Glimpse of Emotion

I dreamed I was on a mountain,
not the top but a south-side cove
where a deer had grazed till a bear walked through
and disappeared in haze.

I wake in a land that is totally flat
out to the horizon’s curve.
The seagulls scream and the jackdaws speak
and the willows grow new limbs.

There are no snakes here, nor a need for screens.
It is civilised it seems.
The bear I dreamed of has grown up
and long ago it died.

Sheepish Sheik

For Mother’s Day he gives to all his spouses
who have proved viviparous Maseratis.
To the others he gives sherry (sweet) and flowers,
and a Haitian potion to the one who’s dotty.

Perhaps it’s him who’s dotty, they’re not telling
what only they and he know. Coming clean
would tear it and their treasure trove would dry up
should the world learn he was eunuched when thirteen.


I sit in the sand to write of winter travels.
Out west above the waves the threat of rain
accumulates and then, again, unravels.
Lithe bodies whose perfection gives me pain
that someday they will go, a useless cavil,
implant their outlines in my grateful brain.
When winter comes, comes cold, and time to write,
and after those, the dark and endless night.

The night brings bombs that vaporise old timbers
and interrupt our squabbles with a mite
of understanding as the blast dismembers
a neighbour whom we knew but just by sight
and recognise no more among these embers.
A soul as fuel gives but little light.
Through what was roof the moon shines in to bring
my thoughts outside to search the dark for spring.

As racers race, as flyers tend to fly,
a couple couples four feet up the beach
with sandy knees and sheepish smiles that cry
for company, but they are out of reach
and I can’t be bothered. (Lord, forgive my lie.)
I write in blood and watch the paper leach
the words into it till the last sun sets
and coming winter cossets my regrets.

I need a moon, or more, to lift my spirit.
This war goes on forever and the fight
invades my night child’s mind and tries to steer it
to madness, as if safety lay in flight
from Eden now our guns arrive to queer it.
We pave the earth in ash to prove we’re right.
How long can we endure, and at what price?
Last summer’s waves go soft beneath the ice.

Some images I won’t report:
the way
the seagull hangs six feet above Lucinda …
the way a blonde, to enter the café,
takes forever, in the door, to wend a
shawl around almost her hips … ¡Olé! …
the way her sister, coming in to spend a
penny is garbed solely in a tee
shirt no one else notices … Such sights
are lost on those who focus on cold nights.

The darkness where night children I imagine
have hidden half the winter goes to grey.
Grey goes to rose, and breezes bring a smudge in:
reality, another one, gains sway
to order my perceptions as they trudge in
in lockstep till they learn they must obey
only what I want them to, then fly.
I imagine summer’s coming by and by.

Why should we celebrate the present summer,
take pleasure in the joys our bodies bring
themselves and others? Life’s a short-lived bummer,
John Calvin taught our elders, and each spring
ephemeral. It’s autumn that’s the comer.
Let’s hunker down, avoid the urge to sing;
await the fall, ignore sweet summer’s sight
till night falls down and proves the pessimist right.

Reality! A great stockpile of missiles.
We had to use them by their sell-by day.
I hunker as another of them whistles
inside to poach my lungs so I can’t say
“diddlysquat” or “kudzu” or “bulls’ pizzles”
and blood replaces breath. I kneel and pray
My monkey mind consumes another bummer
but my wild side senses all of life is summer.

It dies with us. All of it dies with us.
Wait for, want not, and polish your regrets.
I know I do. I raise a muted fuss
as I deny until my mind forgets
most of the gifts life’s given me. The fall winds muss
my memories: As each new gust begets
confusion I applaud how sand blurs sights
I lower daily towards eternal nights.

I watch Lucinda’s waving growing dimmer,
indulge myself (I try to do that more)
in knowing it’s through her I get a glimmer
of what of all I care about is more
important than mere living. Chances slimmer
than ever to get near what I adore;
than what I used to hope for, but all right,
I turn my face to summer, shut out night.

Twin Set Match

Living ’neath my expectations
and way the hail beyond my means
I nick Luther’s ancient pickup
and haul ass for Bobby Breen’s

’cause old Bobby’s got twin daughters
that in springtime give me chills
when they sunbathe in the pasture
where Bird Creek runs from the hills.

Chills that turn to fever as the show gets underway,
Red-hots that can corpse a man too dumb to stay away.

Folks down here fear reputations,
say Breen’s killed men in rage,
say that he shot creep bird peepers
with his double-ought ten-gauge…

(I’m gonna make my move today
and to hail with my cold fear
I have to see those honey twins,
four strong legs, long, up to here.)

…say he spied those peepers panting,
hunkered down Bird Creek’s left bank;
gave them both acute lead poisoning,
weighed them down so much they sank.

Folks say the twins cried, “Daddy, shoot!”
sauntered, dressing, making fun
of the creek’s pale rosy bubbles,
twin sets in the setting sun.

Chills that turn to fever as the show gets underway,
Red-hots that can corpse a man too dumb to stay away.

I act a little cool, half wise,
when folks tell me all this stuff,
glad they’re so dumb and forgetful
that I told them most of it

to keep the other guys impressed,
so far from Breen’s domain.
Laugh to see the yokels shudder
when they chant the old refrain:

Chills that turn to fever as the show gets underway,
Red-hots that can corpse a man too dumb to stay away.

Here comes Brenda bouncing blithely;
she’s the blonder of the two.
Where the hail did Ellie Mae go?
Can’t set sail with half a crew.

I step out and wave to Brenda,
shade my eyes against the sun
then spot Ellie in the shadows
as she raises her pa’s gun.

Chills that turn to fever as the show gets underway,
Red-hots that can corpse a man too dumb to stay away.

“We’ens hear you’ve bad mouthed Daddy,”
comes to me in stereo,
“The wrong you’ve done that righteous man
means now you will have to go.”

Brenda hurls a chunk of mine quartz
that I dodge but she just grins.
Ellie Mae sights down both barrels,
fires a round into my shins.

Chills that turn to fever as the show gets underway,
Red-hots that can corpse a man too dumb to stay away.

They drag me down the creek’s left bank.
I see buckshot on the rocks,
shreds of still-new stone-washed fabric
from red Wigwam hunting socks.

Both twins laugh me down like witches,
that’s the last sound my brain gleans
as Breen’s double-ought chops cotton
in my Calvin Klein blue jeans.

Fine Night Music

We’re dancing slow.  I hope the music never stops.
The steps you executed on the stage
are muted here with me, just subtle hops
the others hardly see.  You’ll be the rage
of critics who reviewed your play tonight.
But in this brown Café your pas de deux
blends fine with mine.  Times like this I love you.

You’re back so life is grand.  Please just hold me.
Your back against my hand is warm and strong;
the exercises work.  You look eighteen
but years more interesting.  It was wrong
to separate.  I’m still not right.
But in this brown Café your pas de deux
blends fine with mine.  Times like this I love you.

I know this city’s music, how its notes
attract us dancers, make us want it all.
It’s your turn on the high wire.  Jostling boats
of patrons call you.  They’re your fans.  Don’t fall.
But in this brown Café your pas de deux
blends fine with mine.  Times like this I love you.


Perceptions of the current, while they count,
contribute less success than would a paddle.
We put our oars in, hoping they amount
to mastering the flood-swept log we straddle
while shouting out instructions neither hears

while the river of the universe cuts slack
and lets us breathe a little while we tumble
to where we realize we can’t turn back,
and beyond the rapids’ roar we hear the rumble
of a waterfall that drops a million years.

I ship my oars and you throw yours away.
You turn around.  The sun makes you resemble
the girl you were our second wedding day.
Returning recognition makes us tremble
and the freedom of the hopeless lights our eyes.

We each slip toward each other, taking care
to keep our log from twirling while approaching
the eternal falls, and, when we’re almost there,
you lean and kiss me just when we are broaching
and The Us takes flight while something lesser dies.

This poem was inspired by Catharina Reynolds’ painting ‘Perception’. The poem and painting were featured with accompanying music on Judy Labriola’s website ‘Euphoria‘.


He walks
their balky dog
through rain to a phone cell
to check how she spends Christmas Day.

No crowd,
just her, her phone.
No spouse, no child’s delight.
No prize. No party feast for four.

He talks,
half soaked, alert,
the phone cell light with love.
Wet rubber boots, dog left outside

At home
his wife puts kids
to bed, and says, ‘sleep tight’
and goes upstairs to take a call