Locomotive Breath

There’s no solace in knowing it has always been so —
the angry mob, the fist and the fury —
knowing doesn’t help at all.

Today I took an online test
to see what mathematics I might recall
from decades of long ago learning,

word problems concerning trains and speed
and distance, angles of intersecting lines
and percentages and ratios.

And I failed and was not surprised
by my failure.

I knew all that, once, how to calculate
across time and space, the train of the fist
and the rails of the fury, and knowing
helped not at all,

the train it won’t stop going,
no way to slow down.

No Time at All

Bodhichitta practice. Slow.
No striving. No reaching.

We breathe into the heart center
and find it armored.
Of course it’s armored.
We breathe anyway.

To make friends with a feral cat
we sit nearby. For a day, a week,
a month, a year.
As long as it takes.

One day we may find ourselves
sitting alongside.

A day is a long time.
A lifetime is no time at all.

It rained overnight.
The snow fell this morning.
Now the wind blows.


It took longer than any of us expected,
our children were older than we were
and theirs were older still.

I remember the fortune in your cookie
urging you to be like water and you said
who has that kind of time?

The soles of your boots are worn right through
at the place where the weight of the world
meets the road that carried us here

all those footsteps, all that leather,
all those people we used to be, they cling
like shadows and hide when we turn.

Did you ever think, I ask, and no, you say,
you never did, and we blink like mole people,
blinded by the light,

both of us knowing we got it all wrong,
you with your gun, me with my bowl,
you with no bullets, me with no spoon.

February 2.0

Snow crusted garden, last year’s coneflower
grey as old bones, q-tipped and stiff in the wind,

the neighborhood scoundrel cat passes through
the damp and molder in search of a wren to kill,

cowl mane the color of gravel and thaw,
the color of February, the color of the shadow

that followed me home, the one that still clings
to the soles of these worn out winter shoes.

In the News

In the news about deportations to countries less worthy
I heard a chance remark

keywords: poverty, extreme

a rhetorical question of how one might fare if given the boot
after living so long in the Promised Land

to go from so much to so very little

Yes, yes, it’s true: newsroom pencils break along fault lines
like pencils everywhere, those in my desk drawer
are not immune, the disinclination to connect all the dots,
it’s a tool of survival, yours, mine, and theirs.

First rule of dysfunction: don’t see the dysfunction.

And yet, and yet, how hard you must work to not see.

All along the back roads of eastern Kentucky, through Tennessee
hollers, past the shorn mountaintops of West Virginia, north
to the future of rust belt ghostwalks, these inglorious ruins
of hollowed-out empire

Keywords: poverty, extreme

Drive at your own risk, fill your tank at the Quik-Mart,
grab a donut like a local, walk the boarded up Main Street,
sugar-fueled, past the queue of shabby coats and unshaven faces
waiting outside the door of the plasma center,

random dots, haphazard humans,

your pocketed notepad, your unsharpened pencil,
the rule of the unseeing eye.


The snow started falling yesterday morning.
It came down in fat motes, curtains blowing sideways.
Sleet at midday, popcorn against the windows.
The cats slept.

Drifts accrued in doorways, domes of white arose
on backyard patio tables, wedding cakes for winter brides,
Birds tracked in a day drained of color,
crossing rabbit divots.

Midway through sweeping out the carport, I look up
to see the black dog across the way, shaggy
and nose deep in sparkle, he sniffs and sneezes,
comes up flocked.

Love Sleeps

I closed the door on you.
This is not a metaphor. You were snoring.  I couldn’t abide.

I need a quiet house. That’s not your fault.

You disorder me. You are a distraction,
a leaking faucet: dripping, dripping.

Reminding me
(I do not need your reminder)
of all I’ve left undone.

Maintenance foregone. Weatherstripping. Yard work.
The front porch needs painting.

Winter will be here before we know it.

Ship of State

Who knew it was all so fragile?
The ship of state a houseboat of cards
pontoon shantytown heaving
in the hot humid bluster of a grown
man’s tantrum. Sad!

Pretend I’m crazy.
It’s how we get things done.

In school they taught us how a bill
becomes law, powers held separate,
checks against power to keep it all
in balance yet here we are, keeling and
aroil and taking on water.

Pretend I’m the king.
Tell me that you love me.

We vacuum the oceans for treasures
to sell at auction, fake fortunes, fever heat
from a spray-on sun, peeling gilt,
lower the lifeboats, our iceberg cometh,
and lo! The devil cannot row.