link to my first illustrated ebook of poetry


First, fold your lips into that narrow plummy
shadow you shake and winnow in your ways.
Place your eyes deep inside, awake, yes, but as under
a sunny coverlet, or as under a grey bank
of moss and black-orange earth, where fishes wait.
Your hands must go here and there, like they do

moths disappearing in dusk.
And your ears, put them properly beneath the soft brown eaves,
yes, with gentle thumbtips


The rain comes down
even through the trees.
The tide rolls in and out again
and the trees, fog-lost, rustle in the wind
and dropping their seeds plant their own friends.

Like manna to my muddy mouth
I taste the earth exhaling from the sodden ground

the ale-drenched breath of Gaea
or drunken Ceres, queen of cornfields
and mother of all dew-soaked grasses.

I hear you breathing next to me rhythmically.
The ceiling I know six feet above, the sky of night much higher.
A wind blown from some dark corner of my mind or yours
gives an almost imperceptible flutter to the drawn shades,
bedsheets cut and sewn by my mistress seamstress
to keep the light in, or out.

Do we sleep in drapes or hang covers as curtains?
She will not say.

She who comes to me darkling
slipping between the quilts, penumbral Muse of wakening,
soft-skinned whisperer of sunless stories.

She who takes my thoughts without asking
like the tide merging with the impatient beach
stalls and swallows a mouthful of sand.

She who steals my sacred salt
but leaves no wave-tossed bottle.

She arrives on the foam

rides the black waves as a pearl does, this girl of fishes.
Her streaming hair slakes my thirst,
her dripping body cools my skin and sleepy pulse.

Her clam shell and rushes are my nest
my mind her bower

for she has wings as wells as fins
and brings me birds to share my nest
birds with speckled eggs and blue.

You do not know these things or care
asleep in you tangled hair and dreams

It would not interest you to know
of her and her handmade clothes
fitted round her slender waist
her buttons reflecting like animal eyes from breast and belly,
her pale-blue cloth and yellow stitching.


I had a dream~
She and I walked through rooms
with ceilings twelve feet tall
my paintings on every wall
paintings of her each and all.

And the old women strange to tell
spoke to eachother of Raphael.
They huddled together like Fates or Graeae
passing among them one detached eye.

She led me to another room

a room where you were supposed to be.
But you were not there

the walls were bare.


The rain will soak her garden
tomatoes and snap peas and rosemary bush
and pumpkins that feed only the pillbugs.

She hallowed that ground, pillbugs and all,
one midsummer's morning, laying her dress aside,
sitting like some shiftless scarecrow among her seeds
singing a make-believe lullaby that made no sense
nor was meant to.

She blest the pumpkins with her water
scented her hair and arms with sage and dillweed
carried away my grave-soil beneath her fingernails.

But you would not like her.
Your silent exhalations do not give what the trees give
unexpectant with their gifts.
The moistness on the pillow, unlike the rising sap,
does no one any good.

I do not know why the cottonwood drops
his seeds of snow
or you lie next to me.

She ate an apple in the strangest way

holding it in both hands, squirrel-like,
paying no attention to the core
only spitting out the seeds
and handing me the stem, a childish gift.

But you do not know her
and turn in your cool nakedness only to catch your breath
caught in your own desire.

You do not see her behind your shut eyes as I do
you do not see her crawling through the window at night
leaving her sleeping mother to run to me,
knocking over my potted plants with her bare feet.
The fired clay and black earth scattered in bits across the floor
mean nothing to you.

But she is real and you are a dream, I know,
and she will sew my shroud as my last word to you escapes
into the air.

calypso's cave

willowwand arm and rushlight nape and
downdappled upsweep to ripe amaryllis
like coral reflected through wavywater
one soaking strand lying seaweed-lazy
on a throat so fishbelly white it might
beat with the life of salmon eggs or minnow pulse
and down again swell to midnight dogrose
a redhill tumulus perched high on dovercliff
waxing moonsoft and milky above a plain of vein-blue
shadow shining like duskleaf and below
darker still surrounded by seahorse nest
waking to anemone touch
a shipwreck island
to swim and swim


Treszka, my little fish,
no matter what is said we had our hour.
What you become or I, or what we know,
that hour stands against all the beards and wails of time.
That stone will remain unpolished by any other mind or eye
Its edges sharp, no oil of paint or dust of chalk
will dull it or ground it down.

I have been lost long years now
in your hair, amongst your little arms and legs,
in the folds of that first red dress
in the folds of that first dark-eyed look.
How sad you were and how sad I,
lost on different islands of watery grief.
Simply by sitting and staring
you could blacken all the waves
with bitter beauty,
float me out to sea and drown me
in the curragh of your palms.

What strange land were you quiet queen of,
what lost city of the silent Sidhe set you up
to worhip for a day.
Will you return to them at the end
Or will I?

Sew a shirt

Weave a garland of eglantine
to clothe the river maiden in
and build a bower of clove gillyflower
to nestle the egg of the wren.

Sew a shirt of silver leaves
to mantle the wind-bare moon
or golden leaves to gird the fire
of the sun's naked noon.

Cut a crease of hart's red leather
and tool it in truest vein
to make soft leggings or subtle quiver
for your brother on the plain.

Make a mickle robe of black
to warm the bitter stars
and a blanket of blue to bed the clouds
from the Sky's discourteous wars.

Inscribe a song on the face of a stone
that hinders the wandering hull
and add a line every winter
til the cliffs be writ in full.

Place a lute in the den of the bear
til music comes arising.
Place a pen in the crook of a tree
and read a green poem in spring.

Form a brune barque of dead ash and rowan
and lash it with willow twine
to dress the bones of the fallen elf
and bind them in proper sign.

Whisper your dreams to the canopied sky
the roe is silent in thrall
the owl shall listen in constance
the loyal mole shall hear you withal.

The Art Lesson

Tess, my mermaid of sea-blue sleeves
of languid bask, royal-robed,
blue-powder flower and three-fold leaves
about your hair: dismiss the hooved
and horned who trod their summers
upon hard land. Keep your lovely knees
to the seaward side of the sand.
Float your drawings on gentle waves

as your line winds your shadow saves

while the cloven upon the dry dunes despair.

Dismiss the grey-globed mummers
fathom-full of airy blast

they would your fate forecast in solemn tones
and box your beauty in a politic thought
Your apricot ears, comma brows, tarsal bones
are intellectual dice for such to cast.

Swim out with me, silver child,
beyond where things are taught.
There you laugh and dive when I say,
To draw a pupil, dear, simply make a dot.

Vincent and I

If you arose, all decked in blue, as toothless as the grinning Moon~
Waxing on the shiny world, haloed green, then grey and black~
If you of matching waxing halo, trading tones with sky and void,
Moving arclike through the heavens, swamping every outlined cypress
Or olive-laden vine with your embracing will,
Brushing each mistral-waving cornstalk, racing cirrus, redding sod
With tones of soul-fed air and dusty whitened earth:

If you did rise, could you look hard at such investment
As trades itself on you: ten million times as worthless as the pumpkinheads
Of Paris are we, Sotheby and Christie, jack-o'-lanterns missing
Candles and gavelling up your buried bones. Could you grin,
As distant as that Merry Moon who has no truck with things reflected

Shining just for those who swallow moonbeams whole and do not sell so surely.
Or does the Sun's corona even feel unfairness
does Tartarus remain
To yawn at you beyond those crow-encircled fields.
Does it still matter, etherized among the carpeting stars, dancing in curvy lanes About Pa Moon.
Does pain dance too in tripping time around such Orb.
Do the tendrils touch that wave at us from Sky through measured frame to present Sin.

The Martyr to my cause nails me, though cause is lost, and carries cross,
Skirting void in spiral steps, through taxied streets, by shadowed shopfronts
Shallow-signed; and we arrive, God knows where, him all ruddy, blushing
absinthe and reeking pipe, grinning madly at the Moon rising in my eyes.

painting, you

a wide ripened the sky-hung lavender
red spread across the watery air
i yellow your painted hair, mouthing kiss
your pink flowering lovely like a budding
my brush touches greenly the open
and you close eyeing dark

Black Cat

She was so young.
I am not old.
I was a cat once, she said.
I drove on.
At the park she showed me her breasts.
I do not much like cats.
She always slams the door to my car.
Otherwise she is very quiet.
How can you blame me?
We never made love.
Of course she thinks she was a black cat.
Sometimes she wears make-up on her eyes.
She must remove it before I paint her.
Cats are not that smart.
Usually I sleep during the day.
I like to drive at night.
Often she skips school.
I did not skip school.
I had nothing else to do.
Her family does not own any cats.
My car is not fancy, but it is fairly new.
She crawls out her window at night.
She has nothing else to do.
There are nine paintings of her in my house right now.
Eight. I gave her mother one.
It was not my fault.
I do not know what I was before I was born.
If cats are so smart, why do they get run over, I said.
She is not interested in my paintings.
Her breasts are quite large.
Cats know what they are doing, she said.
I cannot compose my thoughts.
I must move now.
The best thing about her is her lips.
And her neck is very long.
I am thirty.
She does not ring the bell, but knocks.
Cats like me.
I do not drive that fast.
My children will be home-schooled.
The longer her hair gets the more it curls.
We never kissed.
My best painting of her is in profile.
Bright colors do not appeal to me.
Cats are not as independent as people think.
I would have pets in the country.
Once we talked from midnight until four o'clock.
I did not try to swerve.
She was fourteen.

Painting the Midi

Vincent took a sip of absinthe.
The moon shone blackly through the cypress.
"Everything has a halo," I said.
And green is very hard to see.
is a halo," he said.
You can go blind painting by candlelight.
In Holland, Orion is higher.
Holding a brush with mittens is funny to me.
He stomped his feet and puffed.
"The horizon is darker than that," he said.
You don't need white to paint a star.
The mind wanders at night.
I can't feel my ears at all.
"The fog is getting thicker," I said.
When I mix my colors, he looks back at the brothel.
"That's just my pipe," he said.
I think you dream, whether you close your eyes or not.
Why does the wind die at night.
Absinthe makes me choke.
"Don't worry about green, worry about
blue," he said.
A halo doesn't have to be round.
You would think the candles would flicker more.
Next time I will paint the candles.
"A halo must curve, that's all," he said.
The horizon is a colorful black.
He should be drinking coffee, not absinthe.
Tomorrow night we need longer candles.
He uses all the paint, the bastard.
"The girls, you think they are asleep?" he said.
In the morning the greys will look different.
"With cold feet you pay double," I said.
In America, Indians won't paint in a square.
Vincent paints the Dog Star like a moon.
I keep my nose warm with my breath.
Green still matters, I think.
"Who will make us oval stretchers," he said.
I will not go to that brothel with him.
Vincent is having a coughing jag.
But I will paint the girls.
"Europe's a hellhole these days, my boy," he said.
In the foreground it is green.
I do not think he wants to be alive now.
You cannot paint the heavens like a ghost.


This town of poetry
lies two-feet cold
It cares not one white stone
who stops among its dead
to cast about for words
or touch a birch

A future corpse awalk
amongst past heaps

Van Gogh

Vincent, eyes above,
beware of foxglove.

At a Cafe
(Somewhere on the Mexican Coast)

That table there, that weathered wooden chair
beneath your pen and blue-lined paper,
beneath your widening, flattening derriere

somehow they do not matter do they,
somehow you really cannot care,
you there floating disembodied through the air.
Pen in hand but rarely scribbling,
unconnected to your soaring brain

contemplating death or love,
looking down from up above
where weathered chairs
and grizzled thinning hairs
look much the same and matter very little~
for after all, what is in a name?

Your feet are on the floor
unless you cross your legs,
knee to knee of course, you know the score

no one crosses knee to ankle anymore.
But what are knees and ankles when you're passing through the clouds
above the tabloid-reading crowds,
unaware of rainy smells and muddy shoes
and whose umbrella goes with whose.
A sip of coolish coffee and your reverie continues:
you ignore the waitress, her slender arms, the menus
and concentrate instead on the world inside your head,
occupied by only you, and now and then
quite out of the blue
the occasional revealed truth or two.

The sun is not important
or the waves or yellow sand.
These you can dismiss quite out of hand.
From where you stand sea and shore melt together,
obscured by the rainy weather, fusing water and land.
For what is rain above the clouds,
to one who knows celestial pain

the sins of Cain, the guilt of Eve

who only asks one day's reprieve, but cannot see,
oblivious to every tree and stretch of dirt or grass,
who lets the days go ambling past.

But who can say who knows you well
that you've created your little hell.
Only you can tell, who knows the truth
of Job, of Ruth, of Luke and John and Friedrich Nietzsche.
You know for you the final worth
of Mozart's birth versus Darwin's
For in the end no god will send
the eternal everyman's brother
to reconnect your inner world with that of any other.

But if the answer rolls up on the sand
inside a bottle, or is scratched by hand on the bark
of some near tree in a nearby park,
or is sung upon the waves,
or is painted in some adjoining caves,
or is hinted at by the lark,
or is chirped by crickets,
you will miss them, far above the prickly thickets,
pondering, if we may guess, whom to damn and whom to bless.
Will any of us pass the test?
Who can tell~we cannot touch you,
you who miss the muddy shoe, the weathered chair,
the grizzled hair, your own increasing derriere.

I am not a monk

I am not a monk
I am a church
I am not a church
I am a steeple
I am not a steeple
I am a bell
I am not a man
I am a well

I am not the leaf
I am the root
I am not the root
I am the soil
I am not the soil
I am the sand
I am not the sand
I am the shore
I am not the shore
I am the sea
Deep and dark
As I can be

I am not a field
I am the lane
I am not the lane
I am the verge
I am not the verge
I am the tree
I am not the tree
I am the sky
Very wide
Very high

I'm not the dew
I am the rain
I'm not the rain
I am the water
I'm not the water
I am the cloud
I'm not the cloud
I am the star
I look little
From afar

I'm not a god
I am flesh
I am not flesh
I am breath
I'm not breath
I am wind
I'm not the wind
I am the message
I'm not the message
I am the word
I am spoken
I am heard

I'm not a curtain
I'm a veil
I'm not a veil
I'm a glance
I'm not a glance
I'm a stare
I'm not a stare
I am beauty
I'm not beauty
I am art
All of nature
Not a part

I'm not a frame
I'm a picture
I'm not a picture
I'm a wall
I'm not a wall
I am the floor
I'm not the floor
I am the ground
I am earth
Fat and round

I'm not the cow
I am the horn
I'm not the horn
I am the trumpet
I'm not the trumpet
I am the blast
I'm not the blast
I am the music
I'm not the music
I am the song
Open mouth
And sing along

I'm not a house
I am the loft
I'm not the loft
I'm the hay
I'm not the hay
I'm the needle
I'm not the needle
I'm the pen
Make a note
To let me in

I'm not the beast
I am the bird
I'm not the bird
I am the wing
I'm not the wing
I am the claw
I'm not the claw
I am the beak
So to eat
So to shriek

I'm not the tortoise
I'm the shell
I'm not the shell
I'm the armor
I'm not the armor
I'm the spear
I'm not the spear
I'm the sharpness
I'm not the sharpness
I'm the point
With which I stab
With which anoint

I am not point
I am line
I'm not line
I am circle
I'm not circle
I am sphere
Green and fragrant
Year to year


The Aged Butterfly
(for Karen Harvey,
on a bet, Barton
Springs, 1995)

O aged, aged butterfly
How slow the summerwinds you ply
And land but dazed, one wing awry.
Shall you rest? Or must you die?

Loveliness fades, we know not why,
And fading doth but amplify

Enchanting the more, like Lorelei,
Whose fleeing lines we dark descry.

Siren's hair or fair antennae:
Both perfection do imply

Both clarify, both rectify.
Each Aphrodite's dearest ally.

Yestereve you cast on high
Green and yellow treetops nigh
Below the louring greying sky
The dove and partridge cooing by.

You languish now before my eye:
Wings aloft, the breeze you try

Your beauty still my fears belie

Such cannot end! I vainly cry.

Nor dusky moth, nor damselfly
Nor hummingbird so fleeting-shy
Nor double dragonfly, like gemini,
Their delicacy doth signify

Compared to you, my butterfly.
When you breathe last, when down you lie
Your soul will rise, I prophesy,
Ethereal, an angel's sigh.

And we below, earthbound, O Fie!
Such grace can surely never buy.
We vie to you our souls to tie
O aged, aged butterfly.

[32 rhymes for butterfly]

I am the Wandrin' Albatross

I am the Wandrin' Albatross
Twelve feet the gap I plow
Grey harrow a-sowin' the Ocean's seeds
The lowin' whale my briny cow

I pull the chariot of the Moon
High tide beneath my feathers
The Gulfstream and I move on as one
Together we bestir the weathers

Brother Dolphin leaps my prow
Sister Sunfish eyes me, baskin'
She asks, "Who art Thou, and whither?"
I answer her, "Who's askin'?"

I carry dust from shore to shore
Pollinator of the World
By me the fishes fed below
By me the clamshell pearled

Horizon is not line but Circle
Hemmin' me in endless water
Am I son of boundless Earth
Or Neptune's salty daughter?

I fly on Hyperborean and Antarctic wind
Witness of Statian black sand and Saba's cliffs
Of Shetland gusts and Southern Cross
Of shortest days and greatest Rifts

Like Ahasuerus on the waves
I measure Infinity tip of wing to tip
Magellan and Balboa shadowed
The stern of my silvery ship

Sky five thousand feet above
Sea floor ten thousand feet down
I fly nearer Heaven than Earth
Fall but a foot and I drown


And when I reach the edge of the World
Where Sea and Sky collide
I'll ride the tangent of the Sun
And fish the further side

There, they say, a bird may light
And study his own reflection
In water so still and starry-clear
Unstirred by fluke or fin's convection

The Deep appears a wingspan near
Cimmerian pools black as night
Where Down is the only direction
Your Life-Spark the only light

And if you dive My Friend breathe once
Go! do not dream the Sky
Or you will Wander with me such waves
as will never tell you Why

A Modern Life: The Early Years

There was time eight years ago
When I had just turned three
That Poppy bounced me up and down
Upon his one good knee.

He said, "Son, life is wondrous strange
And full of things to see.
But stay away from pretty girls

They're trouble, just take it from me."

He said some things that were over my head
But I understood the gist:
The one important thing, I took it

Avoid, at all costs, being kissed.

About that same time Mum took me aside
For approximately the same reason.
"Life is mostly nasty and mean," she said,
"All 'cause of boys, don't you see, son."

She warned me about the men she had known
And about the man I'd grow into.
I assured her I'd not as yet winked at a girl
And certainly didn't intend to.

It's odd, you see, because I knew
My parents loved eachother dearly.
But when it came to the opposite sex
They just couldn't see too clearly.

Poppy thought women the weirdest of beings,
A mystery to all but lord Zeus:
Easy to anger, hard to predict,
Non-stoic, humorless, coy, and obtuse.

Mum didn't give as much credit to men
As she gave to our spaniel Irene.
Oafish, she thought them, pedantic and rude,
Loud, dimensionless, crass and obscene.

I grew into a timorous youth
As you might well conjecture.
My analyst blamed my lack of pluck
On Mum's screed and Pop's knee-bouncing lecture.

This may be true, I really don't know.
It's hard for me to say.
As I look back on my pitiful childhood
I'm at a loss, to this day.

By five I was already hopelessly skewed,
My instincts completely repressed.
I prayed to God to save me from lust
And feared lest He see me undressed.

I showered with the radio on
To keep my small mind occupied.
If I dared to look down, I felt for sure
The Fates would be looking, pop-eyed.

In kindergarten the girls pinched my bum
And tied to my desk both shoelaces.
They puckered their lips and wiggled their ears
And made terribly sexy faces.

They knew I was tongue-tied and heartbroke and dizzy,
Hampered by all kinds of scruples.
I scanned the blue skies for escape from my torment
But just couldn't find any loopholes.

They knew this, the Sirens, and lured me the more,
Safe as they were from my come-on.
But I had no wax to put in my ears
Or mast to tie myself up on.

So I sailed my wreck from one storm to another,
Past curly-haired Scylla in Math,
To green-eyed Charybdis in Music and Art,
Where my ego was taking a bath.

Psychoanalysis helped me a bit
By prioritizing my miseries.
The doctor and I charted each growing complex
And graphed competing neuroses.

After only four years, three times a week,
Group sessions (all boys) thrice a month,
I was able to say, straining only a tad,
"Wicked thoughts about sexth, I haff nonth."

But my time on the couch no doubt did me good
Though my cure took a beastly long while.
Unnumbered hours for that Oedipal thing

Strictly a case of denial:

My feelings for Poppy, seeming so pure,
I saw were mixed at the best

Doc taught me to see in my muddled up dreams
Things I scarcely would ever have guessed.

I couldn't go fishing with Pop anymore
Without seeing him overboard~drowned!
We couldn't play golf, but I saw him face-down
In the sand, by my five-iron crowned!

And Mummy, Oh Dear, I can't bear to relate
The unspeakable things in my brain.
All this for the woman who nursed me on milk
And weaned me on Pop-tarts and Tang.

In third grade I finally sobered up some,
Or my dreams became pretty much dormant.
I could sit near a girl with long flaxen tresses
With only a flicker of torment.

Therapy taught me to channel my needs
Into dozens of useful directions:
I memorized pi to sixty-two digits
And learned all the Latin declensions.

I mastered the mouth-harp and miniature golf,
Knew the depths of the seven seas;
I could hum in perfect pitch the theme
From Star Trek in four different keys.

I recited one year, in Christmas assembly,
Mum and Pop in attendance,
Not only the Constitution's preamble
and the Declaration of Independence,

But the height and weight of each delegate there,
The state from which he hailed,
The bills he introduced in Congress,
And a summary of those that failed.

I wasn't booed, exactly

I had a talent, 'twas plain

But popularity isn't conferred
By removal from stage with a cane.

My mind was moving ahead, forthwith,
Leaving my body behind.
My brain, a muscular organ no doubt;
My biceps hard to find.

A push-up, a sit-up, I couldn't begin;
Cartwheels, out of the question.
I lived on popcorn, candy and Cokes

Potatoes and meat gave me indigestion.

My allergies kept me out of most sports,
My asthma from other exertion.
I weighed no more than a hairless cat,
As pale as a Liverpool urchin.

By ten my condition was chronic:
I hadn't a clue about life.
Buried under a pile of books

My memory sharp as a knife

My passions were awfully, painfully dull,
Blunted by all of my "learnin'."
I had no time for girls, those sly creatures

All that oohin' and aahin' and yearnin'.

Besides, the girls no longer flirted

Me so ashen and skinny,
Tripping over my tied-up tongue
In a voice both high and tinny.

And just this year they got so tall,
Girls who last year played with toys.
Wee Tess, who used to trade me Leggos

Now dating high-school boys.

It isn't fair, but fairness is moot

Or so I am told by my parenties.
In love, as in war and shopping by phone,
There simply ain't no guarantees.

But things, I think, will be simplified greatly
In a year or two, I'm sure.
Let Nature take over, she'll solve all my problems:
Puberty is the cure.


You look just like a star-nosed mole to me
the way your soul sits on your face so rippingly.
I cannot see past such a grand protuberance
excelling elephant's trunk in pure exuberance
excelling octopus's eight cupped tentacles
excelling horsefly's centi-milli-spectacles.
Surpassing even two-horned mug of white rhinoceros
or yawning yap of toothy hippopotamus.

I cannot look your way my dear
today or any day of yesteryear
without seeing in between your eyes
or posing as your nose, in full disguise,
or under chin, behind both ears,
or in your pores (when that full blush appears)
je ne sais quoi from heart or noggin
that sets my heart a thumpin', mind a joggin'.

If I could paint the you within your face
that hides as in a turtle's carapace
and will not show itself to lens or eye
except when favored lover passes nigh;
if I, that lucky Prince of Present Passion,
could somehow out of clay or marble fashion
that soul, like star-nosed mole, in astral glory

I think 'twould make a rather gripping story.

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