Sleep Works 2003

Works in progress, 2003

 Page Poem Index and Five Star Rating
Perhaps *****
Tango Lesson **
Altered State: Sleeping With the Machine ***
Astronomy *****
In Tandem ****
Exoconscious ***
Dog Show ***
Tectonic Shift ****
Memory Offload ****
Lore and Lies **
Goldfish as Friends ****
The Tree, the Face, the Petals ***** (Poem for two voices)
The Tree, the Face, the Petals (long version) ***** (Poem for four voices)
Distracted ****
The Fruit of Orange County ****
The Twelve Percent Rule **
Escalation Rising ***
Leon Stuart *
Pedestrian Thinking *
Still Burning Dimly ***
The Dance ****
Spin. The earth does not rotate around the sun *
Irrigation in the Rain *
The Dog That Did Not Bark in the Night *
Voyage ****
Song: Sweet Water and Rain ****
Ethnic **
The Pope of Sweetwater **
Sheila Behind the Bar Dancing ****
Tired Assassination ***
The Dark Side of the Moon ****
The Dark Side of the Moon **** (Version 2)
July at Pt. Reyes **
Acoustic Staging **
New York Times August 14, 2003 ***
The Tree, the Face, the Petals *****  (Two stage version)
Aphrodite Diet *****  
Helix Serving ***
Coke Can of Destruction **
Turn the Page Again ****
The Magnificent Seven *
Love Letter ***
Lament Transformed ****
Umbrella **
Shot Half Fired ****

 Perhaps *****
Perhaps it was the sunlight
Not her at all

Perhaps it was the ocean
Not her shock of hair
Long and proud
Like horse's mane
Brilliant in the sun

Perhaps it was the view
Across the bay
As I came upon her
On the corner
Unsure of our meeting's destination

Perhaps it was the gentle wind
Not the softness in her voice
The intelligence in her eyes
Past pain from loved betrayed
That made me hear and see
And balance recovered

Perhaps it was the picture
Written in my memory
As if chords were struck
Tones lingering in my head
When later as I strolled away
A kiss and smile and dance
Too unfamiliar
To my face and walk
Lit up my day

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 Tango Lesson **
So finally we danced
She shyly had revealed
That dancing was her passion
Actually not so shyly

At first, I took refuge
In the one dance
I do with confidence
Where footwork comes
And my hands can talk
Leading gently
As we twirl and spin
And learn to listen

She salsa'd
Showing rhythm
The depth of past dance floors
Energy and grace
I struggled to recall the footwork
Buried somewhere deep

Then the Argentinians set up
And rhythmic
Mastering the floor
Struggling with clumsy English
To teach their grace

Partners came and partners went
I verged on memory
And skill
Missing the past fluency
Of other dance floors
But hopeful

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Altered State: Sleeping With the Machine ***
The headline:
I have not slept well for five long years.
…and no sleep kills.

The symptom:
Crabby women
Deprived of sleep
The sawing of logs all night
Sound that could be heard across the house

The man:
Deep dark bags support his eyes
A sense that life's a dream
A night heart run at red line speed
And growing appetite for caffeine

The measurement:
Sleep in 20 second bursts
I choke and woke
And slept again
Blankets awry
Pillows piled around
Clothing helixing around my legs

The machine:
With smartcard
Six foot tube, and
Nasal plugs a la Dune
To help
A blue-eyed Freman wandering a nightmare desert
With sleep-deprived hallucinations of
Giant worms
Great galactic plots
And death defying drug trades
Lunatic visionaries
Religious zealots
Paranoid plottings of tragedy
And assassinations;

I am awake
Glorying in the sensation of
Every body muscle strand at peace;
Eyes wide
To the morning.
I will walk and drive, run and skate
In my new state.

I exhale slowly…

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 Astronomy *****
I take great pride
In having discovered the graceful comet
That came to rest
In North America
Painting the ground with traces of rare metallic earths
Bringing DNA from afar

And while it always sad
To see a species go:
Dinosaurus batchelorus
Had his ecological shortfalls:
Failure to reproduce quickly;
Reluctance to brew coffee via filters
Before pumping his body full;
A tendency to wear ill-matching Hawaiian shirts;
Forgetting to sleep.

A new species arises
In the fall-out of clouded skies
And extended winter
Warmer blooded
Lolling at the side of the soft Pacific
Staring curiously north
At the receding icecaps
Eager for the future
And the plants to grow
New mammals in the pool

Dedicated to Greg and Grace

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 In Tandem ****
Like a grown-up
Her right hand placed upon her seat
Her left upon the handlebars
She walked the backend of the almost tandem bicycle
Across at the light
Behind her mother
Seemingly unaware
That she was the tail on the dog
And very serious

Behind the bus
Where father waited
On his single bike
Mother and child stopped
The small one climbed high
Up to her seat
And perched
A little precariously
But balanced
Newly skilled
In this transport game

And off they rode
Leaving me at the light
From my bad mood
Into sudden delight
At child

Off I drove
Into my setting sun
Low in my winter horizon

I drove
To my home
With memory
I will reuse
To reclaim the climb
And clarity of Mt. Mansfield's peak
One long ago summer day with you all at my side and in my heart.

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 Exoconscious ***
Exoconscious lies exposed
Upon the page
For all to see
Including me
Surprised at what I write
And post

My log says
Not many visit
Except those trolling
Drug poems
Humorous works
Sumo wrestlers
And failed products
Misdirected by engines
Weak with understanding

My exoconscious
Carefully edited
To prevent betrayal
Like Smiley's wife
I wonder about
The lens they view
What do they see?
Or do they just drive by
Link to link
Never finding what they seek
Always entertained?

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 Dog Show ***
Tired dogs lay everywhere
Like cushions on the benches
Too exhausted to care
Their breeders slumbering between them

The small slept in cages
And the fortunate few
Mainly those large as horses
Were led outside in pairs
To mark some well deposited territory

And every breeder
His or her breed
So smart
There seemed no dumb dogs
At this convention

`Bred for birds'
`Bred as an all-round dog.'
`Bred for pulling fishnets' with curious shaved behinds
Few claimed to bring down bulls or wolves or bears
Though one or two did joke about eating babies
Held in their arms
Which is not so funny
As it has happened

My companion was committed
To Rottweilers
They could do no wrong.
But even I
With uncertain life
Was tempted by Wirehaired Vizslas
Long haired Collies.
Whippets and Wirehaired Pointing Griffons
The strange and sensitive Hairless Chinese Crested dog
Like a tiny flying horse

And when you shop
Guides tell you what you'll get
Good with children
Bad with cats
So friendly, it would go  home with the burglar
Willful and stubborn
Prone to hip disorders and deafness
Average shedding
Watch for wheezing
Will roll in anything you detest
Friendly and loyal
A good watch dog in spite of its small size
A history of genetic forecasts
I suppose my species will be next...

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 Tectonic Shift ****
There had been warning signs
Loud noises and vibration
I choked and choked and choked

Delicate sensors
Were applied
A tube inserted
Infrared camera monitored movement
Statistics were gathered

And then the interruption
Too little air
More pumped in
To keep the passage open
Saving me from suffocation in the dark

And in the aftermath
A sense of freedom
Of weight removed
Eyes uncloaked
The world appreciated afresh
And light, glorious light

Food became unimportant
Alcohol humdrum
My humor skyrocketed upwards
Electricity ran up and down my spine
Refreshed, alive, aware, awake,
After the shift of the tectonic plate
And my salvation

Related picture

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 Memory Offload ****
There will come a day
When my extra-memory
Stored aboard the box in front of me
Will go down for eternity
And you will lose a part of me.

There will come a day
When change occurs
Memories will disappear
And backups fail
Then I will come to you for aid
Seeking your long term memory

There will come another day
I'll look for you
And all you mean to me
But you will have gone away
Along with your recall of everything
We've shared
And marked in memory

There will come a time
When all that is left of me
Is this immobile box
These aging disks
But there will be
Copied files in other localities
And they will not be
You or me
Just a curious immortality
Buried in the immensity
Of other disks and memory
In mere machinery.

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Lore and Lies **

My sister now has children.
And I am jealous
For I must watch them grow
From far away
By phone and mail
The odd CD and video

Amazing to observe
How a child
Can name a dog or cat
Or dinosaur
However it is drawn
Whatever the variety
A wild and programmed skill
From what had been a lump of protoplasm
Barely able to suck and squeak
Cry and poop
And grasp my little finger

There is lore
And there are lies
That teach a child
About the world
The rules of thumb
The memes that change
A group

Foreigners bad
Color wrong
Our religion right
Speak but do not do
How to handle health
The rules of love and lust
Mechanics of greed and sacrifice
Your role; my role

There is lore
And there are lies
And there are those
Who sit upon their pedestal
And lie upon TV
While poets reveal the lore
Pursuing freedom to dispute and classify.

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Goldfish as Friends ****
The Hotel Monaco
San Francisco
Is proud to proclaim
Its 201 guest rooms
32 suites
Some with a two person spa-tub.

Complimentary goldfish are available
For company
On request

I suppose
The room CD player
Will permit romantic and raucous
Swimming and partying music
And the room voice mail
Allows you not to take a call
While frolicking with fish

I find it difficult to imagine
Taking along my fish
To the complimentary
Evening wine reception
And wonder whether
They would let my new found friend
Into the hotel pool.

All in all
I am very sure I would have regrets
About the hotel steam room
Unless I were Cantonese

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 The Tree, the Face, the Petals ***** (Poem for three voices)
I am an eldest child
The petals on the plum tree have come so soon this year
Her face appeared

And have gone where siblings have yet to go
Small pink petals on the walk beside the pool
She turned to me

My history writ in scars visible
Pink petals, oval, flying in the wind
Launching a thousand thoughts and ships

And invisible, my history checked with ups and downs
Each petal flawless translucent to the sun
She glanced at me and glanced again

I caught her glance marveled at her symmetry, long dark hair
In evening sun, the petals glorify the day
I looked again. She turned away.

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 The Tree, the Face, the Petals (long version) *****
(Poem for four voices)

Man: I am an eldest child
Woman: The petals on the plum tree have come so soon this year
Boy: Her face appeared

Man: And have gone where siblings have yet to go
Woman: Small pink petals on the walk beside the pool
Boy: She turned to me

Man: My history writ in scars visible
Woman: Pink petals, oval, flying in the wind
Boy: Launching a thousand thoughts and ships

Man: Invisible, my history checked with ups and downs
Woman: Each petal flawless translucent to the sun
Boy: She glanced at me and glanced again

Man and Boy: I caught her glance marveled at her symmetry, long dark hair
Woman: In morning sun, the petals glorify the day
Man and Boy: I looked again. She turned away.

Woman: I am a youngest child
Man: The petals on the plum tree have come so soon this year
Girl: His face appeared

Woman: And have not yet gone where siblings go
Man: Small pink petals on the walk beside the pool
Girl: He turned to me

Woman: His history writ in scars visible
Man: Pink petals, oval, flying in the wind
Girl: Launching a thousand thoughts and ships

Woman: Invisible, my future may have ups and downs
Man: Each petal flawless translucent to the sun
Girl: He glanced at me and glanced again

Woman and Girl: I caught his glance marveled at his grace, his calm
Man: In noonday sun, the petals glorify the day
Woman and Girl: I looked again. He turned away.

Man and Woman: I am a child
Boy and Girl: The petals on the plum tree are new this year
Man and Woman: Spring brings petals. The tree will flower again.

Man and Woman: We have not yet gone where we will go
Boy and Girl: Small pink petals on the walk beside the pool
Man and Woman: Love turned to me

Man and Woman: Love leaves history, making scars visible and joined
Boy and Girl: Pink petals, oval, flying in the wind
Man and Woman: Launches a thousand thoughts and pleasures

Man and Woman: Our future invisible will have ups and downs
Boy and Girl: Each petal flawless translucent to the sun
Man and Woman: We looked and looked and looked again

Man and Woman: In morning sun, we touched, we spoke and intertwined
Man and Woman: We spoke. The petals glorify the way.
Boy and Girl: In evening sun, the petals glorify the day
Man and Woman: We looked again. We turned away.

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 Distracted ***
When you think hard
You open the microwave
Instead of the cupboard
Try to brush your teeth
With foot cream
Wander into rooms
Wondering why you went
And names disappear
As if you did not sleep last night.
You wander the unfamiliar landscape
Of your flat.
Metaphors come to mind
To replace what once was there
You hide by
Rising up into the surviving abstraction
But the details of reality
Have disappeared
Unless they arrive with the morning paper
To refill the growing hole in your head
And sadly you know about the hole
Into which you will eventually fall.

I gave you my old machine
Send you e-mails to incite
The fierce fight
That rebuilds the light
You shine on your life
After the departure of your wife.

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 The Fruit of Orange County ****
Orange County is a dangerous place
I thought
Seated in a deep fat armchair
In the lobby bar
Near a piano
With strange and digital box beneath
Revealing histories of past blue figures:

Laughed attractively
Smiles breaking out regularly
Perhaps inspired by seared sashimi
She rose above history's sediment
A wine glass in front of her
Tall as the Empire State building
Filled with oaky Chardonnay
Inventory against closing of the bar.

At home
She, too, faced danger
(the burden and attraction of living in the sun)
From marauding spreading ficus roots.
I understood the temptation of the root
Thinking of her upstairs in my hotel room.

Outside the wind gusted
And elegant palm trees rolled
Back and forth
For three hours.
I sensed
That change was in the wind.

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 The Twelve Percent Rule **
They say that six out of ten Americans are fat
But I have found
That for most,
The Twelve Percent Rule applies.

Now you can air brush;
You can feather;
You can take away the wrinkles;
You can touch up the color.

But for the wide,
The Twelve Percent Rule
Counts the most.
You can slim them down
In just one move
By changing the picture width
Twelve percent is the rule
Because more
Makes them look
Like a Giacometti painting.

"What I see is teeming cohesion, contained dispersal. ... For him, to sculpt is to take the fat off space."
-On Alberto Giacometti's work, Situations Braziller 65
Jean Paul Sartre
taken from Simpson's Contemporary Quotations, Houghton-Mifflin, 1999

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  Escalation Rising ***
It was the week
Before the war
And in the late afternoon
A wind blew in.

The four teenagers
On Court Two
Were unfamiliar,
A little too noisy
To be members
Did not know how to sign in.

Bob spoke low
At net,
“These guys have a bad vibe.”
I thought so too.

But having sought tennis courts as well
I did not mind
Court crashing
Tennis a passion
To be shared
When no one waits
And no one hurt

The etiquette of tennis
More important
In rows of courts
Says “Wait!
Don't run”
Until the point is done.
Let them decide to return
Your straying ball.”

I asked they wait
Not once
But twice.
My concentration
My temperature

But it was the spitting
On the court
That got my goat
Turned on their storm

My words
Raised voices.
They congregated
And Bob in fear
Of their intent
Came over in defence.
Their words were loud
And said in heat
Moves menacing.

And then
Court 3
Tried to intervene
Adding oil to fire
And it looked like
There would be war
A sudden surprising unanticipated escalation
From simple boys
Gone with our indulgence
Gone, like the balls
Destroying pleasure
In simple sport
Adrenaline, testosterone gone wrong

Unbeknown to us
Carol watching overhead
Called in help:
To calm
Our invading horde
And they, suspecting
Retribution and policing
Drove quickly off,
Revealed the lie
The spin and claim
By trying
The locked gate
The one
You cannot leave through.

And we were left with aftermath
Of war
Even one avoided
A sense of sickness
And regret

There are
Large differences
Between the civilized
And those that spit,
The rules of respect
And rules of violence.

Bob and I
Upset and ill at ease
Surprised at how fast
A wind becomes a storm
With temperatures that burn
An easy tennis court
In quiet California.
Played out our match
It was not the same
In chill dark winds
As daylight disappeared.

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 Leon Stuart *
Leon Stuart is dead
But the hole in the moon is a mile wide

Leon Stuart is dead
But the Stuart Event lives on

Leon Stuart is dead
But he was a lucky man

Leon Stuart is dead
But his picture is famous

Leon Stuart is dead
But he was not a flash in the sky

Leon Stuart is dead
But his crater has been found

Leon Stuart's meteor is dead
But the moon has blue streaks not blue cheese

Leon Stuart has long been laid to rest
But the ejecta blanket does not cover him

Leon Stuart is dead
But he will live on with fame.

Leon Stuart was from Tulsa
And my friend, Elizabeth says, they never listen to anyone from her home town.

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 Pedestrian Thinking *

There is no direct route to the store
From where I live.
Oh yes, there is a sidewalk for the first 100 feet
And then you need to cross traffic
Where the road narrows to two lanes
Trying not to get killed
Especially in the rare rain this morning.

The other side
Hardly a sidewalk
Protected by a little concrete lip
At least allows you to see
The cars
Unlike the bike lane on the other side
As you clamber up the hill.

I walked pass
An errant golf ball
Sitting in a pool of water
Refugee from next door,
A hubcap
Spun away
From the expensive cars
My neighborhood prefers
And strange white nylon growths
Like plants
Rising up from cryptic markings
Perhaps laying out the land
For the road widening.

Down the hill
Came a scruffy man
With ugly healing scab
On the bridge of his nose
And slurred words
Looking for a 711.

I asked him how his life was going
And he asked for 30 cents
Sorry to trouble me
I walked him up the hill
Encouraging him to come under
My umbrella
But skittish
He remained outside wobbling in the rain

He decried his presidential vote
His fate
The war
No jobs
Mumbled about machine tools
And personal calipers
Made vague references to a brother

I gave him twenty
Wondering whether I was doing right
Whether he would see today
As beginning a new road
Or slide back down the hill
Pint bottle in hand
But then someone was kind to me
Only yesterday.

I bought my pain killing rub
For a pulled muscle that no longer hurt
And slopped on home
Behind an ancient bow legged woman
Who showed me a strange and muddy route
To my front door.

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 Still Burning Dimly ***
The Shelby Electric Company
Four watt light bulb
At 4550 East Ave., Livermore, California
Designed to provide enough light
For firemen
To light their lanterns.

It still burns as dimly
As at its birth in 1901.

Magazines and newspapers
Proclaim this week
The failure of diplomacy
The result of another bulb
Burning dimly
But sufficient to light fires elsewhere.


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 The Dance ****
Consider crystal
Light divided
Colors of life

Beginnings of endings
Endings of beginnings

What you do not know
What you have forgotten

Where you are
Outside of love

The inner side of love
With no wall or separation

Consider symmetry
Feel your health
Your lack of balance

Upon the thought
Dance upon the light

Until you are young
With light

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 Spin. The earth does not rotate around the sun *
“His client opted out of a jury trial because he worried that his voice would be drowned in a surfeit of prosecution evidence.” NY Times, March 19, 2003

He shot three doctors
He slaughtered a human being
Whose job was saving lives.

He is a man of medieval thinking
Who thinks women's bodies are not their own
To master and decide.

Perhaps he would prefer slavery:
That way
You can tell people what to do;
Kill them if they disagree.

He worried that his voice would be drowned out?
Perhaps he does not understand
The earth does not rotate around this son.

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 Irrigation in the Rain *
When it rains
The drivers go wild
God forbid they should have to deal with snow
Or ice.

Umbrellas are a mystery
And unlike Belgium
In short supply.
It rains.
They run.

The skies drizzled this morning
An alien subtlety in this culture
The sprinklers sprayed anyway
Pretty spouts in the rain.

And further down the street
A man
Washed his car
In the rain.

Strange, these Californians.

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 The Dog That Did Not Bark in the Night *
I was thrown out of paradise
But now I am returning
The trouble is the damn boxes
My idea of hell

The U-Haul boxes
Barely fit in the car
I had to move the seats
Way forward
And discovered the Gouda Cheese
Still wrapped
Under the passenger seat
Sealed and un-refrigerated
These past four weeks

And adjacent
A silver earring
I wonder whose

But no one has asked
The cheese did not ripen
No one barked in the night

Perhaps it was a perfect cheese
From paradise.

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 Voyage ****
She wanted to expose herself
So they sat outside
In dark and drizzle

Not sure she wanted him
Or any other
She told her tale
Blown out to sea
Unable to tack

Looking down
For fifteen hours
Through deep clear water
She wondered
Small and feeble
Of her future
In turquoise beauty.

The four sailors
Would not let her capsize
Their small boat
But towed her board
Indifferent to her exhaustion
A different fish
Than their normal catch

Her life was happy
Two great girls
Friends with her ex
Glamorous career
Yet she sipped her tea
And dipped her toes
Once more
Afraid she might drift out to sea
Finding solace
With sailors
Seeking other fish
Afraid she might capsize their boat.
Or leap screaming
Back into the ocean

He smiled
And held her hand
To test how warm her toes might be
Thinking she could warm his boat
But freezing in her dark.

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 Song: Sweet Water and Rain **** (Version 9)

Going to Sweetwater
Needing the rain.
Wanting the music
Fleeing the pain

Like an onrushing
Oncoming evening train

Cast from the garden
And needing the rain
Abandoned my room
To Sweetwater came

Like an onrushing
Oncoming evening train


Waiting's so slow
For the new to arrive
Finding sweet water
Begin a new life

Needing sweet water
And wanting the rain

My music is soft
And I miss our flame
It warmed our house
Abandoned with blame

Rolling and rocking
So sweet in the rain

Needing sweet water
So sweet in the rain.
Wanting sweet music
So sweet with the flame.

Needing sweet water
So sweet with the flame.
Rolling and rocking
So sweet in the rain.
Rolling and rocking
So sweet with the flame.

Sweetwater is a wonderful bar in Mill Valley, a community, home to many talented writers and musicians, north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, California. It is renowned for the many musicians who have played there both before and after they became famous.

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 Ethnic **
Yesterday, I became an ethnic minority.
Here in Connecticut
At Buckland Hills Mall
Staying at my Country Suites Hotel
With verandah and rocking chairs
Overlooking acres and acres of parking lot

Down the hill at
The Bugaboo Creek Steak House
I realized I was no different than
An Italian eating pizza
An Eastern European eating deli food
A German eating sausage
An Austrian eating wienerschnitzel
The English eating pub food
An Indian eating curry
The French eating snails
An Indonesian eating reijstafel
A Dane having his smorgasbord
For there greeting me was a wooden moose
And inside a dopey looking Mountie
Wooden faced
Painted red
And snow equipment bric-a-brac
Above the roaring fire
In log cabin style
The menu filled with meaningless information
About climbing the Bugaboo Range in Canada
And an annoying taped voice misleading
Guests as if it were a reality show
Or theme park
With a twinge of punning humor
That gave me great pain

And so I ordered salmon a rather Canadian fish
Skipped the Canadian beer
And watched a table of fifteen
Very large
American women
Packing food away
As if bears
Preparing for a long cold winter
Trapped on an Arctic ice flow

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 The Pope of Sweetwater **
The Pope sits
Back against the wall
Strumming along
With his performers

New performers enter
A little before their time
And extend a hand
In greeting
Sitting briefly to socialize

He smiles
Gracious and friendly
Good with people
Secure in the knowledge
If they look good
He looks good

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 Sheila Behind the Bar Dancing ****
The mandolin had curves
Its body
Danced up and down
Alive with joy

Behind the bar
So did Sheila
With a graceful
Bluegrass wiggle

Elegant in black
A flower on her
Single exposed shoulder
By the drinkers
Turned towards the music
Missed her dance
Ignored their drafts

In turn
Ignored their quarters
Left as tips
On the bar

And still she danced.

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 Tired Assassination ***
Strategists write
Clusters of businesses are good
Expertise builds
Competition drives excellence
There's a home court advantage
From the pressure

Hospitals in war zones
Are good with gun injuries
In high pressured emergency rooms
Criminal to be so good

In Mill Valley
Outside the 2AM Club
The road meanders
A kerb appears suddenly
In the middle of my tire
The pressure is off
On getting home before midnight

At the crossing
Tall girls on five inch
Higher than the kerb
Help each other across the road
Fashion victims

I huddle in leather
Waiting for the tow truck
Explaining my predicament
To an unsurprised police woman
Both of us
Sober as judges

At the tire store
Bert tells me
He has come to ask
Are you from Mill Valley?
When he sees wounds
Similar to the ones
Of my front right tire

Mill Valley
Replete with past victims
Of tire assassination
The virtues of good government
In these savage tax cutting times
Of deflating budgets
Education and infrastructure assassination
When self-proclaimed Robin Hoods steal for the rich
And lie to all.

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 The Dark Side of the Moon ****
I saw the new crescent moon
And the rest of the disk
The dark side of the moon
By the light
Of Pacific waters
Completing the circle
Like new knowledge
Slowly coming into view

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 The Dark Side of the Moon **** (Version 2)
You showed me the new crescent moon
And the rest of the disk
The dark side of the moon
By the light
Of the Pacific waters
Completing the circle
Like new knowledge
Slowly coming into view

From the house
We heard
The faint cries of
Your infant daughter
Emerging into your life
New like the moon

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 July at Point Reyes **
Canadian friends are jealous of California weather
I laughed to myself
Blowing in the wind like a sail out of control
Unable to insert my right arm into my gale driven shell

Canadian friends don't like to hear of weather in California
I thought
As I found myself blind
From sunscreen in my eyes
Tearing from the wind
Needing your hand

They envy California blue skies
Little do they know
Of Pt. Reyes
In July
Lost in cloud
Ocean invisible to view

I regretted my summer clothes
Though fondly of leather and down
Stumbled past wind driven tilting pines
Towards a distant promised lighthouse
And a long line of crazy tourists
Shivering in shorts

Far below
The ocean pounded
Fragile flowers
Small against the wind
Thick blood-red lichen
Highlights on rocky cliffs
Emerged from cloud
As we huddled in the gale.

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 Acoustic Staging **
After the League of Extraordinary Gentleman
We window shopped at Draegers
Eying desserts with lust controlled

A Harley roared
Its owner
Fifteen feet away
Struggling to hear
Above the sound
Of high revved motor
Finger in left ear
And cell in right

He walked over
Reduced his throttle
Walked away again
So he could hear
And so could she
At her location

Answering the question
Why he did not turn the ignition key.

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 New York Times August 14, 2003 ***

They have set refrigerated tents up
Outside the morgue in Paris
City of extinguished Lights
Warm weather in the twenty-first.

Ten year olds
Shoot films
Peer review their writing
On the Internet
Childhood in the twenty-first.

Do their best
To bring back the 14th
For women
To the twenty-first

Julie is almost finished
Cooking her way through Julia Child
In her nineties
In the twenty-first

Obscure recall laws
Meant to overturn the power of railroads
Give power to rich and glitz
California in the twenty-first

A decadent chocolate cookie recipe
High in the most popular downloads
Food seduction our sense
In the fatty twenty-first.

Nobel laureates
Decry gifts to the rich
Columnists write of the new poor
Ignored by the aristocracy of the twenty-first

As a child I read sci-fi
Stories of higher planes
Faster than sound
Faster than light
Never anticipating
Concordes dying;
Time would fly
So fast to the twenty-first

So many goods
And yet,
There is still so much good
For open eyes in the twenty-first.

Postscript: later on that day, the electricity went off for 50M people in the north-eastern US and central Canada -- an unexpected irony for the day. For those unfamiliar with California politics, the first recall election of a governor uses legislation originally developed to counter the enormous political power of railroads in California in the 19th century. All seven stories referred to appeared in the NY Times that day.

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 The Tree, the Face, the Petals *****
(Poem for three voices)
(Two stage version)

I am an eldest child
And have gone where siblings have yet to go
My history writ in scars visible
And invisible, my history checked with ups and downs
I caught her glance marveled at her symmetry, long dark hair

The petals on the plum tree have come so soon this year
Small pink petals on the walk beside the pool
Pink petals, oval, flying in the wind
Each petal flawless translucent to the sun
In evening sun, the petals glorify the day

Her face appeared
She turned to me
Launching a thousand thoughts and ships
She glanced at me and glanced again
I looked again. She turned away.

I am an eldest child
The petals on the plum tree have come so soon this year
Her face appeared

And have gone where siblings have yet to go
Small pink petals on the walk beside the pool
She turned to me

My history writ in scars visible
Pink petals, oval, flying in the wind
Launching a thousand thoughts and ships

And invisible, my history checked with ups and downs
Each petal flawless translucent to the sun
She glanced at me and glanced again

I caught her glance marveled at her symmetry, long dark hair
In evening sun, the petals glorify the day
I looked again. She turned away.

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 Aphrodite Diet *****  
A drunken Aphrodite
Dressed in black,
Spaghetti straps
Barely holding up her cleavage
Stumbled up
Wrapped her arms around me
And holding on for support
She loved me
Oh, life is wonderful

I let her go
And down she fell
Half on the pavement
Half on the sidewalk
Oh, so mellow

I picked her up
A boy
Told her to get her arms off
The old guy
Oh, so unsubtle

We offered to pick her up anyway
And put her in the pickup truck
Catching the attention of
Her girl friend
Emerging from the restaurant
Oh, so angry

So my friend and I
Went in for sushi
Talk of his far traveling woman
And the ups and downs of mine
Two new Aphrodites
At the bar
Oh, I do like sushi

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 Helix Serving ***
As you progress
You think you know everything

And then
One of two things happens
You get creamed.
How could I have missed that?
You ask
If very lucky
You discover new delights

The second time
Five years later
With the missing sauce
How could I have been so stupid
My first time at Berkeley in 1973?

And last night
September 9, 2003
Learning a topspin serve.
I did not know
I merely had a slice

So last night
And this morning
I topspinned my way
Through five sets
A half-dozen opponents
A delightful four hours
With silly grin on my face
As balls curved over nets
And opponents hit moon balls
In every direction
But the one intended

A new stroke
Almost like discovering
Helical movement with your lover
For the first time

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 Coke Can of Destruction **

So far
Your hands have not done much
Oh yes
You clasp real well
You have grabbed a swinging toy
Just within reach
But they haven't done much

Until tonight
When the bright blue Safeway can
Emptied of cola
Lay before you
You swung your fists
Like a failing boxer
And knocked something down
You paused
As if thinking
Now what's this?
And when I set you up
Knocked it down again
I imagine you thinking
What fun!
What a great noise!

So I double the tower
Add a second empty can
Carefully pressing down the tab
And you knock down
The aluminum tower
As fast as I can build it
As much fun as any Fischer-Price
A good fifteen minutes of fun
For you
And the two generations watching

You have discovered the cola of destruction
Created your first music
Falling aluminum
Your first act of creation.

Ironically, written on September 11, 2003
For a poem written about September 11, 2001 click here

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 Turn the Page Again ***
You read ahead
When you first saw me
Park my bike
On your side of the tracks
“I will marry that boy
I know”

We read our vows
Graduated with a different book
New page to turn
New sheets
Sheets of paper
Not torn for 23 years
I know

You taught
Children to read
The paths of life
The ways of love
Your gifts
I know

But mountains
Lie between us
When I wish
It were the sea
Rising falling
Gently moving
With each day's sun
And moon
Turning the pages
Of our days
And memories

I wish I were your library
And you would live in me

I wish I were your book
That you would turn my pages
Write new lines
Your chapbook

I don't know much
Nor read as much as you
But what I know
Is what you first knew
And what we could become
A sequel
Better than the first
Received to rave reviews

Written for Kent and Fran Black

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 The Magnificent Seven *
Like rivers reaching the sea
A confluence
Of friends
And personal history
With Thai food
How Clement
American, British, Canadian, Korean
Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma
In California

Two college roommates
A business school classmate
A college classmate
Two dear women
With whom I have history

Let me describe you all another way
Three tennis players
Two singers
Two guitarists
A pianist, painter and bassoon player
At least four runners
Several rollerbladers
Definitely skiers
Four entrepreneurs
A real estate tycoon
A doctor and researcher
Two consultants
A nurse
Two madcap walkers
Two writers
A tango dancer
Parents of four
Two girls
Two boys
Four divorces
One widow
Many gardeners
At least two saints
Six I treasure as friends
One blind date

Later on
We'll take the two singers
To listen to jazz
Perhaps they will get up and riff
Near the Boulevard
Dancing around the melody of the song
As we dance around the themes
And intersections of our lives
Work and play

Whether this is the high tide
Of my life
Or where reconstruction begins
What a moment this is
What magic to be aware
Of this or any moment!

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 Love Letter ***

Mouths exploring
Minds fusing

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 Lament Transformed (draft 2) ***
To be disappointed
By the wind

To regret the rain
Even if you fall and slip

Pick your body up
Stand strong
Against the storm
Unfurl your sail
Catch the new wind
A new harbor bound

Ships in havens
Can splinter here
Against the shore
Moored by jagged rocks
Let's build upon the land
Away from sand and storms
Relishing rain and howl
In our warmth
Looking back at history's paths
To our new peak and view

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 Umbrella **
I like to joke
My umbrella sleeps a family of six
But in the rain
The ex-wife walked
On its left
Outside its reach
The ex-husband
On the right
And I walked in the middle
Hoping for more rain
To justify my carrying
And carelessly inviting them to lunch

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 Shot Half Fired **
My peck
On her right cheek
Done in the French style
Was incomplete
No chance for completion on the left

Like a hurt animal
She shied away
Fearing more pain
Forced a smile

Like a wounded deer
She poured out her blood
Her man served her papers
Just last week

Her future had disappeared
She had bought a massage chair
To replace him,
The scrounging and saving
For now
Their children would
Go to state college

Catching herself
She remembered
I was there
Asking perfunctorily
Who I might be
But not yet able to hear
Deep in the abyss
Into which she had been cast

She wore brown suede
That matched the colors of her hair
Sat there
Like a doe
Caught in life's headlights
And before I could complete my quiet sentence
She ran from hers

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