Thursday, December 24, 2020


Journal Excerpts


I'm open and fragile this morning. I've nearly cried twice on my commute--while walking to the train in Queens and seeing the face of the sunlit, brick building behind the passing elevated train as Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" played over my earphones, and then while exiting the underground when Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" (The line: "New York is cold, but I like where I'm living") lead me back into the early morning sunlight.

Sobriety is funny. I feel less sober with my emotions somehow; maybe I'm more tender, maybe I'm really feeling some emotions for the first time in a while.


Ecclesiastes 7:3-4

Sorrow is better than laughter:
for by sadness of the countenance
the heart is made better.

The heart of the wise is in the house
of mourning; but the heart of fools 
is in the house of mirth.


Just caught my reflection while looking out the window--hands together at the fingertips and thumbs under chin. I felt like a poser, sitting over an open journal and latte at a French bistro. I can't help but be myself, and I'm always self conscious of being me. I don't want to appear to be an affected artist. Ugh. This fucking dialogue has persisted since I was a teenager, and my self effacing has hindered me as much as my self aggrandizing.

That's me. I'll accept it now and will have to do it again in the near future. We can't escape ourselves, and if we do, we lose sanity.


I'm at New York City Bagel and Coffee House and annoyed by these twenty-something girls' giggling and talking as if they knew something, but they're just talking about school days, lame jobs, and boys. I haven't looked at them, but their voices are cute. Their pronunciation is good, no affected vocal fry, no click-ish speech patterns, no excessive uses of "like" as filler. Wait, disregard that one. In an attempt at being kind after belittling them, I went too far.

Now I'm getting kicked off the sidewalk because the cafe is closing.


In the cool of the morning, I stepped onto the street after little but enough sleep. The sun had just broken the horizon and lit the building windows orange. Clumsy waking neighbors trailed their eager dogs with bags of shit. An infant strapped to her mother's shoulder slept while the woman waddled, happy to be outside for the first time in days.

After miles of walking past deli-store owners smoking cigars, garbage men trailing the truck, sleek sweating joggers, an older woman confused by her coffee order at the bodega, a young late-night partier sleeping it off in evening dress in the street, I thought, "How lovely this mad, beautiful, silly city.”

Saturday, December 19, 2020


I'm now old enough to smell the aged, book smell of a book that I had purchased new.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Unfinished Poem

I never finished this poem, but I like it. I may yet finish it. At the time I was reading Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell and a lot of Yeats; that's the only way I can explain it's being different from anything else I've written. 


Crucifying on Tarot's Celtic cross,
the Devil tells me, "Scorpio, you've stung
your head with the winged visions from the eyelids
of the dead." A kaleidoscope flutters

terror through me . . .

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Incomplete Idea #4

Each moment blooms eternally but needs a pinch of consciousness to exist.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Music Making

Barefooted by a Missouri river,
you finger pick your steel-string.
A weary caravan procession
carrying your only possessions,
memories, stirs the dust off
your dirt-road throat.

Your children doddle in a distant
yard. The sister lifts her face
to the falling, grape-like, clematis
blooms under the window of the dining
room. Her brother kicks the seedlings
spinning off the daisies.

Though the physician's incision
sprouted her hair, he grabbed
your son instead, giving him
the first born's burden.

Underfoot the twins would
chirp sounds only they understood.
You'd scold them to use words
and receive their tea-saucer stares.

On the couch with a neighbor,
your two-year-old daughter, kung-fu
gripped his temple, jealous of Daddy's
attention. You laughed at her ferocious precision.

You'd often return home prune-skinned
and silent, having rinsed your day
down restaurant drains, and your groggy-eyed
boy would greet you and fake a high
laugh to brighten your face.

Above the rippling water, your young
son and daughter mingle among the tired
travelers, who follow your song in search of home.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Brick Facade Flowers

A brick facade flowers
between us. You're no
longer naked. While I
slept, you clothed and watched
my sex shiver erect, you
tell me. I'm praying
for a sea surge to break
this levy. Can you conjure
our last tender embrace?
Your aroma, Lilac
and Lavender, covers our
celibate sheets and still grips
me. Stop. You're discarding
our union's remaining fruit.
Hand me a single seed. I'll bury
it in my hollow heart. I'll sun
and shower it back to life myself, alone.
You're pressing your cold feet against
my thigh. There's no kindness.
You're pushing off shore.
Though I know you're taking
the worst of me, I'll miss you.
The waves rise and the levy
falls. We're capsized.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Labor Is the Millstone that Grinds One Back Into His Mother, Dust.

I have seen all the works
that are done under the sun;
and, behold, all is vanity
and vexation of spirit.
     Ecclesiastes 1:14

The wages of dying is love.
     Galway Kinnell


Work shapes a man's hands
and weathers his face
into a cracked candle.

Diversionsbedding women,
beating men, indulgent eating
or drinking gin
are time wastes
between tying one's boots
and bowing back
to work. When he leaves
lusting, he returns
the same man, if colder.

The toll of toil only equals
its profits, but one's fortified
by the fire of its kiln
and stands ill composed without it.

Life is empty and vain,
but work keeps death at bay.

If one's lucky, the tedium
of living reaps knowledge,
though knowledge heaps
silos of sorrow,
but wisdom relieves
one of madness.


Look at the street
sweeper. She's oblivious
of all else, and one-by-one,
flicks the butts
into the pan. A passerby
grazes her broom. She's
not startled. She turns
away from the glare off
the street puddle to better
focus on the litter.


And now this bartender.
He grabs the long-
stemmed glass overhead
and thumbs the wine
bottle over it, snatches
the high-ball tumbler
behind his knee and shovels
the ice. In a pint glass,
he taps Guinness shy
enough from the top
for the foam to rise. Patrons
call for him, nailing orders
with fists to the bar. They’re
ignored. The pallid cleavage
and red noses tip toward him
his task obscures them.
The spirits and sweat rise
from the wood. The thunder
guitaring from the speakers
cloaks the crowd. Skirts
and collared shirts, high-heels,
and wet beards, soiled dollars,
broken throats, ashen faces,
and even the serene street
lights outside the ever
opening door are not
even whispers to himhe
who serves his duty
more than them.


The mother's an exception.
A life is her occupation.
Her calling wails from morning
till well past the gloaming, and teethes
her nipples purple. Her single
child tries her wild
with love, pain, and worry
that plasters her flatly
against the barrier of sanity.
While weeping over the soiled
clothes she pours into the washer,
a grease streaked wisp of hair
sticks in her mouth.
Unlike the others she feels
for only her daughter.
Though she, like them, sees
nothing while in motion
now the laundry spins
her chest is tight,
her mind is numb,
she only wakes to the room
when she tastes salt on her
lips. She wipes her eyes
and brow, and the wailing returns.

What a piece of work
is woman, how soulfully
appeasing the infinite wailing
"in action how like an angel."

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Irish Rover

(Astoria, Queens)

When Darren is at
the bar, don’t go far.
If Ania sees a stupid frat
boy, she’ll kick him scarred.

Gerry is a gentleman.
He keeps the place top
notch. When a man
is looking at crotches, stop

him. Ask Michéal to punch
him. A few regulars
are always there. A hunch
tells me you’ll see cars

lined up for Schilacci.
He’s my manager. He’ll
tell you of the bees
wax or the best feels

at the “worst birthday
party ever!” He’s clever.
He’s the best. If you say
you want a drunken fever

and to be a fool? Pull up
a stool, but Moses knows
how to keep all the pups
at bay. He can stow

a face in a trash can
if you ask him. Tuesdays
through Thursdays, Mike stands
broad shouldered and stays

till the house is clean
of crazies. He’ll toss
your ass out if beans
and marbles are lost.

(I said “beans” for rhyming.)
If you have bad looks
from a stranger, a shinning
eye will get your books

cleared—will get you
barred from the best
bar in New York City. Stew
on Irish messages. Jest

with Eanna and he’ll
treat you like a pal.
Call me a steel-
toed boot wearing Al,

and I’ll call you a
truth speaker. If you
know meyou’ll know a
woman named through

a war between her father
and mother. She’ll tell
you that daughter
called “The Grey Castle”

can sing better, for her
name in Gaelic means
Leslie. Yes, I shared
that meaning through seething

teeth. Don’t approach
my Mrs. It’ll get you
rosy punched and roach
kisses. You’ll be a few

inches under and food
for worms. Guess what?
The 25th anniversary brew
is starting on August

sixteenth. Two months
after Bloomsday.
I haven’t forgotten; cunts
can’t burn journal pages. Stay

true to the Irish Rover.
Never go over your tab.
See you soon over
At my bar, and save a cab

for home. You’ve earned it.
Now, get going and get lit.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


for Maryanne Ventrice

At the end of your life,
you’re gonna be all used up.”

When does it end?
The redbud holds no blooms.
When will it be spring again?

Her leaves were torn by autumn winds.
Winter became cold so soon.
After the frost, will it end?

Summer dried her broken limbs
and lightning struck her through.
Please let it be spring again.

If she had a forest of friends,
instead of dry grass and a few
stones, she’d not hope to meet her end.

Her twig ends do not bend.
Green grows not in her shoots.
She doesn’t know it’s spring again.

Early chirpings have hope to lend,
though her trunk’s core is a tomb.
This redbud has met this end,
though it’s finally spring again.

Saturday, August 10, 2019


For Jan Tilley

Death is a form of rebirth.
We've come down to Earth,
or we were born out of star
dust to be a light far

from where we're born. Death
is our friend; she'll be
there in the end. Breath
tends to fend for keeping

us alive. The darkness
wakes us to what matters.
My friend, your kindness
leaves others in tatters.

Thank you.

Friday, August 9, 2019


I’m late-night writing,
and I break some ripening
garlic to cleanse my blood.
I find myself searching

for bulb skins beneath 
the refrigerator—thinking:
"Tater can’t eat these
garlic skins. It’ll hurt him."

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Marriage: An Epic Poem

I've been working on this for a while. This section is somewhere in the middle of the poem. I'll likely continue it indefinitely.

Today we celebrate
our being husband and
wife for fifteen years.
Every day I love you
till I'm more into
your aura. Our color
will soon be violet
I'm blue; you're red.

Passion told me
my life is ending
tomorrow. I told passion,
"I begin again." Lovin'
is easy. The cousin
of "hating" is at the opposite end
of the spectrum. Indifference
is the enemy. Hints
are clues on how to be
together. I can't see

without you. I've
told you that striving
for the sun can lead
to Icarus' feathers in the
sea, but if the sun

"could change to a
softer hue of blue,"

never mind, I've begun
to change myself for
you. You know, cutes,

the emperor penguin salutes
no one. The male protects
the egg all winter, protects
the answer to the equation
of love. We've had abrasions.

We've weathered waves
that've crashed brave
couples into the sea.
Mermaids may believe
saltwater can breathe
sailors to life or death;

I believe we'll see
each other in heaven's
lament. Rilke said heaven
has a greater heaven, created
by Orpheus' lamentations
for Eurydice. Execution

could not quiet Orpheus'
head from singing. With us,

nothing will stop my
poem. Nothing. Sigh
a little. Smell the magnolias.
I promise I will never leave ya.