Issue 17 Poetry

Philosophical Flowers



The streets are named for German poets
in my huge provincial Midwestern city.
Dust whirls up from the tires of passing cars,
lifting a veil over me, like Romantic longing. On Goethe, I want nothing 
more than to reach down and feel a lover’s big skull
in my hands. On Schiller, lust subsides, among the wrought iron
doors and grand steps, lined with hundreds of dollars of candles. 
Inside, patricians mingle in the high-minded friendships
I desire for myself. About this, as so much else,
the flowers in the window-boxes on Schiller are philosophical.
Their arguments are convoluted, but concern the beauty of simplicity, freedom from need,
and, even more often, the depredations of time.
One fat peony speaks as if she were the Sybil:
“Live with your century but do not be its creature.”

Philosophical Flowers

About the Muses


Some say three, others nine. Varro claimed
one was born of water, another played daylight

like wind, invisible as the airs on Caliban’s isle.
A third made a home of the human voice singing.

Dear Hesiod, perhaps it wasn’t the Muses
you glimpsed on sodden farm fields:

barefoot, sopping wet—
but just a few village girls and cousins.

About the Muses

After Watching the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery




My father plods around our small apartment, the rooms arranged in a square, the center of which is the staircase up from the garage below. He’s 72 and has taken to wearing only boxer briefs anytime he is at home, stripping his other clothes off moments after he gets through the door. He still works 40 hours a week on graveyard shifts. Seven years have passed since he started fighting cancer. He’s singing the words Life’s a bitch, and then you die at a high volume because he’s going deaf and he wants to hear his own reaffirmations. He told me and my brother he’s done living once we move out. He wasn’t threatening us. He wants us to flourish and move out, stepping into our own lives. He wants us to love him enough to let him shoot himself.

After Watching the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery

Malibu Beach


—for my brother Joey

What if there were no light, he wondered. Just sound & scent owning the night, without the invasive

Surf Shop green neon, or PCH streetlamps glowering at everyone.
Their glint was wrong, false, while the waves sounded
like aloe on a burn, a quick fix.
Some blue & some red lights also flooded the water—flashed

Malibu Beach