November 26 Poems

There are too many women

in my life that have disappeared.


It wasn’t enough to take my sister,

who trusted me, believed in me.


It wasn’t enough to take my wife’s sister,

who was nursed back by my wife.


It wasn’t enough to then take my wife,

and leave her broken on the ground,

only a fraction of who she once was.


I am left wondering if all this taking is over,

or should I prepare for the next storm.


We lost you not long after your wedding.
There were pictures of your honeymoon.
You were standing under a waterfall
In a bikini and cut off shirt. They say
You started to make strange comments

After that, as if your mind had been plucked
From the present and re-situated
In your past. The ability to swallow
Went first. You choked on water then words.
You forgot who your husband was, but I like

To think you remembered me when you smiled.
Once I walked you to your bed, our hands clutched
Into one fist. You got a feeding tube not long
After that. When we undressed you, a smile
of achievement crossed your skeletal lips

In the mirror. You never grew old
When it was just you and me, it was
Always bran cereal and bananas
For breakfast. You used to let me dress up
In your costume jewelry and sequined evening

Gowns. Even the disease could not steal
Your vanity. We all flew to Washington
To say our final goodbyes. You’d been trapped
Inside that withering body half my childhood.
It was the first time I’d been in a room

Alone with you since I was seven. I knelt
By your hospital bed and prayed. I wanted
To believe your semi-vegetative state
Gave half of you to me and half your consciousness
To God- that you saw the afterlife and me

At the same time. I promised
When I died we’d be together. You died
A week later and visited me. We had
Breakfast together, the healthy bran cereal
Kind. I feel you from time to time

I dream you when I sleep. I like to think
I’m your favorite, your soul grandchild.


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November 25 Poems

I walked long into the morning

until the sun shown down

between the tall buildings

providing just a little comfort

from the biting wind.

And then I sat. Just sat

on a bench in the feeble sunlight

doing nothing much,

just watching

people passing by,

catching scraps of conversation.

Just siting, until the morning passed,

until I was hungry and cold.


He’s the first one awake
Before sunrise. He’s the first
Whose eyelids grow heavy
At night. In the morning
He turns the thermostat up
I can always find him
Lying in front of the largest vent
In the dark talking to himself,
Quietly whispering the things
Little boys say when no one else
Is awake. Only I see him
In this state beginning his day
In secret conversation when
He sees me he’ll tell me
About his dreams: he was flying,
He was walking with dinosaurs,
He invented bionic wings.
I’ll ask him to make me a pair
Next time he dreams
He’ll say there is no design
You could grasp.


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November 24 Poems

Thursday evening. Chicago.

Walking the streets in the rain,

alone. Left on Hubbard Street.

Hungry. There, Vermillion,

that’s the place I’m looking for.

Candles everywhere, shimmering

on the deep red walls. The beat

of Eastern hip-hop throbs.


Triple lentil stew. A

aeep, burnished orange,

complex, rich, smoky, smooth,

offset with crunchy fenugreek

seeds and sprigs of cilantro.

It’s a warm fire in the hearth

on a cold, wet night.


Artichoke pakoras. Forget

everything you know about

artichokes. Deep fried hearts

topped with sweet Chilean chili pepper;

take, sink into the ambrosial chutney—

pureed eggplant, chili pepper, coconut;

I’m reeling, this is beyond my

culinary experience, beyond my

culinary imagination.


Wild boar jibaritos,

Cuban street fare.

Imagine tender succulent

pulled pork, rich, dark,

and smoky with flecks of

chili pepper topped with

crumbled queso, served with

fried plantains discs and

a bright red pear-guajillo chutney.

Magnificent! Fiery, bursting

with complex flavors and texture—

salty, chewy meat,

dense, sweet plantains,

bright citrusy chutney.


Mango flan. Not the syrupy

sticky sweet jello-like flan

you’re thinking of. Think of

a fine Camembert or the

best panno-cota you’ve ever had,

that is the texture here.

Extraordinary, heroic flan

topped with crunchy green

cardamom and garnished with

Malibu Rum coconut foam,

a disc of carmerlized sugar,

and a mint leaf.


This is slow, deliberate

contemplative eating,

no rushing, just savoring.

I have been transported

to a place I have never been,

a culinary ecstasy nearly

beyond belief.

With my last bite,

the sadness washes over me

like the setting sun over

the blue ocean.


Walking out into the rain,

I’m forlorn, lost, like

like leaving behind a lover

not knowing if and when

we’ll ever meet again.

I turn to look back,

the candles shimmering

on the deep red walls.


Come Cat and we will call you
Saint Laurent. You will need
no longer nap in the grass.

Come Cat nap in our barn
consecrated for you. You make
no sound Cat, but I know you

want to be ours. Join our priory
the order of chickens and rats
we need a guardian of the gates

to the Otherworld. Arch your back
and follow us in silence. We have no meat
to offer you a blood sacrifice. Potatoes

will not do either? We offer solace instead
we have a wood chapel, a vaulted ceiling
a place to nestle among the smooth boards.

We offer sunlit windows and a cool breeze
through the rafter tips. An intricate dust
sanctifies our barn as a place of hunting

and sleeping. Why do you meow outside
our kitchen door? Come to the barn.
We have dry and wet kitty food

in our cat sanctuary. We said a prayer
you would track down our rats. Come Cat
you can take a vow of silence, make yourself

a crypt of rats below the stone pillars
your private mausoleum and we will
throw you food and applause.


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November 23 Poems

I find him sitting alone

in an empty room;

I’m just enjoying the silence,

he says. What could a little

boy know about silence.

When my world tilts

I search for silence

amidst the tumult,

as things come crashing

down around me.

I hold on, while the earth

undulates beneath me,

until, finally, things are

still, and quiet again.

In the dead of night

I steal downstairs and

walk barefoot on the

wood floors listening

to the silence, shivering

a little; then the furnace

ticks and moans and

begins to exhale. Outside

the shaggy junipers stand

silently staring back at me,

and the moon casts

milky shadows on the patio.

I step outside, the concrete

hard and cold and the night

not so silent as I wish.

The low thrum of the city,

a speeding car, and a far off

siren wailing disrupt the night air.

I wait for the silence of the woods,

where the night is only

interrupted by the wind

in the trees and the low

murmur of a distant stream.


The kitchen smells
Of spice cloves
Nutmeg cinnamon ginger
We eat them
Throughout the year
In apple butter
Apple cider
Muffins and bread
But the true marriage is spice
To pumpkin joined
Once a year
As we prepare
The pumpkin’s marriage
Feast the butter
Has been cubed cut
Into flour rolled
Into a glorious cold disk
We planned this meal
In May we pushed
Seeds into the backyard
We waited and watered
Watered and waited
Until the vines turned
Hard and wheat colored
The pumpkin adorned
Our table September to
November we adored it
Always knowing when
We were most grateful
The pumpkin would be severed
The brain scooped
The seeds separated
Boiled and roasted
The skull roasted
On it’s face, stripped
Of it’s skin and beaten
Into a heavy pulp
We’ve been staring
At this pumpkin eating it
With our eyes
The pie once devoured
Won’t satisfy
We’ll be craving
Pumpkin pie till May
Till we bury the pumpkin
Offspring like a sleeping child
We hope to raise
From the dead
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November 22 Poems

He arrives late, by train.

I pick him up at the station.

As soon as we get home,

he begins pulling books out of his bag,

and the conversation begins,

the same conversation we always have,

literature, what are you reading,

this is what I’m reading,

what do you think of Joyce?

He’s reading Portrait of the Artist,

but is already anxious to get to

Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake.

He’s no casual reader, he likes

the dense stuff, the books that

make you think, that push you

out of your comfort zone.

He asks about a Saramago book

he saw last time he was here,

so we spend fifteen minutes

searching through three different

bookshelves in two different rooms

before we find it; he snatches it

from the shelf like it’s the last donut

in the box. The conversation moves

to Marquez and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

I couldn’t get through it, something

about magical realism that’s either

too magical or too real for me.

If you don’t like it, can I have it?

I hand it over and he’s delighted.

He’s frequents the thrift shops

scouring the shelves for literature.

Last time he found a Joseph Heller book,

and another Saramago. His shelves at

home are getting heavy.

The conversation always ends with a lament,

So many books, so many good books,

and we have so little time to read.

This business of literature sustains us,

and knits us together.


I am a clay tree losing her leaves.
I live in a cave, sand on my lips,
where is water? In the darkness
I am transparent, electrocuted
by the current of the sun, anticipating
movement, aware in my imagination
of the false portrayal in the mirage
of water. I bathe and swim
in the expansive lie, relax, be still,
caught in the act of admiration.
The destination is a buzz
in my ear it amplifies
as I move closer to sky.
Telephone pole currents like slimy fish
run from worm to worm, hooked
in the hot deep static of being.
Below the pavement with its deep
rough grooves of text wait for the El Camino
to walk its tires and read. The pen
abrupt draws stripes across the shirt
of crows that live on the wire,
that cough up crickets in their dreams,
roughing their throats. They birth
hot putrid signs that smell
my mild nature and beacon.
I take the Joshua tree home, and arrange
his branches like a bowl cut. I strangle
its durable trunk as I look for the crevice
where the lizard burns inside him. In the womb
of the tree he scales the waves of heat,
consumes the dust as he bakes. The little
climber melts into something new and flows
out of the tree. I hold him in my hand
as he undulates to the crest of my fingers
and becomes a little boy. I am barren
and cauterized. I feel my nerves
teeming on the edge of the dashboard
headed to Vegas.
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November 21 Poems

I’m thinking about tamales tonight.

When I was a kid I ate them out of a can,

with ketchup. Shudder. It’s unthinkable.

I was a young fool. But I’m not thinking

about those tamales, if you could even

call them that, I’m thinking about

homemade tamales in December,

and the ritual of assembling them.

Place the damp husk in your palm,

then take spoon and spread the

moist masa, not too thick, not too thin.

It takes practice to get it just right.

Then the filling, maybe succulent

shreds of pork, a slice of jalapeno,

maybe some cheese, then wrap

them gently, snug and secure,

After the plate is heavy, they go

into the steamer, and the wait begins.

But it isn’t too bad because there is

a pot of beans on the counter,

cowboy beans, better than any

you’ve ever had, trust me, and

I could be happy eating bowl after bowl

of them—tender pink beans seasoned

with onions, garlic, cumin, bacon,

who knows what else, who cares,

they are magnificent and I’m glowing.

The tamales come out steaming,

piled high on the platter.

We dress them with fresh salsa,

and we eat too many, how can

we not. Soon we are lying

on the floor in the other room,

moaning softly, smiling, content.


Everybody’s talking to someone
I’ve never been good at chit chat
I try to look busy on my phone.
I want to call out, where’s the reader?
Which one of you is the author?
I want to buy your book, but
I don’t know your face. Instead
I look up your image,
realize you’re not here.
I look up biographies
of the people in the room
make use of the pocket
computer when social skills fail.
It must be an overly exquisite need
for a sense of belonging
that compels me to feel
solitary every time I enter a room
full of people. I might be thinking
who didn’t love you enough
to make you feel this way? I answer
myself, it’s you the stranger
I never got the courage
to speak to. Nah, that’s just insecurity.
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November 20 Poems

There’s too much angst

too much worry about what once was.

The sky tilted, the earth rocked

and we were sent sprawling

and when we got up, I didn’t

recognize where we were,

and our past slowly receded

into the hazy distance until

I could no longer make out

where we had been.

But this present is also

dim and obscured by smoke,

and looking forward is like

looking into a foggy valley,

nothing distinct, only

occasionally making out

dim outlines of mountains

and trees, but nothing distinct.

When will the fog lift?

When will we be able to see

clearly again, or do we forever

wander in this strange land

feeling our way forward

into an unknown future.


When strawberry plants’
Leaves are red
And the last few vines hang
Unable to root themselves
Before frost when unpicked
Strawberries wither like freeze
Dried fruit on the vine
When there’s only a few good
Ones left, red and firm
They’re a day or two overripe
Just the right amount of extra
Sweetness when the strawberries
In-between shriveled and extra
Sweet deceives the eyes
Before they’ve separated
From the vine, looking red but
Once plucked turn white
And pink transforming into mush
In the mouth overly sweet
As if the roots kept pumping
Sugar into them, not knowing when
To stop, the time to harvest is past
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