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 five novels: Joe Island, Blues Pizza, Borderdance, Tesora, and Tardy Son. Tardy Son was a semi-finalist for the Faulkner Novel-in-Progress Prize. My new work-in-progress is called Stringless. Please leave me a comment.
May 21, 2013
I couldn’t hear the bomb
but I felt it in my ears.
I felt it from helicopter blades,
from sirens close and far away,
from words of friends who stood
near the blast, and in the voices of
the bomber’s classmates who walk
past me on the way to high school.
I felt the fear that sent 9,000 police
after two boys with fireworks.
Three weeks later, I look down
at the spot of explosion. I find
no stain, no answer, no body.
A victim wheels his chair to
pose for family photos, a smile
for one leg, happy to be alive.
The Boston Library courtyard
meets my bike at the finish line
for gentle chat, tea, and writing,
and provides a brave friend
to provide the sympathy.
A sad thousand of shoe pairs,
tied by laces, hang on fences.
They are the strong. Visitors,
too polite to touch, watch
a race as it rises from dust.
Near the memorial sings
a choir of children, so soft.
Sadness sweetens the song.
May 18, 2013
The girl I love treats me
like a wandering lamb,
feeds me clover when
she wants wool,
starves me when she
wants to rub noses.
Will she kiss or bite
the heart on
I’ll steal her shears,
and grow my beard,
so her hands borrow,
not own, my wool.
I like when the hook
on her staff holds me
firm, then lets me go,
but a ram wants to be
known for his horn,
not for his tail.
But I’m no ram
and I’m no lamb.
I’m a coyote in wool
with blood on my lips.
I poke Little Bo Peeps
out of my teeth
with a toothpick
and a smile.
May 12, 2013
A Mother’s Hand, Memorized
At three years old
I heard my mother’s hands
touch the fingers of Bach
with the strings of her cello.
They played three songs at once
with ten fingers on four strings—
a miracle greater than the mystery
of Heffalump and Winnie-the-Pooh.
She tied those strings to me by
showing me how notes are words
made from the prayers of angels,
and that songs are hugs from God.
At age four I crawled at her feet
below keyboards of a pipe organ,
and sounds like monster lungs growled
through my knees and into my spine.
She called them fugues, but I knew
them as the songs of a god called Mom.
At age eight I paused between pages
of Mysterious Island to hear her cello
elevate a song called The Swan
up the stairs into my patch of ocean
to teach me how graceful birds
could sing songs of life after death.
By age thirty I read Notes from Underground
as I faced the author’s home across the Atlantic,
while she tossed a Beethoven sonata
into the clouds over the Pacific Ocean.
I don’t need a recording to hear that again.
Now, as I scratch
my way into this poem,
something in me remembers
every tone from her fingers.
No distance is too far
if you know it by heart.
May 2, 2013
To Save a Son
named for Plath.
I curse the father, Pablo,
lest my son become Pablito.
I choke my own lyrics in hopes
my son’s music will breathe.
I work a school job
to teach him rock.
I can’t face his father,
or my Mexican stories,
novels of love and death:
Virgin of Tlatelolco 1 & 2.
I accept my own border so
my son can dance over.
I lift his heart to the sun
to show I feel stringless
while I am still in chains.
He needs no father—
I catch baseballs, too.
He needs no script—
I write one for him.
The more he needs me,
the better I like it.
He is my story.
April 26, 2013
It takes soft fingers to know devas.
Rupert doesn’t know whose deva he
touches in a tree at Hindu Camp—
most skin reflects shades of brown
so he eyes black ones, yellow ones.
He wakes to discover he loves
himself in a first rub of hands.
Oils mix colors into color—
harmonize in sleeves of orange,
unite in shades of blue pantlegs,
merge into fingertip rainbows.
He tip-toes, quiet enough to hear
teeth click together in the dark
and struggles to divine the colors
and textures of foreskins.
April 16, 2013
Ten generations before Maria sang,
her Aztec ancestor burned feathers,
watched the smoke float into the sky,
and sent a song to the god of suns.
In my heart a cactus grows. On its
crest sits a snake that eats an eagle
while it waits for my blood to cool.
Warm me, Sun—boil my blood,
the knives of gold-feathered priests
search for our skins in these fields.
We virgins hide our hearts—
there is no sacrifice in stone.
Teotl is the invisible force
in all things here and now—
it warms our sister blood
as we wait for revenge.
Priests invented the sacred
to justify the flint knives
they need to seize gold
from people in fields of corn.
We stun you with song to
turn your knives into plows.
Bow down before our babies,
for they carry your blood.
January 10, 2013
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 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?
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
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.
September 5, 2012
I’m pleased to announce that my friend, Kimberly Elkins’ story: “The Awful Wondering” is now published in the Iowa Review. It’s not available online—you have to subscribe. But you can read some things in the issue here:
Here’s her bio:
KIMBERLY ELKINS’s work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, Best New American Voices, and the Chicago Tribune, among others. A finalist for the National Magazine Award, she received a fellowship from the Houghton Library at Harvard for research on her novel, What Is Visible, forthcoming from Grand Central. A visiting lecturer for the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Hong Kong, she has an MFA from BU and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.