whenever winter’s knife had dulled
we shrugged our heavy coats,
and dared the wind to lick our lips
and paint our pale skin pink.
we liked to think the season couldn’t touch us.

before her i’d grown older,
i’d even felt much colder in the warm
than when lying nude beside her
though she pulled the blankets from my legs

but the day i felt the youngest,
was the one i left the umbrella
though the forecast called for rain.
damn whatever storm is coming,
we’ll run from door to cover,
and if caught we’ll just get wet

we traded kisses in the stairway
then cast curses on the pavement,
and when she finally touched my fingers
we felt like strangers at the border,
so i looked the other way.

we were kept across a country
and divided by a decade
but no difference really mattered
except the words we couldn’t muster
which would have the final say


last winter

i slipped on ice, but saw it happen
cold catching breath in laughter,
hair parting, widened eyes,
then a sympathetic smile

i limped along and hugged your arm,
my free hand round a paper cup.
having grown too cold to talk
we took the A line home

over bridges, under buildings
a city blurring past us
that we didn’t even notice
because though she was burning
we were still alive

so we drank in hotel lobbies
and wandered museum halls
admired metropolitan marble
while rejecting strangers calls

whoever built this city
i’d like to thank them now,
though these towers have since crumbled
that winter was our summer
and would never see the fall

Shadow Boxing

I’ve never been so
Incapable to communicate
While so many letters
And words rest at my disposal,
Despite the depth of feeling
The breadth of our experiences,
And all the moments we shared:
An endless well from which I draw
Now only blanks upon
The white, white page.
So love bleeds in every direction
Since having lost its permanence
And position in this world.
So where now should it go?
To some other holding,
Waiting or embracing,
For which it was never meant?
But restless and wandering
And wanting what
It can no longer possess,
This love goes nowhere,
And thus replaced by an effluence
Of poses and gestures that beg
For another chance,
Just one more moment,
One last lingering glance.
This love would have me fight,
But a shadow boxer
And unwilling partner
Stands at the farther end
Taunting me to wait,
Which to my impatient
And imperfect love
Is like the slowest death.

Perfection (I)

So this must be beauty, form, perfection
Embodied — no dull artist’s expression.
What of Raphael, what of Da Vinci
Then, when compared to her (compared to me)
Or what I shall work of her with a brush and pen?
You see, even Helen of Troy still needs
Homer to sow imagination’s seeds,
To flower into a beautiful bloom,
And to thread the gold through the broken loom.
But Homer, he never held my brush or my pen
And never with pleasure beheld this specimen.

Observe her body’s balanced proportion:
How it keeps itself in all its motion,
How every sigh of breath raises the chest,
How seem supple lips part to kiss and rest
And restless I interpret each possible end
That would send me in shivers down her spine
Erect and measured to make her poise mine,
Round to where she curves subtle as a swell
Upon an ocean, but moves me as well
To such depths where treasures lie yet unearthed, descend
Even further, where my mind’s eye would never mend

The cut of her skirt, well, the wound’s dessert:
Such an injury can’t possibly hurt
When from it flows legs that are white as milk
(And taste as sweet, i bet) and smooth as silk
Without a stocking (thank God) and long; leads me on —
But should ever her shape seem incomplete,
Well, where it breaks the mind will make lines mete;
Give the body harmony and rhythm
And when I match mine how ‘bout a dance, hmm?

But what’s this here, the pinky toe?
The most inconsequential point can pivot the whole
Course — how can this knobbed and gnarled joint
Unhinge all — this petty note but dissonant
Decompose her whole harmony?

But just one imperfection threads
Through the entire pattern;
A frayed and loose end
Threatens what I have strung together,
And unravels and unwinds — what? Time or Change?
Is it that damned toe or is it age
That tears down the image
And makes my Helen seem so old?
What makes the straight back slump,
The locks unfurl and hang
Limp, the lips parch
And crack, the colour of the skin
Pale to a consumptive pallor?
Where did beauty go then
And when did my rhyme
Become cumbersome,
Become an irreverant hymn?

Perfection (II)

Beauty is
Beauty is formlessness
Is what I don’t know what it is
But is definitely indefinite
Is neither that which cannot change
Which is the evidence of life
Is not what is afraid to be
Because a thing itself is
Always itself in all its ways
And she is herself in all her ways
And all her ways are beautiful
Is also why I admire
The imperfections –
They endear us because
Well, what is perfect
Is isolate or, perhaps
Is how the mind habits
Or makes a statue of the living
Because whatever pictures
Or portraits not themselves
Are dead and that is how
The marble mimics beat the breeze
And keep a body’s proportion balanced
Though always suffering the elements
Every mutable blow and buffet and yet
Is also how it stays and still
Is nothing more.

But when the wind
winds her hair into knots
And fans it to a brunette flame
Beautiful is wild is what I want
Is the wrinkle in a cheek
When her smile winks
Or her uneven curves
That turn me to her
These affections for flaws
These elegant imperfections
These cracks in the marble.

Because we’re not static beings but beings becoming
And surgery cannot keep us or make us
Lovelier than we already are.
What face would you frame or feature freeze
Forever or never to smile again, or frown?
Would you so quickly dam running water,
When damned a stagnant pool breeds filth.
So if we must age then let us age together,
And let’s be beautiful, because you know
What perfection is is, is letting go.


Ink soaks into paper,
a blackening blood stain
So life gives form to letters
With a sacrificial pen
Then symbols spread phonetically
Causing syllables to collide,
Noise waking words from slumber,
Casting dreams upon the page
Figments gather into phrases,
Until prepositionally placed,
And shifting to a sentence,
Our thoughts are paraphrased.

Thus words are given meaning
As thousands become flesh:
The building blocks of cities,
Incantations raising dead.
But when gathered altogether,
Every utterance given name,
These words are just the rubble
Of the towers built to Babel,
And every corpus a cadaver
Bleeding ink onto the page.

Pieces of Everything

At the park
We dip and dodge
The other kids,
Climb ladders
And cross the bridge
That you say wobbles

But I am old and need to rest
So against the fence
I lean and watch
You disappear beneath the lip
Of a tired tunnel

And though I feel
Unfamiliar as a father
I can pick your voice
Out of a hundred others

As you play I shyly smile
At the mothers, the fathers
Aware of those with rings
On their fingers, and those
Who prepared packed lunches

Yeah, I am conscious
Of all my shortcomings
Of the sweat against my chest
One of those side-effects
Of the medicine I take

Still I’m grateful for this

For the moment
I look away and up
And see colors falling
From a sycamore tree
Leaves unevenly loosed
In butterfly patterns.
These pieces of everything
These colors against the sky
They’re everywhere
And everything
As my son
Puts his hand
In mine

the things that we forget

It happened in a moment,
As I was looking for a pen
In the top drawer of my desk.

How long had it been there
Ten years, or maybe less
Since she wore it round her neck?

When I thought it was a rosary
A string of wooden prayer beads
With a pendant at its end.

And though her name escapes me
I remember every pattern
All the freckles on her chest

How she looked over her shoulder
With a question barely whispered,
“Could you please unzip my dress?”

And then she pulled her hair back
So I could free the loose ends
From the knots of her necklace

Next day I found the letter,
By the bed beneath the beads,
The tangled hair and golden clasp

In a word she wrote “remember”
So I buried all those treasures
In the top drawer of my desk

the california drought

California Rain

California needs rain – I know it
I hear it from the talking heads
And spoken from the cracking lips
Of its thirsty citizens
Still, what of it?
It will come, it always does:
Because never is what never does.

But rain’s release will mean everything
To me and to others
And will mirror
In me and in others
Something more profound than the dry
That’s dug deeply underground
Since heaven can’t keep
Or hold deeper mysteries
Than the emotions found
Buried beneath the soul:
With its weather-wild nature
Unpredictably cold
Irrationally hot
And uncontrolled.

Sufferings cycle —
The rains, the drought,
Though the meaning escapes us
Before it comes back around
Like mornings I’m tired
And nights I’m awake
Oh, the cycles suffer,
And though I’m deadly dry
Still I dread the rain.