The Entirely Rational Reason I am Terrified I Might Someday Sell a Book

The hardest thing about writing a book of poetry is forgiving yourself for not being a better poet.

There is a finality to putting something in print, a finality that is not there when you post something to your blog.   You can always edit your blog.  You can always improve what you have posted.

You cannot edit a book that has been sold and shipped.  You cannot improve it.

Publishing a book is way too much like telling the truth.  It is almost impossible to take back the truth.  We humans might be crazy, but at least most of us are not crazy enough we would want tell the truth!  At least you can say that much for us.

I’d have to be crazy to want to sell a book.


Love is a Phoenix


Inside us all is a girl or boy
Of about thirteen who means well.

There are a whole lot of things
She or he is not sure they know,
Not at all sure they know.
But they are certain
True love is a diamond.

They are fixed and firm
That what lasts is love,
And what does not last
Never was.

They have faith, that boy or girl,
Faith that true love lasts forever.

“Diamonds never change.
Neither does gold.
Neither should any precious thing.
Neither should love.”

Inside us all is a boy or girl
Of about thirteen who means well,
But who struggles to understand.


What is the hungriest you have ever been?
Do you still recall how that oatmeal
Tasted like ambrosia
When you broke your fast?
Those were not diamonds you ate,
That was not gold.
That oatmeal did not last.

Diamonds and gold never change,
Diamonds and gold never die,
But neither do they live.
Only the dead never change.

Love is a living thing.


Lives are born, grow old, and die,
But life itself is a phoenix.
Life itself is timeless
Because life itself is born again.
Again and again reborn.

A phoenix lives forever
But not without dying.

Inside us all is a girl or boy
Of about thirteen who means well,
But who struggles to understand
That to know how to love
Is to know how to die,
Die to be reborn.


I Want to Open the Western Gate

I want to open
The western gate.

I want to open
The setting sun
And pass through to the night.

I want to seize heaven
And shake down the fiery stars.

I want to seize the stars
And with my lips, with my kisses
Brand constellations on your thighs.

And then begin my weeping.

Because, my Love,
You refuse my love.

You refuse my love
And I have less chance with you
Than I have of passing through the setting sun
To reach the beckoning stars.

I want to
(I will never)

I want to open
(I will never open)

The western gate.

This poem is a rewrite of an earlier poem. 


The Wait


You were young,
So young when it happened,

So young that I remember
You still needed to believe
Good always comes to good people
And evil never comes to good people,

And evil never comes.
To good people.

And so you blamed yourself,
You blamed yourself.
My niece, you blamed yourself
Though you were without fault
And blameless.

My niece,
How many souls would a person need
If she needed one for each soul
Stolen from her or lost
Along the way?

How many souls would she need
If she needed one for each soul
Ripped from her or stolen
Even before she has known love?

And what sum of souls
Is tallied by the years
She spends pressed against a wall,
Shot through by nightmares,
Shot through,
Shot down?

And what sum of souls
Is tallied by the years
She spends out in the cold,
Trembling in hope of love,
Shaking in fear of love?
What sum of souls?


So you are now come to these mountains,
To a high place in the wind,
Ostensibly to visit me,
Ostensibly to spend time with your uncle,
But in reality,
In reality to thirst among the dry stones,
Thirst for the soul you have not yet known.

At night I hear you in your room
Praying to your heart,
In your sleep, your trembling lips
Are praying to your heart.

Your faithful heart that has held
Itself receptive and open
Over the decades now, the decades now,
Your faithful heart that has done the impossible
And held itself receptive and open.

To your faithful heart your lips pray:
“If only you will wait long enough
If only you will wait long enough

If only you can wait long enough
If only you can wait long enough

Out in the cold.”


And now in the valley far below comes this way walking
a figure
Wearing a wreath of tender leaves,
Singing songs of healing,
Singing songs.
And now in the valley far below comes this way walking
a figure
With one foot stepping on the earth
And one foot stepping in beauty,
Singing songs.
Singing songs.


The slope is steep, the rocks are sharp,
The path is long, the night approaches
And he might yet turn away,

If only you will wait long enough.
If only you will wait long enough.
If only you can wait long enough.
If only you can wait long enough.
Out in the cold.


“Bad Poem! Bad Poem!”

Writing a poem
Is like training a dog.

The poem loves you.
It loves you and it is loyal to you.
It is loyal to you and it wants to obey you – but
But sometimes…

Sometimes it looks at you, cocks its head,
And just does not understand what you
Are telling it to do.

You want it to bark and growl and bite – but
It thinks you want it to fetch,
So it drops your slippers
At the feet of the thief
Who broke into your house.

Or it looks at you, cocks its head,
And is on the edge,
On the very edge
Of understanding you,
Of getting you,
Of getting you at last — but
And it’s off racing in a direction
You never wanted it to go.

I love my poems, but I can get upset,
I can raise my voice.

“Bad poem! Bad poem!
No treat for you!”

Sometimes I yell it, really yell it.
“Bad poem! Bad poem!”

My neighbor is shocked.

She phones me, “You’re cruel! Cruel!
I’ll call the Society on you!”

I tell her, “The American Poet’s Society
Is not the American Humane Society.”

She doesn’t listen.

And neither does the Poet’s Society.
They send their inspector around.
“Sir, we’ve had a report.”

“A what?”

“A report, Sir.”

You still don’t think poems are like doggies?
You still doubt me?

Then explain to me how come,
How come it is always just about then
That my poem drops my very best slippers
Right at the inspector’s feet.


One Way for Poets to Get Good Material…

“I don’t get why people can’t just be nice to one another, it isn’t even that hard. Assholes give poets good material though.”  — Andreas Blaustein

I do not know Andreas Blaustein, but I happened to come across the above comment of his this morning, which he left on my friend Nayana’s blog.   I think his comment resonates with a whole lot of us, no?


When Coconuts Come Alive

It is curious how often we are coconuts.
How often we are seeds, just seeds.
Seeds drifting for decades in a desert
That holds nothing for us, except waves
And more waves, and storms, and waves.

We survive, but only
Because our shells are thick and hard.
Thick and hard.

The waves cannot drown us.
The storms cannot break us.
The sharks cannot eat us.
The sea snakes cannot poison us
Because we are thick and hard.

We are well-protected, it’s true.
But we are not alive either.
We are thick and hard
But we are not alive.

For to live is to grow,
And we do not grow.
For to live is to thrive,
And we do not thrive.
For to live is to flourish,
And we do not flourish.

This can go on for decades,
This suspension between life and death,
It can go on for decades.

Then we beach! Most of us never do.
Most of us drift without ever beaching,
Drift suspended — for ages.

Only a few of us find the sand;
Put out shoots that reach up
For the sunlight,
Put out shoots that reach down
For the freshwater.

It is curious, so curious
How when we broke our shells,
How when we cracked ourselves open
And became green
And became vulnerable.

How when we became so tender,
So open, so vulnerable that we bound,
Fated, destined and doomed ourselves
To get hurt, to get stung, to get bitten and poisoned

How that is when,
How that is precisely when
We came alive.

This poem is a rework of a poem I first published some time ago.