Dr. Zhivago


        You're ready to start writing,

        but the wolves are howling in the frozen forest

        and the frost is sneaking up

        on the furniture around you.


        Someone left an ink well, a pen

        and paper months ago, and now you can say

        History put them there for you to write with.


        How long can an individual sustain

        an inner story? For it's always going on,

        a kind of addiction, forbidden by the state,

        dragging you by train beyond the Ural Mountains.


        Once again you choose to make that journey

        into language tired from misuse,

        in need of rediscovery--so much like a noisy

        boxcar of a train, so much like the dead landscape outside.


        Let something else cut the story short

        and shut the window that lets cold air in--

        the cold you ignored, delicately watching,

        aware of new growth.

                      from Beyond Modesto


Eight Awards to Nature and One Admonition


        1) Hottest dancer in the troop:


        2) Smoothest movement; effortless control and energy:


        3) Most rugged, solid frame; true grit:


        4) Totally spiritual, out-of-body experience:


        5) Highest, most awe-inspiring, climactic peak:


        6) Deepest shades of meaning; life-sustaining breath:


        7) Sky-expansive, undulating, fertile, minimalist show:


        8) Longest-running, uninterrupted, spectacular performance:


        9) Most demanding, fickle, and ungrateful audience:

                                                            Humanity.                        from Beyond Modesto


Thinking Toward Retirement


        The "tire" part

                    is pretty obvious:

                                        the there-and-back-again route

        running those suckers smooth

                    until retreads simply

        ain't possible no more.



        "Re" meant again!


                            and again.

         And it still means that, too.



        I forget what "ment" meant.

                            At some point

                                        it's a matter

                            of not mattering

        anymore.                                        first published in The Moorpark Review (Spring 2004).



Sine Quo Non



        Without ample loam: no root growth, or rather

        Ghost-white roots clinging to rocks in vain.



        Without enough water: no maintenance of loam,

        No chemistry through which roots can nurse.



        Without any culture: nothing born, nothing

        Green, never the fragrance of flowering plants.



        Think how soon a poem ends: it doesn't find

        Whatever it needs along the way to becoming

        . . . an hydrangea tree.

                                                first published in The Moorpark Review (Spring, '04)



"Corporations Have Arms; Buildings Have Wings"

with apologies to Bob Rubinyi



                        We join hands, our arms

                        around the waist of the other guy.



                        We preen each feather

                        while rain rolls off the roof in back,

                        beyond a breezeway.



                        Muscling in on the market,

                        we expect a profit from bodies

                        built (transparently?) to last.



                        Stand clear of the doors

                        flung wide open in haste--

                        we're counting on ocean air

                        to hold the line on electric bills.



                        Whether solid or liquid,

                        we can survive Death

                        and certain taxes.



                        Don't expect too much;

                        we depreciate in fire and storm;

                        our watch word has always been "Flight!"



13 February 2003


        So rare! A night and day of heavy rain in L.A., leaving

        Glassy pools, trapped by the tree roots, intruding into

        The previously buckled sidewalks, the freshly punctured

        Potholes in the asphalt streets. Every soaked square of soil

        Bursts with a new fragrance; every long, loose gray cloud

        Suggests light showers behind the storm in fresh ocean air.


        A record was set on Mt. Wilson: over seven inches of rain

        In the middle of February, Lincoln's birthday, followed

        By another thirteenth, but it's a Thursday, two weeks gone

        By since Friday, January 31st--worse than a thirteenth

        For being dyslexic! My mother and I were miraculously

        Saved on Pacific Coast Highway from accidental death when,

        Anti-lock brakeless, our car slid headlong into on-coming

        Traffic.  That moment now looms large though I somehow

        Knew our slim chance came in easing to a rear-facing stop

        On the far seaside shoulder. Thirteen days later I remain

        Amazed at every car speeding on regardless and uninjured.


        But this day, the true source of miracles: a grateful ground--

        Los Angeles crowned a new British isle, wafted by guardian

        Pacific Gulf Streams!

                                            What an oxymoron! Not unlike Auden,

        I sit in a corner Starbuck's at Robertson and Santa Monica,

        A new nexus of conspicuous consumption, temporarily

        A gorgeous garden, a delightfully damaged concrete desert,

        Still breathing quite easy under "orange alert," while many

        Of the convincingly frightened rush out to purchase duct tape

        And clear plastic, a new war on Iraq impending more each day.


                                                                            from Beyond Modesto