Tuesday, December 22, 2015

the necessity of pain and fear

beautiful and high in the
pure white light of the sun and
never anything to eat but
broken glass

never anything to break
but promises
and then the small white flowers
that blossom where the
pieces fall

the filth that we
bathe our children in

the men of god who would
have us beg for more

who would have us lose
all sight of joy

Saturday, December 19, 2015


in the dark, considering
time as an abstract
you and i lost in the forest of meaningless symbols
the bleeding horse, lost in someone else's city
sunwashed and wasted



Saturday, December 12, 2015

like fire

thought maybe the
blood would begin to
run backwards once the
war was over but
it didn’t
thought surrender would
earn us mercy
but no
the children were lined up and
shot beneath tattered white flags,
their bodies dumped in the river,
their mothers raped and then
butchered, and do you
remember the year?
was it before you were born?
after we died?
do you remember the priests
and their magic wands,
their answers that answered
nothing at all?
found you naked behind the trailer
with your wide open eyes
and quicksilver wrists
and I told you there that the
baby would never have my name
told you that the dogs would
say whatever they had to
to get in between your legs
let you find out for yourself
that being weak in the
civilized world would
never buy you any mercy

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

blood in the spaces between what we say and what we mean

crows in an empty field

not the idea
but the fact of it

the sky with a
beginning and an end

the earth moving
beneath your feet and thick with
the bones of indians and


whatever day it is in
whatever year
and all of the unpaid bills that
keep you tied to this life

all of the people you've hurt
who'd like to see you dead

the names you've forgotten and
the lovers you've betrayed
and the trees all bare

the sound of the freeway

the smell of cold engines
going to rust

of the rivers filled
with oil and sludge

america at this exact moment

a woman beaten unconscious
and left in the closet of a burning house
and the simple fact that I've
outlived cobain

have outlived christ and
that I refuse to die like pilate

and what about this
eighteen year old girl naked
except for a string of pearls?

how many wars are you
willing to wage just to own her?

not action
but the act of demanding it
from others

all of these young men shot dead
for reasons that have more
to do with money than freedom

all of these songs with
words but no meaning

it was never enough
just knowing how to hate

Friday, December 04, 2015


drinking yr
but i’m sorry i
confused yr
smile w/ prayer

i’m sorry for
yr sister’s

for the baby
waiting to be
found in an
empty apartment

kept calling my
my name, but
i was already

Saturday, November 21, 2015


for carolyn, wearing the crown of pain

on the other side of the continent
in the wrong part of the year,
bleeding ice-cold sunlight and
thinking about st maria and last blurry
fucked up days of dennis Wilson

waiting for the children to run away

waiting for judas and his
latest girlfriend and when he finally arrives
he brings a copy of exile on main st
and a bottle of wine

smiles and says the
brightest days are behind us

knows in his heart that there is no
end in this world to the list of
things not worth dying for

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

100 years

were breathing crystal meth out in
the parking lot behind kmart and she was
                        laughing in the heat she was
                        sweating pure bliss said
                        i had to kiss her feet said
                        i had to lick her wounds
                         said god was truly dead and
                         on that much
                         we agreed

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

the child, cut in two

not the dying man
but his reasons

his hands
which are grabbing

which are empty and so
what would you
fill them with?

the bones of his children
is an obvious answer
so look past it

reinvent the circle
if you have to

build a better bomb

we have been in this desert
too long now and eating
nothing but the dreams
of the starving

we have been bleeding
for as long as we can
remember but

every day brings us
closer to a darker age

every war is the one
that cannot be lost

this is what we tell the
widows as
we undress them




Tuesday, November 10, 2015

poem for all of the editors who've written to tell me how much they hate poems about writing poetry

and i don't believe in god
and i have no use for poets

have no use for wars
or for any of the ways that
words fail us

think about silence

think about the idea of
rape camps

about the reality
the way the human mind
turns concepts
into butchered bodies

and even on days where
i breathe nothing but
pale blue sunlight
i refuse to let go
of my hatreds

i refuse to act on them

which of these
would you define as

Sunday, November 08, 2015


and the killer is caught,
and his girlfriend weeps

the baby has no chance,
of course,
and the apartment is cold,
the windows loose in their casings,
the grey light of january filling
the rooms like sleeping gas

smell of gasoline,
approach of trains and
               then the fade

an abandoned factory in the
center of town

a wreath of dead flowers
hanging on
the fence that surrounds it

something small for the
world to revolve around

Saturday, October 31, 2015

magdalena spinola, always and forever

like dogs in
the kingdom of rain , like the
disappeared or the dying,
we are lost here

we are weeping on the
bloodstained steps of the
catholic church

we are walking down
rust-streaked valleys of
corrugated steel, and do you believe
in the burial grounds that exist
beneath these abandoned parking lots?

have your children
begun to hate you as much as
you hated your own father?

picture a dead letter office
filled with their prayers

picture your heroes grown
old and irrelevant

accept christ all you want but
don’t think that fucker
will ever have time for you

it isn’t who you kill but
what you believe

it’s never what your reasons are
but how good you look on
the cover of a magazine

gotta smile up into the dying sun

gotta let all that pain
flow straight through you

won’t ever feel any better than you
do at the moment of release

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Toni Grote

May 26 Original Surreal Landscape 18x24 -- Toni Grote


this sound you make
like breaking glass
these walls you
pull tight around you
that turn to dust or
burst into flames and
the fact that who you are is me
midnight and sitting
in a room i don't recognize
driving in the emptiness
between two towns i don't know
in bed at some point and
my wife next to me crying
my hands finding each other
in the dim glow of the streetlights
and this idea of oceans
of escape or drowning
the money gone but the
age of salvation approaching
the possibility of hope
worth considering
and nothing more

Pilate in the age of oblivion

something obvious then
like the number of people who've
said they hate me
the speed at which a man
might fall
from the 98th floor
or maybe that you knew him
maybe that you slept with his wife
in a house
neither one of you called home
there are worse things
of course
but pain is pain
nothing grows in its shadow
and no one needs to breathe
no one tries to speak
it's enough to drive
the nails through the flesh
without hesitation

Saturday, July 25, 2015

the other enemy

or something as mindless as
allegiance to a flag in
a world bloated on genocide and starvation

something as fundamentally
fucking imbecilic as the idea of leaders,
elected or otherwise

always some asshole’s foot
coming down to grind your face into
the shit and the filth

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Mockingbird Prayer

My father is lost in the desert. Is lost in the shadow of Christ. Is lying in a pool of his own piss on the men’s room floor in the bar at the bottom of the hill, and of course he blames me. Blames my sister, blames my mother, and the woman sits up next to me in bed, small breasts naked in the streetlight, says Holy shit – you’re thirty three years old! Your father is dead! Give it a rest, and I listen to the sound of traffic outside my second story window.

And I drive to my sister’s house on Easter Sunday, past the weeping of small children, through valleys of cold sunlight. A friend of mine has just been diagnosed with cancer. The lawns are just turning green, are already filling with weeds, and the hills are still grey, the fields all faded brown. I am not as hopeful for any of us as I used to be.

And I drive home later the same day, firm in my belief that there is no God. I pass the house of the starving dog, and the chain is still there, tied to the same tree in the front yard. The house itself is deserted, shrunken, windows broken and gravel driveway littered with stained mattresses and worn tires, old appliances, and I knew the kid who owned the dog. Knew his sister. Used to fuck her in an old cabin the woods way out behind the house, and then one day it burned down and that was the end of that. She got pregnant a few months later, moved into a trailer park out on Town Line Road, then just disappeared from my stories.

And this friend of mine, his name is Michael, and he lives on the other side of the country, and he says he’s not really sure how he feels about the cancer. Says he’s told his wife, but not his children. Says he’ll hear from the doctors later this week about how far along things have progressed. About treatments. About time lines. And he emails me and says Shit, at least it’ll give you something to write about, and I guess it will.

And he’s three thousand miles away on the day my father dies, and I don’t even know him at this point. I have no children and a job I don’t want. I have an apartment near the river, and the woman I’ve been seeing says we have to stop. Says she loves her husband, and then four years later she says it again. Sits up in bed, tells me she should go, and her breasts are small and pale in the afternoon sunlight. I pull her back down next to me, kiss her nipples, run my hand up between her legs, and she moans. Says Slower. Says nothing at all, and what it sounds like is the truth.

the bleeding horse, confronted

wanted to give you the beauty
of tower lights against a midnight sky,
and i wanted to give you

wanted to explain why i’d hurt you,
but i had no words

just sat there fifteen years too late
with empty hands and
the darkness spread out around me

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

shaping the future with broken hands

quiet again in the
room of empty chairs
except for maybe
the sound of dust

maybe the absence of
your boyfriend
or the memory of his fists

the way that
drawing blood can be
called love

the names of
your children

their small
perfect mouths filled
with broken glass

Monday, June 29, 2015

sea of tears

reach yr empty hands up to
the surface

teach them to burn flags

to assassinate kings

all solutions create new problems,
and so the trick
is selective blindness

sat there in the back yard and
pointed out jupiter and
venus to my sons

spent most of my time
worrying that i was failing them

days got colder until we
ended up at zero

sick at christmas

sky of dirty glass

say to her i am not you and
then say you are not wakoski

say you are not atwood

it helps to be alone

it helps to believe in

we will all end up dead no
matter how many gods
clutter our rooms

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Sitting in a freshly painted room, thinking
that I should be leaving, thinking that it
smells like rain. I have left my son's globe
on the living room table. I have left too
many bills unpaid, too many windows open,
and the truck is almost out of gas. The
woman walking down the stairs knows my
name, smiles like we're old friends, says
she lost everything in the flood. Says her
husband left her for a younger woman,
but she can't be more than twenty-two,
twenty-three. She can't stop crying, and
I can't think of anything to say. I need to
get home in case there's a fire. In case the
phone rings. I am tired of waiting for

mark tobey

an ephemeral silence

Thursday, June 18, 2015

a gunman opens fire

when all you want to do is sing,
or maybe
be told you’re beautiful,
a baby falls from the sunfilled sky,
a rain of weeping hawks, of
angels with broken wings,
and do you remember the
sound of me holding your hand?

were we actually ever in love w/
anything more
than the idea of escape?

i need to believe
that we were.

Monday, June 15, 2015

kirchner's suicide, and mine, and yours

yrself beautiful in this
grey october sunlight and
everything i say distorted by fear

every wall
hung with a cross

the windows broken
or thick with dust
or looking out over
a million tiny bones

this woman in
the bathroom crying

this baby found
floating in the tub

an old story and that i
tell you i'm sorry
fifteen years too late

that i dream about
the accident
then wake up whole

visit the house
of my father's ashes

can remember
nothing about him
but his anger

dreaming america

the streets all smeared white on
sunday morning
and the sunlight without end

the names of the dead
written down then forgotten

what they sound like is silence

like human bones falling
from the sky

the shadows they cast on
empty fields

bare trees rising up
out of black water on the
edges of all the worthless towns
i've ever lived in

all of the people i've left behind

the ones i've
been left behind by

and what our words
eventually form are maps
but none of the missing are found
and none of the beaten

and your sister finds
a new lover

forgets the
names of her children

their faces

mistakes desperation for love

nothing any of us haven't
done at some point

2nd wish

Sunday, June 14, 2015

1987 ford mustang with a FOR SALE sign in the rear window

and the skinny girl who
gets out of it

the price of a pack of cigarettes
(or the name of a baby
who will never know her father

who will be dead before
his fifth birthday)
and what she does is smile and ask
if you're interested

says she needs twenty bucks

says the kid probably
won't even wake up

and the only thing you
know how to be is human