it’s 9 degrees in Philadelphia
normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees
hypothermia sets in
when the body reaches 95 degrees
91 degrees brings amnesia
but not the kind of forgetfulness
perhaps wished
when asked
how one arrived
at this place
in life
82 degrees brings unconsciousness
though appearing to be sleeping
and a body temperature of 70 degrees
brings death

steel subway grates piss history’s whispers
of steam into the night
the city started using tall steam pipes instead
because people were sleeping on the grates

if you build it carefully
a disassembled cardboard box
wrapped in plastic
or a nylon tarp
can keep the wind and rain at bay
of course, you can’t see who’s coming
once inside — and there’s always someone coming
and you have to rebuild it each night
because someone else
will steal the best parts
the tarp or the plastic
within minutes, if you leave
or the police will cut it to ribbons with box cutters
so you have to take it apart and take it with you
in the suburbs, people live in nylon tents
in the wooded seclusion of public parks
in Camden, across the river
near the Ben Franklin Bridge
and its new red-brick river view condos
mostly vacant
they bulldozed the tent city
dropped the smeary tents and scraps of miscellany
into green dumpsters, dented from the inside
and then put up white signs with black letters
that read, “State Property – No Trespassing”

the average weight of a man is 196 pounds
the Golden Gate Bridge is 220 feet above the water
the Walt Whitman Bridge is 153 feet above the water
and the Ben Franklin Bridge is only 130
it’ll take 3.14 seconds to hit the shimmer
from the Whitman
with a speed of 63 mph at impact
if you go down spread eagle
arms outstretched
like a man embracing divinity’s grace
for the first time
or maybe just meeting the winged angel
above the chromed grill of a Rolls Royce
they say it’s like being hit by a car
you’ll break all your ribs in the fall
and if your course is swift, and your aim, true —
half the vertebrae in your back
your organs will still have momentum
after your body stops
mincing your innards against shards of bones
and if you survive the fall, you’ll probably drown
unable to swim — assuming you’ve had a change of heart
of course, that particular height may not be enough
to get the job done
it’s on the margin between success and failure
unless the Delaware River is frozen
but that usually only happens further north
because the salt line is creeping up the river
from the Delaware Bay
aye, the Golden Gate is a better bet
70 feet higher — and the view is sublime
at least in pictures
it’s 60 degrees and sunny in San Fransisco today
and everyone has a tan
I’ve always wanted to see California

dim voices

lake-2606217_1920I don’t know why I haven’t imploded lately. Seems overdue. Maybe I have and just haven’t noticed yet. Everything seems normal enough. The sun comes up, as expected. Bills arrive in the mail daily. People still kill each other and some love each other, tho too much of the former and not enough of the latter. Maybe I have tho, maybe I’ve gone over the crumbling-soil edge and no one else has noticed either, and that does make it easier. There’ll be fewer questions I can’t answer. There isn’t any way to explain it, really, but some people other than me know what it’s like, a few at least. They don’t talk about it much, most not at all. It’s when you can’t see any way out– so, you go further in, deeper, to where the day’s shadows grow long, touching upon places in the darkness where nothing is ever seen, where nothing has ever been seen, where cold things exist, huffing invisible steam through wide nostrils, never knowing the warmth of sunshine, nor the solace of redemption. And you can hear the rest of the world, for a while. A few dim voices calling in– calling your name, from somewhere back there, voices that shake with trepidation. Further in, they’ll be quieted again. And it’s better they don’t know that this place exists, that this place has its own gravity, pulling up and down and sideways and in directions undefined; and it’s better I don’t answer when called.

I’d a feeling a few might find something familiar in this, even if they never comment. We’re never quite alone in what we feel. #human

a perilous evening’s provocation

do you remember
dancing– I didn’t mind
when you returned a glance
cast your way
you’d been born
to be admired
tho, they’d never understand
and those moments
in which
the silence
held us
to this day
to this day
I think upon a perilous evening’s provocation
the sinuous twirl of your linen’s soft rough
aye, a fistful of sepia tresses
as cicadas craw outside the window
bleating, until the frantic cacophony
gathers into asynchronous rhythm–
as once did
the silence

souls once more

if we’d be
again just
once more
neither a man
nor a woman
neither templar
nor maiden
neither promised
nor beholden
neither noble
nor despised
but just
once more
flawed, and aimless
and blameless
as is the amber
of the dawn
we’d be, love–
we’d shine–
through the
evenings’ wither


I’d bring the dishes back in wobbling stacks and Alejandro would wash them — eventually. He waited until there were enough dishes to fill the racks; amid the sweat and scalding steam, we’d talk — tho nothing much was ever said. Alejandro spoke little English and I spoke even less Spanish, but there was a kindness exchanged — there in the fog of steam, amid the shouting chefs banging finished plates onto metal shelves for pick up and the servers scurrying and slipping on the slick-spill floors. A few of us got stoned in a forgotten stairway on New Year’s Eve and later that night I spilled two drinks down a woman’s open-back black dress when my tray tipped. She screamed and then she was very quiet. The drink glasses never left my tray. Nights turned to months of long evenings and Alejandro stopped talking when I came back to the kitchen. Even his smiling nod was lost to something dark that pulled his eyes toward a distant point no one else could see. Most nights he was drunk, his eyes red as ancient ire. And then– on an evening like any other, I pushed through the swing-doors with my wobbly stacks of plates and another man was there washing the dishes, a stout fellow with wide shoulders and a sparse mustache. He had pocks denting his cheeks and dimpling his forehead. I suppose he had a name, but I didn’t inquire. I slipped out back for a smoke. The stars were there, where they always were, pearl-head pins pushed through vast swaths of black velvet, and I’d no sense of any angels, or of any gods, watching over us.

many dreams away

As with most things, only half the story ever told, and most of that falsity or misleading pretense– the bricks of the city are red as virgin blood and even while crumbling– outlasting those who’d cried and screamed in her shadows and slept in the alleys of her pungent womb where frail and forgotten people were murdered beneath her streetlights’ white flickering. Many dreams away, stinking hippies smoked and danced in swaying fields and fucked for their next meal; some called it love, and maybe that’s what love is– as long as it ain’t war. Across the sea, brothers of those sisters left behind to dance and smoke and dream tried to kill those who tried to kill them in swamps of stewy jungle — and that’s all it was across the sea, death or survival. patriotic rhetoric and the threat of evil’s virulent spread were known lies, the type of dishonesty we accept most readily, lest we be unwitting fools. but still, brothers killed for their bloodied brothers and brothers killed just to stay alive. ain’t it funny how another’s life on the other side of an invisible line becomes worth less than one’s own when the bullets are exploding into astonished skulls and bursting once-wishful hearts to the left and right. ain’t it funny how poetry runs away when the fight is on– and real and present and bloody and bodies are strewn, halved, and bones are breaking through the skin, and men are crying out to gods who never existed, but of our desperation. and ain’t it funny how love ain’t nowhere to be found ‘cept in a swaying field– many dreams away. ain’t it funny how everything changes, how the lonely wind pulls love’s hopeful dancers into its cold vortex with the siren calls of summer-field breezes, keeping their souls for itself– while their bodies still walk the earth, wear ties, and marry, grow old, and die, and ain’t it funny how an era ends– in a whisper, unheard, when there ain’t nothing left to fight for, leaving without closure or even the punctuated dignity of a gunshot to the temple or the slamming of a chipped-wood door– and nobody knows– how it all changed, or the precise moment when the dove once held departed, but nothing will ever be the same again.

a bow-tied gentleman’s smiling introduction

Anger is sadness. It’s sorrow with a switchblade and it burns in a heart as deep as love doth as it stabs through the moil. Anger is our sadness that has not been heard, but which shall now be known even if its sound is stoic silence where once laughter trailed the whispering sea-breeze of crimson summer evenings. Our anger is an affirmation of self, a mountaintop declaration of being as was Whitman’s barbaric yawp, and it is as misunderstood as the black-pit pain that’d birthed its red-winged vengeance. With many years passed since its damning recrimination, uncovered in a new life that is the old life forgotten, its silver steel still gleams, reflecting in the pupils as does lost-youth’s memory; decades-old blood pools on its surface, wet and shining. If love is the medallion saint of fools, then anger is our god, able to grant forgiveness and in forgiveness’s tall-walled absence, a penance to be paid. It is anger and love, both, that make us complete, exposing our undisguised humanness, each teaching us of the other, a bow-tied gentleman’s smiling introduction and an open-arm invitation to the hooded hangman’s razor-rope gallows. It is here, when twisting in grisly silhouette ‘neath the crimson’s last return, that we know– hatred does not exist, has never lived, but in the minds of those who’d give lesser notions deity.

amber and ash

’twas my father
who’d first taught me
a heart’s quiet disdain
of yester-love’s disloyalty
’tis the singular truth
of a life’s trivial divinity
that a man might survive
’til his fiery horizons, breached
crossing over that slim divide
‘tween amber and ash
of his own accord
neither forgiven
nor known

a cardinal in the garden

it happens so quickly
all things prior
through the months
and thin-shadow years
some– even reconciled
tho fewer than wished
until, one day
perhaps– a day in May
it isn’t viable
everything– changed
in a single instant
and the sunshine
might be warm on your cheek
that day
or the sky might be a thick gray
meeting your gaze above
and there might be a red cardinal
‘a craw-crawin’ in the garden

what remains of us

Strange, what remains of us, your name– gone from memory now. You were among the first to believe that I’d a voice– telling me of your novel, 70,000 words, sitting in a wooden drawer. My own only reached 10,000 words, a few worthwhile, before strangling itself.

Strange what remains of us, not even a name, but the image of a soul’s culminating essence– a dark sadness that mocked its own fair-skinned birth, an inward virulence, yes– madness, a jester-hatted smirking bedfellow to your kindness, its possession of your soul, complete.

Only a woman could’ve done this– tho you never told me her name.