Expert sculptor pours molten copper

into mold of gypsy ballerina that leaks

liquid metal and forms a chunk of cast-off

junk that hardens into a solid-dripping

gargoyle shape encrusted with casting sand.

The heap is pitched into the scrap bin

where it’s buried by fragments of rods,

steel sheets, and nickel-plated pipes—

one day found by a student sculptor who

rescues the gargoyle chunk, brushes it,

loves it, places it on a square pedestal

in a gallery downtown across the street

from a gypsy ballerina, floods it with light,

and gives it the name “Trouvé, No. 1831.”

When the expert comes in and finally notices

the gargoyle, he’s filled with bitterness,

demanding, “Why can’t you create like that?”

of himself. When the student crosses the street

and beholds the polished-copper ballerina,

he’s filled with despair, demanding, “Why can’t

you create like that?” of himself.

Many arm-spans will pass before the young man

considers himself great enough to cast aside chunks

of art that give unknown students the opportunity

to embitter the experts and get themselves found.

Daily Occurrence

Something grievous must have happened

in the darkling rush-about

morning weeps

gentle as the starling’s song

is anesthetic

descending to my skin as an awkward apology

a kiss that never should have been


headlamps on the highway

make sawtoothed rivers of light

white flowing north

red trickling south

streams that drown under the overpass

perhaps someone has passed

that never should have been


perhaps someone was born

that shouldn’t have gone under the overpass

and you

daily drivers

which of you will pass today

with a daily cup of coffee in your gut

with the daily news on the tip of your brain

with a playlist in your daily ear

you’ll never see it coming

from the jaws of life

you who still have so many cemeteries to visit

so many brothers to apologize to

a God to prove or disprove

a will to notarize

a child who doesn’t respond to neglect

a reality TV show to finish complaining about

accidents happen to unfortunate saps

in newspapers and newscasts

not to you

but there’s your sedan on the roadside

crumpled like an off-guard credit card statement

in this December’s darkling slush-around

and there’s your ambulance

slapping our on-looking faces

with razor-red and blue-knuckle strobes

our guts sinking with the sickening notion

that your ambulance isn’t trying to get anywhere


there’s no fragrance as I’m walking home


no Canadian geese to chase from the walkway

no neighbors whipping rugs from their balconies

no starlings to sing my innocence to sleep

no small children derailing freight trains with pop cans

I never would admit that

I’m writing what I’m thinking

I’m thinking what I’m writing

will be of little consequence

except to the onlookers and the willows

and my daughters

evening weeps softer still

soft as the starling’s falling notes

sound mimic to my still small voice

as if the snow’s ashamed to fall

afraid to prick our fragile hearts

with the sorrow that wakes in the color


Recording Absence

Footprints frozen into cement

mark the absence of a man

who once walked below

my bus window. He wore dress

shoes, was short, walked

calmly until he discovered

the mess he was in. I wonder

about his name, his favorite artists,

his burdens, his destination.

Footprints frozen into my

photographic memory

mark the absence of a man

who was walking across a bridge

in Japan, who had a blast

envelope him and incinerate

everything but his shadow,

having no time to escape

the mess he was in. I wonder

about his eyes, his politics,

his last thought, his destination.

Between Us

There’s a lake between us—

it takes time and effort and desire

for me to reach you and some days

storms blow up to make the passage

impassible. Many mornings,

dense fog shrouds your expression

and makes it impossible for me to tell

where your voice is coming from.

Even so, the lake between us is deep;

its water, cleansing; the sound

of its waves are as calming as whispering

white pines. I love the cormorants that swim

between our shores, tying scrolls

of paper to their wings—messages you keep

in secret places. I love the windboats,

their crisp, red canvases dancing a silent ballet

against the evergreens.

The lake between us isn’t terribly wide,

but I’m glad that today, at least,

we’ve agreed to meet halfway.


I have nothing for you,

nothing you’d care to own.

The blackbirds, in the dead of night,

swiped the remaining morsels

I hoped to feed to you and the prophet.

The gulls, using bits of string

strung between their dorsal feathers,

flapped away with the Bible,

the C.S. Forrester novels, and a book

on the biology of smoking I had hoped

you’d read.

And the wind took the trees.

And the clouds took the light.

I have nothing for you,

except these hands,

which have built furniture, these hands

which have opened stuck bottles and jars,

these hands which have bled on cliffs

and sharp metal. Nothing you’d care to own.

Except, I also have my ears which have

collected melodies by Jon Foreman,

my ears which have jumped at the crack

of gunfire, my ears which have strained

to hear your car door and footsteps,

holding on to an eroded hope.

I really have nothing for you,

nothing you haven’t owned.


My hand has froze, but no one knows

if it’s from ice and snow or indecision.

My words are heavy blocks of lead

that no one said would slug along so slowly

as I’m carried around on busses to prove

I’m one of the trusted few who will weave

their existence into the minds of men. But then

my words turn tale and blithely sail into a cavern

I have no admittance to. And do they once

consider the angst of a man with a world

of thoughts to share but not a scrap of word

to share his thoughts for the world with?

Heartless, unfeeling, insufferable words—

if you only knew the books I’ll never write.


How dare you, poet, fill the world

with useless words for your woeful

pleasure? We ought to hog-tie your

thought life with unchained melodies

until you’re so intimate with despair

that you’ll write nothing more than

hackneyed greetings. We’ve had enough

of convoluted imagery—the sparrow’s

narrow departure from her clenched

jaw sings to bed the new day’s pain.

We’ve had enough of mysterious

suggestions—would the dawn-trees

swill the unwilling breeze until

the moon shadows crawl to bed on

their knees? We’ve had enough of false

inspiration—your hands will uplift

mountains of pain and crush them

like eggshells on an anvil bearing

the implacable words, “Hope of the

Nations.” And more than enough of

senseless language—their campfires

spurned the night sky and swilled

the roiled, everlasting moon of my

losing, finding in themselves the

meaning of light which the dark-

angels had chained for the seven

eons prior to the third dawn of your

rising. No, I wouldn’t say such things,

if I were you. Consider this your final

warning, poet—say it straight, or else

we just might overcome our fears and

labor to understand your meaning.

Sundown Fowl

swimming in the dusk

water between ice

sheets—swashes of black

ink between fragments

of blue parchment on

pale, yellow canvas.

Copyright © 2016 Rooster Tree LLC. All rights reserved.