October Song #3

October rises on the breath of summer’s ghosts,Pumpkin Doughnut
walks the midway of a county fair named purgatory,
drinks the last of my gin, making room
on the bar for cider and resignation.

Let’s make this holiday holy:
a baby pumpkin king, a messiah
with arms stretched into bat wings,
wise witches and skeleton saints.

Let’s talk about painted leaves and how
they crunch under our boots and tennis shoes.

Let’s talk about how we hate corporate coffeehouses,
then steal away to take pumpkin spice communion alone.

Let’s breathe the cinnamon breaths of October
until our lungs are full of ash and hope
for the ghosts of another season.

Gin-gle Bells under a Neon Star: My New Holiday Mini-Collection

IMG_5684As Christmas lights blossomed around the city and classic holiday songs conquered satellites and airwaves much too soon, it occurred to me that many of my poems include references to Christmas imagery and ideas. That revelation birthed an idea: a small holiday collection of my poems. At first, the plan was to just gather a few pieces on my blog. Then I thought, “Maybe audio versions.” That lead to experimenting with accompanying sound and music. After a few days of recording and editing on my phone and netbook, I had this:

Gin-gle Bells under a Neon Star

I had a lot of fun putting this together. I hope you enjoy.

Happy Holidays!


Minnie Riperton


Autumn hits like a shower
of jagged stained glass
leaves on my yesterday
skin as I worship
in the temple of cocktails
that should all be named Sunday,
because that’s how they taste.

She tasted like Saturday
between midnight
and three, but that’s a summer
as gone as the droning
tube amp riffs of E-minor
drives between life
flight chopper kisses
and curbside indecision.

This season both kills
and lifts me with its betta
fish pageants, Rat Patrol
League of Hipster Justice,
and echoes of the eight minute
thirty-seven second version
of “Susie Q” escaping a tap
room as a harvest moon
reflects the sepia
of all my bad

Save me, Minnie Riperton. I’ll kiss
your petals. I’ll pretend it’s 1970
when the horns raise the chorus
to a weary midtown night. Save
me as if I can be saved and baptize
me in a tall pour of Japanese whisky,
because that tastes like tomorrow.

Coco Teaches Me Korean and Chinese



At midnight, we walk
the happy, drunken ether
where “don’t you want to go
down like some junkie cosmonaut”
is the most beautiful poetry
and the blue strobe lights
of a parking lot cabbie
arrest make a perverse

Thank God for 3:30
AM pizza joints.

Thank Buddha
for friends who talk
over the alcohol din
of cowboy boots
and hot pants.

Thank Ganesh
for milkshakes
with rum
and Kahlua.

Thank Coco
for teaching me
Korean and Chinese
as she digs an oiled knee
into my back.

Mannaseo bangap
samnida. Xie xie.
Would you like
some water?


Katie, Who Finishes her Name with a Tumbled Heart


flat seven,

The progression always draws me in,
even if it’s a neo-country number
that’ll leave me empty with lyrics
I’ll forget as soon as Katie, who
finishes her name with a tumbled
heart, serves me my last beer
and orange slice.

Happy birthday; it’s Reunification Day,
it’s the eve of the anniversary of my father
getting one boot shined in a village
called Phu Hoa Dong, where 45 years
later I smelled rain between incense breaths.

So, yo, chai yo, kanpai and na zdravi
with my orange slice to the night behind
the wall of televisions over my head
on the way to the “Stand 2 Pee.”

“The wings are good.” That’s what
they always say about places with
midriff and hot pants wait staff.
Actually, the wings are good
and Katie with the sideways heart
is nice, even when I order
the girl-sized beer.

I wonder if she
notices the movements
of the songs she hears every shift.

One, five, four, one—that’s a change
that floats me over river scenes
and lands me in firefly fields.
“Come on Down to my Boat” was
one from Every Mother’s Son, the same
year I became a mother’s son.

Let’s make a movie with a soundtrack
of nothing but songs that move the same.
We’ll watch the faces of the leaving audience
after the last scene, a lingering shot of a sad,
drunken orange slice who always falls
for flat sevens and tumbled hearts.

Mark Sandman Collapses on Stage or the Transfiguration of the New Cupid

Valentine’s shots all around. Pair off; the drinks
are pink and pretty and so were you in the blue
glow of emergency phone boxes lined up
like a carnival midway waiting for me to lose
everything for one double-sax bass slide
moment next to you.

We could’ve danced
in that parking lot like we
should’ve danced at the Terrace
Theater back in ’94 as Sandman
leaned into his bullet mic, transmitting
electric whiskey sapphire truth into
the streets of Austin.

The room was hot for March,
but nothing like Palestrina in ’99.
We might have danced there, too,
until we heard the two-string Premiere hit the stage,
shaking loose our near kiss with a rumble
as we looked up to see his feedback departure.

But we would never dance in this room
where the piano chords have an urgency,
like crying. “Where are you going? Where
are you going?”

The bass walks
the backwards walk of running
toward someone leaving,
someone gone long enough
to be a sepia thought.

The Korean sushi chef smiles
as I give a thumbs up. The sashimi is good
but the bass could lose a string or two.

Kissing Long in the Cake House

Last night, I dreamed of sex with you
again, the same as I have for years; not
as often as the collapsed and tangled bridge
dreams, but enough that I remember.

We were at someone’s house, decorated
like a birthday cake; upstairs room on a fondant
bed, a mirror hanging over where I saw the us
we were, the us we’ve never been.

The most we’ve ever touched in waking,
sober moments was across dinner, your
fingers pressed into mine. “Feel how cold
my hands are,” you had said.

The only time your hair has fallen
over your eyes for me
was outside the Turkish restaurant; you
were the color in a gray scene,
leaning against your car as a prodigal
wind from a distant hurricane
nearly took you from me.

I can’t recall the chill of your palms;
I’ve lost the parking lot conversation.
But the way we kissed long in the cake
house leaves me as thirsty at waking
as the first hour of a day-long hangover.

And the lingering ache is there, always
in 6/8 and fading as slowly as a tattooed
reflection of tequila strangers at another
table, salty lips and eyes crossed from faces
as close as yours was to mine in a frosting
white room.

I’ll feel how beautiful
you were for days.

In every dream, there’s at least one tender
moment. I suppose that’s some kind
of Valentine; not as red and bright
as a drugstore aisle, but with a candle
lamp’s flicker of sugar, pain and commerce.


The communion bread, dipped in grape juice
and after skipping dinner, is as sweet
as her kiss was at the asphalt’s edge of her
grandmother’s August driveway.

I swallow as the hiss and piano
from a cassette she mailed to me in the fall
play over the memory, but even an adolescent
music box rendition of “The Hands of Time”
is better suited for dying
football player scenes.

There was no soundtrack for our moment, nothing
but the pounding of my heart and perhaps a satisfied
sigh from her older cousin who, with her dark ringlets
and high school curves, had as much of my attention
a few feet down the drive, smiling at us after she
had guaranteed the moment with a sisterly nudge.

I want to take another piece of bread, soak
it and savor it as I walk back to my chair,
before the music and Eucharist end.

Instead, I try to remember the taste.

Mauricio’s Cab: Track 1

Feeling the need for a scene with more interesting neon.
Luminous gas patterns I can’t decipher; mystery glow
legends of a city I haven’t yet met with its sewer-deep
stories behind night market glances at a stranger,
weary-ridden by Lonely
with her willow tree hair,
tequila whispers
and empty kisses.

Needing the feel of a scene with asphalt warmer
than where I can’t recall the last time I saw the streets
breathe, but wind leaves my lungs white and congee thick.

“There’s no neon in the desert. You’re talking crazier
than the last time I gave you a ride.”

“I’m sober tonight, Mauricio. Can we hear
‘I Started a Joke’ again?”

Regarding the Rapture: May 21, 2011

“We can just hitch a ride from Jesus
to Vietnam and loot some for real phở.”
A. C.’s plan was better than my idea
to scavenge the city in her neighbor’s
left behind jeep for the phở of the righteous
and raptured.

The cicadas liked her plan, too. Their Martian
War Machine approval from the trees pushed
me along 40 West toward a Friday night
stadium bleacher view of pomp and circum-dance,
decades later but same as mine, maybe more mosquitoes,
on the eve of the beginning of the end.

I don’t remember my dreams that night
after walking the football field, after eating
the chili cheese fries, after the graduate
in a wheelchair, pushed by another, made
me think of Wayne, how I pushed him
from class to class for a year, maybe two.
He had an electric wheelchair by graduation,
probably the same one as when he died before
our five-year reunion.

I woke with no sleep burn images or night
whispers to wrestle or forget, but only the same
thirteen year metal buzz that pulled me back east
after a stop at a roaming Vietnam Memorial
off the highway in Camden.

58,000 souls on that wall, over two million
more written on jungle leaves, rice paddies
and in the ashes of thatch huts. Even more
engraved into diamond hills, patterned
in poppy fields and traced in sand and oil.

Maybe Jesus, A. C. and I can drop
by Alameda and pick up the radio
prophet. Over a steaming bowl of phở đặc biệt
we can explain to him he’s over-thinking
the matter. His math is useless.

The only tools he needs are a calendar,
a blindfold, and the gravity it takes
to drop his wrinkled, Kool-Aid
stained finger on
at all.