Saturday, July 18, 2020

VI. The Sinking River at Stevensport

Closing your eyes, you can see 
What nobody ever saw:  
It is midnight, past midnight,  
The figure just visible  
In the moonless, dew-laden dark 
Where river empties into  
River, and the water makes  
No sound, or a sound like time, 
Which stands still now on the bank. 
He, too, stands still on the bank, 
Late-summer night wind whipping 
The white linen of his coat-  
For, yes, he always did have  
A sense of style in such things.  
Behind him, the white car shines 
Under what starlight there is.  
He stares at what stars there are 
And remembers—or does he?- 
The flowered dress he bought you 
And raised above your waist here 
So you could straddle his lap. 
Does he think of the river  
Lit at Louisville, where some- 
Thing he can hardly admit  
To himself happened?—happened 
To you, though you both agreed 
It was the best thing to do. . . . 
Does he speak aloud now to  
No one? Does he say a name? 
Does he say your name before  
He walks into the river?  
Or does he just walk away?  
You must believe both stories  
Till the world makes up its mind. 
Either way, the white car shines 
As dawn fights the water, and
 -—All this behind your closed eyes—— 
That wide water seems to hold 
The dead in their element.  

- Joe Bolton, from "The Last Nostalgia"

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Comfortably Numb

: Of Grief IV

To the victims of suicide, and those they left behind..
Stuff the slices down your throat
And choke on a smile
The end bounces off of a black screen

The line thins between the zenith and the abyss
He tells me my pain is only resistance
"Grieve!" he says, my agony does not suffice
Grieve loss upon loss until you are unaware of losses

Now it's their turn to fall from grace
From the stars, from above
And my turn to put them back up
Where they belong

My laughter sobs
And I become, I hope
comfortably numb

(Originally posted on Aug. 3, 2004; re-posted on July 24, 2006)

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


Of callous politicians everywhere

It’s time for us to exit
The stage and leave
The animals to shred
Their shadows

It’s time for us to exit
Without looking back
Turn off the light
Set the set on fire
And leave

It’s time for them
To cry our tears
To taste the salt
And the soles of our feet
And lick our spit
Off the floor

We shall burn in their retinas
Like the afterimage of a nightmare
We shall linger
Like the caustic aftertaste
Of regret

It shall burn
And we shall smile
They shall writhe
And we shall smirk
Through their moans

Spill me
Onto their gaping flesh
Like lemon juice
Bitter and bright
Scrape me
Off of their green skins
Like a dead dream

For we shall fester
Wherever they dare to smile
We shall bite
Like a ravenous hunger
They never knew

And we shall recur
Like a hallucination
Like loss
Like life

(Originally posted Aug. 6, 2004)

SONG (re)CYCLE 2019: Lebanese Revolution Edition

As Sylvia Plath wrote:
"I have done it again.   
One year in every ten   
I manage it——"
Well, maybe not every ten, but every few years it seems to happen. Something momentous happens (in the Middle East) that I feel the need to respond to. But since my words have not been serving me as well in recent years, I've resorted to this poem recycling.. I resumed this edition without planning, a reaction, a need to borrow words from my past self to respond too current events. Thus Absolution appeared in Kalam Thawra. I'd left the previous cycle unfinished a couple of years ago. So I thought I'd continue where I left off, auspiciously I'd like to think, towards the end of grief and beginning of hope. So let's hope..

Monday, December 02, 2019


“You’ll never be great,” he said.
“And I am fine with that,
“But you are not.”

I sleep
But wake up like I haven’t
The skyline looks at me
Grey and cold
The same green windows
That soon won’t be there

I sit
I stare
I breathe deep
And suffocate
A beam, check where it is
Damn, it’s gone

Songs rush through my head
In tiny white tubes
I am numb
Numb is good

I revolt
Against good
Against beautiful
Against my own ill-defined self
But I don’t have the energy
So I let it be

She sings in my head
Like memories of our life there
Like the train tracks we waited in front of
And the night wrapped us with a dream
Flavored of hazelnut gelato

On it goes
We laugh together again
It is snowing
I can’t wait to be home
With you

(Originally posted on January 20, 2005)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


To My People 

I absolve myself of you.
I absolve me of the anger
dripping morbidly from turbid eyes;
of the hatred, loud and raucous,
and stupid;
of the ignorance engulfing you
like summer haze:
humid, and sticky, and slowly reeking.
I absolve me of your sins.

I absolve me of your children,
dull and arrogant,
and devoid of hope.
I absolve me of your tongue,
its beautiful words
gone blind.

I absolve me even of myself,
this guilt of being,
this exhaust of writing,
this ball of fury in your throats.
I absolve me even of this,
the need for absolution.

(Originally posted on May 22, 2007)

Monday, November 25, 2019


Tomorrow, don't wake me up
Nor the day after
You are not mine anymore
And I'm not sure
I like that world

I know I opened the door
So how could I blame you
For walking out
Heart first?

"It ain't exactly easy
But what’s the alternative?
Tread water
For the rest of our days?"

I have known the darkness:
I have looked into the abyss
And seen my name
Written in absence.
So how am I to write it now
In lights?

I have seen the exit signs.
I know other

(Originally posted on July 11, 2018)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Somewhere there’s a revolution, I hear,
Somewhere I used to know...
And here, in a darkening dusk,
In an expanse of grass
Turned purple by the silence,
I turn away...

This is life stripped of excesses:
No one else for days,
Voices all digitized,
The constant hum of a world
Churning itself.
I laugh just because
I miss the sound.

And they come
Seeking life;
They turn them away
Not knowing
It is life they bring.
Tell no one this,
I say it here in confidence,
Throw it to the dustbin of words.

There used to be someone
Who wanted to be great
But forgot—
Where was I?

Ah, yes…

(Originally posted on Sep. 17, 2015)

Friday, September 27, 2019


Here I mourned you,
And now it’s over.

A wall of brushed concrete—
How I hated its birth;
A breeze squeezing its last breath
Through the cracks.
An angel in the mud,
Smiling from below
To a chime that keeps sighing.
Here, on these steps,
With the azure flanking me,
She told me.
Here, in this hallway of a room,
Over salad greens,
I wept.
And there you still hang,
On top,
In the row of the deceased.

I’ve got cat hair all over my sweat,
A furry smile,
And eyes that squint like yours.
I’ve got rooftops aplenty,
And branches to match,
All of magnolias in bloom.
I’ve got skylines to give,
A blue open wide,
And insinuated stars.
Here, at the heel of the world,
I’ve got similes run amuck!
I’ve got graffiti, and Tupperware
Filled with yesterday’s blood.
I’ve got you running in circles
Under my breath.
Here, where you ended,
An immense yawn began,
A treetop, a squirrel, and a humming bee.
Here, in the silence,
You still crumble down the wall
As long as my cat chases ghosts.

(Originally posted on June 16, 2005)

Monday, June 10, 2019


We made of love a prison
To hold us both
Like we couldn't hold each other

We furnished it well
With all the love
We couldn't show one another

And in it we drowned
In a display of domesticity
Born of our fevered dreams

But we ended up forgetting
Where we started
Or what it was all about

(Originally posted on May 21, 2017 )

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Myself to Blame

I only have myself to blame
for you, my victory, my downfall,
my need, my hunger, my flame...

I only have myself to blame,
hoping endlessly, as my mother
waits for my dad, against hope
for you to change,
for you to become
what I want, to be
somebody else...

I only have myself to blame
for this, the burn that is my life,
this lie that I insist on telling,
waiting, against the odds,
for me to become
someone I want...

(Originally posted on May 14, 2013)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

"Autumn Fugue" by Joe Bolton

I remember how the silver leaves fell down,
Extravagantly, as if in prefigured spirals,
From the fig tree you couldn’t keep alive,
And how, when you’d sat watching for a while
That lovely dying, then turned your face to me,
Your face seemed the same silver of the leaves.

It had to do partially, I suppose,
With the light--how the brief and intense dusk
Along 14th Street gathered in the canopy
Of chestnuts choked with vine, filtering
In through the three windows of your white room
To make a luminous lake in which we swam.

Looking all that autumn for a holier way
Of talking about things, you found yourself
Hardly able, at last, to speak at all;
And so, for long moments, no word would pass
Between us, when we had only to listen
To the quarter-hourly noise from a nearby church.

There was something greater to the sadness
Than simply the going away of your lover,
Or even our own past failure at love.
What sadness there was carried with it the weight
Of something intensely formal, and which would not
Be overcome by anything so commonplace

As a gesture shared between the two of us.
And so, as the light faltered and the leaves fell down,
I’d light a cigarette and sip my drink,
And you’d arrange your body at the window
Like some unfinished portrait of yourself. . . .
If there is nothing between a man and a woman

Except the light by which they see each other,
And a past in which they appear continually smaller,
And a future that seems already to have acquired
The irrevocability of the past,
It seems important, nevertheless, to acknowledge
Their brief victory: the surviving it.

- Joe Bolton, from The Last Nostalgia

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

On the Prowl

To Foxy

It's the absence—always the absence—that gets us.
A habit lingering long after, a slip of the tongue,
a look in the direction of what remains...

And the night—always the night—mercilessly
weaving ghosts out of shadows, the cold
confrontation of mind facing sleep.

Your stained bed turned a wailing pad,
where your smell lingers we now muffle our cries.
Your bowls soaking in the kitchen sink,
your leash by the door, your food going stale
in the closet, along with half-chewed bones.
We no longer have to sneak out, but
nor is there a bark now to welcome us back.
The only sound is his sobbing,
like a jackhammer to my gut.

The last time I saw you,
after you drew your last breath,
I buried my face in your neck
to take one more breathful of you.
I think of the first time we saw you,
shivering in a cage,
big brown eyes I melted in,
and the way you drooled over
the backseat all the way home.

But I can't think of where you are now,
can't give substance to your absence,
cannot materialize it.
I turn my head, bite my tongue,
stifle a sob, and start cleaning.
And when the night comes again,
when your absence is back out
on the prowl, I'll be here...

(Originally posted on March 22, 2014)