I once believed
I had the right
to make things happen
even if they weren't supposed to

or that my will defined
what should happen;

Now I question
if I even have the right
to be here

for something
to happen. 

Reading famous poets...

 is like driving past mansions
in a rusty car

glimpsing in massive outline
a few striking details

a mansard roof, white columns
a gardened portico

the soft glow
of Palladian windows.

I'll never walk through those
oak doorways

or pass beyond those
wrought-iron gates.


 find things that are
slightly profound
and write them down

perhaps someone reading
in subway darkness
will see a small light 

Girl Reading at Shinnecock Jetty

 walking by you
with all that is implied
in my slow, deliberate step
and your refusal to look up

you could be
anywhere by the sea

Odessa, Lagos, Hebrides
and I would think, yes
you belong just there 


 keen winter winds
leave airy skeins
musk of hot sand

childhood summer
an old story

casual, deep

of sea
of sun
the muffled crash of waves 


 when we're asleep
and visit those
who show us
what we love and mourn
and let us wander in the stream

think not that when the visions close
they follow us into the storm
as we to ragged flesh return

angels don't dream

In time's transparency...

 I would pass through
sliding glass doors
onto a luminous green lawn
sloping to the shore
where breakers ride
and storm clouds race the sky
charged with bright edges

the world at hand
but seething in restraints--
like Tesla's lightning
as willful lover
at my lips
your breast 

with all my imperfections on my head

 pen leaking ink
a splotch
a blotch
my fingers

trail of
wrong choices
missed chances

forgotten lines
wrecked sets
ruined scenes

gaffes that should have brought the hook
except the Gods were
laughing too hard

"what have I given?"
what withheld?

firmly shoveled under
anonymous dirt

some grateful 

Tropic Breeze

 mosaic dance floor
edging into sea

barefoot in warm surf
fingers behind my neck
fragrance of hair
swaying into shadows

along the beach
waves rushing

all Brazil the sound box
of a blue guitar

and in New York
the breeze
is still enough

only my footsteps...

 in the morning silence

harbor flat
a faintly hammered glass

Icy shadows...

 drift through moonlit branches
falling in cuneiform

ancient voices
starlight deities

syllables chiseled
in silence 


 When she took highest honors
at Stanford pre-med
youngest in her class,
I was a guest
of her best friend
my daughter
at her graduation dinner.

I told her beaming father
we had something in common--
beautiful, brilliant daughters.

His was crushed to death
in a car.

on a height
above the shining Pacific,
I read his words on her stone:

 Joanne Hsaio
Sunrise 1979  ~   Sunset 1999

Demeter Musing

 O, now I see her golden hair
between the branches, on the breeze
vibrant in the summer blaze
yet cannot follow where she flees
into the forest of the air
lost among the leaves of days.

A coffin may enclose the dead
with silk and waxen lilies lined
and all the ceremonies said
but what I cannot understand
is why she hides and why I find
vermilion petals for her bed.


For August Kleinzahler

 I don't feel the drama
as you do
the existential moment
in the ozone-charged twilight
under the el.

For me, it's just another
spring evening
no platform at Elsinore
no airport in Casablanca.

And who am I to
judge people as you do:

dolls hanging in rows
waiting to be jerked alive,
hard working stiffs?

I slouch about
reading in corners.

Still I wonder what fire
flows in your veins

and the price you pay.


 as a jigsaw piece snaps
into its matrix
or a tool clicks
into its socket
her shape ignites


 a thought that darts
into the world's mind


Pierrot in Drag, Cyrano with Bassoon

 the old comedian
harlequin of costumes
wigs and rouge
hiding behind the mise en scene
a host of glittering shadows

winkle Him out
pin down His formulae
unmask His poems
learn how on the fly
He flings up sets
creates those fabulous
special effects
in breathless action

see if He knows
who made the world's

or why kids starve
men die and

however briefly




 the dark, suburban woman
with her stylish clothes
and warm thighs

I'd travel a long way
to explore her vulnerability

but it's her fierce independence
that I prize 


 my house is in your mind
your body in mine

the gales of your mind
shake my house

the needs of my body
bend your mind