Small Craft Talk Warning

- 1955-

All poetry is about hope.
A scarecrow walks into a bar.
An abandoned space station falls to earth.
When probing the monster’s brain,
you’re probably probing your own.
A beautiful woman becomes a ghost.
I hope I never miscalculate the dosage
that led to the infarction
of my lab rabbit again.
All poetry is a form of hope.
Not certain, just actual
like love and other traffic circles.
I cried on that airplane too,
midwest patchwork below
like a board game on which
mighty forces kick apart the avatars.
I always wanted to be the racecar
but usually ended up a thumbtack.
When I was young, sitting in a tree
counted as preparation and later
maybe a little whoopie in the morgue.
So go ahead, thaw the alien, break
the pentagram but watch out for
the institutional hood ornaments.
It’s not a museum, it’s a hive.
The blood may be fake
but the bleeding’s not.

Thrown as if Fierce & Wild

You don’t have a clue, says the power drill
to the canoe hanging from the rafters.
Is life a contest everything plays
by different rules for different prizes?
You’re really worthless, aren’t you?
barks the cherry tree covered with eponymous
fruit to the wagon lying on its side.
Unfair! Wasn’t that wagon not two days ago
leading the parade, the puppy refusing
to wear her hat? Can’t you just leave me
alone? says the big picture of Marilyn
Monroe behind her nonreflective glass.
Is the universe infinity in ruckus
and wrack? The third grader loose
in dishwares, the geo-tech
weeping on the beach. Mine, mine,
says the squirrel to the transformer,
unclear on the capacities of electricity.
String of Christmas lights tangled with
extension cords, can’t you work things out?
The young couple takes a step toward the altar,
increasing the magnetic force that sends
ex-lovers whirling off into nether nebulae
but attracting mothers-in-law. In one wing,
the oxygen mask taken from the famous writer
of terza rema glee while in another
an infant arrives, loudly disappointed
to have to do everything now himself,
no longer able to breathe under water.
Will we never see our dead friends again?
A motorcycle roars on the terrible screw
of the parking structure, lava
heaves itself into the frigid strait.

Ash Ode

When I saw you ahead I ran two blocks
shouting your name then realizing it wasn’t
you but some alarmed pretender, I went on
running, shouting now into the sky,
continuing your fame and luster. Since I've
been incinerated, I've oft returned to this thought,
that all things loved are pursued and never caught,
even as you slept beside me you were flying off.
At least what's never had can’t be lost, the sieve
of self stuck with just some larger chunks, jawbone,
wedding ring, a single repeated dream,
a lullaby in every elegy, descriptions
of the sea written in the desert, your broken
umbrella, me claiming I could fix it.

Scarecrow on Fire

Everything is brushed away, off the sleeve,
off the overcoat, huge ensembles of assertions
just jars of buttons spilled, recurring
nightmare of straw on fire, you the scarecrow,
the scare, the crow, totems gone, rubies
flawed, flamingo in hyena’s jaws, noble
and lascivious mouth of the gods hovering
then gone, gone the glances, gone moths,
cities of crystal become cities of mud,
centurion and emperor dust, the flower girl,
some of it rises, proof? some of it explodes,
vein in the brain, seed pod poof, maybe
something will grow, another predicament
of bittersweet, dreamfluff milkweed,
declarations of aerosols, vows just sprays
of spit fast evaporate, all of it pulverized
as it hits the seawall, all of it falling snow
on water, flash of flying fish, breach and blow
and sinking, far below creatures of luminous jelly
constellated and darting and baiting each other
like last thoughts before sleep, last neural
sparks coalescing as a face in the dark,
who was she? never enough time to know.

Related Poems

How Do I Know When a Poem Is Finished?

When you quietly close
the door to a room
the room is not finished.

It is resting. Temporarily.
Glad to be without you
for a while.

Now it has time to gather
its balls of gray dust,
to pitch them from corner to corner.

Now it seeps back into itself,
unruffled and proud.
Outlines grow firmer.

When you return,
you might move the stack of books,
freshen the water for the roses.

I think you could keep doing this
forever. But the blue chair looks best
with the red pillow. So you might as well

leave it that way.

Ars Poetica

Too late—the path to righteousness gone cold
& everywhere a forked tongue, split road
                                                                dividing line—
toward, away, toward—the divine, unraveling like anise, black
licorice in the night. Psych—Nothing that dramatic. Nothing quite
so unpalatable, destitute, but I did leave the church. I kept
praise, its utterances. I kept guilt, do unto others, & not much else
except You. Please don’t worry too much about me. I left
                                                                                               a window
cracked wide, view enough to see myself back, in case of fire. I’ve left
frequencies     staticky, radios blinking MAYDAY MAYDAY
from a gashed motherland, kept them flickering my veins like angry 
lightbulb filaments, left errant, purposely. I try so hard to be good
at mercy. Though, sometimes, a wound is the salve, & besides
harder to forgive the self when I don’t always recognize my flaws
as ill intentioned or otherwise. I’d try You in Taoism, yoga. I’ve tried
expensive whiskey, tried running suicides. I’ve tried this one
                                                                                               blue stone
skipped across a transom, tried the joyous nectar residing between
several varieties of thighs. I’d try anything to sound a shot heart,
my bottomless racket. I’d do anything to live quietly
in You, Father, Maker, Mother, Muse, I try so hard I try. I really do.