I am searching for poetics
Like a displaced, untenured professor,
cast adrift by budget cuts
at the local community college, I
amid my books, scanning the want
ads, knowing I can do better,
I must do better (and fearing I’ll never
than my last job, jealous
as I’ve ever been
of these uncertain moments between
and resume faxes,
when I catch a glimpse of heaven
in a cat fight
below my window.
If no one else did,
I saw you.
Trapped in a car turned on its head, the
hood sucked into itself, the front wheels
hanging crazy like palsied fists
of a punchy, cauliflower-eared worn-out boxer,
with two firemen wedged in
the cockpit, trying to separate you from the
steering wheel’s embrace.
I saw you, your eyes wide
with lazy rainy day disbelief, the pain
taking a backseat to shock, one hand reaching out to clutch, to grab,
to feel, to touch life
you saw flash before your eyes
on the slippery X of an on-off ramp.
You weren’t in any hurry, this afternoon,
but the other driver filling out reports
with the police, was.
I prayed for you and cursed him,
and pulled into the passing lane, checking twice
behind me as I signaled.
Days of showers,
weeks of rain.
When it first comes, we’re taken by
surprise. Didn’t anyone tell the sky
this is the worst drought in 50 years?
Days of showers, weeks of rain.
the only consolation of running laundry
to the laundry room in pouring-down rain,
is that now we can do extra loads,
and not worry about running up our water tab.
We can take long, hot showers again,
too, now that rationing
has been lifted.
But habits that mix hygiene with fear
can be the hardest to break.
Natural compliments, they still make us think
twice about flushing the toilet
while its contents are still light.
Days of showers,
weeks of rain,
Back East, they think us crazy when we call,
whooping for joy at this should-be-everyday
Why should it delight us at all?
Days of showers, weeks of rain.
Smoke from wood fires hangs low
in the air, smelling good — a far cry
from the anxious tinge
to wildfire scent. And there are some who live
in the hills who think twice,
I’m sure, about lighting fires in their hearts
after the blazes a few years back…
but now we have days of showers,
and weeks of rain.
Light the match and set it to wood
and bless the warmth the cold wet
and will allow.
Now the rains have come
and there’s’ no threat of wildfire
for another year, at least, provided
May the rains stay.
Coffee cup in hand, I linger over the steam
rising from my reflection-in-brown,
and breathe deep —
Now I can greet a sharp bite
in my nostrils
first thing in the hazy morning
without checking on the waist-high tawny grasses
waving from the hills beyond
my kitchen window.
I once had a friend who drew
faces for dollar bills for a living.
She said it was more challenging
than most people realized
and more rewarding.
And I wondered if I ever saw her work,
or if she only did 500’s and Thousands.
And I wondered if she made commissions or royalties, or if
she was just a work-for-hire skald
who could only create the big bucks,
not own them.
I think of her often
whenever I pay large bills in cash.
At four in the morning, I might as well
be up and about, leftover mutterings
from my pre-sleep ruminations
six hours ago
rattling between me ears with REM-deprived
At four, this morning, I am
up and about, looking between clock and kitchen
window, for the first faint tinge of dawn,
we turned our clocks back last weekend,
and now nothing
for at least another month.
Television won’t help.
That much I know, so I don’t bother
with the clicker,
The book I started two days ago has lost
my interest halfway through
I’d make some tea, but my lover would love
me less if I woke her with the kettle’s pre-
One of us awake at this hour is enough.
So, at 4 a.m., I find myself counting
money. The checkbook needs balancing,
my wallet needs cleaned out,
I need to know how tight
or plump and promising a week I can expect.
I once knew a woman who always knew
exactly how much money
on her and in the bank.
I slept with that woman, too, but the only thing
that rubbed off on me was
a vaginal infection and an aversion to burgundy
She hated blue and green checkbook covers
almost as much as she resented latex —
blue and green were too bourgeois, she said. Besides,
they were the colors of her
abusive father and acquiescing mother.
Her dislike made a true believer out of me.
My checkbook covers are all blue, and I love
the smell of latex in the early Saturday a.m. hours.
I’ve found a fistful of dollar bills tucked
between deposit slips, old
and unused, in my wallet.
Right behind my one-day-at-a-time tattered,
meditation card I picked up along the path
to elusive serenity.
Calm now comes, as I count out — 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, plus a 5-er
makes 11, and one last single makes
The number of the disciples of Jesus
and the Tribes of Israel. The sacred number
of the medieval Church that chased out
the Goddess’s 13.
I find my lover’s wallet in the pocket
of her coat hung by the door,
out another single and make more holy
the haul I’ve got in my hands.
My parents used to frown when I counted
out the stash in my metal globe bank,
the many-sized chunks
of change jamming in the half-dollar-sized hole
in the bottom, as I shook the booty
onto my rumpled bedspread.
That bank had been a Christmas present
meant to distract me from the contents with all
the many-colored continents
(half the African and Eastern European country names obsolete)
drawing my attention to Rhodesia, the Red
Sea, the Northwest Territory/Yellowknife,
instead of my fiscal net worth/
It was 1972, and maybe it was okay
to collect money,
as long as you brushed up on your geography
whenever you went near it.
But I cared about the contents.
And with eager hands, I’d tug the dollar bills
through the hole, poke the coins
and set them free, sprinkling onto the cloth
Pennies, pennies, more pennies …
I separated them out, taking pity
on their different shade, paltry value, and counted
them out by date and condition
and where they’d been minted — if they said so.
Arranged before me with Lincolns facing left
like and army of brown eyes
surveying my bedroom from a central perch.
Sorting by chronology, I examined
20-year-old coins in search of traces of fingers
that had counted them, machines
that had swallowed them, sings of the myriad
cash register drawers they’d hopped in
and out of
like promiscuous teenagers making their way
through the drive-ins and lookout points
of America, ever hoping
this time might bring
Kneading those coppery witnesses to the saving
grace of commerce between 7-year-old
fingers, I needed to know where these
had been, I needed proof there was more
to the world than bell-bottoms, macramé,
Saturday protest marches, and an unending stream
of reasons to mistrust the government,
I needed to believe
if I collected enough of those small, brown
buttons — or, more importantly, the right
kind — I might trade them in someday for something
for myself. Just what that might be, was
unimportant. But it had to be
And the metal smell that clung to my hands
seemed somehow holy to me.
But that was 1972, and the smell
of money was not holy
beyond the territory of my bedspread
on Saturday afternoons.
to distrust that scent of past-present-future
hopes and dreams.
I put away my coins.
I spent my pennies, all wrapped in anonymous,
I stopped examining dates and mint marks.
Pennies stooped being coins
and turned into loose change, yet
still, the sight of a wheat penny
all these years later sends a thrill
And I make a point to keep it.
At last, there is dawn.
The checkbook is balanced, red tinges the sky,
and I lift my money-musky hand to my nose.
Amplifier of my soul, you lie there before me
so passive, yet so promising.
My desk is enlivened with the paycheck I just
Bills of several denominations grace the cold
surface of this work area
that makes them possible. Bills that sing
to eyes that gaze and hands that run
over their surfaces in grateful passes.
Amplifier of my soul, what I am
becomes all the more pronounced when you
come into play, the best of my hopes
hoping to withstand the pettiest of my jealousies,
rather than survive.
In these day of spartan dreams, should I
let myself be coaxed to simulated
death by the stinginess of my over-
in this time of mortal fears, shall I
lay myself down like a lamb
on the slaughterhouse threshold
with little more than a plaintive
bleat to register my dis-
content with the way things are?
that moment when the moon comes full
above the treeline
and October madmen set matches to tawny waving fields scheduled
to be high-weed-mowed on the morrow, can I
muster no resounding resolve
and stifle the wildfire playing havoc
with my soul?
still the mind and spare
turn and run for the hills,
and dig up a long-wide fire-
every half mile or so.
Get some sleep.
With all the cells of your body which renew
themselves daily, giving
you entirely new flesh, new muscle, new bone
every seven years,
accept your infinite youth.
With every thought that rises
out of old fact and fiction, like a phoenix
taking flights of fancy
from the rubble of experience’s accepted refuse,
acknowledge your uniqueness without end.
As each old day heralds new,
the wearing night succumbs to dawn, as the earth
cloaks and uncloaks her way
through her changes, and we are never apart
invite your unceasing renewal.
With the beating of your heart which never fails…
with the breaths of your lungs, ever filling-emptying-filling…
with each and every last part of you
that lives fully till it passes…
accept your infinite youth.