What you discover
after the battered “Yes, okay”
to your heart’s direction —
is that all of your guns
that once shot enemies and fools
are now trained and aimed
One Last Chance
to come home.
So you write another poem
as familiar bullets
speed toward their mark.
“Quick! They’re coming for you!
Call down your god!”
Oh, buddy, if you only understood.
My god runs towards me,
bayonet in hand,
trying to scare me off,
see if I turn.
Yeah. My god.
As I take a run at him.
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Most of the time, it’ll be boring. But if we’re lucky, we’ll catch a glimpse of something we’re not meant to see. Pilots leave an apartment window open while waiting for flight attendants to arrive. We see their desperation. A man in a breezeway doesn’t think anyone is upstairs when he tries to get his dealer off his back, all while his little girl plays. The fratboy next door doesn’t know someone can hear everything — and wants him anyway. A whole political party shows its true colors.
These poems are dedicated to who we are when we’re on our own time — to the strange, laughable, heartbreaking, dangerous ways we do ourselves.
Lankershim Boulevard was better
when Grammy took me to the
Jewish Council Thrift Store
to buy me an out-of-date
Writer’s Market, and I looked up
at her against the naked fluorescent
tube lights, and wanted to write
a story that would make her rich
and me famous
so that we wouldn’t have to shop
at the Jewish Council Thrift Store
There was once a time —
you’ll have to trust me —
when Dad would write notes
for cigarettes and liquor,
and off I’d go to Dales Jr.
And then if I was fast,
he'd give me a sip.
It burned all the way down.
Probably how I got so good at track.
“I want you to stay away
from that guy upstairs.”
Old Shirley’s hair was frizzier
than usual. She held a glass.
“Something’s not right there.”
“Okay, I will,” as I walked
past her window
down the driveway
out onto Oxnard
remembering how he
held me to his chest
and showed me I was happiness.
Before his spa-crowd,
the Brush-Cut endowed
his words with much lamentation.
“After making myself
rich, strong, and svelte,
they want me to give up my station.”
“No one helped me
crawl out of that sea!
I did it with grit, nerve, and drive!
Why should I cry,
bring tears to my eyes,
when Nature, through me, surely thrives?”
More. God, still more.
“Should I be cast down
when dolts sputter and drown
while wading in water too deep?
We need to remember
Life wants to dismember
weak chaff from rare bits of strong wheat.”
Then (you’ll love this):
He let his arms soar,
lifting muscles adored,
standing up in the midst of The Lost —
but wet shorts do slip,
slide down on thin hips —
and what Life rewarded...had cost.
I’m not one to laugh
at men —
at men with toy shafts —
but I wasn’t the only one present!
With chortles of glee,
the wrong kind, you see,
we saw that his boy also...bent?
Thor’s grand self-made views
had been a bit...skewed —
Coy Fate had decided his game;
his thoughts, teeth and hair,
his wants and his pair,
just gods doing their thang.
Now don’t cause a scene,
or think I’m a queen —
I’m not saying it’s all been decided!
But I’m tired of “studs”
nipped close to the bud
pushing “FREE WILL” without being chided!
So the next time you muse,
“I’m Awesome! I choose!”
remember Thor’s tiny “reminder”:
Fate casts the tool,
the job, house and school,
the cool and the fool,
it’s always the loud,
judgmental and proud,
who most need the shroud,
the stage and the crowd,
whose heads should be bowed —
instead of being elected President.
Books — for readers who like real paper — are here.
In those days,
after God scourged their enemies,
the holders of the land
and keepers of older scrolls,
after those made in His image
dashed soft child-brains against dusty rocks
and bathed triumphant feet in still-warm blood and tears,
Little Mikey raised his hand in Picture Class
and setting down his crayon, asked:
“Excuse me, Mr. Hawley,
does this mean it’s okay
to kill? ‘Cause it says
‘Do Not Kill’ somewhere.”
To which the teacher replied,
smiling down at seven-year-old Mikey:
“Son, it’s always okay to kill.
We kill cows, don’t we?
It’s murder you got to watch out for.
And you can’t murder an animal.”
Other work? Just find your way through the Menu above.
to not want my City,
to make life here,
far from the streets and hills and men
that brought me life in such breadth that I gulped lust
at every turn, bodies and books and
sweet blessed fog, busses, parks,
crazies four floors beneath screaming
“HELP! HELP!” though there’s only a streetlamp,
three-hundred-dollar theater seats steps from
human defecation (it’s not pretty) —
tether-bridges to windy and windy headlands and
mystical beaches and sex —
where to walk is to be enveloped,
to love her instead of him, once upon a time,
way back when lies meant caring,
and my brain and niceness said I
shouldn’t hurt anyone so I
drowned Aaron in hope and went on screwing
and became good at it and talked about;
but each night, laying on top of her
sweet and forgiving body, sculpted
ballers did sweaty lay-ups in my room,
in my head
and if it wasn’t for those players,
she never would’ve cum,
so it seemed like it was okay.
But it wasn’t.
I tried Return of the Native.
I tried The Glass Menagerie.
Everything by Faulkner.
All I wanted was Sassoon,
maybe a little Woolf,
but I’d lock myself in my room
to read words words words,
and I’d yawn yawn yawn —
while A Room of One’s Own
whispered slyly to Suicide in the Trenches:
“He’s missed the point.
“He’s really missed the point.”
Sushi Streisand Dances with Wolves
mango con limón my dear friend who wants
to be dear so he must be but…
no-fap novenas TED Talks on writing
guys who aren’t built
who really aren’t built
who seriously aren’t built
try try try
“Thy will be done”
when all along, sweet lullaby,
sleeps the not-tried, the true,
until I put on a jacket
against cold San Francisco freedom
Honestyinthemoment. The sketch that contains the impulse. The impulse that says YOUAREBEAUTIFUL when he’s standing next to you intheelevator, looking at his phone until he’s not looking at his phone, and all Life waits on someonetolivenotwatch him return your urge with a smileorsmirk that says thankyoufuckoff.
Not choreographed. Rehearsed. Planned. Theater.
Real. Dangerous. You.
The spirityouwant being the spirityouare — to speak without speeching, to love without loving. No -ings. Only act, no neuteredgerunds, until you homeyourself, and the lifeyouare finds itself standing next to another life, sexy and real because you said “You’re beautiful” without try-ing, without plan-ing.
Sacred Space — Arrival
The wrinkled woman
resting in the doorway
her bones twitching hard:
“I'm sorry, Sir,”
as I pull my bag into
the Inn on Folsom Street1.
Exposed brick walls try hard
in my suddenly empty room.
I don’t...feel anything.
I thought I’d feel something.
No ghosts. Nothing.
I know the old fairies flew south
years ago. No place for the
Auden-faced. And the demons?
Those super-charged leather
dangers stalking prey in red steam?
Now they cam2 from rented rooms
in Sacramento and San Diego,
their hunting names changed
from Steve to Chase, TwinkChase3,
I don't know what to pray for
or to, not in this abandoned church.
Walking While Thinking — SoMa4
What if the usurpers,
the influencers paying $1.9 million
for a pissed piece of SoMa,
are just waiting for us
What if these squatters,
are the Old City’s fevered urge,
lusting after land and
trading-in sweaty stories
for a kid in an UPPAbaby5,
the ultimate accessories?
Makes sense as senses
now scent safety,
porning lean clean high-pitched
action-figures in Lower Castro6.
Everyone’s lost their balls.
Pause — Phone Call Home
“Mike called,” says the man on the phone.
Back in LA.
“What’d he want?”
“Know where you were.”
“What’d you say?”
“Up in San Francisco. Probably getting disillusioned.”
That’s why we’re at 20 years. More or less.
Exhibit — Dolores Park7 Cafe. Conversation, overheard
while eating expensive steel-cut oatmeal.
“And so he's interested in you
finding a tenant for your property.”
“Yeah, and we have so much
Outside, those who can only afford
the sidewalk are no-shows to the
convention of web-developers and
Mommy-n-Me in Lululemon8.
I’m a haunted old spirit:
“The best never survive.”
Walking Richmond9, after searching
GG Park10 for Signs of Life.
They all have money, or They have all the money.
Houses high atop garage doors painted
in expected candy-shop pastels.
Millions couldn't buy in. But it's also an
attitude; they fit. This kaleidoscopic
nursery is their world.
I like the sidewalk now; it’s original,
the hard-marked past, bones of my city,
cast when these houses were just houses,
you could hear shouting because people
shouted back before dot.coms and Grindr11,
when bandanas12 spoke not conclusively,
you had to look a guy in the eyes
and the park was full of risk and joy.
My world: on that older hill,
the one covered in open-faced beauty
and daring, weathered desire.
Processing — SFO13
A cocoon of security. We pay
You can’t pretend in
But here, I wonder with
beating breathing heart:
What would I do
if I was asked for spare change
at the United ticket counter?
If I wanted a cigarette?
If someone stood up and said
preferred pronouns are simply
an expansion of binary imprisonment?
If an out-loud not-texted internet-free
political need happened?
Their aggrieved-teenager answer:
“Is it so wrong to live unencumbered?
Does everything real
have to be uncomfortable?”
It’s easy to get turned around
Now I miss their sandcastles,
the peaceful playset neighborhood.
Nobody who doesn’t belong wanders by.
It’s nice. Just like an airport.
It’s all that’s left.
Reflection — Flying, looking back
San Francisco: where dreams
Only ruins survive;
fate has fashioned them weapons
hope can’t overcome:
marriage bourgeois magazines health
money a future an attitude
I look back as the plane banks
for SoCal, for LA and my
old boyfriend who will greet me
outside third-world LAX14 and drive
the stained and broken 40515 home,
where books and vacuuming
wait; and I see my once-home fading
into a sunsetted Ocean that touches
every time I’ve cared about, waiting,
and I find myself praying:
Maybe you will be broken again,
so like me when you led
my strange and halting body
through cracked unwanted lovely
streets to flowers and eucalyptus,
pro-offered grass in sheltered
shadow and men became yours,
cool-touching breeze, wounded
naked-love in pine-fragranced
gasping way-too-crowded dirty
I miss you.
Shake off this juvenile dream.
Please, God, let us be in love again.
1 past and (somewhat) current location
of San Francisco’s gay leather community
2 interactive filming of oneself engaged in
sexual/intimate acts, either alone or with
others, for a live internet audience, in
exchange for money and/or tokens
3 unblemished young adult male, typically
between the ages of 18-20, who utilizes his
perceived innocence or actual lack of
sexual experience in the pursuit of (generally)
older adult males/“daddies”
4 South of Market; historically, the economically
disadvantaged/“seedy” section of San Francisco
5 high-end baby stroller; average cost: $850
6 once known as GayMecca, the center of San
Francisco’s Gay Liberation Movement of the
7 somewhat successful example of urban
revitalization/renewal; once known as DrugPatch
8 high-end workout wear favored by teen girls
and their mothers
9 neighborhood/district in the northwest corner
of San Francisco, just north of Golden Gate Park
10 Golden Gate Park; known for its Victorian-styled
Conservatory of Flowers and lengthy wooded
trails; iconic location for public sexual activity
11 dating application designed to identify and
communicate with potential gay male sex
partners; lists inclinations and availability, as
well as possible locations for sexual activity
(host, travel, public, etc.)
12 heavy handkerchief positioned in the back
pocket of gay males to communicate sexual
inclination; historically, the color and side of
placement indicated sexual appetite (eg:
hunter-green in right-hand pocket = looking
for a “daddy”). No conclusive guide existed/
exists for the placement/meaning of the bandana.
13 San Francisco International Airport
14 Los Angeles International Airport
15 also known as the San Diego Freeway; largest
connector between the West Side of Los Angeles-
proper and the populous San Fernando Valley
Just in case this wasn’t enough poetry for you, click here.
And yeah, there are books. (Click there, on “Books”)
When I am dead, growing in the
ground — assuming the world goes on,
assuming they don’t end the world
after I’m 80
(or, given my family history, 67) —
I want to be:
a multiple-choice test option.
Think about it! That’s the way
to make it. That’s the way to
know you matter. Who wouldn’t
want to be Archduke Ferdinand?
Sure, he’s dead, and sure,
his death was…painful.
But he is the answer to an
“Whose assassination caused
the first World War?”
He is remembered!
The test question, then — that’s important,
isn’t it? They say if you don’t ask the
right question, you won’t get the right
“Who is the greatest poet of their age?”
That was easy! It just came to me.
It’s the way I want to be remembered:
not a, but the poet —
a poet who moved women to riot
and men to tears;
who showed desire is way
better than thought;
the one who gets quoted at weddings
and funerals, chiseled on tombstones,
printed on birth announcements.
The one who freed Literature
from the puzzle-makers and
Nobody’s done that yet.
Nobody! I’ll be unique!
Okay. Calm down. This is the way to go.
Take it slow.
(I feel so much better now,
knowing what I want.)
Next...the other test options are important,
aren’t they —
almost more important than the question.
Who do I want surrounding me?
Who will share my stage?
Another conundrum! So let’s try:
B) William Shakespeare
C) Walt Whitman
D) Greg Beckman
That was easy, too. I am good at this!
They’ll all select (D), of course —
but only after much deliberation.
I want them to think,
search their souls, argue.
You can’t just give silly options,
answers easily dismissed
like Dylan Thomas or Mitsuhashi Takajo,
whose haiku softly hold my
whispering heart home,
but who Americans confuse with a car;
or Thom Gunn, who taught me
how to speak honesty
but is a cricket-chirp in Catholic schools
(that homosexual thing);
or Lorraine Hansberry —
God! Are they all gay? —
the much-taught playwright, right,
who didn’t write a stitch
of searing raw-nerve
I-can’t-get-rid-of-this-thing poetry, right?
No. Those options are quickly
crossed out. I won’t be a default.
I want students to sit
at hard-carved desks
confounded among the known greats,
those who have risen,
acceptable contenders —
and choose me.
history only enshrines the greats,
and that to be remembered —
to be studied! —
by legions of caring, sensitive schoolchildren
and objective, contemplative teachers of story
will delight my crusting corpse.
There are more poems. After this romp, I’d try something here.