

and I have given her

all of the soap.


I have tried to sing her to sleep,

brought her draughts

of nightshade and herbs.


I have brought the doctor

who can do nothing at all

and I am afraid

when she walks.


The new moon holds the old moon

in its arms,

a sickle of light that gives her

her path.


I follow

as I must

where she wanders,

but her galled-up brains

are trapped

in a room

of her own

bloody decoration.


The chamber

her mind inhabits

is wet

and thick

with the dust of night,

with spoor

from the ride,

with the taste

of wool and iron.


In it she has

but one job

and easy one:

to leave behind

what should have been left behind



I leave behind

her room

where her bed has been empty

for weeks.

I leave behind

my own sleep

which she has unknowingly



I know

her secrets.

And I will borrow her

cloak and call

for the raven,

the wolf,

the sightless


to preserve my sanity

by bringing her end.

Come, you spirits!

Tend to me and this my charge,

this cruel and murdering woman.


Make steel my bones

and smoke of hers

that she will be

gusted away

over the parapets.


Come, you spirits!

I give you my purpose:

Take now this woman who

owes you, and return to me

my innocence. Let me be

the flower that knows not

the serpent.


Come, you spirits!

Claim her unnatural body,

and give me rest

for the nights and days to come.

Cleanse my conscience, and

let me wake to the

cold air in which she

as left this plane

as a single exhalation.


The queen, my lord, is dead.

My own tomorrow

is now again my own

and I shall sleep

not tempest-tossed

but charm-wound

with peace.


Highway Drone


Emptiness full of sky

and grass and long road,

heat lines, ocular tricks.

Sun glare and the radio

stream into hot air,

black plastic,

drowsy eyes and ears.

There must be cattle



coyote and armadillo

patrol the black top,

crossing and lazing,

tiny flyblown specks

by the vast retreating


Untitled based on C.S. Lewis

Note: Part of the poems sent are from an erasure of C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed (1961).




All reality is iconoclastic.

I must stretch the arms and

hands of love to the


of my thoughts.


I mustn’t sit down content

and worship my idea. Yes,

we often make this mistake.


Talking and acting to

the picture before we even

notice the fact.


In real life there’s

always a reason for

assuming that we’ve

got one another


this time once more

I have to be finally

given up as hopeless





I shall have substituted

for the real woman a

mere doll to be

blubbered over.

I did it for the

sheer pleasure

of being exposed.

Except at my job.

Even shaving.


They say an unhappy man

wants distractions.

A door slammed

in your face, and a

sound of bolting

and double bolting

on the inside. After

that, silence. There

are no lights in the

windows. It might be

an empty house.

Junk and Treasure

Junk and Treasure


Every now and then

I go through my “junk drawer”

and choose the things I want

or don’t want any more.


Now, here’s a rusty key

that fit an ancient clock

and when the key was turned

the clock would go “tick-tock.”


And here’s a perfect stone,

so round and smooth and hard.

Can you believe I found it

right here in my back yard?


And here’s a little troll,

his hair is blue and white.

And don’t his eyes look almost real…

so shiny, big, and bright?


And look, what’s this I’ve found?

A little soldier boy…

To think I played for hours

with this simple little toy.


And here’s a foreign coin

my uncle sent last year.

I tried to spend it once…

but they won’t take it here.


And look, what’s this I see?

A seashell from the shore.

A crab once lived inside it…

but doesn’t anymore


And here’s a handsome button

It’s green and smooth as jade…

It came off of a jacket

that I wore in seventh grade.


And here’s a magnifier

to look at ants and flies.

It has a tiny crack in it…

but it still magnifies.


And here’s a little ribbon

that’s made of satin lace.

I got it at a Spelling Bee

for winning second place.


I’ll take these things and others

and put them in a crate…

and leave them for the children

outside the garden gate.


For I have kept them many years

and now I set them free…

I know they don’t mean anything

to anyone but me.


But though they might seem useless,

they still could hold some pleasure…

For what I now consider “junk”,

some child may view as “treasure.”

How to Find a Black Hole in Your Kitchen Table

How to Find a Black Hole in Your Kitchen TablePDF icon

Seating for Four Series:  How to Find a Black Hole In Your Kitchen Table; How to Understand Acoustics, How to Drink Tea in the Colonies, How to Fix Broken Toys, How to Know God at the End of the World, 6’ X 8’ X 27”, stoneware, 2008


My brother’s fourth grade science report:

A black hole happens when a large star dies and becomes as small as a pin, but still has the big-star stuff. Its gravity is so great it will suck you in.

Even light can’t escape.

Beneath, a drawing:

dark marker bleeding into lined paper, fibers saturated and separating like cloth.



Two a.m. our mother

the kitchen, darkness

arms raised expecting

to catch the sky.

This is what the end looks like:       sepia tones,                        fish-like, Vaseline film       with the sheen of                         metal, sleeping.

Breath. Robe.

A quiet distance at two in the morning.



Standing in the center of the room.      Shut your eyes.

     Spread your arm Fingers comb the air.

Feel the cold rising to your skin, heat condensing at your center, the air sucked from your lungs.


These sensations may be slight. A black hole in the kitchen is necessarily small, but no less destructive.




From afar, my brother calls.

He won’t talk,

Best not to bother now.

She speaks of him, fourth grade, the way she had to search his room

night after night so that in his

sleep a black hole would not

inhale him into darkness and nothing.


She has a knowing smile.

Seating for Four Series: How to Find a Black Hole In Your Kitchen 28” X 8’ X 24”, stoneware, 2008



When you are too weak to stand, you

can also find a black hole like this:


Sit where you can rest your head,

close your eyes, slow your breathing.

Your heart will beat in your

ears.      Your muscles will tense,

feel gravity pulling from      the

center of your body.


Then it will draw you in.



When I was dying
You spoke to me in low whisper,
a tremble, the shadow of a city sunk
beneath a swallowed coastline, in dammed reservoir.
Above: the trample of industry, diesel motors, electricity.
Below: the ebb and flow of breath and migration.
I should have been thinking of survival, flight,
but I was enchanted by the sun
slivered into shards so small.
You waited.
You called.
The womb-shaped bay, the strangled umbilical chord
choked before it reached the sea. I heard you
though your words were only song.
It did not matter what they said,
the meaning was ours.
Who would have thought we would travel so far
to meet an end in shallow water?
The majesty of the deep released
in last exhale, a curse
upon those who took so much,
and blessing for a humble shore.







In silence a pulse rises. Breath solidifies.

Feet wash in numbness.

A voice:

This is how it feels to walk on water.

You will fall;

You will think you are falling. Sky and earth collapse.



1999, religious cults predict apocalypse— the promise of the new millennium.

But I am in Australia—a forgotten land.

Sydney prepares for the Olympics.

I hope for computer failure to erase student debt. Surfers paddle out to sea. The Blue Mountains burn—

a children’s game gone-wrong. Oil-filled trees erupt. Smoke spreads the smell of peppermint and wet fur.

Amid chaos a Canadian tourist vanishes Rescuers find a trail in the Outback— one sock, the other.

When they discover his bible, they predict: he is dead.



If lost:                    1. Stay still

  1. Preserve energy
  2. Wait


I had nowhere to go. At an age— too old for home, too young to find a way.

I wandered the beach collecting glass shards like seashells, poking jellyfish—helpless and deadly.

I should have been looking for jobs.

I was watching the way shadows flowed from the downtown traffic, to the lilt of strand, then out to sea.


Things are heavier in the desert.

The desert opposite the moon—buoyancy an anchor.



A towel over the head shields the sun.

Boots covering ankles protect against snakes.

Keep your eyes away from the sand.

Breathe through your nose.

Stay clean.


Carry only what you need.


How to Find a Black Hole In Your Kitchen Series: How to Know God at the End of the World, 13” X 13” X 27”, stoneware, 2008


Recovered, the tourist carried a likeness.

Desperate. Euphoric. Thin.

Ghost-like. Made of clay. Hollow.


I thought of a man I’d seen years before

standing waist-deep in cold water, his

business suit clinging like a second skin.


The whale, beached in his arms.

Their breath escaping together—

steam at the water’s surface.



I left Australia before the New

Year, before the end of the world,

before explosions of fireworks,

stocking of water, hoarding of food,

building of shelters, praying to and

forgetting God.


I thought of the man who

could not move the beast.

The beast who could not

comfort the man.


This is how we are cast-out

and dragged-in.





Dysfunctional Toy Series: Express Yourself; 8” X 5” X 14”; stoneware, moveable wire parts, screws, decals; 2005


If the paint scraped away leaving an eye without definition, or a hinge loosened a limb, or “the head popped off,” these things are readily fixed:

Sharpie, paperclip, twist of hand.

If it is something more: translucent plastic cracked, hair torn from pin-sized follicles;  eyes gouged in or out—this requires different care.


When my dad remarried  he began sending our childhood belongings in cardboard boxes softened with mold and damp.He included messages: “Here you go,” “Thoughtyou might want these,” “Hope things are great.”

He needed to make room, we knew, for his new wife,

her children in their twenties, but still younger than us. They didn’t want our toys.

My brother and I did not want them either—childless, nomadic, city-dwellers short on space. We left the boxes seeping smells of our once-upon-a-time home.


A friend comes to stay.

In tow: a three-year-old left by her mother.

They arrive with the clothes on their backs, a favorite stuffed frog, a book about a dinosaur, a princess crown.

“They let anyone have children,” says my friend. I present boxes of toys.


Our father did not forget, but never knew which toys were mine, which my brother’s.

In the mail my brother receives the china tea set;

I find the Marvel figurines.



Dysfunctional Toy Series: Treatment Options; 12” X 16” X 34”; screenprinted stoneware, screws, wire, railroad stakes, 2005

The three-year-old cradles

Wolverine and Spiderman,


“This is the mommy, this is the daddy.” By afternoon she has snapped leg from body, an amputation below the knee. After years of battle-

play, Spidey is bettered by a toddler. In jest my brother will smash my teacups, pink flower-patterned china in shards. We have long abandoned these,

run from our house— before our father kicked us out.

Before he remarried.

Before our mother died.

We are Hansel and Gretel, raised in the woods, in the gingerbread house, by things more misguided than wicked.

Such a strange delight to be malnourished on candy, how jealous was everyone we told, but also: the entrapment, slavery, seduction. And worse,

the things we did: telling lies, playing tricks, pretending to be what we were not, escape through that push into that firey oven.

We emerged from the woods scorched and starving.



“Fix it,” the three-year-old says to me,

Spiderman in one hand, leg in the other.

Some broken toys cannot be repaired. New stories must be told.

A hero is born:  one-legged, lighter, impeccable balance.


“Look at him,” I say. He stands like a bird.

“Now he can fly.”




In the one-seater at the bar in Deep Ellum, Dallas the vending machine takes the space of sink and toilet combined, offering tampons, condoms, BJ blast, clit ticklin’ bunny, pink-opal mini vibrator, purple feather nip clips, But no change.

It makes sense: everything you need for a night-out at a venue occupied by twenty-somethings serving both beer and wine in plastic cups.

So different than the machines in the entrance to the grocery store. Stacked, hip high, holding gumballs, stickers, temporary tattoos, plastic charms in opaque plastic eggs to occupy any two-to-eight year-old for the duration of a shopping list.

In the hotel lobby beside the ice dispenser the machines are in categories: “caffeinated beverages,”

“stuff you only eat on vacation,” “smaller versions of things you forgot at home.”

The pleasure of dropping coins through the

slot, the privilege of selection, the anonymity of the machine, the magic of the correct arm twisting to release.



Carved Urn Series: Enough, 13” X 13″X 31”, stoneware. 2003

As much as it is about offering the right thing at the right time— predicting type, purpose, preference, need or desire—it is about being offered anything at all,

being considered, being known,

encountered by a stranger who says, “I knew you would be here,”

“I thought you might like this,”  “You look like you could use a good ________________.











If it is frozen. Or shallow. Or thick with reeds.

Also,   by dispersal of weight over space less than the pressure of surface tension:                                Tension (T)    =        ________Force (F)_______

Length over which the force acts (L)



Devastating to see the world clearly, when the shore becomes a marsh, eroded, beaten by storm and sea; the piers of plank and metal; the house on the hill—overtaken by mold— never enough for what we needed.

Once we needed next to nothing.

“You eat like birds,” they told us. Proof that we were avian waiting to grow wings.

We played this was our island alone, the dock a concept on the verge of completion, the house learning to grow like a tree.

You believed it wholly. I believed it also.




        Gerri·dae  Pronunciation: \ˈjerəˌdē\ Phylum:  arthropoda Class:

Insecta      Order: Hemiptera      Suborder: Heteroptera

  1. a family of insects with the ability to run atop the water’s surface.

Sometimes called water bugs, water striders, pond skaters, water

skippers, Jesus bugs.


Carved Urn Series: Afraid to Fly, 12” X 12” X 39”, stoneware. 2003

Always in summer

the water bugs,

legs outstretched

to corners of a cross, bodies hovering

above                            still reflections.

This is why

the stones skip, the glass overfills                    without spilling.


not one thing, but

many things



holding hands,


Red Rover, Red Rover;

the brace

before impact,

the breath                      in unison.

You said, “magic.”

You said, “hold your breath.”




Some places exist in time rather than space.

Certain memories are constructed in collaboration. In the city the rain hits the only window. My apartment floods. The carpet sodden. I think of you.

You would have loved the outside                                                        flowing in.    You would have imagined                                                               we were at sea.

You would have claimed

we could live an entire life treading water.





Half-way above. Half-way



the touch

so delicate

to that thin film of surface;


the stone            never settles

long enough            to sink.



I could never hold when it mattered,

your palm clenched in my

palm. Red Rover, Red Rover. I



the collision; the pain of

the chain broken so much

greater than that of release.


I promise, this is not a coffin, but a

boat; beneath the ground there is a sea

with islands the shape of clouds racing

across the water.

Faculty Colloquium at the Country Club

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I take my seat and look over the sunlight room.

Fourteen tables draped with white

privilege. Four speakers: two white men,

one black man, one woman.

Each scrupulously earnest,

as they circle the wild dogs and boars

of critical race theory, social construction,

white privilege, power and prejudice, oppression.


I glance around the room.

Eurocentric Christian whiteness.

Doctrine of Discovery whiteness.

The faculty and administrators

are mostly men, white men. Two black men.

Few women. Most, like me, white.

No black women, one Latino woman, one Asian woman.

Gay? Trans? Bisexual? No one knows.


It makes me want to spell out words with pills:

headache tablets, antidepressants,

whatever I can gather: try harder and inclusion,

and most of all What The F–.


These hours are a calendar of loss.

I drift away to where I’m sprawled on the grass

reading poetry, then walking in the rain,

floating on water, dancing barefoot

on the beach, drinking coffee in Paris.

I wonder if it’s true that blue eyes are a genetic mutation,

that all people with blue eyes can be traced back to one man.


I see the man leaning in to see if I am listening,

hear the woman uhm-hmming the speaker’s points.

It is an undertow that sucks me back into myself.

I return to sift through words, searching

for something to nourish me.

Their words are bruised like ripe fruit,

handled too much, the juices running.

Soaked in the blood-dyed skin of young black men,

I find: Signifier: dark skin; Signified: criminal


My sons are young men, but they are not black.

They do not walk the streets shadowed by death

They still have fire in their souls.

I don’t have enough words

to both rage and weep.

Upcountry, Tropics, The Great Synagogue of Constanta, and Statesman’s Memorial

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Inland wayfarers halt at a ramshackle bivouac

off the beaten track by the vermeil light

of sunup for last-minute victuals

as they ready to surmount hurdles,

their eyes aloft toward the summit distant

and neutral to their quest, at best.


They espy just ahead amid cacti

the bleached bones of carcasses

picked clean by vulturous scavengers,

beneficiaries of time and chance.


Smoke from breakfast fires spirals

afar into the plain, masking chaparral

and startling patterned rattlers

from hidden dens onto the warmth

of earth cracked and peeling.


Equipped to ascend, the living know

well how impartial wilderness remains

toward civilization’s refugees

who place themselves at the mercy

of forces amoral and untamed;

yet life ever seeks other life,

undaunted by the pitfalls and perils

nested amid nature wild and awaiting.




Ships furrow the waters out at sea

while civilization’s refugees

anneal on the beach,

their pestering cares a world away.


By the quay a lone stevedore ignores

heat and thirst, dragging hawsers

along the towpath to moor crafts

gently yet securely, his funicular expertise

accrued over many seasons in austral regions.


Below the surface, migrating turtles pause

to munch on seagrass meadows

rich in essential nutrients

while lemon sharks chase rays

through the mangrove’s red roots

growing in tidal shores and deluged

twice daily with saltwater.


Aloft the torrid orb parches

equally, the clime’s merciless overlord

punishing by its very presence,

conferring both favor and wrath,

defiantly resisting twilight till

the decisor nightfall settles the struggle.


The Great Synagogue of Constanta


Amid the forsaken sanctuary grows a tree

green and lanky, tilting with the wind

ever since the roof partially collapsed.

Standing sentinel is the yellow fleurette

Star of David overseeing the amassed debris

below, a congeries of chipped cement,

smashed stained glass, plaster, and wood beams,

ruins overgrown with shrubs, carpeted with dirt.

Arched colonnades uplifted by blue pillars

attest to the Moorish Revival design

of a halidom once admired by Ashkenazim

from near and far keen on the sublime;

now only mean dogs frequent the detritus,

foraging for kosher remnants of another sort.

Where now there lies a rubble heap

once stood a palace aglow with worship;

where filth now strews the floor

once stood congregants before the upraised scroll,

devotees enthroning on their praise the Most High.

The building is the body but the assembly

is the soul; bereft of its sacred entrails,

the desacralized shell succumbs to the elements,

a bittersweet vestige verging on demise,

its hallowed scenes enshrined in memory.


Statesman’s Memorial


The deceased, inert in the flag-draped coffin atop a bier

overhears the laudation from a choir of admirers

come from near and far to pay final respects

in a solemn assembly of mourners.


Outpourings of grief, gratitude, and melody mingle

under the vast canopy shading from desert sun

ministers, dignitaries, and grandees

keen to preview what their own funerals might resemble.


The honor guard stands now at attention, now at ease,

as protocol officers direct proceedings,

rabbis mutter prayers, and the cantor’s voice

chaperones the soul heavenward unto angels.


Harmonious diapason cedes to sober monody

as attendees rise and watch uniformed pallbearers

shoulder mortal remains and escort them to their

resting place to be inhumed and covered with sand.


None speaks ill of the dead; at such an hour,

elision serves as dignified handmaiden of grace.

Only merits and service are mentioned;

only good intentions are recollected.


Let us warmly praise, and bless, and forgive

and ever bear witness to the good;

may our eyes espy virtues

and our mouths pronounce appreciation.