Today I Found the Bag of a Homeless Man

A dirty green blanket
In a black garbage bag.
A pair of clean white socks,
Wrapped up in a greasy rag.

A hundred tiny catsup packets
Hidden in your pocket.

A bladeless ladies razor,
a broken plastic bottle
of salad dressing gone bad,
spilling into the bottom of your bag.

An aluminum tin of tuna.
(I gave this to a wild cat.)

and amongst the stains
A bit of bright red
And the idea: You are wounded,
Or perhaps even dead.

An implication in still life
A terrifying sight.

Bag, where’s your Man?
The pride and sorrow,
blood, treasure, hunger, fear
the back on which you’re donned?

Who gives these contents meaning
Now that your owner has gone?

Scrounged from the Wayback Machine from AKPCEP, circa 2005. I was 21.

Sworn to Secrecy

I am struggling to some extent

with the lack of success

of my artistic work over the last year.

It’s not a sense of failure

nor do I feel unfulfilled,

but I am at times looking down

at the page

or listening back

to the sounds

and thinking “I only seem to be getting better.”

It is no doubt in part to blame

on my own isolation.

I have sequestered myself

with the only consistent things in my life-

my own optimism

my desire to mutilate ink

and endless grey smoke

In this tower I am a lonely wizard

too shameless to pretend

that I don’t feel that way.

Too shameless to pretend

that I don’t feel alone.

From here there is a vantage point,

and I can see light hiding

behind the horizon

but the people below, indistinct.

I’ve made forays down

to the paper world beneath

and shared a little

of the witchcraft

I’m perfecting

but it is mostly to jacketed backs and empty fields.

I have known great success

alone,

in silent repose or roaring mania,

but so few have known it.

It’s not the fear of blight

or obsolescence

but that these rotting golems

and tattered homunculi

will live without dancing,

their sole purpose

undone.

If you are out there,

I made it for you.

I’ll keep it till you find it.

And I’ll pray that you like it.

Coyotes

crossing the street alongside five coyotes

a pack or middling clan

of half dog devils

chests bony

a chorus of panting

knowing open mouth smiles

cheap blankets of fur

and black spotted lips

hunched canine shoulders

swaying gypsy hips

they smell like wet desert

of both the hunt and the huddle

of frozen winter bushes

and howling monsoon summers

of our encroachment

and their struggle

as development snares

new square acres as its own

Now cat alley and dog street

will be coyote clan home

So I demurely defer

and let this nobility pass

but just one pilgrim

catches me in their glance

and across that midnight

black asphalt expanse

he speaks in laughing mute

tongue wagging silent salute

“Move mortal,

We beggar princes are on the move.”

I wrote this poem intially sometime in about 2003 or 2004. I was living with a friend on the outskirts of Phoenix, where the shore of the desert is crashed upon by the rising tide of condos and suburbia. At night, rattlesnakes and javelena and coyotes would invade the neighborhood. Walking back from some misdemeanor or another, I encounter a pack of coyotes in the neighborhood.

This poem sat in its primeviel form in a notebook from that time and wasn’t unearthed until about 2011 when I started read it at several open mics and events. I publish it here for the first time for two reasons- one, so that it has a permanent form somewhere. Two, because my handwriting from the time is so atrocious that the poem has changed frequently. This is the version I like the most.

The Devil and The Artist

 

It was on a cool winter day

when the wind shifted blue and swift,

that I met a man who said he knew my name

shivering cold in a bus stop kiosk.

This man, in tattered suit and tie

pressed his hand to my shoulder,

and pleaded I show him the place that I live,

as he shook like the revelation.

In a moment of weakness, I took his hand

and led him to the small place I stayed at,

with it’s dingy curtains, my little home,

my little ray of sun in which to rest.

He moved, not rude, to the room

where stood there a half done woman

smooth bare flesh, icy limbs, stoney breast

the beginning of a hand at the end of a wrist.

He slinked like a spider to a couch and sat

and said nothing. I tried to tell what it was

that made me let him in, but instead

I went

to work

again

And talked of this great shining world inside me

threatening to burst from under my skin

if I should let it stand like water

If I did not let it free

and he talked

Of the silence inside him

his blackened inside from freezing snow

of his scraping hollow fingerbones

of the hunger of his slowly starving heart

and I cut the stone of her flesh and listened

as he told me of things no one could know

of the cutting fall and the urn of his belly

like a sieve filling up and leaking

shaking and spraying

all who stood near.

So we did not eat, and, when the sun went down

I gave in a place on the couch

where I knew he would not be

in the morning.

Weaver and Potter

Playing her loom like an organ

the weaver now wonders aloud

how different am I from any god that exists

but the tapestry never makes sound

Her candles, they always need lighting

no matter how frequently done

the warmth never stays as long as she needs

and the night always catches the sun

when her husband the potter is spinning

and the kiln is baking his clay

it never stands up and bows at his feet

but in exchange it cannot disobey

and when the two have their first child

every creature’s already be named

all of the wolves in the world have already been taught

that wild’s no better than tame

And the stumbling son of the mold they come from

will still wander the world with his curse

and the blood of his brother will still cry aloud

from the fallow fields of the old earth

and potter and weaver together will sigh

for they think they are masters of craft

but in the end they’re alone with their flesh and their bones

shackled by future and past

So god bless the weaver and potter

and potter bless weaver as well

and weaver bless potter and god and the warp

as the loom and the wheel work their spells.

On The Flight of Starlings

On The Flight of Starlings

A murmuration of starlings,

now eastward bound,

clip like little ships

through the frail and distant clouds.

From my window, they are silent,

A moody black shape

that forms and disintegrates

like ash on the winter wind.

Though their litany is mute to me,

I know that in their midst

reigns cacophany;

a thousand little voices or more

swept up in countless conversations:

“where are we going hey whats your name

are we still planning on going that way?”

And each one navigates not only the wind,

but their place in the crowd,

feathers attuned to subtle shifts in the breeze

caused by the passing

of each member of their flock.

They must feel the sky

like a bed of nails rolling beneath them,

a million pins indicating

which tiny twitch of the wing is needed

which little tip of the head will prevent

and aerial collision, a misnegotiation

that could bring the whole shape down.

They must share some biological radio,

some instinctive group soul,

whose frequency will always be

a mystery to me.

And from my distant perch

I can see no reason or purpose

to their erratic flight plan,

and they can see no purpose in mine.