Face Value

John Wayne hated horses. Took a truck whenever he could.
Esther Williams hated water. Couldn’t wait to dry off
after every shot.
Dr. Seuss was annoyed by children, their unpredictability.
Beiber probably hates his own music.

Whatever you think is true about anyone
turn it on its head then flip it again.
You’ll be closer.

Next I’ll be telling you Marilyn Monroe hated sex.
But I bet you a year of Hollywood’s grosses
she did.

It gets worse:
The flawless model: photo shopped.
The philanthropist cheats on his taxes.
The environmentalist cannot live without A/C.
No one throws it back like the prohibitionist.
The priest,
I hate to say it, the priest’s no saint either.

Assume everyone you meet is revealed to you
Through a prism,
Leaving you one option: to tease out
the viewing angle with the least distortion.
And even then.


November Came to Me.


Without warning

November came to me

In June.

The morning primrose newly budding in their sun warmed beds,

Always a welcome harbinger,

Now meaningless to me from

The dark and deep quiet of my bedroom above.


The stars when they appeared seemed meant for others

Capable of joy, even simple recognition,

My November revealing them as distortions,

Pinpoints of lights in the torn fabric of a distant

Foreboding world.


November came for the best of me

To extinguish my light,

My peace,

Leaving behind flats of nothingness

Hours, days, never to be accounted for,


As I groped blindly through them.

Or slept. Or stared.


Laughter seemed inconceivable.

Sadness lay deep in my marrow

When November came to me

In June.


(Photo courtesy of Jeff Philips.)


How Things Happen


And you had no idea
They were coming.
The neighbor who turns ugly about your
The girl you had your eye on all those months at night school
And you hear she got engaged to the dullard two rows
The audit the year you got
The partner you thought had your back
Who contradicts you over a triviality among
The doctor’s news when only that day
You’d ran five miles and met your wife for
The toddler not perfectly buckled
The gift of white designer jeans
Confirming he has not the faintest idea who you
The cop at the door
When things were going so

sepia photo for Brothers In Arms

Brothers in Arms


Writers are the most natural of allies.
We inhabit the same landscape.
The three a.m. grope for the right word.

We try not to wake anyone.
We stare at a comma. Just stare.
We wrestle with line breaks.

We start again.
Our drafts sit in piles.
Semi-colons mystify us all.

We find fascination in minuscule detail.
The girl’s hair down, or should it be a braid.
The navy shoes or the pale blue.

Was it raining or threatening rain.
Did she say the word goodbye or whisper it after.
Was the door left ajar on purpose.

We know there is a perfect title. A perfect modifier.
If only we can find it,
Tease it out gingerly.

Recognition is hard won.
What do poets do, they ask, mystified.
I’d write too if I had the time.

We creep into bed in the wee hours
Still wrestling with the last line.
Wondering if we came even close.

But if we get it right
We dare to join the pantheon of immortals
Before us,
Who persisted in that same dim light for the one word
Just out of reach.