Last night midnight arrived and the calendar turned to December 1–my dog Zorro’s birthday, may he rest in peace.  He’s been gone for more than a year but will never be forgotten.  So on this day I remember:


First of December comes around,
I’m busy with end of year errands —
and then I remember it’s his birthday.
He was the runt of a bastard litter,
survivor of a cannibal mother
and a chaotic breeder. My son wept and willed
him into our car and our lives.

He accelerated like a dragster fetching
lacrosse balls, his favorite prey.
On gnarly trails, I ate his dust.
He frolicked in cattle wallows emerging
muddied with a toothy Cheshire dog grin.

He aged with a salt and pepper mug,
a few front teeth short of a head shot.
On our last birthday walk we took our time,
kept to flat valley trails, pace slow to savor
our time together.

As years pass our calendar fills with days
of birth or death, dates to mark or mourn.
For me the first of December
wears my buddy’s grin.


Window Cracked

The other day I saw a posting on Huffington Post about a dog’s last car ride, with a beautiful photo of her taking in the breeze from the car window.   I have had to take my dogs on last car rides, most recently my dear buddy, Zorro.  With him in mind I wrote this poem (tears were shed):

Window Cracked

On our last morning I wake him,
his frosted muzzle, blued eyes,
withered hunger, stilled tail.
He’s tried so hard, my best boy.
I must do the next things —
stroke the downy ears still soft,
lift him to standing, embrace his being.
This way, buddy, time to go.
He steps unsteady from his bed,
sleep’s imprint already cooling.
I lament what he can’t —
goodbye cat, goodbye bowl,
goodbye morsels under the stove,
goodbye fetching and barking
and snoring and treats.
Stooping to duty, I lift him in
for our last ride, window cracked.
He sniffs the air, feels the sun.
Here we are, here we go.

Captagon Forces

There’s a report out detailing the rampant use of amphetamines by the ISIS fighters, chiefly home made versions of the drug Captagon.  Of course, the use of stimulants by front line soldiers, including Americans, goes back at least to World War II.  What’s different here is Captagon being used to dull empathy and other human emotion — it enables them to commit inhuman atrocities.

Captagon Forces

This is what we don’t need –

speed freaks in the Middle East.

ISIS fighters popping

home-brewed Captagon,

pin-pupiled hordes tweaking,

trigger fingers twitching,

desert blood thirst slaking,

empathy gone, teeth grinding.

Let’s put these buzzed minions

of fear to sleep forever.

Last to go

We all have random exchanges with strangers, sometimes rushed, sometimes less than pleasant — and sometimes *different* in a way that makes a poet pull over and jot it down to capture the moment.  That was me the other day.

Last to go

Friendly guy says hi
leaning on his taxi,
cigarette in hand
fumes to inhale.
Nice car, he says,
I say thanks.
He takes a drag, exhales,
coughs, tells me his
old man lasted to 100.
He’ll be gone
way before then —
I say that to him,
he laughs, says
my Mom’s 94,
she’ll beat him.
Another cough,
a warm sooty smile.
He kills his smoke
and gathers his fare.








North through the Central Valley

On a two day ping pong from the Bay Area to LA and back (to attend opening night of “Wood Boy Dog Fish”, an awesome play and all-around piece of performance, puppetry and visual art, in which my son Willem acted key roles), California’s Central Valley was the separating other-world in between. As we wane to the winter solstice and the Valley suffers under its drought and poverty, the journey back on I-5 spoke to me:

The Prius hums at ninety,

Obama sticker’s redundant.

Parched fields, scabbed crops,

courtesy of God not man.

Robot furrowed rows,

no human here ‘till harvest.

Feed lot stench,

herds of corn fed doom.

Scores of Wal Mart semis

with asshole asterisk logos.

Locals losing in rusty pickups,

lives barely tied down.

With darkness, tule fog rises,

its scrim curtains the road.

Lane lines gone, we slow,

rolling to a home not here.


Poets: To post or not to post

At the recent Tupelo Press Writing Conference in Truchas, New Mexico, my fellow poets and I got into a *spirited* discussion about whether to post and therefore “publish” our work online.  We weren’t really polarized, but there were groups on two sides of a continuum.  Some prominent print magazines and journals (e.g., The New Yorker magazine) categorically refuse to consider any poem that was previously published in any form, including online postings in blogs or websites.  A few of us (not I, obviously) felt that this is a significant discouragement from posting online and were very hesitant to do so.  Others were gung-ho on spreading their work far and wide by any and all available means, or at least to some degree.  I am in the latter camp, and here’s why:  while our work is intellectual property in every sense of the word, it is also robust and cannot be diluted by being read and reacted to.  Plus, to climb aboard the us-versus-them train, we can’t let the publishing powers that be inhibit our exchange of beauty and thought in the wide, wide world.  So, I say post away!

That’s my $0.02 on this topic, and I welcome any other perspectives in reply.

Shoe Feel

There was an interview with former US Poet Laureate Kay Ryan in a recent issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, for me an interesting introduction to her and her incredible body of work.  At least as telling, to me, was a passing question she asked to the interviewer, one which gave me insight into one of the many elements that make her a great poet:

Shoe feel

Poet Kay Ryan asked,
“Can I feel your shoes?”
What of this question?
It’s tactile desire
granular engagement
curiosity’s hunger
the stuff of beauty
yet to come