have i dated much? well,
if i’m being honest,
i have been in (roughly)
four thousand relationships–
all of them lovely women, believe me.

but
i can count on one hand
how many of them took place
in actual physical space
as opposed to my imagination–
and still have fingers left over.

i’m kind of a head case, because i play out
these scenarios mentally, as if my head
space were some sort of practice room
playing “Relationship Ender” games
and what fascinates me is that the
sequence of events always turns south–
like, “Kobyashi Maru” bad–and I psyche
myself out so much that when I secure
a date with a nice, normal, not-crazy woman
there’s a whole history of expectations
(fights we haven’t had yet, steamy sunsets
not yet shared, annoying quirks that
at first seemed cute but now make me
want to strangle you with your stupid
cat-pattern dishtowels no i never liked them
well it’s not like i had a say what do you mean
i never give you my opinion that’s because
you always disregard wait please don’t
walk out the door where are you–)
that i have a hard time trying to keep it to
myself as you tell me about your job and where
you went to school.

on second thought
i probably shouldn’t tell you all that
because you’ll assume that i’m doing it now
that i have been thinking for maybe weeks about
what this moment would be like and this may
make you nervous, as if you had to
figure out how to ace this impossible pop quiz

but please
look me in the eye
and believe me when i say that
whatever i was expecting
whatever i may fear
whatever version of our story my addled brain
has already written and rewritten and erased again
nothing i can conjure is as
wonderful
exciting
satisfying
as sitting here
right now
with you.

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oracle

September 19, 2011

he sat back from the table
took a long pull from his glass
and said
“son, when it comes to women,
you know you’re in trouble when–”

but then he stopped.

he seemed confused
embarrassed
flustered
as if at the moment of profundity
he began to second-guess
the vastness of his insight.

then he shrugged
took another drink
and looked out the window
at the overcast afternoon sky.

“nevermind”
he said,
eyes never leaving
the eastward departing
cloudbank.
“you never know when
you’re in trouble–
not beforehand, anyway.”

i didn’t understand
what he meant
until i grew up.

this is not a poem about 9/11

September 13, 2011

because lots of poems have been written
and there’s nothing useful i can add
that hasn’t been better said elsewhere.

instead, this is a poem about poems
because poetry is poetry and
sound is sound unless
poetry is spoken and then it’s both
and if the sound is heard by someone
with sensitivity who takes offence,
then it is a poem, a sound, and a strike.

there’s a boy named george
(i call him boy because i’m old enough
to be his…not father, but maybe
step-brother from a previous
parental relationship)
and george is a poet whom i respect
and george has different politics than i do

george was a freshman in high school
when the towers fell, while i was a
senior in college, and even at the tender age
of not-quite-driving, george articulated his feelings
better than i could have at the time.
i read his 9/11 poem just now.
it was beautiful and flawed
a paradox, pointedly pointless,
and if i weren’t already immune to
the other side’s view, i’d get mad.
instead i shrug.

when he read it aloud at a 9/11 assembly
a year after the dust settled
it was a poem, a sound, a strike

he has that right as my fellow American
but free speech isn’t free from impact;
opinions sting like hail stones falling

i don’t think there’s a point to this poem either
except to say that your words, however well-intentioned,
can be weapons thrown, even years later
so speak freely but wisely
and be mindful of your neighbor’s heart
because the greatest family value is love

maybe this is a 9/11 poem after all.

bread alone

September 6, 2011

if your father loved you
(the serpent said)
he would give you bread

my Father gives me
the wilderness
because He loves me more

my Father gives me hunger
my Father gives me loneliness
my Father gives me lack
because in my lack
i find Him

my Father gives me Himself
because He gives only the best gifts

so when i am tempted to seek
bread among these scattered stones
i have to stop and remind myself
that my Father knows what I need
even before I ask Him
and will supply my needs
in His way
in His time
for His glory
and for my good

because my Father is good
a far better Father
than we who are evil
and He will not give me snakes
or scorpions
even when i foolishly
ask for them.