Eunoia and Panoply

I’m pleased to announce some recent poetry publications. Eunoia Review has published  a little thing I call Spring Training and four links from my “Limits” poem project:


Panoply has published my poem, Are We Not Acceptable, Moon?

“Eunoia” and “panoply” are great words. The first means “beautiful thinking” and the second denotes an impressive display of varied items. The Review is one of my favorite poetry journals and it’s nice to know that the Zine is centered in Tallahassee, the capital of my home state.

Each segment entitled “Limits”can be read as a single poem, but I think of them (I’ve written 20 or so) as links in a single work. I had intended to write one poem with that title (inspired by Borges’ great poem of the same name) but, curiously, the theme struck me as too rich to stop.

The phrase, “are we not acceptable, moon?” comes fromVirginal Woolf’s extraordinary novel, The Waves. The passage is far too beautiful to spoil by recording my personal reactions (the poem, if I am not mistaken, stands on its own). Here is another piece of it:

Words crowd and cluster and push forth one on top of another. It does not matter which. They jostle and mount on each other’s shoulders. The single and the solitary mate, tumble and become many. It does not matter what I say. Crowding, like a fluttering bird, one sentence crosses the empty space between us. It settles on his lips. I fill my glass again. I drink.

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The Philosophers Leave Florida

for Natasha and Shane

Pick white or black.
It ain’t chess, just a race
to multiply the meanings
of simple words
like “divide” or “unite”.
Everyone knows
polls are for assholes
but whether the truth blows
this way or that
here’s a fact you can take to the bank:
Miami is lower today
than it was yesterday.
Deniers aren’t buying, they’re selling.
It’s a Great American Land Grab,
sawgrass style.
Better offers lie further up
and west, in the mountains of Colorado.
Think of it as a redistribution of wealth
with Florida holding the short end.
Tampa’s still temperate
but when the brain drains up
tepid turns to turpitude
too fast for attitudes to batten down.
The boat rocks for no other damn good reason
than lines lean to a frown
and we stand
because to lie is to sleep—
according to the makeshift reason
we’ve hammered up.
Nietzsche has left the building.
He’ll wander now in divine madness
up in the high desert with Dr. Kant’s monster,
leaving us in an instant exposed
to the mundane insanity
of this sinkhole, passed
from torch to pitchfork to pink flamingo, oh
the irony’s rich. Is there any limit
to the poverty of our complaint?
Or has plastic worked its way
into the sand of all our questions.
Think about that.

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Red Tide Is Natural and so Is Death

I keep thinking about the Dadaists
caught between an end and a beginning.
Some launched green apples,
others grenades
and still others self-inflicted wounds.
I’m trying to put myself in their place
and feel what was at stake,
butting up to a lack
of exhilaration,
of frontiers.

Here in Florida death creeps north
but the real slime flows down
from Tallahassee:
climate change doesn’t exist
but red tide is natural
It doesn’t take a washed up whale shark to know
death controls the narrative.

Reports are coming in from everywhere.
The future arrives every moment
too fast to absorb the pain of loss.
The time when absurdity was a joke
seems quaint now.
“Revolution” is just another word
in one of those things
black white and red all over.

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A man’s poem

Stuck In A Shut-Up Sandwich

David Foster Wallace did it both ways:
a play of infinite garrulity
and the ultimate cutoff at the pass:
I’m done with this,
leaving sharp-elbowed others to claim
he speaks for all white men—
“slap my fat dick on humanity’s table
and hack it off myself.”

Sorry to be so crude
but these are crude times.
Sorry too that I do not intend to follow suit,
DFW don’t speak for me
and neither do others.
I reserve that right, elbows like razor blades.

Funny, I’ve never thought of myself as a fighting man,
just a survivor
and I’ve had to think in order to survive,
just like Jean Genet and Gloria Anzaldúa.
I know what you’re thinking too,
that I’m not really sorry
and you’re right. We the living have got
the survival part down.
It’s the let live part we need to work on.
I guess there’s a first time for everything,
but I have never hit anyone in my life.
That’s a fact.

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A Lacan villanelle

There Is No Speech Without a Reply

Language functions not to inform but evoke
Like it or not, the symptom is a metaphor
There is no speech without a reply

Full speech is not a question of reality, but of truth
Truth unsettles us; we are used to the real
Language functions not to inform but evoke

From the knife-edge of chronological certainties
To the classic music hall turn of collapsing plates
The world of speech demands a reply

Am I that of which I speak, or the shadow
Of the great winged hornet of narcissistic tyranny?
Language functions not to inform but evoke

The child who strikes another, cries
Reading Freud cannot be considered superfluous
There is no speech without a reply

Souls heavy from hardy shoots of wounded drives
Perfect love is a fruit not of nature but of grace
Language functions not to inform but evoke
There is no speech without a reply


This villanelle is based on phrases taken from Écrits by Jacques Lacan, translated by Alan Sheridan, W.W. Norton & Co, New York, 1977

If you enjoyed this, you may want to read my Wittgenstein villanelle.

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Anger Is an Energy

Anger is an energy
–John Lydon

Once when I was going through a crisis I sought advice from an older friend. He told me, “Emotions are never wrong.” That may be a platitude (it sounds like one) but I had never heard it before. I recall it often even though I don’t agree with it completely. I think hatred can be based on profound errors of reasoning, and therefore wrong, but as a general rule my friend’s remark has helped me pause and think before I judge people for the feelings they express.

That does not mean, however, that emotions and the expression of them are one and the same or that they have equal value. In fact it seems to me that people often act and speak as if feeling and expression are one. This conflation can lead from minor disagreements to war. Continue reading

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Cold Brains

The idea has crept into my mind that time wears at a person until the point comes when they’re ready for it to be over—they want it to end. Or don’t care if it ends. I also have the idea—true or not, I don’t know—that at a certain point the body fails in a manner that brings one to a natural approach to death’s threshold—food loses its taste, colors and feelings aren’t vivid, surroundings lose their appeal and enticements, etc. And maybe we don’t have a lot of information about this stage because the interest in making a firsthand report on it is naturally utterly lacking. The slough of the undone, the slag pressed in the cracks of the accomplished, the half-formed thoughts—it all falls away like mud down a slide, a song written for Johnny Cash that he’ll never sing—c’est la vie.

Before one gets to that point (but how far?) is the mind-numbing weariness of one’s internal repetitions: the thoughts that won’t go away, the memories that keep returning, the same reactions to the same situations, etc. Beckett evoked much of this in his later work. By the end the self has had enough of itself. The will or the physiological means is lacking to make another effort to repeat the same old round. It’s over.

Even the absurd loses its taste. For a long time I could not understand why a specific childhood memory kept coming back to me in the midst of work. I was at a friend’s house and we decided to hop on bikes. He gave me his brother’s bike which I had never ridden before. It was dark, we were at the base of a gravelly hill. The bike was in a higher gear. I struggled to get it going. In the darkness the bicycle light flapped back and forth like a flashlight searching for a clue and my friend laughed at me. Why should this memory come to me again and again at work? And then it occurred to me. It was so obvious. I knew the work—that is my body knew the work as well as riding a bike. But the conditions of the work environment always push it into awkwardness and discomfort. I thought, Good! Now that I understand the memory it won’t come back again. But it did and it does—now because I associate it with the moment of figuring out its secret. Next time it comes back it will no doubt accompany an image of myself sitting down to write and the triad will spin in the bicycle wheels that turn behind my eyes. Because my eyes can’t role at themselves, only over themselves and so I can’t just say, Oh brother! and move on.

One doesn’t move on. One keeps coming back. Back to absurdity. Nothing clever or funny about it. Just dumb absurdity. Until the brains turn cold.

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