dinner in the yard with old friends

an ashy, rickety, wooden table
sitting on the crest of a mound of silt.
an admiral, velvet window curtain
thrown over the tabletop and
seasoned with grape tomatoes,
wine, bread, and pesto.

a frail breeze to push the music.
the sky's veneer, a net of frosted light,
and then the entire city, in the pinch of a finger,
just sitting there as if we had
something to do with its placement.

a quiet night with old soldiers
gathered around the table.
good friends that have been fighting
the same war for decades,
each through their own glasses,
feeling the world push itself upon them
one at a time,
with an unaplogetic force that
whittles lines near the eyes.

a deep breath into the evening.
into this one quiet night.
it is the way I imagined every night would be
when I was older.
candlelit with friends, wine, music.
simple joy.

and then suddenly I was older.
and mosts night were just nights.
much like how most mail is just mail.
because handwritten letters are rare.
as is this night.

just enough wine to be
glossy and bloom the stars.
just enough breeze to
quiet the neighborhood.
and just enough union to be content
with each other's silence.

simple and quiet.
love and respect,
as subtle as it can be.



the last train engineer

a few miles east,
over the Broadway Extension,
the 3AM train would barrel down.

 it was always on time and
unlike the 7AM,
the 3AM

its thick whistle blew the duration
of its passing

 and i listened to it every night.

i suppose the engineer,
knew his time was limited
for his responsibilities had been diminishing
with the rise of automation.

 and so, sitting in a dark engine,
a lone passenger watching the world smear,
there was probably no sweeter thing
than to crack that hard cable
and stain the night with sound.

 a last desperate cry for the ghost trains. 

another heavy, steel toast to the failed spirits
of John Henry and Casey Jones.



The Middle Ground

some poets... well...

they write way over here,
on the right side of the page.
you know, for dramatic effect.
because English text ain't supposed to be
way over on the right side,
all by itself.

it's supposed to be over HERE.
on this side, where
it has room to run across the entire page if it really wants to.


but sometimes it isn't sure what to say or where to be.
so it just sits in the middle,
and pouts.

Oath of the Free

Adrift my mind, daily steals
the line, the rod, the fish, the reel
though fortune blessed my spirit free
I'm chained to passion drowning me

No salvage for a listless soul,
no change to pay this aging toll
a worthy memory, marked to be
strong as the ship that charges me. 

I'll file my nails to the hilt
and saw the shackles hitched to guilt
fight hordes of voices, unresigned
to live a life that's undefined.
to live a life that's undefined. 

One Night's Motel Sleep


One Night's Motel Sleep

Everything hurts tonight.
Even the fan has an unfamiliar hum

as if it's been spinning for far too long.

There's so much dust that even
the dried streams of spilled paint
that have dribbled down
these motel walls
from a thousand prior paint jobs,
leaving veins of hard, white tears
crusted to the drywall,
carry dust.

They are like little, old rivers.
I sometimes push them with my fingertips.
They are dried and yet they still
give under pressure a bit.
They still feel soft.

I briefly close my eyes and
colorful static flutters about inside my eyelids.
I cannot escape this visual noise.
It is not black with my eyes closed.
It's as if my eyes are
attempting to receive a broadcast
but have no idea that the connection has been cut.
I am off the air.

I open my eyes, get up from my chair
and look over at the bed.
I see you lying there, asleep.

I light the room with my phone
and stumble quietly forward.
I slide into the bed slowly as not to wake you.
And then I kick the night stand and
EVERYTHING falls off.

I am suddenly a tambourine player.
Or a blacksmith.
Or a bell choir.

I check to see what damage has been done.
Everything is fine.

I lie down,
and just before I attempt to close my eyes once again,
I think of how grateful I am
that you are not something else,
like a bag of dirty laundry or a sack full of groceries.

I think of how grateful I am that the sheets
are moving with your breath and that
you are alive and not dead like
most people that have walked on this Earth.

I then slowly lie my arm over your shoulder.
And I close my eyes.
And the static inside subsides.
And the fan's noise turns to music.
And the paint seals us in.

And I sink with you
into another

thicker skin

Scrips, Scrapes, and Scraps

if all you get are scratches and nicks
then you'll be easily cut by a dull twig.
you have to damage yourself repeatedly.
you have to shock yourself awake
until you can't remember
being soft.

you may lose something in this process.
and it probably won't feel very good.

but you must do it.

because if you don't learn to get cut
and heal from it
you'll eventually be stirred into a salty liquid
and poured slowly
over a better man's


The "Salsa Bar"

The Salsa Bar

they called it a "Salsa Bar"
but to me, it was a battlefield
from World War I
with hunks of flesh and blood and
scraps of carcass splattered
across an exhausted landscape 

they called it a "Salsa Bar"
but to me, it was a 5 year old's art project
with streaks of dry markers
haphazardly scribbled across the paper
and beads of glue with random macaroni
smashed into a series of nebulous blobs

they called it a "Salsa Bar"
and the sign said "SALSA".
but if you stood behind the sign
the sign said "ASLAS",
which stands for
Australian Society for Laboratory Animal Science

There were rabbits and mice minced to confetti
and surgical tools scattered among the dead
and the metal operating table
 reeked of historical nightmares
all in the name of research.

but still…
even with having read this document
to the management… 

they called it
a "Salsa Bar".

The Man at the I-5 & Broadway Exit

The Man at the I-5 & Broadway Exit

there by the exit off interstate 5 and Broadway Ave
sits the man with the diesel mind,
broken down on a milk crate,
grass in his dreadlocks,
trousers at his knees,
screaming on the outside,
shaking on the inside,
and being stabbed by invisible shanks
all over his body.

he is a reservoir of pure madness,
a stew of disorders, schizophrenia being
at the top of his recipe.

his wiring diagram resembles a thicket.
cables and plugs jammed into the wrong outlets.
voltage surging where there should be none at all.
a tangled mess of wires and braids,
leads and filaments, sparking and firing,
for no reason at all.

i imagine that
inside him are vast institutions,
where fires have erupted within their
hallways, lobbies and offices
and the patrons of these buildings
are now tearing each other a part,
screaming in agony,
destroying each other and their surroundings
in their vain attempts to escape
his mind.

i have seen him off and on over the past two months.
and he is always screaming
and chanting and twitching.
a machine of complete and total unrest.

he is so disturbed that
even in a place where the mad seemingly reside at every intersection,
the often apathetic and callused citizens of Los Angeles
take notice when they pass him by.

because this one stands out.

his skin is as black as licorice
and his eyes as white as ice,
bulging and fragile, like eggs.
rarely blinking and frozen in place
as if shocked awake
by an unseen predator.

there is no touching this man.
there is no communicating with him.

the motor to his escalator
broke its belt years ago
and sent his jagged stairs flying 
down, down, down
at a record speed,
down, down, down
where they finally
slammed into that recessed crevice
of mysterious light
deep below the floor.

that crack where the stairs disappear.

that line where most of us step over
and quickly walk away.

The Gnats

The Gnats

we felt like it was over
and suddenly gnats appeared in
our home
and they wouldn't go away

a commitment was made to remove the gnats
and move forward

but still, the gnats were there,
one in every corner,
by the bookcase,
near the window,
hovering in front of the television
like dust

we tried flushing the sink with bleach
and boiling water.
perhaps they were coming from the drain? the trap?

or maybe it was the kitchen?

we removed the pears
we removed the watermelon
we removed all the sweet things
in our efforts
to control the gnats.

but still, the gnats.

vibrating in the air
like gun powder.

specks of Sharpie dots.
flecks of black sesame.

always there.

the gnats.

and so, defeated,
we gave up.
we slumped over
and we waited.
and we waited some more.
and weeks went by.
and eventually, the gnats just went away.
and we didn't have to do anything at all.

the gnats just left.

and the air was clear.

and i assumed it was our patience
that got the best of them.

or perhaps our apathy.

or maybe...

we just stopped
the gnats.

Ditch Digger

Ditch Digger

I used to be a panhandle ditch digger
for the Contiental Gas Company.
At about 6AM I was dropped in an endless
field with no fences,
placed onto a trenching machine
that moved about 6 inches a minute,
and asked to drive miles over the
open country of Oklahoma
until dusk.

There was a lot of time to think
sitting out there.

The land is so flat
that if you stand on a soup can
you can see the shadows of massive clouds,
sliding slowly over the plains
like fresh, wet stains seeping into fabric.

I don't remember much concerning what I
thought about out there.

I only remember WHAT I DID.

I learned to juggle
dried cowshit.

I sang to the cows.

And occasionally,
I almost died
by trenching through unmarked, existing gas lines
or driving the trencher into rain-filled ravines.

It was fascinating being out there.
I cut my teeth and tasted
a life I could never commit to.
I moved through it like a strange explorer,
hired to study and
survey the local flavors.

But I don't remember anything
about what I thought about
while I was out there despite the fact that
sitting on that ditcher
by yourself
and thinking
made up about 90 percent of that job.

And I suppose that's an important lesson.

You don't remember thoughts.

You only remember your actions.

And you best be filling your life with as many
actions that you can fit on your plate.

Or you might as well dig your own ditch
and think long and hard about it

until you get dizzy.

and just fall right in.

the pizza bird

a lone seagull
in a vast and empty parking lot
standing there like an idiot
with a single slice of pizza
hanging from its beak
like a fatuous tongue 

we approached it with the van,
circled it,
and it took flight.

quickly, I hit the pedal
and brought us up to speed
to soar along side it 

and there i watched
as we floated together,
this rigid seagull,
frowning and gliding gracefully over the pavement
draping that perfect triangle of
greasy pizza
from its clenched nib,
flapping in the desert wind. 

the human race is so fucked.


Right now...
I feel like an old, wet, bag of leaves.
A bag of leaves that has been sitting outside for a year.
And kids keep hitting me with sticks.

I am tired.
When I sit down I melt.
I BECOME a bowl of ice cream.

I melt and collapse and
SLIIIIDDDEEE down the edges of the house

into my pillow.

I grab my pillow.
I hold it as if it were a person.
I bring it close.
I love it as if
it knows me.
Because I know it, so very well.

It is my best friend.

Worn out.

I need a vineyard of steel rebar to hold me up.
A kind heart to soak in the day.
An old basket to catch the sighs.
A parachute to set me down slowly.
The tiny click of a door shutting softly.
A whisper on my neck.
And a thread of soft music woven
into a warm summer quilt,
fresh out of the oven,
and ready to save me
from the world.

The Carolina


I asked the man at the register
what the most popular dish at the restaurant is.

He said, "That sir, would be THE CAROLINA."
I said, "Well then, my good man, serve me up The Carolina."

Now I'm sitting here looking at "The Carolina"
and I can't figure out what it is I'm staring at.
Is it a sandwich? A casserole?
The Carolina is, for all intents and purposes,
a disgusting mind puzzle.

It looks like a broken piñata that's been
left out in the rain to die.
But what was the piñata filled with?
Macaroni? Pork? Shellfish?
The Carolina is supposed to be a signature dish,
but it is apparent that this "signature" was signed by a
swamp monster with no opposable thumbs.

Nothing about The Carolina makes sense.
It's like a dog in a tree.
It's a wedding in a grocery store.
It's junk mail.

The Carolina is a dead squirel wearing a party hat.

It's a horse in a hand basket.
It's a mushy pickle in a sock.

My friends, it is my professional advice
that you avoid The Carolina at all costs.
That means if someone has to die so that you
can avoid The Carolina, so be it.
It's worth it.

The Carolina will just make your day soggy and weird
and your sack of regrets
a few pounds heavier. 

Sometimes the Voice is Good


And suddenly the world became complicated.
And the act of being still became either too much to bear
or something I committed days to on end.

And I stopped doing things.
And I slipped into routine and lethargy.
And it took tremendous amounts of energy
to simply say, "Hello," to anyone at all.

Pretty soon the floorboards started to warp.
And my fanbelts started to squeak.
And spiderwebs began to pop up in what used
to be well travelled places.

The file cabinet began to swallow without chewing
and papers were suddenly everywhere.
Documents and certificates and things that
I'm told are essential
if you want to remain alive.

Dents popped up in the body work.
Occassional twitches to the left eye.
And moments of resign coupled with
that tiny, familiar voice recessed in the back of
my mind.

That little, quiet voice that thankfully repeats:
"Survive. Survive. Survive."




The End

i was sitting by the window, in my rocking chair,
watching the clouds,
the day i heard the news.

i received a call from a friend,
who'd been following the events closely.

"are you watching the news?"


"turn it on. any station. right now."

i hung up,
flipped my phone over to CNN,
and pressed PLAY.

my initial reaction was not shock or bitter disgust,
(as i always imagined it would be)
but instead, quite the opposite.

i felt nothing.

only a faint sadness,
floating aimlessly inside.
too heavy to fly,
too light to settle,
like a dry sheet
by an open window.

it turns out,
Life loves the unexpected,
and more often than not, the life you plan for yourself,
will invariably be poles apart from the life you end up with.

i always believed i'd be dead before 50.
but there i was,
sitting in my chair at 82 years of age,
drinking chocolate milk and listening intently
to the news as it echoed the story
of how a team of researchers and
a network of computers
composed every song

a monumental day.

each song,
written over a decillion times,
each version,
different by a yoctosecond.

i was 82 years old,
and it had happened.

music was, in the perspective of a plan or mission,

a strange, new beginning
and a swift ending
to our most beloved language.

questions tumbled through me.
what now?
what would come next?
would this open doors
or simply be feared
and ignored?
how would we take it?
where would we go?

what would we do...

now that it has all been done?

seconds passed,
and the evening breeze bore its icy teeth for the
first time that year.

winter was early.
i pulled my jacket tight
as my chair cracked its legs against the base boards.
for a moment, the sounds of the city dissipated
and the world grew still.

i turned off my phone,
leaned back,
closed my eyes,
and listened to the squirrels on my roof,
the cicadas in the creek,
and the sound of the leaves

high in the trees


You and Me


i met you on unstable ground,
a floor held up by truck jacks and paving stones,
and how it was that we didn't collapse
perplexed the on-lookers 
and most of our friends.

we hurt ourselves
and we ruined furniture
and we ruined clothes.

and we made a mess of things.

a wonderful mess at times.

an awful mess at others.

but even then,
we knew, that no matter what happened,
one of us would always be there for the other,
standing there in the background,
foggy and blurred,
waiting in the farthest reaches of the rear view mirror

as the other one drove away.

because when you base a friendship
not just on love,
but on the mutual, shared pain of existence
the bond becomes such that it can never
be razed.

and that's how I've always thought of you.

there waiting in my mirror.

my comrade
in rapture

my best friend
in pain.




today i turned around
and all the meat in the refridgerator
had expired

i'm sad to say that this happens alot.
i turn around
and it's all over.

this didn't happen as much
when i was younger. 

perhaps i didn't buy very much meat
or perhaps i didn't read the labels
back then.

because i know time isn't moving
any faster than it was.

and i know the meat isn't moving
through time.

it's just me.
my carelessness.
my memory.

or maybe i'm just buying

expired meat. 


The Bells that Graze

incredible bells

ring beside me through the snow
into my chest and sink below
my lungs and push out a breath
that i've kept...
from long ago.

colors in my clothing fade,
the soul gets old as the shoe decays,
have you put enough dollar bills away
for your...
parent's graves

and yet I feel the creases graze
across my eyes each passing day
like the sound of kitchen plastic
in my hand.

not from age, from walking on
a crooked ladder whereupon
I balance, weary, grasping at
a rail...
made of sand. 

and so i stumble, shuffle down
from suit to white, hospital gown
with pictures freezing memories
the mind's decay.

and all i ask, is when i fade
to see the path my parent's laid
and hear my mother speaking out,
"do not
   be afraid."