Ridge Highway

riding along at 60,
seven p.m.,
the rabbits are out tonight—
i can't see them
but i know their eyes blur into
the Christmas light on the farmhouses.

in the backseat my mother adores
the tinseled reds,
ever greens,
translucent blues—
the closest things to ocean water
she has ever seen.

a Chevy ad on the radio—
my father drives our Ford—
my mother is a voyeur
peering at the ranch houses
and licking her lips
over these whorish delights.

my father is silent
as we enter Lenawee;
my heart drops as the melting frost
dripping into the ditches
along the side
of the road.

the stars shine here:
i haven't seen them in months
as the bustle of civilization
clouds the sky more than any cumulonimbus
in the city i live in
when not on this road.

i can see the moon out my window,
but i could be the star
atop the red barn guiding the cattle
to warmth as the frost
crusts over the wilted grass
and sharpens it.

we hone in close to hour house:
my father says nothing,
my mother oos and ahs
at the lights—the angels atop of evergreens
blaring in her eyes, her teeth
chatter—the air is cold.

alone we drive, alone the rabbits
hop across the ditches,
over the grass to the barns
and over acres—
dodging the Yuletide bullets
handing from rain gutters.

Inter Nos

or, The Ring and the Bracelet

i pray for the sound of the ring on your finger
rapping against the table
the engraving is new, and the echoes, they linger
all over the air of the stable
the leather is tight from the bracelet that you
bought me when you went to Chicago
it's engraved with the words you never knew
but i told you what they were when you got home

alone in my room, where the light can't reach us
the leather is weighing down
we make love although no one would teach us
how to tangle ourselves on the ground
i took of the bracelet, you took off the ring
because it turned our bodies red
the bracelet fells off like the desk light's gleam
and tumbled behind the bed

time of ours passed, and the ring now sits
at the bottom of your garbage can
i found the bracelet on my mother's wrist
and i stole it like a wanted man
i'm wearing it now, i still pray for the sound
of the ring echoing in my apartment
i wonder if you picked it up off the ground
and burned away your resentment


someone write a grunge song about me—
that way, when i die,
we'll know who to blame.

For Adrian

a song—folk—key of A

we met on the road
by the maple tree on 223
where the pretty girls swung
while they hear the preacher's tongue
the cop car passed us
and we hid inside the overgrown grass
rolling all around
until we kissed the ground

like a cartoon or a clown
we both laughed at this town
how we longed and longed to drive away
still your skin was never tight
and mine was never right
so you'll stay
and i'll go away

then i drove you home
where your mother gave me biscuits
and said how nice i was
and we just grinned because
we both knew what
we were doing when the cop drove by
and it wasn't pure
but were sure

like a cartoon or a clown
we both laughed at this town
how we longed and longed to drive away
still your skin was never tight
and mine was never right
so you'll stay
and i'll go away

we met again in your car
said that you'd gone way too far

Chest Tattoos and Chevy Impalas

i’m ready to be the brunt
of a 90’s grunge song
in drop-D with the fuzz of a Boss
resonating from a Honda Civic’s windows;

to be a story for the bar
when the bourbon’s running low
and you have to get home
to pay the babysitter;

to be the reason you can’t look him
in the eye anymore
when he’s on top of you

to be yet another notch
in your mother’s belt that she keeps
hidden from the world like the photos
of her pregnant at age eighteen;

to be the hint of caramel
you wish your son had
instead of the red-pale-pinkness
of his diaper rash;

to be a backseat that you see
as a king-sized with silk sheets
rose petals and champagne
instead of empty Budweiser cans;

to take you to the city
on a futon nestled in the back corner
of your village apartment
with an old lady ready to die a floor above you;

to be the reason you look
as if you’ve sucked a lemon
when you say i love you
as he walks out the door;

to be a phone call after being
two weeks late while a pregnancy test
sits on the sink, as you sit on the toilet
grinning through your tears;

to be the reason why you would tell
someone not to pull out—to come
inside and to never
ever leave;

to be a Planned Parenthood brochure
on the counter that you look at
but can’t really read—Jesus
stares down at you from the door frame;

to be the slam of a door
after nine months when clearly
the crown upon the baby’s head
is not of gold but of thorns;

to be a WIC coupon—a gallon
of 2% milk and a box of Gerber cereal,
bottle liners and a can
of formula;

to be an extra shift at McDonald’s
because it’s time for shots—
to be a call to Comcast
to cancel your service;

to be unknown, reflective,
a shadow of that night in November
when the frost covered the ground
and i covered you.


a martyr
for a pint of home-brewed beer
my father:
alive for seeds spilt upon my mother
a groundling


my mother is a cathedral, pretty and tall
with her voice as bells which chime through the fall
her towering cross dangles above her breasts
and her ares are the booths where sinners confess

her fingers are the drips of holy water drops
and her rings are her candles, her oils, and props
her hum is a hymnal with which her babies sing
and her palms are the baskets for all the gifts we bring

her skin is the bread—tough, chewy, and blessed
her tears are the wine—so smooth to digest
her daughters are parishioners, so lost and so blind
her husband is a bishop—behind the alter he hides

my mother is a cathedral, pretty and tall
her son is her little priest, so ugly and small


a song—alternative—key of Em

i had to believe in the power of dead men:
i had to believe that men could fall
the funeral bells rang so loud out my window
then gravity pulled us to breach when we call
the shadowy lines from the branches in winter
as the sun pulses down to our sweating skin
the motions engrave us with powder and darkness
the light on our tongues is the light within

so it's all much more than nothing
it's all more underneath
maybe i'm born to beseech tumbling
down to a daughter's dancing feet

i had to believe in the power of dead men
when the servants were left to starve
i had to believe that the timing was just right
for us to drink the milk from the stars
the way that we say all alone on the porch swing
made me wonder what we just heard
i had to believe that dead men were coming
to give us their dying words

so it's all much more than nothing
it's all more underneath
maybe i'm born to beseech tumbling
down to a daughter's dancing feet

i'm not alone, i'm not alone
who could have guessed what i would say?
where did he go, where did he go
when the Hearst drove away?

i had to believe in the power of dead men:
i had to believe that men could fall
the funeral chimes make me call out for answers
they don't make you cry at all

so it's all much more than nothing
it's all more underneath
maybe i'm born to beseech tumbling
down to a daughter's dancing feet

The Dead Men

i have to believe in the power of dead men
when i dream of my son—the little spitting image
of his father; i wonder who his heros are
and if his are mine at all. when he looks in books
i hope he finds requisites in undermining
the shades of black conjured from the white.


behind the lamp posts—the taste of wheat
along a beaten righteous path
lit by carnations white and red
like the hotel bedspread where we once laid:
it's all blueberries for us
as we thought it would be
and i hungry and wanting sugar
let the juices drench my tongue
i can barely keep my eyes open
as i wonder if you will be
alongside cows and goats
while i am left picking berries
like my family did so long ago

it all makes just one poem.

Les Quatre Nobles Vérités [a poem revisited]

I. Dukkha

August heat and aerial moisture
drives us to the river; to jump in
and drink its amber liquor—
it’s a calming haze and a cigarette after.
the foam shimmers, this sunlight deludes
in slick industrial passage;
the water’s cold.
nearby the bitter dry grass and shrubs
are ready to kindle; to feed the flames
birthed from the swelter we breathe—
the water reaches not so up to it.
above us only rollers paint the sky
not sponge dabs or brush strokes
but it’s utterly smooth:
i need to see roughness to know i can rattle
i need to see roughness to sooth it out with my hand.
up is endlessly slick—
here is jagged and brutal.

when we lie out naked
the vittles cling to us as we roll;
when we rise the desolates prick our feet
when we stand: our blood is all the moisture
these barren morsels shall drink today.

this strip of Earth is barren,
but the air surrounding us is so fertile
that even to feel it against our faces
makes our minds wander:
as a swarm of sweaty palms
the river currents rush over the riverbed
quenching the eroded rocks below,
and they smooth out like the skin on our backs
when tampered with. it’s all part of a vision
—sacred, perhaps, is
what the LORD commanded of us—
where we can swim with the gushing current
and we can feel the foam pop against
our torsos and our loins.
all this makes me thirsty,
all this makes me know that no rivers flow in this building
where we sit,
hoping for a slice of air to cool us,
and for, if anything at all,
a way to ease the burning on our skin
and on our flesh—
it’s too much to handle right now
without a glass of wine in my hand
and a bottle of champagne on my head.

this land is of dying, suffering,
we are of dying, suffering.

II. Dukkha Samudaya

across the table, through the haze

a streetlight concerto bears the night,

holds the starlight steady

under which we (tired from the drunk)

leave our padlocks empty—

it’s been a long time.

the vodka flows and the wine engages us.

burning chicken smells ground us—

we are not in Eden any more, darling;

we are not surrounded by fertile hills

and ramped plains. instead,

we sit in a crowded bar and imagine what the other

would look like sprawled out on the floor;

i imagine you under my bedsheets,

in a slumber that only exhaustion and strain

can induce.

around the bend there’s a car horn

and once again we shake our heads.

are you alright?

i’m okay.

just okay?

could be better.

let me pour you another drink,

let me wet your lips and you can wet mine.

of course—who knows who leaps up—

every word hangs in the air

because i can’t drink them in

as i can drink this glass empty.

are you okay?

i could be better.

another drink?

could be better.

she brings another; my hands tremble

and my fingers curl around the glass.

it’s so cold but my hands give more moisture.

my words should only be so chilling.

when you brush your hair aside

my throat dries up. you tell me to speak

but i can only dream—what you would look like

without these lights on; how soft your body is

when i lay my bony frame upon it;

how when you finally fall asleep

i can finally fall asleep, too.

the bar is loud.

are you okay?

i’m fine for now.

i could be better.

III. Dukkha Nirodha

light up;

a light out

from the tunnel—

here’s a way for us

to shake off

these feelings









amores juvenis

a light now;

a light when?

we need it

to anoint us—

by simply kissing us;

rubbing our aching muscles;

and not fucking us

—to tell us that it

is there

IV. Dukkha Nirodha Gamini Patipada Magga



starlit echos tantalize the

eyes; the pupils dilate, they

open wide. the water drifts to

show the temp’rate kisses that we

scorn obtusely. deadly symbols

scare away our hands; they kill us

dead with beauty—blinding us

evermore with fleshy torches.


kisses always kisses; always

aimed at lips instead of hips and

bones. when minds align they cherish—

hearts denied remember only

hurt. but how does recollection

make intention? understand the

body, understand the mind and

think of double, not of single.



girls, rejoice! the boys are here—they

want to play! and said they’ll travel

arm in arm to pick the flowers

growing tall beside the river!

boys, rejoice! the girls said yes!—they

said that we could grab their hands to

follow them and kiss them by the

riverside! to pluck their flowers!


Annabelle came home one day to

find her husband naked. then he

said profusely are you my wife?

Annabelle conceded it; she

buttoned down her blouse and skirt. he

fell asleep but Annabelle got

up to make his dinner; salty

tears adorned the steaks she made him.


stirring coffee; looking out the

window; alive and well. statues

still parade the park where

girls and boys remember how to

play. remember when you used to

know to play? remember when you

had concern for games and for

making pawns from those in dresses?



it’s enough to put the bottle

down; enough to put the light from

cigarettes completely out but

not upon the skin of dear ones.

it’s enough to steal the bottle

‘way from angry hands; enough to

spray the flames with water while you

count how many times you’ve done it.


evermore remember what your

mother taught you—boys always

will be boys and girls should always

keep their hands outside their dresses.

evermore remember what your

father taught you—girls never

know to keep their hands out where you

want; remember to remind them.


take these verses; pick apart their

veins to find what makes them bleed. a

hint and recollection makes you

see the light before your eyes. now

take your thoughts and keep them picking

out the rivers, when currents

flow about the land to quench the

throats of rightly tired women.



watch the breath; her nerves are shot
her hands fall limp fluid unlike
your putrid fuck—you've made a fuck
made her a fuck in your head because
you can't stand
losing grip—the choking one around her neck
and the suffocating around her heart:
the blood rush is not for you—the gush
is for humility, humanity,
paradise swiped by the clutches
of sickly torment: do you notice
how she says nothing? do you see the look of none
in her eyes? can you see her personhood poured out
with blood and tears?
your bones rattle as chains—your skin scrapes
as jagged rocks on a booming shore.
her skin soft, your muscles hard
her moment dead, she left weeping bitterly,

listen; know; hear;

what will she tell her son?
how will she warn her daughter?
how much of her feeling is lost?
it replays: a spotlight, an empty stage
two in—one out; one acting dead
but so much alive
that moment: alive
your lips, groaning those words
now so seemingly dead

when she hears those words
that you grunted as you kissed her clammy lips:

i love you


a song—shoegaze—key of F

if there were something up my sleeve
would you want to see it?
would you like some guarantee
to know that this is what i commit?

a cannibal, unlovable,
i am an animal

the naked truth that you can't see
is wrapped up in smiles
i'm not different—don't tell me
that it's unreal, it's not denial

i'm cynical, tyrannical,
i am an animal

unmovable, celestial,
i am an animal
a cannibal, unlovable,
i am an animal

maple tree—

maple tree—
my steeple, each leaf a bell
rattling tones into the air—

i kneel before your trunk
kiss your roots
bite them gently and dip my tongue
into the leaking wounds to drink
the mirky holy water

maple tree your bark
is the Easter robe;
every groove i follow with my finger
says Hallelujah;
it gets caught under
my nails and i weep
from beauty

maple tree the ground beneath you
is my nativity scene:
Christ is the patch of dandelions,
the Magi the worms coming to bury themselves
below the stalks

maple tree you are my little church

The Diminuendo on a Soap Opera

to break (not so much) to compliment
a work, a sign coming down from the rafters
to jullianne the slice of life:
a Fisher Price keyboard
replaces the piano—the history known
of history dooms us to Europe

it is salt—it is canola oil
surreal is a wind-up monkey
clanging and banging:
it's a cup of coffee to
wake up the eyes—
to jumpstart the heartbeat

a woman, a man
and baby makes too many masks
that build a dimensional wall—
a TV screen dead, white,
fuzzy and belittled
with a big bowl of popcorn

dialect stabilizes, emotion rectifies
but rhythms shake and shake
while melodies lull—
echos mash up sentiment,
deludes them through two thousand eyes
tapers them in ears


a song—shoegaze—key of D

oh, diamonds fall away
and nothing can protect them
from falling on a bed of flowers
on her crest
oh, you never heard her say
that she just wants protection
from Saturn rings and hours
forming on your chest

sun-drenched recollection
is hard enough to find
moonlit introspection
with Autumn on your mind

oh, no one makes a day
that no one can remember
and no one makes a night
that makes you fall asleep
oh, remember children's play
in blanketed December
it reminds you of the time
when you were soft and sweet

sun-drenched recollection
is hard enough to find
moonlit introspection
with Autumn on your mind