poetry

baby’s bones daddy’s dust

holy-road1

Try to hide sorrow in a dry poem

and all you’ll get is a line arrow

of razzle-dazzle pique

pointing down, down deep,

towards a brown road in

a flat state where the sky there

hangs half dull half billow

and no one gets up before noon

or goes out before the moon

rises over a straw-colored cat

stretched sleepless across

the lid of a metal can half filled

with balled-up paper and gristle scraps.

Baby tried not to cry,

her eyes still bulgy from a ten-day

binge on gin and tears

and sex with an uptown pimp

we’ll call Joe, who promised

a generous wad

of cash each week, a sapphire

ring, a Chevy Impala, a trip

to Acapulco, and back,

plus a condo with deck just outside Coral Gables

in exchange for a lie-down wherever and whenever he said

so. Seemed a better option, by miles,

than a tenement on the lower east side.

While her daddy diddled every big-breasted, boy-hipped secretary he

could get his hands on but married himself off to a little, brittle

chickadee from across the pond, who herself

had a taste for gin and also for Vegas craps

and kidney-shaped pools but not for the small dark girl

who followed her everywhere, nut-scampering and twitchy,

and dogged the silky retriever pup that ate soft sweaters,

then piddled in circles beneath the stairs.

Under a scorching sun they came from far flung

for daddy’s burning, the jackass penguins and their lah-de-dah crows,

but baby’s bones just got tumbled in,

with only a parched girl in black jeans, a lunatic aunt, and a few sparrows looking on.

Someone touches daddy’s coffin and sobs.

I throw a few rose petals into baby’s open grave.

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Wondering where the music up and went?

MusicYou can still enjoy the music/dance videos after I remove them from the home page. I’ve put them all in one place. Just click on the “music/dance videos” tab at the top of the page — and ta-da. My poems are all in one place, too. Simply click on the “poems” tab, which is to the left of the “prose” tab.

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Discernment

Sign

A golden eagle glides

down a mountainside & midair

drops the oily serpent

she has been holding in her talons.

This is God telling us to worship the unseen.

A young man with black eyes removes his two shoes,

throws them into the street,

& gets down on his knees.

This is God saying that our fear will be our death.

A husband beats his bride because

she will not sleep in their bed.

This is God telling us our dark thoughts

will create a dark world for our children.

A moth beats its wings against a backdoor screen

& plummets to the pavement, exhausted:

There is no way in or out.

This is not God speaking.

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When love leaves her beloved

Waxing crescent moon

 Even love will catch her death

under a cold moon will become

a patch of brown grass buried

beneath an early frost will shiver

into a single dark vine winding

around a splintered trellis will crawl

panting across a desert floor will dry

up to a trickle of water down the

face of a stone mountain will run

frightened through a long hallway will slip

unseen out a side entrance will know

when it is time to turn and pull

the door closed behind her.

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llamas gemelas

carta-tarot-lovers

love is a lunatic aunt

come down from the Bronx to

rant about her maybe baby

and prophesy calamity

she’ll say

he some dark eyed

dreamer Diego

and need him

chubby chicas

on the side

with they aye papi way

she’ll say

he gonna kill me

dead that one

and snuff these holy flame

gonna do miss mujerzuela

so as give him nena pain

she’ll say

lo siento sobrina but

you don’t got no chance

I just thrown the lovers’ tarot

and seen trouble with romance

first I pull the tower then

the devil after that so I think

you better go mami

before you too much fat

* llamas gemelas = “twin flames”

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Montana 1948: a novel

readingSome years ago, I taught a literature course in which, among other works, we read Montana 1948, a powerful novel by Larry Watson. The book sparked interesting class discussions over a period of several weeks, though none more intriguing — to me at least — than the one that took place after I found myself reminding students we were talking about a work of fiction, which meant the story, though written in the first person, was not true.

One student, a very quiet young man who always sat in the way back, seemed not to have understood that the book was entirely spun out of sugar and air until he heard my jolting reminder. When my words registered with him, he looked as though I had punched him low and hard. Because he had all along believed the story to be true, he said he felt betrayed — so much so that he told us he would never again read another novel. Other students said they also felt bamboozled, though no one else vowed to give up on fiction for good.

Even when I was a very young and inexperienced writer of fiction and poetry, I often got twisted around this idea of truth-telling and wondered what it actually meant for me to be an honest writer of made-up stories and poems. Over time, I have come to think that truth-telling is any writer’s true north and that sensitive readers will know an honest piece of writing, no matter the genre, by the way it makes them feel. Judging by the student responses in my class, I’d say Larry Watson’s compass needle was stuck on “N” all the while he was writing Montana 1948.

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About the dramatic monologue

For many years I have been fascinated by the use of a technique in poetry known as the “dramatic monologue.” Though he certainly wasn’t the first to use this technique (or form), Victorian poet Robert Browning perfected it in such poems as “Porphyria’s Lover” (a favorite) and “My Last Duchess.” Later, T.S. Eliot used the form in his famous poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (another favorite), and John Berryman used it in his “Dream Songs.” Poems that incorporate dramatic monologue — also known as persona poems — typically make use of one “character” through whom the poem is spoken or delivered. Because a poem using this technique is often in the first person, it is tempting to conclude that the poem’s narrator and the poet are one and the same. But don’t be fooled! Writing this type of poem allows the writer to adopt the “voice” of the character and to inhabit him or her from the inside out (as an actor might). And, because there is no overt commentary about or analysis of the character given within the poem itself, it is left to the reader to decide the poem’s meaning and power by paying close attention to what the often “unreliable narrator” says — or doesn’t say. Of my recent poetry, “Tripping then falling” is a dramatic monologue — as is “and said,” along with “The Other Mary” — but other poems posted on this blog also make use of the technique. If you want to find all of my poems in one place, click here or on the “poems” tab at the top of the homepage.