15 December 2010

Fighting Fish

When babies aren’t born,

his wrinkled, calloused hands wrestle each other,

it hurts the daddy too.

He sits in the lobby of the assisted care home, staring at the aquarium.

Not the same as the mother, but when a baby is stillborn—where the hell did they get the name anyway?Because the baby is still? There is nothing still afterwards.
We lost—she lost—three.The weirdest thing is for someone to be born dead. Born and dead at the same time.

The water plants sway in the filtered water.

I think the thing that hurt most was packing up the crib and buying the little coffin, so small it looked like a stage prop. Everything must have its place to end. Everything finds its place.

Water puddles on his lower eyelid.

Sometimes I wonder what if. I guess there is no reason to think of these fill in the blanks as much as I do. 

The setting sun bleeds pink through the window. I will have to leave soon.

She left me soon after we buried the last one. We stayed married in the same house, but she was never really there--not inside.

He chuckles. I follow his stare to two pink fish in the tank, repeatedly kissing and backing away flirtatiously.

Ever see pink gouramis? the fish? It looks like they’re kissing. They’re beautiful, but they’re actually

The gnarled knuckles of each hand hit.

doing battle. They’re trying to suck the life out of each other. That’s what we were.

There is a ringing of our own silence that makes me shift my view.

Nothing causes everything to die inside--where they can’t be repaired or replaced--like a child’s death. ‘Specially one you never knew.

12 December 2010

Prayer, Second Version

Mostly is not all
as evidenced forever,
a fate so apropos
no jury would deny.
Midnight died for lack of prayer,
and yet I beat my fists against your father chest.
"You are no father to me," I shout without remorse.

The runes of blood tattooed
across your skin remind me
there is nothing more frightening than
God damning, nothing more deserved.
Now your holy fingers
slip into the sinew of my thigh, and
I fight no more.

You were my great whiting out,
painted over heart textures,
relief and ravine of soul,
onion paper over bone stretched.

Be thou my cancer --
the eating of my core,
the tendrils inseparably spiraling around my hopes--
the vegetable spine that wills against desire.

Take the colors from me,
the hazing demanding verdict,
the deadline long since passed,
the message clearly given:

Abuse is not grace.
Release is not grace.
Forget is not grace.
Cost is grace.

19 October 2010


The pulse is beats across
the hand with a wooden rod.
The lungs are sponges for baptismal water
pressing across the chest.
The rumblings of meaning are slight taps
on the shoulder of a stranger—
“Could you please remove your hat?”
The voice of thunder barely rustles
the re-sewn veil.
Grace is a gift lying broken,
rocking back and forth,
on the floor
after the party.

How can I be real to you
when every word is digitized?
How can I climb into your heart
when my legs are scabbed and atrophied?
How can I be what you need
when all I worship are words?

25 September 2010

The Crowd on the MARTA

Shadows don’t know
is figure and ground.
Someone should tell them.
They think
they have substance of
more than just absence,
defining themselves by
they are not.

31 August 2010


Today my heart is not lifted up.
Sometimes I lift my eyes unto the hills.
Today my eyes contemplate the sand.

Sometimes I sing until I’m sore.
Today I am silent.

I have calmed and quieted my soul
like a little boy
reaching up to his mother’s hand

like a little boy
silent and waiting

with a mother
who has nothing to say
but stares ahead.

11 August 2010


Mostly is not all

as evidenced forever,

a fate so apropos,

the emptiness to fill.

The runes of blood tattooed

across your skin remind me

there is nothing more frightening than

God damning, nothing more deserved.

You are my cancer--

the eating of my core,

the tendrils inseparably spiraling around my will--

the vegetable spine that wills against desire.

Intimate finger trace

skimmed over heart textures,

relief and ravine of soul

over finite bone stretched.

Take the colors from me,

the hazing demanding verdict,

the deadline long since passed,

the message given clear:

Abuse is not grace.

Release is not grace.

Forget is not grace.
Cost is grace.

07 July 2010


Is it ok to not want _____?
to recognize that the____________ would
is it all right to want to hold on to
_____makes me Black
and ____White
even __________________
and not want the gray __________
____the brushes are washed?

Maybe _______to mulch and _____
the roots of my ___________
and care _______my______ .
Maybe I can't cram an _______
into a ________________________.
Maybe I should be
colorless, ________, tasteless
carbon monoxide
slowly, silently killing _________ in the garage.

Or maybe, John,
I don't want to ________a world of harmony.
Maybe I want to be free
to hate
if hating defines my love.

11 May 2010

This Year's Senior Poem

Two Lanes: On Your Graduation

One hour from now you will
emerge from these robes,
listen to the congratulations of people you don’t remember,
and fly in a swirl of celebration.

Forty years from now I will,
with trembling hands, fumble through yellow papers
and find this, and pause, and try to remember now.
“I think I know who they are…” I will say,
And I will miss my mother.

One year from now you will
come to visit your high school
and watch new players fill the old roles.
“Do I really have to wear this visitor’s tag?” you will say.
You’ll wonder at how like children we are.

Twenty years from now I will
slowly set my books into a cardboard box,
take down the diplomas, and look at my wife.
“Maybe now we can take time for us,” I will say
as if it had been a sacrifice.

Five years from now you will
straighten the creases of your best suit
and wonder if the air conditioning is working.
“What I lack in experience I make up in loyalty,” you will say
during your first real interview.

Ten years from now I will
regret to inform you that I cannot
attend your wedding because it falls
on the same day that I take my child to college,
and you will remember—it seems like yesterday—
each time you were left at school.
“I understand,” you will say, and then forget it,
as you should,
because you can only think of the beauty of every minute detail of your love.

Five years from now I will
wonder if all fathers of teenagers
grip the inside door when their children drive.
“Would it hurt you to just slow down a little?” I will say,
and I will mean it in two ways.

Twenty years from now you will
see the mother and father of it all as you
hold the infant reverently.
“I didn’t know love felt this deep,” you will say,
and trace the edges of her fingers.

One year from now I will
write another poem for another class
and remember this moment
“Every year I write a poem for the senior class,” I will say.
Many of them will forget it.

Forty years from now you will look in her eyes,
and it will make full circle sense.
I didn’t know happiness could hurt this much, you think, but you say, “It happened when I wasn’t looking,”
and you will know that there is nothing more beautiful
than a bride who will always be your little girl.

One hour--
two hours—
three hours—

I have no idea what I will be doing.
I have no idea what you will be.
I have no idea what I will.
I have no idea what.
I have no idea why
or when.
There is only who.

I know the three, like ancient fates
who always surround us looking over our cribs
with holy tears:
Faith who carries us like children crying for home.
Hope who encourages our adolescent spirits to be free.
And Love who waits for us with Father arms to
smooth our hair, to kiss us, to tell us the storm has gone.

20 April 2010

The Loss that Changed Everything

This is what I remember,
the pencil sketches on newsprint
that I must translate.

I remember, five, you at two, brother,
the smell of your boy sweat hair,
the grasp of fingers into my shirt
as one we wrestled on a carpet, our imaginary sea.

I remember the morning a week later
you left me:
Father carrying me, whispering to me he loved
me, whispering of
whispering the stains of weeping
on his cheeks.
I remember someone visiting and
giving me a set of
over two
crayons which even then I thought a gift
too small to match
or burn
the loss.

But mostly I remember sitting in a small
rocking chair while the adults mourned,
hearing the wails and moans and mournings of a
cat that had
homed under our house and
wondering where they had hidden you
and if I could set you free.

I have been told not to write a confessional
because when you grow up,
nobody cares,
but this is for me finally and not
for them.

08 April 2010

A Flarf Poem

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Merry Christmas, Childhood

03 April 2010

Easter Sunday

men tip their hats

women smile demurely

and children high-five

the risen Lord

in passing thanks

for the egg-grace

hidden in the grass

Sunday morning

the chocolate God love

found on the church playground

or at brunch in new poplin

or at golf

in appreciation

for what happened on a hole in one-less hill in Israel.

I sit and judge them,

but is this day so different

from each day I

assume His grace was cheap?

28 February 2010

Lessons Learned from One Dying

Just be.

Birch bark peeled back at the
end of winter.

Thawing ice, in an
abandoned corner of a field,
dripping water on red clay.

The fighting dog, no longer guarding his bone,
circling and lying down in the

A glass of iced tea with mint and lemon offered in the
heat of July yard work.

A child’s fingers tracing the prickly edges of a
father’s beard.

A tender, calloused hand wiping
a tear from a child’s cheek.

Bleeding palms turned outward against
heavy splintering wood.

16 February 2010


The shortest distance between two points
is the line between the past that is
and the present that was.

I could see evil,
a crouched imp stuffed full of nothing
perched at the foot of my morning preschool bed.

I have wrestled its stories
and believed the claws
and warmth of the embrace of madness.

Inverted prayer knees
pulled to chest as it rocked with
hyena echoes.

There is a sickness there.
Eyes painted on eye lids.
Lies blood-tainting white wedding dresses.

I slept with my door cracked
so I could put the puzzles together—
what they said in the darkness of a grownup world.

The rose-colored, rain-coated window panes
shade the view,
a palette of crimson blurred.

Teachers could not hurt me
with their cuts of bleeding red
over rogue pencil etchings.

After a night of adult words spilling from wine glasses,
even though every power line slashes the throat of the sunrise sky,
and the morning sun was blistering, nothing could hurt me, and
the wings are mine.

10 January 2010


The elephant has been here for too long.
I have thought of sending it out, but it won’t fit through the door.

I have thought of eating it, which I’m told you can do
piece by piece,
but I’m too picky to eat elephant,
and my guess is it doesn’t taste like chicken.

Maybe I can make it a pet,
train it,
cuddle up with it at night,
and stay warm.

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