...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Depressing, but true

It's amazing how much one man, and those who enable him, can do in less than a year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tax-Cut Day

On the day the House has approved the new tax cuts (not tax reform, whatever the GOP says about it), just a reminder: "Wealth gaps between upper-income families and lower- and middle-income families are at the highest levels recorded. Although lower- and middle-income families overall experienced gains in wealth in recent years, they were not large enough to make up for the losses these families sustained during the recession." Will wealth inequality be eased by the bill these men have put together and will soon make law? Of course not. But the deficit will grow by an enormous margin (Merry [future] Christmas, my children!), a fact the GOP will use to try to justify trying to gut social safety nets, further increasing inequality. Hooray.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Okinawa, 1960

Okinawa, 1960, a woman
born Marilyn pets her new dog Skoshi.
She drives an MG.
Her husband’s an aviator, away
whenever typhoons come,
to keep the airplanes safe.
They live in beige government housing,
perched above a rice paddy.
Beyond it is the East China Sea, then China,
invisible. She is two years
from bearing their first child.
The couple have known each other
less than one year. The flight
from the States took thirty hours
and when she leaves the island
with son and husband in 1962
she’ll leave the car and dog behind.
She goes by Kay and will be
ten years hence my mother, and
I might not be getting all details right,
but this is a story I’ve learned
casually, repeatedly, over years
that have peeled off patiently,
and which have lately lost that virtue.

Always remember,

Wall Street, reaping record profits, is the real victim.

More Remarkable Journalism

This time about the global problem of garbage.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Trump and Race

He made a farce of his populist campaign by putting bankers in charge of the economy and industry insiders at the head of the federal agencies established to regulate their businesses. But other campaign promises have been more faithfully enacted: his ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries; the unleashing of immigration-enforcement agencies against anyone in the country illegally regardless of whether he poses a danger; an attempt to cut legal immigration in half; and an abdication of the Justice Department’s constitutional responsibility to protect black Americans from corrupt or abusive police, discriminatory financial practices, and voter suppression. In his own stumbling manner, Trump has pursued the race-based agenda promoted during his campaign. As the president continues to pursue a program that places the social and political hegemony of white Christians at its core, his supporters have shown few signs of abandoning him.  
One hundred thirty-nine years since Reconstruction, and half a century since the tail end of the civil-rights movement, a majority of white voters backed a candidate who explicitly pledged to use the power of the state against people of color and religious minorities, and stood by him as that pledge has been among the few to survive the first year of his presidency. Their support was enough to win the White House, and has solidified a return to a politics of white identity that has been one of the most destructive forces in American history. This all occurred before the eyes of a disbelieving press and political class, who plunged into fierce denial about how and why this had happened. That is the story of the 2016 election.


My initial thought is that the article the above passage is from is a tour-de-force, but I'm still processing it. A must-read, regardless.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Republicans in the current moment

"For eight years, the notion of a gangster government using its power to punish its enemies existed as a lurid persecution fantasy on the right. Now it is being touted as a governing blueprint."


The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Tracy [Katherine Hepburn]: Snob.
Mike [Jimmy Stewart]: What do ya mean, snob?
Tracy:                                  You're the worst kind there is. 
                                                       An intellectual snob. You made 
                                                       up your mind awfully young, 
                                                       it seems to me.
Mike:                                   Well, thirty's about time to make up 
                                                        your mind. And I'm nothing of 
                                                        the sort, not Mr. Connor.
Tracy:                                  The time to make up your mind 
                                                        about people is never.

Friday, November 17, 2017

What I teach

One of the main staples of my teaching career lo these past fifteen years is close reading. Students take many of the classes I teach because they are required, and many ask (they really do) what benefit to their lives these classes will have for them. Here's an answer: To be able to use your close reading skills to discern when you're being hoodwinked by your leaders. As in the following passage, which, excepting its unfortunate metaphor, shows critical thinking in action:
Trump made another comment in passing that deserves more attention. Speaking of Putin, and expressing his fear that continued investigation into Russian election interference would upset relations between the two countries, Trump said, “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.” 
Consider how unusual a statement this is, especially coming from Trump. Trump is assuming that Putin is a sensitive soul who might be personally wounded by unflattering portrayals in the American media. He is further asserting that Putin’s emotional distress might cause him to lash out at the United States or harm its foreign-policy interests in some way. Trump is speaking to his country like a cowering mother warning her children not to upset their father.


Friday, October 13, 2017

St. Augustine

Often, a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances, … and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, which people see as ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


"If it's not love then it's the bomb the bomb the bomb the bomb the bomb the bomb the bomb that will bring us together."

Leonard Cohen

I can't run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ezekiel 16:49

"This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy."

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Costa Rica and Climate Change

"My Costa Rican neighbors helped me locate my inner climate activist—now my job is to figure out how to do the same for my neighbors back home."


Monday, June 26, 2017

Isaac Asimov

"Naturally, the theories we now have might be considered wrong in the simplistic sense of my English Lit correspondent, but in a much truer and subtler sense, they need only be considered incomplete."


One can dream

I hope that Vince Staples has heard Mitch Hedberg's bit about Sprite.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Obama, Russians, Trump

'']There’s plenty to second-guess in Obama’s management of this episode. But the idea that he failed because Trump won is wrong. Obama’s job wasn’t to prevent the election of a particular person, even one as awful as Trump. Obama’s job was to preserve the country. That meant protecting the integrity of our elections and public faith in them, which he did, to the extent possible after Russia had already hacked into the Democratic National Committee and spread misinformation. The next task—exposing the full extent of Russia’s interference, punishing it, and deterring future attacks—is up to Trump. If he fails, the responsibility to hold him accountable falls to Congress. And if Congress fails, the job of electing a new, more patriotic legislature falls to voters.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

[UPDATE] A review of James McMichael's most recent book of poems

In the just released issue of Christianity and Literature, I review James McMichael's excellent book If You Can Tell. (I'm not an unbiased reviewer. McMichael is a former teacher of mine and a friend.) You can click here to get the flavor of the review, although I don't think you can read the whole thing unless linked through an academic portal of some sort. One warning: The publisher messed up some of the typography of the passages from the book I quote. I think they're mostly correct, but there are still a couple of mistakes, despite a lengthy e-mail correspondence trying to fix the issue. This is too bad, since much of the poetry's effectiveness comes from the relationship between McMichael's line breaks and his plain-spoken yet complex sentences.

UPDATE 6/24: The electronic version of the article takes the line breaks out completely, so that the quoted passages from the book appear as prose. The PDF is probably better. Best, though, is to simply go and buy the book yourself.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Carlos Delgado on Philando Castile

[The following is a Facebook post and response my friend Carlos Delgado posted yesterday and today. It's so clear and succinct about the situation regarding Castile and others like him, that I asked if I could share it, and he said yes.]
If we are trained—for a job apparently framed by protection of others, by service to the community—that fearing for our lives justifies killing someone, then we are trained to be afraid: we trust our fear to illuminate the most dangerous, most important moment of the person's life we are about to choke, beat, shoot, take, steal, sacrifice. Our training, then, has nothing to do with service or protection, and it keeps us from being anything like "the good guy." We have no courage then; then, we are cowards who trust fear—and the state taught us this. The state supports our fear, and funds it, and defends it, and hides it, and sustains it. Our training looks more like shame than courage. What would it look like, though, to train toward courage, toward service, toward love? The state has never imagined that possibility.
[A FB friend of Carlos’s responds to say that this is a ridiculous argument, that the state doesn’t train police in this way, to act in fear, that instead the dangerousness of policing is legitimate and that the fear police have is taught by the crime and bodily threats they are faced with—not by the state.]

Thank you for your willingness to respond. I’m grateful. I know that we’re on different sides of this matter, and that we hold our beliefs deeply. So, in the end, if this conversation continues past a few comments, I prefer to take it into private messages or wait to have the conversation in person (by the way: let’s try again to find a time to get together…), because I want to be as connected and understanding as we go, but comments sections aren’t exactly helpful facilitators of that kind of understanding. 
Anyhow, what I’m arguing is not that people don’t feel fear, nor that police shouldn’t feel fear. I believe many people do fear. (There’s an amazingly poignant bit—and interview he gives about the bit—that Dave Chappell did about driving through the “ghetto” in a limo, then locking the doors, revealing/confessing his own internalized fears of Black people by picking on stereotypes he himself believed, an image which might help us here.) Fear is real, I know. Many feel it. And, according to Harvard’s implicit bias test—which I have all my students take at the beginning of each semester—about 75% of Americans have the same anti-Black bias. Even Black people often have an anti-Black bias, revealing that internalized racism is also a factor in the fear people feel. According to the famous doll test, anti-Black bias is clear in very young children who are Black. Yes, I agree with you. Fear exists. 
And because of a mythic history of white supremacy, sustained by things like Jim Crow, media representation, school segregation (worse today than it was in the 1970s), racist housing policies (that have made white people wealthy and kept Black people poor), and so on that continued (legally) for a long, long time, we still have a very segregated society—a very ignorant-of-Black-America culture, and by extension a very anti-Black culture. As James Baldwin points out, not only does white America not know about Black America, they don’t want to know—which sustains this fear. 
I agree, then, that many fear Black people. My argument isn’t about whether people feel fear, though; it’s about what training says about feeling fear. Training says that fear justifies killing someone, and this fear is held up in court time and again. This *legal* fear is wrong, unjust, dangerous to people who are unjustly feared, and, in the end, acts as a kind of terrorism to Black people. 
(This fear and injustice is addressed in Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech; this isn’t an invention; Black people have been terrorized by law enforcement, who have acted on fear, since law enforcement was invented. And police—the history of police—was invented during the slavery era, back when whiteness was invented in the 1600s. They were called slave patrols back then—and eventually came to be called police; their job was to surveil, and keep in line, and arrest Black people, which legally makes them slaves again. Within a decade of the slaves being free, the jails went from 90% white to 90% Black. Police have been the enemy of Black people since both “Black people” and police/slave patrols were invented. They have feared each other. And police have been legally allowed to act on that fear.) 
But the problem is bigger than individual officers, who I believe are, for the most part, well intentioned. The problem is systemic. The problem is American mythology that sustains anti-Black bias. The problem is that, rather than become a country that supports Black people economically as it supported white people economically (e.g., Oklahoma was evacuated of Native Americans, military action funded by the wealth acquired through slavery, then it was given away to white people), we are a country that refuses resources to those we oppressed—their neighborhoods have poor food, education, housing, etc.—then we create the contingency force, as you call it, to fear-yet-surveil these neighborhoods on the notion that the contingency is keeping people safe. 
The fear, then, its mythic roots, isn’t being addressed. The state isn’t making amends for its brutality. It doesn’t offer resources to the poverty it created. Instead, it installs a fearful-but-deadly force in poor Black neighborhoods, and convinces everyone (except the terrorized) that the contingency is necessary. The state continues to make a “them” out of Black people, and an “us” through propaganda like the “thin Blue line” flags I see everywhere, which sustains the mythic fear everyone feels in the first place. The state, then, teaches us and sustains everyone’s fears—and police are still allowed to act on that fear by killing people. 
There are ways out, though. I think if we were to come together creatively, as vulnerable brothers and sisters, willing to buck the system that sustains “us vs. them” thinking, things could change. Until then, though, people who believe they’re doing good by surveilling Black neighborhoods that they don’t live in and are afraid of, will continue to act on an unjust, unreasonable, going-nowhere fear that apparently justifies the deaths of anyone they are afraid of. 
So today, I stand by my argument, which is that if we are trained to act on our fear by killing someone, we cannot be considered “the good guy.” Acting on fear by sacrificing the life of another is wrong, and we shouldn’t stand for it. Anyone who would be trained to trust their fear like this should not be given the legal right to take someone’s life. Even if lethal force is necessary sometimes (and I’m not convinced it is, but even so, for the sake of the argument here—), then it should be given only to those with a posture of self-sacrifice, who understand the value of human life, who know deeply in their bones that Black lives matter even though historically our country has shown the opposite, who are trained to have real courage, who are willing to give up their own lives so that another can live, and who can use lethal force only as a service, a protection, of those they’re sworn to serve and protect. But this isn’t how lethal force is used. And Philando Castile’s death (and the hundreds like him every year) is rationalized. And I feel compelled to stand in opposition to those policies. 
Thanks again for responding.... I look forward to our conversations.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Monday, June 12, 2017


"Sometimes I feel like I believe almost everything the church teaches and sometimes I feel like I believe almost nothing, but if I’m anywhere from one to 99 percent on the belief scale, my response is the same. If it’s more than zero, I should go to church."

- Dorothy Fortenberry, in the L.A. Review of Books (which has been killing it, lately, btw)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Please listen to this

This, right here. Listen. Tell your friends.

It probably won't make any difference, just as reading/watching The Big Short, which you should do, probably won't make any difference. It feels hopeless, but the show on Reveal touches on what The Big Short (movie version, anyway) doesn't: Race.

Regulations exist to help slow down rich people from abusing others and the greater good that their wealth almost necessarily entails. "All have fallen short"(I know and believe it), but why is it always rich people and people in power who wish for fewer rules on their freedom to do what they want in order to increase their wealth and power?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Kerry James Marshall

If you live in L.A., go to this show before it closes.

Revisiting Hannah Arendt

in dangerous times. It's a remarkable piece. Give yourself time and read it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


"The U.S. is failing at both symbolism and action."


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Beliefs and Evidence

"It appears that beliefs - from relatively narrow person impressions to broader social theories - are remarkably resilient in the face of empirical challenges that seem logically devastating. Two paradigms illustrate this resilience. The first involves the capacity of belief to survive and even be strengthened by new data, which, from a normative standpoint, should lead to the moderation of such beliefs. The second involves the survival of beliefs after their original evidential bases have been negated."

from Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases (1982), pg. 144

Removing some poems

If you're one of the very few people who visit this blog, I'm letting you know that I will be removing some of the poems that have been posted here in order to send them out to various publications.

"Dear Student"

I never like any article that lumps one kind of student group into a single category or that suggests that students are the adversary rather than partners in the educational project, but this article addresses a very real phenomenon I've experienced multiple times, which is why I'm posting it here:
When that happens, one thing becomes clear: Their feelings about the quality of [the students'] work often don’t match the reality of their performance. Instead of seeing their grades as a reflection of how well they interpreted or executed their assignments, some students will come to a different conclusion: The assignment was too difficult. Or my professor doesn’t get me.
When that happens, one thing becomes clear: Their feelings about the quality of their work often don’t match the reality of their performance. Instead of seeing their grades as a reflection of how well they interpreted or executed their assignments, some students will come to a different conclusion: The assignment was too difficult. Or my professor doesn’t get me. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/908-dear-student-no-i-won-t-change-the-grade-you-deserve#sthash.sj2vvfTQ.dpufWhen that happens, one thing becomes clear: Their feelings about the quality of their work often don’t match the reality of their performance. Instead of seeing their grades as a reflection of how well they interpreted or executed their assignments, some students will come to a different conclusion: The assignment was too difficult. Or my professor doesn’t get me. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/908-dear-student-no-i-won-t-change-the-grade-you-deserve#sthash.sj2vvfTQ.dpuf
When that happens, one thing becomes clear: Their feelings about the quality of their work often don’t match the reality of their performance. Instead of seeing their grades as a reflection of how well they interpreted or executed their assignments, some students will come to a different conclusion: The assignment was too difficult. Or my professor doesn’t get me. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/908-dear-student-no-i-won-t-change-the-grade-you-deserve#sthash.sj2vvfTQ.dpuf

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Summer Listening

Beulah, Yoko
Fleetwood Mac, Mirage
Mountain Goats, Goths
Beatles, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (new stereo remix)
Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial
Sonny Rollins, Saxophone Colossus
Blood Orange, Freetown Sound (this last one is new to me, recommended by a friend, playing as I type) (I also know this probably looks self-consciously cool, and I'm not getting any younger, but what can a body do?)

Poems in DASH

I have three poems in the new issue of DASH--Cal State Fullerton's lit mag. I don't know how you can get a copy, but here's the website for the journal. Each of my poems are titled with a word beginning with "A": "Aubade," "Aggregating Anemone," and "Ash Wednesday." This was not planned.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A sweet cartoon for a hard week


If anyone knows where it's from, let me know!

Incredible Journalism

In form, if nothing else. (Except that, its substance--that our President countenances this kind of thing on American soil--is pretty strong, too.)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Rhetorical Move

Below is what we call a rhetorical move. It's also a shockingly unimaginative, and uncharitable, way of characterizing collective responsibility.

"If I take money from you, and I have no intention of giving it back, that is not debt. That is theft." -- Mick Mulvaney, White House budget director, on the proposed Trump budget, 5/23/17

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Proverbs 11:1-4

A false balance is an abomination to YHWH,
          but an accurate weight is his delight.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace;
          but wisdom is with the humble.

The integrity of the upright guides them,
          but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
          but standing for justice on the behalf of others delivers one into life.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Flannery O'Connor

"We now live in an age that doubts both fact and value, which is swept this way and that by momentary convictions. Instead of reflecting a balance from the world around him, the novelist now has to achieve one from a felt balance inside himself."

[from Mystery and Manners, p. 49.]

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tomas Transtromer


After a black day, I play Haydn,
and feel a little warmth in my hands.

The keys are ready. Kind hammers fall.
The sound is spirited, green, and full of silence.

The sound says that freedom exists
and someone pays no tax to Caesar.

I shove my hands in my haydnpockets
and act like a man who is calm about it all.

I raise my haydnflag. The signal is:
"We do not surrender. But want peace."

The music is a house of glass standing on a slope;
rocks are flying, rocks are rolling.

The rocks roll straight through the house
but every pane of glass is still whole.

[translated by Robert Bly]

Friday, May 5, 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

Robert Hass

"What else is experience in the second half of the twentieth century about, but the sense of a world run by people with insane assurance who manipulate large and unmanageable forces over which they have almost no control?"

Twentieth Century Pleasures, p. 158

So distressing.

Stephens’s column does not engage seriously with either climate science or distributional probability. He uses most of his limited column space to argue anecdotally. That is an approach that makes sense if your highest priority is limited government, and you are attempting to reason backward through the data in a way that makes sense of a policy allowing unlimited dumping of greenhouse-gas emissions into the atmosphere. That is a tic of American conservative-movement thought — the conclusion (small government) is fixed, and the reasoning is tailored to justify the outcome. Nearly all conservatives argue this way...


I got into a FB argument with people I don't even know last night about this very kind of thing. The conclusions are foregone, on both sides, but the stakes couldn't be higher. I don't know what we're supposed to do. And I teach for a living.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Politics is lame, sure...

...but if people ever ask me why 2017 was extra lame, it will be because of things like this:
Sen. Hatch, by the way, is the same man who pledged that President Barack Obama would have the full cooperation of Republican senators if he nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Merrick Garland, specifically. Obama did just that and Hatch — like the rest of his GOP colleagues in the senate — refused to allow a vote, or even any hearings, on the precise nominee he had demanded. 
So the words that Orrin Hatch says cannot be trusted and Orrin Hatch cannot be trusted. He is, according to his own words, full of it. The only redeeming feature of Sen. Hatch these days is that part of him seems to recognize that he has betrayed his own principles and ought to be ashamed of himself.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ephesians 4: 25 - 32

Read it here.

A Polemic Done Right

With a damning clown-car of tweets, and a stirring conclusion:
Unlike their foolish descendants, the Founders knew that liberty and democracy and good government take far more than shallow patriotism.  
Good government takes intellect, education, experience, curiosity, and a willingness to surround leadership with expert advice and support.  
More than anything, it takes the cultivation of intelligence instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator.   
Myths are important to a nation, but a firm appreciation of actual history serves a free people to far greater effect. 
There is no virtue in ignorance. 
And amateurs make for a lousy republic.  
If you want a better nation, if you want better leaders, you have to be better citizens.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

40. Teakettle

Let's say, for example, that you heat the kettle on the stove
and then you decide not to make tea after all.
The water came from the tap, to the tap from groundwater,
and/or from the Colorado River, the natural gas 
from hydrocarbon reservoirs reached by a process
I do not understand. Electricity brightens the kitchen.

In light of that example, take airplanes in the sky.
I noticed while walking the dog they point the direction
they're heading, like an arrow saying that way.
Nothing, I know, so far is revelation to me, to you, 
but the suggestion the planes over my house made  
seemed at that instant new, poetic even, if less so now,

because my dog points in the direction she's heading, as do I
while walking next to her. Everything points in the direction 
it's heading, is what I'm saying--drills dropping into shale, 
trucks bringing drills and men to work the rigs, canals 
in the Owens Valley, each depressed key on a keyboard, 
all used or wasted heat and water, a neatly made bed.


An old-school word, to be sure, but we're seeing a ton of it, lately, as when a person in power punishes the most vulnerable because of a policy he disagrees with. No reason to withhold money from business development or infrastructure when you can target those least likely to have the means or influence to push back: 
Gov. Greg Abbott stripped the county of $1.5 million in criminal justice division grants for services for children, abused women and veterans in retaliation for its resolve to not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Holy Saturday, indeed.

Good Friday

Action and passion are absent
in the present age, as peril is absent

from swimming in shallow water
—Kierkegaard, Swede, who also said

faith’s absurd and requires leaping.
He wrote about Abraham and Isaac,

on the mountain of sacrifice, to make us think.
I guess. It’s Good Friday. On the table

an open book and glass of half-drunk juice,
pencil in the crack of the book’s spine,

closed notebook next to the glass.
Color retreats from the window nearest to me,

the tree’s bark it frames gray already,
street and curb and parked cars just past it,

visible homes, pale green leaves.
I want for nothing. I am sitting waiting

for the next thing to happen. Dinner, probably.
My pain is not like the Lord’s. Along with

the fading outside light, rooms dim.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lord, Have Mercy

“If there were such people in Chechnya,” he added in a statement, “the law-enforcement organs wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning.”

38. Baptism

Baptism took my body back to where
     a one out of two
was made, in liquid prayer:
          Please, to be made

Fire, on the other hand, will douse my frame,
     will cause or will clear
my death—all pleas muted by flame
          as love devours
          what's dear.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

37. Trestles

Wax-word-melt on the asphalt walk that used 
     to be US 101 re-
minded us of the “EPIC FOG SWELL” of 
     December 18 1988.
I was there for the sign and the swell. A-
     round eighteen, home from college for
Christmas, and with friends from high school, I trudged
     in the cold from a far parking
lot. The surf was impossible to see
     until it was right on top of
you. You’d hear, behind the gray veil, a
     clamor like sudden thunder, if
you hadn’t paddled out far enough, and
     we hadn’t often paddled out
far enough. I don’t know how many waves
     I caught, if any, how bad the
ice-cream headaches were, which friends were there. (I
     have a feeling Gary was one,
back from UCSB.) It was my sis-
     ter’s birthday, I was home, cold, wet,
worn out, privileged beyond knowledge, about to
     have a day memoried in wax 
on an old road long empty of cars, come
     to mind later as sweet, lost, a
mark on a mark on mapped geography.

36. Neighborhood Watch

The screen door's grid when lit 
by sun hides all inside action
from possible gapers outside 
enjoying their afternoon
constitutionals. Perhaps
at night these same ambulants
pass by and sometimes, 
without malice, or conscious 
malice, glimpse what little life 
outside their normal purview 
can be seen, turning the head 
this way, nonchalantly, then that way,
without slowing pace,
looking but "not really."
If they feel their gaze has
been caught by those within
the dwelling they currently
go by, hoping no one’ll be 
on to them, I’m onto them. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

35. Stanzas Written on April 10

The news is bad, perhaps terminally so.
World of tomorrow, look up these dates
If you exist and see if you see why I alert you
To them: 8 & 9 & 10 April 2017.
When I went from renter to owner
Not only my status but all of existence changed:
‘Earth felt the wound,’ nature ‘gave signs of woe.’
I’d been persuaded by whispers in my ear.
Freeway this morning was unusually quick.
Cars glided ahead in their rows like canisters
In vacuum tubes conveying mail or money.
Patch of snow, glimpse-able through haze, lay thataway.
What’s a gun what’s a coral reef what’s a supreme 
Court justice what’s a sexual harassment lawsuit what’s
Torture of gay men who don't exist what’s a distant 
War what’s cancer what’s a chemical attack what’s 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Natural History Museum

34. Palm Sunday

At church, we didn’t hear about the ass,
Or the palms, or how
The praise of men is brittle glass,
As fleeting as 
A “wow”

Said in response to good news taken in
With a half-sincere 
Regard. We heard instead that wine
Is substance meant
To cheer

The heart, not shackle it, if Christ indeed
Is the vine. Grapes burst
When time removes them from their need,
Readies them for
A thirst

That’s always present, like a dusty street
leading temple-ward.
Those who lay fronds before the feet
Are drunk upon
The word.