February 22, 2010

Welcome Readers. This site chronicles the process of my writing as well as showcasing some of it. I write novels, songs, and poems. I’ve written six novels: Joe Island, Blues Pizza, Borderdancer, Tesora, Tardy Son, and StringlessTardy Son was a semi-finalist for the Faulkner Novel-in-Progress Prize. Please leave me a comment.

July 22, 2014

Butts Heads with Borders, a poem with a mysterious past

This poem is a character study for my new novel,
Borderdance. The main character has inadvertently
betrayed her boyfriend to the authorities.

Butts Heads with Borders

Eddie’s not dead—I’ll fetch him.
I’ll pay Emilio Zapata to abolish
the Mexican handcuff, free him.
I’ll throw myself at his feet, pull
his heel onto my throat, and beg.
I told his tale, sold his name, so
no god but he can forgive me.
I’m sorry enough to cut myself, so
I wait, but his words won’t scold.
He hates the me who’d lie for him.
He hates the me who dies too easy.

His post card shouts at me: painted
roses in shades of honey. I smear its
ink with tears distilled from my lie.

I steal his first-person point of view
because I need to live inside him.
In my bag I’ve got his poems, and
a photo: naked poet in a waterfall.
His heart lives in this journal and
unfinished chapters await his edit.
I wait for a rough kiss on the teeth,
his inner bandito awaits a prayer.

July 13, 2014

Página en Blanco, a poem to burn

Página en Blanco
(for Alexandra)

Ah, to be a blank page again—
no regrets after debt defaults, no
failed quests to kiss new sidekicks.
I twist six novel pages into a poem:
delete narrative tongues, retain music.
Un página en blanco smokes like dope
as she burns in a crucible of brain fire—
a sacrament to cool the Buddha mind.

Send me into Puerto Rico dreams,
my brain is frozen like my heart.
The blank pages will defrost me if
I accept their fiction—put them to sea
in bottles. Stopper them against salt,
the passage of time, and their own lies
written in the blood of their past tense.

Send me new evils made of skin,
tell me new lies, and pat me on the back.
We’ll run towards a blind, sinking sun in
Puerto Rico to dreams made from Bombas.
We’ll dance on sand and wave goodbyes
to the colors that travel from stars made
from a billion blank page stories long
forgotten, waiting to be reborn at the
pointed end of graphite and wood.  

(Painting by Anne Abrams)

July 7, 2014

A one-word poem

How to Sail Through Goodbyes


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July 5, 2014

No Wind Mind, a winter poem in summer

No Wind Mind

The snow storm hits as I walk to the market.
All day reading a novel set in the south seas
has blinded me to New England in winter.
I’m befuddled by sleet in the face. A jacket
is an ill-advised choice for blizzard wear.
The next door I see is a church. Unlocked.

The lights flicker and die, but five candles
twinkle before a rank of two dozen pews.
The snow and wind is behind me, but I’m
more than alone. Unless god shows up.
I take off the jacket. I sit a few minutes.

I open a small book I see before me. Prayers.
I don’t need prayers, I need weather reports.
I open it. On the title page written in pencil:
Faith is not always available—or important.
The best prayer is a prayer for nothing at all.

I smile. Nothingness. I get it. Zen Christian.
Tiredness is my nothingness. I lie on the seat.

My eyes open to electric light. I’m dry, warm.
I sit up. A wool blanket slides off my shoulder.
I fold the blanket, light a candle, walk home.

June 30, 2014

Ugly Name, a poem of beauty

Ugly Name 

He can’t really be gone—no way.
He must be acting in a mystery:
a private eye with a platinum doll,
so the truth isn’t true all along. I see
no skeleton man with sores on his face,
no ethical questions at the funeral hall.
It must be bad cosmetics in a re-run plot.
We were roommates in those school days
when friendlies loved better than families,
lucky our frisbees dodged no jungle bullets
or caught deadly sarcasm on the wind.

Who says the handsome man dies ugly?
Mother, sister, brother, lovers, friends—
the audience who laugh their heads off
when Larry dances in Guys and Dolls
or cries when he kisses Juliet and sighs.
Real beauty has only imaginary death
yet dozens of you saw him fade away.
Act Three: The skull speaks to a skull.

After his last visit, he didn’t write.
People don’t write after they die,
so, as a goodbye, I read your letter
but it isn’t a bye, and it isn’t good.

I come to a meeting. We sit in a circle,
united by grief and divided by grief,
divided and united by the mystery in
a disease called GRID, a nickname for
the Gay-Related Immune Deficiency:
an ugly disease with an ugly name.
If the handsome man died ugly,
no matter—he walked in beauty. 

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June 25, 2014

Dharma Trust, a poem of discovery

Dharma Trust

In the eyes of your distrust
I’m an axe murderer who loves
the drip of your blood on blades.
In the eyes of my distrust, your
run-away ways murder me, but
they also feed truth to my fingers.
My fingers play choruses of notes
to massage peace onto the skin
of my paper, but not onto yours.
No longer onto you, ever again.

I can’t love an imitation Juliet
because suicide has no poetry,
even imitation suicide has none.
Killing belongs to villains in fiction,
while insanity is someone I know
who can’t be trusted with the drug
of perfection, your drug of choice.

If I could find the key to waking
each morning with the same weather
in my heart, no matter how many dollars
live in my bank, no matter how many loves
skip town on trains of goodbyes, I’d openly
pray for a restaurant that serves entrées
made only from sauces without sorrow.
If I could find the key to waking, I’d
feel at home, even on your street.

(Painting by Anne Abrams)

June 21, 2014

For Me, For Sarah, a poem inside


For Me, For Sarah

Songs love it, but novels hate refrains.
As my daily psyche shouts me down
with songs learned from foremothers
and sermons copied from forefathers,
I write new refrains to quiet myself.

I will build new phrases to sing,
new songs to sing into my mind—
the hardest writing for this poet.
I empty an hour into silence until
I’m entirely ready. Silence heals my
tongue. No words speak against me.

Save me from forefathers within.
Save me from songs made of sermons.
Send me wisdom from new fathers.
Send me songs of love from within.

(Painting by Anne Abrams) 

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January 10, 2013

From Treasure Island, by Robert Lewis Stephenson

Painting by N. C. Wyeth

Painting by N. C. Wyeth

The fire lit in me when I first read the novel as a boy, was
extinguished when I finished my own novel, Tesora.
Reading it now, however, allows me to sail again,
back to my own boyhood days—to find the treasures
of adventure and good writing.

From Treasure Island, by Robert Lewis Stephenson:

“Livesey,” said the squire, “you will give up this wretched practice at once. Tomorrow I start for Bristol. In three weeks’ time—three weeks!—two weeks—ten days—we’ll have the best ship, sir, and the choicest crew in England. Hawkins shall come as cabin-boy. You’ll make a famous cabin-boy, Hawkins. You, Livesey, are ship’s doctor; I am admiral. We’ll take Redruth, Joyce, and Hunter. We’ll have favourable winds, a quick passage, and not the least difficulty in finding the spot, and money to eat, to roll in, to play duck and drake with ever after.”

November 25, 2012

Anaïs Nin on the Unfamiliar in Books

Anaïs Nin on Embracing the Unfamiliar

It’s the personal insecurities of leadership which lead to paranoia, the need to control the freedom of individual and social personalities, and finally to mass violence. It’s been true throughout history from Atilla The Hun to Obama. It’s the responsibility of each artist to sieze his or her own piece of space, whether it’s geographic or psychic, and to produce art within his or her own chaos of freedom. “A room of one’s own,” yes?

Nin says:

The men who built America were the genuine physical adventurers in a physical world. This world once built, we need adventurers in the realm of art and science. If we suppress the adventure of the spirit, we will have the anarchist and the rebel, who will burst out from too narrow confines in the form of violence and crime.


September 11, 2012

A Short Review of Canada, a novel by Richard Ford

The first novel I ever read on an e-reader (the Nook with a Glo-light) is Canada by Richard Ford. Here’s my review of the novel, not the e-reader.

A Short Review of Canada, a novel by Richard Ford
New York : Ecco Press, 2012

Ford forces a personality onto his main character that is as contemplative as a sixty year old. I’m not saying he’s trying to fool us with that fact, because he intentionally has the older man telling the story of his own young life as a fifteen-year-old. Ford’s prose is indeed excellent, but all through the book I craved the experience and voice of the fifteen year. So much of the story seems untold. I wanted the younger main character to have emotions and actions not explained away by his mature self of forty years later.

If an author has so pushed his own psyche so far from inner reality, how can we believe his story is true? It’s as if Ford has delivered a good idea about a story, but not the story itself. It’s a steak dinner without the meat or the sizzle, leaving us only a plate, a fork, and a knife laid out in perfect order. It is certainly an order that does not offend, but it also does not tell us the whole truth.

Are we expected to believe that his parents robbed a bank, split him from his twin sister, and sent him to Canada, and he had no anger about that? He could have become a short-fused boy like The Unibomber—or he could have become an enraged genius like Kurt Cobain—or channeled his anger like Van Gogh, perhaps. He only seems to passively accept his exile and one extremely violent act as if he was stunned silent by it. This is not the kind of character I hoped to read—it’s as if the character was there at the scene, but somehow missed the story. Readers are left with the face of the opacity of the surface of it, so we are left to admire the dinnerware and suck on an empty fork.


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