THE CANNERY, LATE INTO THE NIGHT

The cannery, long before it was a mall,
sat on the verge of the bay
bellowing steam into the night sky
shrouding the stars in a gauze blanket,
listening to the braying of the harbor seals
pleading for the morning’s dross
to be returned to the bay waters.
The otters lie on their backs peering
over the rocks and the monolith
its lights blazing as the trucks and carts
are laden with neatly stacked boxes,
grasping their stones, crushing
the shells nestled on the bellies.
Outside the fishermen, boats
scrubbed clean, stagger
down the narrow streets, stumbling
from bar to tavern, sleeping fitfully
on benches in the nearby park,
dragging up narrow alleys
to small, fading framed houses
kerosene lamps growing dim,
knowing the sun merely dozes
below the horizon, soon
to edge up and watch the boats
ease back out of the harbor into the sea.
Steinbeck walks slowly, savoring
the smells of morning, tasting
the stale beer of the night before.


First Appeared Online at Beachfire Gathering, 1996.

EROTHANATOS Vol. 3, No. 3

Just yesterday Erothanatos (from India) released its issue number 3 of volume 3, a collection of poets from several countries.  I was honored to have seven poems appear in this issue and you can find them here:

https://www.erothanatos.com/v3i3n10

But if you don’t have the time, one of the included poems was:

In a Prior Life I Was

Reznikoff, casting words to paper
after the last brief was filed,

Aleichem, finding peace
amidst the hordes,

Red Deer Running, watching
as the horse soldiers drew aim,

a child, never understanding
why the old ones only brought death,

a poor Jew, hung on a hill
from the crossed beams, for believing,

a ram, led from the thicket
to the altar, as the boy was freed,

alone in a hotel room
fearing sleep.

SINGLE CUT

Words have geographic homes
and here old favorites seem
ill at ease, fitting poorly into thoughts
that demand their presence.
I use them regardless, but we both
know that they will hide their shadings,
but in a world where words
are the last option, we both know
that I have no alternative
but to turn to them, to wheedle,
to cajole, and ultimately to submit
to whatever they will allow me.
After all, the alternative
his silence, and for a writer,
that is death by a single cut.

VERBIS, VERBIS, VERBIS

Whatever you do, do not open the closet in the back room. If you do, what would happen would rival a scene from countless bad comedies. Things pent up within would come rushing forth, a tidal wave that would certainly engulf you and leave you wishing you had never laid a hand on the closet door knob in the first place. So now that you have been forewarned, I will not be responsible for the consequences if you are foolish enough to ignore me. Just remember, I am a man of words and that closet is my repository.

WITH PEN IN HAND

You never read
the ultimate autobiography
which doesn’t exist unless
you live in an Oulipian world.
You can write up to the moment
Of your death, and we would,
if begrudgingly, conceded
the last moments incompleteness,
but you cannot write a true
and complete autobiography
without falling into the recursive abyss
where everything that you say
is suddenly autological
and the reader collapses in
on himself, a literary blackhole.

TRIANGULATION

He says that foremost
Mao Zedong was a poet,
and knew that all poetry
must at some level
be political, must
incite the reader to rebel
against complacency.
I say that Zhao Zhenkai
wrote as Bei Dao
as the ultimate act
of rebellion, sacrificing
his very identity.
He says that I
am anchored by
the weight of realism,
and I say that he
needs reeducation.
She says that neither
of us will ever write
the just open bloom
of spring’s first rose.


First appeared in the May 2019 Issue of The Broadkill Reivew

WALKING

Like the Anasazi’s sudden
departure from his cliff dwelling
I too snuck away, with hardly
any trace from a life no longer
in clear recollection, only faint
images survive, of hours
in the City Lights Bookstore
reading Corso, Ferlinghetti
and Ginsberg, then buying
the slim volume “Gasoline”
not because it was my
greatest desire, but its price.
Now the worn volume sits nestled
between Wilbur and Amichai,
a fond memory, like an afternoon
in the park in Salt Lake City
the tarot spread out before me
whispering their secrets
for the slip of blotter,
the small blue stain
bringing an evening
of color and touch
and that momentary fear
that nothing would again be
as I knew it to be.
The Anasazi knew
the arrow of time had flown,
had passed the four corners
where I lay in the street
another senseless victim
of a senseless war, while Karl
held the placard
demanding peace,
until the police urged us
to move along, and offered
the assistance we
were sworn to reject.
Now the corners seem
older, more tired of the life
that treads on them daily,
on my path to the Federal Courthouse
to argue a motion
where once we spilled
the red paint
the blood of our generation.
Now there is a wall
with their names,
a permanent monument
while we, like our Anasazi
brethren, are
but faint memories.


First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.