Santa Cruz, October 22 2013

22 10 2013

It’s been twenty-four days since I have set foot in the ocean,

but it is autumn, and the ocean comes to me.

In the mist that rises at night, she reaches out her fingers

to touch the streets of the town,

cold and fragrant, the smell of the waves and the nautical winds,

and the ever-present beyond, silent and vast and there.


Like a confused animal wandering into the suburbs,

the mist lumbers sleepily

and tangles with the lights

at the edge of its great blue ocean-world.

Traffic signals, green and yellow,

ochre maps and motel windows

and the eyes of cars all sink into the sky,

a quiet golden-and-mauve soup.

This is night in a beach town in autumn.

we are water,

we sleep beneath a blanket,

we have no interest in the stars.


The river is mirror,

sharper than the air

and in its glass the lights are lurid

shooting stars, their whole path frozen in lithogram amber

tracing down a camera lens left open

for the whole moment.

The palm trees, spoiled ladies,

slender courtesans top-heavy with lacy crowns:

they cling to the skirts of the sea their patron,

who favors them and gives them life,

allowing them to grow even here,

wrapping them in mist to hide them from the cold northern moon.


It is autumn,

and the air smells of wood fires

lit in little wood houses to keep out the ocean night’s chilly fingers.

Back up in the mountains the grass shivers brown

and the trees wither yellow,

and apples ripen on the branch, grapes on the vine.

Orange redwood needles fall into soft creeks,

and the world turns.

The sea, she could hardly suspect

That her clockwork of waves, winds and tides

Ticks to the same clock that makes fruit ripen and leaves fall,

high on the slopes above the mist,

and far away in the land-world that stretches beyond.


It’s been twenty-four days since I set foot in the ocean,

But the ocean is everywhere.

The wind blows from the south-southwest

and she whispers and sings us to sleep,

us beach people, her playthings, her children.

The humid air peels the paint from houses,

and in the blackened wood beneath

you catch the sea winking.

like a glimpse of the man on the moon

she seems to say

“It’ll all fall down in the end.”

But give her time,

for unless in a rage she works on a scale that is friendly to humans, the battering sea.

season by season, autumn by autumn, year by year

the paint will peel and the boards will crack

and the rains will come and the sun will strike

to turn wood into earth, that will grow into woods,

and the moss and the blackberries and the pickleweed

will come to claim the cottages and the taquerias of the town.


Then the beach will come to claim the blackberry thickets,

slowly choking them out with sand:

smooth and soft; but more often very cold

than the non-beach people think;

And the waves will come to claim the sand.

And all will go back to the sea.


And we will be gone

Or maybe just older and changed

But the sea is not a doting mother

And she does not pretend that all will not fall

as she rocks us to sleep tonight.

And autumn by autumn, year by year,

the town goes back to the sea, the sea,

and all goes back to the sea.



6 04 2012

A flit of the eyes, a quick glance,

then walk straight ahead, look straight ahead.

Eyebrows stiff, chin hard.

The proof is in the game

and the game is in the silence

but when les jeux sont fait, a straight beats a pair.

All I know is that a poker face is never as strong

as a heart on a sleeve,

nor nearly as dangerous.

And two ships that pass in the night are all the more wretchèd

because the night is so long

and the ocean so wide and lonely.

Why do I always write poems in the 2nd person?

6 04 2011

This poem is not for you.

You future-spirits, people of the pixel, people of the book,

For you I spin my magic –

but don’t fall under its spell.

The fairy dust’s for someone else,

the arrow nocked, the music swells;

But by then the muse has disappeared.

And yet to you,

you who listen, you who read,

you who to my cries pay heed,

Echoes a song of love,

far, far o’er space and time;

to you who are my reason,

but can never be my rhyme.

This poem is for you,

although you are not listening.

The “you” who populates its words,

Both audience and leading man.

The one I woo, the one I need,

you who these lines will never read.

To you I consecrate my heart,

the heart from which these words like heartsblood spill

flowing back into the earth

so growing things may bloom again.

Faceless muse, I surrender to your will,

But cannot sing to you.

Let’s rather go where lovers go,

away together, far away:

Where words I choke on need not rhyme,

And where a single kiss says all that poems cannot say.


2 04 2010

The end of the world came and went

without a sound (unless a sigh)

and laid to sleep beneath the ground

where dying futures lay to die

and ballads keen.

And left behind:

an emptiness, an empty scene;

A fiery cotton hangover; the morning of 2013.

Amidst the ruins and ash that swirls,

nor new dreams nor new world unfurls.

I drove for many miles tonight,

and overhead I saw a star

whose light advanced afar, afar,

to where the sleepless avenues are.

I wish I may, I wish I might,

I wanted to be part of that river of light,

To float unto still greater heights

Where sorrow melts beneath the lights.

Away, away, to NYU

the river floweth, and is gone.

On th’isle where the Nor’Easters sough

the lights of Broadway twinkle on,

but I’m left here where bedsheets burn

with photographs to dwell upon,

and try in vain to rediscern

all that upon which that light shone.

For though even the smallest hope extends,

What’s left to do after the world ends?

“Great Expectations” limericks

10 03 2010

…don’t ask.

There once was a young boy named Pip

Who liked eating carrots with dip.

But Jo, his mean aunt,

Told him fiercely, “You shan’t!”

And he didn’t dare give her more lip.

There once was a girl named Estella

Belovèd by many a fella.

Until from a young chap

She contracted the clap,

Which was rather worse than salmonella.

There once was a lady named Havisham

Who loved her four dogs, and would lavish ’em

With such loving attention

As merits a mention

For without them there, she wouldn’t have a chum.

There once was a fellow named Magwitch

Who kept all his things in a bag-witch.

When he quitted his room

He would fall to his doom,

For he lived on the top of a crag-witch.

There once was a fellow named Herbert

Who with boats was something of a pervert.

He would ram a small galley

In a dark London alley,

Then leave her alone by the curb-ert.

Train poem

16 02 2010

This is a medium of poetry I rarely, rarely use, and I’m sure it sucks. A lot. But it’s based on a random moment I experienced in real life, and I just wouldn’t have been able to put it in a more structured poem and do what I wanted with it.

The train stopped in a little town,

A nowhere suburb with a long, shady platform

And an empty oak-lined lane running just beyond.

A man in loose shorts was waiting there,

In the near-twilight, checking his phone,

Watching the world’s turning on a tiny screen

While he lounged in the still and sacred shade.

Maybe he was waiting for someone,

Someone who would get off the train

And follow him to a car in the near-empty parking lot,

And drive it home.

On the frontage road was a little brick restaurant

serving classy European food from whatever country:

Smoke curling up from the chimney,

Windows glowing warm against the dimness of the twilit glade.

Sometimes you want to get off the train,

Because at midnight

Someone will just be turning out the lights

In the little brick food-scented restaurant in the trees.

And the train, a ship of sleepless light,

Bound somewhere far away,

Will still be screaming onward

Into the rush of the sleepless night.

Sonnet 13

6 02 2010

What secret glamour makes men fall in love?

No single trait may do it every time.

Love is no test of worth; rather a shove

to madness, whose criteria are blind.

Strength moves not love, nor clarity of mind;

Though favored, gentleness is not the thing.

Even the fat and wicked somehow find

One person whose heart they can goad to sing.

In searching for a mate, no man can bring

To scrutiny the facts and figures true.

No – love is random, called by bells that ring,

And dreamlike voices whispering ‘I do’.

Love knows no reason, so why must we all

Beneath its folly live our lives in thrall?