The Collected Poetry

Growing up in a literate environment, I was encouraged to write. In some ways I was expected to write, and in other I demanded it of myself. In either case, it turns out that I am a terrible poet.

These thoughts go as far back as high school, and are presented here non-chronologically.

Forever

25 months
and I can’t remember
our last kiss

Last Kiss

they kissed
tenderly
and he drove away
to make a new life
(suddenly I don’t feel like telling you more
you know how it ends, anyway)

Chris

We walked
over frosted ground
in the dark
just the two of us

railroad tracks
pursued the night
forever and ever
away from us

“I guess”
he said
“I’ve always been
depressed”

“always” he said
a long time
to listen to
“depressed”

at the place
where the tracks
met the road
we parted

Distance

Outside a breeze caressed the trees with its cool fingertips as the grey night drifted along in peace. Amber and silver shone on the clouds above, giving light and life to the street below. Branches cast shivering shadows on walls that held dull pain inside.

In one room, lit by one lamp, two people sat in subtle silence, their eyes staring into their own private distances.

“I’m lonely,” he said.

“I know,” she answered.

Hope Street

Hope Street
where hope
turns to home
where rain
turns to glass
where my future
meets my past

Hope Street
dimly lit
with dark promises

Nobody Home

ring ring
nobody home
I’ll just let it
ring ring
there’s gotta be
something better
that listening to that
ring ring
it’s gotta be
the loneliest sound
everybody busy
too busy to answer that
ring ring
come on
I’m hurting here
say
hello
say
goodbye
just say anything

I place the handset
on the hook click
and try my hardest
not to feel hurt
they didn’t know
it was me
did they?

17 Years after Rolling ‘Touch/Love’ in a High School Writing Class Exercise

The small and soft
Charming and disarming
Married friend of a coworker
With her ludicrously crooked smile
Padded over to me on her sexy brown bare feet

Holding myself close
Thinking no one else would
I looked at her glowing allure
As if I could make her an unmarried woman
Merely with the yearning in my eyes
And the desire in my heart

Her fourth beer in her left hand
She tilted her head
Said something I didn’t hear
Smiled a flirtation
Reached out her right hand
And brushed my hair out of my eyes

Crush

Excited like a kid
I had a crush
walked up to

sat down beside

she was warm
smelled so
brown eyes
couldn’t see me

“Am I” I am

“Being a pest?”
wanting her

“Yes,” she said

Giving

“Scalpel,” the doctor said calmly, and received the rusty saw. She carefully made her incision in my chest, top to bottom, so there was plenty of room.

I didn’t know if she was a good doctor or not. All I knew is that she was operating on me.

“Bone saw,” she requested, and began the real work of getting inside me. White spray flew and covered her glasses.

“Ah, there it is,” she said finally. “Rib spreader,” she demanded. She dug and poked for a few moments, cutting what needed to be cut.

At last, she lifted out my heart.

“I’ll take that,” she said, smiling.

“I’ll give it,” I said.

Her Hands

These pale ghosts
Meet me
With their little imaginations
On this night kissed
In the midst of this mist

I lean forward slightly, lightly
To taste their gracious insight
Through my tears
And to me they
Taste of the sea

With a deep and perfect breath
I borrow from their marrow
The end of tomorrow’s sorrow
These graceful, tasteful
Pillows of comfort

Wanting to find the soul
Of these fine willows of life
I look up to find
Your presence has not
Failed

If She Were Here

If she were here, I would wait patiently until every nuance of the moment breathed life into her eyes, until the shadows cast by the dim hallway light struck her face with the most subtle touch.

I would take her hands in mine, pulling her ever-so-slowly toward me. My eyes would see her thoughts and feelings.

My hand would move her hair as it tumbles playfully down her shoulder. My fingers would glide gently down the curve of her cheek as it glows softly in the dim cascade of incandescence.

I would wrap my arms around her, surround her. I would hold her close to my heart, feeling her heart beating, feeling her feel me.

I would whisper almost too quiet for her to hear, “I love you.”

If she were here.

Missing You

Missing you is
Closing my eyes
tender thoughts
that place
the sky at night
the moon alone
tears
hope
and waiting
anticipating
miles
smiles
need and want
quiet and sound
wind
words
patience
rusty nails
sea shells
hard and soft
nature
nurture
hands and heart
stark and sad
stars
clouds
far away
another day
a million miles
and home

Pictures of You

I look for your
elusive self
and I can’t see
my pictures of you

Afraid
surrounded by this
dark tempest
of slate and auburn sky

It’s bigger than I am
bigger than we were
it’s funny that with this rage above
I stand beneath and think of you

I’ve trained my paradox
to protect me
and my delicate
dark illusions

Full of hurt
dazzling and fading
shaking my visions
and trying still to picture you

But for reasons I won’t admit
I can’t summon my
pictures of you
to save my life

It’s just me and the sky
and an empty space
but not your hazel eyes
in those pictures of you

Rights

I drift
with my God-given talent
in one hand
and my
hell-bent heart in the other

under the obviously arrogant assumption
that I have the right
to be here

the RIGHT!
have you ever heard such gall
in all your
miserable little
black-and-blue life?

Seeing

Neon lights in the trees
Giant old brick church
Old chair for the trash
Power lines
Bold old tree
Yellow LTD
Windows windows windows
(every one is lit; somebody’s home)
Stars
White houses
Grey street
(a power line of its own)
Warm south wind
Faraway windows
Light in my own windows
(where you are welcome)
Wind chimes (in my wind chimes)
My front door (always open)
Steps
Stairs
Stranger walking by
(he knocks, no answer)
Those same neon lights
(in those same trees)
Where did he go?
No answer
Passing cars
The night itself
And me

Snow

Man say
(and this is just “them” talking)
no, not sleep with me
in smoky bars
at one a.m.
to high heels
and leather skirts
and thick thick eyelashes
because she watched
too many commercials
no
men say it will snow tonight

Streetlight Life

Thinking about
those wild white horses
with the wind at my back
and your scent in my lungs

And you
at the threshold of
the depths of
my shallow existence

I feel myself tremble
rock back and forth
finding what I need
without you

It’s too cold in this place
and far warmer than I deserve
with the night wrapped around me
like a blanket

My hair combed
and my mind made up
and my life in order
and you far away

The streetlight life
flies like my nights
between this dull ache
and your distant handshake

More dust than stanza
more wish than answer
less sound and less fury
than the taste of your light

The Word of God

Who is this woman in blue
Who likes the sound of my voice
When I pray?

“Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

And here’s the part that kills me.
The people say, “Blessed is His kingdom,
Now and forever. Amen.”

How do you like that? Amen.
Like they understand it. like they mean it.
Like praying for it will make it happen.

And while they pray
She slides her slender brown
Soft hand in mine

How do you like that?
Like she understands it. Like she means it.
Like holding my hand will make it all better.

“We acknowledge and bewail our manifold
sins and wickedness…”
I always liked that part.

Yeah. This one, too…
“We are not worthy so much as to
Gather up the crumbs under Thy table.”

So I no longer look puzzled
When I think of her self-esteem
Instead, I get a laugh out of it.

Wanting

ring
ring
then it didn’t ring again
must have been
that all-important wrong number
instead of a death in the family

“hello” she said
almost unintelligibly
“is Paul there?”
came the half-drunk voice
“you must have the wrong”
click
people get so mad when they’re wrong

then for no reason
I was driving north
and feeling lost
and alone
and wanting to be home

What?

Don’t say
It’s unfair
Don’t say
It’s not right
Just say
It’s ten ’til ten

And time to say
Goodnight

Opium Blonde

She hears my steps from behind her
As she sorts the mail
She lifts her head slightly
Knowing what was next

The slight movement
Tells me that even though
I couldn’t see it
She was starting to smile

I reach her and reach out
She tilts her head
And knows who and what
I want

Arms around her in slow motion
Closer
My face in her hair
Mmm the sea of hair

I breathe in that sea
An ocean of intoxication
A world of pleasure
And peace

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