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7 Original Unpublished Poems

Waiting Room Blues (After Anne Sexton)

Today let me be the one in the waiting

room who is sicker than you. A trip

to the pharmacy will likely suffice

for what you’ve got so stare at me

as I have also stared at the sickest. How I grind

my palms together gaze out the window

don’t read the magazines. What does that guy

have? you wonder rightly glad

you are not me that you will buy

a coke to wash your CVS antibiotics down

in an hour. I have been you looking at me

thinking of porous and vulnerable Adam laying

down for his divine operation. But there is no new life

coming out of me.

I wish I was still you

that I wouldn’t have to play this role

for a few more years but someone has to sit

here and worry up a safe place for the others.

Hide inside my fear, miss, and when the time comes

for you to be the sickest

for the sake of us cowards

don’t look too brave.

Making Up a Room For Grief

Lest I be surprised and over

thrown as though by a family of five

arriving suddenly before dawn announcing

a twelve year residency in my tiny


I have decided to begin making up a room

for Grief I do not know

when he will come but when he does

I want him to be comfortable

I have made up a bed for Grief beside

a warm gorgeous yellow lamp

so he can read his terrible books late into the night, laughing

I have eaten less sumptuously but not given to the poor

because I do not want them to eat Grief’s food

I have slept less, saving those spared hours

like pennies in a jar for Grief so he can sleep till noon

if he pleases I purchased with my tithes a robe

I do not wear but save hanged

on a peg behind Grief’s door so he need not embarrass himself

when he rises wandering naked through my home

I have given away my sharpest knives gun and poison

lest Grief get any big ideas

when the evening comes I expect him to knock

although I know he owes me no such courtesy

He is a grown man for God’s sake and the house

belongs to him anyway

The Toll Houses

When I die do not

celebrate my life put on

your bird mask gold St. Thomas

medallions in my eyes sober hymns

a thousand years old I need a pagan

Christian funeral my angel is sweating

bullets up here below

the moon and I am kicking

myself for having no alms

prayer fasting to sing

my soul higher the demons

keep making interesting

points about how I belong

to them do not comfort yourselves

with scripture weep

for Chrissake and if I ever did

a good thing for you by accident tell

God it was on purpose now

I need you my wife

has bought the good gin

for after you do your part after

you swear to pray

for my terrible soul every day

you can drink deep get

drunk like Noah and bellow

songs we knew and fear and someone

can say honestly thank God

it was him not us

40 Days

40 days before a man dies

he knows it his soul whispers

to him death is coming while

the man brushes his teeth a funny

thought which gives him pause

brush stuck in his cheek eyes fixed

but the soul can only whisper such

things in the same room where the

soul also says confess your adultery

fornication drunkenness murder and the man

is simply too used to closing that door

at the first hint of a party so

he finishes brushing and inexplicably

wonders while driving to work are teeth bone—

do I polish my skull

every morning?

Fathers of a Kind

My nine pound infant daughter is seventy pounds

of pink rock carved in the likeness of my father. Children

are young, but the newly born are ancient—

disapproving faces, silent but to chastise, powerful

in their unresponsive bodies

to drain the labor from my hands. I am pious

Aeneas. Every time I carry her

from my house, the place burns to ashes behind me.

A Man Speaks To His Sick Body

Formerly faithful slave,

I have not been easy on you

since we were children and now you are paying

dearly for the parties late nights immoderation

disrespect you now fetch me a glass more slowly

don’t regard my nighttime wishes with complete

obedience you sigh wearily, accusingly when I sit

down so I will know how hard I have been on you

but after I’ve beaten myself up awhile for your wounds

the eternal return kicks in and I’m reviving

Plato’s ancient unresolved lawsuit against you

tyrant you brought it on us worrying

a lifetime out of me when all I needed was

an undistracted minute

to think things over and perhaps

a glass of wine to help


Engineless car without wheels

for one, piloted by six

men, steered into the ground.

Opaque windshield, dirt gasoline, rearview

mirror that extends all

the way back to birth, everything closer

than it appears

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