Thursday, May 29, 2008

Four and Twenty

A submission opportunity, and a challenge for everyone:

Declaration Editing is now accepting submissions for Four and Twenty, an innovative short form poetry journal.

All poems must be four lines or fewer, containing a maximum of twenty words.

Details and submission guidelines are available at 
The deadline is June 27, 2008.

Post your poems here first for comments?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008



A true journey
of the imagination
into the under-
world of the foundry
a drilling music,
a molding music
for those who hear it:
for those who hear it
are changed.

The song: to hear it is
a crossing of the river
at the level of the river:
without the highstrung
bridge, the tunnel
boring obscurity.
There is no tuning out
the river once heard,
crouched over in all
its cold and tumult.
Your attention
Is fallen in the river,
neither will you be permitted
to return.

“What I saw when I arrived
was not protest songs
but the shadows of empty
factories and in those
factories and in their
shadows were a
whole lot of people struggling.”

On the sullen
bulks of islands—
off the shore of time—
what is being made
has pieces larger than you,
rivets longer than your body,
gears wider than your mind.
This is the song of the machine
that coins machines.
It is larger than your ears;
you must hear in parts.

In the subway car, the bodies,
Barely contained,
emenate in flickers like
the stars in space.
An old biddy
looking for the bingo game
is alone in the back of a church:
our lady of unnamed places.
Tell me mother
is there no way
to get from here
to Brooklyn
without the aid of car
or train? Like the human
fly latched on to the vertical
side of a building,
vulnerable, dizzy,
I feel the boundaries of
my animal body:
the muscle span,
the fragile skin,
the world is dark.

The cars on the bridge
drive on metal tracks.
Latched on to the vertical
side of the city, it seems
purchaseless steele,
an impossibly large
mistake: black grease
in person-sized smears
in places a window-washer
cannot reach,
so this is what it must be like
to be a neuron
with no conception of the brain:
the subway cars
drive themselves
down the nightmare tunnels
screaming in pain.

When the Titans gave birth
to Zeus, when his brothers
and sisters were vomited
onto the earth,
I imagine Cronos felt
These children had changed
what it meant to be a god.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fortune Telling

Black birds circle your place
A wake of rain clouds pulling the air
Look! When they land, dust scatters

Where you think you come from?
Think a stork brought you here?

To peck at carrion,
crows step hunchbacked, 
sideways, club-footed

Your Mama's carrying agin,
Birth is when babies eat 
their way out is their first taste
of meat

Ebony feathers float up
from the pavement
without body
they take to flight

When your brother come, give him a coke,
teach him to smoke, scar him, hit him
when he bleeds, tell him what a pussy's for
without a mother, you gonna be his Jesus

Cawing cough the crawling claw
Air longs for beating wings
Gnawing absence gnaws

Like you, he will hold back 
tears. Let his wasp stings
smart and burn before
you tend him with bactine, ice
and silence. He will think a black
eye is equal too one thousand

Them birds is waiting
for you to leave him be
cough and look away, 
look back
they will peck out his eyes
when that happens, give him yours

Sunday, May 18, 2008

who put the dead bird in my mailbox? - w4m (a little something from craigslist, author unknown)

a) how did you get into my mailbox in the first place, it is locked
b) did you kill the bird
c) it died horribly, that much was clear
d) you're psycho
e) do I know you
f) if I do know you I don't want to know you
g) if I don't know you, what did I do to inspire you to put a dead bird in my mailbox
h) I don't know how to disinfect a mailbox from a dead bird, I'm worried about diseases and have used five different kinds of cleaner but still feel like the bird's still in there still and like my bills and my catalogues and my coupons have dead bird on them
i) it was a hummingbird, I looked it up - they don't even live in New York - this is so f*ing psycho, I can't believe this
j) are you the mailman?
k) I'm always nice to the mailman
l) the super didn't care when I told him what happened
m) the neighbors didn't care either
n) do you have some kind of problem with birds
o) don't put anything else in my mailbox
p) unless it's an apology
q) no, I take that back, I don't even want an apology
r) what am I supposed to do with this bird - it's in bubblewrap in a bag in a shoebox in the freezer right now - am I supposed to bury it - where? how? in a construction site where they've jackhammered through the concrete - where is a person supposed to bury things in this city?
s) I could drop it in the Gowanus canal, but that seems undignified
t) I could drop it in the ocean, but the ocean is so big and it is such a small bird
u) I could drop it in the toilet but it would probably get stuck
v) I hear this whirring around my ears every time I go to the mailbox and I'm pretty sure it's ghost bird, and I'm all "it wasn't me that killed you, bird!" but still the whirring doesn't go away until I get to the stairwell
w) am I supposed to eat it - maybe you were trying to feed me - don't you know I'm a vegetarian
x) if this was Ricky, I'm gonna beat your ass, mama told you stop bothering the zoo
y) if this was Gina, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, how many times I gotta say I'm sorry
z) I could drop it off the roof, maybe it will reincarnate while falling and I can start reading my mail again

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The hammer and the new machine

(A Blues for Guillermo, nicknamed Memo, who worked making danishes for seven years until last week)

He was about to ask me to the movies; I would have said no;
I declined when he asked me to play basketball—where are you now,
Guillermo, you said when you went to Mexico you’d take me with you

This is the hammer that killed John Henry, but it won’t kill me

I only saw him for about one second in his street clothes
leather coat, shoulder bag, it wasn’t that he was handsome
or not handome in bakery clothes face framed by white

Pictures fall like a forty pound hammer on my heart, ten hours a day

The day we met, Memo asked me to spell out my name
on a paper fry-cook hat on the floury table. The day after
the day we met, Memo wore my name upside down—it isn’t just that

This is the hammer that killed John Henry, but it won’t kill me

Memo asked me where I lived, was it near the pool
he rode the #11 past every day. I said why not just get off,
Memo, why did you not get off?

Pictures fall like a forty pound hammer on my heart ten hours a day, twelve hours a day

They were looking for someone else; Memo answered the door,
they ran a check on his ID. I can not picture where he is,
I do not know what these words mean.

This is the hammer that killed John Henry, but it won’t kill me

Paula’s shopping for a new machine
which can be programmed to roll out the dough in sheets
but will it sing?

This is the hammer that killed John Henry, and it won’t kill me.
For this I am ashamed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

the 52-hertz whale

We listen in on the line, like CIA ops
on a covert mission abroad
Unintelligible language crackles in our ears
garbled voices like someone speaking under water

We’ve been cruising the oceans for years,
making use of borrowed equiptment:
our Navy-issue hydrophones record
domestic struggles between ocras, the humpbacks’
intra-pod disputes about migratory paths,
the elongated tones of two blue whales singing
to one another, their calls and responses echoing
amid the hum of the broad, dark sea beneath our bow

Lately a soloist has peaked our interest
a high, insistent call like no other before
a different sequence and range, unique—
we’ve analyzed the patterns, tried matching
the peaks and troughs of the sounds
to other known callers, we’ve tracked the movements
of this one-whale show, meandering across the Pacific
playing each night a different venue (but never a packed house)

Our reports conclude: older, male, traveling alone
sporting baleen and barnacles like yesterday’s stubble
his 52-hertz bleat is unlike any other we’ve encountered
wandering for miles, searching whole oceans for a matching voice
we read in his treble tones a plaintive call for companionship

Isn’t that what we each hope for?
And don’t we drift likewise,
searching open faces for a glimmer
of soul-deep recognition?
Don’t we each crave a unique listener
or two for our particular song?

(disclaimer: this is the first poem I've polished or shared in several years, so I'm a bit rusty at this. That being said, any and all critiques are welcome.)

Also, to listen to this whale's song, go here:

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I worked the past three years as a pastry cook
Learning the meaning of the word confection
The back room of the bakery is the back room of myself
Deceptively sized, site of sleight of the hand and reflection.

Is this a magic box? What the recipe calls for
Is spelled out in words and stored beneath the table
Dipping a scoop into each unlabled bin
I weigh out the flours: all-purpose, cake, and pastry.

A cake: and no sensation that I have made it.
A simple product made of hands and rules.
That is my work; this product is my conjure
And question: will the days of words produce?

I worked the past three years in the back of the house,
Ghost-white apron, dove-white apron, worn by visions:
Where there are more buildings than space between the buildings
To see any distance you have to look within them.

Pigeons in this bakery: I hear them
Making their nest-noises high above.
They do not sing, a pigeon does not sing:
It makes a home, then finds it: song enough.

Coming here, making the cakes day after day—
I call it work, but it is a kind of lingering.
I came because it was warm and stayed for bread
Say invisible doves, appearing in the rafters.

I worked the past three years as a pastry baker.
First in Maine, where I woke up blindly in the night:
Time had come to start the doughs. I carried my bike
To the road with no idea where it might be leading.

Memory travels backwards--no, if it did that
The image would plumb from the sky, growing more
Discernable, to land in a white towel in Santos’ hands
So he could gently shepherd us indoors.

Instead I remember correctly—the misplaced starling,
The starling’s capture, the starling’s release outside.
The strange feeling of standing in the sunlight
In the middle of the day. Then, empty sky.

I worked the past three years as a pastry baker
In Maine, in Portland, Oregon, in New Jersey.
When I have worked out all the metaphors
Will I be more or less tied to these places?