Poet’s Wife at a Poetry Reading

Maroon, hard-ass plastic
chairs arranged, in haphazard
semi-circle around The Podium,
discount chardonnay and store-bought
sweets “breathe” on a folding table.

I am not a poet

I do not speak       in soliloquy,
rhyme, metaphor, or simile.

I do not speak       in the static, soft,
sing-song voice that lures

the waking mind       elsewhere. I speak
straight from the heart, that which
makes me angry        elated        heartbroken.

I am not a poet

I don’t paint pictures       with words,
my life is simple, challenging,

normal, chaotic. I am me, yet
in words, there is truth
beauty        love        life

poetry        is me.


This was written by my wife, Annette, who is a badass for a variety of reasons.  We were at a post-Thanksgiving party / poetry reading the other night and she actually got up and read this in front of the group.  Her first reading in front of a group of people.  She was great and that night might’ve been the highlight of 2015.

Posted in Poetry Tagged with:

Head Cold

Sometimes it’s like snot is Amazon’s
fastest moving holiday item and the only factory
in all of North America is in my skull. And then
my lungs turn into a vast warehouse, storing

all the phlegm for an entire nation. Enough
to get us through two, possibly three winters.
And my ears, Jesus God, my ears get so
clogged with gunk I literally can’t hear right.

Everything that isn’t shouted at me gets
met with, “Hah? What?” It’s fucking ridiculous.
So this happens, and I break
out the Neti pot and irrigate my skull

like it’s sitting next to the Ganges, and I drop
hydrogen peroxide in my ears and listen to the fizzy,
catalatic buffet that runs in the background
of every nightmare. After a week of this,

I’m feeling worse, not better, so I call my doctor
and she can see me the next day–
an actual Christmas miracle!
So I’m in her exam room, and she’s shoving

her little pokey flashlight thing into all my face holes
and she says, “What about your ears? Is there congestion
in your ears?” And I tell her of course there is
and I’ve been doing the peroxide thing for five days

and she says, “Okay, well stop doing that,” and I ask
why and she says, “Your ears are immaculate.
You could hold a masquerade ball in them
and it’d be delightful.” She tells me everything

between my liver and eyeballs is infected
and she writes me a prescription, gives me
a lollipop, and sends me home, where I sleep
for the next sixteen hours. I wake up

start the day right by irrigating the fuck out of
my skull, but this time I get the water as hot
as I can stand it, and I can really feel it work
as it washes through my right nostril, around my eyes,

and out my left nostril, followed by a shower
of glistening angel hair pasta. I will never again eat
angel hair pasta. I turn on the shower, again
as hot as I can deal with, and let the steam

cook my skull like an Irish cabbage. I step out
stand before the mirror to see seven feet
of fully cooked lobster. Sitting on the bed, I
open the nightstand drawer, and look over

the dozen or so bottles of pills, standing
in the drawer like tiny round skyscrapers
in yellow and orange – my medication metropolis.
I take my antibiotic, Sudafed, and Vitamin

C for the sickness, the Lisinopril for the high
blood pressure, the Indapamide for the swelling
in my ankles, the B12 for energy, three fish oil
pills to help with cholesterol, a combo pill of B12,

B6, and something called folate, which keeps the blood
sugar in line, Vitamin D for the prostate, and a Kale pill
for— I have no idea what the Kale pill is for,
but I take it and swallow the entire haul

with a giant glug of juice. I feel total
blockage in my right nostril, grab a Kleenex,
and blow – whoosh thump – what hits the Kleenex
is heavy, like a soft bullet, and I’m appalled by

the speed with which it hit the tissue
and by myself. I get up, grab some socks
from the clean pile and I feel another round
in the chamber. Another Kleenex, another

whoosh thump. I put on
one       fucking       sock.
Kleenex. Whoosh thump. This happens
five more times before I finish dressing, my skull

is now a battleship and we are at war, a platoon
of sailors loading new snot torpedoes into tubes
every minute, minute and a half. When this
finally stops, I feel every       particle       of dust

I breathe in as it lands on my brain. I can smell the pet
dander in my neighbor’s house, the humidity in Colombia
I can smell God’s aftershave. And a few hours later
whoosh thump.

Posted in Poetry Tagged with:

Helping John Piss

Your gown, little more than an oversized rag,
is hanging by its fingers. Why do they even
bother with the buttons and ties? I see more
of your naked body than I ever wanted to.

Below the knee, your right leg is a map
of waterways: inlets and estuaries
of varicose veins. Your left foot, ash-
black and dangling, just failing to reach the ground.

You begin to fall backward but my right
arm hooks under yours as my left catches
your back. Your ancient skin, a purple
and brown archipelago of bruises and liver spots,
smooth, so different from your calloused handshake.
I bring you upright and help you these last, painful inches.

Your hands fumble under your gown and our eyes
lock in to each other, in silent agreement. Your head
rolls back and I realize your lower jaw hasn’t
been jutting out this whole time, you just don’t have
any upper teeth. I had no idea.

The echo of water hitting plastic is lost
in your painful roar. A nurse tells you to keep
it down but we tell him to go fuck himself.
A bottle with an inch and a half of brown liquid
appears from under your gown and you place it
next to my iced tea.

I think back to my morning piss, standing
half asleep over the toilet, trying to remember
if there are still eggs in the fridge, wondering how
I’ll make the time to come see you.

I take your legs in my right arm, the two of us
forming an awkward Pieta
and I swing them back into your bed.

Posted in People Who Died, Poetry Tagged with:

I Miss You All

I started writing this over two years ago.  I just discovered it sitting around, under “drafts” and took a look.  It was originally titled “John Fuckin’ Harrelson,” but reading it over, it’s about all the people I’d recently lost.

John was way too young to die.  62, I think, but his health was taking a serious turn for the worse for the last year or so of his life.  I remember turning to my wife in January, 2013 and telling her I didn’t think John would see out the year.  I really wish I’d been wrong about that.  I was with him the day before he died, and he was in such bad shape that when I got the news the next day, I was mostly just happy for him that his struggles were over.  Eventually the tears came of course, but I really was happy to know he was done suffering.  When I got the call, I knew what had happened before I answered the phone.

Something very similar to that happened when Jerome died.  The call was a blocked number, which meant either Jerome or my parents.  Jerome’s mother, Bette, said my name and I instantly knew he was dead.  Her next sentence confirmed it.  I wasn’t surprised by the news either, though I was certainly diminished by it.  I can’t remember his birthday now, but he was either 49 or 50.

I found out Dwayne died via a Facebook message from his wife.  They lived in Hong Kong, and she didn’t have my phone number or email address, so that’s how she had to get in touch with me.  Dwayne had been diabetic since high school but other than that, and smoking too much, he seemed to be in good health.  I guess he woke up shortly after midnight, gasping for air, and was dead before morning.  Apparently he had a heart attack.  He was my age.  I spoke at his funeral and reconnected with and/or met all five of his children.  That day kicked me in the heart.

Christmas of 2012, I ran into an old boss of mine named James.  James and I parted ways in 1995 on seriously ugly terms.  In hindsight, neither of us was a very good person to the other.  When I ran into him that last time, he was with his son.  They were walking through the Claremont Village and James was telling him about the old days of The Comic Room.   He invited me to have lunch with him, which just surprised the hell out of me.  Something was noticeably different about him.  None of the bad blood that had existed between us for over a decade was there anymore.  It was just gone.  He gave me his business card and I took it with every intention of calling him and going to lunch with him and, I don’t know, putting the bullshit to rest, I guess.  Then the winter quarter started and I was taking sixteen units, and then it ended and spring quarter began and before you know it, the academic year had ended.  And then I heard that James had died.  No one I talked to had any idea what he’d died from, just that he’d died.  I don’t even know how old he was.

Getting back to John.  John was an excellent friend, and though I was never a student of his, he was something of a mentor to me.  At the start of his last decline, I wrote a bunch of poems about him, one of which was pretty damn good, I think.  I think maybe I’ll post it here soon.  Anyway, I printed a copy of it and took it to the rehab facility he spent his last days in.  I was going to read it to him, but he was really having a bad day.  Then his mom showed up, and some other things got in the way, and I decided I’d read it to him later.  He died the next day.

I’m pretty sure he’d have liked what I wrote.  Maybe not.  I should have read it to him.  I really hope that in the future, I’ll remember the pain of having waited.

These are the only two truths about our time here on earth that matter:

  1. There’s never enough of it.
  2. We never know when it’s up.

Never wait for the things you want, because tomorrow you’ll be dead.

Posted in People Who Died Tagged with:

So This Just Happened

Without question, the end times must be near…

My Universal Life Church Ordination

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