The Drowning

forced to stare directly
into the glare of the
Orwellian klieg light

waterboarded by
wave upon wave
of outrageous lies

drowning in this
flood of mendacity
I yearn for the chance
to breath once again


Damage Done

damage done
the china lies in fragments
on the shop floor

damage done
the mantle shredded
and scattered to the wind

to ‘undo’ is a harder task
than ‘to do’ (or ‘not to do’)
it’s far easier to inflict the wound
than it is to staunch the flow

replacing a car, rebuilding a home
these are daunting but doable

bringing back civility?
restoring sanity?
we shall learn




lips snarling,
hips swiveling
bopping and shimmying
like a Mississippi catfish
Elvis leaped from the
black and white box and
into the nation’s living room

in his unassuming,
backwoods way
this poor boy
ripped to shreds
the buttoned down,
zipped up facade
of the American dream

to the jim crow – duck and cover
‘are you now or have you
ever been…?’ world
he proclaimed –
‘let’s get real , real
gone fer a change’

and… oh,
did we ever!

Muddy Moaned

Muddy moaned
Muddy hollered
Muddy stood proud

and from the steamy delta
of his soul, the blues
rose to shake the world

Big Joe Turner – New Year’s Eve, 1983. Club Lingerie

With crutches supporting his giant frame –
The inevitable ravaging of age –
In a slow but steady swing
Big Joe Turner took the stage

A hipper-than-hip Hollywood club
is a long, long way from K.C. town
Where Mr. Turner got his start
Layin’ his solid boogie down

On a stage where white kids usually droned
in skin tight jeans and tennis shoes
Big Joe, sportin’ high waist pants
Leaned in to the mic to shout the blues

Like a king on the throne, he took command
His voice – a roar from the pit of the soul
He moaned , he pleaded , he testified
As the whole joint shook, and rattled, and rolled

With wicked wink he delivered the line ’bout a
A one-eyed cat in a seafood store
As the band dug in with a fat back groove
and the crowd turned wild out on the floor

With every note he gathered strength
That rose beyond mere second wind
The decades seemed to melt away
The old man became young again

We whirled into the brand new year
On the leather of our dancin’ shoes
When Big Joe Turner took the stage,
Closed his eyes, and sang the blues

June 2, 2014

the Bad Dream

bad dream last night
standing at the gates of heaven
a screen said ‘welcome!’
‘please enter your password’


when my wheels are at a standstill
when I’m stranded in a dark place
music comes along to rescue me
a kind of triple A for the soul

the wound unhealed

the wound unhealed
still festers and throbs

as hardened minds yet 
draw lines in the sand

and screaming heads 
point a crooked finger

but the truth lies somewhere 
in the murky water
awaiting illumination


suddenly there was Sly

suddenly there was Sly

Sly the irrepressible 
tossing tickets like confetti,
inviting the world to take a ride
on his ferris wheel of funk

Sly, the inclusive pied piper,
leading the dance line – black and white,
male and female, everyday people –
to a musical promised land

suddenly there was Sly

Sly, the alchemist of rhythm and sound
taking a bit this, a dab of that
and mixing it up into a brand new
potion of funkified joy

Sly, the egalitarian
sharing the spotlight with Freddie
and Rose, Larry and Greg
Jerry and Cynthia. hey!
everybody gets a turn
everybody is a star

suddenly there was Sly

the bottom bubbles and pops
an edgy guitar slices the time
the organ shoots skyward like a rocket
bring in the horns now and
everybody sing a simple song as
the whole Family explodes in
a musical orgy of celebration
better than dope, better than sex

suddenly there was Sly


the slump

the slump lingers
like a hovering cloud
over the playing field

abandoned by the gods
the golden boys of summer
have lost the magic touch
that made believers of us all

we watch, bewildered
by the long, slow
fall from grace

luck has turned against them.
pressing, second guessing,
spirits sag in the dog day heat

under oppressive skies
they gaze upward to
the steady downpour
of loss upon loss and
shake their mortal heads


the tap

running to the
incessant tap of time
upon my shoulder

still burning the fuel
of ambition and desire

but the meter ticks
and the inevitable question
looms like a traffic sign ahead

do I quicken the pace
or slow it down, lay back,
and take in the scenery?


the outcast

tresspass unforgiven
the pointed finger castes its shadow
the city gates slam shut

a solitary figure
walks the long and winding path
to contemplate in the wilderness


down is the new up

down is the new up
up is the new down
confused? hey!
not to worry
confusion is the new normal

let us all
reach out and…
deck somebody else

insult is the new lingua franca
company V – vile, venal,
viscious, and volatile –
stands at the ready
eager for a fight

and dark chaos is the
new trickle down


Equal Parts

she was equal parts
joy and sadness
darkness and light

hope and fear
held hands in
symbiotic step

laughing eyes would beam
as her dulcet voice danced
through the air

her smiling elation
infectious to those
close to her

but suddenly, birds of sorrow
could swoop and swirl around her,
to light upon her shoulders

life’s inequaties
and cruelties
her cross to bear


Summer’s Calling Card

summer’s calling card

the summer heat comes in on a breeze to
worry a tall eucalyptus, rustling her leaves
and teasing off the last vestiges of bark

the fragments twirl as they fall
in slow motion to the ground
to lie like scattered pieces of a puzzle

a peacock pokes his head around
the naked trunk before emerging
in full iridescent splendor

and with a sudden flapping leap
lands atop a black iron fence
a princely perch!

he eyeballs the hen below
but her eyes are focused on the chicks
scurrying in and out of her shadow


Distant Drums – song lyric

distant drums

in a dream I walk an endless path
through a barren land
I reach out to pick a dying rose
with a trembling hand

and in the distance I hear
drums of passion, drums of peace
on and on they will never cease
drums of fire, drums of rain
distant drums beating in my brain

Shacow sweeps across an open plain
where once rolled ancient seas
I look up to watch an eagle soar
on a thermal stream

and in the distance I hear
drums of passion, drums of peace
on and on they will never cease
drums of comfort, drums of pain
distant drums beating in my brain

August, 1989


he thrived on the approving nod,
the thumbs up,
the intoxicating applause

but slowly learned that
attention is fickle
adoring eyes soon flit
upon other shiny new objects

there is always
an understudy in the wings,
a new kid in town,
an up-and-comer hungrier than you

and so he grew to relish
his own soliloquy
his own tree crashing
silently in the forest



they call them the ‘wee’ hours,
but when enveloped in their dark cover
one breathes the severed solitude of  the ‘I’
the bed creaks under my rustle and turn

a dog barks in the neighborhood,
sharp spears of sound  pierce the night.
do keen ears detect an intruder?
perhaps he fears invisibility,
dreads disappearing into the inky gloom
and is announcing to the universe
a confirmation of his existence –
‘I bark therefore I am’

I fight the urge to open the window
stick out my head and
join my canine friend in primal cry


spring harvest

spring harvest

lizards scutter sideways
along a cinder block wall

in a cloudless sky a pair
of ravens swoop and soar

I stand waste high
in a field of foxtails,
toiling in the sun

the wet winter that brought
relief to a parched land
also fostered this scruffy
yield of interlopers

I stoop to grab a fistful of stems
and – with grunt and tug – wrench
the roots from hard clay soil

insects scramble from the harsh
light and disrupted earth to hide
anew in a virgin forest of weeds

this pleasure I find in
working the yard
it must be in the genes

I pause to catch my breath
a swig from the water bottle
soothes a dry throat

a sudden scent of orange blossom
wafts through the April air

it triggers shadowed memories of
young love and stolen kisses
of lips wet with heightened desire

but … to the task at hand

I know that even as I pull
and remove a plant, some of
its stickers will fly free
to scatter and sow the seed
each one a tiny dart
determined to penetrate
and carry on the cycle

the earth will circle the sun
there will be another crop
and – with good fortune –
I will be here for the next harvest


A brief excursion

a brief excursion

breezing up the 101
the familiar hills green and
sprinkled with wild mustard

scattered oaks lean like
ragged pilgrims forever
short of their destination

off the highway
out of the car I wander
down to water’s edge

to flex my toes in
sea soaked sand and
let the onshore breeze
refresh my soul


the wind chimes

wind chimes tone
a random melody
in the breeze

a pepper tree’s
shadow dances on
the walkway

time whispers
in my ear its
circular message

as past and future
disappear and I
am embraced by the
naked present


the walking wounded

the walking wounded

say a prayer
for the walking wounded
who tiptoe through
life’s minefield

their scars concealed
they suffer in silence,
seeking refuge in the
shadow of their own



through the opaque
a tiny glint of thought
emerges into focus
to dance in the mind’s eye
and crystallize into the
clarity of idea


ripe fruit
poems appear in my mind
like ripe fruit on a tree
near, but out of reach
ah, to muster the gumption
to climb the fence
and traipse through thicket
to pick them
wet words
sometimes my mind is a desert landscape
and  thoughts are like bleached bones in the sand
then suddenly the words seem to fall like rain
from the sky –  a trickle, then a downpour and I’m
frantically throwing out buckets to catch them,
knowing the dry spell may soon return
ball point
a poem  may be like
the stubborn ball point pen that
refuses to leave a mark
I must scratch around in circles
before the ink will flow
don’t think – just write

The Coyote

a ghostly figure moving through the dark     
the coyote emerges from the chaparral.
down the trail he sneaks on feather feet   
then shoots across the roadway like an arrow.
an intruder, an interloper
invading the peopled flatlands below, 
seeking opportunity in the still, moonless night.
ever watchful… senses on high alert, 
but bold and audacious by nature.
roaming, listening, sniffing the air… 
he prowls the suburban valley streets…
on a mission to redeem an ancient birthright.

My Mark

to make my mark… to be seen and heard
was my purpose, my desire  
to blaze like a meteor across the sky
so young, so full of fire


but with the years I’ve shed this edgy
need to prove that I exist
watching, listening, I now hear and see
the myriad things that I have missed


‘hit your mark and tell the truth.’ –
so said the actor sage
it resonates less in the heat of youth  
than in the cool of age

The Echo

Chaucer,  Keats,  and Willie Dixon
Echo in this crazy brain                                     
Emily, Robert, Walt, and Hank                  
O lustrous star, O lonesome train

Frederick, Miles, Brian, and John         
Good vibrations intertwined                             
Words and music coalesce                        
To form the soundscape of my mind


up on the fence
I toe the narrow path
one foot in front of the other.

oh, I must keep moving,
eyes straight ahead, for
to stop and think is to fall.

on the edge of balance I sway
from wobble to repose
when suddenly a cool

breeze hits my face and
a spontaneous urge
overtakes me. dipping

at the knees, I set –
my body ready to spring
into joyful pirouette



connection cut
but connection still felt
her presence is all around –
the strands of hair in an idle brush,
a smiling snapshot on the dresser top,
a note found stashed in a coat pocket

he roams from room to room
reaching out in vain, trying to
to penetrate the empty space
she left behind
the walls mock him with the
echo of his own weeping

grief has no expiration date
it does not diminish or subside, but
flows like an underground stream,
carving out new caverns of being
and flooding to the surface now and again
with a startling paroxysm of tears

but the sun rises and sets
life scrolls on
one copes,
learning to live with grief
just as one learns to tolerate
a pain in the joint or
to tune out a ringing in the ears

A Nightmare’s Soundtrack

November 9, 2016

I sit in the dark pondering as
my incredulity slowly drains
like blood from an open wound
and reality begins to settle its
heavy mantle on my being.

over and over the ‘how and the why’
of it plays like a bad drum loop,
a nightmare’s soundtrack.
the red-capped demagogue sneers
as he pisses on sacred ground

where is the land of e pluribus unum?
where is our America?


November 13, 2016
A poem dedicated to the brave people of Standing Rock

payloads of greed
cleaving sacred ground
heedlessly penetrating
to the muffled cries of Mother Earth

we must lay our own pipe
with a payload of solidarity
connecting across barriers
an unstoppable force of love
and conviction in our goal

we shall yet hear the
healing sigh of the planet

The Angry Exclamation Point

the angry exclamation point,
feeling restless and confined,
rolled it ’round in his narrow mind
and decided he could rule the joint

‘he’s big! he’s strong! he’s like a tower!’
commas, periods, all agreed
‘a sign like this is what we need!’
and so they brought mister point to power

he despised the inquisitive question mark
‘what a crooked, crooked sign!’
she’s a phony, an elitist, not our kind!’
and sneered at her wide inclusive arc

‘all question marks are hereby banned’
he declared off the bat to wild acclaim
‘now… just believe all that I proclaim
’cause mister point’s now in command!’

The Optimist

the optimist

dishonest voices hover
like a poison cloud
above the noisy throng

primal brains respond.
lips begin to whisper
the unspeakable


in a world painted
gun metal gray
my vision remains
awash with color

I want to live
and without a dream
I will surely die

like a believer
clutching an amulet
I cling to hope



a maple chair
lies abandoned
by the curbside

tilting in the rain.
Its two good legs
dig into the mud

like a wounded man
struggling to rise
It longs to be upright

it was once the backbone
of hearth and home
now it sits forgotten
discarded as trash

The Dash

the huge oak extends
its branches over the pool

the dappled light wiggles
on the rippling water

a lizard makes a dash
up the exposed surface
of the angled trunk
to reach safety and
sustenance in the
leafy canopy

high above
a hawk is circling

Bipedal Dreams

a pair of running shoes
arrive in the mail
I try them on for size

old tired feet
feel coddled by
the glove like fit

pacing the room
I feel free to indulge
my bipedal dreams

I am the wind
I am the fleet-
footed messenger

for a brief moment
I almost believe I can
outrun the reaper

The Dig

the dig

purging paper
getting rid of stuff
heartlessly tossing
decades of flotsam and jetsam
it’s a melancholy business

cards, letters, mementos –
reminders of the people
I’ve fallen out of touch with
the names I can no longer
put a face to

some keepsakes bring
a tear or a smile
others – once pregnant
with meaning – now lie
like empty shells
drained of vitality

I find myself
going through boxes
like an archeologist on a dig
the deeper the layer
the more ancient the history

down on the floor
curiously examining,
attempting to decipher
the scattered shards and scribbles
of my own life


The Choice

cynicism sits on the table
like a tall whiskey sour
the cool frosty glass tempts
me to drink its poison

‘bottoms up, bro,
the world is fucked!’
why care? why bother?’

but I can’t see myself as
the iconoclast in the corner
who mutters empty witticisms
between sips and watches
the dancers but dares not
join in

outside, hope paces
like a riderless horse
eager to chomp at the bit
it calls me to action
‘let’s ride into the fray!
let’s fight the good fight!’

Sweet Persuasion

Sweet Persuasion

sometimes on a sleepless night
the elusive muse appears before me
and with seductive charm implores me
in sweet persuasion I can’t fight

she reaches out to extend the touch
of fingertips beneath my chin
and gently lifts my gaze to hers
to command with whisper – ‘Write!’

Balboa Boulevard

Balboa Boulevard

pulling over to park I passed him
a figure tall and straight as a stick
wearing wool cap and pea coat
his feet inching along the sidewalk,
his silver beard bristling under his chin

I killed the engine and waited
waited for the stick figure to pass

sandaled feet shuffled into view
then came to a halt

(one -one thousand, two -one thousand…)
he wasn’t going anywhere

(schizophrenic. derelict, wino…)
my brain was awash in a pool of negativity
followed by shame, resentment, impatience
I got out and began unloading my gear

‘Good morning!’

the Indian accent was prominent
I raised my head
the spectacled eyes radiated kindness
the smile was joyful and genuine

‘Good morning to you!’ I said

‘How old do you think I am?’

I paused before lying
‘Oh, I don’t know. Fifty-five?’
(I cringed at my own phoniness)

he laughed
‘I am eighty-four today.’

‘Wow! Happy Birthday!
‘You don’t look eighty-four.’
(the truth – he didn’t)

‘It is a beautiful day today.’

with open palms he circled his arms
as if to take in the vast wonder of all
creation in a sweeping embrace

‘God is everywhere present.’

in this moment he looked and
sounded like the Mahatma
it took my breath away

I placed a hand on his shoulder

‘Indeed, my friend,
‘God is everywhere present.’