January 4, 2016
August 14, 2013
Hello wide world of the internet. Just thought it would be about time to catch up. What have I been up to, you ask?
Well I’ve just stopped running events 3-5 times a week, and started really plotting potential ways to run an Art Bar out here in sunny Santa Cruz (more details on that to come soon)!
Also I’ve been keeping myself fed and paying my rent using the power of poetry. I promise this is a true story. Here are some videos that folks have made about it:<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/67938473″>Story Of A Street Poet</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user18383220″>Daniel Hoffman</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
…also, this one.
You also just might have the chance pretty soon to get your hands on one of those books of street poetry and support the Art Bar in the process. Stay tuned. Or if you’re local, come check out Santa Cruz’s Only Weekly Poetry Open Mic this upcoming monday (August 19th) to see me do a 25 minutes of poetry!
So it turns out that it took me a month to properly edit the end of this large project. Again, I want to mention that anything copied into wordpress from a word document automatically becomes double spaced and I have no intention of going through these and correcting all of them. If you would like these poems without the awkward spacing, you can track down the orignial poems with the misspellings included but without the awkward spacing as a note on my facebook:
64.] Another Dream
[a woman asks for a poem about her husband. Tells me they were recently married and living on a farm/vineyard and that he works as a chef and they’re loving their life, eating delicious food and being surrounded by beauty]
in this dream
I begged Oberon
not to take
this potion off my eyes.
I told this lord
of forest magic
to let his enchantment last:
“You must understand
this dream I’m having
under your spell:
The sun everyday runs
from orange to white to orange again and everyday
I’m seeing this light on this face
of one I love, I have coaxed a bounty
from the earth and opened my eyes
to it.” And then, it was dawn
and Oberon and the dream
were gone. I opened my eyes and you
were beside me. Just like this,
I thought, if I must wake from this dream too
let it be just like this.
65.] Vespa bravery
I am not saying that today
when you put both your legs
around my Vespa, that you experienced
the same emotion as St. George when he
faced the dragon, I am just saying:
“I am glad you came.”
This can be scary, I know. And every year
they will make thousands of movies
about what it means to be brave
and they will all get it wrong.
There will always be explosions or evil
threats to the world and car chases
and backflips. I do not need this bravery.
Every year, they will make thousands
of movies about what it is like to love.
They will not capture what it is like
to have you here
arms around me
on the back of my Vespa.
[a 10 year old and his brother ask me if I can write “one of those poems where the first letter of each line spells a word” about soccer. This is the first acrostic anyone has requested from me.]
So what if I never played midfield willingly,
Or offence if I could avoid it.
Can’t say I liked playing wing,
Cringed at the thought of goalie
Every position has its own deterrent.
Really, I should find a new sport.
67. Poem for the Ocean
I am nothing as wide as the tide
which rakes daily over this serene shore.
I have not, by my hand, turned rocks
into sand or nurtured all life on Earth.
I have no released myself to the pull
of the moon, nor shipwrecked anyone
and taken them whole.
[ A woman asks me for a poem about moving from one apartment to another. When I asked he what the hardest part of moving was, she said getting rid of her couch.]
I hope the idle sidewalk loves you
if no one else will take you in. I hope
you don’t get doomed to a dorm and damned
by some spilt beverage or other unsavory
fluid. Couch, who has held me on my good
days as well as my bad, in sickness as in
health, and even that time I got sucked in
to watching Battlestar Galactica. You
outstanding upholstery, blessed to be
best of all possible seats. I hope for you
a happy home. Or, if that doesn’t work
out for you, I hope you grow arms
these boxes are heavy
and I could use some help.
[a man asks me for a poem about a woman he’s about to drive to San Jose to see that his friends think he shouldn’t see, and he knows his friends are probably right, but he knows he’s going to go see her anyway.]
The heart may have reasons that
the reason knows not
but that doesn’t mean
my heart isn’t a jerk sometimes.
I’ll get in the car
with my heart, thinking
we’re just going downtown
for a cup of coffee and then
my heart slams on the gas
and we’re Vin Diesel-ing down the highway
to your heart’s place
to get fucked up
on drugs that can only be made
by the insides of our brains,
and this is on a Tuesday night.
I’ll never learn.
[first time I ever used Vin Diesel as a verb. won’t be the last.]
[a man walks up to me and asks for a poem about snakes, provides little elaboration. After it turns out he is on his way to do a reading at Bookshop Santa Cruz, where he read this as the opening poem of his set]
What bad name to be given to a belly
creature: viper, serpent, they use
“snake” as an insult, those who are least
comfortable with their bodies hurl this
hurt without hesitation. They do not
know the beauty of a skin stone smooth
they assume the worser part of grace.
To some this quickness is
uncomfortable. They cannot say why they cannot see
the beauty of that which is
A marble on a downward tilt,
most conscious school children,
credible rumors about world leaders:
some things were made to be moving.
Time could be one of these things.
Or it could be allowed to be
like a dog in a yard on a summer day
with no master. I do not desire
to be time’s master, only to build
a larger yard in which it can roam.
72. My Sweet
[A young woman asks for a poem about her boyfriend. When I ask her what she likes about him she says that he’s sarcastic and he plays lots of video games. After a long pause she adds that he also likes chocolate.]
Those who describe chocolate
only as “sweet”
have not refined
their tasted tongues.
Who would have the canvas
of their palette
beat monochrome in flavor?
This is the true gift of chocolate:
in the cocoa also a hint
of coffee, a hazelnut accent
tint of bitter blended all.
And still this taste is simple
compared to the sweetness
I find in you.
[a 12 year old girl asks me for a poem about horsies and doggies]
if I were a horse
I would be the best horse
my powerful legs would
take me away fast enough
to make my mane and tail
wave in the wind.
If I were a dog,
I would be the best dog
I would be good at fetch
and great at the park
but today and yesterday
and probably tomorrow
I am human, and I
will be the very best.
[A man asks me for a poem about madness, and continues tells me a very impressive story about some part of the beat movement he was heavily involved in. I was too busy thinking about how to write a madness poem to properly listen.]
the heart grow fonder.
the world go mad.
The poet makes
the eye dart from
for a very poor
And we all burn with a madness beyond
the genius of the sea
though at times it may hide,
it is inhuman
not to smolder.
This day has
about it a certain justification
of this much sunshine
but the rays have transformed
and become shy:
this one masquerades as a chord
pushed from a piano’s false
percussion, which is secretly strings
this one is the red relief
of sunshine in a strawberry
A transformed ray ready
for a mouth.
This one has become a thief
you can tell by the way it plays
around that last curl of hair
it is just waiting to steal
Humor is a mixture of grace
and critical perception.
An apology is a mixture of grace
Love is a mixture of grace
Let me be,
bathed in your grace.
77. How to Say
The ground grows no food so sweet
nor (as those who chew rinds will know)
And still for any flavor we all
in our way must create praise
for the day.
The California poppy
does not need words for this
you can simply see
in the way it tilts
its neck towards the sun
it is saying:
I love you,
I love you,
I love you.
[another love poem that mentions poppies.]
For its ability to open
like a storm cloud
for its draw on me
like the sun on a poppy
for I could count all the birdsong
and still the tones
and tunes of my heart would
play more profuse
for the swing in the arc sub-atomic
or the curve of the worlds’
which are more the metaphor
of the large and small ways
we move endlessly
on the desire
to be closer
[the most social awkward person I’ve met on the street asks for a poem about strangers, and how there are some strangers you wish you could get to know better]
I don’t know who this is
blasting hiphop with their windows
across the broad wash
of Pacific Ave.
I don’t know who this is:
walking cocky with a white
spade beard and flat tie.
I don’t know who this is
whose dress is charming
and stockings stylish
and smile sharp
and hair enticing
and walk divine.
So often I would like to know
how to know
80. In the dark
[a poem from an androgynous human being who wanted a poem for her girlfriend, who she fell in love with in a lighting booth while working tech for a theater performance in high school]
Something is blooming in the dark
of a lighting booth somewhere. I will stain
my fingers with the juice of a raspberry
to show the color of this bloom.
There was no wrath in her. There is no
promise of forgiveness, just one heart
folding open in the dark. From a girl
like you, for someone like me.
This is true
if history is kind enough
to repeat itself.
Grease on the fingertips
working at glass,
eggshell in a liquid
broken glass all over
the haystack where I search
for the needle all day
with the same four bars
of an unnamed tune
repeating themselves for me.
The hands on the clock
have no fingers.
82. Mr. Bones panhandles to Santa Cruz
[this poem and 83 were written not by request, but on a day when it was slow enough to just write for myself]
Everyone here without exept-
ion rattles. I rattle in
the morning. By the line
that waits for Forever
21 to open. In the evening
I rattle to the masses
and collect my change.
83. It becomes the rule of the spirit’s desire
After, their reaction implies
that I had said something like proposing that I could live
without my bones.
A general awe at the thought
that they were the free ones.
I do not want to play by the rules of bones any longer
though there are so many who believe.
[an engaged couple who have known each other for 7 months and met at a meditation circle ask for a poem about how they spent a week together after meeting and she “kind of put a magic spell” on him]
If I didn’t know any better
(if I weren’t still somewhat bolted
to this world with its appointments
to be kept and dentists
to be seen and oil
to be changed inside real metal cars)
I would swear it were magic:
(something harnessed or tweezed
from sea mist or strawberry
seeds drawn from a week that
existed beyond existing)
this which draws me
to you and makes me close today
and wish for more closeness
tomorrow, and all days: a wish
to have you about me, like the mist
that rolls from the ocean
in the morning.
[a man asks me for a poem about his 70th birthday, but he has to go to dinner, so he hands me a business card and asks me to mail the poem to him. His daughter adds that it should include the themes of “trips, sea turtles, and the American Chestnut tree.”]
I can only hope to have a smile
on my face fit to compete
with Sam Kusic’s when I turn 70.
I can only hope to have my heart
so full of shipsmen ready to set
rigging and hoist sails for a trip
as Sam Kusic’s heart when I turn 70.
I can only hope not to be narrowed
by where I have been. To avoid falling
into the false beliefs that my journey
has taught me all I need to know about
journeys, I can only hope I am as open
to the lessons of the turtle & chestnut
as Sam Kusic when I turn 70.
I can only hope and let time wind around me
in its whipstitch of sunrises until
I will be where I will be in 15,436 days:
I will be as old as Sam Kusic is
today and (if I am lucky) as wise.
[another Happy Birthday poem]
At your age
if you were a bottle of wine
think how they would argue over you.
if you were a wheel of cheese,
think how fast they would toss you away.
How lucky then
that you are neither of these things
but your wonderful singular self.
87. my socks
I’m a believer
and an advocate of seizing socks
of all varieties: short socks seamed or
seamless, paisley or patterned, prints or
plaid. I have ample amounts of argyle
to adorn my ankles. I could salivate for
saucy socks: silk stockings stitched on buttons
pulled up high as a thigh. Oh socks divine
cinched down to the shins I could slip you
over an instep and toss you into a corner
if you were knit and dry or wet and wool
I would love the sockiness of you.
I could get lost in a box of your
[a lesbian couple approaches me 1/2 of the couple grumbles about how I couldn’t write a poem about 1978 (the year they met in santa cruz) because I wasn’t around, the other says she bets I could and encourages me to do so. They never return for their poem.]
When my bones were negative
the world still had this:
up the spine of the Santa Cruz
& the salty breath
of the ocean
sprayed from the waves
angles and mists & also (as you know)
some human spark, some angler of the heart
some pull from some hook and some decades
for both ends of this ribbon to pull
Hold the gentlest part
of your finger right here:
there’s a knot to be tied.
[a woman who has the same name as a lover of mine, asks for a poem for her husband, who has the same name as me…who she describes as a unicorn.]
When the time comes
and it is the end
and the walls of this world
maybe then we will be able
to see it all clearly
a red ribbon taught
between us, this hair of all
passionate happiness strung
and drawing me
90. mangled bird
[a woman asks me for a poem about a bird she just saw that had two talons missing from one foot. She says her favorite poet is Margret Atwood]
I don’t assume it was a fight.
There are many places in this world
where one can assume violence.
These assumptions are
not always true: look at these
scars, this fissure of tissue
I did not fight for, simply lofted
The back wheel of a bicycle
over my shoulders, grated pavement.
Easy for me to say, after all,
I’ve still got my talons.
But I would like my wings back;
my wings are still missing.
They’ve been missing all these years.
[a poem from a mother to her son as he graduates from film school]
The camera’s lens is only one way
to view what’s been happening
in this wide and unpredictable world.
Another is to peer out of my own convex
eye. There has been too much
passing my vision to fit even into wide
screen. CUT TO: You were small and wailed
and wailed. It seemed nothing
would stop you. I cradled you.
Perhaps this doesn’t make you feel proud
or powerful, but you were so human.
PAN across some 20 years to this
small stage where a young man holds a
passion for creation
larger than a lens, larger than a screen,
but smaller than my overwhelming pride.
92. the thwarted wanting that leads to inner peace
All I wanted was a fucking ice cream cone.
The Ice Cream store told me
they were sold out
(of fucking ice cream cones!)
and that they only had kale.
I considered burning down the store
but decided against it when I realized
the sentence for even attempted arson
was likely slightly worse
than eating frozen kale.
[a woman asks me for a poem about finding one’s center. When I ask follow up questions she alludes them all and insists I write my own “my own poem” …about finding center)
I have searched in the exhale
of my body.
I have searched too in its motion
in the minds of writers
(of mortality various).
I have searched as well
when I did not know I was searching:
when washing a dish
or standing on
the jagged edge of a bright sleep
that refused to come.
It is often there
I am told.
I have been told many things.
I am just now learning how to listen
as it is one more way
94. Granite and Manzanita
[…in the strangest request I have received a couple asks me for a poem about Granite and Manzanita. I ask them lots of follow up questions]
I have at times thought of myself
but if we are being honest very few
things thought of as true
are true. Paraffin thinks of itself as solid
until unzipping flame
traverses its taper.
Granite may think itself strong
until Manzanita runs
its fingers gently
over the weary mountain and who
is it that has fingers
that have the same affect
[three young women who met while working for the UCSC newspaper ask me for a poem about newspapers, I completely ignore the statement that their collective favorite poet is TS Eliot, because at least 2/3rds of the group seem surprised to learn this fact.]
when you quip
at your characters for not having
“ate paper or drunk ink”
you made it damn clear
that you’ve never worked for a
newspaper or else
you would have said:
“he hath not considered murdering
the chief editor, nor hath he
argued alone in his office
with a submitted op ed piece.”
get your iambic shit together
and get a better copy editor.
We could hang out on the corner
and throw rocks at people
to more clearly define the line
between random and evil. Let’s throw match
sticks at radical preachers
while yelling “repent!” and we’ll see
if they politely ask us what it is
we’re talking about. Maybe this is
not exactly what you had in mind.
Maybe more of a hike or a road trip
or an OUT THERE flavor
of ice cream. Whatever it is
just as long as life
knows you’re planning
the kind of curveball
that will make it look
like a sucker in front of its friends.
97. For a stolen backpack
[two hikers ask for a poem about a stolen backpack and never return]
There are days when I can believe
that it is true
that I am large and I contain multitudes.
But it is not a common day
that I am able to stuff a tent
into my mouth and throw myself
over my own shoulder.
This is why we need backpacks.
there is no solace in knowing
that thieves will never prosper
true solace lies
in my missing blanket.
[a man in a tight white T shirt and a vest asks for a poem about transition, pays me $5 in advance, and never returns]
I do not see any complaints
when I look
at bare branches. In this town
the branches are wiser
All along Pacific
you can see the blooming
next to those
more solitary. You could say
“These are bountiful
and these others: cold.”
But these bare branches
are the wise ones that know
their glorious budding
awaits around a corner
in a sharp turn of time.
[a man asks for a poem for his sick, but recovering wife. I asked if she was recovering from a surgery or major illness. “no no,” he replied, “just the flu.”]
The truth is that illness can change
us the way the sun can change
what you view in a pane of glass.
At the right height and angle
all you’ll find is a faint mirror
reflecting your face and all that stands
behind you. But time rides on
the heels of the sun, sweeping on
this angle of light until you
can see right through
and everything is clear
and your eyes
and whole self are ready again
to take in the beautiful day.
[around 7pm a woman approaches me and without asking any questions tells me that I should write a poem about how young people today don’t have any guidance in their life. I tell her that I can, the poem will take 10-15 minutes and that I’ll be closing up shop in about an hour. She tells me that she’s going to a movie that will play for about two hours and after that she’ll be back to pick up her poem. Never saw her again.]
I’ve seen a compass confounded
by the closeness
I’ve seen the wisteria climb
any ladder left
to reach for
I’ve seen the path of my own
for a guide.
May 19, 2013
So there are a number of positions for public and/or performing artists that I’ve been applying for recently. It’s a new thing for me. Over the past years I’ve starting thinking more and more seriously about myself as an artist. Granted, I started writing poems to mess with Dan Schrager’s stewardship of the LSRHS Fountain, but it has been a long and evolving road that has really come to a boil since I hit the Tannery Arts Center.
I’ve submitted two projects in the last month, and I should know within the next two weeks about both of them. It is really exciting that these opportunities exist for artists in this community, and I feel quite proud of the proposals I put forth.
Most recently I applied for “Libraries Inside Out” through the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Santa Cruz City Arts, and Santa Cruz Public Libraries. Their 2012 installation was a series of faces pasted in large scale on the side of the library.
For the 2013 Libraries Inside Out project I’m proposing a People’s Poetry Grid. In the past months I have been writing “street poetry” by bringing my typewriter downtown and writing poems by request on any topic people ask of me.
I have been writing these poems on quarter sheets of printer paper and keeping a carbon copy of each poem for myself. Because these poems are written in downtown Santa Cruz, and are requested by the people of Santa Cruz, they often have a local flavor and even at times address Santa Cruz landmarks.
I conceived of the People’s Poetry Grid when, after re-typing and photocopying some of my favorite street poems, I tacked the extra photocopies onto my wall.
Later that same evening I was working in Microsoft Excel and the organization of the rows and columns inspired me tack letters and numbers above the poems on my living room wall. Over the next weeks the grid grew to almost the entire wall. Friends started talking about their favorites through the coordinates: “I like F6, and B2” and other friends could locate the poems easily.
The Grid expanded and has covered almost my entire wall. It has (in my humble opinion) its own humble and minimalist beauty.
The people’s poetry grid would cover 3 of the 9 panels of the Library’s outside wall. Then, through a voting process (this is where the People’s part comes in), the top 6 poems would be scaled up from their original 4.25” x 5.5” sheets to the size of the entire remaining panels.
This is the beautiful thing about poems: they’re cheap. All I would need would be paper and maybe a new typewriter ribbon, sheets of plexiglass (for protection from the elements) and framing, and I’d be able to produce this People’s Poetry Grid for all of Santa Cruz to enjoy. I’ll let you know if I get it on June 1st.
I’ve also applied for the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History’s Participatory Performing Artist in Residence Program. I should hear back for that proposal sometime around yesterday. I submitted the idea of setting up five different typewriters from five different decades, and letting museum patrons type out memories from those decades on the corresponding machine. Then I would write poems in response to the memories and bind the lot of them into a book available for the museum’s collection. The title of the project was “give me an excuse to buy all the typewriters I see.” (kidding)
This is a kind of first taking a swing at being a professional artist. In my spare time, between running events three or four times a week, volunteering to get this theater built and writing two books. Seriously folks, it’s hard to hustle this hard when the weather’s so darn nice. If I get either of these awards the first thing I’m doing is taking a day to go stare at this pretty ocean that I moved across the country to be next to.
to continue my preamble to this large project, I want to mention that anything copied into wordpress from a word document automatically becomes double spaced and I have no intention of going through these and correcting all of them. If you would like these poems without the awkward spacing, I will gladly sell you the book when it exists:
[man asks me for a poem for his 30th anniversary with his wife. Only tells me that he knew for sure that he wanted to spend his life with her the first time he laid eyes on her.]
If it were so simple as only needing
a pair of eyes
as beautiful as yours
there might be more men
as lucky as I am.
The true search is for something far more rare:
the you that you are
when you are in the dark
compels me as well. Praise the sweet
mystery that draws me to you
and let the years lift away
light like the plum blossom petals
picked by a brief March breeze.
When I want to hide from myself
to the underside of my own
tongue. I find there
the words I’ve kept caught
in my miasmic morning breath.
Under the crust
of the moderately avoidable verbage
I find the words
I have tried the hardest to hide.
This does not ease my avoidance
but it makes real the memories
of the last time I tried to run.
37. Candles, trees, flowers and rainbows.
[two sisters, 4 and 6 years old, ask me if I can write them a poem about two things (presumably so both could ask for one thing each). I tell them that I’m so good at poems, I could even write a poem about five things. They decide together that 5 is too many things, and they say they would like a poem about candles, trees, flowers, and rainbows.]
It could be like this:
a fairy shindig with pollen passing,
tea lights on the backs of dragonflies
swinging like faint music between
the bark of the redwoods under a
sunshower mist that’s burst into color.
It could be like this:
He was in love, and he has hiked with
her through the weeds with a picnic.
Some romance can be planned: the
candles and the flowers, but the soft
shower on the canopy and the rainbow
that followed were a gift
from a different hand.
It could be like this:
I have been given all these things
and more to hold in my mind and my
imagination is no simple thing. What
can I imagine today? A post office
run by dragons? A dance those fairies do
when they fall in love? All of this
my mind is good for.
[“so what would you two gals like a poem about?” “… … …uh…I’m really indecisive.” “would you like a poem about that?” “uh…yeah. sure. I’m like really indecisive”)
I know that Plato gets me:
the wise man only knows
that he knows nothing
at all. This is true
also for me
at an ice cream shop
or browsing Netflix
or looking for a boyfriend
I know that I do not know what I want:
look how wise I am.
[after she walked away with her poem, I realized that the woman with her may have been her partner. which I felt could have made the poem read somewhat offensively.]
[a woman with has tattooed a picture of Marilyn Monroe as a topless mermaid on her arm expresses shock that she hasn’t met me yet. She asks me for a poem about anything I want to write about. I press her to provide a topic. She insists on providing none.]
I bumped into a Monromermaid
in an amphibious supermarket
she was all scales and smoldering sex
appeal, as usual.
I see her there
all the time
making eyes at any man
buying a lobster.
She may find herself iconic,
but I always find her
and her tail
a little out of their element
and often shopping for “dry goods.”
40. Going Down
to slope in a negative algebra
is a misuse of both
language and mathematics.
Everything that “goes downhill” gets
“deep” and “brings me down”
shares the blame.
It is also,
I would say
an exiting of light
from the day’s ambition
a hunger that is only
the eating internal
a force of air
pushing not down
but out. I am taking
the truth to be found in these directions
I am learning as a leaf
caught in the expelling air.
[third poem of mine to make someone cry]
This is the tissue our body masses
to cover locations of hurt.
Here is the reminder we are
given of the times we did not know well
how sharp the knife or how needed
the stitches were. Here it amasses:
The voice of a tautological body
the kind teacher of it is
with its patient slow mending
saying, “you will
heal. You will heal
from this too.”
42. She Hulk Goes to the Grocery Store
[a young woman asks for a poem about female super heroes, because she is interested in portrayals of feminine strength.]
The household goods section
has lots of gender pronouns
that could be a problem.
The clerks have gotten
used to it. Put up a sign:
“Don’t murder over spilt milk”
The cashier sounds a little more
sincere when she says:
“have a nice day” with subtext.
The butcher goes about
his job slowly without quick movement
a smile as big as his knives.
When she gets home from the store
and crawls into a weary bed
she holds her man with
the true purpose of her strength.
43. Ezra’s bad rap follows him to Santa Cruz
I was, myself once
in a station of the metro:
I didn’t see shit. No petals
no wet black anything.
I left that station
felt a little
[woman asks me for a poem about the future. In chatting she mentions she has a six year old daughter who is part of why she thinks so much about the future.]
If I were to tell you we pass slowly
through our moments
that we move viscous
in time, would it come as a comfort?
Knowing that those who are cherished
and young are syrup in this state
and there will be much done
before they are just faces to be
placed in a frame to be adored or at least
available for adoring.
And what can be said for seeing
time as a torrential,
a pouring of hours
a deluge of days? How
can it be that whole years can be
summarized in phrases:
“I was young, too busy with beauty.”
“just wasting time in Charlotte
focused on a career.”
Both are true, and have the same word
scribbled in the margins:
45. for Mr. R**** 4** C******* M****** Ave. Box #***** Monterey CA 93944
[as I pack up my cart and head home, a man approaches me with two female friends. He tells me that they just had an intervention about his Gay Porn addiction instead of driving to San Francisco. He asks me if I can write a poem about it. After telling him that I’m about to pack up for the day, I tell him I could mail him the poem. He accepts, and dictates his address to me. I was never really sure if the porn addiction story was true or just an inside joke among friends, but I wrote him this poem anyway]
I have to say, do nothing
for me. Although
I have to admit, they did
recently make their way
onto my list
of top two favorite genitals. But still:
all of the flaccid flopping
and wrinkled testicular vestibules
lack something beneath: a pulsing of
(and you can find this in porn)
blood and a willful ecstasy of thrusting
heavily breathed preludes into a pearled trickle
(all this can be found in porn)
and beneath all of it:
a way of looking
(with which, if I could tell you how it is
to be found, we could stop all of
this madness) into adoring eyes
and saying: “Yes, lover, yes.”
[a woman asks me for a poem for her husband. When I ask what she likes about him, she is without words for a while and then says that she loves him completely, that they built their house together and raised two children there.]
There is more to a house
than walls. Layers
of paint are not the only
accumulation of this living
room over the years.
There is also this:
passed from one palm into another or
one hand pressed lovingly into another
or many small hands growing
up into large hands and the years
pass by (they are not like paint:
they do not try
to cover where they have been).
[a 16 year old girl and her father stop at my cart. The father tells the daughter to ask for a poem, she requests “a poem for her lost generation.” I ask her if she thinks her generation is lost. “Yes.” she says.]
I put JFK in a time machine
and took him on a roadtrip.
We went all over America.
He spent most of his time
either chasing women, or galvanizing
the nation’s youth. Success on all counts.
I couldn’t understand how
he gathered people around him,
and I couldn’t understand
his accent. I tossed him
my iPhone, somewhere in Iowa, and said,
“here Johnny, put on some music.”
and just like that
he was as lost as the rest of us.
[a man roughly my age asks me for a poem about anything I’d like to write about. When I ask him to help me out by telling me something he enjoys to do, he says he enjoys playing music on “strange instruments” with his friends while “just bullshitting”]
is a doom clap
it doubles back
lays down its own
sound. This I knew already
but then I found
in a clarinet to swing strong
on the downbeat:
this dubstep symphony gone high drive
a prevailing piano: a home
of hidden hammers.
I hear all this
with my friends.
[a guy who looks to be in the ballpark of 15 years old asks me for a poem for a girl he enjoys spending time with. When I ask him if it’s romantic his friends all laugh. When I ask him what he likes about her he says that he enjoys reading Neruda together and that she is lovely.]
I have been trying to speak with Pablo
about all these lovely things he sees:
onions and socks pulling odes
from this man,
into a song somewhere public,
taking him from a body
to somewhere sublime.
There are so many ways
to be lovely:
to be an onion that is the most onion,
a sock, the most sock;
there is a way one can have of being
that gives the rest of us solace,
lets us breathe deep and say: this.
This much at least I know is true.
[a woman who just got out of a long relationship and has been enjoying freedom and sewing and her newly bought (post-breakup) turntable asks me for a poem]
It may go without saying
that the sky has always been secure.
It might also be true
that the blue wonder does not need
any additional noise
to be made below it. When I am
free to take my limbs
to any desirable destination
when I am held more buoyant
by a more saline time the sky can deal with it:
watch me run a stitch
through joyous fabric,
watch me rotate
with this turntable. This is the work
one does when finding
their own anthem.
within humor there is always tragedy,
but that which is comic
happens to you
but that same falling piano
landing on me
I know a coyote
who knew all about this:
where there is humor
there is always uncontrollable
desire: to eat that bird,
to survive this piano
to travel this treacherous
life without breaking
distance between wails
52. First Base
[a ten year old boy asks me if I can write a poem about baseball, tells me that he plays first base]
What kind of blue the sky may be
at this small moment
I have no time for.
It serves as little
but a backdrop for
this infield fly.
What shade exactly
that grass is displaying
in the space between
the pitcher’s mound
and the dugout is
only there to be chewed
beneath my cleats.
there are no colors in this moment
when all I’m doing
is playing first.
53. Let us be honest:
if we are honest
there have been tears
there has been
weeping, there has been sobbing.
There have been many kinds of tears:
this is how I’ve known it to be.
There is a graceful day
coming. If you are lucky,
maybe this day of grace has already passed.
Over a glass of beer I met my mother
when I was 22. If there were tears
after that, they were different.
No one ever warned me
about the really important
things one must bring
on a roadtrip
nor could they.
How strange it would be
for anyone to say:
bring grace and compassion
and make sure that you pack
more love than you think you will need
for the person with whom you will travel
through this period of time.
There are many actions in life
that are more difficult
reading the arch of a ball which is
displacement in air.
finding the correct words, which is
telepathy via typography when
you see what I’m writing.
Water finding its way into a crack
in the pavement growing colder
until it freezes and pushes apart
something that seemed solid
like loving you.
56. just about 2/3rds of a sonnet
When purple leaves the vine it’s not to die
but to be beyond sight a season more
the geese can sing this song more true than I
of a returning color’s true allure.
I miss no color like wisteria,
which is a texture and a shape as well
my memory’s lies may count a plethora
and will a falsehood (for a smile) sell.
But this at least I do believe is true:
there is rebirth in me, in geese, in you.
57. poem for a smile
[a bald man on a bike stops and asks me for a poem because he wants something to make him smile]
listen here you cheese weasel
you mumbling muskrat
you pantsless giraffe
life is going to turn
the volume down
so you can see
all the hilarious things that are happening
A bigot bulbous as a beachball
cursing at a ballgame on a screen
working his fat wet lips inches
from an image of a skin tight running
ass. This happens every day.
Turn down the volume.
What strange animals you will see.
What strange soft animals we all are
[a woman asks me for a poem about “human relationships” as she walks away she adds that she’s always felt on the outside of most human relationships.]
blame the iphone
for the way these cradled rectangles are held does direct
the faces away from the crowd even in the crowd. You
could blame faces
turning away from books
on ironically titled social media.
I have never had this
to tell me in pokes, tweets, likes, and apps
how people relate. I prefer to close
my eyes, conversations waft past me:
the merits of dresses, destinations
for dinner. A thin man with a thin
silver tie leans to the ear
of the woman he walks with, and whispers
“I love you dearly.” And this helps
heighten the state in which people relate.
59. String Instruments
[two friends come up to me, one asks for a poem about bees. the other says that she wants a poem about bees as well. I cheated on both of these, they’re both poems I have written before. Why have I written so many poems about bees?]
there are bees hidden in the harp
they are warmed
in a case
The fiddle is its own
unlike the violin
you can spill beer on a fiddle.
all this buzzing produced
by these string instruments.
Their honey overwhelms my ears.
also # 59] Said one Honeybee to the Other
“I wouldn’t fuck you for all the honey in the hive
it would be strange to have that much sweetness
when I have your eyes
which I can see sweeten at the sight of me and
like beautifully kneecapped diabetic comas
just waiting to happen
and your lips
I do not have
because we’re bees.
But as for the rest of it:
I was built for these pollens.
I will fill the whole of this dome
this crescent of ozone
with such viscous sweetness.” You must listen in the early
spring before the air grows thick.
60. For Vittorio from his own heart
[a woman asks for a poem about her 1 year old son, she says that she wishes that he will have a strong heart that will lead him in the right direction]
Like you, I began
There was a time
not too long ago
when you were sleeping:
your mother held you
and cradled your torso
in her ear to hear
my sound. There is no simple way to say this:
the only thing more difficult
and important in this life
than listening to your own heart
is to make yourself still enough
to listen to someone else’s.
61. A brief lesson on Fountains and Love
[a couple asks me for a poem for their 21 year old son. When I ask them to describe him they say that he is “gregarious” and “good with the ladies.” I didn’t see any trouble relating, and gave him parts of a poem that I had written before that I thought would be appropriate.]
I have been told that the true measure
of a man
is his ability to give himself away.
I try to let myself be
like the water
you can find
in a fountain.
If I am not overflowing
I have very little
to offer. The more water
a fountain gives out the more water
returns to the fountain. This too is true for love.
My opinion of watermelons, age 12
It is a shame to have
to swallow so much sweetness
just to get a few seeds
to spit at my brother.
My opinion of watermelons, age 25.
In post-grad poverty
and invited to a potluck BBQ:
wonderful wonderful watermelon.
My opinion of watermelons, age 4.
Tell me what kind of glory exists
that couldn’t be improved by cheese
melted inside of a flour tortilla.
If food wasn’t made to be sautéed
in spices various, and rolled into burritos
then why did god give us hands?
Muse, sing to me of guacamole;
slather overzealous spices in sour cream.
My Elysium is a never ending
hot and mild
and the chips
never run out.
as a preamble to this large project, I want to mention that anything copied into wordpress from a word document automatically becomes double spaced and I have no intention of going through these and correcting all of them.
1. Giving It Away
[poem for the guy handing out fliers outside the Silver Store in Santa Cruz]
It raises the question, what is worse:
to be ignored without thought
perceived secondary to the importance
of coffee cups, or to be accepted
by a man in bad flannel, who will
talk for fifteen minutes, with no interest
in buying silver? Sometimes one has to work
just to prevent the eyebrows and other
less controllable facial features from
becoming an accusatory apology.
Convince me this isn’t a shitty job.
Convince me oil travels freely though
Convince me you burn bright.
[a couple asks for a poem about a 10 year anniversary. no favorite poet provided.]
Love me like the sun rises
this is the brightness we have
Kindness and patience
are tireless as tide;
the way I’ll never grow weary
of looking into your
3. Damn Good Oysters (a Tercestina)
[Juba excitedly tells me about oysters from the farmer’s market. “Damn….Good…Oysters. Write a poem with those three words.” he uses as his conclusion. I say “ok.” He never returns for his poem. Not sure if he thought I was serious or not.]
Quite frankly it doesn’t matter worth a damn
if you think your poems are outstandingly good
someone will come thinking their words are pearls from oysters
but you can’t let that close you off like an oyster.
One must keep their pen moving and not give a damn:
this is the only way to make art that’s any good.
Mary Oliver told me not only that I don’t have to be good
but also that death can be gracious using poems about geese and oysters,
this is why, when you say “poetry” no one gives a damn.
Despite this, we go on. Public opinion be damned.
Every once in a while you have to do what feels good,
just because it feels good, like writing or stuffing your face full of oysters.
[guy walking by, without slowing his gait, asks without eye contact if I can write a poem that will stop his girlfriend from being mad at him. I say “I can do that” he stops in his tracks, explains the fight they just had, and ends up asking me to write his apology poem)
Sometimes I don’t understand
the tide. I want you to help me.
The next full moon let’s take a walk
you and I, down to the shore.
We don’t need to say much but
I want you to watch the tide
with me. Under the forgiving light
of Earth’s only satellite
maybe I can show you what I don’t understand
the tide rolls
out in the direction
of the sunset
every day and every day
it returns. I wonder: why roll away
in the first place. I want to say:
return, return, return.
5.(I keep) no secrets
[17 year old with gender neutral hair voice and clothing asks me for a song about secrets. Yup. a song.]
She speaks to me like a tiny violin
playing a tune that moves
like the distilled sweetness of bees.
I cannot remember the tune. (that is not true)
(I must say I cannot remember)
(she wants me to say I cannot remember
and I gave my word that I would)
My word is a rock that juts
in a stormy sea.
(I did not know this storm would come)
(a secret is a set of words
that you wish would be your lover
they drape themselves
in scant traces of lace
and wait for the candlelight to
do the rest. You can see and even hold
a lover like this but you can never truly
This is what she whispered.
6. timeless: without time
[60ish year old man with 40ish year old wife tells me his wife is 20 years younger than him and that he loves her no matter what anyone says about their age difference. Says his favorite poet is ee cummings. never returns for his poem.]
I do not love
(nor do I wish to)
like a metronome
clock a punch
card a watcher
no no I love
[60ish year old woman walks up to me and abruptly requests a poem about how “kids these days don’t have any proper role models” (exact words). Walks away before I can ask her if she has a favorite poet]
I’ve seen a compass confounded
by the closeness
I’ve seen the wisteria climb
any ladder left
to reach for
I’ve seen the path of my own
for a guide.
8. Movement in the Morning
[A man in his late 30s with a serious surfer vibe asks for a poem about fog. Tells me about watching the fog roll through trees while drinking his coffee that morning.]
In the morning, when the parallel is the clearest,
before the sun climbs to its point
of authority, I watch the fog slither
between the trees like drunk friends
it does not wish to wake. The fog does not wish to slide
over the ocean like the body of a new lover
who has not yet pulled it close. Then
blow the steam from my coffee
and let the fog clear from me
[a very quiet woman in her early 20s reads both volumes of work I have in front of my cart, and then watches me write for 20 min or so. She then asks me for a poem about solitude, says she does not often get out, nor does she have many friends. In the process of writing, I have a quiet and complete feeling of something coming through me. Handing the poem to its recipient felt like a psychedelic experience]
Some mornings the pale blue and blush
of the rising sky is a challenge
that I don’t feel like answering.
Some mornings the only kind of safety
that makes any sense to me is the heat
accumulated off my body through the night,
like some sash of soft darkness was laid
over me with each lightless hour
and each sash knew my sleeping body so well
that they loved each other silently, as
no one seems to know how to anymore
and to get up and leave this bed behind
is to push off of the world
this rare and quiet affection.
I promise some mornings
are worth it.
[30 year old lady asks for poem to help her boyfriend who works with a homeless services nonprofit who has chronic stress and is always like a kettle about to boil because of it.]
Perhaps you could tell…
with tense insight
about the temperament of steam.
what catalyst of liquid transition
ignites beneath us all
…you must know about this already.
The very heat that will move us
and accelerate us in our changing
can eventually come to a boil.
Where we thought we once were:
we are no longer. We become lost.
let me be for you a tray of ice cubes
to drop one by one into you
so that you may keep your heat
standing over the flame
without losing your passion
like vapor taken
by the jealous air.
11.) Remember Santa Cruz
[for one of two exchange students from Sweden who had been in Santa Cruz for three months and were boarding a plane back home the next day]
Here is one thing that I will never forget:
the way the sun here slides
over the hills in the East. And another:
the white petals that take the attention
away from each spring sky so that
a talentless poet could spend days
writing about them. The mad glare
of the boardwalk. The long neck
of the wharf. Each sleepless
night I’ve spent here I could hear
the moon complaining:
“I have spent so many evening hours
coming out early just to hang above
the same small flock of gulls for
which I have no love, nor for their
I do not listen to the moon.
Some find it hard to love what they have
before its gone.
12.) Photographs of the Ocean
[a woman who is walking with a man I assume is her boyfriend gives me flirty eyes and asks for a poem about the ocean. I write the poem and give her a private reading (standing, and giving her my seat) before she ever uses the word “brother” to refer to the man who I was desperately trying not to flirt with her in front of.]
There is a certainty in the tide that speaks
of the ocean’s conviction. I could sit
on the sand everyday: I could watch the spray
rise from the descending waves as they roll in.
I could point the camera at each sousing
and still never know what is more true of our moments:
whether time will roll through us as a
or if we are only the still odd moment
when the spray
and then caught in a frame.
13. My First Time
[I was asked for a poem about coral]
At the aquarium as a young man
I touched coral for the
Rock-sized and lost
from its home
now in my palm I thought:
this here that I hold, is
the bones of the ocean
some knuckle ruptured
and lost I hold here.
Surely the mariana
trench must miss its
knuckle. What irony
that it lost them here
in my own digits greedy clasping.
This was, of course, before I knew
how many carbon based beings
I thought were inanimate,
before I knew what we leave behind
when we die.
[a man in his early 50s asks for a six line poem about a cigarette butt on the pavement]
We all abandon pieces of ourselves somewhere.
There are times when this is metaphorical.
But that is not today’s story: today was
long in its holding of heat and slow
to submit and sink into the sunset. Today
did sink slow and I do not lament to follow its descent.
15.) The Young Gods
[for Kirby Scutter]
When Janus had children
they sprung, full grown
from his skull.
His first instinct
was to devour them.
They survived and this
is how the gods were born.
Very shortly thereafter
patricide was discussed
with a high level of seriousness,
but when the young gods
found they could not
wrench life from Janus’
they served him
with lease violations.
[a young woman asks for a poem about romantic indecision]
The 3 O’clock knows
what it wants:
the sun just shines
a wide brush of blue
over the far lifting sky
with conviction in its own
I have been chasing
an eight O’clock love
when the sky can’t wrap
it’s fingers correctly
around any hue,
and the night is a thief
around a slight corner of time
with empty beds in his pockets
and false secrets on his breath
about the hour and the color of the sky.
[a bald man asks me for a poem about cosmic compassion, never returns]
I would like the moon
to smile more often
out of compassion for those
of us below.
I would like for mankind
to smile more often:
I think we would
if we knew about the power
a compassionate act.
I have felt
in my moments of greater
grace, my whole heart
open like a sky
at night, awash with stars.
I cannot weigh my heart
the weight of all these arms.
give me more ways to reach
for another cephalopod’s
been lonely and scuttling
the bottom of the sea, just
area of aquatic affection;
for a heart like mine.
19.) What One Wants
[a couple approached me when the sky was getting dark and asked for a poem about anything. They had just left a fancy restaurant and told me it was because what they really wanted for dessert was an orange]
Somewhere in Florida a tree is lonely,
its branches without balance:
this is only one way to see this orange,
as a lost treasure, but why produce sweet
if not to give them away? Who can say
for sure that we are not made to desire
so specifically this
citrus sweetness at this time?
Who can say that there is a better way
to spend an evening then to forsake
all of the offered desserts
in favor of one’s true desire?
20.) Listen to this State
[an Indian family of five asks me (through the father as a translator) to write a poem for the grandfather, who is visiting America for the first time]
The California poppy
opens its bloom enthusiastically
to the sun like a trumpet
pushing a high note
in the borrowed color
of a monarch’s wings.
overstates its conviction
like a kitten roaring
a lion’s ferocity.
But these are the collected song
Look at the wide notes playing
in this field.
[for a self-identified “gamer couple” celebrating their one year anniversary]
How old and wonderful it is
that our minds made rules
to better be able to play.
That we did not make rules to
constrict or to bind, but bind ourselves
to rules to better fly
the desires of our minds.
[Two women ask me for a poem about money and never return to pick it up. They also do not pay me for the poem.]
I often wonder if cash
is a bad bone in the
human body. If we could remove
it and cure the disease.
Other times I want
and a villa and a few
steaks a week, new
shoes and a shirt
without holes in it.
I wake from this dream of desire
to list only that which I am able to give.
23. for Santa Cruz
[a young man from a “progressive Christian organization” asks me for a poem about love. When I encourage him to specify what kind of love, he asks for a poem of brotherly love in Santa Cruz. I later discover that him and his organization have laid out butcher paper across Pacific Ave and are asking passers-by to draw what they think love looks like]
Look, Santa Cruz
I have a great time
just hanging out with you.
You just really get me man,
like I can just say anything
to you like the tide can say
to the shore whatever truth
rolls off its roiling tongue.
When we hang out I can
honest about who I am
like the moon actually is
a pearl rolling
in the wide black bowl of the night.
I want to wear your friendship
about me like a garment woven
from our intention to ease
and invite the grace of this world
what I’m trying to say is:
I love you man.
[(after reading Vasko Popa’s “One Bone to Another” I decide to include bones in all of my morning’s poems) a woman asks me for a 10 year anniversary poem for her husband]
I imagine someday our bones
(some 40 or 60 or no more
than 100 years from now)
will have something to say
to each other.
I imagine they will turn
to each other casually
with the same knowing look
you give me now
“you held together
quite the companion.”
and my bones will blush
and in their own way
for your hand
by dispersing toward you
in the soil.
[(after reading Vasko Popa’s “One Bone to Another”) a student asks for a poem for his mentor who has just been diagnosed with a terminal cancer]
The bones, too
They are only the wick
of this oil lamp. And when this lamp tilts up
and your essence collects
it does not affect
all the wondrous change
that is inspired by your flame.
[(after reading Vasko Popa’s “One Bone to Another”) a young man asks me for a poem about an emotion he spends 20 minutes explaining]
anyone can look at October’s leaves
and say “look at these bones”
bout only a man who is bones himself
will see the way
they cast and cascade
and even in the slow wind,
(if he has become bare as well)
they are more like dead bats petrified
on extended wing.
The bountiful man may look at the same
branches and say:
“look at these buds
that are yet to be.”
27. JC Bootleggin’
[(after reading Vasko Popa’s “One Bone to Another”) a street magician who I tend to find obnoxious asks me for a poem about Jesus Christ bootlegging liquor]
I, for one,
would buy moonshine from Christ.
Something he cooked up
bootlegging in his Father’s basement.
As long as it was actual moonshine
(light from the moon)
I would go blind drinking that bone
I would go blind.
[a couple on a first date asked me for a poem. Neither had a favorite poem or poet. After getting their poem, I saw them kissing on the street corner. Success.]
went on a date with a lemur.
It was unsuccessful.
went on a date with a puppy.
It was adorable.
I went on a date
with a sociopath (this is a true
I found myself jealous
of all other conceivable
[a woman asks me for a poem for her friend who is terminally ill. She describes this woman as her sister, but explains explicitly that they are not blood related]
what bliss is implicit in “sister”
what love in me knows that even
this close name is profane for
the true feeling.
We could take dictation from
the daisy: it uses no words
to express how it feels for
the sun, but if it did, I would become
a thief and steal that word
and use it
for the ways saying “sister”
[a man who was visiting from Sacramento had his car broke down, we talked for nearly half an hour about how he could never make up his mind what to do.]
I would not bend so radically as the wind
at time I will cling to the branch
as if it were my own
But even these leaves
will travel in an unknown
direction, far from the space
they grew above
the will of the wind alone.
[a 15 year old in a group of 6 peers asks me for a poem about her boyfriend, who she has been with for three months. One of her 15 year old male makes three offhand remarks about the race of her boyfriend.]
Do me a favor:
Because your smile is softer
than the petals of the plum blossoms
you have rows of full moons
behind your lips;
part the night clouds for me.
bring the bright shine of your joy
to me. I want to share your smile
with every day of my week like a cake
too rich to eat in one sitting
I want to savor taking
my lips to it
day after day after day.
32. Inner Beauty
[a 14 year old girl asks me for a poem about inner beauty. When I ask her why, she responds that it is the reason why she would like to fall in love someday]
The principles of gravity,
the words traveling between our phones,
the wind that pulls
the petals of plum blossoms from their branches:
there are many things I cannot see.
But hidden in that invisible wind of white flutter of these petals is pulled.
We are as unable to see it at that which pulls
heavily the human heart
the unseeable and unstoppable
truth of attraction.
In the ripcurl of tide
sand and safety.
Also, in safety there is control
and also boredom
let me sail on this
let me muddle the velocity of gulls.
34. The Wolf
[a hairstylist asks me for a poem about wolves. Tells me that he asks every street poet he has ever met for a poem about wolves]
An Italian man with a fantastic white hat
once told me
that we live our lives
in the mouth
between the common man
and the brave man is
the common man tries to survive the wolf,
the brave man attempts to kill it.