The Ecstatics


The Ecstatics

Divisions and separations, a summing of consequences,
the brother whose ashes remained forever lost. Two cities
and their survivors’ shame. The loud, kind young man
whose words fell to the restaurant’s floor, unbidden.
What came next in the drift, untoward and misspent,
in the grammar of between? Darkness, suppressed.
Smoke. Pleasure and fear, unclothed.

sorrow bw

“The Ecstatics” first appeared here in January 2016. It’s an odd piece, part of a larger sequence that I put on hold several years ago. Perhaps I’ll return to it someday.

Night Smoke


Night Smoke

Incomplete, it rises
only to dissipate

like the griefs we shape,
somehow unnoticed,

beyond reach but felt.
Last night’s moon, the glance.

Forgotten stars, a withheld
kiss, words we never formed.

How difficult to be lost.
So easy to remain unseen.

* * *

“Night Smoke” last appeared here in June 2016.


Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven


Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven

But your breath could melt a glacier at three
miles, she says, and then we might consider
the dirt under your nails, the way you slur
your sibilants, and how you seldom see

the cracked eggs in a carton, a downed tree
branch in front of you, the ripened blister
of paint in the bedroom, or your sister
lying drunk on the floor in her own pee.

Back to your armpits. Do you realize
we could bottle that aroma and make
a fortune? I inhale it and forgive

your many faults. The odor provokes sighs
and tingles, blushes I could never fake.
Ain’t love grand? Elevate those arms. Let’s live!

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision writing a poem about armpits. But the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and Plain Jane, the title sponsor, provided that opportunity. This first appeared here in April 2016, and was subsequently published in Algebra of Owls. Many thanks to editor Paul Vaughan for taking it.


Recording of “Shadow”



crushing juniper berries
at dusk

the dog shadows me
in his absence

* * *

“Shadow” first appeared here in April, 2015. It could be considered a companion piece to “Mother’s Day,” which is included in the July 2016 edition of The Lake.


Music: “Thunderbird” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Recording of December Moon (1999)

December Moon (1999)

If loneliness breathes,
then rain is its heart,

always falling to its lowest point
before receding. Water graces us

daily in all its forms – the slowest
drop, the line of ice on the wall,

your breath, so soft and even
in the cool night. But no one,

no thing, can fill the void of
departure. You exhale and turn

away, and the air, with its empty
arms, embraces the space

you’ve left. I feel this daily,
whenever we part. At forty-one

I’ve known you half my life
but have loved you even longer,

through the millennium’s demise
and all that preceded or follows.

The brightest moon for a century to come
is but a shadow in your light.

It’s hard to believe that I wrote “December Moon” over eighteen years ago. Busy with books, work and life, I didn’t write much in the nineties. But this, the last poem of that decade, surfaced a few years ago. The sentiments are as true today as they were then. I am a lucky man.


Music: “Nightdreams” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Nine Ways of Shaping the Moon


Nine Ways of Shaping the Moon

                                         for Lissa

Tilt your head and laugh
until the night bends
and I see only you.

Weave the wind into a song.
Rub its fabric over your skin.
For whom does it speak?

Remove all stars and streetlights.
Remove thought, remove voice.
Remove me. But do not remove yourself.

Tear the clouds into threads
and place them in layered circles.
Then breathe slowly into my ear.

Drink deeply. Raise your eyes to the brightness
above the cedars. Observe their motion
through the empty glass. Repeat.

Talk music to me. Talk conspiracies
and food and dogs and rain. Do this
under the wild night sky.

Harvest red pollen from the trees.
Cast it about the room
and look through the haze.

From the bed, gaze into the mirror.
The reflection you see is the darkness
absorbing your glow.

Fold the light around us, and listen.
You are the moon in whose waters
I would gladly drown.

* * *

First posted in October 2014, and again on Valentine’s Day in 2016 and 2017, “Nine Ways of Shaping the Moon” also appears in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.


Empty Cup

Empty Cup

I set down my cup, pour
tea and think this day, too,
may never end.

With what do we quantify love? How does grief measure us? Nine days ago I wrote “My father is dying and I’m sipping a beer.” More words followed, but I did not write them, choosing instead to let them gather where they would – among the darkening fringe at light’s edge, in that space between the shakuhachi’s notes, in the fragrance of spices toasting in the skillet. In unwept tears. Everywhere. Nowhere.

Seven days ago I wrote “My father is dead.” Again, I chose to let the unwritten words gather and linger, allowing them to spread in their own time, attaching themselves to one another, long chains of emptiness dragging through the days.

If experience reflects truth, sorrow’s scroll will unravel slowly for me, and will never stop. I feel it beginning to quiver, but only the tiniest edge emerges. I am nothing, I say. I am voice, I am loss, I am name. I am memory. I am son.

I have fifty-nine years
and no wisdom to show for it.
Never enough. Too much.