… and Thirty.

The First Line is the Deepest  
         -- KIM ADDONIZIO

I have been one acquainted with the spatula, 
the slotted, scuffed, Teflon-coated spatula 

that lifts a solitary hamburger from pan to plate, 
acquainted with the vibrator known as the Pocket Rocket 

and the dildo that goes by Tex,   
and I have gone out, a drunken bitch, 

in order to ruin   
what love I was given,   

and also I have measured out   
my life in little pills—Zoloft, 

Restoril, Celexa,   

I have. For I am a poet. And it is my job, my duty 
to know wherein lies the beauty 

of this degraded body, 
or maybe   

it's the degradation in the beautiful body,   
the ugly me 

groping back to my desk to piss 
on perfection, to lay my kiss 

of mortal confusion   
upon the mouth of infinite wisdom. 

My kiss says razors and pain, my kiss says   
America is charged with the madness   

of God. Sundays, too, 
the soldiers get up early, and put on their fatigues in the blue- 

black day. Black milk. Black gold. Texas tea. 
Into the valley of Halliburton rides the infantry— 

Why does one month have to be the cruelest, 
can't they all be equally cruel? I have seen the best 

gamers of your generation, joysticking their M1 tanks through 
the sewage-filled streets. Whose 

world this is I think I know.


The First Line is the Most Depressed

I wandered lonely as a cloud, mouthing
all the platitudes, not ever saying aloud

the angry half thoughts collecting in my blood.
Thus we sat together at one summer’s end, good

friends (at least on paper), and I said "Here
I am, an old man in a dry month," and you reared

up on your hind legs, yelling, "Stop all the clocks,"
and then, "cut off the phone!" I was shocked,

I tell you, and left, and then went down to the ship,
thought I'd blow this town, light out for the territories, shit

happens and then you die, & etc. Ah, rose, harsh
rose, sorrow is my own yard in spring, all marshy

and full of weeds. Better to depart. So call the roller
of big cigars, that mustachioed old baller

with the John Deere cap who shouts "The land
was ours before we were the land's!" And the band

played on. Oh, yes, my Life had stood -- a
Loaded Gun -- long before any of this madness could

fuck me into submission. And I celebrated myself,
and sang to myself, crooning "I've been away from you

a long time," and "I can't sleep at night," all the blues
fit to print. But now the thrill is gone, and memory, too.

That's what happens to a dream deferred -- it goes down
at sea in a leaky boat and you're fucking lucky if you drown.

Suggested soundtrack: John Lee Hooker.

Twenty Nine

Fire and Ice  
         -- ROBERT FROST

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.


Those Who Favor Fire

Bob, I agree --
this world will surely end
in rampant wildfires.

Already, we're burning 
ourselves up
in secret, 

searing blue coals 
in our guts.

Where we depart
is in the matter 
of ice;

hatred burns as hot
as any of love's 

What's cold and frozen,
my friend, 
is indifference, 

spiritual Antarctica,

and that's no place
for the world's
herds of dragons,

hoarding righteous flames 
in big bellies,
guarding mountains

of gold.

Suggested soundtrack: Wilco radio.

Twenty Eight

Birds Punctuate the Days
        -- Joyce Clement

the nuthatch inserts itself
between feeder and pole
two mallards drifting
one dunks for a snail

a mourning dove
lifts off
a red-eyed vireo catches
the crane fly midair
a down feather
bobs between waves
exclamation point
wren on the railing
takes notice
mergansers paddle toward
morning trout swirl
em dash
at dusk a wild goose
heading east
question mark
the length of silence
after a loon’s call
one blue egg all summer long
now gone


the new cat shares my despair

the new black cat sits
waiting in the window for
the backyard to wake

for a week he hid
behind the furnace, afraid
of our sure attack

on the basement floor
the cold rose in me. I cried
flesh and bones melting

in February's
glacier. He will never love
us, I said. But at

last he crept out, lured
by a dancing string, by our
relentless use of

his new name, our song
of despair, and arched his back 
to my hand, answered

me with small cries like 
thin bells, rough chirps, complete 

and now we are bound
by a wild need for touch
our darkest fears of 

being truly seen
solitary confinement
and abandonment

together we watch 
an old world stream past the glass
variations on 

a theme: winter's siege 
finally cracking, icy
rain's indifference, how 

it falls and falls on
a gray world, melting dirt down
into wormy blood

Suggested soundtrack: Robins.

Twenty Six

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

         --- EMILY DICKINSON

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.


the little Bird

watching at the kitchen window
we saw a spring sleek crow land
on the rotting birdhouse
where sparrows yearly build 
their nests

our new cat shivered and
stuttered on the sill
with electricity

as the big black bird 
levered a curved bill 
into the crack
at the back of the house
to shred the nest

spray it over 
the new lawn

the crow cawed and 
cracked massive wings
before plunging
into the tender bed

we watched an egg
slip down its gullet
then another

while little brown birds
fluttered and chirped
on the wires
in the cedars
along the fence

I think I said 
something like
the circle of life 
is brutal
before I

turned away
to finish 
making lunch

Suggested soundtrack: Wagner.

Twenty Five

America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

Hunter S. Thompson
Two Hundred Million Used Car Salesmen

walk into a neighborhood bar. A guy with red hair says, 
"Barkeep, what IPAs you got on tap?" And the man
next to him, big bearded guy in a Yankees cap, sucks
down the last of his Miller Lite, pulls a Ruger from his
pants, and blasts the offending ginger in the head. 
Brain matter splatters the bartender and etc.  

Reporters have to sort out 199,999,999 stories 
before the evening news. A source close to the victim 
says that though he often extolled the virtues of 
Indie microbreweries in a "kind of bray" after midnight, 
he was essentially a good guy, never hurt no one,
so how'd he end up with a cap in his ass after
ordering a Sam Adams at Richard Cranium's Bar?

Meanwhile, police say it has nothing to do with 
race, because all lives matter (even swill-sucking 
hipster liberal lives), and also it is not true that 
the shooter was an off-duty cop who managed 
to slip away in the confusion, but that in fact 
they have no leads at this time and are not taking 
any more questions. 

NRA lobbyists argue it was not the Ruger that killed 
the redhead but the unsub's finger on the plastic 
trigger. One bad apple, that is, and not one of the
millions of decent Americans who should be able to
bear arms without submitting to invasive 
background checks, mental health records, or
ridiculous waiting periods.

A half dozen local high school students 
take to the streets in protest, forgetting homework. 
Some of them break a few shop windows. 
At least, that's what the armed out-of-town anti-
protesters say is the case when they're stopped
by the burning gas station and etc.

A lot more Americans stay home, weighing in online.
They make a lot of Chuck Norris jokes.  A meme 
goes viral: "How many Chuck Norrises does it take to
to screw in a lightbulb? / None. Chuck prefers to
kill in the dark."

Twenty Four

On Children
          --- Kahlil Gibran 

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
     And he said:
     Your children are not your children.
     They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
     They come through you but not from you,
     And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

     You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
     For they have their own thoughts.
     You may house their bodies but not their souls,
     For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
     You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
     For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
     You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
     The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that 
              His arrows may go swift and far.
     Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
     For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.


Be for Gladness

Ah, my girl, 
my one deep
my beautiful 
bee --

I haven't said 
how much I love
the bending, 

or how lucky I am 
to be your 

launching you 
from dream
to infinity.

May you fly 
and far, 
and fast.

Twenty Three

Sad Boy's Sad Boy

I ruin my hats and all the mat slides glad 
I hop my girls and all is skip again 
I jump I run you up inside my truck 

The car goes looping out in dark and light 
And yellow hat slides in 
I run my mats and all the girl slides glad 

I hoped you skipped me into luck 
And jump me black, ruin me glad 
I jump I run you up inside my truck 

I jump my slopes and all the dopes slide glad 
I glide my luck and all is slip again 
I jump my hopes and all the rope glides sad 

I skip you jump the way you said 
But I run old and sigh your name 
I ruin my mats and all the girl slides glad 

At least when luck hops it skips back again 
A rune my mats and all the girls slide glad 
I jump I run you up inside my truck 

                     After "Mad Girl's Love Song" by Sylvia Plath


Sad Not Sad Song for Missing Amy

God, I miss you, honey, and your little red car,
the bumper sticker I'd Rather Be Reading Bernstein --
& your joyful laugh. We don't know where you are.

Remember how we'd meet for poetry & coffee
in that ill-fated place across from Linda's? 
God, I miss you, Amy darling, and your little red car.

Life fucked you & you fucked it back, baby, hard.
Made 2 kids, & poetry & bird baths & children's books 
& your joyful laugh. Now we don't know where you are

because you're "dead" but I know in my bones 
you're just transformed, your energy into sun & wind
& wildflowers & God. I miss you, woman, your red cars,

those mornings of poetry & dirt dishing & friendship,
evenings with wine & poetry & above all else your giggle, your
joyful laughter. We may not know where you are now

exactly, except everywhere & inside us &
& in poetry, & memory, & stories, your family & 
God, & red convertibles, & all this missing you, lovely,
& your joyful laugh -- don't know where you are, dear,

but you ARE. You go on. & that's all that matters.

Twenty Two

Hip-Hop Ghazal
         --- Patricia Smith

Gotta love us brown girls, munching on fat, swinging blue hips, 
decked out in shells and splashes, Lawdie, bringing them woo hips. 

As the jukebox teases, watch my sistas throat the heartbreak, 
inhaling bassline, cracking backbone and singing thru hips. 

Like something boneless, we glide silent, seeping 'tween floorboards, 
wrapping around the hims, and ooh wee, clinging like glue hips. 

Engines grinding, rotating, smokin', gotta pull back some. 
Natural minds are lost at the mere sight of ringing true hips. 

Gotta love us girls, just struttin' down Manhattan streets 
killing the menfolk with a dose of that stinging view. Hips. 

Crying 'bout getting old—Patricia, you need to get up off 
what God gave you. Say a prayer and start slinging. Cue hips.


Early 80s Guera Dance Ghazal

Coming of age in Mexico City clubs, guera girl gang, we danced 
the one-two step-n-hop back and forth disco dance.

En el club, bailábamos como chicas fresas, swinging
arms in the air, singing along to Lipps, Inc, virgin dance.

Donna Summer, KC & The Sunshine Band, Leo Sayer, the
Bee Gees, Prince, Kool & The Gang. Dance! Dance! Dance!

Swaying in glitter ball fog, on the edge of 18, we lingered
loose in untested bodies, smiled, invited the mating dance.

Cerveza, tequila, cuba libre -- torched our blood -- "Baby
you can ring my bell..." we sang to each other, swirled, danced.

Jordache jeans skintight; sweatshirts cut off our shoulders; big hair;
Candy spike heels breaking our balls; we bit the pain, grinned, danced.

Glowing faces in the crowd ... cherry petals in blacklight air. "I just want
your extra time and your kiss," we yelled back and forth as we danced.

"We are family," we shouted to the smoky ceilings. Then drove
the City like pinballs through a machine, the metropolitan dance.

Oh, yeah, we were wild and free and rich. We were young and dumb.
We wore our privilege like our American skins. Andale! We danced.

Most of us had no moves. (Laurie, you had zero moves.) Our futures
waited in the States. We broke curfew, laughed like maniacs, danced.

Suggested soundtrack: club music from your high school years.

Twenty One

Pantoum of the Great Depression
        --- Donald Justice

Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don't remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don't remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We have our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.


No Plot. Devoid of Poetry.

That can be said of most everything,
which is why we like to tell stories,
pretending that everything makes sense
and connects, point to point.

Which is why we like to tell stories,
sitting around after dinner with booze,
connecting, point to point,
politics and feelings and natural disasters,

sitting around after dinner with whiskey,
getting a bit risky, a little frisky, theorizing
politics and dark feelings and natural disasters
with our over-educated imaginations.

Getting a little risky, a bit frisky, theorizing
conservative conspiracies, apocalypse, retirement,
indulging over-educated imaginations
and aging livers, blurring the edges

of global conspiracies, job loss, impending apocalypse,
flabby bodies, hormone drop out, hair loss, inflation, 
aging livers, drinking to blur the edges
of soulless occupations, disconnection, death,

stress fat, mental fog, baldness, inflation,
anti-intellectual patriotism, social injustice, 
boring jobs, disconnection, the death of higher ed,
a general failure to connect the dots,

celebratory ignorance, institutional racism,
the grind of acting like anything makes sense,
when a universal failure to connect the dots
can be said of most everything. It's a joke.

And our striving for poetry? Makes us the punchline.

Someone said yesterday that he loves Lizzo. So I started to listen and my soundtrack is, ironically, Lizzo radio. Check it out!