…well half way through the year of writing poems and as the title of it suggests it’s more of a harnessing if anything else






Whispering Hope


we’ve all prayed

we don’t call it that

not with fingers crossed

but we talk with ourselves

sometimes in tears alone

in laughter to savor the

moment and is there an in-

box to all those prayers how

full would it be and

we sing songs and it helps

a troubled soul with the mystery

we all feel at once








I’m doing something wrong right now

I just don’t know it

sometimes I know and I

still do it wrong but to who

am I accountable if the mistake is

premeditated and really all the countless

things I do that could be right

or could be wrong it is my knowledge

which makes it so… and yours too

but it doesn’t add up that way

in fact put enough people together

and no one’s wrong except

the person who says they’re right

so in a way this really isn’t

a bad poem–at least not

that I’m aware of




a picture’s worth…


she was sitting on the floor

when I dropped off the girls

from school on my way to work

her legs out in front of her

looking at pictures from our marriage.

Delilah quickly undressed and ate

a Jonathon apple on the new couch

while Bell found the DVD slideshow

she made of our wedding photos

set to an instrumental of Pink Floyd’s

“wish you were here”. I put it in

the PlayStation for her it didn’t take long

to watch laughter and comments

to the pictures as they passed

on the screen… In some of the

photos we looked happy

the children at various ages

in our arms different places–

Montana Texas New Orleans

her hair always different.

I’m pretty much always

holding a beer or a cigarette

or both. sometimes I wish

my eyes were on a different face…

I went to work what else

could I do the DVD ready again

for Bell to press play and tonight

when I go home the pictures

won’t be there but they gave me

a moment and they say a moment

of realization is worth a thousand





sempre libera


I used to like overtures to operas

in high school I’d go to the mall

to the music store and buy 99 cent

tapes the popular ones at first like

Tannhauser but I didn’t go for

German opera much not Wagner

not Beethoven not Mozart (Austrian really but

who cares) I liked the Italian opera

Verdi and Rossini and it followed

in college in New Orleans they offered

an evening intro to opera class

where you just sat in the theatre

the lights out a full movie screen with

sub-titles surround sound and we watched

The Magic Flute by Ingmar Bergman–

it sounded like God… it was on Wednesdays

and I called it Wednesday wino night because

I walked up to the corner of Broadway

and Claiborne and bought cheap wine–

Night Train, Ripple, Thunderbird–the kinda

wine that works good as a paint-thinner

but anyway I digress the fact of

the matter I listen to opera now

as much as I play golf so Bukowski

can shove his Shostakovich up

his ass I know the fucker wouldn’t know

what to do on a back road which is why

fine writers need to get out of cities

and get lost somewhere it’s good

sometimes to get lost and scared

out in nature with no man-made signs

to take a narrow un-paved road where

you don’t know where it leads to be by yourself

with no assurances so when you find

the highway and turn the radio

on and you tune into classical

music you know when it’s La

Traviata the end of Act One




a writer writes


so all I have to do

is finish act 3 and be

done with it the structure

simple enough a boy acting

as RA helps someone on his dorm

floor in college with an attempted

suicide after taking a bong hit

of spice a girl (interested in

him of course) acting as

intermediary in his call

to action while he meanwhile

shows an on-line infatuation

for girl in New York who offers

him a job to do some coding

on one of her latest painting

projects all he knows of her

what’s on social media–her

Facebook posts–that’s the plot

but I don’t write in plots

I need an idea to talk about first

sometimes it comes from reading

other writers but the best lines come

when you hear them in your head

almost like there’s someone else

there and it takes years to learn

to discern but only a moment to listen…

anyway when I’m done with act 3 there’s

still 3 more stories to Catadoupe and last

night I found my ninth cat–he comes

to her at night when she sits on her

back stoop smoking my weed all black

yellow eyes a bad hip but he likes

to be petted and she calls him Tom–

act 3 then 3 more stories to write

but sometimes it’s so much better up

there in my head before I type it

with my fingers it’s mine for a moment

without the silence of judgment

and the loud noise of my own

failed expression





(why my ex-wife thinks she’s saved

and looks forward to church on Sundays

while she smokes my weed living solely

on food stamps and child support)


yesterday I spoke my mind

and she paraded me out

in front of my children in an

apartment I pay rent for… if

there’s anything that turns us away

from God it’s looking at each other

with our own eyes and not seeing

what God sees but this we have to

imagine and we call it faith and what

we see with faith we call love

and that all sounds real nice

until somebody who loves you

hates you which is merely a matter

of timing… hatred is practical in how

it erases everything you loved about

the person before and I don’t know

why we have to bring God into it

like some sort of referee because

if there’s one thing I’ve learned

from my children you can’t have

a game if you don’t play by the rules

but everybody makes up their own

rules when it comes to God and love

and loss and unless you side with

the devil obviously you know

which side God’s on and maybe

that puts it all in order for you

when you settle your affairs

and you pray for your enemies

at night–pray for them to quit

drinking… but who said salvation

is a comparison?






speaking in strains not

in economics though I heard

our town is opening a medical

marijuana dispensary employing up

to a dozen workers good news

for those with cards but i didn’t hear

about that until after what i saw

on my way to the launder mat

the mailman walking up my street

with a large white parcel in his bag.

i was going to put my clothes in

the dryer, and i said to myself, Hmm

and proceeded the few blocks to the

launder mat where two cop cars

were in the parking lot. i drove by

slowly, and again I said to myself, Hmm

and drove back to my place sure enough

the white parcel in my box return address

from Washington–top shelf Granddaddy

Purple frosty in the light–165 an oz.

i threw away the mylar and vacuum

packaging taking a quick hit

from the bong before going back

to the launder mat the cops gone

but an irate black woman with an extra

wide ass talking down her man

while washing pillow sheets and

upholstery–something about he lost

his job… i just pulled my clothes

out of the dryer while i heard him

sitting in a massage chair a recorded

female voice saying repeatedly,

Please Insert Money. last i saw

of him he was walking across the

street to the Dollar General… i

went home rolled a fat one

and finalized the order on Abraxas,

releasing the bitcoin funds

to the vendor. as for feedback i said,

top shelf bud at a midgrade price

and fast shipping (it was marked

as shipped on Columbus day) i also said

i almost want to keep it a secret

but then nothing real is ever kept

a secret it’s just not profitable just like

where I heard about the marijuana

dispensary– economies need their






Stoned Blind Love


I look and you tell me

what you want I don’t

have to look closely

and see myself but

I try to tell you that I

matter when all of us

do stilled by the ancient

waves of greed and fear

and what you don’t regret

erodes the rock of last

grasped reflections fused

by the sun and hourglass

the passing gravity

in every grain of sand



And Hell Followed With Him


yesterday we went on a walk

between pounds hollow and

rim rock after a hike through

the garden of the gods the mist

rising up around the rocks in

a light rain the colored leaves

falling all around us in the wind

and just before ox-lot cave we

heard a snapping noise and I

thought it was behind us but

then I saw her scream Move!

as the rotted limb of a tree branch

high above us on the rock face

made heavy by the rain fell the

dry dust of its diameter at least

four inches the length several

feet and I had no time to look up

helpless as the pieces of wood

fell on my children in moments

that just seconds before had been

peaceful reflections of the forest

I try to protect Bell as more wood

fell but a branch glances off her arm

a limb lands on Delilah’s back the

cries of pain come… luckily we are

not alone other people hear our

children cry saw what happened

the panic passes the injuries minor

but we turn around and wonder on

the walk back did it happen for a

reason fathoming all kinds of

scenarios as the rain comes down harder

maybe twenty years from now Bell

will hear that sound the recognition

giving her the half second to save

her youngest child from certain

death or maybe it was just a few

distractions in our day that made us

arrive that moment in the path

anyway we go to pizza hut and I

feel like a wet dog from the woods

but my children are alive if bruised

they are in my bed now and now

if I could get rid of the fleas from

getting rid of the cats life would be

good but then everything is

significant you just can’t hold on

to it you have to let it flow through

you and try not to go insane



requiem for a dream


as you get older there is

no crisis only acceptance

and extraction but there is

no sadder thing than seeing

a woman get old the hollow

shell of her former self

succumbing to the symptoms

of a drug-induced psychosis

just to fit in a red dress again

no help from the protocols

of our mental institutions

curling in the fetal position

to cope and when you see it

all you can do is cry

and hold one another

always depending on the

kindness of strangers

over the delusion and

deprivation what gets lost

in screams under water

and catatonic eyes waiting

at the bus stop on your way

back home


be careful of something that’s just what you want it to be


and it’s not about profit some say it’s the smart people ain’t nice now why is that?

Bukowski said go all the way where the feasts are promised Shit…

I’ve lived with my mom as the father of two girls lived with bugs in places so roach-infested they swarmed everytime I made a pot of coffee bankrupt, divorced, at 38 all my belongings could fit in a Ford Fiesta on high interest– that’s as far as I went and I still live on an American diet

never cared about the money til I didn’t have it then I saw a price to the poem got a job as a civil servant and began to repay my debts

all the time talking to myself though, figuring, keeping score: 8 books roughly 2600 pages around 750,000 words I’m 39 now and that’s what I got just about beat Shakespeare and about half way to the big dogs of the last century– need about 16 books roughly 5200 pages around 1.5 million words Faulkner got there at 62 Hemingway, Steinbeck almost and Kerouac burned like a Roman Candle–got there at 47… but what does it profit a man? what does it profit me?

a smart man knows the measure of a man’s happiness are the limits of others and God wouldn’t it be nice if someone just took a look at you knew your soul with immeasurable pity and love and understanding– that’s what we want to be loved for who we are

herein lies the catch adjudicating cleverness because something somewhere made us all and who you are to be loved we make ourselves

yes something somewhere made all of us but without judgment so that our victories and defeats are at the hands of each other

and this all of this merely to prove something to prove how smart you are

and that’s about as dumb as it gets the victories the defeats makes you almost want to say: ah the hell with it I’ll just get fat and sing the blues…

the truth is we all want something sacred I’ll be 40 soon and whatever made and loved and pitied me keep me from touching it any further





so the phone rings

but the person to cover it

is off getting a flu shot…

you know when jesus

got angry it was




we sing and we hear

and it’s all fine talk


even the church has been

contemporized into The

american dream


may the Lord bless you

and you could almost cry

about how good you are

you follow all the rules

well, at least most

of them


all that to save it cheaper

on a trash bag… ya boy

and do you really plead

dumb or just leave it

for the other person to fix?


every trap effective is simple

and every reverse trap is

simpler still and so he said


i will make you fishers

of men… but if you go

to the poor even they know

God don’t like ugly and

there are many dead

who think they’re born again


and so the devil laughs

at his existence







and who is God for the heart

is a lonely hunter is it that mute man

who listens only to commit suicide

some say it was Robinson

Jeffers or maybe Ingmar Bergman

no no you got it all wrong man

keep it simple to the masses

it was Elvis Mr. Mojo Risin’ that first

time you heard the white album

and saw Van Gogh in a song

and maybe none of us have time

for that sermon on the mount

listening to our wallets

too busy harried overwhelmed even

in finding something authentic but really

when we compare daddies

none of them talk back

when they’re dead



the deer hunter


i saw it and didn’t understand

then i saw it when i bought

a big screen tv and i still

did not understand so flipping

channels last night after

work at the VA

i watched again a man

crying in hospital pajamas

when the doctor asks him his parent’s

names discharged to oriental

streets where no one answers

the phone and prostitutes turn tricks

in front of their children

and gunshots call to back parlor games

of russian roulette– he was a good

man wounded and given the right

nudges and like a soldier

he missed his friends…

i didn’t watch the rest what no one

understands about coming

home after coming to yourself

in a dark wood where

the straight way is lost

i was hungry and source code

was on fx












supersize me


there’s gotta be a math

to how much you’ll pay

for what you’re already

getting but you want

just a little bit more.







ritz crackers with peanut butter


maybe I forgot to mention

there’s birdshit in the bottom

of my mailbox so when the

mailman comes he tries to

close the lid even when I

have parcels of weed but

the bird droppings are still

there just like the terror and

the trap that we know what

we can’t possibly know and

have come back as gods

with the knowledge of eden

and we act on this almost as if

the expression matters even

when no one you know hears

and the crumbs stick to the

roof of your mouth



writers block


so many things i could

write about


like the daywrecker lollipops

arrived perfectly in the mail

on Halloween–155 mg of THC

in lemon and tangerine


the difference in a body high

and when it hits the head


cerebral mellifluence

forgetting by the world forgot

and so i ask myself


why put it down?

for is the expression heard

did it reach you

did it engage your mind?


truth is it’s not Halloween anymore

nor All Soul’s Day

nor All Saint’s Day

and Veteran’s Day has passed


but my car door still ain’t fixed

and i still might have flea eggs

and it’s time to get a new badge

at work–fingerprinted again

and a new picture of myself


three years of my time to the VA


but what else in those 3 years?

the psalmist was finished

catadoupe is 350 pages

not that numbers mean anything

in the measure of quality


but break it down

day by day


I write and

I share and

I rely on metrics

to tell me someone’s listening

but when the phone rings

it’s always a telemarketer

and you can read my mail

the money goes out that way

it doesn’t come in


so why should i do it?

to prove something?

to who?



i used to never understand

why writers were seduced by

the bottle so many words

to forget you said so much time

spent alone but i know

i’ll look back on my life

with no regrets for the work

no doubts that it’s good

and i’ll drink not

because justice wasn’t done

but because justice isn’t

for if i ever heard

my voice come back

to me


i still wouldn’t like

the way it sounded




the bite of the tarantella


it makes sense that ugliness

is proud in how it can handle



you see your beauty

marred in the mirror by it

when you walk away

with last words

for yourself

to greet the day


those things

you tell yourself, but


tell me–

when was the last time

you hurt because you hurt?


when was the last time

you thought of your old mother

the tears your dead father cried

a child discovering they’re alone?


dissatisfaction with your

position or your place

is a matter of who you’re lined

up with at the moment

but what will you do

to be picked to win?


many atrocities are committed

because it’s comfortable

or rather

I’d rather you be


not me


and like a child fading in the mirror

we leave what we cannot control

we leave father mother

and one day a lover will remember

gossamer strings are seen

especially in calm clear weather

floating tiresomely

in the convulsing colored background

of what’s condemned to fall



la forza del destino



not a bad day so far

i woke up at 6:11

with my children

and spoke to them softly

to open their eyes


dropped them off with the ex

at work at 7 an outpatient

blood draw at 8:15

but other than that a quiet day

in the lab


wrote a poem

excused myself for a bad

contact and a short commute

home on the back porch

drank a beer


came back wrote another

poem in time for lunch

fuck it let the type and screen

sit no wax in the mail

but i made fresh cartridges

drank two more beers


took a few hits from the bong

not sure which strain

could be the dutch treat or

the sfv og kush not as

sticky as when it came in the mail

and you may wonder why


i talk so prevalently about

underground activities as a

government employee and it’s because

at around 2:57 i’ll walk out

of here and unless i see my children

nothing visceral will come

of this poem and besides i just


spilled piss on my glove from

a could be pregnant veteran

but she wasn’t



raise no more devils than you can lay down


nostalgia can come alone

or with someone maybe after

you have children it’s easy

to forget that sixteen candles

sort of feeling of being unnoticed

not important… you say

hix calix and pass on

the mantle of histrionics

mixed with hormones

remembering now how


they say nothing burns

in hell except the self

and shyness is a form

of pride for if you feel

like no one notices you

you’re obviously noticing

yourself then


this too passes

so when you wake up

on a Sunday morning

the darkness already gone

but the dream-like quality

still there you play your part

in the peepshow ready

to perform as soon as

somebody puts a coin in


is there something going on

when the lights are out and

the curtains closed?

when the stone has not

been lifted?

am i only alive

when you read me?


it’s a pity i have such low

self-esteem but it’s how

the writing gets done

and if all you think i’m doing

is selling my panties

for a sniff maybe you need

another roll of quarters




like fish in a barrel


i went to tulane university

on an AFROTC scholarship

in physics

i double-majored in

mathematical economics

i think i had about a 3.3 GPA

i was good at math

but didn’t excel in it

half the time i showed up

still drunk for class

it costs over sixty grand a year

to go there now (that’s about

what i make in a year if you

count my VA disability)

my military assignment

was classified but i

quickly drank myself

out of that

i wrote my first book

when i was 25

i finished Lazarus

just before my 33rd birthday

i’m forty now and you can say

i’ve written about 8 books

depending how you look at it

do you count the children’s stories?

the original Salted with Salt?

maybe since Lazarus and The Psalmist

are both over 700 pages they count

for the picture books and revisions… anyway

i have no student loans and i’ve made

less than a hundred dollars in royalties

the past 18 years, and oh i have

two daughters…

so when i show up for doughnuts

at work on a Sunday morning

i’m the only one at the breakroom table

with a private education and a few

novels under my belt and if there’s

one thing i’ve learned in all my travels

people only see differences

in a good way

when you’re dead

and what they don’t understand

is quickly understood how they

can understand it and really

only stupidity asserts itself…

so what i’ve found if

i shoot straight

you assimilate

and pretend to never be the bait

and then they say you’re just

like us and they’ve got you

the only true measure

whether the water

has salt in it or not




the standard model


you see we try to fit things

in our measurement

but the bell theorem

states an inequality

about local realism

does it collapse

to our consciousness

or is there a counterfactual


but whether you ascribe

to a Copenhagen interpretation

or think of many worlds

there’s still a spooky action

at a distance

the sad thing we don’t know

how to communicate

information by it

with relativity making

any sense

but I used to have

a pickup truck

and dialectics

come by the dozen

and when it comes

to gravity and my penis

all I gotta say

is hubba hubba hubba hey









run with the hunted


I eat and clothe

myself and I search for

shelter from the storm

by the sweat of my brow

to your labor

the rules of civilization

saying I shake

hands while making

eye contact

a blink not the same as a wink

and a smile the sublime

crooked attraction

of a howl



outlaw women


should I talk about Rosie

who saw plenty of dinkers

in her day running the bars

of east Texas how she raised

my ex wife waking up cursing

how she lives with one

of her sons now a pill

habit the constipation

a chore Jake the grandson

dead on a overdose and

Ellie her liver shot trying

to raise her daughter’s son

because she can’t get off

the heroin and so like

evolutionary algorithms

in a computer the generations

self-optimize learning how

they’re built but awareness

doesn’t help for the

father in between









today revisited yesterday


Mephistopheles met Methuselah

in the Quick-E Mart the other day

and like one old man to another

they discuss their bids on eBay

‘it’s a beautiful world’

‘it’s a wonderful life’

they say plangent and sincere

‘been a while since I’ve seen you here’

and not sure what else to say

not sure what either has become

it’s regular kismet when

they reach for the same

brand of chewing gum




Oedipus wrecked


the sun and breeze

right i thought

what is the sum

of me and how do i

express it

but all i could think about

was the sick shit

i had this morning

the gray clay kind

cherry red with my blood

and i look back unsalted

to an idea of a sweet

innocent boy

and wonder what the

hell happened

what protects me now

the lost honor

of what i watch

die every day

so when i have those

beer shit blues

i crack open another

word problem

and i never come down

even when in the end

a woman becomes

a mother her father’s




Just One More


There was a time

Before mirrors where

All you had was your reflection

In water

And faces scratched out

In drawings of one another–

Surfaces enticing us to eat


People fish in bars

With beer and Jameson

Chased with pickle juice

And when “Don’t Mess

With My Toot Toot”

Becomes the theme song

The neon calendar always

A day ahead

You realize the Touch Tunes

App for the jukebox

Is an artificial trick

As in fly fishing


Sammie and Sue

Owners who day drink now

Since the kids are grown

Sophie the puppy bulldog mascot

Sammie ex-phone communications

For MCI Sue a great short order

Cook for the grill

The house paid the bar

A nice investment for early

Retirement the food great

Live music leaving something

To be desired though

Sammie’s auditions

Tedious with versions

Of “Oh Black Betty…”

The only recourse left

A DJ–Music in Motion

Of mostly bad black rap…

But Sue likes “Heathens”

And Twenty-One Pilots

Used to be Christians

So that’s alright


And of course there are names

For the bartenders all good

Girls (according to Sue)

Or at least they come back

And don’t steal from the register

With their stories

Names for the regulars too

All of them connected

God it must suck to grow up

In a small town Rural King

Next door and with that six

Degrees of separation you can’t

Walk into anyplace without

Someone knowing you and who

You know the cliques the fleeting

Alliances ignorant close-minded

Proud of coal mines packing

Their conceal and carry

And it’s like pulling teeth

To claim their intelligence

In all their name games

So I won’t name them


It’s funny though

How easy it is to start a fight

But like babies they don’t know

How to apologize so when

They announce they want

To punch you in the mouth

You just want to take them

By the back of the head

And bash their nose into

Their brain pan casually

As they sit next to you

On a bar stool

Because as my ex-wife

Said I can be one mean

Son of a bitch but I prefer to use

My mind over muscle

And that’s what really always

Pissed her off and everybody else

When all can’t be forgiven


Love is to blame

For all the shit though

In all those mirrors

All those reflections in water

In beer and shot glasses

In the faces scratched out

Of drawings

And it’s always just

One more

One more day

One more year

One more life

One more death

The drinks don’t take

Away the memories…

And that’s the bottom line






The agape of age

Young to modern times

Says the Hallmark cards

Of love just turn

In five years to giving up

Your house so why not

Skip to it and save

The trouble because

What is absent

Is present

The significance

Eluding to mystery

Mystery becoming desire

Where there is no trust

Only power in gained

Knowledge gained first

And all things end

Badly otherwise they never

End which is always why

We do it again

Seduction’s power in surrender

Exorcising our demons in

vulnerabilities Angels singing

To hell with it anyway

For there is no life

After love only helium

Voices strong enough

Making it easier (to remember)

To vibrate with the twang

Of the arrow and the snap

Of the bow




Pinch Penny


Before Christmas

(before the cards to hang

on the fridge the obligatory

gifts which might need

a receipt)

an undercover DEA

agent asked me after

telling me are you:

Elf on a Shelf?

Frank the Greek

grandparent owner

eating his diabetes

diet with a wink

reminiscing on yellow

page ads he used to

send out to SIU

students since the bar

opened in the eighties

(before me and after my dad’s

alumni time)

of course the wink

no surprise in the calumny

of regulars looking at

the specials asking

in Spanish instead of Greek


and as old men I tell them

to read the newspaper

winter break over

the textbooks read in

time for the spring

semester refund and

if they only knew

(evil is good

doing nothing) For

Now it’s a matter of

coupons to court dates

not an I ain’t stepping

out as a father

like Frank’s wink

to a father meant stepping

in–the withdrawal always

(an improvised rap a sidekick to)

the plan for the dream

the dollars and sense

like a bad penny

for your thoughts



Ex’s and Ohs


What can I say

I still love the bitch

From stealing my keys

To stealing my mail

Eating my KFC with

The children after another

Novel finished then

Kicking me out of the house

The coldness of her storms

Still make my balls wet

The seeds of other men

Real or not a bother but once

You ain’t a virgin you can’t be touched

For the very first time anyway

And those Bette Davis eyes

Aren’t a large insult

To her face… the orders

Of protection laughable if

They didn’t hurt so much

Because once you have

Children together it’s never

Really over… And here I am

Heading to Greensboro

Willing to come back for court

Dates and visitations

And if she were willing–

A dogwood flower for her hair,

Charm bracelets for our daughters




Not Everybody Likes Us

(but I drive my dog wild)


Well it’s a Wednesday

and I woke at 7 to the

Thump Thump Thump

of Rosie’s tail as she lay

curled up next to me

her head on my chest

already looking at me

ears pointed eyes subdued.

I’m taking her back to the

Humane Shelter today.

She kept me company over

the winter break my one

semester at SIU complete

after sort of keeping to the plan

ending more than three years

at the VA turning in

my resignation to become

a traveler again the relationship

with the ex-wife always

what it always is—

hot and cold.

I thought long and hard

about taking her with

to North Carolina

she’s just too damn wild

and skittish she’s practically

chewed up all Delilah’s dolls

and Bell’s toys (she has deer

antler to chew on it just

ain’t enough for her) and I

can leave the back door open

she won’t go–too afraid of the

noises the forklifts going to and fro

through the gates at Rural King

next door… it’s a sad thing–losing

a dog because in this case

Losing is a matter of giving

her up–a dog like a woman,

a dosage of drug and

you better keep to the prescription

for doting turns to withdrawal

when you don’t give

it the attention she needs

puppies need to play

and if you sit out the dance

out of breath for lack of cardio

a trinket peddler in Bethlehem

told me once: What happens

to dogs in a closed room?

The shelter opens at twelve

thirty. No one likes

Goodbyes not even

dogs but if I owned anything

at all maybe it was her love

for a while her smile blessed

with the absence of

anticipation and memory… I

wish we could be like that–

blissfully unaware of whether

someone likes us or not

and sure they read auras

but time in dog years

easily forgives mistakes



Jason Akley

Professor Michael Humphries

English 455

12 December 2016


The Just Judges

This paper will explore the pathologies of pride in the character Jean-Baptiste Clamence—his tragic flaw, his Janus aspect, and in Aristole’s designation of the tragic flaw (hamartia) how even lofty characters are just like us—tragic despite their virtues, not because of their vices, and whether the stolen painting of “The Just Judges” merely exposes his hypocrisy or reveals how his “fall” can happen to all of us. First duplicity as revealed in The Fall will be examined, as shown through the confession of Jean-Baptiste Clamence (the Janus aspect of Clamence, how choice is the moment of actualization, and whether there are two worlds/two truths). Then the duality of experience and reflection will be discussed (how this relates to why Camus decided to write The Fall the way he did, the distinction between truth and falsehood, and if this distinction is relevant when Clamence reflects on his own memories). Finally, the merging of appearance and reality into the same thing will be explored (the fact the painting of “The Just Judges” is real, the symbolism of the location of Amsterdam and the doves, and how sometimes these meanings can be illusive yet complement each other).

The character of Jean-Baptiste Clamence definitely has a Janus aspect. In his jaded confession to the reader (in this case an unknown listener over the period of five days at a bar in Amsterdam) he reflects on his prior self-confident life as a prominent lawyer in Paris, and now his subsequent life as a “judge-penitent”, displaying a different kind of self-confidence—a rather dubious reinterpretation of his prior life. In Paris as a defense lawyer he is neither judge nor judged, and he’s a success. Clamence is not unreflective of this fact (he clearly knows what he’s doing), and that is the nature of his pride, but he maintains his innocence and doesn’t foresee his possible failure and vulnerability. He doesn’t take seriously the palpable presence of jealousy. Nor does he understand that eventually he will be judged, by others and himself.

In Amsterdam, he gives himself up wholly to self-condemnation, and in a sense through this mechanism still tries to define his superiority over others. His experiences and reflections of this are not complementary. Instead they contradict.   Despite references to where he is now he is rather oblivious to his surroundings, living heavily on gloomy reflection and embittered thinking. Far from him, as Solomon points out (200-201) is Queen Jocasta’s philosophy—“Best to live lightly, as one can, unthinkingly.”   His reflections in Amsterdam see his former seemingly innocent and noble life in Paris as a sham, and he uses metaphors to display this “double” life. He tells us if he had a business card it would be Janus-faced, with the slogan “Don’t rely on it.” In other words, on one side is the apparent face of innocence and nobility, the other side is the Amsterdam devil. After his revelations in Paris he tells us he looked in the mirror and his smile was “double”, the duplicity referring to his hypocrisy, that he is guilty while claiming innocence, and his selflessness is really motivated by self-interest and vanity. Perhaps Camus is pointing out to his reader, and to himself, we all have this image in the mirror.

What Clamence realizes and as he confesses to his listener is we do have a choice, and this choice defines us. We must look into this mirror and we never stop looking. Each time we look we might see something else we didn’t see before, but this reflection is already in the past, and instead of forever chasing it (as Clamence does—Camus ends the novel quite brilliantly: Brr…! The water’s so cold! But let’s not worry! It’s too late now. It will always be too late. Fortunately!) one must face this abyss of self-knowledge and laugh at oneself—something Clamence unfortunately is really unable to do. Udoff in his introduction to the collection of essays on Kafka’s contextuality, “Abysssus Abyssum Invocat” (roughly translated the deep calls the deep or hell calls hell) illuminates this form of exile and points out referencing Kierkegaard’s Either-Or the depiction of choice as a moment of self-actualization, the interplay of self and word, play and oath (xxviii):


… the experience of choosing imparts to a man’s nature a solemnity, a quiet dignity, which never is entirely lost… So when all has become still around one, as solemn as a starlit night, when the soul is alone in the whole world, then there appears before one, not a distinguished man, but the eternal Power itself. The heavens part, as it were, and the I chooses itself—or rather, receives itself. Then has the soul beheld the loftiest sight that mortal eye can see and which never can be forgotten… the great thing is not to be this or that but to be oneself, and this everyone can be if he wills it.


What one sees in this moment of self-actualization, however, is the dual nature of this choice how there are two worlds/two truths. The duality of Nature (and human nature) is present all around us. We would not be able to define day if we did not have night. We would not know hot if we didn’t know cold. Sometimes the lines are clearly divided and distinct, and we know black and white. Other times a sense of discernment is needed, for in things such as love and hate, pride and humility, these lines can easily be crossed and stepped back over again (in the blink of an eye one can see a reflection of love and just as quickly fear and doubt what is seen, look again and see hate, take another look and come back to love), and in this process of self-reflection and perception of the outside world gray areas appear. While one is innocent this infection of self-doubt is not evident—the truth is the simple goodness of life—but with age and experience this naiveté dissipates, and this is what Clamence resents and pities. It’s an old philosophical game. The innocent act can be seen as a self-serving one. Generosity and heroism can contain the motivations of greed and cowardice. What Clamence condemns in himself (hoping his listener will agree) is not seeing this is an act of self-deception, and the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

So why does Camus write The Fall the way he did? In many ways when one is faced with this moment of self-actualization and begins to realize the duplicity and dualities all around us it’s a matter of exorcising the demons of what we now see in the mirror and sublimating it as a means of catharsis. Apparently Camus took stock after the publication of The Rebel and decided to write anything which came to mind, write what he felt, and out of this came the self-confessional tone in The Fall. As Tarrow researches in his journals and articles, this profound duplicity of humanity is explored and echoed by the text of The Fall itself, the fact that truth and falsehood are hard to distinguish and the distinction may even become irrelevant (156-158):


… The intellectual may speak, in a hesitant voice, but in vain. It is not a response that will greet him, but curses and idiotic polemics. According to what he says, his topic and his mood, he will indirectly help the shopkeepers, or unwittingly encourage the policeman. He will thus have rendered a disservice to those he loves, and as sole recompense will have to endure the fact of having enemies, even though it goes against his nature. In preference to such sorrow, should he not opt for silence, and that irony that helps him live his life? Thus the man with scabies tosses in his bed, scratching his sores.


In the writing of The Fall Clamence learns the same truth: First I needed this perpetual laughter, and those laughing, to teach me to see clearly inside myself, to discover that I was not simple. Certainly the text of The Fall stresses autobiographical aspects to the life of Camus, but as those who knew him point out (Sartre among them) The Fall constitutes a parody of existentialist man though the psychology of its hero is profoundly an existentialist work. It’s Camus speaking of his pain.

So is there a distinction between truth and falsehood? In every sincere act one can question its sincerity. Out of this confusion arises. In trying to be understood one can find oneself misunderstood. Just as one looks in a mirror and the right hand becomes the left the language we use to express truth and falsehood inherently leads us farther away from it, and though we can laugh at a dog chasing his tail, in essence we are in the same predicament. And so we distance ourselves from it, as Camus did (for he said the creative writer expresses in his work not so much his personal experience as his desires and temptations), and in many respects in the writing of The Fall he didn’t clear away all the inner conflict. In his reaction to receiving the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957 he exclaimed, “I’m castrated.”

The distinction between truth and falsehood, as seen in the duality of experience and reflection, doesn’t become relevant when Clamence reflects on his own memories. He can’t swallow his pride, and the laughter he feels projected on him he now projects on others. Pichova in her book on Nabakov and Kundera approaches their texts through the art of memory, and this relates to how Clamence remembers. In particular the chapter, Variations on Letters and Bowler Hats, discusses how Kundera returns to the problem of personal memory in exile. Once again duplicity is noted in the character of Sabina in her search of “unintelligible truth” for in her struggle for artistic freedom she betrays her homeland and must live in exile. The use of the metaphor “a semantic river” and the meanings behind dualities come into play as much with Sabina’s bowler hat as it does with Clamence’s stolen painting. The theme once again of experience and reflection is seen in how each new experience resounds, each time enriching the harmony, referring to Nietzsche’s idea of the eternal return and Parmenide’s view of the world consisting of opposites (56):


It returned again and again, each time with a different meaning, and all the meanings flowed through the bowler hat like water through a riverbed. I might call it Heraclitus’ (“You can’t step twice into the same river”) riverbed: the bowler hat was a bed through which each time Sabina saw another river flow, another semantic river: each time the same object would give rise to a new meaning, though all former meanings would resonate (like an echo, like a parade of echoes) together with the new one. Each new experience would resound, each time enriching the harmony. (ULB 88)


Clamence in his confession at a bar in Amsterdam is in many ways a reflection of this semantic river. He’s trying to justify and reinterpret his prior life in Paris. He’s looking in the river’s mirror like a confused Narcissus on the edge of drowning as what flows is the changing reflections in the current, and just as a river has a source and eventually pours out into the sea Clamence is attempting to understand what he sees now: One plays at being immortal and after a few weeks one doesn`t even know whether or not he can hang on until the next day. Unfortunately, as Camus points out in the style of the text, he can only see his own experiences reflected all around him, and there’s really nobody there despite his sometimes lyrical sometimes sarcastic perspective of where he is now and from where he came. It’s just Clamence talking in a monologue, and we are tricked into reading it like these memories didn’t happen and mean nothing.

Another writer put it a different way. All things merge into one, and a river runs through it. Clamence is haunted by waters. What one realizes (as Camus surely did) is the duplicity, the dual nature of reality (this is seen even in the study of sciences in the nature of light acting both as particle and wave), and you can look and it seems to collapse into one thing, but it’s really both. Appearance and reality merge into the same thing. A man can be both good and evil, and depending on when you look and how you look a judgment can be made which in a sense is temporary and illusive, yet still fixed on its course. As soon as one speaks and says: this is so… he is altering what he observes and what he’s speaking about. This goes on in our perceptions of the outside world, and also in self-reflection. The Bible speaks of it in the book of James as a man looking at his reflection in the mirror and then forgetting what he looks like, and in essence being cast about in a sea (for really a river can only flow one way). Knowledge of good and evil truly does leave us naked. We become invisible to the secrets we try to conceal. The celebration of this the clothes we wear, which what Clamence (and Camus) confess can employ the magic of misdirection—to fool others, and ourselves.

Time is funny, however, and what Clamence can’t see in his confession of: You’re just as evil as I am… is the humility to accept the very things which lead to his downfall are the virtues which cause his vices. We are not meant to judge (because as soon as we do those judgments are reflected back upon us), but we have to in our everyday lives. We have to make choices, some on a small scale some on a grand scale (the terrifying realization Clamence confronts is that both are happening at once), and these choices determine who we are and we have to live with that responsibility. The irony that our knowledge frees us, but also defines our prison. The more you know the more you suffer because you can no longer claim ignorance. Clamence in a sense embraces this fact, but holds on to it too tightly. He can’t let go of his pride and just let it be, and he thinks he’s alone in his suffering, but he’s not. Misery loves company, and one of the best ways to dispel guilt is to be around others who share in your guilt and say: You can be just as good as I am evil. It just depends how you want to look at it, and we will always be looking, always be dipping our toes in that semantic river—fearing it’s cold to the point of being frozen, or joyfully jumping in and going with the flow.

It’s interesting that the painting Clamence admits stealing is actually real. Camus, perhaps like Kafka, envisioned literature as having no place in the real world, but it equally has no place in the world it creates. The same can be said of the stolen panel from the Ghent Altarpiece, which in the text of The Fall Clamence confesses stealing from a bar called “Mexico City”. The actual historical references to the theft of “The Just Judges” and the creation of the altarpiece by the van Eyck brothers are not in the scope of this paper, but the fact that Camus relates its theft to the character of Clamence plays into what Kafka was referring to, how the lies in the narrative of a work of fiction (in any work of art for that matter) can still reveal profound truths. It’s by telling these stories to ourselves, even if embedded with falsehood, that we find a deeper understanding of ourselves.

The location of Clamence’s confession in Amsterdam and the symbolism of the doves throughout the text of The Fall also show how metaphors merge in the duplicity Clamence has come to resent and pity in himself. He admits without desire he might be closer to the truth, but the truth is a colossal bore. He has come to confess in a place where others share in his weakness, as Amsterdam in its construction and culture practices as a way of life. And yet the doves are there. As the stolen painting, part of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, has the dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, so to Camus bows in with the lyrical expressions Clamence gives to them. He admits: …the obligation I felt to conceal the vicious part of my life gave me a cold look that was confused with the look of virtue; my indifference made me loved; my selfishness wound up in my generosities. I stop there, for too great a symmetry would upset my argument.

Parker’s essay on Eco’s The Name of the Rose responds in similar fashion to this question of symmetry in signs and symbols, and whether they can be interpreted as having meaning. She challenges some of Eco’s statements on semiotics and his refusal to designate his novel open or closed whether there’s little freedom for interpretation or rather inexhaustible interpretations. Signs which can mislead or inform are seen again as a duality, a duplicity, and how following them toward some enduring thread of meaning, some permanent truth, is illusive. Parker shows, however, the tension to whether these signs or symbols (once again referring to Clamence’s stolen painting) have an open or closed meaning don’t serve to cancel one another out, but merely complement one another. What counts is your relation to these meanings, not what you are. Referencing the text, William espouses this relation in The Name of the Rose in the significance of leprosy and heretical beliefs (150):


“How can I discover the universal bond that orders all things if I cannot lift a finger without creating an infinity of new entities? For with such a movement all the relations of position between my finger and all other objects change. The relations are the ways in which my mind perceives the connections between single entities, but what is the guarantee that this is universal and stable? (243)


So how does this go back to what this paper explores as the pathologies of pride as seen in the character of Jean-Baptiste Clamence? He reveals to us his duplicity, his Janus aspect, how we are constantly making a choice between two worlds/two truths. Camus, in the writing of The Fall, also expresses the duality of experience and reflection in how he decided to write the text and what he felt, how the distinction between truth and falsehood is relevant when Clamence reflects on his own memories. Then we see how appearance and reality merge into the same thing through metaphor and meaning flowing like a semantic river. The painting of “The Just Judges” is real. The location of Clamence’s confession in Amsterdam and the symbolism of the doves provides a symmetry hard to argue against, the interpretation of these meanings both fixed and inexhaustible, but they don’t serve to cancel one another out—they merely complement one another. In essence, the stolen painting of “The Just Judges” both exposes Clamence’s hypocrisy and reveals how his “fall” happens to all of us. The beauty in it rests that the pride which bedevils all of us is a painting we can steal and sing about, and by this story we tell ourselves come to a deeper understanding of who we are.



I’m your huckleberry


Well today was a good day

driving through the Smoky

Mountains outside of Asheville

along the Blue Ridge horizon

to where the trees

turn to pine

a nine hour drive

from Marion to Greensboro

great on gas popping

the clutch and just

coasting sometimes the only

way to tell on the winding

roads whether you’re going

up or down…

The radio airwaves turn

to shit though much like

the logorrhea which made

Maxwell Perkins do his job

with Thomas Wolfe (Asheville

his hometown) still you can’t

beat the opening lines to Look

Homeward Angel:


Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.


Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father’s heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?


O waste of lost, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this weary, unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When?


O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again…


Maybe like Doc Holliday

recognized when he wasn’t

playing Frederic fucking Chopin

(not unlike Kate in The Awakening)

some folks are just too

high strung looking to fill

a hole you just can’t fill… I’m here

to fill a hole (with a wink

and a smile) and to the whores

greeting me with clothes

in their bags outside

The Extended Stay America

asking me where’s my wife

I hold open the door…

no matter only here til Wednesday

then I go to the Legacy at

Friendly Manor… and we all

could use the comfort of friends.


Couldn’t find a rib joint

so I picked up a pizza

at Elizabeth’s on Wendover,

New York style by the slice–

gotta a small Margherita

might go to Stumble Stilskins

for the Super Bowl tomorrow

I don’t know but don’t ask

me nothing about nothing

I might just tell you the truth.



Turn Left


why is it

from small towns

to big there is

only one way

(back roads another story)

and if you can’t

do a U-turn you

might end up with

a failure to yield?

Oh well, Hell

was created for people

who ask too many questions.

Always get the lay

of the land.



Crash Into Me

(the outer banks)


My father used to say

he feared the sea

maybe because of its vastness

because of its depth

like a mysterious woman

he was afraid she couldn’t forgive…

I don’t know if I’m scared more

here south of Kittyhawk

or remembering the silence

of the mountains near Whitefish,

Montana–in both you can find

God like the salt in the air

what only comes through in

waves the tides of the moon

as in the majestic glacier mount

and bear tracks in the sand

I listen to both intent

to what they have to say for those

that wait upon the lord

find in the seagulls never

too tired of flying

their ability to soar…




Seashells for Valentines


well I saw

the shores of the Atlantic

again along the outer banks

and just nigh the Hatteras

lighthouse I walked in

the sand and found

seashells… they say you

can hear the ocean

in them so though I was

alone maybe my girls

were with me in what

I heard with what I saw

in my heart in my mind

they held their hands

in mine and dipped their toes

in the tide left their footprints

in the sand… and since they were with me

the seashells are my gift to them

may they hear the sea

in the flowers and chocolate

of Tuesday




God is not without

a sense of humor


well if God remembers


how can he not

be without a sense

of humor for of all

the dark places

Leonard Cohen said

it best: There is a crack

in everything that’s how

the light gets in…

Watched 50 first dates

again last night an old

Valentine’s day memory

of chocolate covered

strawberries and champagne…

God is love

and love is trying

to forgive mistakes even

if mistakes is how

you learn to love

life so learn

to go down memory lane

with a laugh




Love is just a Word

(…like in dreams caviar ain’t

fish eggs it’s kief dusted on

a hash oil dipped kind bud…)


I’ve had many dreams

of late last night after

a nap digesting a Frisco Melt

from Carolina Diner I awoke

with a red eye a fresh contact

put in in the a.m. must have

scratched during REM

sleep so while my eyes

watered (the right empathetic

with the left) I tried to grasp

the inception of my reality

since time is relative more so

in the stories we write in our

sleep the people who inhabit

them a projection of our own

subjective subconscious the world

they breathe still inevitable with rules

or how else would we believe…?

And so these dreams of ours submit

to our desires and fears

our ignorant conceptions to

what’s going on in the waking world

like tastes rolling across the tongue

distances measured disappearing

no gaps between scenes you

your only audience

some of them bitter some

sweet… and am I making

my dreams like I make love

or are they creating me

something strangely forgettable

like actually defining the word

Love–the edge of it doubled

with inspiration and insanity

because just as dreams may

have no rhyme nor reason

and we’re okay with it

so too love commits many

banal and evil and irrational

actions the idea charitable

the reality a pain in the ass

like a holiday you don’t know

and don’t get off because

it’s celebrated in another country–

a joke to outsiders

something you make up a name for

hoping others will fall for it…

maybe that’s why the black girls say

Give it to Jesus–I’ll take a fruit

basket and a massage… and I have to

admit I like their way of thinking

so on smoke breaks by the bus stop

the white woman worried her man

of 27 years drinks too much

can also take those black girls’ advice

for a better method of passing out

and look up caviar on YouTube

(better yet the darknet–

they call them moon rocks)

because unlike a box of chocolates

or a bad dream you know

exactly what you’re gonna get–

High… and unless you’re afraid

of flying that’s better than most

hangovers and most flowers of a dream

deferred–all you might really end up

with is a red eye.




I love the South


Maybe it was going to

Tulane in New Orleans

but I step outside to smoke

a Pall Mall and across

the way in a balcony of

my apartment complex two

black kids a boy and girl are

making their own time their

own rhythm just clapping

hands stomping feet maybe

it’s the Bojangles where you

can get a country ham biscuit

in the drive thru next to a

Piggly Wiggly I just don’t know

there is Soul here that says

a blessing before every meal

and it may be

a slow drawl but May be

that’s the best way to say it





I still have yet to find it

in my blood though I’ve gone

many times looking for it

in the past… The last time

I was here my ex wife bought

me a wooden pipe after

coasting down from

the Gatlinburg side out

of gas in her jeep we rented

a cabin near Dollywood

and she was pregnant with

Delilah… I played golf here

with my father the mountain

terrain tough and I set part

of my first novel here

when I took a road trip back in

college to visit a roommate

working as a river rafting guide

on the Nantahala–I slept in a

church parking lot outside of

Bryson City… Today I bought a dream

catcher and two medicine

stones are for my girls

and may they find in their blood

what I still go looking for



Tobacco Country

along the veteran’s trail

of peace (Guilford Battleground)


A Sunday in February

the sky clear the sun warm

I sit on the log of a fallen

tree next to a monument

for a revolutionary war soldier

who fell in 1781– the stone says

it was in March and it was

a Thursday… The South loves

its history. It takes the memory

and puts it into thought.

If you think on these things

something happening now

can mean something 200

years later, as people go

strolling by with their dogs.

The paths here cross each other

easy to get lost unless you

remember the monuments

and these new things to you

seen at a different time

have a clean way of stripping

the negativity from your life

as you indulge in a smoke

for this is tobacco country

a pack of cigarettes three

dollars the high limbs

of the pines above and

the dead leaves at your feet





acute long term care

for wounds and surgery

out at the bus stop

where they make you smoke

the husbands and wives

talk… talk about

as long as they ain’t brain

dead as long as they

know who they are

on feeding tubes

shitting themselves

with scales a liability

to getting them out

of bed for a shower

the medical technology

an advancement

to the paperwork always

to be charted contact

precautions just a part

of it… a hard decision

to make over a cigarette

on an overcast day

when to find the light

you must search all

the dark places…

the city taking away

the cans for the butts










a poet learns to know

all time at once

and it’s just you…

the trick is

whether anybody knows

synchronicity ain’t

just physics or the I

Ching be basic

and you’ll find

it’s not very shallow




Watcha Gonna Do?


Mr. Mack comes out

to the bus stop to smoke

on his walker his fro

wild and gray under

a baseball cap

his wife was given

a sedative she was

allergic to so she ended

up here with a tracheotomy

her hemoglobin always

low lots of antibodies

in her blood Mr. Mack

told her don’t go

to the hospital for every

damn thing they gonna

kill ya but she’s afraid

of dying I said

that’s a lawsuit

he said maybe for their

grandkids and we talked

about youth and mistakes

he wanted to be a baseball

player but putting food

on the table felt good too

one time as a kid

he ran a riding lawnmower

up a post lucky it didn’t

fall back and crush him

and he said it’s alway like

that a guardian angel watching

out for ya because you can

bounce back from those mistakes

when you’re young

the older you get you get

to thinkin’ bout them more

and if you don’t learn

from them you’re a damn fool…

as he said though ain’t nobody

perfect but Jesus Christ

and I said ya ain’t it funny

you always hurt the ones

you love just a weird thing

of life and he said: well

it’s better not to give people

what they want

give them what they need




How does a good thing end?


I guess it’s a memory.

Either time or a frame

of mind looks at it

that way. Otherwise

you don’t want

it to be over or it wasn’t

good. The funny thing is

if it didn’t end you wouldn’t

know it was good… it’s the

questioning of rules

that make new ones

and it’s a sad thing to be

ugly about it even though

time and the world make us

aware of it for what you know

now you were surely question

later so maybe in that final

sleep the desires which

make us feel awake

also make us feel like

we’re dreaming

and we remember.




we all want to be

loved more than we want

to love. so we make

a show of strength.

funny the perfection

of ourselves forgets

the strength of our

weaknesses. the best

way to get someone

to love you is by letting them

use their unique traits

to help you–after all you want

the other person to need you

more… and like in all laws

the rules of attraction

contradict so what

pisses you off also

wins your respect and keeps

your interest… just saying

it might be better

than a selfie.



as good as it sucks


sometimes knowing more

ain’t the truth the secret

a lie until you know

it’s the truth the imagination

all you want to hear anyway

God how we hate

for someone to know

more than we do

to feel that hesitation

the truth what we want

to know and what we want

a fickle thing life

having its way

taking our naivete

making us feel like tards

trying to conjugate the verb

love the names we have for it

becoming a jaded code

because if there is

a hell if there is a fall

it’s that feeling when

you’ve done something terribly

horribly wrong

and you’re guilty and alone

like all eyes are on you

the only remedy to share it

and find your own normal

judgment the same thing

as laughter and like seasons

these things repeat and age

what’s bad for you good

for you later that strange mirror

of time paradise lost

paradise regained a story

we’re telling ourselves

every day the sunrise

a sure thing just as

the sunset and if you want

to bark at the moon

the deepest howl

is just a whisper

to heaven










I’m still gonna call the poems I’ve been working on A Year Under a Restraining Order even though it ain’t true because I figured just writing poems for a year anyway after finishing Catadoupe (and I’m 42 now) and I have a title for the next book I started for Bell I got it from a Hemingway biopic No Remedio apparently he said that was the toughest phrase in Spanish and he’s probably right so for the solar eclipse in August I got two tickets Ozzy is playing Bark at the Moon in Walker’s Bluff my ex wife is taking the day off…



and a piece of my tooth came out from my gum today from the extraction a couple months back then I had to use a peroxide kit six bucks from Wal-Mart to get the damn wax out of my ear so I could fucking hear so I’m more aware now when I’m wired and when I’m tired because people definitely do pick up on those vibes in many ways we’re just energy anyway kinda like the longer it takes you to react the greater the force to slam on the brakes all things are reciprocal




Shakespeare’s Birthday


He wrote a lot about fools

maybe that says something

and fools who know they’re fools

lose the only good innocence

about them so it’s funny

how things can turn to shit

and you still come out smelling

like a rose… flowers eat poop

anyway how I explained it

to my 7 year old daughter

she was painting after dinner

for Easter I grilled steaks

while the girls went to church

baby mama making the eggs

over easy and like all

moveable feasts a plan

is just a prophecy about

as accurate as a weather

forecast and sometimes

you do gotta eat shit

to find some beauty

the past at least finding

a useful purpose so don’t

quote me on it when I say

enjoy where flowers

come from could be

what your picking rests

on the rooftop of hell

or drifted from heaven’s

basement but the bloom

is well worth the fade





you see the woman was deceived and the man was tempted why the fuck do you think women are smarter if you read the fall story as a warning and my ex-wife and I (I have other names for her but lately she’s been boo) talked about it Easter morning before she went to church with the girls and I drank beer grilling steaks listening to hank 3 and after the sermon and the meal she said the preacher pretty much talked about the same thing because the most basic story is man and woman and it’s a story happening every day




Lab Week


you know sheep

are stupid

funny how it’s a metaphor

for cleaning up and lost sleep

and how if one goes astray

there’s great rejoicing

when it’s found

and you can be a wolf

or a shepherd

you never want to be

the sheep so sometimes

we put on ridiculous clothing

which only a child

is bold enough to call

nakedness because we’re not

too dumb to know we’re lost

we just act seasoned if we sense

a wolf and like we pulled the wool

over the eyes of the shepherd

in the final analysis though

the thing about blood

is nobody really wants to

draw it and nobody likes

getting stuck sometimes

you just have to appreciate

it’s the only way

to prescribe treatment




Darlin’ Companion


So her bed is supported

by books (too much

jumping from the kids)

the base boards broke

the Van Gogh print

still above it covered

by her patterns

and we got to lay

there for a moment

in each other’s arms

before the whole damn thing

fell leaving us laughing…

we had to get up anyway

to put out the girls’ Easter baskets

and we worked together

to put the books back

joking about the titles

The Divine Comedy went up

by the pillows a Bible braced

the middle along with a book

called The Harbingers

she pronounced the harbangers

and in the morning while

I was taking a shit she came in

to show a memory a few years

back on Facebook of her neck

dissection surgery and she

mentioned why she got the electric

toothbrush how girls talk about

the swirling brushes…

then it became evident

why Johnny Cash said have

separate bathrooms





so the girls got a male kitten from a woman weaning a litter they named him Tom and from our technology that makes it a comfort being alone stimulating that cortex of pleasure which gives us our meaningful death I watched them through the video camera of my smartphone in Greensboro all laying in bed with him stroking him while he snoozed… can’t say I’m not jealous of the sonofabitch… at least they didn’t name him Mr. Fuzzypants


… I was asked who’s an up and coming author and though I haven’t read all of Infinite Jest I know it’s good shit and goddammit a beautiful soul like this guy went off his antidepressants and hung himself and sure I sense a kindred soul I love how the movie about him ends (“The End of the Tour”) he dances in the basement of a baptist church in those gatherings where what makes us feel alive has that sense of not feeling alone



it takes two


one thing quantum

mechanics shows us

is consciousness has

a measurable effect on

the universe too bad we all

want to play at ultimate observer

of course one and one

and one makes three it’s just

the dimensions don’t always

add up even though we all know

the devil makes four

the other dimensions

folding into ours

shit in linear algebra

the Gaussian theorem

generalizes to any number

of dimensions as I learned

in Industrial Organization

(just the professor and I

his last tenure at the department

of justice busting up trusts)

a matrix makes it easier

to deal with “n” number of variables

especially in nonlinear programming

but when you get to that X and Y axis

the curve can be parabolic

never quite touching it just

goes on forever… enough

with the math metaphors though

it’s about as lame as

the square root of three…

the truth as I see it

a woman is naturally more

artistic left to my own devices

my walls remain bare and quality

time is spent scratching myself

time may be fonder on the man

but a woman fills in the spaces





funny a light that feeds on the darkness turns it into light




Time Zones


it should have been

Ben Franklin who came up

up with it then again

there ain’t nothing new

under the sun maybe

it solves an energy crisis

we all know we can sleep

when we want to

and Demeter and

Persephone don’t give a shit

about farmers Christianity

has its origins in the Eluesinian

Mysteries if you believe it

history is hand to mouth

anyway to the humor of

Goethe just look at

at the Grand ‘Ol Opry

and Hank Williams








it’s funny when what you feel is judgment not love and judgment has a limited understanding justice is supposed to be blind after all and you really do have to laugh when people take your honesty as a lie so you have to lie (in other words make shit up) in order for them to be honest…




Traveling Heart

(or baby mama day)


well she totally fucked

the poem about her bed

being supported by books

after we fixed it again

and she complained a Good

Housekeeping magazine was

sticking out under the bed rails

(I did write a note for Bell

when she showed me her secret

hideaway and on a post it

with her lipstick kiss I said:

Even love is under the table)

and after a long drive we talked

as I massaged her back working out

the knots that never seem to go away

since her neck surgery

but later when I told her

I miss you she said:

You’ll live… I have fleas

(Tom the new kitten

brought friends and I hate

to say it cats are dirtier than dogs)

I don’t hate to say

planting the seeds is the same thing

as doing it so when you say

you’ve been thinking about

sucking my cock all day

and that you think about me

when you masturbate

it’s kind of aggravating

when she says I’m irresistible

then goes to the back stoop

asking for a smoke she doesn’t want me

to join her in to share a laugh

with the neighbor next door

listening to his troubles confiding in him

about all my problems

saying it’s a spiritual connection

just a close friend who doesn’t want me

to make the same mistakes though in

anger when unkind words are spoken

she implies other things

(a real winner a wheeler dealer

married four times with seven kids

and before we went to bed

she tells me I handled it well)

then good ol’ Tom woke my ass

up at 3:30 in the morning

crawling on my head after a dream

which when awakened keeps me

from going back to sleep and I wake

her up a real pisser of a way

to start a Saturday on Mother’s Day

weekend so sitting on the back stoop

with our morning coffee she admits

she’s read men give love for sex

which seems like a simple objectification

but it’s pretty fucking true and after

digging up bones for a while

(7 years of marriage and 5

years of divorce) I’m emotionally

exhausted and just want drink

(her simple objectification to our problems

as we smoke weed I sent her in the mail)

and yep I drink beer before I take

the girls to shop for her presents

a fun trip to Wal-Mart

Delilah picking out a Pioneer Woman

Dutch oven and Bell choosing a tea and spice

rack and sure I acted like an asshole

admitting to her the old Cherokee

story of two wolves how I was having a hard

time feeding the right one

things escalating to the point

she was leaving for a drive

through the forest with the girls

making a jug of lemon shakeup

from the juicy lemons she texted

Delilah to get while we were at the store

and me feeling like Tommy Boy

trying to take a piss while the car kept moving

leaving me to wonder if I’d ever get in—

a nice long drive some of it

nostalgic to places we’ve been before

some of it new things calm

by the end of the day as I bask

in their attention at Long John Silver’s

and once we get home we lay on the couch

together and she talks to Delilah

about the homes for sale we took a look at

I knew I blew it and we were back

to square one wanting to make up

but not wanting to try

and you should never go to bed

angry but I did the plan for Sunday

to go to church and then grill

three ribeyes and a filet mignon

(she asked who the filet was for

in front of the neighbor and I said

the same thing Paul Newman said

about a fine steak) which later she told me

as she’s said before I have his alluring eyes

I still wake up alone though as usual

Sunday morning feeling tired

so when she texts she’s up making coffee

and that she’s happy she got to sleep

I say good I’m glad you got what you needed

and since I don’t want to lose sleep for work

on Monday I leave to make the 600 mile drive

back to Greensboro the meat left out

at room temp for somebody else to grill

an unhappy message that I didn’t mean

about if our girls grow up to be

hog wild it’s her fault which totally

contradicts that you shouldn’t give a man

sex just because he tells you that

you’re beautiful and when I cross

the North Carolina line community radio

was playing a song about a traveling heart

a cover I think and there’s been father’s days

when she wouldn’t even let me see the children

and I’m not mad or sad as we learned

the day before it’s never too soon

to joke about it because as the saying goes

comedy is tragedy plus time

sometimes you just have to live

the limbo in between and turn the page




things have changed


it’s the one thing

that’s certain–change

even though we’re always

sure we have a finger on it

like a pulse we never want

to be a beat ahead

and like Bob knew way back

when he wrote a song about it

used by The Wonder Boys

only a fool here

has something to prove

and God knows how we play

at fools puffed up or just

hoping for free popcorn

and like the rabbit and the tortoise

don’t be so eager to race

because you see if things change

the finishing line moves









sure I have plenty of material about my travel assignment to Kindred (and other things these poems started while at the VA working on Catadoupe resigning after three years due to the volatile situation with the ex a semester spent at SIU my father’s alma mater then working as a traveler again my first lab tech assignment in Greensboro, North Carolina) and I could be writing about these things privately or sharing it here and is there really a difference the plan to take June off and spend time with my daughters and it’s not like we don’t love dirty laundry I’m just not into that I prefer to have fun with the truth as I see it like a man walking out with a garbage bag and his hospital wristband on making it down two floors and past security at the entrance across the street to the bus stop where a few of us are smoking wondering what the hell he’s doing the nurse supervisor running after him when he was already way down the street almost to Martin Luther King I guess he was AMA and shit we were on break why get involved and possibly get sued they walked him back in though with a high five and things like that just make a Friday before your last week interesting

(a week later)

… then you get home and there I am at Barnes & Noble with my daughters Delilah wants knowledge of good and evil in the descendants diary of Raven and Apple White when I just want to read Jude the Obscure because I like Thomas Hardy after writing it he gave up novels and wrote poetry I hear some of it personal for a good twenty years before he kicked the bucket and if you ask about my bucket list all I have to say is don’t be a fucking idiot the universe unfolds as it should anyway


we create stories to understand and be understood so many words when more is less and just like the first fart joke was written in 1900 BC we keep joking about the smell in the room like it’s a fucking elephant joke but then even children know the joke about that…




End of the Line


I opened some beef jerky

for her breakfast

they make those Slim Jim’s

difficult Bell giving a hug

a kiss on the cheek

Delilah already addicted

to games from the Google

PlayStore the assignment

in Greensboro, North Carolina

over for a week now

funny to look at how

the dynamics changed in

as little as four months

the outward appearance as

Delilah is already starting to learn

the truth and misdirection

at the same time how it all

collapses for a moment

the train running on perpetual

motion and you move while it moves

not sure you’re going

front to back or

back to front the details

like leaving Las Vegas not staying

in a private compartment

still I guess the music

slips through the doors

and when the music is over

you begin to measure

time in songs… at least

that’s what I tell Bell

when she asks, “Are we there