I have learned to

keep my opinions


in a closet, since

they will most likely

be censored.


Not directly,

of course, but

so-called friends

may well disown me.


The herd represents

security for most people,


but for me it means

I could get trampled.


So, I’ll stay in the closet

alone, pretending

it’s my own meadow


that no one can visit

without my permission,


but the assholes

always enter anyway.

Condiment Hilarity

The salt and pepper shakers

I bought at the Tucson Goodwill

are fire-engine red

and match my placemats perfectly,


but while filling them

with the requisite condiments

late at night, I put salt


in the pepper shaker,

and vice versa.


Now I have a funny prank,

like a hand buzzer,

a rubber spider,

or an exploding golf ball.


Someone always likes salt

more than they like pepper,

or the other way around.


I can hardly wait

to invite guests over,

and have them join in the fun.

Too bad I don’t have many friends.


What is Love in Spanish

“Amor”, as in extra.

Six miles from

the Mexican border,

it often means less—


a luxury for those

who can still afford it,

or don’t mind paying

too much for too little.


I am lucky to share my bed

with someone who is

in no hurry to leave,


yet love in any language

gets harder to pronounce

with each passing year.


My tongue rolls

sideways, whenever

I try to speak the word.


It sticks to my teeth

and the roof of my mouth

like hard taffy.


With enough repetition,

language will

become unnecessary,


but syllables are all I have.

You must listen with care,

while I try to remember.

Air Quality Alert

My friends have been

dropping in flocks

like poisoned birds


from a variety of maladies–

breathing tainted oxygen,

drinking water,


eating plates of toxic food

disguised to look

like love offerings.


All are deadly,

All will do you in.

No way to fly above.

No way to go without.


Meanwhile, the news

shrills about protection—


facial coverings,

needles of deterrence.

Perhaps they’re right:


the air is lethal,

yet too little breath

will topple you

tike a tree.


Inhale, exhale.


Stay alive for

as long as possible,


draw in your own

sweet wind, and

share it with the sky.


No one knows

the answer,


Lost Shaker of Salt

When “Margaritaville”

comes on the radio,


I always think of

American tourists

in towns like Ixtapa

and Mazatlán,


whooping it up

at Senor Frog’s,

with buckets of iced Coronas

and peel-your-own shrimp.


Clusters of Parrotheads

in gaudy shirts, adorned

with tequila bottles

and palm trees,


swaying in their

rented beach hammocks,


signaling their waiter

for a double shot,

discussing stock portfolios

in jocular tones.


Six shots later,

they run towards the water,

pale legs flashing

in the winter sun.


Everyone has lost a lover,

everyone wants to

blame someone else,


and nobody knows

where they put that

goddamn saltshaker.


Perhaps they

left it at home,

with the rest

of their baggage.


Bisbee Roadside Attraction

People gather in the parking lot

beside their rented automobiles,

staring past the pit’s edge, straining

to catch glimpses of the bottom.


Tourists pull over, slam

their vehicles into “park”,

and run towards the hole.


“That’s it!” one of them cries,

reaching into their purse or pocket

for a camera. The abyss starts wide,

then becomes steadily narrower,


each scoop towards the bottom

greedier than the last, like somebody

dug for extra bites of ice cream

until the tub ran empty,

and no one can lick it clean anymore.


When the copper was gone,

miners packed up and left town,

penniless, health shot forever,

but no one wants to remember that.


It doesn’t sell postcards, or

put money in merchants’ pockets.


Each night after the bars shut down,

patrons head someplace new

for an after-hours party.


Maybe they can extract one more drop

from an otherwise depleted evening.

Maybe they can stay above the pit,

long enough to avoid looking at the bottom.




Bakerville, USA

The neighbors

across the street

are building a house

made entirely

from cinder blocks.


The workers arrive

promptly at 6 AM,

and soon the air

is filled with

the cacophony

of hammers and drills.


A Great Dane lopes

around the perimeters,

staring through the

chain-link fence

with an expression of

prolonged anxiety.


I guess this is what

they mean when

they talk about a

neighborhood renaissance.



on my wall,


exposing your

constant vigilance.


“Til death do we part”

and a long time afterwards.


We sign the contract

but don’t read

the fine print,


until we’ve

already paid

the price.


Your town along the Clark Fork River

overflows with homeless tents,

cluttering the bucolic landscape

at a similar ratio to Los Angeles


or San Francisco: cardboard scraps,

ripped tarpaulins, discarded REI tents

resuscitated from dumpsters

and repurposed into homes.


I remember your extended

vagabond stint in 1980s Madison—

sleeping on heated parking ramps

in the depths of a Wisconsin winter,


disguising your tattered backpack

as a tree stump, then stashing it

in the woods behind the Memorial Union,


while students drank two-dollar pitchers of Point

and complained about their classes.

Now, you and your embittered wife

live in a spacious house downtown.


You probably complain about the mess

as you drive your minivans to Safeway,

but I wouldn’t know about it,

since you no longer speak to me.


I was good enough when you had nothing,

but comfort renders me useless.


I hope I creep into your dreams

with offers of food, sex, and clothing,


and you’re forced to remember

your days of poverty, but

I am sure your sleep is empty,

and you have forgotten everything.




Old Too Late

After six decades,

how did I know so little?


I catch myself in

cellphone photographs,

cheek jowls still firm,


teeth bared, grinning

into the camera,

as if my problems were

invisible, nonexistent.


Behind me, a backdrop

of rivers and trees,


an endless spider web

of mountain trails

my spine could still navigate.


Meanwhile, a sky dome

hovered above, witnessing

everything I failed to see,

yet remaining silent.


I wouldn’t have listened,

anyway.  Eyes and ears

tuned to unconsciousness,


I walk the path, turn

my head for a moment,

and pose, while motion continues:


relentless, erasing my body,

blurring its lines like water.


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