from unpublished collection Feather Father
The National Audoban Society’s Singing Bird Clock (runner-up in the 2022 Troubador International Poetry Prize, UK Judges Joshua Bennett and Victoria Kennefick)
Maybe it was the Mockingbird my father heard
dying through the bathroom wall;
maybe it was the Black-capped Chickadee
with its Hey Sweetie, Fee Bee, Listen to Me;
or the Cardinal, blood-red from tip to tip,
its beak poking through its masquerade,
a syncopated shrill, even low, like a drill in his brain;
the Downy Woodpecker, pik-pik-pik, chik-chik-chik;
or maybe it was his grandmother’s voice, somehow
reincarnated, deep down in the Canadian Goose
calling Dickybird in from an approaching storm;
the House Wren,
the American Robin,
the Tufted Titmouse,
or the good ole Oriol
hailing from Baltimore… where now even I must fly;
or maybe it was midnight
and the last bird my father heard
was the Great Horned Owl, calling out through
the bathroom wall, three times in all,
the word who, repeated though forever vague
if it’s asking you or telling you who
before swooping down, the silent masterful
with open talons,
and taking him up into the dark blue trees.
from 5th published collection The Gold Rush (2021)
Maybe it was because we had come through the dark
early morning hours, maybe it was because we had hit
just enough traffic to refresh a hatred for the Rubik’s Cube
of lane changing, that despite the luck of being two we did
not qualify for the car pool lane; maybe because Mom is dead
& every surviving member of the family admits, in one way
or another, a tremendous amount of relief at her passing; maybe
because there was no fog; because the chorus of Born in the USA
stands as a bitterly ironic counterpart to the song’s verses; maybe
because for some time I’ve experienced a deep sense of release
from an unwinnable battle, not against my mother but against you,
shotgun to my right, the choppy undertow of a once buoyant reciprocity
of your skin atop mine, holding me prisoner in an Alcatraz of Jealousy;
but I’ll be damned & sure as hell to wear some flowers in my hair
even if I’m not going to San Francisco; the window down & my left hand out
with the exact change for the Bay Bridge, & two whole days ahead of us;
maybe it was because we would be gone from this place in no time
that there was something magical & triumphal about our crossing.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea —after Jules Verne
the Nautilus is one
when you go far, you make one
where the land is next to the sea
this helps you to see in the dark
this is made of the bodies of little sea animals
to get away from something bad
an old building after an accident
a small, round, expensive stone that you find in a seashell
you can use this to cut wood
when the sea goes round very fast
from 4th published collection Earth Castle (2020)
Your Old Bedroom Window
The black and white aerial photograph of your town
was taken from the height of summer eagles,
the highest of storks, their nearly useless legs
dangling over fascist Spain, from above
corn and sugar beet fields, fruit orchards, to the south
of your old bedroom window;
just enough thread
poking through the eye of a needle.
It was a sunny day; the shadows a myriad
of darker triangles and rectangles just to the left
of the otherwise jigsaw collection of upright buildings:
from the farming warehouses on the lower edge
to the Arabic fortress castle, its crown of battlements,
and the Catholic church smack dab against it
at the top of the gentle flood-free rise
the old town still clings to.
One winter morning, all of our fathers came singing
wake up songs, didn’t they? They would open the curtains
and point to the snow covering the rooftops of our hometown
like a miracle, their arms around our shoulders.
Maybe we’re the Fags, the Queers, the Catalanas.
I’m the gay American guy who’s been buttfucking
Ramón and Sagrario’s, the Coal Vendors, son, José Ramón
for, what is it, over twenty years by now? as an intro
(in lieu of a known nickname) to who I am along the lines
of the breakfast, lunch, dinner, cafe, bar conversation
everyone in Earth Castle has had at one point or another;
not that I’d take any special offense to any of the titles,
but rather take it as an honor of sorts, to be registered,
publicly engrained in their local white pages, akin
to roots, something I could never boast of in America.
Over the years, your family’s own pre, during and after
breakfast, lunch and dinner conversations have brought
to the table a virtual Encyclopedia Britannica of who’s who
for hundreds and thousands of reasons a hell of a lot
more run-of-the-mill than our own novelesque and risqué
contribution to the tableaux of small town gossip.
Dining table gossip that begins with something like
“Guess who I saw” on the way out for bread or the news,
and runs the entire gambit of blood ties and associations,
an endless array of curious nicknames: the Frogs, the Toads,
the Pacifiers, the Spring Onions, the Piss Drops, the Shit Sprays,
the Carpenters, the Coal Vendors and so on; some for the obvious,
others for the more oddball, possibly one-time anecdote
that stuck and became, lo and behold, public domain,
far from any endeavor to insult or harm, but simply to name
so-and-so, since we are all still here in Earth Castle to do so.
from 3rd published collection A Mountain on Jupiter (2020)
The Flames of Fall
I remember the initial idea was to protect the art
we frame and hang on the wall of our living room,
bank down the wooden shutters to the sun to keep
the oils, acrylics and watercolors from fading;
the weathered slats usher in a bright naked rib cage,
inching across this theater of souvenirs
the truth about color.
How true indeed a Venetian canal gilds a twilight mist;
or, vermillion red, canary yellow
and the resulting flames of fall
some time ago in the foothills of the Pyrenees;
the intended twinkle and turquoise of miniature mosques
on a thin sliver of ivory; the blood
of an old quarter marquee in the pearl sheen
of Parisian rain.
Day after day, all our art at the mercy of the sun,
the protection we should be providing neglected.
It’s the light that strikes what you once thought were
the simple brown eyes of a stranger, more beautiful
than the day you came across them, pondered them
and took them home.
Post Tenebras Lux
I don’t want the devil tiptoeing through our living room
from the framed pictures on the walls to the white tablecloth
humming along to the red neon in dim fog,
standing there with his toolbox on arched billy goat heels,
the tips of his horns just short of scraping the ceiling,
the starving edge to hips, the swing of cock and scrotum
when the paper cut
glowing void pivots just right.
I don’t need subtitles
to translate what he’s saying anymore but I don’t want
to continue to be the author of damp bones for vultures
to pick at in the desert.
I don’t want to say I’m not thinking of anything special anymore
when you ask me what I’m thinking.
I want you to swallow me but I want to swallow you too
and belch each other deep in our slumber.
It doesn’t matter how many years the night grinds on its axis;
at daybreak, we can start to make out
the stick figures we once sprayed on the roof of a cave,
how I loved you more than a mountain on Jupiter.
from 2nd published collection Billy Goat (2019)
The Open Door
This is when the evening sun comes through the open door,
a couple of months’ worth the house having twisted
just enough like an extreme yoga posture and
you’re supposed to breathe but I’m not sure
what to do with my arms.
It’s been years since the thought of the door,
apart from its practical use of coming and going every day,
has made its way so abruptly into my line of vision,
like an old tree all of a sudden
waving its blue branches.
Twenty-two is the number the calendar gave us the night
we met, seventeen the day I was born, twenty-eight you;
otherwise random numbers nobody really cares about;
eleven, twenty-five, thirty-one. In our little world, ours
means milestones. Twenty-two today means Sunday
and if it weren’t for the clouds, it would be sunny.
Enough light to see things. I woke up before you, you
having come to bed a good hour and a half after me,
late Saturday night bullshit talk shows followed by
porn. Our orange juice maker doesn’t work, maybe
I push too hard. Solution: I turn it off and just shove
and twist the halves down. Newspapers, Ronaldo’s
pointing at his jersey, his open mouth and gelled crest
like a triumphant iguana, controversy still over the king
apologizing to Spain for killing elephants in Botswana
and Italians dropping like flies in skyrocketing suicides.
All that without getting past the front page, waiting
for the father and son down on the street corner to fill
a paper cone with 300 grams of churros, and sugar please.
A special breakfast. Twenty-two, again. Before we rip off
the current page from the spiral, black ‘n white Malaysian
boys this time adorning the months. And there he was,
that familiar Moroccan guy, in real life, in first place, running
alongside police on motorbikes hailing blue siren lights;
followed by an unfamiliar man, maybe fifty strides
behind; and like harbinger drops of rain before a storm,
there came a sprinkling of rubber soles on asphalt and
the downpour of numbers inundating the boulevard.
Washing the coffee cups, I`m surprised the purple river
of marathon T-shirts still runs through the spring trees.
from 1st published collection Suicide, 1964 (2018)
Brand New and Eternal
Maybe the first ash has already arrived
during the night to these floating cities
yawning a celestial, titanic, zircon dream,
decks soaring above the hulls; an awakening
trick of magic, confirmed promise of a new day,
moored in the early morning baby-blue port,
and has started to collect. One after another.
Ocean liners that crept in, walking distance
from bed. Weathered crows’ feet of the sea
feel brand new and eternal. Cranes will lose
the fine evidence of night, their pulleys licking
their flanks and the new quest for cargo is on.
Bread, or anything along those lines. Taxis
out for that solo passenger heading home
with a forehead full of yeahs and whatevers
or out-out like maybe today will be the day.
We’re supposed to move. We’re not supposed to
come to a halt dreading not only our own death
but the irresponsible assassination of love,
to discover yesteryear fountains of water
in alleys where there had never before been
a reason to stop and lean against, to kill half
an hour before the hour the clinic tells you
to come. The prick on the finger tip, the blood.
The ten-fifteen minutes it needs to creep up
litmus filament prove enough to travel the world
and back. The nurse, the kindness, the statistics.
Human intimacies coined with Latin: fellatio,
cunnilingus. I say the words suck and fuck
and she nods her head like we might one day
imagine an angel receiving us at the gates
of her Peruvian mountain civilization. No time,
and I’m on the other side of unshattered glass,
walking through this city and into the woods
where this evening’s effigies of wandering lust
take their place on the altar of endearing demons,
their horns like party hats among overgrowth;
the myriad of sustained breathy hoot of birds
here and there piercing the canopy of nature,
to my pool. Today is not the day. The halogen
metal light flooring me to the concrete poolside
-a chlorinated offering of immortality – as I reach
the end of the first sit-ups of the rest of my life,
bracing myself for this particular magic to wane.
A fine layer of ash may already be accumulating
on the deck of those floating cities in the port
and no one will surely notice, not even the captain.
I wonder how long the volcano will continue to erupt.
The Golden Sheet
The golden sheet they throw over you shines
like a jackpot even in the dark. It says,
Look at this thread of light I’m gonna rat.
Look at how crackled and marvelous the bat
left the windshield you hitherto looked right through.
Pee on me, melt Fort Knox on me, anything
in the name of gold. Bulldoze down the screamingest
Shiite temples no one dares dance around, all the Ooms
dangling on international flights, all the bullshit
24-karate leaf that ever occurred to a Swiss 5-star chef
to garnish chocolate cake on the shores of Lake Geneva with
and nothing, absolutely nothing will steal the show like me,
little ole crinkled me, upstaging every glorious ounce
of light from your dead body.
from Blinking at Survival (collection unpublished)
A School of Fish
It was officially over. The lingering
final evening’s light, a matter of hours
before turning off my own light and calling it
a summer. The sun had left my back, the hill’s
shadow already reaching the wet sand and I
was about to call it quits when a school of fish
had something to say. If I could say they were
sardines or minnows, or an even more precise fish
word in a language, would it give any deeper
sense to the way they shot and fanned
out of the sea, first one and then that second
display of electricity? They were the mackerels
in somebody else’s poem; mine were alive,
flashing a relayed message to me from the sun,
sitting there alone on that beach of ours,
a handful of naked men at the end of the season.
I will keep up my own search, nevertheless,
for words; sometimes the most exquisite
lifeguard is a poem. To put words to
the chemical equation between scales and feathers
helps; but when I leave you on the shore and go
swimming past the dip and rocky makeshift reef,
the nuder I am the more defenselessly charged
I feel diving below the warm swells, eyes closed.
When I bring my goggles I get a better look
at the attraction, coming face to face with a stranger
wordless world, pulled into the vastness and awe;
though even there things still pertain to this world.
A rusting pipeline’s presumably full of sewage.
The message went something like this: a flower
or a colorful plaid print dress on a little girl running
beneath a Shiite mosque dome of zigzagging
mirrors going in and out, in and out, of the water.
That is, of course, if I had actually been close
enough to appreciate such a display of the color
I trust is there. What I did see, despite the end
of that particular summer, was the electricity.
I walked home. I soon came to the conclusion
that I would never leave you.
The kite surf is up
in a flapping howling stitch
of dragon chartreuse,
kamikaze lime, ripping sky blue
apart. These tangles
of cord, harness and buckle
snap taut and light as tendons
and flicker the booming bright
and briny gale. Hands gripped
to the baton and running, they
slip their feet into the straps
of a polished board and razor
out upon this cellophane sea
and they’re up – gone off
the edge of the world not out
but up up for just a moment
enough to haul like major knots
and twist and turn – and man,
back down to this ocean going
on and on as if no kid could ever
look away, sitting ashore
with head too palsy to keep
looking upwards at the show.
My nephew is looking down
at Gumby and Pokey rubber
dolls trying to make them stand
up in the sand. I don’t know how
he has taken the kite surfers in
as his drool and wet smiling lips
seem more to do with the simple
novelty of another bright shiny day
and so many pictures. Maybe it is
a bit of everything. After all,
didn’t we all do what we could
with what we had, strapping
young and fit, snapping taut
at the edge of sunny days?
from The Lint the Moon Leaves (collection unpublished)
The New Models (Diagram Press)
We’re parked in the hills overlooking the town.
There should be a hurricane around here
for so many rainbows.
Everyone ought to compress kittens
before attaching them.
As well as breathing exercises
to be at one with the world.
Neither son nor brother nor friend
just a link in a chain of jokes.
The Mother of All Bombs
is not that naked obese woman
straddling a ballistic missile
my father e-mailed over the Atlantic.
Roll her in flour and go for the wet spot.
The Happy Hours
a wall of TVs
working stomach muscles
and deserving it.
Let’s forget all of this.
Actually, I come here alone but
we’re still parked in the hills overlooking the town.
Most people these days are able
to flip right past it with the new models;
a movie, the shower scene,
a threat to national security,
armed teenagers you’d better duck for,
a hot one you’d gladly bend over for,
the herd you have to stop the car for,
a busload of dreams and car-less Mexicans,
the mantras that hypnotize them,
the accident that nearly ruins them,
billions of tax dollars spent on something
or just the commercials getting in the way,
but the snow will always be there.
Not the white kind, not the cold kind,
just that loud nothing
There’s been this guy dismembering people
so our friend keeps the couch next to her door.
I just wanted to show you where Barbara Streisand lives.
She’s “overweight” – our friend that is –
quit her switchboard job but
kept the keys to the gates
and knows all the rangers by numbers,
all like totally cute.
The beer having drained into the oceans,
the dirty ions of the night now crash
down in tinkling waves of amber,
our backs to the observatory.
Hope for Lincoln
For however many burritos
to go and Che Guevara T-shirts,
we hate them. Of course we don’t
realize it, nor is hate really the word.
We’re driving and eating to music
made for driving and eating, hard
plastic bumps hammered into freeways
make you wonder if we could drive
anywhere with our eyes closed.
Heading north you want your body west
so you command your car up and over
an arc of asphalt as others want east
heading south, and when it’s home
you’re heading or out and you’re doing
good and it’s almost dark, a treasure
sparkles like your needed and valid
love for yourself 360º. No, hate
is not the word. Of course we don’t
hate anyone. We hate things like
stress, war, rape
In fact, if you let a dirty penny soak
in a Taco Bell hot sauce
it comes out shiny.
I come all this way alone,
did I make that clear already?
Call it therapy. You’ve got yours
and I’ve got mine:
faint gray and numberless,
leads from this hospital room.
A side-effect of fluorescent lights,
these long cold city nights
and animal documentaries.
Anesthesia has come between us.
You in a blue paper gown and me
the top of a snow-laden pine tree.
Once the dogs have chewed
off the opponent’s ear,
Snow white egrets
in pockets of sulfur springs;
tiny cannonball eyes caught ditching
a million miles of calisthenics
in another indifferent winter to
canine warfare, just barking
distance away. Unable to sway,
evergreen giants watch
all the trying keep far from dying
amidst a frozen winter’s weight.
It’s summer now and I’m
tickling your good knee and
Yellowstone National Park is bigger than
the Province of Zamora.
How long will you be spending here?
On Earth? a Grateful Dead van may joke. Or,
How much for just driving through?
The Chemical Brothers’ foot on the choke.
Just before the continent broke off
legs were being added to buffaloes.
Bumper-to-bumper recreational vehicles
stare into the opposite not-nearly-as-pathetic extreme
of our evolution.
A growing population
ever-more inclined to meditation
dares not be responsible
the best rainbow trout in the world,
and thus more peacefully opts for
a salad bar and shrimp scampi
sitting beneath a family
of dead roaring grizzlies.
Where are we going?
This is our landscape now. It will not kill you
but it’s our third time here this fall
and it’s hard to keep track
of all these nurses.
We’re driving into the sunset of life.
To your left, clear drops catch
fluorescent light and cascade
into an arm that has lost its tan
and someone’s dog
is barking outside the window.