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Saturday, August 28, 2004

PSA Chapbook Submission - A Lot of Chaff

The Story Teller
The stories father told while
touching the pages of books
proved to Chris,
as a child, that the gray, lumpy
eyes could really see. And he
wondered about father’s charade.

Over many years of telling his son
the stories of great kings, great
deeds, great evil, and great
good it seemed even to father as
though he had never told
the same story twice.

Chris as a young man went
back to those books for comfort.
The words had been
rubbed off. So he boxed all the
books and put his leather bound
father on the shelf in their place.

In this Together

The circle scratched
into the dirt was to
show her who I am.

She bent down and
added eyes and
a smile--I misunderstood.

Playing in the dirt
we were forming
a new language, a new
religion, new lives.

Soon there was a real
little person: real eyes, real smile,
real frown, real tears.

I trace a circle in
the flour where you
are kneading the dough
and you scrape away half of
it, leaving the rest for


One day in the
park by the mighty river
my long dead uncle
sat down next to
me on the bench
where I was enjoying
the view of the small
ducks floating fearlessly
on the wide river.

He had a beer can in his hand,
alcohol on his
breath and stories about
just getting out of the military.
Blood, body parts, pain
violence and rainy nights
wrapped in cheap
woolen blankets.

Said he had just got into town,
off the train, was curious about
my life and my future career.

He got weepy talking about the
past and he said he knew what
the line about rockets red glare
meant now. He talked about the
mistakes of a life time as he looked
at his almost empty beer can. He cried
and leaned on my shoulder. I felt dirty.

I left him with a non-excuse, sipping
his beer, contemplating
the attraction of the water.
Perhaps he would leave that way this time.
Anonymous in the wide river.


Ann sits with her hands
on her eyes, and her elbows
resting on the table
in the way she usually
does at night when
she cries.

But she doesn’t cry.
She has dreamt herself dry.
Her shoulders heave and
jerk with sobs of
laughter which ring
against her breakfast
bowl – still streaked red
from her morning meal.

day and night
will slip into each other
making life gray.
The smiling AMS man
on TV told Ann so.

We Were Wrong

We sat there and
got fat together
and I find it amazing
that we didn't notice
it all then:

the sins
of the family
and of sugar
in our blood.

The red and white bakery box
sat between us on the red bench
seat, sliding back and forth.
We tossed the sticky
deli wrap into the box in turns.

You would rage and
yell at the radio, beating
your hard hands against
the defenseless wheel, over
the pains of others:
the unborn, the persecuted
believers, the misunderstood

Stretched out and sleeping
off the glucose high
on that warm, red bench
seat my quiet contentment
was a dangerous consent.


I sell myself
a pound of flesh at a time
to whoever happens to
come along with a sad story.

My shop is a
bench on Park Street, the
only one for miles
sturdy enough to handle the load.

I sit with my knife and cut
away. Each buyer gets a plastic fork
from my white cardboard box. Sometime
I do get hungry myself.
But I save the best cuts for the customers.

At the end of every day I close up
shop. Count the tills. Weigh the lot
that is left. And I find that the stock is just as
bountiful or more so.

I go home thankful for the bounty
and the dreams of retiring.

Flying Away in Pieces

Cardinal red feet with
White gray claws
Click, click on the pavement.
Black-hole feathers hide
Dark blue eyes and
Gray white beak.

A man who doesn’t belong
On that bird filled fountain
Watches the antics of
Black feathers and
Red Feet around his legs
And the smaller
Twittering, flittering birds
Of all the dusty, dirty
Shades in a smog tinted rainbow,
Mostly gray white or
White gray. But spots of red, orange,
Yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet
Peek through
In momentarily soot free zones.

The man, amused with the
Twittering flittering and
Click clicking rips bread
Off the full roll he
Would have thrown away.

Little beak and little
Wing are barely able to
Snap the bread
Off the table.
Slightly air born the bird
Wobbles under the weight of
The bread. Other twitters
Dive at the lucky one;
They all hope to win the prize.
A full stomach is a full life.

The man watches intently as the
Bread is knocked to the ground.
Here the black feathers own
The bread. The man laughs
Deeply and satisfyingly.
As the chuckle leaves
His throat a
Snow white sea bird
With pink toes and
Pink beak swoops
Down while cawing
In almost human tones.
The gull tips his wing to
Scrape the back of the black feathers as
One last snub.

Arcing into the air
The bread bobs down
The inside of the bird’s neck.
The black feathers and
The twittering flittering
Learned long ago not
To look up and
Wish for what is gone.

No longer amused
The man tries to shoo away
A twit peddling peace
Of mind through charity,
Hope through a handout.
Unable to dispatch the twit
And unwilling to endure
Beady stares, the man rises to leave it all behind.

One lands on his nose.
The man snuffs and puffs
To try to blow the little thing away
But the bird pecks purposefully at his eye.
Blind and in pain the man drops to the ground and is
Instantly dumped upon by the flocks of birds.

The birds quickly do their
Work and fly away.
The cleaned bones clatter
To the ground.
The only witness is the
White sea bird.
He already has a full stomach,
Full life. So he leaves, content.

At A Time Of Having Too Much

The gray dust has settled in front
of the black wall,
in our hair,
in our eyes,
in our lungs.

And we have now completed the harvest
The grain and the chaff have all been separated.
We wear the dust of separation.

The full baskets sat before us
in the cool dawn and
when we picked them up to
toss the contents into the air
you showed me
just how high to throw them.

And there was a lot of chaff.
Children playing in the leaves of fall
We scattered it around us and over all the fields
With the help of the wind.

And this chaff was a lot of waste;
It concerned us.
But you gave me the most important lesson:
There will be a few sprouts here and there
in the fields next spring
and we will be timid around them
as we plow to plant a new crop.


One hour before dusk
the lot of the local market
becomes the staging area
for the pseudo-military
operation of going home.

The long holiday weekend
together didn’t make these
troops any more synchronized.
The family members divide
haphazardly among the two vans,
three rusty trucks, and two woefully
small imports.

Some cradle pillows that will be
stuffed into the space between their
head and the window. What wonderful
dreams they will have of going home
only to have them become true.

Plastic Jesus

One year I was
a cloud...
well a lamb but
the costume didn't fit right.

I was a cloud
looking in on the birth.
As the plastic Jesus was
delivered to the manger
I began to laugh.

In the sky I was closer
to the angels and I did
not hear them signing.
The wise men couldn't
pronounce the names of their
gifts--from restrained laughter
I had a tough time standing.

The animals started to
horse around and I took
the cue; I
rained on the plastic Jesus and
then softly I heard
him cry.

On a Pedestal

We sat together in
back of the class
and we both had
our eyes
on the same girl.

short sandy blonde hair,
a pretty smiling face,
shiny blue bell bottoms
made from some sort of plastic,
pink coat over the red plastic chair,
and heavy dark blue sweater

You sketched her in your notepad.
Ink on paper,
her form and her
draping pink coat. A big pocket
and some buttons visible.

And you focused on her back. That is
what you could see.

I wrote a few notes about her,
lines of poetry.
Ink on paper,
words and ideas and emotions
and images that capture that moment and
all of us in it.

A Band With No Rhythm

Six year olds on the verge of
turning sixteen,
so much about the world they
will not know,
so much about themselves they
should never know.

Humans who live so close to the
ideal that it
is impossible to spend the day
with them
without finding the truth in our
old desires
to never grow up. Peter Pan
and Jeffery the giraffe.

Yet anger at the creative powers
of the universe
are also mixed in with this awe.
Care free lives
are minimal compensation for
being made
to stand so close to the truth
that it leaves timeless scars.

Black Magic

Glance at your picture
and the magician begins
tugging a silk kerchief
from the black pocket
of memory.

Little soft squares of
the past knotted together
at the corners; one after the other
they keep appearing.

But I have seen this trick
too many times to believe
that it will last forever or
have a happy outcome.

And it isn't long before the
rainbow display of silk
is bleached salty white.

And the last square is black,
untied it flies toward the sky
and through it no sun, moon
or stars can bee seen.


I do not want to wake up
tomorrow confronted with
reminders of the past that
sits just through the windows:
the panes in the wall; tubes on
the table; frames in the hall; and
flesh shades held open in mortal
fear, fear of mortality.

The clock approaches the witching
hour and my brain, a dog on a long
leash circling the pole it is anchored
to, finally has spiraled close enough
to the center so it can lay down and rest.
Sleep. The windows are shut, the TV is off
the pictures are quiet and my eyes are
peacefully shut. Tomorrow is here
without confrontation.

Too Much Info

It is important
to sleep past morning news shows
or I’ll have no nerve.

Formerly Fat

I rise effortlessly
out of the chair
after the bell has rung.

I have powerful legs
from carrying the weight
of it all—
all these years:
your snorting laughter,
the unexamined pain in your eyes,
future hope/past regret,
the fun we never had.

I could not grow up
and leave it behind
so I grew out
became bigger than
all of us put together.
a bigger container to
store the pain.

It was a germ,
growing exponentially;
fed poison,
it prospered.

I can rise effortlessly
out of the chair
and run without
sucking wind

I have power;
no one looks
at me with pity.
I miss the
attention; miss the anonymity.

Only the smallest
piece of you hasn’t
been given away.
My burden is less,
yet is more.
In the cycle, guilt
follows pain.

I rise out of the chair
and I run up the stairs
pausing only to lock the
door behind me; the bell
has rung.

Starry Night
I live in the place between the twin hills
where the grass is green ocean waves on a gentle sea
and cosmos and chaos have a battle of wills.

Some people, foolish, weary and ill
stand and ask me how can it be
I live in the place between the twin hills?

"Simple," I say, "we all can have our fill
if we can remember that we are still free
as cosmos and chaos have their battle of wills."

The orange star light keeps me still.
And yet it is lonely for me;
I do live in the place between the twin hills.

Most come and go over those hills.
But, why climb every day to see
cosmos and chaos have a battle of wills.

Stay here one night, and let the light give you your fill.
Then tomorrow you, and she and he
and I will live in the place between the twin hills
where cosmos and chaos have their battle of wills.

I See The Green, But Where Are You?

Miles of wrinkled denim shirt,
Acres of cold hard ground
And immeasurable expanses of time
Put too much in between us to bear.

When I was younger, you were my world.
Now you are a distant star. Seen seldom,
Never heard from, moving even farther away
And I cannot even see the red shift.

Let me build a telescope;
I’ll construct my own Enterprise
To see you shine on me

Your picture, it causes tears-
Not because of memories-
Because the one in my mind had faded

I followed you, you followed me
Then our time together ended.
You went where I couldn’t go.
I didn’t even hear your "I do."

Miles of wrinkled denim shirt,
Acres of cold hard ground,
The clouds up in the sky
Start rumbling down.

Drug Store Receipt

1:15 pm

"I’m Kim. I’m here to serve
you with our
‘7 service basics.’"

2121 S Push Str

Cash 10.00
Call in your prescription
Total 8.96
24 hours in advance
Fuji Film 8.49
For faster Service
Change 1.04
Tax .47
Taxed, taxing

"I’m service Kim
I’m here to serve you
7 Basics with

Thank You

Faster Service
June 12, 2002

24 Hours in Advance

I’m here. I serve you. I thank you
I’m Kim. I thank you for faster

A taxing 5.5%
Change in Advance
I’m here to tax you with faster service
Store Phone # (555) 555-0452
Call in, call me
I’m Kim, here to thank you, serve you

Kim, I’m here to change you with basic prescriptions
Of change.

Thank You

1:15 am


Of white or black
I do not see
I only see

When some say "yes"
and others say "no"
I say maybe.

Right and wrong are
small concerns when we
grow ears and eyes and open

Under Escher’s Sky

The clouds,
in columns,
and rows
repeat to the
infinity point.
The water
in the creek,
a mirror.
The fish
Swim in lines
too. The birds
fly under the
along the line of
the wind are birds.

M.C. must be
in charge today.
Though the clouds
Refuse to
to change
into birds
or fish.

My mind,
repeats the observation
for an infinity.
And I make the
I understand that
this is the normal way
in which a cloud becomes
a fish and a fish becomes
a bird.

We, The Snowmen

Find the spot in
yourself where the
flakes pile up and
blow around---form
drifts and banks to
block your windows
and doors, keep you
buttressed against the world.

Make a snowman--make
it the person you want to be--
grab a handful of snow, make
a ball and throw it at him
until satisfied.
Lay down and become
an angel. Stand up and
be a devil—destroy it.

Meditate in the snow
feel the ice in you,
shake it and hear the
icicles tinkle as they fall.

Revel in the cold,
find the sled you had
or wished you had as
a child, ride it down the hill,
ride it down again--over and
over until you go too far
and crack into the creek,
only lightly frozen over.

I’m Sorry I Didn’t Reach The Sun

The wind blows.

I reached for my goal;
It was the sun.
The light pulls me up.

I get so close to it.
Then someone cuts off my hands,

The wind blows be away.


The heart beat of trees is a
signaling drum music
even in the white of winter.

The breathing of the waters is a
calming rush and whoosh of
the planet's respiration.

The angels sing to me
wisdom even when I
am deaf.

Yet the swaying arms of the
tree cannot reach and touch
no matter the life in them.

Angels perched in high
choir stalls cannot hit
the notes and form the words
my heart desires.

I tell myself that bad
company is not better than
none. Alone leaves no
unfulfilled expectations.

I blocked an ambulance
trying to turn left;
it didn't have the siren on
only the lights.

It was one of those movies:
the world became still as I rolled
past the car wreck and the music
suspended to painful silence.

I doubt our relationship now
I think I'm drawn to
you like a car wreck--and
vice-versa, we do this
naturally--it is easier.

We rubberneck at each other
throughout life and I keep a
collection of twisted pieces from
the automobiles.

Shiny metal pieces on the mantle
on the wall, embedded in

Mountain of a Man

Grandpa you sit, nearly deaf, in your chair
and ramble about stupid politicians
or stupid people from the past
and I know you never see me.

He has been here much longer
than you but he never complains.
He lets me look through
his eyes on the past.

I see naked or animal-skinned men
running along sandy beaches and I
hear the sticks of their game clacking
as they run back and forth.

You never told me about the
games you played as a child.
I believe that you never were
childish; though I know that is false.

In the fall when his greenness is
gone he shows his true age with
white whiskers mixed in with the
black. But he has played.

He was born with great effort too. We
know your mother nearly died giving
birth it was 1919. His mother labored
what must have been milieu.

He would recline on the beach when younger
with the river waters at his feet.
The sun gleaned off his granite chin.
He still reclines
but he has moved farther from the water
and the angle of his cheek bones have dulled.
A blanket that changes colors with
the seasons keeps him warm in old age.

Would you understand and finally be
able to explain the significance of
life if I took you up with me and
sat with you on the hand that he
keeps clutched close to his chest,
where the lives and loves of
generations are written?

Waiting for the End

Time stutters if you
sit with your fingers in its
nose, pulling along.

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