The UnSelected
Copyright 2004

Late in the foggy Portland night,
Alone in the detergent-smelling hotel,
Looking for something to sweeten the vodka,
I scan the Vendo vending machine.

Nothing here’s a healthy choice.
Sugar water mainly
Colored differently,
Perfumed differently,
To make for popular, palatable options.

I sigh.

Well, the vodka probably isn’t all that healthy either,
If it comes to that.

Most of the choices are Pepsi.
One Doctor Pepper, one Mountain Dew.
And, here’s something I haven’t seen before.
Lemon-lime and refreshing,
It proclaims itself.
The label at least is green.

At least it is something different.
I empty the change from my wallet
Into the hungry machine.

Punch the oversized button.

Plunkety plunk, shah-RUNK.
Down falls the bottle.
I reach inside and pull it out.

A Pepsi.

And what is my recourse?
What is my recourse now,
At this eleventh hour,
In this foggy Portland night
With no-one in sight?

Call the Vendo Vending Machine Company and say …
What exactly?

If I were Ukrainian,
I suppose I would have the steel
To stand in frozen throngs
Days on end, days on end
Until the truly duly elected
Become the actual selected.
Here, the yellow flags would not show
In the heavy fog
And the Press would not carry the story.
It would not constitute newsworthy news
Like who the newest starlets choose,
Like NASCAR snooze.

So, I will sip my booze
And stare into the steely fog.

Maybe next time.
Maybe next time,
My money, my time, my choice
Will not be a steal,
But be the real deal.

A Bush League of Their Own
Copyright, 2003,

The King is in a bush league all his own.

Wry grin, strong chin,
Beating around the bush.
Cheating about the truth.
Like the magician in a black suit,
Wiggling the hand before you,
Your attention caught like a fish
By the bright banner of the headlines
By the foxy un-denied innuendo
Unseeing that granny’s teeth
Are really those of the Big Bad Wolf.

A brush with the truth,
A shave too close for comfort.
A topsy-turvy world:
1984 comes at last; comes at last.
Whew, we spewed a shaky sigh of relief
When that year came and went
Little did we know the day
Was simply delayed, delayed
Democracy derailed
Unwitting public frayed,
Heroes defamed
While cowards portrayed as leaders.

The black sticky liquid
That tars the lungs of the world
Lines the pick-pockets of
The seedy greedy mixed bag of nuts
Wrapped in flag, draped in Biblical cuts.

Whitewashed House outside in seeming sun,
Black inside as dirty oil through and through:
Heartless joke unleashed upon the world.

The rich are not rich enough,
Goodness no!
Wealth is not real wealth if it cannot buy the power
To kill the flower in the forest,
To steal the flour from the miller,
To snatch the rice right out of the paddy
To snap the candy right from the child’s palm.

What fun would that be:
Simply to sit in the sun and sip gin?
What a bore!
Better to core
The heart of a people,
Disenfranchise the lot
Terrorize a spot
And still the propaganda flows,
Thick as crude, filled with rude.

Though their teeth yet be dripping blood,
Still they will go rove, rove
In the dark of the inky night
In the bottom of sunless wells;
Slinking and skulking
Along polluted gassy shores
Unbothered by messy mores;
On the prowl for further carnage;
On the greedy cheesy chase for chips;
Blood and oil tastes so fine --
Like fine, fine wine upon their blistered lips.

Hauntings Across the Time Zones
Copytright 2002

Caught between a rock and a hard place,
I just try to keep busy.
Busy, busy, blocking out the voices,
Surrounding them with noise.
Busy, busy, blocking out the images,
Enveloped in a flashy Vegas fog.

Surf the web and watch TV,
Mobile phone and rushing traffic,
Fast food and faster planes,
Double or nothing,
Promotion and prozac in equal doses.

Yet, instants pop though the time-warp.
I hear my anscestors moaning behind the fridge,
They waver on the overheated car hood.
“Greed never captured what it’s all about.”
Their hoarse multitudinous whispers carry far
Like a stadium roar across a winter’s frozen lake.

Then, an echo from behind the Dieffenbachia maculata:
The possible children of the future asking,
“Will we have water? Will we have bread?
Will we have air? Will we have plutonium? Why are you selling our birthright
For a bowl of plastic?”

Now, I hear the workers in the arches of my running shoes.
Some of them are surprisingly young or old.

But never mind.
I find
Again the busy keys,
Blocking out eternities.
The path is very narrow --
I must travel like an arrow.
I look nor left nor right
I see only black and white.

Answers to Your Many Questions

The light was green?
The light was red?
The road was dry?
The road was wet?

Isa black?
Isa white?
Isa yellow?
Isa red?

Hasa lotta money?
Hasa lotta nothing?
Hasa lotta plastic?

Isa patient.
Isa headtrauma?
Isa kidney?
Isa quad?

Hasa lotta care?
Hasa lotta not?
Hasa lotta hair?

Hasa correct diagnosis?
Hasa good prognosis?
Hasa signed release?
Will the screaming ever cease?

Wasa person?
Wasa wreck?
Severed spine?
Broken neck?

The room was white?
The room was green?
The uniforms were white?
The uniforms were green?
The forms were black and white.
And read all over?

The glass was sharp.
The road was hard.
The graph was flat.
The spark was gone.

What else mattered?

A life was shattered.

Caroline: Yesterday and Today

Was only four,
Only four.
Sweet --
So precious.


Of course, the important thing here,
The really crucial thing here
The only thing that matters here
Is this:

Was Caroline Black or White?
Was Caroline Protestant or Catholic?
Was Caroline Serb or Albanian?
Was Caroline Human or Number?

Or should I say

Put on her new white tennies,
Oh so proud
Finally to tie her own shoes.
She smiled that big kid smile
Up at me.

At me.

Had her first real conversation with grandma
About nothing in particular.
And hung the phone up properly.


Trying to catch a ball
That was just beyond her reach --
Her young skin was no match
For that hard, tarry asphalt --
Caroline skinned her knee.

Her knee.

That was Caroline,
That was she.


Yet --
The shrapnel did not know
The shrapnel did not care
The shrapnel did not see
Nor, apparently, did we.

Did we?

Did we?

Reflections on the Merger, Arlington Holiday Inn, August, 1997


I think it's raining,
As I sit awaiting dinner
For my first post-merger meeting,
But it's only the toy trains --
Toy trains sputtering along the overhead tracks --
Toy trains
Training me
To adjust to these new surrounds:
To the shushing sounds
Of toy trains --
Not real --
And to the food
Prepared by strangers.

The "rain" begins again.
Can the engine climb the hill?
It weakly, meekly squeaks in protest.
The hill.

And the food is so-so.
And the hype is go-go.
And the pendulum swings to-fro.

I know,
There must be more
Than trains of toy;
More than the Holiday Inn salad bar;
More than mag-striped Metro tickets.

Somewhere there are surely:
Committees without condiments;
Alpine High, alder thickets;
Flowers in the open field.

Do they really wash these greens, I wonder?

I am caught,
In an unnatural union;
Stretched into a new non-union suit --
Does it suit?

Lie on the tracks
Of the speeding train;
Forget, or circumvent your brain.
Let it drain, drain
Down the giant corporate brain
Of long-forgotten stain
Brown, yellow, like the lungs and teeth
Of countless lives gone bad
Countless survivors gone sad.

The train squeaks by yet again,
I know it now -- it isn't heaven's cleaner
I know now -- it isn't rain.
A funny kind of clacking clock,
A funny kind of talky-talk.

Turkey arrives at last,
Like me,
Served up by strangers.
And the world wants to know --
As the sky turns pink in sunset mode --
Where is the cornbread promised by the menu?

I see.
Menu and meal are not the same.
So who can spin the finest tale?
Who can find the track
Amid the pathless wood?
There's no way back --
Birds have eaten all the breadcrumbs.

I caught the wrong Metro line today,
Suckered in like a hungry fish.
Hungry for what? To make a play?
What is the wish beneath the wish?
Who is the fish that fishes for fish?

And I can hear the rain-train
Splashing far above my head
Squeaking for the old last turn
It could just be --
That the missing cornbread stuffing
Was the whole reason I ordered this dinner.

Radio is a tune -- wife would know
James Taylor my brain says --
Rock n' Roll ignorant though I am.
At last something
Of her music touched my brain,
Not just my soul.

Analog train above,
Makes digital viewing through
The overhead track of clicky clack,
Through the plastic tiles of railroad track.

After digging through the spinach
I find the promised land --
I mean -- I mean, of course,
The promised cornbread.
Or, to be more accurate,
A morsel of the promised bread.

And what about the Promised Land
For the Vietnamese couple "serving" me?
Ah, yes, well of course, for them,
It's a whole different story --
A different kind of North-South Merger.

Train squeaks his way protesting yet again up the hills.

What do we conclude,
You and I,
From all these dark reflections in the Monetary Mirror?
Should we, being human, stall on the tracks?
Should we, being brave, proceed without a groan?
Should we just enjoy the flask and sunset?
Or, turn the turkey to its task?
Cable the Karma to its Kismet?
Or, spoke the wheel to the stone?

What do we conclude,
You and I,
About this merger of equals?

Is it really right as rain
Or just the rumble of a toy train?
Menu or meal?
Rack or wheel?
Death or deal?

I feel a little sick,
I feel a little thick.
What is the description
Of the prescription
Of Rolaids for the role?
I need an alka-selzer for the soul

Transplanted like a rose out of season,
Transplanted without root or reason,
Empty corridors
And darkened doors.
My food is cold.
The sun has set.
Stay or fold?
Remember or forget?

In this merger of equals,
Who is the turkey and who the Turk?
Who writes the sequels,
And who's the jerk?

Is it really right as rain
Or just the rumble of a toy train?
Choke -- or breath?
Deal -- or death?
Is it really right as rain
Or just the rumble of a toy train?

Masked Death

Come see! Come see!
Oh, visit me!
I am so fair,
So shining bright,
A crystal light
To shatter night!
You shall be strong
And never wrong!
Just suck me in
It is no sin.
I feel so good
Here in the hood.
Take this glass pipe
And I will wipe
Trouble and care
With sparkly air.

Hey! What you doin' man?
Don't look behind
My pretty mask!
You lost your mind?
You should not ask.
But since you must,
What lies behind is dust
And breathless dead
Upon your brainless head.
What lies behind?
A prison cell, grey and grey.
What comes next to you?
Bob or Joe or Sally Sue?
Frankly, I don't give a fat ash
Long as I get my nice cold cash.

Since we were we

What had pleasure working its way up the surface
Always this sky of us
Takes us
Makes us
Make time
And space
For the race eternal
And spin through the turn together
In perfect we-ness?

Ah, dear,
Swear forsaken dreams are not
Gone through shallow lakes
And breaks the mallard's cry.

Do not glide with you
Through reeds in a canoe for two
Nor yet have we any
Private dinners
In the dark corners
Of a small East side restaurant.

No mere
We ache through
There to each other
Lies and fail
Through all the changes
And ranges
Of empires, woodwinds,
Sophisticated ebony carvings
Laid on the table
Of some mysterious Araby king.

The thing
Of it is:
When I pass by
Some place
Where we once
And were spent
By time,
I laugh,
And sigh --
Won't cry
Not quite.

Yet -- night
Has never been so deep,
So cool,
So rushing in a languid rhythm
Ranging through all the moods of moon that pass
Since we were we.

And day
Has never been so bright
Dazzling, loudly
Buzzing the fields
Sweating, wetly roving each other's each
Since we were we.


I laughed when I heard the absurdly untrue pronouncement.

It did not come to me,
As it did to you:
In a flash.

It was stored as "A characteristic"
Along with your other characteristics;
Right between "Intelligent" and "Proud"
I think it was.

The neurons started whispering among themselves.
You know how rumors fly.

I know that you
Who taught me to play baseball,
To see the poignant beauty of the world,
The theory of relativity,
The music of Beethoven,
And to believe in myself,
I knew that you
Would be there as always,
Quietly creating with your aged hands,
The most beautiful of painted worlds.

As the others went to an unreal ceremony,
For a not-true non-event,
I wondered idly what language you would teach yourself next,
Having studied:
French, Italian, Greek, Latin, and Russian after sixty.

But the rascally neurons,
Gossiping as usual,
Who were never good at keeping secrets...

Two months later,
Laughing uproariously at Ogden Nash,
I suddenly cried
And knew you died.


Across the span of time hangs suspended
On a thread-thin wire, my desire
An old and unforgotten passion
From back before the too new.

White night winged with the drawn and quartered shatters of an age gone dead.
Beneath, between the sometime not so often doldrums of an aged head.

Songs beneath whiteness of the sullen sifted snow
Heralding only that one lonely all black crow.

Hardly any word was spoken then that echoed in the woods...
Only the subtle shuffling sounds of progressive coulds and woulds.

Only the slippery sliding sound of ski pants wriggling on a jacket taken off.
Later then, the buttered rum, the warming and the nervous laugh.

So many years have passed beneath these old gray locks.
So many meals, so much wine, the meaningless ticks of clocks.

And yet I find each winter snowflake brings
That sharp sweet memory that sings and stings...and lingers on....

Echoless Hours

A funny thing happened on the
Way to our perfect house and family
Edged by forest at Washington State University,
Echoes of birdcalls on wet mornings, we would hear but --
I smiled too early, or too late,
Entered the wrong word for 46 DOWN,
Crossed against the light, or with
Caught the wrong sunbeam, or not.

I really needed to spend the summer with you
And you really wanted to attend the NSF workshop
Which was fine -- really -- fine with me.

I had borrowed your identity card to play
Those magnificent ivory keyboards that echoed
Through the ages echoed, perfectly tuned
But my fingers slipped and
You slipped through
You slipped through too.

Let us date other people you said
Fine -- really -- fine with me. And there
Were no magic mushrooms involved here
Only malt liquor and lust of young loving.

So, we had no more walks in woods of passion
No more canoes paddling in the lilies
No more campus dances, no more hurried
Explorations of each other at Mt. Tremblent
While you parents sailed back too soon.

Too soon, or too late, that home run
Becomes a long and disappointing strike
Still in these mis-timings large and small
It is the swing itself -- that's the thing
And I swung for the fences.

So my senior year without you
Was a busy time, a rather busy time
Full-time school, full-time work
Full-time marriage, full-time father, yet once
Running between two jobs I
Raced into our intramural softball game
Just in time to hit a grand slam home run
Wished you were there to see
That and so much more but --

There are only echoes, now, echoes here and there
Of that distant other path,
Ivory, waltzing, white birches, skiing, French
Crying, canoes, candy and candlelight,
Lilies, lust, and love and little things like that
Rainbows in the dewdrops, sunsets, stuff like that.
Why sometimes there are hours, hours of silence,
Echoless hours
In these decades without you.

Poems of Wonder
A poem about music
Poetry Index

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Last modified: Dec. 12, 2004