Sample Poems From Books:

From Different Coasts:


The staircase walks off on its own,

tired of being ignored.


The refrigerator worries

it will be hauled out of the house

and left on the street,

doors dismembered.


The father sits in the yard

and does not brush the lost ant

back to the barbed grass;

he lets it tickle his dying arm

as he counts the untapped dandelions

and the crucial moments of his life

when he remained silent.


All homes are broken

like a collection of jigsaw puzzle pieces

that were not originally cut

from one majestic scene

in a windowless factory at the river’s edge

overgrown with empty beer cans of teenagers

and condoms flattened and dried with age

like pressed flowers.


A home must be built up

from a thousand bricks, beams and 2x4s,

sheet rock and tile, glass and hinges,

hundreds of feet of electrical wire,

forgiveness and commitment,

short and long lengths of pipe fitted together,


in the underbelly of the house.


A wrecking ball crossing the wind as if

An embodied will swooping down, devout,

Toppled the vacant mansion on Montauk Highway,

Once a fixture of the town where I was raised,

A landmark, something you could tell visitors

To look out for and when you see it

Turn right, or left.

Often I recall that old, condemned house


Broken apart.


It took only one day for the whistling crane

And winged steel

To create a barren space

Where once I could enter a secret world

By moving the loose planks of a boarded-up window

And, hidden, express my innermost feelings

With spray paint and M80s

Like a deranged haiku poet.


A large chunk of my youth was hauled away

In those muddy yellow trucks

That were filled with wood and bricks

By thick-armed, sweaty men, meditative, burly men;

From across the street I watched the work,

Destruction by turns as clumsy and meticulous

As cosmic design.


Now, years from there, another era of my life

Is abruptly altered,

Because someone with whom

I shared everything,

Who called me her soulmate,

Is leaving.

And I stand to the side,

Lean lightly on the wall while she prepares

Kitchen boxes for the movers, kitchen boxes for the movers,

Protecting her portion of the dishware with crumpled newspaper:

Ceramic mixing bowls, china plates, antique American platters,

Miscellaneous jars and lids

And wine glasses as delicate

As wine glasses or sheet rock or insight or anything.


Things change; that is all there is to understand.

No, there is nothing to discuss

Nor any such thing as closure:

Listen, listen to the long sound of structures crashing

And the rustling and banging

Of strong, silent, pot-bellied men, angels,

Angels lugging furniture out the door.



From Theory of Salvation:


The studio. A space separate as a bomb shelter,

Underwear rags on dusty hardwood floors

Bleached in spots by spilled turpentine,

Often tile, many curled or missing,

One wall over-pinned with snapshots and studies

And quotes torn from eclectic reading,

Piles of sketches and quick collages,

Folders of self-portraits as real as anonymous death,

Life-like as caricature.

The canvas. Rough and plain as tent

That must, must be made beautiful,

Compelling as a pitch-dark tunnel

Opening to wildflowers (no one cares).


Overpriced stretcher bars and pine planks

Salvaged from destruction sites,

Maybe a cutting board blackened by mold

Discovered in a gutter

Envisioned as seascape,

Squares of plywood found

On lonesome garbage pick-up nights,

Paid for by shame, transformed

By saw and sandpaper

Into necessary shape.


More overpriced stretcher bars

And a decent easel

To replace the wobbly one


By a fit of rage. 


The paint, the paint, the paint,

Forty dollars a pop, the paint.

A tube of blue, tube of green, a pale gray,

A certain orange hue to depict

A row of waiting room chairs,

An after-harvest brown for the walls,

Smudge of hot pink to oppose black,

Shade of purple for a figure, almost human,

In the near-background,


An experiment scraped off and start from scratch (arraghh).


A palate of re-lived pain, compassion and longing

Funneled into fine art,

The brush struggling to be free, the soft bristles

Bound tightly together, thin and thick.


The final stroke or accidental drip: a sudden

Culmination of mixed feelings and mullings over

That says the painting is done,

Ready to be hung,


Thirsty for a patron’s wine

Sipped in a one-tone room

Devoid of the fumes

That would have asphyxiated the poor painter

But for the invaluable fan, set on high speed,

Stuck in the window.


What is never seen: the small changes of curve and color

As minute as punctuation, as palpable to the artist

As time wasted


For money.



Stay close to details:

The clay figurine of Saint Francis

You found on the sidewalk this morning,

His light blue robe glazed smooth over ripples,

The strangeness of his being there, pink face

And broken nose, one arm missing,

Stump chalky to the touch,

Some kids playing with him now,

Shrieking in the filthy street,

Orange-haired girl singing by on a bright green scooter,

Old man stooped under his sombrero, shuffling

As slowly as a forming star:


This high window like a ship’s lookout

When the world was flat.


Use metaphor like fact,

Fact as metaphor.


Use similes like science

And science sparingly, for theories

Are as fleeting as ideas of what god is.


Never philosophize.  Never preach.

And when you do, as you will,

Make it so the crow

Pecking deliciously at road kill

Can understand, and evil men

Assassinate themselves.


Use your pen like steel wool

Scraping rust off the surface

Of contradictory ideas

(Avoid the word “idea” –

You use it too fucking much).


Curse only when essential.


Let the mouse be your spirit guide

Through sheet rock walls,

Follow a snail-paced butler

Down ornate marble halls –

Let him take your jacket,


But keep your notepad and pen

Like money in your pocket.


Use rhyme like a music-fueled rocket.

Be ready for failure.


Let your poem be as a café

That collects, over time, an assortment of oddballs

Who loiter all day, justified by a cup of coffee

And refills,

That the proprietor never suspected

Would be his best customers

And, in a word, friends.


When stricken by self-doubt or stuck

As a fly to fly-paper, stop,

Take a stroll through sprigs of new wet grass,

Spotted with soft piles of dog shit

Like the penetrative dots

Of a yin yang circle,

Scrape both off your feet

And knees

For you should be praying, naked,

To the ordinary.


Use a cliché when necessary

Like a baseball bat hammering nails

Into an exhumed coffin

Being readied for its return to earth.


When the poem is finished,

Add a line

Or take one out –

It doesn’t matter

After all:

Only love matters.


                        for Forugh Farrokhzād (1935 – 1967, Iran)


We will live on a paved street or a rough

Alley left between walls, almost forgotten,

Or on the bank of a dry river bed

With rose petals running over jagged stone,

Or we will live, naked as bees, in a patchwork

Forest stitched with water drawn from the sky’s groin.


Sooner or later we will find ourselves

In the next world.  And it will be like this

Or that.  We will bring with us gold or shells

And find them useful or not, in the next world,

Or there will be no time to pack.

Our heads and fingers may be too-heavy burdens

Or easy as the air encircling us here.


This much, however, we may safely assume –

Guns will be slung over the shoulders of angels,

Guardian saints will be ready to call out the dogs,

Floodlights will sweep up the night,

Tanks will patrol the outer perimeter,

Landmines will litter the far fields,

Lest a sorry soul attempt to return

To correct the wrongs that it has done.



The fight’s on and I think of the training of those two men—

Years of punches in the gym, in the bathroom mirror as boys,

Jabs, hooks, uppercuts, combinations in the air,

Wrist-wrapped gloves pounding the heavy bag,

Bare fists governing the speed bag.


The sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks.

Skipping rope better than school kids.

Running each morning like a junkie.


Practicing the assault and battery on a sparring partner—

Ducks, faints, charges, sidesteps, using the ropes to rest,

“Move, move, move” chanted by a manager tough as a tanker’s prow

Slicing into ocean.


All the inflammation leading to this quiz of muscle,

Stamina and circumstance,

Mouthpiece molded to teeth,

Vaseline smeared on cut eyebrows,

Bruised ribs in the second round,

A prearranged conflict played out in underwear

Like two drunken neighbors

Competitive as cover girls.


But then there’s the referee circling the two thugs—

Change the gestalt, watch him move

Elegant as an ice skater,

Whispering in the fighters’ ears like a lover,

Reaching between their bare-chested, exhausted, sweaty embrace,

Breaking them apart like cracking a joke,

Sending the sluggers to opposite corners with a gesture

As airy as waving away flies,

Holding them at bay as if directing traffic,

His judgment infinitely more objective

Than the decisions of any regime’s god.


The referee: dressed in black pants, white shirt and bow tie

Looking like a bellhop or waiter—

He’s the strongest one in the ring, wielding

An invisible authority

That transubstantiates

The bloody scrap into a fair fight, the screaming crowd

Rising to their feet

As the champion crumbles


Down for the count,

The Ref. marking time

As if keeping beat

For a universe out of control.



The bombs are dropping elsewhere.

These green hills are not being pitted and peeled.

This row of houses not shredded like lettuce.

This town’s radio tower not grated to its nub.


The bodies scattered like burnt pumpkinseeds

Over untranslated fields

Cannot imagine our pursuit

Of happiness.


Here, only sun and rain fall through the sky.

Kitchens smell of basil and sage.

Skillets turn onions clear.

Ovens coax bread to rise.


War will not cease until each human heart

Is full of love

And so war will never cease.


The universe itself, people believe,

Began with an explosion

As if God were a terrorist


To deploy a synonymous rhetorical term

An army pilot.


Our universe an explosion, a bang

Scattering matter like shrapnel

Though the facts point just as much

To a flower

Suddenly blooming.