These Words

These words won’t wait for me to “mean”
They won’t sit idly by
As would-be meaner, I
Pretend I’ve intentional control
They rush like rapids on rocks
Not measured flow in locks
Their stubborn semantic pathway destined there

These words will meet an “eager” ear that
Wrings from them a sense
All full of danger dense
As I still ready reasons flaccid
You hear before I’ve said
Your ear a Procrustean bed
Cuts off the feet of “what I meant”

These words have spoken long before I speak
Returning to me void, my bloodied blade
Or so it can appear
If your expected ear
Conforms to my sad self-told tale of woe

“Knowing” you won’t really hark to me
I see them fly like birds
These words

These words



The flat, stale smell of death is on the curtains
In my room, and on my trousers too
As if I’d been there, standing near her arm
And gotten splattered when she fired the gun
It’s like the scent of brains and dark despair

Death in our time stays apart from us
Hiding, though the dead are known and near
But someone has to find it in fresh sleep
When coldness comes, invited by our hands
Or steals upon us sudden, as we walk

It was her husband found her, I was told
Husband, lover, one who shared her bed
One who knew her smile, her warmth, her care
But knew her darkness too, had felt her anger
Sometimes aimed at him, or aimed at her

I imagine finding love in blood and tears
Below the stars that witnessed its demise
A tightness grips my heart with that same cold
As if a part of me had passed there too
Or somehow felt the bullet blasting home

I imagine being him, enduring pain
That no known voice can give a proper shape
Wishing my blood ran into her veins
Or my heart beat within her chest for her
Or my head took that missile in her place

I feel all this from distance safe, and time
That runs along a different axis here
As though the shot were in another world
The blood upon another planet’s soil
But no such alien to us is death

The smell still clings, and haunts my home and work
I’m guessing it will fade across my years
But do I want it so to fade?  Perhaps
Or maybe I would keep a hint of odor
To keep my blood from clotting in my limbs

Perhaps I’ll keep a hint of her with me
That I might always find my love in time
Before she puts her hand to steel and fire
Before she puts a dagger to her soul
That I might bleed before another dies

Every Night I Pull My Tears

Every night I pull my tears
From pockets of my pants or jeans and
Toss them in the laundry hamper.

There they sit, for one to seven
Days (depending when we wash) in my
Room of rest (but not always sleep).

They never sit alone as they wait,
Soaked in the cotton/poly white that I
Carry for mucous, sweat… and this.

Mornings I take one, neatly folded and
“Clean,” the tears all rinsed away
(meaning merged with other liquid,
Diluted to indiscernibility).

But that they’re gone is no mere absence, their
Trace still haunts the washed white cloth
Invisible, unlike occasional blood.

Sometimes tears of others mix when
I’ve a cloth and they’re without. It’s
“Clean,” but still they mix therein. So

At night, when I tiredly pull my tears
For washing, it’s more than just today’s
And more than mine, aware or not.

That “clean” is never purely so can
Irk one. But with tears I’d guess
It fuels the soul to carry such traces.


Nothing Doing

Re-blogging this from my old, formerly “secret” blog.  It was originally posted on May 11, 2012.


Nothing Doing
(or I Should Be Glad Of Another Death)


At some sorry times a paralysis crawls
Out across the tarmac of my day
With no sufficient reason (pace Leibniz)
And no sense of the shrill urgent mundane
Clearly without why and
Frustrating as hell

Sure, one queries medicinal regimes
Or blames the food, the drink, the exercise
Neglected. Nothing can account for it.

Nothing;” if ever there were a pregnant word
Haunting the door of a clinic of dark purpose
Agonizingly wanting its abortion
Rather than the wait, the weight, the wait.
Cut it loose! Flush it from my gut!

But this dark clinic, closed and quiet, darker
Than its normal merely moral darkness,
Gives no answer to my wimpy whinings.

Nothing dwells there.  Nothing answers me.
And Nothing says that I must wait some more.
It’s hardly any Biblical cityscape
To which the slouching Nothing now draws near.

I must wait.
I must

“Held out into it,”
As Heidegger would have it



June 12, 2016

Only the tiniest portion of your pain
Have I known in my “straight” life

It’s there in my memory from early schooling
Where “schooling” was so much more
Than just what came from the teachers
When I couldn’t be male in the ways demanded
When the prescribed hatreds didn’t fully take root
When none of their niches felt like home
When I couldn’t “BE A MAN!” as they wanted
They called me “QUEER” with the same snarl
That cut their pale phallic idols off sharply
From anything black, or female, or otherwise Other
And even from Amish, that being the only real Other
Actually living near our whitewashed town

I’m white and cis-male and hetero, privileged
I know, though I forget, and then know again
And I have only wails today, not words
But if I try any words at all, when none will do
I’ll say that I accept that stabbing word with you
I’ll remember those peers and their discursive knives
I’ll be Queer, damn it all, I’ll be Queer with you

I want to risk going to Hell with you
Hereafter or here

It’s only the tiniest portion of your pain
But I want to endure it with you today
Today and always


“On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a mass shooting inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, United States. Orlando Police Department officers shot and killed him after a three-hour standoff.”  (Wikipedia)



Wings, Time, Everything

A restaurant breakfast with musical background
That opening guitar for “Band on the Run”
Is a time-machine suddenly jerking me back
To Midwestern nineteen seventy four

I think of how impossibly serious I was
Back then, how bent on knowing precisely what
And whom to love, what and whom to hate
Everything rode on the knowing, though I clearly
Knew not the scope or depth of “everything”

Nor do I know many deeper things now

But I do know that “everything” seems too much
And it’s THESE things in all their particularity
That ride on what I know and do this moment


Songs are often time machines for me
But the time they lead back to, so indirectly
Is the remembering time, not remembered time

And when I write it again right after this stanza
It will look the same, but will not be the same





Across the street, an old man walks
Carrying a brown paper sack
As if it were his wage
And he’s walking to the bank

On his face a grim apprehensiveness
A set of the jaw as if he’s to meet
A particularly disagreeable teller
Who might dicker there on the spot
To set an arbitrary interest rate

In his sack, the currency so to speak
A strange, flavorless food of a sort
But neither he nor the teller
Would make a meal of it anytime soon

A dog barks in a yard nearby
Half-heartedly, barking only at the sack
It holds a wage for sin the dog can sense
But sin so common as to be no threat

The old man walking with his wage
Is something I see sidelong and quick
And I only know the sin and its wage
Having borne that bark myself
When I was the one that walked

It fades as quickly, paid and cashed
Remarkable only for a moment and only
To a fundamentalist flea
That bit the dog for barking so

An insect, I breathe
like Dylan Thomas


Middle Management

Middle Management

Too blind for order, too ordered for chance
They meet in the middle; they dance! they dance!
Too young for the moment, too old for the wait
But deciding between them’s a horrible fate

Too sick for a doctor, too well for the cot
They look at the middle, but see it not
Too breathless for horseplay, too wakeful to rest
They stray from the middle, though both think it best

Too righteous for sackcloth, too sinful for silk
They purge from the middle those not of their ilk
Too loving to kill, but too hateful to heal
They cognize the middle, forgetting to feel

Too rich for the boondocks, too poor for the hill
They stay in the middle and claim to be ill
Too mobile for concrete, too settled for wheels
We oughtn’t be shocked that the middle appeals!

For strangers too cozy, for lovers too far
Does anyone wonder now, just who “They” are?



This was originally written in 2000, and refers to an open letter, drafted in the late 1990’s, that was directed to “the Anabaptist-Mennonite family of churches,” calling for full welcome of gays and lesbians.


(On Reading the Welcome Letter)

That there might be blood in a list of names,
Soul in paper or marble or text on a screen;
That there might be light in a line of letters
In line after line of Miller, Yoder, Smith, Doe.
I only read names, but read and weep and ache;
I touch the names and feel the sadness here.

Names.  Names with towns and states appended
Giving a vague geography, or lack of same
To a call that’s grown quietly, slowly, and late;
So many names I wish were here, but all the more
Precious for that, these names I am reading,
Knowing a few by face, but most of them only by
Name.  His name.  Her name.  Our names.

I stood once before a harsh blade wedged in the earth
Watching people shuffling past staring sadly at
Names etched in black marble, in which one could
See oneself behind the names, among or beneath them;
Names of the dead, but still they breathed somehow
As loving hands rubbed them with paper and pencil
Hoping to take that bit of breath along.  I saw that
Many who read the names were weeping, as did I.

I waited once in a hallway filled with names
Of people whose money had built the building that
Housed the hall, and kept their names in glass
For hundreds to pass every day and ignore.
Watching my reflection in the glass covering,
I studied the names on a plaque, and tried to
Picture this living woman or man writing a
Check larger than I can fathom, to have their
Names etched in that hall of forgetfulness.

The names I see appended to this letter, now, they
Hover precariously between the blade of remembrance
And the hallway of forgetfulness.  Yes, there is a sort
Of death here, a sort of heroism, a sort of mourning,
But also a wondrous gift, beyond the signature on a check.
Seeing my own name there, among the other names is
Different from seeing my reflection in marble or glass.

I wish that this time the names on the list would
Spell something other than someone’s death, or
Someone’s memory locked in a case.  I wish these
Names would bind the hearts of all who’ve signed and
All who read.  But death still haunts this list, I think, in
Forms of fear, forms of hate that would be love, but love
With fists instead of open arms and hands.

In the face of death, may these names breathe and live.



On Your School of Criticism

As the paper on which my
Story is printed is
…..barely three dimensional,

So your critical eye
…..deems it

But have you seen the
8½ x 11 that waits
…..around the corner from
Where you look?

I thought not.
You only scrutinize my
Edge, and

It hurts like a
Paper cut.


(originally written years ago; no date recorded)

Kyrie! (cough! cough!)

How do I sort tenacious longings out
When they are my longings, not stray socks?
I, who am multiple, ask this of myself
And know that I am asking the wrong one, really
But the right one, too, as if I were another
And could ask the one of me who doesn’t long

Longings and logic are hardly fast friends
And so they clash, they scrape and lacerate
Ignoring any transcendent balm or tonic
Stashed in the medicine cabinet of the heart
Unopened because it is what bears the ache
Is exactly where the pain originates
I can’t reach what I take to be the cure
The heart, at times it seems, is wholly lacking
The heart to nurse its own intense travail

And no one else with face of bone and flesh
Is there to tell about my sad mis-longing
(It’s THAT, I want to say, that truly burns!)

Oh sure, this is the time for God, for prayer
To throw on the mercy of that eternal court
A  soul that cries like a snake, tail in mouth
A gaze fallen into a fog that is itself
“I need Thee, oh, I need Thee,” it tries to sing
But only with a coarse and weakened voice
For longing is indeed the problem here

Longing should be for that beyond space-time
For rest in Him, found by the restless heart
For only that which truly draws our longing

As if I had not known this well already
As if it were a button to push, a switch
To throw, rather than feeling self as thrown
Rather than being what does not do the longing
And telling the longing to go the hell away
The hell, indeed the Hell is in the longing
That cannot long for its own full cessation
Death will not do for this angel of death

So I guess these lines will trace an unsaid plea
Like “I believe, God, help my unbelief”
Just not belief, but longing is at stake
So end of my longing, help my longing find
Its end somehow instead of household idols
That I’m forever moving to throw away
But always polishing, putting away again
Always longing, lusting, losing grip

Sinning that grace may abound

.                                                       Christ, have mercy.

Autumnal Epiphany

This is an older poem of mine, written in about 1991.  It has echoed more than once in my life since then.


Autumnal Epiphany

I had a friend in high school who
could make me teary-eyed.
That was a wondrous thing.

A new friend who does the same
opens abysses forgotten,
But yawning entirely pleasantly
beneath my newly-washed feet.

Standing nowhere, but standing anyway,
Breathing air that’s thick without conditions;
it fills my lungs so freshly,
Reminding me of infinity and of grace.

Where have you been,
That you know me so warmly?