For Noah On Being Twenty-Nine

Instead of can­dles, cake, and paper hats
(which, let’s be real, would have been bet­ter)
I thought I’d walk you down a fun­ny path,
(also : much eas­i­er than writ­ing a letter)

but sit­ting here, too much time has passed
And now I’ve found all this regret :
birth­days missed, oth­ers dimmed, plans
changed, par­ties rushed, and I forget :

Did I hug you on your sev­enth ? Kiss
you on your eighth ? I remem­ber chas­ing
you across a play­ground on your fifth.
Or maybe num­ber four. Cam­eras flashing,

And a lit­tle gift I knew you’d like. I
was bad at sur­pris­es and you
were bad at act­ing sur­prised.
I know the trope : aging Pop looks

back and asks where’d it all go ?
Cat’s in the cra­dle and all that jazz.
I see you less now and there are days
When I can’t recall the last time we spoke.

But here’s a thing. You’re twen­ty-nine today
and that’s how old I was when you were born.
Does that mat­ter ? I don’t know,
But I think it should, if only to say

There’s a point to this father and son­ning,
This end and begin­ning, hop­ing then dim­ming :
a bal­ance between the past and pre­tend­ing
to know what tor­ren­tial future is coming.

Well, I start­ed soft then got soft­er,
but there’s this : You’re a bet­ter man
Than I’d hoped you’d be, and my hopes were grand.
Hap­py Birth­day, my son, from your Father.


This morn­ing I chose YouTube over poet­ry—
cook­ing videos most­ly, and specif­i­cal­ly
the fold­ed Japan­ese omelette called tamagoyaki. 

Not because I was hun­gry, though I am —
I’m try­ing to lose weight
and fast­ing is part of my plan —
but because I could relate
to the aes­thet­ics : thin lay­ers
of eggs, dashi, sweet mirin wine,
daikon gar­nish, soy for fla­vor,
served like nori sushi in a line. 

I’m drawn to cook­ing because my life lacks a plan.
Every day is a cre­ation ; I nev­er know if I can
get it togeth­er, so it’s eas­i­er to watch Jacques Pepin. 


Above me are warm bel­lies in the waves.
Above them are boughs of trees
I can’t name.
Below me are fin­gers of the dead.
Beneath them are the black dreams
of lost worlds. 

We are safe in these meters of sea
if we do not float to the sur­face
or sink to the bottom. 

Your moth­er, your father, your baby
grow­ing old in your arms.
I can’t hold you against the tide.


At twelve he was already taller than some boys in high school, with his stringy arms and long hair that made him look old­er until you saw his freck­les and his bangs. He was so thin his shoul­der blades poked under his t‑shirt like dinosaur wings. He usu­al­ly walked home with his friends, but this morn­ing he was jumped in the bath­room by some kids who kicked him in the balls, repeat­ed­ly, until he puked. He wait­ed until they left then washed out his mouth and splashed water on his face, and since this was the days when a boy could leave school any­time he want­ed, he went out the front gate. 

He loped around a park­ing lot and an alley near the school, wast­ing time until he could go home with­out his moth­er ask­ing ques­tions. When he thought it was noon, he ate his lunch on a bench under an oak out­side a head shop. He could hear a pin­ball machine get­ting slapped and banged inside. He looked through the the screen door and rec­og­nized a kid his own age with no shirt play­ing the table and smok­ing a cig­a­rette. He stepped away and head­ed home through the yuc­ca and stuc­co and cicadas. 

The orchard was too dan­ger­ous to cut across alone. Full of cre­osote and poi­son oak and an old man with a gun. He’d have to climb Mul­ber­ry. At the bot­tom, there was a girl with a red mouth sit­ting on a cin­derblock wall. She twirled a mus­tard flower in her hand, and crushed mus­tard and ice plant lay around her feet. 

Hey, can you car­ry me?” 


I can’t walk so good today. I need a ride.” He walked toward her with­out know­ing why. Her lips were open like a robe. She was wasn’t a girl. She was a woman, and when she told him her name, he didn’t believe her. He’d nev­er met any­one else with it. 

That’s my mother’s name.” 

She’s got taste.” When she hopped off the wall he saw her spine was curved and her back twist­ed into a large hump. She took half steps toward him. “Usu­al­ly I can get up okay, but the sun’s too hot or something.” 

That’s why it’s called Sun­land.” “No shit. Bend down.” He did as she said, and she climbed on his back. He teetered in a fog of per­fume and warm breath. Her breasts heaved against his back. 

You wan­na job ? I can’t pay you, but I can sing.” 

She didn’t sing. There was no sound on Mul­ber­ry Dri­ve. It was hard enough to climb alone, and it got steep­er as it went. He stum­bled and squeezed her thighs to keep her from slip­ping. She clamped her hands around his neck. He couldn’t breathe, but he didn’t didn’t want her to fall. He want­ed her not to fall. Already a few hous­es up the hill and he could feel sweat run down his sides. He want­ed her to not fall. 

Mul­ber­ry was a wall. Above it only sky. His Achilles’ felt like they might snap. He stepped off the side­walk to walk in the street. Her voice vibrat­ed in his jaw. 

Smart move. I knew I picked the right guy.” 

It didn’t feel like they were get­ting any clos­er to the top. Her weight shift­ed, and she start­ed to slide out of his hands. He leaned over, his head a few inch­es from the road, to keep her on his back, and when he saw their reflec­tion in the chrome wheel of a VW, it looked like her body had swal­lowed him whole. 

Should I com­pare you to a moon­less night ?
The poor night doesn’t have a chance.
The dark­est sky still fades to white
and blots the stars with morning’s con­se­quence.

And those stars ? It takes all day to dri­ve
above the haze and lights just to see some.
And if it’s cloudy, what then ? Nice try,
no cig­ar, turn around and go home.

But your shim­mer just nev­er quits —
like mer­cury flung across a vel­vet cloak,
like the sun in my eye after it sets — 
You’re bright­est in a world gone dark.

As long as I still have my wits about me
I’ll take your flame and keep you with me.

On the Yard

There is a plumb-black flower in my yard, about the size of my thumb but nar­row­er and pret­ti­er. It’s on a stalk of Sun­down­er Moun­tain Flax and it is the white hot cen­ter of a month of hum­ming­bird wars that take place every June. Juve­nile male hum­ming­birds stake out their ter­ri­to­ry in the late spring, and for what­ev­er rea­son, this par­tic­u­lar plant is high­ly regard­ed among these thugs. If I sit on the chaise longue in the back­ground for any amount of time in the morn­ing or in the late after­noon I am treat­ed to a free-for-all cage fight with­out the cages. Their calls are quick clicks, but if you’ve ever heard them slowed down, you’ll know they sound like trilling whales. They dive bomb each oth­er, drink from the flax flow­ers, blast off and blast back, and some­times they’re so wrapped up in the busi­ness at hand, they don’t real­ize they’re float­ing right next to me for a few sec­onds, until they do, and then they’re back in com­bat. These bat­tles usu­al­ly last a minute or two, but some­time they go on and on. There’s nev­er a clear win­ner, at least to me, and while they’re obvi­ous­ly engaged in seri­ous stuff, the dance of light and motion is a salve against my days.

I Haven’t Got Time For This

Until Don­ald Trump squeezed out of Amer­i­ca’s lit­tle brown eye last Novem­ber, I had no idea there were so many grue­some, half-wit bil­lion­aires in this coun­try. I’m not talk­ing about Trump – pri­mar­i­ly because I don’t buy for a sec­ond that guy is worth any­thing close to a bil­lion dol­lars. I’m sure he’s got some pret­ty Appren­tice coin, but I’m also sure he’s in debt up to his gill-slits to bankers, oli­garchs, oil princes, and who­ev­er else he can get to float a cov­er loan to pay off all his oth­er loans.

You can see how he oper­ates when you think about his wall. First he pro­pos­es a tacky, unnec­es­sary, and almost cer­tain­ly unfea­si­ble south­ern bor­der wall to make Amer­i­ca safe, keep out the rapists. Plus, it will be a huge piece of art : “It’ll be a beau­ti­ful wall, a real beau­ty,” he said repeat­ed­ly on the stump. But walls are nev­er beau­ti­ful ; a wall is always an eye­sore, albeit some­times a nec­es­sary eye­sore. (Speak­ing of which, I won­der if any­body on the trumptrain has con­sid­ered that as soon as a wall is built, it will become the largest can­vas for anti-trump art and pro­pa­gan­da in the world.) Over and over he made the same unre­al­is­tic promise : “Mex­i­co will pay for it.” Sure, what­ev­er, but now he’s Pres­i­dent, and he changes his tune : he wants to build the wall first and make Mex­i­co pay for it lat­er. It’s too impor­tant to wait because ter­ror­ism­rape­mur­der. So now we’re pay­ing for the wall up front and we’ll get reim­bursed down the road. But what does reim­bursed mean ?

It can mean any­thing. It can mean a bal­ance of trade deal with Mex­i­co where time or inter­est rates are shift­ed slight­ly. It can mean a tar­iff or an import tax. It def­i­nite­ly won’t mean actu­al cash, because Mex­i­co nev­er was going to pay for the wall. I’m also pret­ty sure the wall will nev­er be built — not as Trump sold it — and what will be built will almost cer­tain­ly be tied up in court. That’s how Trump makes mon­ey — false promis­es, bull­shit account­ing, bad financ­ing, and lit­i­ga­tion. So if he says he’s got (laugh-choke) 10 bil­lion in assets, he’s got to owe 9.4 bil­lion, minimum.

But there are all these oth­er bil­lion­aires com­ing up like cicadas. Bet­sy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Lin­da McMa­hon — all of them unre­mark­able in any way except for their ridicu­lous for­tunes. And they’re all in Trump’s cab­i­net. That’s excit­ing. Now I read about anoth­er cou­ple more bil­lion­aires — Robert Mer­cer and his daugh­ter Rebekah Mer­cer. Robert appears to be a math savant who made a lot of mon­ey run­ning a hedge fund. Rebekah seems like a woman who is per­fect­ly capa­ble of run­ning an online bak­ery, which is what she did before invest­ing in Bre­it­bart and Steve Ban­non and decid­ing her mon­ey meant she gets to make the rules. And thanks to Cit­i­zens Unit­ed and the flat­line-induc­ing lev­el of cor­rup­tion in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, she does. She and her father have despi­ca­ble ideas about human val­ue and they’re racists, of course. But I have to admit I real­ly liked some­thing Robert is quot­ed as say­ing. He’s talk­ing to Shel­don Adel­son, bil­lion­aire (yawn) casi­no mogul and Zion­ist cock­suck­er, and the quote is meant to illus­trate Robert’s extreme mis­trust of the élite polit­i­cal class. But I don’t care about any of that. I just like his turn of phrase.

I don’t know any of your fan­cy friends,” Robert told Adel­son, “and I haven’t got any inter­est in know­ing them.”

I like how he says “haven’t got” instead of “don’t have.” I’m total­ly going to do that now.


In the hottest bar in Wisconsin
the singer sings about blind white panic
and crys­talline faces com­ing in from the cold.
The dying singer sings about love,
and I can see the band behind her
sigh­ing into the lights.

In the morn­ing, red crows bang
the high-water pylons and fold back into the sky.
The mild sounds : a moist wing, a fin­ger in a trout,
the girl with the hiss­ing lantern
comes down the stairs like water under ice.
The pines are deep in snow, but they don’t know it yet.

My Nana’s Rhino

One year, I thought I’d try writ­ing a nov­el in Novem­ber. This is the entire result of that her­culean effort :

Lordez is the girl, the one that was at Lisa’s baby’s par­ty, Lordez Rodriguez, which you’d think her mom could’ve said out loud to make sure it didn’t rhyme – no, not Rodriguez, it’s some­thing-ez though. When she told me I want­ed to say “Pleasedez to meetez you.” I think I did say it actu­al­ly, but she didn’t hear me because the rain sound­ed like some­one was hit­ting her car with ham­mers. We didn’t talk at the par­ty, but when it start­ed rain­ing I was ask­ing every­body for a ride and she felt sor­ry for me. We didn’t talk in the car either because the rain was like ham­mers, except she said her name was Lordez Her­nan­dez, and she’s the girl I was talk­ing about the oth­er day.