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Is human thought
an elongated view
of one spark kindled
in the breech
with physics rubbed by poetry.

Or are we horizontal
where focus comes
as brush fires
everywhere at once:

our energies expand
as we extinguished all
save man.

I do not pretend to human thought
except my dog Saucepan,
has an intelligence
I do not know.


Your birth was questioned.
Your death is certain.
Your life transfigured all.
No live "The United States of America"
without you.

No death to monarchies everywhere.
And, god, too, assigned his proper place.
Still every new life blessed
from citizen to country.
How soon we forget
who are ancestors are.

We nourish on the fruit of your labor.
We breathe air free from tyranny.
We trod on soil not owned by divine right
nor claimed by kings or queens.

We live by the rule of law however imperfect
with tragedy we have forgotten you,
Tom, I apologize.


My finger curls
in habit
around my pen
but won't write your name.

A tear floats down my nose
as it always does
in feeling your name
rush to my fingertips.

You've been gone,
forever now,
at least since your birth
sprang half-formed on my lips.

I tried to touch you
your skin melted.
You were really gone
to where I don't exist.

I tried to be your friend
but you said that wouldn't do
for I was just latching on
not letting go.

Your memory clogs my finger
and won't write your name
a bitterness I don't deserve
just for having loved you.


I come from a long ways away
where little birds
flutter in pine trees
building nests
for small blue eggs
that hatch into creatures
having the same bones
as I.

Only they can fly;
I can't.


In the slow swallow
        of the earth.
I feel myself
        being chewed.
Another tiny morsel
        without spices
to feed hungry eternity.

What matter I
        in a slow second
of earth's insatiable appetite
        through generations
devoured before my history
        writ tiny
on the tongue
        that swallows naked me.


Yea, though I walk
through the valley of books,
I shall lift mine eyes up unto my dictionary
from whence cometh my meaning.
Thy adjectives and thy adverbs,
they comfort me.

The word is my shepherd.
I shall not mispronounce.
Words that lead me to lie
down in great definition.

Words restoreth my faith.
Two score and nine years
testing whether this poet
or any poet may long write.

I wanna be a carpenter of words.

I wanna take my sawzall
to omphaloskepsis
lop off my nqavel
and just simply meditate.

I wanna be a carpenter of words.

I want to take my plane
shave oxymoron
from a cruel kindness
to a smooth devotion of generosity.

I wanna be a carpenter of words.

I want to take my axe
to billionaire
a bil to those on lower Wacker
the air to those
who can't breathe on their own.

I wanna be a carpenter of words.

I wanna take my jig saw
to nastiness
rearrange the letters to stainness
and dye everything to politeness.

I want to take some glue
give the limerick its due
on the pretext
it's just like sex
surely which I can do.

I wanna be a carpenter of words.

I want to take my table saw
cut six inches off
and join a monastery.

I want to be a carpenter of words.

I want to take my orbital sander
to hate and sand off people
as a possible object of that verb
hate only to be used for inanimate things.

I want to be a carpenter of words.

I want to take chisel
to politicians, carve those self-servers
out of the fifth floor on city hall
and return that floor and every floor
to We The People.

I wish to be a carpenter of words.

Take my hammer and nail
bent over, closed, and ended
for surely meaning and definition
shall follow me all the days of my life
and I shall dwell in my dictionary,
forever and ever. Amen, Amen, Amen


I asked my father once
a little while back
moments before he died,
"Scottie, why did you marry Ma?"

A glaze of remembrance
swept over his eyes.
He spoke wistfully:
"Have you ever seen
that woman in a bathing suit?"

I paused in puzzlement,
was that meant
I should think incestually?
My mother was a good looking woman,
but she was better as an ice skater.

My parents, my dear departed parents,
they died within three months of each other.
When they died
something within me died.

My father's comment did not die
but enhances more significance
as his humanity implodes
with sexual applause
for my mother.

As a child, a condition which lasted
to my mid forties
when I became parent to my parents,
I could never imagine
the two of them together entwined.

He slept upstairs.
She slept down.
How did they enmesh?
What secrets did they know?
How did four children come into existance?

I asked my mother
why she married my father
"None of your damn business,"
she regally responded.

They were married fifty-three years.
They lasted and tolerated
all the while
stuffing bathing suits
with none of my business.


(Jim died of lukemia. Porter/Jameson had taken him to Hines VA for chemotherapy.)
We met in homelessness.
Two stray New Englanders
looking for Yeats and Whitter
in the alleys of Chicago.

Food appeared to be scarce
due more to heritage yankee pride
than larders empty
of cereal, of gruel,
of five pound government cheese,
of one pound chunks of butter.

Conversation was rife
with historical consequences
of hungry youths
woman named Barbara.
Yeats widening gyre
spun past lif'e roadblocks
as if it were fall
and repairing the Dan Ryan had stopped.

Whitter took us through fields
of Catholic Charities
god was not found
but Browning's heaven was.

Jim found his way to Wellington and Cicero
majestically decorated.
I found my way to Logan Boulevard
in need of repair

With a roof for full moon birthday parties,
poetry workshops,
the Unofficual Soup Kitchen,
expended our meager Chicago oeuvers,
performance pieces of longevity.

Under the best of destinations
the food chain alters our route
to hospital after hospital
to aright our bodies to the original trek.

The ravishing highway to Hines
was painful,
not alleviated
by no fat grilled cheese sandwiches.

Character formed while wearing diapers
reasserts herself as we return
to where simple pleasures
are sought at stop lights and x-ray rooms.

New Englanders are bred
somewhere amidst
teh hub of the universe
til they find their senses
on the spoke of that hub to Chicago.

Dreams have a propensity
to leave us young,
the mind does not falter
before the body.

Jim has ceased to be;
his gleaming life has touched this pen.


In the light morning
little feet people
the world I make
dancing to my songs.

You dance your own song
in the world I make
in the dark and light morning
your eyes sew up.

Benedictions get said
prayers and chants
behind seen sight
lyrics to my songs.

In your lap my unicorn
having tasted your dream
in three quarters time
sews up my eyes.

Darkness crumbles
little feet people
on toothpick crosses
cut from my wooden head.


Before my birth
my grandfather had imported
indentured servants from Northern Ireland.

Two of them, my uncles
Belfast Bob and Fibber Magee,
eventually went to work for my father
who owned well-drilling
and building moving companies.

My mother was pay mistress for all.

Belfast Bob and Fibber Magee
claimed the whole
of Northern Ireland was Scottish
that any human worthy invention
was by a Scotsman,
macadamized roads,
the telephone,
the capitalistic system, etc.

But Scottish or no
they maintained a noble Irish tradition,
a beer for breakfast,
two beers for lunch,
three beers for supper,
and a six pack at bedtime.
Ballantine ale was their drink of choice.

Fibber Magee took me fishing once;
taught me how to worm a hook.
My father had no intrest in such things.
Fibber got arrested
by the game warden
for fishing without a license.
He asked me to pay the two dollar fine
as he only had enough for a quart of Ballentine.

Belfast Bob tried to taech my mother to drive
with a quart of Narragansette
between his legs.
She poured it out.
By doing so drained his ability to drive
as he could only drive while drinking

They were generous, gregarious men
Their mirth and good cheer
increased proportionate to drink,
until satiated, then tehy lay down to sleep
where they were, woke and went home.

On paydays my mother would lecture them
on their uses of their money they had earned.
She was worthy as queen belle herself
as she drew each letter
of my father's name
with a question?

Where are you going to cash these checks?

Aye, Mrs. Jameson we'll be going
to MacIntyre, the butcher,
buy a pound of his fine made baloney
and then to sister Anne's
for a fresh loaf of bread
then home.

This script had been worked out
decades before.

My mother laid the pen down,
took off her glasses,
squntingly her voice said:
It's the baloney you're giving me
You are not stopping
by Murphy liquor store are you?

That was not a question,
in my mother's voice,
Aye, ma'am we not be going there.

The two you must have already been.
My husband gave you money for lunch
and you both bought beer with it,
didn't you?

No, Ma'am, we be need'en lunch
for the energy to be doing
a good day's work
for that good day's pay
your husband is given us.

The both, the both of you
get out of here
You'll be the death of me yet.
Invariably as they left
you could hear them
sotto voce on the back porch:
Fibber to Belfast:
Tis the hardest part of this job
getting paid.
Belfast to Fibber:
Aye, but we've never been hungry
nor without a place to sleep.
Let's be off for a quaff.

My affection for them grew
with their deaths.

I miss their unassuming humanness
that spoke
through beer moistened Ballentine lips
of only kindness for thr rest of us.


I cross the river
in George Washington's boat
wondering what life
will be like when I'm sixty
and can no longer see the paper
to write my name
with your blood.


I first read you without knowing about you.
You were keen - occasionally witty.
Your rhymes sent me to the library.
You capitalistic upbringing
made me shut your books.
Still from time to time
I would hear an echo from your voice.
Dang, Merrill could have said that better.
As I grew older
someone put sunglasses on Karl Marx.
I peeked at you again
like one of the forlorn lovers
you must have had.
But I delight your body not.
emollient to my mind were your words
as if faggotry and aids were Kurds.
Forgive - you turned them round.
Positive - you turned them sound.
No man is greater triumph
than of to change the spelling of
adversary to advocate.


Once when I was young
I wanted to escape
the constraints of my parents
so I ran and hid
under my Cousin Shaw's
lilac bush.

I was so young
I didn't understand
the bottom branches
were so far off the ground
they did little to camouflage me
my father found me within the hour.

The constraints the next day
became yet even tighter
I vowed the next time
I would hide yet deeper
into the inequities of my neighborhood
I would stuff myself
into my Uncle Ned's doghouse.

I grew older
the weeks turned into adolescence
Uncle Ned's dog died
he set the doghouse afire
he burned my potential sanctuary
it is a strange behavior Uncle Ned
and where in the blue blazes
was I now to go?

Hiding out from the world is an art
surely soemone else
has a doghouse
or maybe just maybe
Cousin Shaw's lilac bush
has grown full enough to conceal me.

The months have grown into middle age
and the adult world
imposes more inequable constraints
than my parents could ever have thought of
so I go now to my childhood
to find Uncle Ned's doghouse
or more hopefully to locate Uncle Shaw's lilac bush
where my father can find me within the hour.


War is human activity
seemingly built in our genes
much like the color
of our eyes
sees enemies in the weakness
of others
or straddled in our DNA
that determines
the length of our fingers
used to squeeze the bullets
of reason out of the barrel
of alleged superiority.

War's most grievous casualty
is the death of hope
riven from human spirit
by incessant winning
like any competition
with a lowered number body count
instead of a higher score
for civilization.

Humans like prairie dogs
dig holes in history
to prove the survival
of their numbers is proof
that scratching bombs
in another's eyes
so he can't see the truth
as we lie to explain that truth.

War, War just or unjust is tragedy
writ large as if to say
no trespassing
on the spirit of our hope.

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