for seth who hates math today (you see i do understand)


before they called me a sparrow
i was a bird
mingled among all the others
our feathers expertly
in an uncharted carpet of sky
miss so-and-so
she and her puttied smile
marched through the door
laying lines
dropping names
cardinals over here please
then the jays yes that’s right dear
this spot for the hawks
and the sparrows that’s you hmm well why not over
miss so-and-so
she and her puttied smile
start firing morsels
in the air
cryptic and puzzling pests that
oh the cardinals
and jays
especially the hawks
their limbs soaring
snatch them up
well done
chests puffed out all over
the sparrow
i’m grounded
the few unclaimed offerings
raining upon me
making these mud wings
by my sides
miss so-and-so
you and your puttied smile
can’t lord
in my head
the blue is infinite
and a bird
is simply a bird

the fall


The fall is coming
as advertised
with its heavy-hearted inertia
and the morning fog reminds me so
down my throat
as I brace the dentist’s chair.
Even the boys
did some preemptive mourning
this morning
over frayed socks
and hairs on end
wisps of a season
that has all but blown away.
I relish those few woolen threads
still before their eyes.
As we drive by the tree on the corner
deep in the afternoon
I am the only one
who rereads headlines
of another stolen child
amongst its scarlet leaves.






sea legs


their woozy faces
it has indeed been a rocky night and
despite my years in fourfold over these greenhorns
i’m here
stumbling around the house snarling
a wooden prosthetic were the culprit
for i’d rather not admit
the land can be this
just no give to speak of so
into the soup
we must go
come on boys
i know the seal skins are a drag to unshed but
just look at her out there
is rushing back
how good it is
to feel the world’s woes
as one fluid body all around you
to taste its
cathartic salt on your lips
as your own
to glance down at your limbs
only to see
they have been magically transformed
into ripples that could not be
in step
the tide

blowing bubbles


these forty some odd years of rubble
when they really get to
on my chest
i fake them out
sprawled out on the summer sidewalk
make like i’m giving in
all the while buying some time back to when
every breath
was a maiden voyage skywards

surely you remember
the ridiculously buoyant vessels passing your lips
their domed walls
a swirling spectral radiance of the dreamy sighs they harbor
all witnesses gone still
their flailing arms finally calm
so sated are they with the moment
when some of the orbs manage to drift out of sight
rendering the continuum of possibility
utterly elastic

as for the ones that popped
there was that initial pang of loss
but a giggle would soon follow
for a bottle of soap seems bottomless
and that wand in your hand
can be so convincing
even now
as i raise one before me to
some more

falling for black holes


momma warned her
about the trickery of physics
of heavy space
overly shiny bodies
yet one day
at school
a supernova drew the girl in
swaying her with his impossible

his light made her eyes ache
even when she closed them
the afterimage
would penetrate her retinas
rake her throat
and when it pinned her chest to the wall
poised to make her take a flight
she felt what she had failed to see
that dark weight
of an impatient death
its insatiable mouth

the blaze of his outburst
licks at her heels
the story of a narrow escape
still smoldering in her breast pocket
as she returns
to her doorway
for once
the little stars
catch the girl’s gaze
she’s suddenly amazed
by those modest winks
how they seem
to invite her
to stake her own place
in the sky
amongst them

A Snorkel (In Three Parts)



Just a week short of turning eighty, he decided it was time for his life to be brought to an end.

Following the natural flow of the tide outside his window, an effusion of loved ones had long since rolled in, lingered, and then all been drawn away to explore the horizon or to make a final plunge into the depths.

He was ready to join the latter group.

Whether in the water or on land, the man had always navigated his surroundings with fluid, unhurried movements. With the bait of his lithe fingers, the neoprene gradually swallowed his body and the mask encased his eyes. Flippers soon extended from his toes.   The only item left was the snorkel. That could wait until he was in the ocean.

It was an unusually calm afternoon, particularly during the season of high tides. A marine layer tucked the beach under a lull of stillness and the encroaching waves responded in kind, generating a glassy surface all around him up to his waist. Once the mouthpiece was negotiated between his teeth and lips, he sucked in a long breath of air and dipped under the soft ripples.

One solid trumpeting expelled all the excess droplets that had sloshed into the tube and before long he could hear his labored but regular breaths filling his ears. Now he could focus on the world where he really belonged, the place where he felt most alive.

In his youth, he had traveled to many lush terrains. Exotic jungles, swamps. But they were incomparable to the overwhelmingly verdant, teeming density of the sea in his backyard. This vitality was palpable; a pulsating energy that physically nudged you into constant awareness and wonder. He had witnessed a plethora of different forms of sea life over the years. Kelp fronds were his most common companion, but he often caught a glimpse of smelt, or better yet, of seals.

At this point, where the pier ended, was where he usually stopped. Today he followed the sun that slipped from the sky and began dropping into the darkening liquid.

A minute went by.

His lungs began to protest and his limbs flailed around involuntarily, pulling him above.

Another attempt yielded the same result. Frustration and doubt welled up behind the plastic visor.

But then a pair of waves caught him by surprise, filling up his snorkel. When he surfaced and instinctively blew to clear the tube, he discovered something now was stubbornly obstructing the flow of air. By now he was too exhausted to remove the mouthpiece or continue treading water.

He took this turn of events as a sign that he could finally let go. He smiled one last time as he accompanied the day’s descent far into the night.


At the beginning, it was all about basking in a deliciously dark bubble of sleep.

Soft currents kneaded and patted him meticulously on all sides, thereby cultivating this trance of incubation for months on end.

Once the eggs ruptured, mother was already dead, and he and his other 200,000 or so siblings were dumped into the salty atmosphere to try their own luck at survival.

For an additional four weeks, the young octopus had ridden a cloud of plankton that swirled near the surface, sustaining himself on larval crabs and narrowly escaping the mouths of passing smelt, or worse yet, an occasional seal.

Then came an afternoon of the king tides, when the entire marine universe gravitated towards the shore.

Everything took on an eerie, effervescent tone as beings moved to adjust to the change. He was ripped from the community of plankton, his eight spindly limbs scrambling to keep up with an amplified rise of the waves. In a moment of complete disorientation, he was swept up then dropped to rest inside a strange narrow enclosure.

There was only one other time in his brief existence when he had felt so safe.

A blast of pressure came from below, working to push him out, but he established a firm suction with his tentacles along the sides of the hiding place and held on. The force at the bottom finally ceased, and he and the tube were falling downwards, being dragged by a weight. But before long the weight was released and he began to float in his new craft, eventually landing in a shallow lagoon at the shore. He remained inside, feeding on the mussel that had accompanied him. In no time he had grown so much he could not leave this space even if he had wanted to do so.


The snorkel was either overlooked or ignored by the traffic of the vacationing adults who waded by. It was a 9-year-old boy who noticed the blue object in the water, picked it up, and held it close to his face, unperturbed by the fetid stream of liquid that it emitted and trickled down his arms.

There was something alive in there.

After finding a less populated area of the beach, the boy squatted down and worked on twisting the mouthpiece off from the tube. With this done, he saw the parts in the remaining snorkel still would not allow the contents to be emptied. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the knife his mother had told him he was too young to use.  One hand steadied the tube and tilted it at an angle to assure that the creature was away from the projected path of the blade. The other pierced the plastic with the tip of the knife, and then began a frenzied sawing with the serrated portion of the tool. Two agonizing minutes later, the plastic gave way and the snorkel was in three separate pieces. The kid picked up the heaviest portion, tipped it, and a diminutive octopus slid into his hand along with a pool of water.

The shock of the encounter rendered both parties utterly immobilized for some moments. When the octopus began to squirm in his palm, the boy cupped his other hand on top and began running to the surf. He waded out until the water reached his chest, and delicately released the animal. As the cephalopod propelled itself further and further away, he was reminded of the message in his fortune cookie at lunch:

                   You discover treasures where others see nothing unusual.


For the little guy who didn’t actually make it…

Drugs, Alcohol and Cigarettes (After School)



Age nine
On a Tuesday
After school
Is the time
To talk
And cigarettes.

He climbs in,
Buckles up,
And before I can say
“How was your day?”
He asks
Do people smoke?”

The kid knows
Something sweet
Must lie behind all the stink
And I think
I owe him some truth
(Of the beasts it can soothe
The wild hairs smoothed)
-But not without first
scaring him straight.

I tap the nightmarish stuff
Of national campaigns,
Like the woman eking out a puff
Fom a makeshift mouth
In her neck,
Her ragged lungs
Wringing out
Specks of vowels and consonants.

Then the sermonizing fervor
And I hear myself sink
Deeper into the handbasket.
I speak of hardening drinks,
Cups that runneth over lives
And tires that also will
Under the same influence;
I speak of sachets of Salts and Spice
Picked up at the corner store
-How they can slice through grey matter
the same as a boiled vegetable…

I pause
To catch my breath.
He scans the road

He says
I may still try
A cigarette.”