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I’m not a tourist

I’ve seen the lake, I said
and sighed
It is different
and the same
The waves do not compete here
with the voices who would capture them
compress them down
into bites and bytes
and Alexa-play-soothing-sounds-of-the-seas

Solitude has its place
and silence its time
but the chimes of my friends laughing
the solace of a chance meeting
no schedule to mind
That, too, holds comfort
the thrum of the city is music
and it can hold the sacred
and profane
as well as nature, red in tooth and claw

I long for the passing-by
of familiar block
with new graffiti
as my shoes pace pavement

I yearn to hear the birdsong
of staccato honks of cars
and half-heard conversations
of drunks
percussion in the clack of billiard balls
in bars
with just a hint of danger inside
and out

I pine not always for swishing branhces
but for the strange quiet
of the late night diner
The clink of dishes behind
the swinging door
and the labored breath
of the sleepless staff

I’m not a tourist here
or anywhere
but I can sense my belonging
in this throng
of pressing bodies
sweating booze
breathing smoke
squinting under neon

and my chest rises and falls
with the whoosh
of each car
speeding through a red light

And the lake hugs it all
It is different
and the same
and for now
it can wait for me

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In the still solemnity framed by these concrete walls, she begins to dance. At first, the movements hardly stir the air, like smoke listlessly insinuating itself into the sky. Then, her arms start to drift farther from her body, lashing eddies into invisible jet-streams. When her hips can no longer contain each ever-building undulation, her legs extend and her feet land, with tactile, silent thumps against the dark mats left there to collect dirt from outsiders’ shoes.

Even her eyelids join the dance, closing and rolling and widening as her body begins to leap and flicker across this world in her mind. No rhythm but her heartbeat, no melody but synapse boldly building bridges between suffering and solace, until they become the same. Extending, lengthening, then suddenly folding, potential informing kinetic, kinetic releasing potential, and all the while that expanding tension in every tendon that leads to catharsis.

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The Percival

It was an indomitable ship, from the look of it. Big, strong timbers for masts and the bent-beams of the hull had such flexibility that the strain of their fibers bowing to the wave-cutting shape of the prow made them look defiant and unbeaten.

In the water, it bobbed slower than the slap of the waves, as if considering. When each crew member took a step in, The Percival barely rocked. Gliding out into the sea, it split the water in two, and sent sprays high and away from the sails. Even the sun left no marks in its rich, red sides.

Below decks lived a painter, who cared for the ship. Much of the time, the painter knew that the ship would be strong enough not to need him. He would spend months at a time laying in his hammock, painting little scenes and caricatures of people he knew, or even some he had never met. When he felt it was needed, he would come out and give some attention to the outside of the ship to keep it in reasonable condition. He spent more time on the little paintings in his quarters below deck than on the ship.

“This is such a strong ship,” he said to himself, and others who would listen, “Surely, people will see that it is strong, which is all a ship needs to be. Then, they will come inside to see my paintings.”

Many years went by. The painter became more and more impatient. Sometimes, he would purposefully let the ship fall into disrepair and neglect. But, no one came then, either. Sometimes, he would spend extra time painting the exterior of the ship, almost enough to make it as beautiful as the other ships, whose painters spent so much time on them.

“After all,” he thought, “the ship still is a ship. It’s been painted enough. And, it’s such a strong ship. Surely, people will see that it is strong and that is what a ship should be. Now, that it has a fresh coat of lovely paint, they will want to come in and see my paintings.”

But no one came.

Eventually, the painter grew tired of painting, and left all the scenes and caricatures curl from their frames. Even if people had come to see the paintings then, they were dusty and peeling and their edges were rough. They were not the paintings anymore.

The Percival was still strong, even after many years. It creaked more now, but it still split waves, and dared the sun. Many crews would sail it, but when they went below decks, they would hear a howling they could never quite identify. Occasionally, they would find a curious painting lying on the ship’s floors, but a nervous and thin man would come from the darkness to snatch it away. When they would go back above decks, sometimes they could hear him say, “It’s a ship. It’s a strong ship, and that’s all it needs to be.”

And the sailors would nod and agree and sail on.

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Dream Journal

I drove through the corn field to escape the stuntman. I had finally escaped the trap.

It began on a rainy road, shining with streaks of colored light, reflections of signs and street lamps turning the slick pavement into a smeary chalk drawing. My charming new friend and I had just counted all the money that his kindly grandmother had earned from her wise investments and recently had liquidated into cash. My mother had crossed the line by telling everyone some of my most guarded secrets, so Charming Friend, as a way to blow off steam, however ill-advisedly, took me to a baseball game. We got there late, and the rainy road was the setting for us to receive the elderly baseball manager who gave us some granola bricks laced with cannabis.

I saved half of mine for later, heeding his warning that it was quite strong. Charming Friend indicated that the after-party was a short car ride away from the parking lot where we had all gathered. I climbed into the back of a small truck, and it peeled away before Charming Friend could get in.

Stuntman and Driver chuckled that they had me stuck now, and mused that the Friend’s Grandmother would have to give over the cash. We drove down a now sunlit country road — in that Ed Wood continuity of dreams — and I managed to overcome them, drop them out of the vehicle and make my way back down the road in their truck, carving a path visible from above through the corn field, creating my own crop circle.

No, I don’t really know what it all means. Possibly, it has more to do with being woken up by a dog throwing up on the bed at 5:15pm.

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Nothing to see here

…and I shall give you no piece of my hidden heart

the sanctuary I have built and repaired after your several onslaughts

But you need not worry, because there is no piece worth having

I defend an empty hall and rest in a court with no people.

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Change is…

I see the unending, uncaring universe,
and my mind spins like a pinpoint galaxy on an angel-head axis,
so I work smaller.

I see plains on fire and bellies swollen with emptiness,
and I hand out my single sandwich and wave away the grasping hands,
so I work smaller.

I see stars and stripes as asterisks to mask screams of profanity,
and my clear voice only adds to the cacophony,
so I work smaller.

I see paints poured into sewer grates from golden pots,
and they run in to runoff, raising rainbow soap bubbles in slippery streams,
so I work smaller.

I see people cloistered so close they are closed,
and, I like them, put my nose to the grindstone, until it peels the irises off my eyes,
so I work smaller.

I see the simpletons in the seats, snickering so they know they have support,
and I point the same way and howl, my finger out as a growl,
so I work smaller.

I see my belly crack as it creaks wide, comfort claiming creases,
and I know the tears will abate for a few hours,
so I work smaller.

I see the tarnish on my silver thread
and the scrubbing only rubs it red,
so I work smaller.

I brush my teeth,
and check it off the list.

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A keen glimmer of things to come
I feel my toes tingle
anticipating the wet chill of snow-crusted shoes
melting in the hushed heat of my home
as I wrap my feet in warm wool
my life a pomander bulwark against gloom.
White city dotted with bundled smiles
Each little hermit crab letting in the light of a stranger’s hello

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A limited word poem as an elegy

Bring me my crisp white shirt
let me put on
the necessary black and stand
somberly as he passes

For remembrance sake
let me say these words
that stand here, black on white
a counter-facing of my grief

lift them from the page
let me also lift your heart
to live in the white of joy
and let grief stand black behind

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Bad poetry: These times

I have always been the one
when trouble starts, to cut and run
I always know when a thing is done
I always know when the time has come

So, what about this time?

Why do I still linger here
Where all I do is sweat and swear?
Why have I made it my career
To dress in guilt and live in fear?

So, when is it my time?
Is this what I do with my time?

Each time I begin to find my voice
I get distracted by these toys
Where they exult, where they rejoice
I find a cage devoid of choice

So, what the hell is time?
What, in Hell, is time?

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Sonnet from the secret bathroom

It wouldn’t be to hide my shame at all
Should I refrain from making mention of’t
Nor would I feign to write this on the wall
And join the men before me who have loved

To sit uninterrupted by the eyes
Of those incapable of thinkers pose.
Tis them, not I, who fail to realize
How fast we fail when lacking this repose.

Nature calls on one in her own time,
fickly finds philosophies forlorn,
Turns running streams of consciousness to lime:
“Become again the beast that you were born!”

But cultured thought rests not from judgment free
So, let this haven safely hidden be

SONNET SKELETON, written June 2nd

It’s not that I’m embarrassed
Or that I don’t like people
But I need time and space to think
Despite how it’s been a joke, it is true

My shitting is my business
And business requires an office
A place with a door you can shut
And a place to keep your notes.

Besides what better way to be alone with ones self
And to understand ones nature
Than to let nature take hold
And be the beast that you were born?

If what I am cannot be truly free
Then let this haven safely hidden be

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