Beyond The Pale

Blood Pools In My Ear

Blood pools in my ear from a cut I

made shaving this afternoon.

Not that it matters much, as

I’ve sweat trilling down the cleft of

my freshly showered spine still cooling

from my afternoon run.



April 14, 2011 Posted by | Poems | Leave a comment

Terrible Comfortable Silence (for Jonathan)

Terrible Comfortable Silence

A beautiful conceit
But that’s just telling, isn’t it?

What do you think your

(absent, imagined, clockwork god)

reader is going to get from that?

We sit on the balcony

slipping from Guinness

to Blue Ribbon as our taste for, well

taste, fades to the taste for, well,


Is this painting working for you?

If you have lived a paucity of human

experience, it might! Show, don’t tell.

Maybe we shouldn’t show either.

Then we can be blind as well as deaf.

Let the rules go.

Is wayside still a word?

When was its last use?

How about the gutter? I’m sure that one

still has collateral (can we agree on this symbol?)

The old style gutter, you know the type,

where rain might collect in the spring, but

shit gets dumped morning and night.

Put your rules there.

And climbing back out

—phew, your shoes stink!—

you’ll have to pinch your nose to taste

a depth of human connectedness that

really does happen.

To say you’ll never really know or be known

is to take comfort, to own

self imposed

isolation in a lie.

Your argumental proof

(Rant at me now!)

these labels (we’re back on the beer,

but if that offends,

pretend we’re talking about billboards)

have reified us these

experiences made for projection.

I don’t think I’ve seen this poem,

those two lines offer lax control of language

in the service of beauty

(which is really a greater

control, one based on

love rather than law,

isn’t it?)

We (who?) prefer linguistic legalism

gilding tombs full of

bones (of course!), the ghosts of experience—

where the garden of life lived used be.

Or is it cliché to borrow Christian imagery

in this post-Christian now?

His conflation of physical contact with

emotional intimacy digs down to the

very core of this brief, intolerably long

human experience, and it’s vibrantly ghastly too!

(that’s three impossibilities we’ve lived now)

I caught that.

Did you?

When the are no absolutes,

the guides become rules become sacrosanct.

Let’s try another image.

Maybe we shouldn’t have cut that anchor loose.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Poems | 3 Comments

Archetype, On Jack

Note: This post contains inappropriate language for the NWAG crowd. Please don’t read on if you intend to become offended.

After the dam broke I was empty

damned to stare across empty fields

washed clean of the bits that I’d scattered

empty bottles and fragments of thought

scared paper so I scrambled about for

pieces untouched in the flood I

gathered those stones like books

stacked on the shelf to begin again.

We need to talk about Jack, the wildcard, the unknown element in the equation. We met him for the first time when we were children just his age, and he did the impossible. He brought the big man down, cut the beanpole from below the giant, which would have been enough, but before he did that, he did what only the brave or the stupid—two traits always attributed to our antihero—would do, he ascended into the very castle of the Cyclops and stole away his greatest treasure. This was when we thought that we could be mythic, that we were meant for something more than our parents and teachers could ever imagine. But Jack’s feats weren’t only of the mythic type, for being the trickster, how could he help but get into trouble. Jack the giant-killer was also became Jack flash under ignoble circumstances, for in a spate of hyperactive unwillingness to go to bed, he sat himself on a candle and lit himself aflame.

Jack haunted our dreams as Jack Ketch, the executioner whose bloodied axe longed to sever spine and drip with our own guilty fluids, but as with all childhood frights, those dreams faded until all we saw in the night was a set of glowering eyes over a marble floor.

And then we thought we were through with Jack, so we grew to adulthood without ever recognizing the way that he had touched us, the way that he had changed our lives forever until someone else explained to us our history. Wait did I say “our?” It should be “Jack’s.” Or are they the same? What has he been up to in those years since we last saw Jack? Where did he go after he cut down that gigantic garden plant and burned his britches in that flame? I’ll tell you this, he didn’t just fade away into the dark of the subconscious. Oh no. He lit a fire in those dark corners to drive us to madness in every moment that the thought of becoming the expected began to assault our minds. Just look into the mythology of any culture, and you will find him there. We find him in the garden, disguised as a lizard. We find him refusing to bow before man, begging leave to tempt. We find him in the guise of the animal trickster, Coyote. But in these guises, we give him less than his due. We call him Devil, Tempter, Evil. He is really the trickster.

He is only us, us as we sometime imagined that we could be.

So where has he gone, what has he been up to in the years since we lost track of him, excepting that unfortunate incident in the garden?

Well, he assaulted the Tower of London at just that moment when Alchemy promised to grant us the secret of eternal life, sprinkling his heavy gold into the cauldron that Newton and the Immortal had prepared. So Jack became alchemist, turning our gold into lead. He learned that the world was written on parchment and reality could change with a word, but rather than save us from ourselves he screamed, “Fuck that shit!” into the dark, eloquent if nothing else, and stole a tattoo artist’s gun to write a new world into the skin of his sister. He sank into the ocean to rest in the white beaches of the dead, only to come back and banish the old gods from our seas.

And now he’s found his way into pop culture, perhaps afraid we’ve forgotten him. Jack the Coiner became Jack Bower, Jack Sparrow, Jack Ryan, Jack O’Neil, and the list goes on and on and on.

But if you’re wondering at his motivations, at why he would help us or why he didn’t, then you’ve missed the point because as I hinted before, he is only us as we wish to be. Jack doesn’t really think. He acts. The motivation, well, nothing but experience. The beast that rides his shoulder and goads him into every misadventure is you and me, just as he is the imp that pushes us toward our greatest achievements and defeats—those are the same thing too.

Jack is archetype, the one we love to hate, but still we love.

If you want to know more about Jack, to see him in all his glory, allow me to recommend some reading: Check out The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver first. After you’ve finished with those, read Hal Duncan’s Vellum and Ink, but prepare to be offended because Jack doesn’t care what you think. He isn’t what you want him to be, only what you need him to be.

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Archetype, Poems, Rant | 3 Comments

A Poem, The Words They Build Up Like

These words they build up like

flood waters behind that dam where

as children we used to play in winter.

The river frozen climbing banks, we’d

drag our sled to the edge and stare

down the snowcapped spillway,

declaim the honor of steaming coco

to whomever braved first decent.

Denotata mounting, waves push tongue

into barriers searching out slightest

dry rot, the narrowest gap. Finding

void they push into space between

statement and thought to scoop away

pebble and stone joined years before

when the mixer shorted and I’d take a

shock every time he called for more

mortar to stack the bricks, me dancing angry

from naked hot wires.

Defensive banks fragment before the torrent

widening torn earth one quarts grain

crystal after lime dust cloud

the last fragment of reticent self-

preservation slides down the sloping

concrete escarpment and I call your name

with a voice you’ve never heard.

Spray widens invisible

cracks and sends great chunks careening

off precipice toward parched

valley below where just past those white

levies I lean against the wall we built and

take your gloved hand to whisper,

“I love you,” watching liquid turn

solid stone to gray cloaked sky.

November 2, 2009 Posted by | Poems | 3 Comments

A Poem, A Thought to a Tear

Close your eyes and look into blackness until

replaced by all colors beyond our

spectrum, you will see just how thin

our plane of optic perception remains. Stare into

nothing-become-everything the pressing

lack of vision forms infinite sight we never

find quotidian time to perceive. Reality is

film, stretched thin over the milky

unreality of infinite cosmos that

takes only a scratch, or a thought, to tear

here rolled back like paper in flame reveals

everywhere that grows behind the screen of today.

November 1, 2009 Posted by | Poems | Leave a comment

A Poem, Bury Me On the Mountain

Bury me on the mountain top where

I’ll become stone and soil to feed

there briars, lizards, and frightened mice

quivering under the bleaching

moon famished in days of dust.


Leave my bones to the bees for framing

their house in the arc of my skull

centipedes and serpents a domed cathedral

will make of spars where I once drew breath

food I will be to respite their tired

days, a search of shadow from desert aflame


Grown liquid I’ll creep down defiant

spurs across weary draws until

I green in the grass of the valley and

the trees raise me in their veins where

caressed by the wind I’ll be cast aside,

laughing, into the river racing toward sea.

November 1, 2009 Posted by | Poems | Leave a comment

A Poem, Smoking Last Night

Last night, standing under

a streetlight by the wall,

staring at my shadow and

wondering at its crispness, its poise

I raised a cheap, Afghani

cigarette to my mouth and

watched my shadow do the same.

I pulled smoke in to taste and watch

the cherry instead of brightening to

an amber glow in my eyes,

darken to blackness eclipsing the night like

the morning sun eclipses all stars

and I glanced at the wall just in time to see

my shadow grow blurred, a glow fading

from the tip of its grainy, concrete fingers.

October 31, 2009 Posted by | Army, Poems, Travel | Leave a comment

A Poem, Written from the Sky Over Texas

I was sitting on the airplane on the way to Ohio, looking out the window at the Texas desert, and I saw something that you’ll never see in the Midwest. There were bunches of big green circles scattered around below me among the square cuts of roads and fences. Apparently the desert out there is so dry that the only way the farmers can coax a crop out of the sand is by using those big wheeled sprinklers that you will see in fields. In Texas, rather than having them roll from one side of the field to the other, they are connected to one central axis about which the sprinklers rotate in a great circle, creating perfect green circles in the desert. Sitting there in the airplane, I wrote this poem about it. It’s clearly unfinished, but I’m not going to do any more work on it, a perpetual fragment.

I hate how we scar her face

these lines we trace over the

bound body of a mother.

on her barren brown parts green circles

show where our machines make their circuits

and flood the sand to coax another

harvest from the tired ground.

These false delineations of road and fence

turn this place into a snap-on world

of child’s construction bricks.

How would an insect take the view from

above my skin? Would he

decry the symmetry of wrinkles

criss-crossed over wrinkles to form

triangles and squares, homestead roads for

the invisible life I nourish.

Would he know that there is

always another above the

view from above where the

delineation of boundary and plot fades.

Or would he, like me,

think his perspective was

high enough-suspended there between

above above and above below?

March 22, 2009 Posted by | Poems | , | 1 Comment