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.

Recording of “Forgetting Charm”


Forgetting Charm

Even your bones remember what you’ve long discarded.

This field of stone grows beyond sight.

In our house the tang of burnt sugars.

You say I love you in four languages I do not speak,
but never in the one I claim.

We light fires with stolen paper.

Douse them with stored rain.

Fragmented memories fill our cupboards.

Did I once know you?

Take these words from me.
Bury them in daylight.

* * *

“Forgetting Charm” was published in The Icarus Anthology in August 2017.

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

Driving to Work, I Pass Myself



Driving to Work, I Pass Myself

Some days the drive takes twenty minutes,
on others, thirty or more. Seems I might pass
myself on the right morning if time flexed its
biceps or looped me into a dimensional shift
thick with donuts and tires and lost minutes.
How odd it would be to wave and say “see ya,”
knowing that tendered frustration grows in
distance, until it takes over the entire mirror.
Looking back, I see my frown diminishing
to a lone point in that shrinking van at the
hill’s crest. Will we meet in the parking
garage? Should I wait? You know the rules.

Thirty-Five Years Later, I Raise My Hand

Thirty-Five Years Later, I Raise My Hand

In spring 1983 I enrolled in a poetry writing course thinking it might help improve my short fiction. I was a history major by default, had never taken a course in poetry, but believed, with absolutely no evidence, that I could write fiction. At the time I would have been hard-pressed to name five contemporary poets, even counting my professor. To be honest, the class struggled to hold my attention. Only about a quarter of the students seemed interested in writing, and the instructor was a bit, uh, tired. But for the first time in my life I read, really read, poetry. I fell in love with Galway Kinnell, Ai, James Wright and Carolyn Forche, to name just a few of my early enthusiasms. I wanted to write like them. So I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. Most of it was laughably bad, but somehow I managed to win an undergraduate poetry contest, which suggested that hope existed. Maybe someday, I thought, one of my poems will be published. This radical idea had never occurred to me before. Publication seemed to be the privilege of special people, and a lifetime of gathered fact revealed that I was unequivocably nothing special.

Early on in the semester, perhaps even in the first class, the professor asked how many of us thought we’d still be writing poetry in twenty years. I didn’t raise my hand. I didn’t know where I’d be in six months, much less what I’d be doing in twenty years. Since I’d realized late in the game that teaching was not for me, I had no job prospects, and few marketable skills, despite experience in chugging beer, manning sound-powered phones on a ship’s helicopter tower, scraping barnacles and bending rules. The world was limited. The world was limitless.

Another gray day

dividing the old and young

Oh, this aching hip!

A song from that time:

Shadow Charm

Shadow Charm

When you place your mouth
to my ear

how does the ocean know
which wave

to relinquish?
In your darkness I find teeth.

Blessings of the meek-throated.

A ribbed tunnel. Codicil.

Your tongue scrawls: too late,
the unsaid     nerve-sparked and

dilated     too late

And my skin replies: with
lightning     all strikes

count     to each its charge

“Shadow Charm” was published in August 2017 in The Icarus Anthology.

Letter to Wright from Between Gusts


Letter to Wright from Between Gusts

Dear Tami: The wind here speaks an undiscovered language:
diffident, it lurks in the background, stuttering, fingering
everything, shifting directions, mocking us, barely noticeable
until it gets pissed off and BLOWS! Then, shit happens. Pickle
jars appear in purses. Love notes remain unwritten. Shingles
flap across the lawn and idiots are elected to office (nothing new,
I know). When I was a kid I marveled at those fortunates who
lived under the same roof for years, for decades, entire lives, while
my family rolled around the globe, collecting vaccination scars
like postcards or nesting dolls. How interesting, I thought then,
to know and be known, to avoid the perpetual newcomer’s
path. Having shared this house with my wife and various dogs,
birds, rodents, insects and arachnids for thirty-three years, I now
know this – home is not a stationary edifice. No cornerstone
defines it any better than fog rubbing the juniper’s tired back,
or courting mayflies announcing warmth’s arrival in their brief
pre-death interludes. Desire is a feckless mistress; after obtaining
the prize, we miss the abandoned and wonder what might have
been. When you arrive at your new town remember this: no one
is stranger to you than yourself. I speak from experience, having
absorbed differences at one end only to watch them emerge
hand-in-hand at the other, like newborn twins or nearly forgotten
reminders of an uncle’s kindness in a year of typhoons and sharp
replies and rebuilt lives. Home is a smile, a lover’s sleepy touch
at 3 a.m., or the secret knock between childhood friends reunited
after decades. It lives in soft tissue, not steel, and breathes water
and air, flame and soil and everything between. But it can’t exist
without your mind and body lugging it around. I would like to
tell you what the wind is saying, but it’s singing different tunes
these days, and my translation skills begin and end in that still
place between gusts, floating in the twilit air like so many empty
pockets. These are the only words I have. Not much to hang a hat
on, and I apologize for my shortcomings and inability to expound
with clarity. I speak in poetry, but mean well. May your moons
be bright and your winds wild yet gentle, even if you can’t fathom
their meaning. I’ll keep trying if you will. All the best, Bob.

“Letter to Wright from Between Gusts” was published at The Lake in August 2017. Many thanks to editor John Murphy for accepting this piece, and to T.S. Wright for inspiring it.

Self-Portrait with Bruise


Self-Portrait with Bruise

Some damages announce, others conceal.
How else may we continue

despite our best
inattentions? And which treasure
do we truly hold

closer, the blood orange
or the blade
that parts its segments? At

thirty I would have chosen
one. At forty, the other. Now,
options spread like branches among the cedars.

Ruptured vessels reveal our lapses.


This was published in Shadowtrain in August 2015, and appeared here in March 2016.