in fear of feeling

in fear of feeling

After the pencil poetry
fades and yellows with time,
and gravity drags me closer to earth,
        your youth
                and innocent smile
  will live on.

After the years judge me good or evil,
and the wrongs I did for honesty's sake
            are righted or repaid,
you alone will survive unscathed.

I know that in time,
        after you go away,
I'll still remember the blue of your eyes,
              the glint off your smile,
    and that little hop-skip
      in that little blue skirt
and those dirty white tennis shoes.

the fear


I wanted to ask you
if it was difficult to die.
I had a curiosity
I'm sure you understand.

Was it like climbing
      the last twenty stairs?
  Or like taking that extra lap?
Or was it more like falling off a slide,
    or accidentally brushing
              the hot end of a kettle?

Did you labour,
  or did it just happen?
And could you feel it happening?

The questions I have about your death
                      are important.
I want to know if it hurts to die.
But most importantly,
  about your death,
              I want to know why.


One day it rained,
and the drops fell from the awnings
                      like tears.
Lovers and strangers
        trapped in doorways
felt a heavy sadness.
The lonely of the set
turned face up to the clouds
                and they smiled.

Lonely is no sin,
it only carries the stigma of one.
                            I know . . .
                    I do know.

So the lonely walk in the rain
                      sans umbrella.
It's the one time
they can cry,
  and no one is none the wiser.
I own the rain,
        and it owns me—
and I never look toward
        the sanctuary of doorways—
And when it rains . . .
  drops fell from the awnings like tears.


It's not the night
that frightens me,
or footsteps in darkened halls,
or even running in strange walkways—
          I'm above all that.
What frightens me
is the thought
of leaving
the day
you come running
          with me on your mind.


Why do yellow lights
stay with me
longer than harsh red ones?
Why do the few moments of sunset
last longer than whole tapestry
            of nighttime stars.
Why do I live on hope,
when it's despair that feeds me?
I'm not even sure why I'm asking.

Perhaps it's because
I'm beginning to forget friendly smiles,
        and beginning to remember
the tears of all the secrets sorrows
                      I've shared.

Why do we slow down at accidents?
Are we trying to catch the hooded angel
                        at work?
Why do we call skin obscene?
I'm not even sure why I'm asking.

Maybe the answers I've invented lately
haven't satisfied my restless mind.
If that's so,


A spiral abyss of blues and blacks
surround even your smile.
I have to work at being unhappy—
    I need sorrow or pain. 
But you,
it comes all so natural,
  all it seems to take
is sunlight or starshine.

     someone that you know told me
     that life begins in pain
     and the only solace that you find
     is in the silence of the rain

I wish I could have made you happy,

          I did try.
But I finally gave up
  I used my best stand-up,
    I even brought a laff-track,
and it was raining.


There are times
I catch myself running
and in turning,
  see my shadow
chasing the dreams I left behind.

At times,
I can almost see myself
flirting with rejection
cowardly holding back—
bravely holding back.

I find myself
wanting nothing less than . . .

What I need is simple—
moments with strangers,
          and memories of smiles.
    all the running
          seems worth the while.

the feeling


Two AM;
  you were four hours into dreams
and four hours away from a cloudy morning,
                    almost comfortable
with your special blanket on a sofa bed.

I was leaning against the cold metal
                of reality
  thinking of you.

Maybe it was the quiet
that caught my attention;
maybe it was the stillness.
All I know,
is that I turned to face the moon—
                      it hung dangling from the sky,
          stared at me,
and whispered your name.


I tried to forget you,
I swear I did.
It's just that . . .
the morning smells like you,
    the sun reflecting rain
  off autumn leaves
is the colour of your eyes,
and the blind hope in children
      is found in your smile.
And every song   
  and every movie
                    is for you.
How could I forget you?

The cool northern breeze
brushing my skin in this heat wave
is like your touch—
and the whistle of the wind
is your breathing.

The gods molded this world to fit you.
Everything/everyone else is scenery.

I couldn't forget you . . .
          even if I tried.


In my journey
from season to season,
I've become guilty
of manufacturing
my own rewards—
no matter how small
or how immeasurable
they may be.

In today's voyage,
I allow myself
a simple reward—
          your memory,
    and the grace of your smile.


Love may never find me again.
I may have walked away
one too many times,
      hiding for insecurity's sake.
Happiness may now play my evasive game,
and leave me a love spectator.

I've been blessed
with enough smiles in memory,
that it should last at least my lifetime
                      if not more.
And though I run the risk
of blaming love
            for every lonely midnight,
I don't miss you . . .

Until I'm caught
in the memory of your eyes.


The sun awoke
and I crawled out of sleep
  and out of a dream of you.
The day began only short hours
after the last one ended.
I rush into a circus
of young reality,
making sure to keep distance from habit.

A thousand bright coloured shoulders
                      brush by,
    and I swim upstream
with a comfortable sneer.
I know you don't belong here.
And even I've come to despise this place—
but it's where I belong.
      I'm happy in my unhappiness.

Take time to watch me.
If you look long enough,
you'll see a hint of a smile.
And when I think no one is watching,
            my eyes my take on a glow.
I'm an enigma—
                proud of being unknown.
But I want you to know me.
I want you to prove
        that I do indeed exist.


The blue of the morning autumn sky
must have been the invention
of the gods at peace.

Only the warmth
of your breath
can match the soothing
of this hue of blue
lost in early December.

It's a gift from the gods
  —this autumn blue—
and it was their inspiration
when they made your eyes.


Thin white legs
hold up the smile
I've begun to live in.
A pulled back web
of dark blonde hair
expose the face
I see in all my dreams.
Soft sharp shoulders
hold a billion sorrows
given to you
before you even learned cursive.

You don't even have to smile,
I'll form one in my invention.
      I live in your smile

You own me—
did you know that?

The other day,
I stopped to gaze into Picasso's
    old man with guitar,
and all I saw was your eyes.

. . . through all the hues of blue

for michelle

If red is really only dark pink,
then green is only dull gold.

Michelle told me that.
She was my tutor,
and I listened to her
  even when she wasn't speaking.
Michelle taught me that sunsets
would hang in the sky
as long as you lived in them,
but as soon as your mind wanders,
they disappear behind the earth.

We proved it true
watching a frozen sunset
escape when I became lost
in Michelle's eyes.

She showed me how my past
was as important as my future,
and how the present
is a compilation of both.
She gave me the gift of silence.
                  we felt at home.
I watched her cry,
    even as she smiled.

Running's fine
if you don't have to stop.

Michelle told me that
after I lost faith.
She saw disappointment and frustration
            in my laughter.
Michelle told me that one day
the whole world
will laugh and cry with me.
She never lied to me . . .
      until she said she'd never go.

Michelle would stare into a painting
until all she saw was one colour.
It's more intimate that way,
          Michelle said.
She would sit on a beach
until gulls flew perfectly
              under the horizon,
underlining her pictures.
She used to read comic books
              and hated Hemingway.
Spiderman was more real that Eg.

I could tell her my fears,
          even when she couldn't hear.

I wonder if trees grow restless,
or stones bored.

Michelle asked me that one day,
and for a time
I spent all my free moments
trying to come up with a profound answer.
When I did,
            she forgot the question.

Michelle taught me how to enjoy Sundays.
And she taught me how to cherish alone.
She showed me how to survive loneliness,
      and how to befriend quiet.

She showed me
that waking up Sunday afternoon
was far less guilty
than eating one-too-many pancakes.
I kept her advice
long after she left.
Sundays became holy to me.
I gave them as gifts.

Michelle gave me my first Sunday,
so I give her a bit of every Sunday,
      even when I'm not thinking of her.

The trouble with masturbation,
is that you can't share the chore
of cleaning up.

Michelle told me that,
and laughed at my embarrassment.
She owned love,
even when she knew it was only sex.
She had a control few have known.
The pleasure she got out of sex
was of her own making.
Michelle told you where to touch her,
      she'd touch herself.

I came in to surprise her with brunch.
  It was a Michelle sandwich,
her between another man and woman.
I watched because I was afraid
to touch myself in front the them.
They took only a second to laugh,
  then they went back to licking.

I wanted Michelle,
    even when she had everyone else.

Love cures strength.
Michelle said that
when I came too close.
And though she loved me,
she never spoke of it out loud.

I'm your weakness,
Michelle said,
as she gave what I wanted.

Love's fine,
but dreaming's safer.

Michelle would write that on everything,
as if she were trying to believe it.
She never accepted love,
unless guilt was acceptance.

You'll know when I'm leaving,
because I'll be gone.

Michelle told me that
  and one day it was true.
I missed her
  even before she left.

I'm not sure why I'm spending tonight
thinking of Michelle.
It's not the anniversary of her birth,
                our meeting,
          her good-bye,
  or her death.
Maybe it's because lately
I've had trouble holding a sunset,
or maybe I feel I'm losing Sundays,
    or maybe . . .
      I'm beginning to forget her.

Once I asked Michelle
why she didn't believe in god.
She smile at me
      and shook her head,
    as if there wasn't enough time
    to explain,
Michelle said,
  'cause if I ever got into his heaven,
                        I don't think
    he'd let me sleep-in Sundays.

for teri

I know he shouldn't have touched you.
He had no right to make you grow up
                          so young.
Other little girls cried
when dolls went undressed—
you held back tears
when all you owned was grunts and sweat.

Are you a hero for staying alive
  long after you wanted to die?
Or are you a villain for doing wrong
      when it all felt so bad?
Right now, are you sure you hate him,
or everyone who might know your secret?

I'm holding you as tight as I can,
cry as long and as hard as you need to—
I won't leave,
  I won't speak,
      I won't even breath . . .
if that's what you need.
You've suffered enough already.
So now, close your eyes,
forget the nights you washed
over and over and over again
still smelling like sin.
Try to forget his weight
crushing the breath from you.

He's gone now.
Now it's only me.
I won't take what's left of your soul.

Looking back, only hours ago,
my only crime was wanting to touch you.
I needed the feel of a warm body
the late winter night.
I would have stopped when asked.

You lay there so rigid,
reeling with every movement.
I saw the wanton in your eyes
as you looked at me,
        hurrying to look away.
The quiet . . .
  the cold . . .
      my heartbeat in my fingertips,
the one touch—
  then the rush of tears.
I stopped,
    you started crying.
I wish I would have known.

I wish I would have been there.
I would have never let someone
                hurt you that way.

Still . . .
              it's over now.
He won't touch you again.
Daddy's do love their little girls,
but some are not well.

I'm sorry you learned of love
in such a violent way.
He had no right to hurt you.
But it's really over.

If you stay right here,
    and smile with me,
I'll show you the grace of love,
I'll show you what innocence
            can prove.
I'll hold you
and be ready
        whenever you are.

As soon as you stop crying,
            you can start living.
As soon as you stop hating yourself,
          you can start feeling love.
As soon as you start to live and love,
    I swear . . .
                you'll start forgetting.

for km

Digging back into a beguiled past,
I remember a little girl named Kay.
Big blue eyes and yellow tousled hair,
eager to touch shoulders
and laugh at tall strangers—
Kay and I shared afternoon leisure.

Elementary playgrounds,
and swings on hills,
  thick bracelets used for hopscotch;
our lives moved much slower then.
Blue was only a colour
and the world was only as far
                as you could see.

A tidy little time is was,
            for me and Kay
in some little schoolyard universe.

I never told Kay about the scars
that brought me there,
or the pain and sweat
that would take me back.
That wasn't important then.

I do remember the little runs
she made when she saw my familiar sweater,
the hops and please from the swings,
            the open-mouthed laughter . . .
    and the innocent tag-play.

That's the way it should always stay,
A tidy little world for me and Kay.
Back before I knew all the hues of blue,
  back when I believed dreams came true,
back when summer and smiles
mattered more that the end of belief.
Back in a tidy little time,
                    forever and a day
with a little blue eyed girl named Kay.

for jm

I too have spent years
        waiting for Godot,
wasting hours
listening for friendly sounds
    bounding up my stairs.
I too have lost time with patience.
I am now past frustration
                        and anger.

Every time I try to walk away,
I leave
with head turned over one shoulder,
and rush back
          when inches out of eyeshot.

Even paw-steps
pull me from the deepest sleep
as I bolt up in a rented bed
just to listen to the landlord's dog
          walk past my room.

when the silence
  grows thick enough to write on
is interrupted by the phone,
      I practice my people-hello out loud
          and wait for one more ring.

    Mondays, Tuesdays, and . . .
are passing much too quickly,
and Thursdays, Fridays, and . . .
      lay down without regard.
And Sundays,
      once so revered,
  now bring on only Mondays.

I've lost more than time
      waiting for Godot.

I've even forgotten why I wait.
For a time,
all that mattered
was the reason
        he refused to show.
I've forgotten what I was to say
when he entered stage.
    For a time,
            all I knew
  was the wait.

I know that waiting isn't fatal.
In fact,
        it's probably necessary.
It's part of life.
Everyone waits for their own Godot,
but I just wait . . .
                  and wait . . .
                            and wait.

I've given up years and youth
            waiting for Godot.
Surely he'll come today.
He'll bring a reason
why he missed yesterday.
Surely he'll come today,
    and let me go on with my life.

I need to push the present aside,
and leave the past for paper.

Today I will wait,
  because with full confidence I know
that if the time comes
          that I surrender and just go,
the next day will bring a stranger,
              and stranger named Godot.

for dmc

I remember the winding road
coming up from Lake Tahoe.
The look back from the top of the hill,
and the pureness of a lake
you can see the bottom of.
I remember the little hills surrounding
the mounds of dirt that hides
the city from travelers.
I remember how the concrete
                          and neon
    seemed to grow
out of the desert sand.
And how the city
seemed to live on hope alone.

Reno holds a secret hurt,
and so for four years,
I haven't written about the city.
The memories are so vivid,
the colours are still alive.
Repainting the scene is painful,
even my subconscious
            has agreed
not to dream of that August.

I remember Reno,
but I can't talk about it now.
I'll keep that secret hurt,
  and maybe one day
let it go.

One day,
        when it's not so painful.

I will say that Reno
does hold more than one beauty.

another bird on the wire


Dirty icy water
drops through slippery gratings,
and dozens of polished heels
navigate the danger unscathed.
It's winter,
and the black ties
have agreed to meet.

Given the excuse of culture,
most were force-fed at birth
        and became connoisseurs.

Real silk and cotton cummerbunds
give harsh contrast
      to the below freezing wind
on this below freezing evening.

Dozens of polite smiles
hold fortunes of polished caps,
and purses full of plastic riches.

It's night,
and they come in droves.
They pack together—
      the bourgeois,
as if they mount force in number.

All the women
hold the tailored sleeves
of all the men,
who in standing still,
need the security
          of the one more check
          to see if the beeper's on.
They smile
and turn nose up
to the Chinese beggar on the corner.

It's by birthright
they ignore the hungry
and fancy the ballet.
But I know
all men are still equal,
because on that corner,
the two classes met.
And though the blessed walked away,
both beggars and bourgeois
fought the frost from their ears,
                        and the women
were sporting dirty icy water spots
splashed on their pure white hose.


It was the biggest trial
in the history of West Virginia.
A million million people
sat in the hundred room courthouse
            breathing as one.
The defendant was brought in
        under heavy guard
and under the hungry eyes
of a million million blood-seekers.

This gentle black man
        looked incapable
of petting a cat too hard,
much less slicing apart
his mother and father
with a straight razor.

They found him
watching Cosby
still stained in blood.
His sister took the stand,
and out of order, she yelled,
"Why the fuck didn't you
  just kill yourself?"

He didn't answer.

He just sat,
surrounded by guards,
as if alone,
and drew a five-point star
on a yellow legal pad,
      and outlined it
  over and over
until he had cut through three pages.

It was before the drama had ended,
          and across the country,
  in an empty California field,
another man shot a silver bird
out of the sky,
killing himself
and forty-three others,
making it the largest mass-murder
in United States history.

The million million courtroom strong
took off west
proving once again,
that humans are only human,
      as they searched for more gore.


Sleigh bells
        and Christmas lights,
and Matt Monro on soundtrack.
It's winter,
and the new snow
only brings back memories
of short skirts
            and bare feet.

The cold is bearable,
              the wet,
    and the comfort of warm
is the only reward
left in this dead season.

For those who crave colour,
winter brings only white—
allowing the chance to invent
              new colours.

it's not a place for those alone,
        much less the lonely.


I know that I am not Dante,
    and I know that you are not Beatrice.
But I do live on hope.

All I asked from you
was to let me write for you.
I guess even that was too much
Your life is well planned;
you have all your sorrows scripted.
You don't need my guilt.

Beatrice died not knowing of Dante's love.
And I still secretly write for you.
I know you will never share my pen,
      but I do hope.


The pain began in his right knee,
and quickly made it's way
to both of his brilliant wrists,
  killing the heart in between.
He lay there,
  open-mouthed in death,
              his oversized mustache
seemingly even more grotesque.

So ended the career of a gentle giant,
now the legend can be born-again.
Even distracters seldom follow a corpse.

If sport is art to the layman,
then this man lived as a Van Goth
unappreciated and misunderstood,
until death stilled his genius.

He died in his own sweat,
being born again to his Christ;
    following his father by months.

It was such a common death
to one who commanded so much spotlight.
Ironic being named Pistol,
and living a life under the gun.

But life is sometimes ironic,
but because of him,
  some kid somewhere,
    alone on a concrete court,
can spend hours entertaining himself,
  and dribbling between his legs,
dreaming of glory,
                      deep inside
knowing the sweat . . .
      can sometimes be worth the pain.


The doctor gave her the thirteen letter
medical word trying to explain what happened.
One in one point five million,
        he said,
                fancy that.
Your baby was formed without a brain.
It's alive right now,
using your brain to pump the heart
                      and move.
And it could born like a normal child,
but it couldn't live.
You see,
            modern medicine
gives us the ability to check for a brain.
              isn't it?

She cried
and her husband kissed her
                    and cried too.

She began the third trimester
      gushing in altruism.
I want to give away
all the parts of my baby,
      she told the doctor.
I want to give the heart,
    the lungs,
  and everything else.
Some other baby might need them.
It can happen,
                can't it?

    the doctor said,
  the pregnancy and birth
would be normal.
Of course, it would mean that
you must carry a dead baby
for three more months.

Now all her tears were gone.
She had a reason for her misfortune.
  She still cried,
        but she had purpose.

She was to give some other mother
a chance to hold a crying child,
  and to feel the warmth
of a hungry mouth at her breast.
She would let some other woman
cry with happiness.
Her baby was to die
to let some other live.
        It was a fair trade.

Full term,
  doctors stood around with scalpels
      and jars of clear fluids.
She went under with a smile.

When she awoke,
her doctor told her
that her baby had been diseased—
        that no part was salvageable.
There was no way of knowing,
            damn unlucky too.

She began crying again.

So unselfish,
    and so sad.
                        Imagine . . .
            her baby died twice.


It had hung
on the wire long enough—
the cold became victor.
In the dead of silence,
          gravity prevailed,
  and it fell to earth.
Flecks of snow
gently covered the sparrow
who had died ungently
      and in the quiet.
A freezing wind
ate beneath the flesh
of all living things
and ignored the dead.

Somewhere beneath the wire,
a frozen sparrow lay,
untouched by even the long-haired cat
                who dashed by,
  leaving the dead bird
to be buried
              by what killed it.

into the harvest moon

Last night,
I was owned by the harvest moon.
Standing on a ledge,
  two hundred feet off the ground,
I was awed by size.
The moon flashed behind the earth
                    for just an instant,
causing a cut corner,
              and I thought of you.

who is full of life,
    stand face up,
shrugging off reality
    with a pen.

So you want to write.
Just remember to untie honesty.

a poet records the heart,
not changes the world.
paper reflects only you.
You can't close your eyes
      in your own mind.

I want you to know
that storytelling
is a noble profession,
and to own to the talent,
far outweighs
the need to feel the strokes
                  of the pen.
Know that.

So you want to be a writer,
well . . .
        remember the honesty,
            the burden,
    the rush of ecstasy . . .
  and the depth of despair.
You can't write wine,
until you taste the nectar.

So you want to be a writer.
        Write on, I say,
  go and write on.

I had a friend
who wanted to be a writer,
but he refused to accept
    the sacrifice of living.
He fought
pen and paper
    until he created war.
Even his thoughts corroded.

To write,
you have to digest this world
                  at every wink;
you have to feel other's tears
            on your face,
and you have to swell at local heroes,
  who walk without accolades.
To write,
you have to own nighttime,
                paint mountain midnights,
        taste cold streams,
  and crush hot sand underfoot.
You have to create dusk,
      and surrender dawn.
You have to own every inch of this earth,
        but walk away,
                  giving it to others.

So you want to be a writer.
Remember the open mouth laughter
        between night and day,
  and the hollow echo of lonely.
This is your reward.
Writing is your crucible.

My friend,
    who wanted to be a writer,
          was telling me about life.
He told me
that what he writes,
              he becomes.
I tried to tell him
that he must be what he writes.
He didn't understand.

So you want to be a writer.
Write what you know,
    not what you want to know.
It's easy to read lies.

Life is a lesson,
  and one that I want to give to you,
though the eyes sees what it pleases,
man cannot lie
      while staring at the moon,

So you want to be a writer.
I want to write also.
I know you have the talent.
            You've been blessed
      with the ability
            to read the soul.
I want you to write forever.

It is a graceful existence.
You get to own sunsets,
  and give memory as a gift.

    and write on.
            Go and swallow life.
But go with my blessings,
        my lessons,
and the power of the harvest moon.

in fear of feeling  (reprise)

Unguarded fluorescent lights
bounce off the blue of your eyes
leaving you with a smile
                    and my heart.

You stand against the crutch
of a plastic chair
watching me
                  toward you.
It's a gravity you own with me.
I have trouble walking upright.

The heels click click behind us,
as others walk away;
my heart thump thumps
lost in your eyes.
                      . . . And you—
      you stand there smiling
battling unguarded fluorescent lights
  with the batting
                of your blue eyes.


If a cloud were to fall to earth,
and the sky were to cover you for warmth,
and the seas crash
              rhythm and rhythm
I doubt still
I'd be content enough
          to watch you sleep.

I want/need to dwell between your thighs,
                and breath you.
I want to tremble at your breasts,
and have you stroke my hair
until my heart beats once an hour.
I want to match you breath for breath
and follow frenzy with calm
sucking air
  letting our blood slow down
    as we fall into the warm swell
                        of our sweat.
I want to shake you awake
with my tongue,
      and grab the coloured lights.

If God were to construct my heaven,
    it would have to be with you,
                and what we'd do
after I watched you sleep.