Wednesday, December 21, 2011

April in Paris (with Nicole)

Had this poem in different versions for a while now. I think this might be what I was looking for.


Let's stop pretending we understand jazz"
Nicole Blackman

Let's start charting, (We understand Pi.)
let's taste, budding cognizance of tongues
let's sign, waving we comprehend tangents,
Let's strip, opening we complicate clothes.

Let's steam, reddening we understand Blues,
let's hope humming, we harmonize Bird,
let's scale, mapping we understudy Miles,
let's train, loving we sublimate supremes.

Let's tongue, kissing, we understand heat.
Let's sweat, dripping we duplicate drums,
Let's loop, proving we apprehend knot,
Let's stop. Being we now understand Bop.

Another day, another powdered doughnut.

Poem off Three Rails
(For the Cat in the corner pocket with the cool hat)

The favorite stick long, unpolished
The balls in their triangular pen
waiting to be broken like horses,
Verses wish their stolid stanzas
were dominated like headlines by breaking news
Such exquisite milk in her mother's bowls
Ivory as piano keys, or a cued ball
It was the curve of the strike that almost eluded him
Not a match, but her eyelids flickering
The music began to swell like a muscle
Her other mouth immediately moist
The last stanza written in different states,
Because of neutered styles, not united.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cesaria gone-
Now even Morna itself
knows Sodade

Cesaria Evora singing 'Sodade'

Monday, November 21, 2011


This is not about a man
enchanted in front
of a slot machine.
This is not about
the eyebrows of people
seated or standing about.
This is not about
the balance of a woman,
dipping at the knees
to serve a drink.
This is about
the darkness of chocolate.
This is not about spinning reels,
tinkling bells or
messages encoded 
in flashing lights.
This not about
the party streamers
of her hair,
how much grace inflates
the life rafts of her lips
or what taunts
in the ringing tone
of her skin.
No, this is simply
about the darkness of chocolate.
About what could
Make it liquid
Between the lips.
This not about a woman
walking past and checking
to see if he's watching.
This isn't even about
which confection he
as he swipes his card
in the register of longing.
This is not
about a bar.
This is about
the darkness of chocolate.
About how it melts
and who it runs.
This isn't about
the arrowing of eyes
if he doesn't speak or
the mariachi band of
laughter from lips
when he does.
This is not about a man
dreaming of her eyes
lining up on a reel,
not about
a progressive jackpot.
This is about
the darkness of chocolate.
This is about
what gets
wagered on
the tip of a tongue,
what gets
misplaced in a bet,
about what forever
moistens the mouth
on the slow cab ride
from the airport
of possibility
to the center of
the city of sighs.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Bartender, rim shot please


You have the most beautiful and sincere
fake smile I've ever seen

Several times you've almost sold me a ticket
to whirl on its white Ferris wheel

Whether you know it or not, you deserve to be loved
like Salt water taffy on the tongue of a two year old

You are the most scintillating thing on Absecon Island
so sexy that I almost forgive you for not having a bookstore

at night, the sight of you snatches the air from my lungs
like Funnel cake from the hand of a foreign tourist

I've been enchanted by you at least as long
as the last roulette wheel has been spinning

the dunes on your beaches are impressive
even though I know all the sand is silicone

every morning I wonder if ordering free drinks until I pass out
isn't the same as betting it all on black

Still, I imagine your hand curled in mine
like a lifeguard dozing in a shaded chair

your history haunts, relentless
as the voice of a beggar on the Boardwalk

I'd bet my top hat that I could never be bored
with your monopoly on the streets of my heart

during hurricane Irene, while we were apart
I missed you like the last bus to Brigantine

I've ignored prettier cities than you
but none that so stupidly stops my needle on North

every night I pray to be the last chip you cash in
before the moon comes on like an empty fuel light.

Friday, October 21, 2011

More revisions

So lately I've just been revisiting stuff that I felt wasn't quite finished. And for me the White Whale of my work has been the poem "Infinitude of Kisses". The concept was to take a very elegant mathematical proof and use its language as a poem. I really felt like the idea (if pulled off) could be brilliant, maybe even career defining stuff. I got lucky because my first draft got published in Ploughshares, but I didn't like that draft very much and felt it was ultimately unsuccessful at achieving my goal of having the poem parallel the proof's logic. I worked on it and thought I was getting closer and then a few days ago made some more small changes that helped incrementally. I wasn't certain that I grasped the proof well enough to mirror it conceptually. And of course there's the question of how much 'poetic license' I should allow myself. But then I found myself sitting in a 2/5 NL poker game with another player Wayne Lewis who I know has a Ph.D in math and so I decided to ask him a question about a simile in the Al Khwarizmi poem that had been bothering me in terms of its conceptual fidelity. And he confirmed that the line should be changed, so that was good, and then I decided to mention the "Infinitude" poem. Now, I almost never talk about poetry at the poker table if for no other reason than there's almost never anyone to talk about it with. There's a few folk I talk about books or literature with and I very much dig those conversations, but they're usually about fiction. But it's not everyday that you get to talk to someone whose an expert in the field you're referring to. So, I brought it up and ended up actually showing him the poem, since the problem I was having couldn't really be conceptualized without reading the piece. Anyway, he dug what I was trying to do, but wasn't sure I was there. I suggested changing the title and he agreed and said my new title would help because "it would define what the poem was about." It's amazing how such a simple phrase could make such a huge difference. After changing the title several times I came to realize that the problem wasn't with the title, but rather with the fact that the poem itself, which is allegedly a proof, doesn't contain that act of definition. And of course all proofs do. So I changed one line, and BAM! there it was, the whole enchilada; salsa, sour cream, guacamole and all. I revised line 9 to read "where L(f, s)=Love of a Father and Son" which I think sets up everything the poem is trying to do, including demonstrating in a clear manner the way I'm trying to use the variables in the equations. I was worried about all this grand complicated conceptual stuff and the whole problem was actually so simple all along.

(for Little Joel)

Let us define a topology
on the emotion L
by imagining a sub-love L1
to be an open love
if and only if
it either contains
open kisses or it contains
a union of physical sequences
L(f, s),
where L(f, s)=Love of a Father and Son.
In other words,
L1 is open if and only if
every hesitant male heart
that is a member of L1
admits some non-hero condition F or S.
The axioms for a topology
are easily verified:
by definition,
an open mouth kiss is open;
L is just the sequence L(U, I),
and (if true) is open as well.
For any collection of open mouths
the intersection of two
(and hence finitely many)
open mouths is an open kiss:
Let the lips U and I
form open mouths,
then, let the mouths meet.
The topology is quite different
from the usual Cupidean one,
and has two notable properties:
Since any open mouth
can receive infinite kisses,
no finite mouth can be open;
put another way,
the complement of an open kiss
cannot be a closed mouth.
The basic mouths {father, son}
are closed by nature,
but we can imagine L(f, s)
as the complement
of an open mouth as follows:
"There are many kinds of open
how a diamond comes into a knot of flame
how sound comes into a word . . .
. . . Love is a word, another kind of open."

Among the sounds
that are emotional multiples
of open kisses
is rain falling on a field,
i.e. [a topology of touch]
By the first property,
the mouth (raining sky)
cannot be closed.
On the other hand,
by the second property,
the mouth (fallow field) is closed.
So, if there were only
finitely many drops of rain
then the mouths (field, sky)
would be in a finite union
of closed mouths,
and hence closed.
This would be
a contradiction,
thus L(f, s) must contain
infinitely many
kisses falling
on an open mouth.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Revisions, revisions.

Made some changes and it feels much closer to finished.


Wonders if
there's an algebra
for all of it:
for the moon's curvature
as a midnight calculus,
for how the windmills
behind the casino
turn their giant Xs
into late night whys,
for how the tide
rises with an
asymptotic longing.
Even for the arc
of a brand new
table tennis paddle
that your sweaty hand
now grips
or the velocity of the balls
(larger than they've
ever been)
spinning across the net
between your namesake
and your imagination.
Where he,
still a baby
burps and sighs
asleep in a crib.
The trajectory
seeming derivative,
almost always
of the desire.
Two Greek letters
on different sides
of an equation,
each ciphering
the other,
each signifying
an absence
by their italicised presence.
Daddy, Daddy,
don't you know
I miss you,
his sigh says.
He rests his head
on the hollow
of your chest.
Asks when
are you coming back?
A gulf
with no echoes.
As he whispered
to you once,
his lips are
an empty set now.
Two brackets
attempting an embrace
because kisses,
however long ago,
count and multiply
in the abacus of memory.
Is there an algebra
for all of it?
What you've
done with the days
since you left,
what you tried to do,
or might have tried,
had you correctly
solved for all the variables,
if you had
a slope to graph,
a slide to rule them.
If the days didn't
dance to their
own algorithm.
Is there an algebra
for all of it,
the floating
function of the seagulls,
the breaking
but unbroken waves,
the ghostly geometry
of the foam's fathering?
For how two pairs
of footprints,
now non-linear,
could solve
all the sand
between them?

Monday, October 03, 2011

October Haiku/Senryu

Black walnuts knock
then roll off the roof-

Mid song
the violinist bows out-
All Blues

ass frozen in place
Ears flicking flakes.

Friday, September 23, 2011

For John on his birthday

In 1961 John Coltrane and his band played the Newport Jazz Festival and premiered 'My Favorite Things' a tune from a then popular Broadway musical. Most people nowadays know the song from the movie 'The Sound of Music' but that was still years in the future. Trane was only the second group to cover the tune and his version was a smash hit. So I'm posting this poem as a tribute. I have a couple or three Trane poems, but this is my favorite. When you finish the poem, read the first word of each line going down.


Bangles on bronzed arms and daisies on dresses,
Lipstick that lingers and long sassy tresses,
Phone calls on Fridays and jingles that sing,
Lightning that hints at what evening might bring.

Raindrops like fingers drum
On the windshield of the car,
Roses lovely up an empty seat
And await your smile, white as
Whiskers curling
On an elderly chin. Curious as
Kittens, they anticipate your
Bright eyes, mint
Copper pennies, two
Kettles of complexity
And what could be
Warm as your hands? Not knitted
Woolen scarves, or those red
Mittens you lost last winter. Long
Brown legs, where are you?
Paper bag brown, twin slender
Packages of satin. Are you
Tied up on the phone or caught
Up in a meeting
With a client like
String knotted into fishnet?
These questions vex,
Are six white roses sufficient?
A light drizzle, a
Few wayward splashes
Of memory caress my hand,
My fingers think of your
Favorite spot to be touched, imagine
Things they'll soon coax you to say.

Cranberry candles and cognac in crystal,
Flannel pajamas and tongue tips that tickle,
Sweet tea from tumblers in long soothing swigs,
Feed me dark chocolate with raisins and figs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Slice by slice, truth bleeds:
but an open heart
is not a fatal wound.
To be kissed goodnight,
or dismissed outright,
not because they sound the same,
but because they both smack.
Your lips somehow no
less full when they lie
as when they curl to smile.
The diets supposedly strict there.
Everywhere a weighing,
no meals but imagined ones.
Look how Pity deceives-
somehow a thing that seeks to soothe
and a type of strangling.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

September Haiku / Senryu 30 / 30

Her lip prints
fill the rim of this
empty glass

AC Air Show-
these seagulls startled by
Birds of Thunder

Moonlight nibbles
the dark chocolate bar
of her body

Entangled in
the curling strands of her hair-
My eyes

Sunday, August 07, 2011


I have wanted for many years to write poems in Kriolu, but felt like my Kriolu wasn't good enough. It wasn't (TBH) because you really have to have a great grasp of a language to write poetry in it. I haven't spoken Kriolu on a daily basis in 20 years, so my grasp of it is slipping. But I decided that maybe if I just started to write some poems anyway, that will force me to learn the language better, maybe even well enough to eventually write some decent poems. My poem 'MORNA' was translated into Kriolu, but other than that all my Cape Verdean poems are in English, although many of them contain Kriolu words. This is my first attempt, it based on Dumas' 'Love Song', but isn't a translation, more like an adaptation. I'll put up an English translation at some point, but there's no real way to translate some the cultural impact of some of the imagery. Lines like "Jan sabe pa mode ca ta txuba / o ceu ja txora tud lagrimas hora ki bu bai," (I know why it doesn't rain, the sky cried all its tears when you left) means a great deal more in a country that averages 2 inches of rain a year and has more citizens that live out of the country, than in it. Not to mention the implication that the sky has Sodade, a term that means a kind of longing / nostalgia/ unrequited desire that has no real English equivalent. The title is from a famous Cape Verdean song by Tito Paris.


(After Henry Dumas)

N ten ki gráma kes dés ilhas,
o bentu leste debe ki obi bu vós
el ta canta e sibia sima bo,
a terra debe ki odja bu cara
el ten kor sima bo peli,
txintxorote ta canta bu nome
hora ki bo ta passa,
Jan sabe pa mode ca ta txuba
o ceu ja txora tud lagrimas hora ki bu bai,
Jan sabe pa mode o vulcao ten fogo tud noite
Si kurason ta kema sin bo,
Tudu dia a mar ta tenta
faze karakols sima bu cabelu,
N ten ki gosta kel spedju di kes dés ilhas,
ja bo inxina’l bem
mode ki ten sodade.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

John Legend / Sade Concert (updated)

John Legend is in Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles type territory. Didn't miss a note, voice has mad colors and timbres and the piano is an extension of his body. I knew he was talented, but not like that. His pitch control was perfect as was his breath control, his singing technique is flawless even though he uses every Gospel/Blues/R+B lick ever known. He hits notes that sound like they are razorblading his throat, but there is no hoarseness whatsoever afterwards. The musicianship of his band (which included a three piece horn section) was very impressive. And SADE? What? The show is so elegantly designed that even a sartorial retard like me noticed. The idea is to replicate a Film Noir look and feel for the show. This is done by a careful choice of colors that are seen on stage. Noir is generally fimed in black and white and the clothes worn by all the performers in Sade's band reflect this with everyone wearing black, white or some shade of gray. The only exceptions to this are Sade's red lipstick, a red bra she wears under a white gown (3rd costume change) and the red dress she wears for the Encore. Upon reflection I'm impressed at the lengths Sade went to get that austere look. All of the equipment on the stage is either black, white or chrome. Everything looked to be new and shiny and there were no wires, cables or cords visible, no amps, monitors or equipment trunks onstage, no sheet music, charts or music stands, no additional instruments, no food or even water bottles on stage. The stage was completely uncluttered, if musicians weren't playing during a song then they weren't on the stage. When Stuart Matthewman wanted to change guitars for a song, he would go to the side of the stage and get the new axe from a stagehand and hand him the other one. This level of detail could have only happened with a deep commitment by the star, so it's clear that Sade wanted to imprint her personal sense of style on the way everything about the show looked. And is it me or is Lauren Bacall a role model for Sade's sense of style? During every song video and still images were projected on a giant back screen, most of the videos appeared to have been made just for this tour and several of them showed her wearing her hair down with no makeup and in these her freckles were very visible, something she rarely allows. There were 4 costume changes and in every case the stage design and decorations coordinated perfectly with the clothing worn by the band. The band (two guitar players and an electric bass, with a trap set drummer and a percussionist, a piano/keyboard player and two male backup singers) was tighter than Aretha Franklin's skinny jeans, reminding everyone that Sade is a band, not just a person. The show opened with Soldier of Love, a tune that was greatly helped by the fact that the drummer played the groove live (as opposed to the sample used in the recording), make no mistake though, this show uses samples too, for example on tracks where the original recording uses Sade's voice for background vocals and for the orchestral intros that several songs opened with. The concert closed with No Ordinary Love, and Cherish the Day was the encore. The encore also featured a costume change for the entire band with her coming out in a stunning red dress. After the first song, the set list alternated older material with songs from the Soldier of Love album and her latest releases from The Ultimate Collection. Your Love is King was the second song and Sade had some minor pitch problems at the end of a few extended notes which sounded like they were due to improper breath control. She may have been out of breath still from all the dancing she did during Soldier of Love. After the newer songs were done, they did three or four older tunes in a row beginning with Smooth Operator. Any lingering questions I might have had about her musicianship as a singer were answered by her performance of Jezebel. She sat on the side of the stage and with minimal accompaniment (stand up bass, piano, guitar and sax) absolutely crushed the song. Later in the show Pearls was done solo over a track to allow the band a break and a costume change, the stage was empty except for Helen and a mic, a giant white circle was projected against the back screen. It was an excellent visual metaphor for the title of the song and as the song progressed and the lyrics reached the line "The sun gives her no mercy" the color of the circle had changed to a bright yellow, as the song moved into the 2rd verse the color gradually moved through orange as the lyrics hit the phrase "Long as afternoon shadows" into a red sunset color by the start of the 3rd verse and as the song ended the circle sank down into the stage leaving her holding the last notes in total darkness. Paradise and Nothing Can Come Between Us were done as a medley with her singing the vocals for the first part and her backup singers doing the 2nd half while she changed clothes. The band grooved so hard that it wasn't until the end of the song that you realized she was gone. Morning Bird was also a showcase tune for her voice as it was done as a duo with John Hale on piano. This was the most innovative in terms of its staging as the entire song was performed while the stage was covered by a sheer scrim onto which black and white video images of branches were projected. The feeling was as if the performers were in a dark forest, which added to the song's intense loneliness. After those minor pitch issues the first few songs she was in superb voice and effortlessly hit the high note at the end of Is it a Crime. That song was set apart from the others by the use of gorgeous red velvet curtains (or bunting) that hung high on the stage, this was the only use of a color other than black, white or grey in the stage decorations all night. At the Mark Etess Arena in the Taj Mahal Casino where I caught her show, almost the entire audience stood up at the beginning of the song and stood throughout. At various points between songs Sade would address the crowd, for someone who is famously shy and reserved, she was surprisingly at ease and almost gregarious. She very clearly loves performing and appears to genuinely appreciate the love and attention she and the band receive from live audiences. When she told the audience during the banter at the end of the 2nd song that "Your love is King" I completely and totally believed her. Most of the songs were arranged and performed just like they appeared on the albums although there was some improv on a few cuts and a few solos were taken on guitar as opposed to trumpet like the recordings. If you're a fan of her work, do whatever you gotta do to see this show. It was an amazing three hour experience, Sade's performance was very creatively staged by Sophie Muller and one that I'd put in my Top Three concerts ever.

Friday, June 10, 2011


What stings the most about
the rain that falls tonight
isn't the angle it strikes
the eye
or how bitterly it burns,
but how it
soaks a sodden reality
down the back
and through the clothes,
how it washes the dust
off the shoes to reveal
the hard truth shining beneath.

You know how to be dogged
as well as you know
how to shadow your eyes,
know how to be cheated on
as well as you know how to serve
a cold Corona or hot coffee,
you know how to be stood up
as well as you know how to coordinate
a stunning outfit,
you know how to be lied to
as well as you know how to
angle a bun atop your head.
But just as you don't know how
to walk out onto Arctic Ave. and
determine which lane
points to Miami
and which to New York City,
you haven't learned
so simple a thing
as how to be loved by a man.

Perhaps that class was never scheduled
in Atlantic City elementary schools.
And who knows how many battles
a heart must bear before
it clenches into a fist
and begins to respect
only bare knuckles.
I cannot claim to know,
and so I wear no black robe,
carry no gavel,
call no courtroom to order.

This however,
makes the rain
no less raw.
I understand how some come
to take the tenderness of a man's hands
the same way they interpret a tear
in the bottom of a paper bag,
to hear the softness of his hello
the same as a leak in the roof,
see any sensitivity as a sign
he can't be dominant.
But I had almost convinced myself
that you were too wise to be
numbered among them.

Any fool knows that Yen
don't spend in Paraguay,
that Yuan are worthless
in Wichita,
and thus I accept
that whatever currency
of kindness I wave
might be counterfeit
in the hardware store
of your heart.
But it's no less devastating
a downpour that streaks the cheeks
of the streets tonight.
I had hoped to purchase
some hurricane matches,
to kindle a small flame
in a fireplace,
but this storm has dampened
all the cordwood.

The question is if
you wish
to learn to unstack it,
to set it out in tomorrow's sun,
to rotate it until all sides
are dry as an eye
which has never learned
to cry.

Thursday, June 09, 2011


Knows the notes
you know to play
and the notes
you need to play
shimmer to shape
what you cannot say,
even if every note
could be explored.
Fears even if
every note is known,
meaning might
remain unreachable.
Knows what
you could’ve meant
is a melody
forever moistening
your mouthpiece,
filling the fifths
in the next bar.
What you could’ve played
and couldn’t play
rooted in the same chord,
which is always extending.
That Desire stretches
across a bed
in a suite
you seem to enter
next to a rope
of incense smoke
you remember,
in a hotel
you may not
check out of.
Every tongue
wants to probe
the mouth
of Imagination.
But what notes
the cursive smoke
is writing
blue the I.
A naked triad
tempts the rhythm.
Are you pure?
The key motif is modulation,
says the piano,
mercy, mercy.
In the acknowledgement,
during the opening riff,
there are
the mysteries of
the quarter moon.
It’s the first set.
The audience rocks forward,
well dressed, observant,
bopping with resolution
above their half-full glasses.
Like an august thunderstorm,
your sax threatens
to sanctify
the fingered strings
of the bass
as the unholy sticks cross,
but the cymbals
have the sound of cymbals
that are unheard.
So the audience,
witnesses and testifies.
You seek,
and they follow,
in a chorus-like fashion,
along the back wall,
and by the bar,
grooving in unison.
Filling the four chambers,
exposed brick walls,
color of brittle earth,
a room hurting
with dissonant exaltation.
And the smoke rises,
pursuance, pursuance,
The melody in the spirit
of shadows
flashes in the mirrors.
Then a door opens,
and the crowd's eyes widen.
Psalm, says the sax,
because the chairs
are full of ears,
opened religiously,
craving serenity.
Nimbus, nimbus
says the sax:
but your fingers
can’t find
a complex enough chord.
Notes played and
notes to be played,
what was almost whispered
and what couldn't be said:
no redemption,
but these digressions
on the downbeat
raining, raining . . .

Friday, May 20, 2011


for Phyllis Hyman

What distant cry is this,
what drifting moan,
whose tasseled scarf
of turquoise colored notes
caresses the dark arms
of dusk?
Then floats and trails,
rippling silver as scales
or stones awash and
polished in a sonic stream
that bobs the head
and taps a tempted toe.
Wends sibilant seduction
in its flow,
towards the morning
like a dream.
your whistling lips
pouted with flair,
and slowly brushed
the naked neck
of night
with a sound,
hi-hatted in harmony,
that soared.
Your short solo
of hard earned air
dipped and bewitched
as it fluttered;
a kite
tugging on its cord
that too soon,
broke free.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


5 Send shoutouts to the DJ upon the mic
upon the mic and in the voice of an Emcee.
6 With turntables and the sounds of scratching
give mad props to the DJ, the GrandMaster.
7 Let the crowd roar, and the fulness thereof;
the club, and they that dance therein.
8 Let the dancers clap their hands:
let the strobe lights flash together
9 before the Almighty DJ;
for surely he cometh
to rock the house:
with a righteous rhythm
shall he rock the house,
and boost the bass with EQ.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


From Jump street was the Rhyme,
and the Rhyme was with the Creator,
and the Rhyme was the Creator.
It was with the Creator off the break.
Through it all lines were spit;
without it nothing was spit that has been spit.
In it was Flow,
and that Flow was the rhythm of all peoples.
The rhythm echoed in the silence,
and the silence could not subdue it.
There was an MC sent from the Creator
whose name was Rakim Allah.
He became an Emcee to manifest that Flow,
so that through him all might hear.
He himself was not the Flow;
he came only to manifest the Flow.
The illest Flow that gives pulse to all parties,
that rocks the place to be.
He blessed the mic, and though the mic was blessed by him,
the mic did not recognize him.
He came to those who were his peoples,
but all his people didn't feel him.
Yet to all who did feel him,
to those who recognized the Flow,
he gave the ability to bob to the beat—
beats born not of a live instrument,
nor of a wax record or a crossfader,
but born of the Creator.
The Rhyme became flesh and kicked it among us.
We therefore check the technique,
the technique of the one and only Emcee,
who came from the Father,
no joke, to make the mic smoke.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Your egrets land after the sun goes down,
whirling on the evening wind
wide as the smile of a winking woman,
whose lipstick is a deadly sin,
yet shines like an Archangel's conscience.
Your egrets are long-beaked,
fish the cloudy marsh of your conscience,
they do not eat like Herons,
their hunger will not be sated
by any multicaloric act of contrition.
Your egrets are sacred, but will not sit
pretty on the head like
your grandmother's Sunday hats.
Your egrets caw as they claw the water's skin,
caws sharp as the teeth of a tiger shark.
Your egrets are not an endangered species,
they rise plumed like geysers in moonlight
and multiply like mathematicians from MIT.
You recall the words that hatched
many of your smaller egrets
as they surround your squeaky bed at night
with their rapid knee-high cries
Your biggest egret tosses its head
like a woman you never asked to marry you.
You sometimes wonder as they
strut about in their long-legged gait;
how they fly so far on those thin white wings,
how they maintain such perfect memories,
why you feed them so religiously every night?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


A rose
blooms from
open throats,
moves through tongues
pink and purple,
rising in yourself,
but beyond you:
shrouded forms
spiritual as mist
floating across a river,
variables in
an equation of flame.
A psalm
swirling sideways,
notes taken or not,
silence taken
advantage of.
Because prayer is
a tongue trying
to trust lips and teeth,
yet called
by rising or open vowels
to Amen,
you hear the hymn
of her tattooed ankle,
arched eyebrow
and scarred lip.
You believe
exquisitely as a long kiss
in all the ways
Tongues can twist
and wonder if
the molten music
of your mouths
can be held
as Communion.


You want No Limit,
which of course means
you are standing in front
of the Borgata’s poker room
waiting for an open seat,
as G.S. passes by;
and it’s a Thursday
(which is her Monday),
and she is walking as though
carrying something heavy
(albeit not in her hands),
and you think you hear her sigh,
and recall Lonnie
(whom she might not know)
not Lonnie who was always
pawning his wedding band
so he could feed the penny slots
or Lonnie from The Hill
who always seemed to be
half a slice short
of a sandwich,
but Lonnie from
'Lonnie's Lament'
(and here she
cocks her head and
wrinkles her nose
saying "Who?")
mostly because whatever blew
his rain so sideways
inspired John William to put
a saxophone between his lips
and blaze a lamentation
which matches
her Monday motion,
a wistful grace
with piano lines almost
lengthy as her legs
and a bassline that
plunges like her hair
when she combs it
into a black Niagra,
which she can't know
makes you wish
you could spend
the rest of your days
naked and trembling
in a wooden barrel,
falling forever through
its obsidian mist.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


light drizzle
On the Boxwood leaves-
her lips

Hair flying
as she swirls away-
April breeze

Iron span
across the river-
her bare spine

Waitresses' smile-
splash of blackberry brandy
in evening tea

April night
this meteor shower-
her laughter

rainy darkness-
lingering on her tongue

Cowrie shell
shining in her dreadlocks-
The North Star

Saturday, May 07, 2011


When the last pile of chips
gets shipped the other way,
when your wallet gapes
like the mouth of
a two-coated man prone
on a park bench;
what else is there to do
but stagger out of
the Taj Mahal's poker room
and return to the shadows
of an empty womb,
then curl up like
the last macaroni
stuck to a paper plate?
You sense even the women
cleaning under the tables
and dumping the trash's last odors
wouldn't sweep you
into their dusty pans.
The red deck, the blue deck,
the shuffle machine,
have conspired to
make you feel like
the darkness under
the dealer's manicured nails,
his Rolex stopped to watch.
Damn. Damn. Damn.
Everything you touch stutters.
You can't remember
what singing sounded like
before the Ace of Hearts
punctured your last lung,
can't feel your buddy
tapping your shoulder
asking "How much you down"?
You remember the elevator
ride to your room,
39 floors of sunk stomach
before the white scowl
of a towel spread across
the bathroom floor.
Suppose you were nothing
but a hand towel
in a $49 motel?
Suppose you lived
to lick beads of brightness
from a working girl's back,
but all you had
was parched lips
and a swollen tongue?
That's why whiskey
clings to the bottle,
slight burn in the beginning,
then oak smooth and
polished as an expensive casket,
that's why when
the last card turns,
whatever you hear
sounds like a bullet.
More so if you dig
digging in moist earth.
Even more so, if
you're a not a gardener
or a man in a straw hat
wanding the beach for beeps.
You're addicted to
the dance of the Blue deck,
but also to the way
the Red deck parts like
a pair of painted lips.
You're addicted to
to knowing that even
a gypsy psychic
can't find your card first,
no matter how far she
follows a palm's
rugged grooves
like wood grain.
You're addicted to
knowing the cards love
no one
but the next hands
to hold them.
Is there anything
sexier than
putting it all-in and
having the moment
Morse code thru your veins?
Anything sexier
than the way
desperation's dress
hugs her hips ?
That's why you return,
why you tease your chair
to the table's edge
and post a blind bet,
why you peel the corner
of your hole cards
like they're prosperity's
last pair
of good panties.

Friday, May 06, 2011

May Haiku/Senryu and 7 Word Poems.

Gonna try to keep the momentum I started in April by writing at least 15 haiku or Senryu during May. 30 is too much pressure, but 15 is doable without me having to churn out crap just to meet a quota.

meteor shower-
her laughter

New moon-
the unturned


Fresh snow-
"Taeshaun" dripping down 
a brick wall

Two planes  Two Towers  Fire raining

in the Beggar's cup-
April rain

Blue buoy
Bobbing in the surf-
my son's smile


Time to
learn a language.
Her tongue.

Just above
the overturned chair.
Inmate's feet.

Under her
nails. Enough skin
to hex.

Trembling urge 
of this needle-
spill ink

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


There's an algebra
for all of it:
the windmills
behind the casino
turning their giant Xs
into late night whys,
the moon's curvature
like a midnight calculus,
the tide rising
into the asymptotic
longing of a line.
Even for the arc
of a brand new
table tennis paddle
that your sweaty hand
now grips
or the velocity of the balls
(larger than they've
ever been)
spinning across the net
between your namesake
and your imagination.
Where he,
still a baby
burps and sighs
asleep in a crib.
The trajectory
seeming derivative,
almost always
of the desire.
Two Greek letters
on different sides
of an equation,
each ciphering
the other,
each signifying
an absence
by their italicised presence.
Daddy, Daddy,
don't you know
I miss you,
his sigh says.
He rests his head
on the hollow
of your chest.
Asks when
are you coming back?
There's an algebra
for all of it.
What you've
done with the days
since you left,
what you tried to do,
or might have tried,
had you correctly
solved for all the variables,
though you had
no slope to graph,
no slide to rule them.
A gulf
with no echoes
for answers.
As he whispered
to you once,
his lips are
an empty set now.
Two brackets
attempting an embrace
because kisses,
however long ago,
count and multiply
in the abacus of memory.
Moments that
can only approximate
an algorithm.
There's an algebra
for all of it,
the floating
function of the seagulls,
the breaking
but unbroken waves,
the ghostly geometry
of the foam.
Perhaps even
for how two pairs
of footprints,
non-linear as any equation
whose notation
haunts the horizon,
might solve
all this sand
between them.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I love the Dos Equis commercials and was messing around with some of my own lines and this came out of it:

(for Jeffrey McDaniel)

Before he was even born, Shakespeare plagiarized him,
He was conceived in a French villanelle
and born with a silver spondee in his mouth.
The only prescription he's ever filled was written by Dr. Seuss.
Entire orchestras of conductors weep when he plays his Sestina.
He once thought an E wasn't short enough, it's been silent ever since.
His haiku are so concise, they need only 1.7 syllables,
On his reading tours, Closed Interpretations open for him,
He struts the streets of New York clad only in a purple Pantoum.
His mother wears his Easter sonnet- every Sunday.
His feet are so exquisitely iambic, his pedicurist pays him.
He once rocked a party by beatboxing the Song of Solomon.
He doesn’t always recite his work, but when he does;
he prefers to replace the vowels with Xs. “Stay quirky, my friend.”

Thursday, March 31, 2011

National Poetry Month 30/30- A Haiku/Senryu a Day

April mist-
on the leaves
on her lips

dawn sky
among brown branches
only cherry blossoms

This waitress' smile-
splash of Blackberry brandy
in evening tea

Trying to ignore
the waitress ignoring me-
Dealer splits the pot.

Her sidelong glance-
white foam roiling
a wave

back from Break-
with Sambuca breath.

Fresh Pizza-
seagull takes a sideways

summer darkness-
Licorice lingering
on her tongue

April drizzle-
Pit Bull soaking the side of
a Porta-John.

water from the waitress-
voice cracking

tall grass
Tiger crouches, staring-
the ball?

April afternoon-
deer nibbling the
Driving Range

at the lip
of the cup-

April dusk-
this flag loudly snapping
my back tightens

whose shadow is memory-
river turning

April 15th-
counting what is left of
my fingernails

Jazz and cocktails
your siren song to tempt me-
Again wrong

Essay on Etheridge-
Gang Starr from a speaker
Guru rest in peace.

Rain beads on glass-
An armful of white blossoms
on black branches.

Starry night-
Beside this ATM
bank of Lilies.

as she turns away-
April breeze.

Sunset, a song
falls across her shoulders-
"Love is Found"

steady rain-
a goose broken in the road
its mate honking

low fog-
high coo of a mourning

Milky fog  starless
ocean stretches to pour-

the rain
slashing through-

after gunshots-
the front steps splashed in red

Easter morning-
biscuits in the oven

In this soldier's scope
the wide eye of a Nikon-

Falling softly-
fingers on guitar strings
Phoebe Snow

crossing the bridge
steel riveted truss-
holding hands

iron span
arching the river-
her bare back

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What may be

On Poker and Peppers

. . . things that grew loud when the street grew empty,

and breaths that let themselves be breathed
to freight a human argument,
and sidelong glances in the midst of things . . .
Jorie Graham

Never had much interest
in being smooth
like the skin of a pepper
or slick as the seeds inside,
(not because I didn't want to be hot)
but because like
a cayenne red lipstick,
slick wears off too quick.
Never minded looking naive,
it causes the slicksters
to show their hands.
We all make different choices,
but my friends are the ones
who tell me the truth
about the strength of my hand.

Perhaps there was a naive boy
with a dream.
And when I ask you
on the phone
if we will ever pick
cayenne peppers together,
you say "Maybe."
All gardeners know that maybes
can be like cayennes on the vine,
this one green as a Yes,
that one yellow as Perhaps,
the other bright red as No.
Gardeners choose
which peppers get picked
and by whom.

You could have said
that you don't pick peppers
with poker players,
but you said "Maybe."
And maybe I'm just a boy
with a naive dream,
maybe only slicksters get
to pick those peppers,
maybe somebody bluffed
(which is part of the game),
maybe they forgot
they would have to
turn over their hand,
maybe one day they'll realize
how much it costs
to get called . . .

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Old poem, New Version.

I'm pretty sure that this is the final version. Took me forever to find the right ending.

(For Robert Johnson, after Wallace Stevens)


The man [hat cocked] picked at his guitar,
A traveling-man of sorts. The day was yellow.

They said, "You got a [beat up] blues guitar,
Can you play things colored as they are?"

The man replied [cigarette dangling], "Thangs
as they are, Is colored different on a blues guitar."

And they said to him [Bible-eyed], "But play, you must,
A tune outside of you, but of yourself,

The [Gospel] truth on your blues guitar,
Of things colored as they are."


I can’t paint a picture quite square,
Although I stroke it with much care.

I don’t sing a man's shined shoes, gold tooth
or new suit, but his eternal soul,

I eye him as well I can and conjure
Him up with my mojo hand.

When I pluck him up, moody as the moon
Not sunlit like things as some say they are,

It’s a serrated howl traveling through
these fingers what pick a blues guitar.


A tune colored (as we are),
Yet somehow blued by the [moaning] guitar;

Ourselves [softly] humming as if in tune,
Yet nothing changed, except the place

Of things as they are and the notes
As he bent them on the blues guitar,

Played just so, the chords of change,
Heard in a damned juke-joint;

For an eternity damned, the way
The howl of hellhounds sound where

Even the hand of god is haze.
The tune stops time. The blues [thusly plucked]

Become the crux of things as they are,
The crossroads at midnight on a guitar.


Are the [Hellhound] blues his?
His devil of a delta guitar

Fills the [smoky] juke-joint with dancing women
In thrall with the moon. The yellow-eyed men

Of the women are now [dark] blue, and coming
For his [middle-parted] head that never lies

Alone at night. He picks a string of dilemmas.
Can he change the tune as it is? And how,

As he fingers his frets, can he
Escape that note which echoes

unlike an [eternal] resolution and yet,
Must be. Could the Blues be anything else?