public surgery
River of Names

Names have power

to shut off thought

to close down hearts

to fold in souls

to bring down you

so I hide them because your fragile ideas

can’t stand against the power of gods


Or maybe I’m wrong and

there’s someone who needs

me to cultivate the waste land.


I don’t fritter and fret over them

I wonder about the student in English B

who says A HA! I know, it’s here!

And then the tweed coat up in front

says here, look, gaze on this,

and in the book it says

'That is not what I meant at all.

That is not it, at all.’




When I write there will be clues

in various spaces, fictitious places

lines to snatch a word

time to stab away at wounded flesh

and find the secret center.


It has been done, they say

(I know, but not this way)

It’s fine; take take take,

rob with abandon and make it your own.


I’m not a stalker in the alley

or a smile and an unseen pill

slipped in while you’re away.

Or so they say.


You had thirty, tried for twenty

I only want a eulogy;

a way to turn you on to men I know.

If that’s okay, the great Queen too

she can have her waltz, one last time.


There was another

fifty-nine and in a river,

they held her down against the silver screen

it worked for us

we found her new

but is she turning, over and over and over

where she lies? We’ll never know.



Do Not Enter

I remember when we sat, four delirious hours

talking philosophy, avoiding sophistry

making a way for the earth out of the darkness

we started cold and rational, I turned hot, emotional

I probed you, trying to know why shadows grow,

you hammered me, and when I glowed and sizzled,

dipped me in a cool bath.

And the only time I saw you burn, you burned with fear

and shook but hid it well; a fear of backwards hell

Then the most I wanted just to hide the world

and make you one where you’d be safe.

I’d walk with you, through midnight bars

and rusty cars; I could, I could! make just the place

where you’d never fear that death was here.

But I would be alone with you, never far but never near

for the sign that hangs upon your neck. 

"Do not enter, do not come, you just cannot be the one

You cannot face me in the night, not a tiger burning bright

A smile, perhaps, a wave, a drink, but not the key

I am blind with second sight, a different way to see

We can laugh and play and dream and frolic through the world

but I am wired differently, for you I cannot be.”

We never smiled or laughed or cried or gave up suit and tie

for jeans and beer and pizza, or watched our terrors die

But at the end of all the things that never came to be

I found this thing, a little bird, and then I set it free.



writer’s block at maximum consequences

I cannot do this. I cannot. I am lost. I’m tired. I need too badly for all my writing to be perfect. Maybe not perfect, but things are going slow. I don’t have ideas. Or, I don’t have ideas that sound good enough for me. I don’t have a plan. Every plan I make sucks. Maybe it doesn’t suck, but it doesn’t really work, and I don’t know how to continue it. I’m tired. I’m tired. I’m tired. I don’t know where my second wind is. This sounds like great shit and it’s not. It’s not insightful. It’s not reflective. This is worthless. It’s not helping. I’m making something, but it’s not helping. I’m tired. I’m hot. I have too many problems at home. Home sucks. I can’t work at home. I can’t work elsewhere. I’m too worried. Worried about money. Worried about my mom. I don’t care; I don’t care about my mom. I don’t care about my dad. I don’t want any family. I wish they would all die die die die die diediediedie—stop. Stop it. Stop. I need someone to see this. I’m imagining you reading this. I don’t know who you are. I don’t care. I need to stop. Stop. STOP. Breathe. Stop. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Close your eyes. Stop shaking. You’re not shaking. You’re not shaking, you think you’re shaking because you think it’s worse than it is but it’s not. It’s you. Something is wrong with you. Something is wrong with your situation. It’s not you. You’re going to show this to someone. You’re going to submit it somewhere or ask for feedback or try to make it into something so that someone will see it and then you can vaguely beat around the topic of asking for help and then when they ask you if you’re alright you’ll say you’re fine but you’re not but you can’t ask for help because it’s not their job and you’d feel awkward even though they offered.

Stop. Breathe. Step away. Go somewhere else. Do something else. Remove yourself from the situation.

But that won’t solve the problem.


Don’t Ask Me Why; I Don’t Know Yet


We begin by following a man who will die. It’s looking likely that he’s going to die sooner, rather than later. This is because he’s being chased by another person, who can’t currently be seen. Let’s back up, though. The person we’re following is running through heavy, wet snow. He’s dressed for a winter day in the city, not a winter adventure in Montana, which is where we’ve decided we are. This means he’s probably wearing a full-length wool coat and a light, Cashmere scarf which is threatening to slip off. In his right hand he’s got an old-style snub nose revolver, like the kind policemen and gangsters would carry in the thirties. In his left hand he has a water-damaged copy of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. As he runs he’s stumbling now and then since he’s got some kind of limp, but he’s trying extremely hard not to let it slow him down. It’s snowing out; not bad, just the kind of flurries that form a series of drops on your glasses, and they do on the dead man’s as well. It’s late at night, and there’s not a whole lot around. Actually, that’s a serious understatement. There’s nothing around. Every so often there’s a skinny little dead tree or an indentation in the earth, and at one point before, the man came a couple feet from falling in a collapsed sinkhole, but outside of these things, the only landmark in sight is a row of halogen street lights in an empty parking lot an impossibly long distance ahead. Also, it’s tough for the man to see, since the lights are glaring at him and blurring his vision, but there’s a hospital about a quarter mile from the parking lot. This is where he’s going.


Winter: Subtitles


When I run
out of words, I think
to myself
that, I need a taste of you-

Just to get
a small idea, of what
all the other boys
talk about.

when your back
is turned.

Can you feel,
their stabs? Stretching
your guts across
the bed. Velvet,
beautiful and dead.

Can you feel,
their teeth? Nibbling
your flesh from
the bones. Paper white,
thin and alone.

I bet it feels,
like love.

this guy is good


why am I here?

why am I away from home and shaking

quaking from too much stimulant and striking uncertainty?

why am I awake but not on the path I want to walk?

why do I know too much, fear too much,

tremble always at tomorrow?

why do I know I’m failing when I know I’m not?

why do I believe there’s a right answer,

or even a wrong one?

I need a new battery in my car, I can hear it.

Ball joints creak and sound like two-hundred dollars.

"You feel bad because you’re giving up your power.

Even though those are things you need,

you’re not as powerful as you were. It scares you.”


I think, perhaps, that plot is against the law. Illegal. You’ll go to the jail of the grocery store checkout for it. The art of a tale well told, lauded in centuries past, has become a signifier that you just don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. That you can’t write deep characters. That you can’t write interesting dialogue. And most of all, that you don’t know and even don’t care about theme. That you’re a popcorn flick.

It started with the naturalists, and reached its nadir with Carver and “Cathedral”, that festering pustule that forms the beating black heart of the current literary scene. The story represents everything that’s wrong with the writing world. Thankfully, minds like Palahniuk and King and LeGuin and all the graphic novelists of this age and the last have driven out most of…fuck it. I’ve lost my train of thought.

Anyways, fuck division. To me, “literary merit” means “has themes”. Anything else is exclusionism.


anonymous redhead

it’s not her ginger ale

sitting in the sun, not her milky white drink

waiting to be taken in hand

but I think she’d like it

I hope she’d pick one up in the hot sun

and chug it down

I hope she’d smile and laugh at such a strange time

for an odd drink

not lost and furrowed in her laptop

but living sight unseen

not searching for answers, but drinking them away

as they come up

opening paragraph of a novel I have yet to write

I had known Lizzie for an embarrassingly long time before I realized that she was in love with me. I knew she was into girls, though even that took me awhile to discover, but I never thought to consider that I might be the object of her midnight imagination. In retrospect I feel a little dull: all those nights traipsing from snowy sidewalk to crowded underground in our knife blade heels and ripped leather jackets, all those subway rides when I refused to stop pestering her about why she seemed to blow it every time at the last second with the minor league hockey player or the red-haired short girl hanging from the edge of the stage. I suppose you could forgive me, with the divorce still hanging over me at the time she started to demand we go out every other night, sometimes at ten or eleven. But I don’t. After all, I’m smarter than that.

in praise of the blameworthy

I remember when I was sucked in

and became the man walking aside Muad’Dib

in his quest for twisted justice corrupted

I remember when watched, helpless, as Elphaba

rose and fell, and fell and fell

and fell to the bottom

of hope’s cruel smile, mimicking Red’s warning

most of all, I remember following Navy with trepidation

as I struggled for layers within layers,

and yet the house laughed and played it’s grand trick on me

Where have gone the epic and dastardly?

Where are the mad ones, coiled up in their schemes?

Who shall ask “what if” and “wherefore?”

"Not I," said you.

besotted revelations

I’m going to start drinking heavy

so that I can wreck myself

a flaming screaming heap careening over the edge of 94

maybe then you’ll take notice

of my solipsism, and then

it’ll be accurate, an insight, an inspiration

and not simply the desire for eternal relevance

I’m going to start living hard and fast

then maybe I’ll warp and shift

into someone with a little bit of past

someone with a story or two to tell

I’m ready to go away from here, ready to awaken

ready to find the one who’ll shake me, make me

into someone real. even if it kills me.

I hope it does, so then you’ll stand

in front of bars and next to cars and pour one out

assume the urban man’s gesture, but this time

without irony

I worry about you

you are drinking it in

wherever you can find it

dropping in on one last meal

with the damned and the doomed

playing truth-or-dare with the latter

you are looking for chocolate in summer heat

slices of fruit plucked from the tree of life

but wilted and rotten

and as you sweat and swelter we look on

you know our hearts

are you pretending not to notice?

you are the blind mirror 

where I stand naked and see myself

you are a speck of flesh that I can chew on

bite down, swallow, digest, inhale

and awaken inside of me

you are the wrong reason, and only the wrong reason

you are my beautiful fear of that wrong reason

which keeps me up at night


a few drops of water over the ice

not melting, pooling

snow not biting, wind not blowing,

not sliding past the jagged crags

driving ever up from rock of glass

no man shuffling slowly through the drifts in worn parka

and leather-bound snowshoes like tennis rackets

no sun wobbling up and down, almost rising, almost setting

no thunder from the ground below, quaking, moaning

only stillness and drops of water over the blank and empty ice

seen through pretentious eyes

and cold, cold, cold coffee.


nothing, yet. isn’t this life’s great unanswered question?