Sunday, December 6, 2009

as i stand agaze

as i stand agaze
at the fortress of refuge
how strangely, these days
i savor the deluge

a dream far too real
in this tempest i'm couched
raging rose-petal pinwheel
that is felt, but not touched

it spins as it pleases
cream confection'ry bliss
such warm fragrant breezes
best of times, reminisce

at the eye and center
stares your face in some trance
tells so precious little
save, gracious acceptance

Monday, November 9, 2009


she is the one who shows up just before a major blizzard with a decent pinot noir, because sometimes you need to get next to a carbon-based life form of your own species and just bask in each others' radiation, playing cards and talking about nothing in particular until the Chili Peppers CDs are done, at which point you reach for some Eagles or maybe Bob Seger

Sunday, November 8, 2009


as whiny high-pitched voices mock your every public utterance your fist slams the desk and your mind goes back to the idealistic child buried deep within the suit and the image who can't get his way but then for a split second you actually sense that it would not kill you to believe in the future

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bobby's Place

We live in a old two-story in the middle west side, not much but we like it here. She wears my old ball caps, usually backwards, and probably doesn't realize how often she has one on. Sometimes we go over to Bobby's during a game since most of the neighborhood will be there too. You need hope in this world, you know, they shot Reagan and now all they talk about is how someone tried to kill the pope. The lady, my angel, I gotta say, is simply the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I'm not what you call religious but I sure don't want anyone to die, especially, you know, for no good reason. Bobby is a pretty good guy in my book. What's with all the mohawks and purple hair moping around the mall? She was engaged to someone else right out of high school but things change. A couple dudes down the block like to hit golf balls off the sidewalk. Bobby Brink. She hired in at the shop where I work and we could probably move if we wanted. Bobby was always quiet when we were in school but he pretty much ran the bar as his dad kept getting sicker. We got a stereo last year with our tax refund and sometimes I crank up Ozzy real loud so she'll yell at me. Bobby drives a maroon Corvette. She leans her feet and knees on me while we share a beer. I grew up not too far from here but its all different now. They say one of those golf balls dinged a police car in the next block as they cuffed some stoner for looking in people's windows. More often than not we come home to find one of our dingleturd cats tangled up in a blind. Her fiancée was locked up for dealing and God help the bastard. Starting to think she actually likes the music I play and bless her for laughing at Bill Murray. Bobby really doesn't make a big deal about being successful and having things. Not sure about him and his wife tho, I mean, if they're happy. The cat could wiggle loose if he really wanted to. We have both our families over for holidays and it's the only time our place is clean. Bobby's house is pretty nice, I suppose, and they got a couple kids. Sometimes at night we're just sitting there watching TV and I look at her and think how lucky I am.

Friday, October 2, 2009

okay maybe not

Phillip Hector MCHUEGALFARTHEY of Mass. has appointed himself to be the first ambassador of Planet Earth to the Andromeda Galaxy as announced during a recent diatribe at the park. The sojourner plans to pass time during the 28-year superluminal journey attempting to beat the on-board computer at chess, as well as doing some other things. When asked about a capable spacecraft he assured us the government has a ship that no one else knows about, and hopes to be underway as soon as it can be determined that "they have at least one decent tavern there."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

in no sense

regurgitated streams
from that sweet little mouth
s-o-b's and g-d's
will he ever regret?
breaking m-maw's heart
how could he know
as she spends a moment alone
equine tears from bovine eyes
at once precious and profane
as a blow to the ear

this salty world


fresh as ever

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


When something comes out of nowhere

whenever you see that person's face

you look away

am I offended?

or did I not want to offend?

the image burns in your mind in life

haunts like a ghost in your quiet moments

presence that's not only unwelcome but unsettling

what did I do wrong?

do you want me to change?

Words can't express the frustration

What the f do you want man?

what gives?

Then finally

after what seems like eternity

even just an ordinary person among everyone else...

Who is that face??

Saturday, August 29, 2009



boast retorts

yet find themselves

devoid of inquiry

quick to mock

that which we do not


can not


sardonic voices


rehearsing former glory

resonate throughout

some cold cavernous


that only you

have the power

to break


do you fear?

the unknown


perish the thought

of parents


unlikely heroes


in their caskets

to guard unceasingly

that sole remnant shard

of innocence


lest we smash to bits

rend asunder

the one

who gave us wisdom


faculties of


in the beginning

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


a borrowed shortwave rig with a broken dial string sings beijing's denial

in the wild wild west escape club prepares us for the 90s

girls look and taste like a corner store in the mall called pasta

still the 80s are in full blossom

guys sport haircuts we now wish pictures could lie about

and true freedom of thought bears a price tag in any age

we met last year and if only i could admit that it went to seed months ago

countless college mailings become buried in dust beyond the foot of my bed

didn't have her own sense of security so why not steal mine?

people my age were getting married in the newspaper already

started my first part time job which she probably found threatening

some dude staying down the street from her could bust moves like the new kids

any anecdote i tell that involves another female is hijacked by interrogation

she bleached her hair out of concern that people would think we're siblings

if i couldn't keep a date there was hell to pay

the slender blonds she works with may just as well soar among the stars

on the phone i learn first hand that she's a year younger than i had thought

you get what you get when you dive blind

we actually had a good time watching batman with my visiting cousin

yet on many a sultry afternoon i find her cool as an unearthed potato

my fledgling mustache would have been pathetic if it weren't so pitiful

some of us don't really experience life

evidently my family was too perfect for her to be comfortable around

so dancing boy whimsically fell short down there which makes it ok?

she went to a party where they all got quiet during stairway to heaven

instead we just observe others when we manage to crawl out of our grub hole

then one determined act of defiance was all i needed

well maybe two

if you count the time i called on a neighbor

seems the brother of one of my classmates snagged a piece of the berlin wall

and a flippant middle finger got me chased across the parking lot after work

on my 18th birthday

but permeating all this was a rare distant mood

beckoning eventide luminescence

hopeful and savory

anything is possible

at night the radio picks up worldwide rock from new orleans

seniors cut in the lunch line

because we can

a transfer student and pastor's son joins me in crooning some elvis

aqua-netted underclass hotties hit me up for change

love shack bayyyyy beeeee

time to live a little

or maybe

a lot

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

En La Isla Del Presidente

thanks to a broken down bel air

and distracted thugs

taking cover in some forgotten brush

at the edge of a cane field


i am not even startled

by desperate gasping

from deep within

tangled sinewy foliage

just a few steps away

supporting yourself with a bamboo tree

as though you had also

just arrived

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Competition IV

Fireworks had been the best ever and there we lie, elbow length apart, on a blanket spread across my hood and windshield. One or two tailgate parties raged on in the distance, but our little world was our own. The air had just a whiff of leftover mugginess, mixed with the sweetness of nearby cornfields, from when a brief squall made us wonder if they'd have to postpone, leaving in its wake a perfect view of constellations that perplex the ages.

After I picked her up at the barn we grabbed sandwiches then took our time finding a spot even though the lot was far from crowded. As the evening progressed the words were increasingly sparse, and somehow, I sensed, just as irrelevant.

I take a deep breath. Right on cue she answers with one that couldn't have been more mocking from a seasoned comedienne. As I look her way with raised eyebrows I'm met with that smile that has a way of answering the present question while raising a thousand more all at once.

"Shall I yawn now?"

"Are you tired?" she replies, eyes ablaze.

I look away and take another deep breath, straining with every fiber to keep it together. Something is different tonight. Whatever it may be, it's throwing me off, but I keep telling myself it's worth the risk of staying on course. I smile.

She turns her head away with nothing to look at but a starry patch of black. Her breath this time is filled with consternation, a gale-force sigh.

"Look, just so you don't have to worry, there is no way we're falling for each other," she asserts with arms folded.

"Ohhhhh kayyy" I reluctantly offer, refusing to leave her stranded.

"I mean, I just wanted to make sure we're on the same page and all."

"Right." My grin starts to encore, adding, "I mean...I've been doing everything I possibly can to keep that from happening."

The forced silence that followed simply could not survive. Impossible to say who started laughing first. Eventually the mutual peripheral surveillance gives way to an exchange of relieved, wistful smiles.

I glance away with, "Aren't we a couple of dipshits."

We cover our mouths as kids giggling in church. At some point she reaches out to the sky for a handshake, "Nice to meet you, we're the Dipshits!" It's a wonder we didn't roll onto the ground, but that would have been all right, so deliciously lost, you might say, in on the joke.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

is it just me, or

she is not someone you meet

she's visually striking, but her beauty is revealed over time, as the elements sculpt the side of a marble cliff

she has mostly male friends, even when she's married, none of which can ever tell where things stand

she'll share a double room with you during an overnight trip, then after she takes a really long bath you awake to find her curled up at your side

she'll ride with you into the sunset till the road ends and then hop the next plane

she re-creates her family in whatever circle she finds herself

she is her own time and space and a world your dreams can only wish they were set in

she's the cashews in your chex mix - edible without them, but what's the point?

she is distant all evening and then sings haunting, wordless medieval chants as you make love

she's a guilty pleasure in that you hopelessly adore her in spite of yourself

she is almost as good of a friend as she is inspiring, yet at times, even more so

she's the risk you can't afford not to take

she forms relationships from her own mold, which if you manage to break, she'll quietly, albeit somewhat reluctantly, savor it in hear heart forever

she's a figment of your imagination even as she stands right in front of you

she perpetually keeps you within inches of the most horrendous mess you could ever find yourself in

she is wonderfully, wonderfully imperfect and may just admit it if you stick around long enough

she's a girl on the inside, obviously, but one who's unabashed sweetness sneaks up on you, making you wonder why you ever doubted her

she is someone you experience

Monday, June 15, 2009

Damn the Torpedoes

Remind me for the zillionth time that her heart knows no bounds with him. Fight as she may, it's only a matter of time. She'll bend the rules. She'll surrender her will. She'll sacrifice goals and comfort to see things through, even enduring humiliation. She'll give till there's nothing left and follow him to the ends of the earth and beyond.

To call her a fool would prove me a hypocrite. God knows I've wagered hope and trust in even frivolous pursuits.

That gleam of approval in her eyes may as well be the headlights of an oncoming train. Their exchange of knowing smiles rings a death knell in his ears.

So are you, um, doing anything tomorrow night?

Thursday, May 21, 2009


To countless Western adolescents, as Regan talked tough with those short-time Soviet premiers who have all but escaped our minds, the greatest looming deterrent of our time bore various monikers. The Board of Education, Mr. Bo Ard, The Physical Educator, or that of a similar vein could be read along the business end of some of them, at least at my middle school. The ones you never saw sported holes for aerodynamic efficiency or even had rusty construction nails sticking out.

Just one broadside strike of a desk never failed to save souls. What we associated with that particular word was, for some, way more horrifying than a grizzly mafia hit could ever be.

Mrs. G, next to our homeroom, had the shop instructor fashion hers in the shape of a human hand and painted with school colors, if memory serves. On its fateful inauguration day our own teacher, the dry WWII vet, would-be lovechild of John Wayne and Principal Skinner, ordered us seated and silent after he was discretely asked to witness, as if anyone wanted to miss overhearing the proceedings. Breathing minimally we strain, some grinning, others solemnly, to discern the mumblings from outside the open door. If the inquisition ever became intricate he might reappear, to quell us, unless the gunpowder crack of sovereignty meeting Jordache denim invoked saucer-eyed pause. This time the report is followed by a tink-tink-tink as if someone dropped an empty soda can. Later that day most of us saw her toting the faux paw, minus a thumb, evidently shearing along the join at impact.

In eighth grade one of the guys tells me that Bonnie Bowles was able to avoid corporal punishment by citing the way of women as a nod to Jacob's Rachel. Once, while passing the assistant principal's office I could almost feel the whiff, line drive to center field.

As we moved on to high school, the bigger building with fresh challenges, posturing amidst peers with increasingly adult features and improved personal hygiene, the threat and awe quietly gave way. Discipline was now a clerical matter. Usually it was demerits and/or partial isolation in what we termed the hole, a one-time bomb shelter. Actually, the reprimand code had been in force since fifth grade but at first we rarely knew of anyone actually going that far. After a while it sounded almost fun to spend a month in suspension making holiday crafts, to hear one fellow relate it on the bus every morning between bodily epithets.

The girl next door once tried to describe Mrs. Wreede dishing one out from her electric wheelchair. To this day I'm not sure how she got to see that happen.

It wasn't long before a new or refurbished hand-paddle was commissioned, except this time we all know what the tink-tink noise signifies. Same kid even.

Most of those who got it possessed a certain inner strength, not so much irreverence as, well, relentless individuality. The point was not to punish delinquent behavior among a few. Our elementary principal seemed to only wield the board playfully, maybe joking about it when someone has a birthday. It was a concerted effort to counter the threat of global puberty.

Monday, April 13, 2009

binney & smith

binney & smith

smith & binney

what came in that box?
think it's glue

winfield, kansas 67156

not that we use them much anymore

so what made those two guys
whoever they are
want to make stuff for school?

open window
right next to me

there have got to be kids
there in winfield, kansas
sitting in class right now

are they doing
the same lessons we are?

cursive was fun to learn
but i get tired of writing all the time

it is sooooo nice


i'll bet you your brother's hot girlfriend
they're doing something cooler
in winfield

huge numbers
we add and subtract
like amounts of money
we never get to have

buses mosey into place
lining up for us

my fingernails know
by heart
every scratch in this desk

need to have dad get my bike ready

too bad it's not one of those days
with something special at the end
people's moms bring in cupcakes
saint patricks day
or whatever

bus drivers get to stand around
and talk

here we are like those mice
in the cage

wish we had a science thing
experiments are kinda fun

i can smell the pavement
sun on the parking lot
somewhere between
rubber and dirt
*silent sigh*

someone needs to fix
the clock on the wall
it's so


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Duke Fabulous Reporting

Now this sho 'nuff takes the cake and eats it too. I ain't, I say, I ain't even a kiddin' this time. Just the other afternoon there I was shinin' my boots over by the radio, seein' as there was this ball game playin', and wouldn't you know there was a knock at the door. So I opened up and said howdy-do to some feller I ain't never seen before. With his hat in his hands and polite as could be he asks Mister Duke can I speak a question and I says all right. Turns out he's preparin' to claim paternity and wanted to get a few details straight. So I lean on the door post and raise one eyebrow as this dude 'splains this and that and th'other and how his momma said I's his daddy from a way ways back. Now, I knew that I knew that I never knew his mother, even from Eve, as they say, but what's the point in lettin' 'im off that easy? So I asks I say now do you have any documentation to substantiate said claim to my posterity? He proceeds to hand me his certificate of live birth and I reach for my speck-tackles. He keeps a spinnin' his yarn as I peruse the details, county seal and all that. In a couple more minutes he seems to run plum outta words and so I point out one detail in particular. I say, well, I say as much as I'd like to have you call me pappy I don't see how it could be. And why not, he wonders, lookin' just a tad let down. Well, it says right here, on this legal tender, you were born about five years be-fore my very own date of birth. Oh, he mutters and snatches the paper without even wishin' a good-day. So hear what the Duke sayeth. No matter how off a wall the assignment may seem at first, always, always do your homework. Duke out.

Friday, April 3, 2009

friday night

cozy house on a quiet brick street
snuggled amidst bustling foliage
'68 galaxy in the short driveway
the rest parked along the curb
misty drops on the awning
that shields the kitchen window
light's on over the sink
next to a kenmore blender
juiced on seagrams and lemons
baking sheets on the range
once held handmade pizzas
to go with tossed salad
little cubes of marble jack
and three kinds of dressing
some coffee in the melitta
hints of vanilla pipe smoke
miles davis on the hi-fi
laughter in the living room
around countless nests of rook

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Too Many Saturdays

Such an opaque late winter bluster could not have provided a worse day to say farewell. As I walk up to that white church house in the heart of town I could not help but feel that the tables were turned. Despite being appropriately dressed for a funeral I am still distinct from the others converging this day, a middle class Anglo-Celtic raised in the country among urban African Americans. I'm the minority here, actually a passing novelty in itself.

In the shadow of downtown skyscrapers strolling amidst houses of working families, how unavoidably the mid-morning chill brings out the city's soul at its nastiest. The young man had been shot fleeing from police.

Soon I'm greeted by a cacophony of voices and warmth of many bodies inside. Taking a folding chair toward the rear, the pews already stuffed to capacity, I quickly surmise from the program that I've stepped into a different world where the church ushers are actually union labor. At one point a petite, pretty gal sits next to me with her young son. Without a word or making eye contact she keeps him close and vigilantly guards his antsy little feet from swinging into my legs. Also seated nearby is a fellow who appears to contain World War Three until he hastily gets up and seeks refuge outside. All around the dark sea of faces are looking at nothing or no one in particular.

Anyone speaking into a mic up front prefaces with "Praise the Lorrrrd" and waits for a likewise response which always seems anemic from such a bustling crowd. After the ministers and song leaders are gathered the formal bereavement begins with some words and condolences from sister congregations throughout the country. As a musician I tend to notice arrangements but I could not have been less prepared for the divine squeeze brought on by the brooding jazzy turns in Shield About Me. It was church. They only do three songs, no more were needed. Most sing, a few are on their feet in surrendered worship, many seem catatonic and I simply cannot move a muscle. Be Still My Soul.

The senior pastor had invited me. He nears the pulpit during a rousing chorus and then preaches flaming arrows of grace, he told me, on a mission to reach the kid's family. During the response I nearly break as the ministers reach out their hand to invite those who will to the altar.

A few weeks later I ran into the shepherd again. Those wondering sheep had since come into the flock.

On the drive home, now free from trying to find a place I've never been, I can now mentally ponder the mess on my car from a birds' nest that had blown out of a tree overnight. At first it's the inconvenience of having to clean some strange egg yolk off the paint and glass in unfavorable weather. At last, a budding life robbed of its potential.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

whiskey kiss


and water

fist to sternum

shakedown stare

subtle feline grace

her silky sweet musk

none match the aura

swirling about

the room as we mingle

never a glance

denied acknowledgment

don't you even

dare give us away

souls so much alike

incestuous tinge?

dying to connect

living safely apart

ethereal words

never spoken

wasted chances or

mounting tension?

we lose track

who's the fool

and who's fooling

two wills cannot

both be boss

just remember

when the shoe falls

that first stinging sip

once ingredients mix

a strange elixir

is totally


Sunday, March 1, 2009

with all due respect

Saw a news report about a church in some other town. They are glad to meet at the high school gym. Pastor's office is a coffee shop with wifi. Nothing new, except, well, all the tithes go to meeting needs of people in the community. No overhead. No building. No staff salaries. All volunteer and donations. I got the feeling they intend to keep it this way, so, no capital campaign or property fund, just applying as much of themselves as they can to living out their worship by serving.

There was a single mom just overwhelmed because this group had provided some kind of health supplies that she couldn't afford for her kid, who could now live a much more normal life.

Oh, and this was in the "secular" media, mind you.

One question. Why in blazes is this going on *in some other town* and not everywhere?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

dryer fresh

some may feel

familiar ways and means

as a soggy diaper

sagging to the floor

as depleted shame

with acrid sting

propels hopeless whimpers


not in vain

help is upon us

strong caring hands

clean and anoint

vest renewed bodies

in people clothes

Sunday, February 15, 2009

this time

shivering in the primordial chill
of a melt-off soaked field
amidst last year's stalks and pickings
wear some old clothes

is it about appearances?

grab some terrain
plunge those hands
deep as they'll go
wiggle around a while

in my youth and maybe yours
often scolded for sarcasm
an age when purposeful irony
yields blank stares at best

for acres and square lengths untold
dark gold free for taking

yet without it
we're done

eyes front and center
hands two and ten
stay in your lane
healthy wealthy and wise

unto the least of these
he says

flesh and bone
king and pauper
yield their substance
unto our time

respect your elders
it's your salvation

granules that nourish
our crops and bodies
in one form or another
witnessed what we yet cannot

from minerals
to chemicals
to materials
to things
for health
for life
for excess
for killing

hearken the ages

converse amongst ourselves

when suddenly
across the thawing tundra

a breeze

Thursday, January 29, 2009

c'mon and love me

This place has a murk all its own. Not something one can describe. They say you gotta live in Manhattan at least once in your life, I dunno, but the D is, well, what it is. You make cars or maybe beer, or you make parts of cars or just money from people making cars. You put your kids through college and retire at 50. You uproot a neighborhood to put in an artery. Your gray skies yield snow but only when it's not raining. You decay while those who can build half-million dollar houses along dirt roads to the west. You sprawl till your belts break the sound barrier during rush hour. But in the theaters and clubs and music shops they have none of it. For the life of me I'll never fathom how you were blessed with such a buffet, a veritable rainbow of talent and insistence, a sheer V-8 driven creative powerhouse on wheels. Then in the mid-70s some boys from NYC were struggling to make a splash, along with their label. You were good to them and they never forgot you for it. Can't help but wonder if the muse was a real woman or just a well-crafted cloud in a hungry songwriter's sky, in dim lighting on a sultry eve where you read what you want written on her face. Seduction is not so much a game as an admission of selling out. That which you seek to own will own you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

other things

a quiet place to read

twice the legal limit

cockatoos and cockathrees

doctrinal disagreements


my pants

puddle of mud

the finger

aunt so and so's record-contending troll doll collection

a wry wayward crust of orange peel seeking refuge beneath your keyboard

the word "butt"

then and now

those times when the radio plays just the right song


Saturday, January 10, 2009

slayer of dragons

there she stood
arrayed in royal vestments
against the dungeon wall
as the dragon made play

upon this i stumble
arrayed in hoodie and jeans
she cries save me save me
i mutter mmmmmmmmmm kay

it occurs to me
as the beast turns and lunges
that dragons don't exist
then it faded away

and so

did she