Here’s a new poem that was published this month in Hospital Drive, the literary and humanities journal of the Virginia School of Medicine.


The hard light of day goes soft and long
as the sun goes from Wichita, west
below the curve of the earth, and other
lights, few and tentative at first, not stars
but starlike, appear amongst the trees
of the shelter belt. And as the first true stars
come out the lights, the living lights, become bolder,
venturing out onto the verge of prairie
fronting the highway, and others appear,
as if coalescing from the thick air.

It’s been many years since I last saw these brave
luminous lovers that filled summer evenings, years since I left
the soft breathing hills of Pennsylvania for the sun-washed bones
and peaks of Colorado.

They stake everything on this night, these small creatures,
and my heart goes out to them, already sensing the stirring of the bats,
swift and deadly amongst the trees. I think our world is no less fragile
than theirs, and we are just as foolish as they to venture forth
into the red reach of life.

But if we choose not this boldness, never to venture forth,
but to remain always hidden, have we lived at all?
Come with me. I want to show you this night, force your door,
kick out the jams, throw open all the windows and lead you out
into this June field so that you will see all of this brave dance,
this so short, impossible beautiful life.


A Few Short Poems

Here a few short chemo poems. So many cancer poems are on the grim side, so I thought I’d send out some on the lighter side of cancer.

A Few Thoughts At 2AM While High on Steroids
The sacred and the profane

When I go to church I think of sex.
Making love, I cry out to God.

I hope He has a sense of humor.

A few good things about having cancer:

I’ve stopped worrying if I’ll have enough money for my old age

I no longer worry about losing my mind to Alzheimer’s

I have an excuse for afternoon naps

I go in the hospital and lose 20 pounds. Later,
when my appetite comes back, I can eat like a horse without any guilt.

The difference between being young and being old

At 25 I’d think nothing of hitchhiking halfway across the country with just a toothbrush and bedroll.

At 62 it takes half a day to pack for a trip across the state and the car is full.

The drugs do strange things to your brain,
make you fuzzy, foggy and plain.
You might find yourself
brushing your teeth
with the toothbrush reserved
for the dog.

Before the chemo drugs
kicked in, I complained
that the portions
from the hospital’s food service
were too small.
Now, after 30 hours
on the IV drip,
I wonder why,
when I order so little,
they send so much.

After 96 straight hours of chemo
no appetite
soon I’ll be nothing
but a pile of bones
in jeans and a jersey,
a few bits of leathery skin and noxious gases.
One morning a week
I take dexamethasone,
a steroid that keeps me flying
high all day, a roaring lion.

Wide awake at 2 AM
I mop the floors.

I’m an optimist.
Things are never so bad
that they can’t get worse.
So stop complaining
and enjoy the moment.


Turtle Island Quarterly

There is a new online journal of poetry and prose that has just come out — Turtle Island Quarterly.
It’s very well done with quality work and is well worth reading. The editor is Jared Smith, who many of you know or know of his work. The second issue will open for submissions in early Novemeber. It is not limited to a particular style, but seeks “quality work that deepens our connection to the natural world.”, though this does not mean that it is limited to what we would call “nature poems”, but is far broader than that. A poem of mine is included and it certainly does not fit the mold of a traditional nature poem, though the natural world is very much a part of it.

I hope you enjoy it,


After Seeing Buddy Guy Play at Red Rocks on the Night of the Full Moon

Here’s a poem [an actual sonnet] I wrote after hearing Buddy Guy, one of the greatest of blues guitarists, play at Red Rocks amphitheater, an amazing outdoor venue west of Denver.

Buddy Guy Plays Red Rocks

Fire flashes from the strings as he conjures
the shade of Hendrix, and Little Wing fills the stone
bowl of Red Rocks as the moon rises, full and rust,
into the earth’s dark shadow, and with it a seed
takes root and swells within me as if to burst the walls of my chest,
too small to hold such love and wonder, as the music bathes
this cathedral of stone and stars.
I pray there never comes a time when the rising of the full moon

over the wings of the curving earth, and the blues torn
with the full strength of a man’s or woman’s longing
soul from throat and hand no longer move me,
pray that the spring of song will flow as long as blood
will run, and when one no more,
then no more the other.


Three Fine Poets

I had the honor of reading last Thursday with three very fine poets at Brainfood Books in Longmont, Colorado: Larry Gladeview, John Dorsey, and Jerry Smaldone. These aren’t names you’re going to find in academic journals. They all toil outside the academy and as result their poetry is honest, real, and very often raw. The academicians would probably call their poetry naive and lacking in sufficient depth to be worthy of their attention, which is what Pound, Eliot, and many critics to this day say of Whitman who, to my mind, is one of the greatest American poets of any age. Now that I’ve made my feelings known and laid myself bare to charges of gross envy, simple-mindedness, naivity, and anti-intellectualism, let me just say that you can’t go wrong if you seek out their books. Or seek them out in person if any of them are doing a reading at a venue near you. You can find their books at Brainfood Books [332 Main St. Suite B1, Longmont, CO] and at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore [13th & Pennsylvania Boulder, CO] (on The Hill). I don’t know where you’ll find the flesh and blood poets at any particular time. Probably at their day jobs, their desks, backyards, alleys of Denver or Toledo, or their favorite bars.

Jerry Smaldone’s latest is All Flesh Shall See It Together [Turkey Buzzard Press, 2009]. He’s due for another soon and I, for one, can’t wait.

Larry Gladeview’s latest two are a chapbook, Lowlifes, Fast Times & Occasionaly Love [erbacce-press, 2012] and Just Ignore the Beer Stains [PigeonBike Press, 2011].

John Dorsey’s latest is Tombstone Factory [Epic Rites Press, 2013.


On Reading Pablo Neruda

This is not a new poem, but one that I think speaks well to a certain late night feeling of loneliness and introspection and one I could well have written very recently.

On Reading Pablo Neruda

Late at night, rain streaks the window,
wet streets glisten in the headlights of passing cars.

The house is silent except for your breathing.

You’ve been reading Neruda and are filled
with the ocean and the drowned, uplifting arm,
the wind trading blows with the rain.

The darkness is palpable and boundless,
a companion offering the gift of solitude
and the certainty of loss.

Dear reader, stop wherever you are, whatever
you are doing and imagine
a cold night, late autumn —
You are sleepless, alone
in a quiet house with soft rain falling.
You gaze out the window into centuries
of night and storm.

Maybe the voice of someone lost to you years ago
whispers at your side,
maybe, within your chest, a flight of loons,
the beating of your own dead father’s heart.


A Short New Poem

Here’s a short little poem I wrote the other day, after my latest consultation with my doc.

At the Driver’s License Bureau

Yesterday the doctor said
we’ve beat you up pretty bad,
but if we stop treatment now
you have three months.
The transplants are risky
and it’s going to be hard on you,
very hard, but its your only chance.
Certain death in a few months
or one chance in three of a cure
if you survive the procedures.

Today, I sit amongst young men
with nose rings, gangly teenage girls
and young Hispanic couples,
waiting to renew my driver’s license
for another five years.


Upcoming Performances

The Free Radical Railroad will be performing at Hearthfire Books in Evergreen, CO on Friday, March 8 at 7PM The FRR is a poetry and music group consisting of Phil Woods, James Taylor III, Jim Sheckells and Michael Adams. There will also be an open mic as part of the evening.

I will be the featured reader at the Lafayette Public Library monthly poetry series on Tuesday, March 12 from 7-8 PM. I look forward to seeing you local poets and lovers of poetry at the library a week from this Tuesday.


On the Evening of the Winter Solstice

On the Evening of the Winter Solstice

When the sun sets
in December far
to the south, when the last light
of that solsticial day strikes
the rising flanks of the mountain, something
climbs out of my body and begins
to ascend the cold sky, shedding
its weight of years
and crippled birds,
to an infinity
of blazing suns.

It is on that day that I know
the inevitability
of dissolution,
that I know the worm and bacteria
are kings of far more
than the soil, and that the air
I breath was breathed
by Christ, Buddha, Judas,
and all the uncounted legions of the dead.

It is then that I know before
long the iron of my blood
will unclench itself
from my blood to become
a meadowlark, a mole, a fish,
a rusting nail, that the long
bones of my body will wash
to the sea to become
Nautilus and coral reef,
and my breath become the sharp wind
of mountain ridges,
the sighing breath of trees.

What is a man?
By himself,
nothing, but as a decaying
leaf, a rotting plank
that will one day become
again a great pine,
a wolf born to run down
the heaving flanks
of a mountain meadow
made flesh,
that is a man.

Let him take comfort,
knowing that he may one day
become a child and the air
that will fill the lungs
of a child as it takes
its first breath, the cry
by which he announces himself
to sky and earth.