my brother’s favorite view

my brother’s favorite views
are where flooding brought
the marsh around the throats of trees
and stripped them bare as teeth-

i should have known
when he told me that.

but then i felt the autumn
swell around us again;
we were small and we
took my sleds out before the first snow.
he led me to a hill he knew
where we could ride the dead leaves down
past the cemetery below-
i should have known then,
but i watched him slide away,
to be swallowed by the trees.

Yellow Walls

Yellow walls with white panels like this paper,
Shadows from the banister tracing
Faint Picasso's just for me.
These little graces
That beseech us like ghosts
or follow us on unheard hooves,
Like lightning before thunder,
Or a jet before its boom,
Like an endless current of things being seen or
hinted at
But not yet heard.

The Pearl Diver's Union

Let us sit and speak of the seeds in our stomachs, and how we might cultivate them together. Let us seek what grows within,
Sifting through the marine snow that falls there.
Let us seek, in the deepest depths of moldy choices and loves since turned away from, to see if there’s anything left gleaming between the fingers that line our stomachs and tremble at our touch like anemones.
Come diving with me for the pearls we grew in our guts.
Let’s see if we can’t discover another old loss to fuel some new warmth.

Everybody could use a little new warmth.
And anger is not the same as warmth just because it’s hot,
And hatred is much too hot for hugging.
I’ve found compassion to be my favorite comforter.
So let’s be each other’s blanket in more than body — shield me from shrapnel and I will shield you — and if you won’t shield me?
That’s alright.
It will hurt — I will feel pain, but before I feel anger I’ll turn inside and ask:
Was it my fault?
What could I have done differently?
(Seriously, though, was it my fault?
‘Cause this has happened before and last time I thought it wasn’t my fault, But sometimes I get a little stuck in myself and I can’t see right.)
Once all within is examined and my own faults are diagnosed by a doctor of days or hours,
Then I will consider the outside, the others, the You, and search for pearls there.
So, that by sorting first through the mold that grows within,
And finding the spores for inoculation against further suffering,
I will try to be self-centered, which is not the same as being self-important.
But some currents run deeper than others;
I will do what I can.

A few notes for those not far behind, Or those that cherish looking back, Or those that are above, below, and beside, Everyone, really:

  1. To destroy is not as good as to encourage new growth,
    But a little erosion and the occasional forest fire might clear a path.
  2. Always try to be ‘seeking’—once you start ‘finding,’ you’ve likely made a mistake.
  3. Don’t confuse ‘seeking’ with ‘ruminating’—one is punctuated by good food and fine friends, by sharing, camaraderie, and the angels of our better nature. The other is perforated by abrupt desires to read Russian Literature.

If you’re not sure if you’re ruminating, assume that you are until you find something to kiss.
It is acceptable to kiss a dog. Be warned that they kiss back.
Once this work is done,
Once the self is centered, and the stomach pearls are a necklace you wear with pride,
Once you are blooming and blossoming with pride,
And you wear your own wake,
And you are connected to the world by your pearls and your pals —
Take off the choker,
Drown the pride,
And give away the pearls:
Someone else needs them now.
Keep the pals — and the dog — But let the pearls we found together exit as art,
Let them be buried as seeds in another’s stomach.

Coal miner’s drinking song

Coal miner’s drinking song
Once you realize anything goes as long as it’s good
And that good doesn’t exist
And that trick you’ve seen men do in the street with the three cards shuffling, is a lot like poetry, things get different.
It’s about cheating perception,
And making the thing look good from any angle.
Take a picture of me.
I don’t have any good sides.

A diamond has facets,
But I am not a diamond,
so I have sides.

Coal also has sides,
But nobody talks about coal facets, do they?

Sometimes I wonder if coal miners do.
I wonder if a coal miner ever brings up a piece of coal and the overseer says, “Damn! A few more years and this would have been a fine diamond!”
and the miner says,
“Look at this coal, Sir.
This coal has facets.
This coal needs to be coal.”
And then I remember that not all poor people are wise,
Some of them are just poor,
And that I was lucky enough to be born into a life
With so little fear
That I had to generate my own,
And so I started to write.


I woke up today afraid to die.
Afraid for the first time.
For the first time since
I dreamed dust on my tombstone.
I was 12 then.

I never dreamed I'd multiply.
Hope isn’t known for growing with age, and ten years?
That’s an Iraq war,
Or half a cicada.
A peat bog burial rung right to me then;
A stint below surface,
To see if peace could be found.

Peat bogs,
Where the skin goes leather
Except for the eyes, which stay

To be honest,
Soft tissue’s always been my least favorite,
But it’s all I’ve got.
(It’s all I’ve ever had.)

Peat bogs,
If you get down to it,
Are simply the —

A couple just ran through the field where I’m writing.
Look at them go!
A happy couple in a happy field!
While I sit here.
Writing poetry about peat bogs and math.
What a triumph.

Well, run on sweet feet,
However brief you may be!
You are bright and you are precious;
Every shoe drops eventually,
But there is joy to be found
In bare soles till then.

I’ve lived,
Staring at my toes,
Thinking myself alive,
Armored by isolation,
Secure in the empty,
Assured of my freedom.
Now I am bare,
And truly free.
Bare and free
and terrified.

Terrified because since I woke up,
I have found
These pens, and loves,
These embers and friends?
Are finally mine.
Finally mine!
Finally mine To make multiply.
What a triumph.

Portrait of a Night Before Breaking Out the Glowsticks

Would you rather have to wear fish instead of shoes,
Or hammer your thumb every third swing?

Would you rather be secretly covered in seaweed at all times,
Or have a perpetually burned tongue?

Would you rather fight your nemesis on top of a crane,
Or on top of a speeding train?

Would you rather defeat your nemesis on top of a crane or a train?
Did your answer change?

Would you rather be forced to watch a child fall once a day, and feel responsible,
Or have to name all ten of your toes and care for them accordingly?

Would you rather only be able to smoke badly rolled cigarettes, made by a guy you don’t feel comfortable around,
Or emit light at all times?

Would you rather have to flirt with any new crush for two hours of uncertainty while they stare blankly back at you,
Or snort a thumbtack, one time?

Would you rather be the same as you are now,
Or be able to summon DJ Khaled whenever you want, but you can’t make him leave?

Would you rather have an autoerotic asphyxiation fetish but you can only satisfy it by using one of those physical therapy stretch bands, so every time you masturbate you just end up hitting your head against the wall and you’re more embarrassed than hurt,
Or always have a splinter?

Would you rather fuck your #1 crush and their clone,
Or have a threesome with the two runners-up?
The clone might be evil.

The Festival of Death

Once a year,
But only two times I can remember,
The blue fish come to Gloucester,
Chasing the schools of silver fish
That migrate, (God knows why.)

When I was little, I always wondered,
If the oceans are soooooo big,
How come the fish find each other
All the time?
Do they have radar?
Or are living creatures just innately better at
Finding other living creatures
If they’re only doing it
To feed?

When the blue fish come,
Out with them follow fishermen,
The sure folks that pull life from the brine.
But for me,
A child still,
When the blue fish came
I caught the festival of death
That celebrated itself
Within the changing of the tides.

The shore-line’s moon-bound ebb and flow
Brought silver sand anew-
I saw it from my spot on the concrete sea wall
And assumed the beach was alive with treasure,
That some long lost pirate wreck
Had been kicked up by the passing of the fish,
Its casks split open
Sending precious silver sprawling on the waves
All the way to my feet.
I dashed to collect my bounty,
My mother’s hand in mine
And her in tow behind me
Because pirate treasure does NOT trump mothers.
Mother in tow.
I stopped short and sudden at the water’s edge,
I was struck dumb,
I was standing perfectly still.

When I spoke I was stumbling and slow
“Mom, are those fish?”
“Yes Honey, little ones. They wash up here in the thousands this time of year.”
“Do they die?”
‘Oh,’ she said, “Oh, yes,
I thought you knew.”

I didn’t know, mom.
I had no idea.

I took off down the beach
Leaving mom behind
Stopping only to stoop and
Scoop up handfills of any fish that were still flapping
Between my fingers and in my palms they
stared at me with soft confusion,
And this stupid, pointless, animal innocence
Until I flung them as hard as I could
Back towards the sea.