For the Tulip Who Refuses to Die


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Like the yellow tulip,

who blooms every year

in the pit behind our house,

who was dumped, long ago,

after her blossoms were spent—

yet, she screams, I’m still alive!

every spring, among garbage

and weeds; like that tulip,

you don’t belong here.

Starving Souls

Yesterday’s beauty is rarely enough for today,

like manna from heaven, it rots, decays,

disappears back, which is to say,

we do not know where, but look up, out,

beyond, and do the same again, everyday—

believe me, you are a starving soul,

lost as hell, hungry, but the universe

is a feast, prepared–

even on its worst days, it offers

up a prayer, beckons you to step

into the mystery: step through snow,

through rain, through wind, with arms

held out, eager to horde–

every bite,

every drip,

every mouth full.

My Brother, the Candle


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for my brother, Danny, on his birthday

Have we improvised too much,
lost sight of our true selves, surviving;
the world is a tough audience.
And now I remember,
when you said you wanted to be a candle,
and we laughed until we cried, and cried,
then we’d ask you again,
and again, laugh and cry,
strange, how life, with time, has changed,
and I think it’s worth a try
to be a candle.

What better man to be a light,
than one who brightens,
and who thought being a candle
was possible, and right?

Listening to Bernie’s Chimes


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He’s been dead for four years,

but I have his chimes,

and time, like wind, passes

over their wrought iron curves,

nudging the striker,

and making its voice to sing,

ring and rise up

like message from a grave,

or another sphere,

or a person I loved,

sitting next to me, speaking.


Buy Yourself Flowers


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Never miss an opportunity
to buy yourself flowers.
You’ve been there
from the very first
scared and lonely cry,
and you’ll be there
until the last,
scared and lonely breath.

from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone.

You searched through the years
for the one big love,
a soulmate, the person
who wholly understood,
but that person was always there.

Buy them flowers.
Say, Thank you. Thank you,
and, while you’re at it,
beg forgiveness,
for the moments
you were unkind–
the voice that said, no,
the voice that said, not enough,
the voice that, come to find out,
was always wrong.

*This poem is dedicated to the roses I purchased at Walmart during a long, cold February, and who inspired several poems.

I could snuggle
between your fleshy petals,
stretch my whole body
into the many folds of your mystery.
The world would be a better place
if your breasts were its universe,
your perfume, its stars and gods.

The quote “No, from the time when one is sick to death, One is alone, and he dies more alone,” is from Robert Frost’s, Home Burial.

The Day After A Fight


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Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right

I feel your love on my skin, like the sun
after days without sun,
the feel of its heat on my face,
the brightness in my closed eyelids
when I lift my head to absorb,
thank, and worship it for coming back,
lighting up the snow’s fine crystal layers,
melting the icicles on the front eve.
On days like this, I can almost forgive
winter, how it took away our joy,
shortened our few, precious days,
slowed us down, almost killed us,
but we survived for this reward:
radiant skin brushing radiant skin,
bodies ablaze, awash of flame.

Words, Like Bullets


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Today, and even yesterday,
I felt your words like bullets,
how such small objects
can weigh so much in the hand:
their heft, their steely shimmer,
the protrusion from their case.

One, two, three, four, five,
they slip into their holes;
spin the cylinder, 
click it back
into its resting place;
the chamber is full.

Even I had to admire the calm
of your aim: no shake of hands,
nor dramatic pulling back
of the stiff hammer,
just a smooth squeeze
of a trigger wanting to be squeezed,
an exemplary mastery,
and suppression,
of the residual kick.

Examine the target:
how your words hit their mark,
all too well, all too well,
and as small as those bullets,
admire their rip.



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If I offered you a placebo,
would you take it and believe
in yourself, and finally trust
that what you have to write,
is what needs to be read?
You see failures like supreme
rulings, their many judgments
as self-imposed gag orders,
but there’s a pill for that;
it’s sweet, and round,
and goes down easy.


You can open your eyes now,
and when I snap my fingers
you will not remember any of this,
but you will be as the raven
who flies against fog and snow,
the black outline of her body
hurtling toward the need:
truth, authenticity, love


I anoint your head with holy oil
from an olive tree that grows
in Jerusalem, whose roots
extend thousands of feet
beneath the ground,
into hidden aquifers,
tears and blood
of your ancestors:
their unanswered prayers,
their cries from dark nights,
their suffering,
their death.


The Three of Swords;
I see you have suffered,
but it’s time to face what rose
from the ashes.
Everything you said you hated,
what he did to you,
the lies, the infidelity,
the leaving.
Do you see it there,
in the tower?
That’s you,
tearing it down.


So many lines, intersecting other lines,
your life is complicated, intertwined,
your heart, easily broken.
Look at your love line,
how it curves up here,
toward contentment,
then here, toward turmoil.
Your head line, see how long–
all the way to your pinky,
tells of much consideration,
your life line, such caution,
what you’d expect from a palm
of fire, and of earth:
a hand of many deaths,
a hand of many births.


I see your future–
Ah, it is clear;
here is sadness,
and here is celebration,
here is hurt and confusion,
and here is clarity.
Here, a day of silence,
the whole world muted,
void of color, sound,
and the ground hard,
infertile, stubborn.
Yet, here is a day
so vibrant, your fears
are drowned out
from birdsong,
a chittering breeze,
and flowers so eager,
you can hear their spathes
bursting up toward the sun.

What more can I tell you
that you don’t already know,
but refuse to tell yourself:
you are sun and snow,
joy and sorrow,
selfish and fully poured out,
justified and guilty–
what more can I say 

to make you believe
you are all

of what you’ve been
desperate to become,
to make go away.

Rwanda: Dead Hands

for Evariste, and his family.

I look at my hands, see

they are alive. I look

at the basket,

and see dead hands.

Hands held, posed

for mercy.

Hands held, posed

to survive.

Our enemies are not always

who we are told;

you see, they are the same–

our hands,

these five fingers,

see how they bend,

see how they weave,

the way they sew the future,

the way they brush the cheeks,

of those whom they love.

Memory In Winter


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Winter returned, unbroken,

and I bought azaleas, hydrangeas

and stems of lilies

to stand against white windows.

How like memories,

these flowers in winter:

smiles, laughter, love,

eyes, cheeks, toes, and fingers.

Mama, mama, mama,

I hear them calling,

as I cut their stems.

Flowers for the Dead


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I said magnolias,

you said, peonies,

how you remember her hands

tending them, day after day.

I imagine a grandmother’s hands

reaching into a profusion of blooms,

wrinkled and wise and tender;

it’s a good place

for the mind to wander.

Memorial Day.

You were so young,

and your brothers, one older,

one younger, even than you,

would cut the luscious stems,

and place them in a wagon

alongside empty pickle jars,

mayonnaise and jelly jars.

The cemetery.

You’d sell your bouquets

for fifty cents,

three big blooms to a jar.

What a memory,

and I imagined families

pulling up in lonely cars.

It’s the sixties,

and there are waves of Chevy sedans

with heavy doors,

hoods, stretched out in lines,

like plots.

We sold them all, you said.

And I’m not surprised:

regret in empty hands,

is no small thing,

as they walk toward their loss,

tombstones, which remind them

of loss,

of lack.

And then, the relief

when they can fill those hands

with the heft and smooth skin

of a glass jar filled with water,

and a few fleshy blooms.

To A Wild Mountain Daisy (modern translation)


In honor of Robert Burns Day, I would like to share his poem “To a Wild Mountain Daisy.” (my own translation) A few years ago, I translated it and set it to music.  Here are the chords: C#, E, F#, C#. Chorus: C#, E, C#, E, C#, E, C#, E, F#

To A Wild Mountain Daisy

Modest flower,
This is the evil hour;
I must crush your slender stem,
Among the stour.

There is a sweet, sweet song,
Bending among the wheat;
With feathery breast,
He flies to meet the purpling east.



Soft beneath the stone it rises,
Crushed beneath the clod.
I can find no power to save you,
Still, you arise–
As softly as a feather,
As tender as a song.


Cold blew the bitter north,
Still you came forth;
Barely rose amid the storm,
Such a tender form.

The garden flowers yield,
You have only woods to shield;
Beneath the dirt and stone,
You rise alone.
You rise alone.
You rise alone.



Now, drink some scotch and eat some haggis!  Cheers, ye tender flowers!

KonMari Our Lives


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We are all, Tidying Up, materialists,

unabashed hoarders, newly abashed,

dwarfed by piles of clothes

we couldn’t sell for fifty cents

from our garages or yards,

yet clinging to them all, and cramming

them into closets and drawers,

because we might get skinny, or fat,

or finally be invited to a party.

Keep what brings you joy, she says,

but we can’t recognize that spark.

What is joy? What is joy?

And, where do we go

to find joy again?

Still Part of this Loud, Hurting World


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Beasts, bigots, build the wall:

the sound of lives

beating like a drum

in our face, a chant,

a cheer we hear

thousands of miles away.

Yet, you sing me a song louder

than the thunder of hate,

breath of bird and caress,

snow sound, breaking of twig,

and I must confess

I need to feel as fresh

as the five inches of snow

we nearly left the world to last night

when the light turned green,

but she couldn’t stop her car

from sliding. The beauty of brake lights

glowing off an infinity of snowflakes,

all seen through a fog-window.

And the sound of twisted metal,

sirens, the spark in my soul

when I realized

I’m still alive,

and still part of this loud,

hurting world.

The dead don’t know anything.

But I know

I walked away from the dead

to the sound of your poems,

songs written from the cries

of your heart,

siren calls begging us all

to look the other way,

for a moment,

look, look, look the other way.