Archive for September, 2008


September 25, 2008

Massachusetts relatives fill the doorframe
Circa 1900, a party portrait,
Gothic pose with acetate jack-o-lanterns,
Glowering, grinning

Mother’s side, prefiguring Charles Addams,
Stiff New England archetypes, suits and blouses
Black and white, the period’s dire response to
Camera lenses

Cut with Peter Lorry and Lizzie Borden
Mug shots, hands at sepia parlor margins
Twist and fold, theatrical orchid gestures
Beckon the living

Forth from sheets of chemical bath and fixture
Toward a whelping century’s dog eared border,
Through this doorway, into the living quarters
Buried, emerging

Women, eyes exhumed in a cask of starlight,
Billow wide and dominate, role reversal
Sets their haircut manikin partners servile,
Off in the shadows,

Center left and Indian style, a single
Child is sitting, staring aside, I know this
Ancient boy in obstinate tweed and necktie,
Grandfathered silver.


On a Prophetic Photo in the Times

September 22, 2008

As president, you come before the brace
of Doric columns with your chastened frown,
that heavy lip of schoolboy in disgrace.
Advisors to your left and right look down
in attitudes of reverence, even prayer.
But hands in this catastrophe belie
a cynicism on the public stair,
the smallness of your game beneath the sky.
A final act. Can you say “denouement”,
George W, without a Texas sneer?
Perhaps there is an overarching law,
unbreakable, in this your final year
of getting over. Leave it to the French.
They have a word for Bush Before the Bench.

New Order of the Ages

September 15, 2008

I: Annuit Cœptis

Could any but the brutal eye attest
to destiny in the Masonic line
that angles on Four Corners® in the West?
What intellect rejoiced in this design?
What architect aligned the airy space
beneath the cosmic oculus that lights
the Sphinx Experiment? Who set the base
against the flood? Which element ignites
this pyramid of endless civil war?
The day shall pit majorities against
a skewed perception massed at superstore
or bussed to stadium, the future fenced
on channels that provision the enslaved.
What visionary rising can be saved?

II: American Mouse Cartoons

And Philadelphia’s fraternal pranks
can only go so far in serenade
of glass harmonica on plywood planks
that Steamboat calls Democracy. He played
the cops against each other Wednesday night
as Walter wandered shirtless to the war
a-callin’, “Captain!” No one came to light
the bar at intermission.

But before
we knuckle in the mustard of our grief,
remember that we bought a mouse with zip
for personality to pump belief
into the engines of our voided ship,
where in the hold, subversive, lurks the prick
whose sticklike fingers hold the founders’ brick.

III: Christ in the Suburbs

Creator, author of the fool’s canard
of crossing to creation, captured where
economies of scale engage–regard
the brutal neighbors, God, your sullen heirs!
Executors of your divinity
declared an endless war. But could they find
the stone we perched upon your tomb, or see
the logic of your wrathful, errant mind?
Erase this math where two and two come four,
unwind our hearts so we might disengage
from their domain and disinherit war.
Exempt us from this Messianic age.
For, God, their vision and its spawn are one–
the neighbor’s kid, his Hummer, and the gun.


September 12, 2008

I lean into my song of self reproach,
each verse assigned its spread of deadly sins.
I spew the reveries of my commute
and chant a checklist of the ersatz pins
I stick in mental voodoo dolls. I shoot
the messenger, in fact, prepared to broach

the subject of adultery (that’s asked
and answered, though—a minor dalliance
some ten years back). Of course I call myself
endearing names like “Selfish” as I dance
and sing and reach out for an off-the-shelf
recrimination, mimicking unmasked,

untouchable behind another gauze
of calculated cuts and on-the-spot
analyses. A faux apology,
if angled right, might score a little jot
on yellow legal pad. Psychology
as music hall. Satori to applause.

Kids on Bikes

September 9, 2008

(On a painting by David Park)

Unreachable. Beyond the glancing moment
when titanium scrapes handlebars
and pinwheels fly against the white cement,
we hear the echoed call. We look for cars

and find the summer’s end, and summer’s race.
A scramble at the rail that bars abstraction
from a track of ochre clay. A face
and hands, a formal portrait in refraction

caught in an aside. A reverie.
One instant in the long burn of the sun
recalled to orchestrate the harmony
of twilight on an archetype of fun.

An image we regard as an ideal.
A flashpoint in the spinning of the wheel.

Reading Room NYPL

September 8, 2008

Oil on Canvas, 36″ x 48″

Election Cycle

September 7, 2008

I promised that I wouldn’t watch the news
or call the Essex County Democrats
to volunteer. No rerun of ‘04
for me, I said. I can’t afford to lose
the sleep or hours Googling the stats
on Florida. No going door to door

with all those prima donnas from Montclair;
no bus to Pennsylvania in the morning.
My joke is that I’ve “dropped from public life,”
I tell my friends that I “ain’t goin’ there
this time around.” I’ll do without the “mourning
after.” Hell, I’ll spend time with the wife

and kids instead. I’ll brace for Halloween
and build my bunker for the holidays.
I’ll be prepared for all the chintzy crap
that buries and depresses me. I’ve seen
what happens when my attitude decays
before the shopping season sets its trap.

Infamous Moments in Pick-up Football #137

September 2, 2008

He lithely dodged a crusty ten year old
and spun on air—not bad for forty-two.
He found the end-zone clear and hit it cold
and harder than an inkpen jail tattoo.

The cheater blitzed on four Mi’ssippies, pal–
you saw the dance, that sand and bully kick
come up the gut, destroying the morale
of rookie linemen slippery and quick.

You saw him spike the ball he should have eaten
and how he wouldn’t give the kid a break.
Consider all the ways he might be beaten—
you saw the way he telegraphs the fake.

That’s business, pal. As brutal as it gets.
On Avon beach, they’re calling in the bets.