Thursday, June 17, 2010


I stand alone below the Gate to the West.
The clouds mounted below me grow too much
for my imagination. I duly feed the keystone
holding up my youth. Lincoln is in the White House
when dreams reside with the people.

The rough waters around the White House pond
stand in the back of the war. Abe places a willow
branch before the headstone where the future
will soon lie. Depending on which side wins,
depends which lie will be told. Abraham,
the manic-depressive, soon sides with the Gothic South,
then with the Industrial North.

His feelings are resentment for the conflict
between a great castle and a lesser clergy.
His books of law lay on the table near the kitchen,
yet his spectacles are lost in the castle.
His illustration of the front is waving in wheat
near the principle of this nobleman's sleep.
The language of Spanish waves through
the horse-drawn plough. It is connected
to an airstrip where Barack would speak of candles
lighting a country fighting for its boyhood.

St. Louis is upriver from the willow tree.
Her sleep sounds in the river.
Her message floats by a tugboat.
A raft crawls near the shore. Abe's defiance
wakes several congregations in Iowa.
Lincoln retrieves a painting.
It is a bloody ending to a story that now has no end.
Robert Frost knows about tramps.
He is lyric in mud time. Casey's song stops
at all the small towns. Wake her not last night
if it were only music seen through the fire.
Speak to Frost. He sends me apples by bushels
of extra innings.

My company may be melancholy,
yet you will find me in river traffic and on railways.
You will meet me at Fort Defiance State Park.
Here, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers,
a willow tree stands. Here, in the age of social science,
I find the whole country. If you bring my message
to the fringes of society, then I will expect you to cast
a line back into the rough waters of the hierarchy.
If you bring me to a hypnotist, then I will reverse
the sleep of Cairo, Illinois.

We have no victory now, only a muse that marches
on through generation. If you give me a war
instead of a playground, then I will talk to Homer
in the corner on the beaches. If you build a sand castle
on this avenue, then I will anchor it above the arch
of your sleep. If you give me a private driveway
connected to an airstrip, then I will fly to work
instead of walk. If you bring me to a St. Louis baseball game,
then I will leave you in extra innings with the voice
of the Cardinals. I will leave you with the fountain of youth
and float into the West.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Luminary's Land

We were driving back from Wisconsin
coming east on North Ave.
Out where there's still land
for a country house. I saw a house
with a sort of solarium in the design
of the white frame way up from the road --

A Luminary's Land

Over yonder the Ageless
on the deck of Best Wishes
are quiet homes
belonging to missionaries
in a Luminary's Land
Mirthful sailors in a missionary's house
Gardeners steering in a sailor's bunk
Lost souls
in a Gardener's Mind
Looking for better waves
in waters uncharted
Fiery Resistance in the stars

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Few Forms

I see it all too clear
Used to yearn for graininess
Now I vote for a triptych
Place the setting in the wild
walking the daylight in the silhouette
door of the church housing
the slipstream in the institute
of our pleasures swept
in belonging Outside or in
I'll prove to you that it needs to be

in the insufferable schematics
of guidebooks. The crowd is perfect
in their mediocrity. I have known
that dissatisfaction

at what point does the Art World
overtake the real world?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Prayerful Room

Commentary: JD and I journeyed into the city.
It did not become a pilgrimage until he started
bringing John Cage alive across from
the bar and the bean. I zoned out to a Jasper Johns
     matchsticks painting on the train.
We traveled by the rubbed charcoal of his half
and the finite streets of my mirror. 
We talked about the separate yet not dissociated energy
of the canvases. I composed a piece in my own tin pan alley
a mile from Carbondale as Cage understood.
It is the  hundred and one sparks when only a half
of the canvas matters at a certain stop on the station.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Terry Fox Courage Highway

His message spreads since the day
he takes to his feet.
He takes one day at a time,
one game at a time.
The contest holds no places -
only hope -
     a panorama of hope
that is the story of lives changed.
He runs by foundations of old neighborhoods.
He will cross a finish however many relays
it takes to finish his purpose of continent.
Whoever is in his marathon
will collect together their kilometres.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


The beggar cries for the moon
     to be a silver dollar.
The rich man empties his pockets,
beats his fists at the prophet's door,
and cries in his sins for a long while.
     The dreamer,
unbroken in the meditation of his days,
brings his bow and violin.
He consults the ground,
     the animals,
     and the fog
that he sees for perhaps the first time.
He entertains the beggar and the rich man,
and charges no quarter for it.
Animals come out of the fog
and reveal themselves
for the first time.
I cannot say what will happen after that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I catch up to your face in Nashville.
I sit on the off-ramp for hours.
     My shoes fit the bill,
yet I fear to speak the globe's guffaw.
I put Willie Nelson at the helm
and coast the rest of the way
to your coronation.
You will run a dark and dusty outfit.
I will be one of your subjects,
secluded in the starlight express.
Address your play list to the fallen angels
of this regime's catastrophe.
Fill their boots with dust
that they might know irritation.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Passing afternoons

Strikes reach my ear in a succession of falling castle walls
     and fell my resistance to effort.
Walls fall all the way to my passing afternoon.
My eyes turn from a camera to behold ramparts
overflowing with overflowing eyes.

Effortlessly, I watch a land being observed,
a land responding to limbs falling
into maps on passing afternoons.
     Gradually, I respond to my limbs
walking out of the map into the resistance of my heart.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Men press darkly on evening snow.
Newspapers rustle on the tundra.
Snowplows trundle through icy streets.
     I am caught off the curb
in their candle glare.
A man in a wagon addresses me
from the pavement. He is kind.
     He tells me I am part wolf.
He offers protection to me.
His wagon is open.
Heavy flakes fall in front of me.
Banks of lights turn on and off.
The lights dance.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Few of us are

entirely present in one place.
Brother, counsel me not with circumlocution
as I apply every ounce of meaning to your advice.
I take the course of action you recommend.
I take the liability to say something funny.
The beautiful dally, composing their conversation
I soak in climates incidental to my search for you,
my Lord.
I see the scarecrow dance his worries away
in a jiffy.
I see you descend in a cloud to greet me,
my love,
as I climb the steps of the church
with the prospect of water
on one side of the highway.

Train Smoke

I follow the train smoke of day's approach
through every scrape the brambles have bled me.
The hearts of the champions smash inside
their chests. Hides have been punctured
many times by the lawless mountain thorns.

The giants grapple with the mountain thorns
as they walk from the mountains.
They pull illusions from the clouds.
I take passage on rivers carved
from their toil.
It is a great vision to see
the wolf or the eagle that escapes the pull
of the giants. I toil in their shadow.
My sight is temporarily blinded by sweat.
Only then is my vision beclouded by realism.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Popcorn Gypsy

The popcorn gypsy sells scoops of salted popcorn from the round window of his riveted aluminum camper. He spares no kernels in the white paper bags. The silver lake of his camper looks less like a projection and more like a choppy sea. The wooden spindles of the Riverside Motel are trim as film reels. The red and blue awning of the thrift store sneaks around the corner of a jigsaw puzzle into its dog-eared box. On the cover the motorcycle caravan follows Main Street's wide curve. Two bicycle campers share a bag of popcorn on the curb. In the camper, the gypsy dodges the click of a disc. A butterfly leaves the faded murals for the alleys of Prophetstown. White Cloud crosses the Rock River.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Outer Limit

He imagined his days as sculptures
and well they were. He imagined
that he sculpted his days.
He began with the outer limit

of getting a year's worth done in a day.
The day stood a great shape in the afternoon.
He perceived the outline in the dusk.
Wedges and widgets held it in place.

At night he kicked them around
the confines of a book.
He had many recipes for widgets.
It took a fine eye to wrest the variations.

He amplified them with craft.
Quotas obsessed him.
He looked for a paradigm
and a trick to secure production.

Some wedges and widgets he noticed
more frequently. He became friendly
with them and eventually conversational.
Soon their names began with different letters.

He was aware of standing back and looking
at the sculpture when the sculpture collapsed.
Then he was aware of riding away
with the collapsed pieces on his back.

He put the puzzle together again.
Except where the edges once met nicely
now the shapes warped and curled.
He crumpled them into his planner.

Tumbledown Timelines

We improvise the Speedway
through the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
lost in the star won by the Union...
In the distance, the Native Americans
introduce the European settlers to tobacco.
Citizens rebound the identification of hometown heroes.
The jockey steps on the scale to weigh in.
He parades his horse by the checkered mural.
In the grandstand a pair of strange eyes lingers
and moves on through the veil.
The jockey visualizes the final turn into the homestretch.
The fire hydrant is painted scoreboard green.
I travel through the welcome of Louisville to my boyhood home.
The car is caked with limestone dust. The vehicle changes
into the collection of plates I know it as.
     Walk with right.
     When right does wrong
walk on your own.
It's engraved beyond the cabin of Lincoln's Kentucky birthplace.
The lowest branches of the Green River run below
the deepest tunnels of Mammoth Cave.
Outdoors I paraphrase more easily
the myth that is out of reach.
Rickety boards and tumbledown timelines are a fortress.
I take the exam on the same day I instill courage.
I brush my teeth. A pitching change is made.
We listen to the Cardinals win the pennant.


Downtown Memphis is a loop of heavy braided metal
rusted on the cobblestone. Western dawn
spells out a structural "M" on the lights
of the Hernando de Soto Bridge.
At first light, painters return to their scaffolding
above Sun Studios. They letter the Beale Street sound
with fresh paint past W.C. Handy Park
to the Riverfront Loop Trolley.
     Fenders rust a fleet overnight. Elvis,
embroidered in costumes of sequin and crocodile,
volleys gold records. Visitors are the grounds crew.
The entries on the front wall of Graceland
are the brightest Christmas trees in spring.


I ride the Monongahela Incline to the mountaintop
I am from, conquer my fear of heights,
     and dance the dark sky away.
A phoenix sheds a tear as I stop for repair
of chalk variables under cabinet
of dark sky at noon.

Are you Baltimore Oriole or Pirate?
Sail through Pittsburgh glass and steel.


Passing your driveway today,
I wonder why you too are not on the road.
I wonder when we will all gather around
one hearth.
I wonder, out of custom, if you work with your hands
or with your mind.
I wonder at your presence within a tradition
of 230 years.
I wonder at the furniture I see on your front porch.
I wonder at the sounds that have chased you
across the prairie.
A single pearl floats around the corner of my season
into country rusted out of belief.
I wonder if you have any more big decisions to make.
I know I do.

Closer seasons to the heart

The Niagara River runs even
gallon after gallon
into the summer
splashing the feet
of those who run
and all who wait and walk
with ones they love.
Those who amble
and the dreams they have scrambled for
in the closer seasons to their heart
are a ration of summer
in a litany of all travels left to trek.


The warrior carries his bow
to the water's edge.
The last lantern is diffused.
Once, by accident,
an arrow erred,
and a town was born.
The stranger,
dressed in tunic and trousers,
appears sincere to the two chieftains.
The lapis lazuli on the pendant
of Persephone's messenger
catches the moonlight.
Everyone hushes.
We both find the metropolis
in the shallow depression.
Later, developing the image
in separate castles,
I acknowledge
the approaching set of footprints
on the ridge.

Impossible Shores

Droves of minnows
line Highway 61.
Dandelions bloom
into the blue expanse.
Yellow carbon copies disappear
into the world's largest freshwater lake.
I initial the forms and fold them
into the slot for the ranger
at Eagle Mountain.
Tail feathers disappear
around the corner
of Whale Lake.
Water laps at the knees
of the apostle's impossible shores.
Two day trippers beep in agreement
with two road trippers.
On the peak we gaze red crested
into Ontario.

My Ledger

I slumber steps from the tall desk
where I work with my ledger
in my room off the Great Hall.
My entries stand up to the Arctic Wind,
the joining of the annual Rendezvous,
and the fortitude of the Voyageurs.
In my books you will find the orchestration
of the torn and frayed with the tailor made,
the Montreal water routes and the fur trade.
I dress for my chore of recording sorrow and delight
in the northwest of a young nation's expansion.
In the century of the Cree and the Ojibwe
I groom myself in the mirror above the dresser
you stand before in this re-enactment.

Mark Twain Lake

The road is a serve.
The game, volleyball,
stretches out over an empty highway.
The wires give way to a net stretched
between here and the Illinois River Valley.
The anthem hesitates.
Years get confused for a few days.
A keep out sign falls to the floor.
Florida lays low.
Hannibal, aware of the filter,
is neither older nor younger.
The mischievous Huck disappears
through pictures of dead trees at sunset
by Tom Sawyer's plaque in an empty yard.
The family cabin is with the loved books.
Mark Twain Lake, water of the Salt River,
turns to wine in the years 1962 to 1984.

Thunder Bay

Bear, path of fish to the sea,
command of tidings from the beginning:

Lead me through the mountains.
Pledge me snow.
Canopy the forest.

Answer me with company
of coldest lakes.
Stand with me
high above the canyons.

Climb across the sky.
Shine on promise
of home and firelight.

The Elders

My Fathers left a keystone leading to a truce.
The agreement faded. We are angry
at running out of space before glimpsing the city.

Dust swirling in our eyes,
marooned under a skyline,
we walk into your city.

The way is scattered.
My name means be a large Blackhawk.
Cross, and in crossing, find the strength to cross.

All are left alone in the maze.
Gaze into the evening.
Find peace at the end of the day.

We invite you to Eagle's Nest Art Colony.
Bring a blanket. Fold your arms with artists
as we stand on the Rock River Bluffs.

Guest Book

The hobo's prospects drift from the town square -
over every street U.S.A - to the edge of town.
He gathers yellow wildflowers into his steady gaze.
He grabs hold of the ladder and swings onto the platform

of a red passenger car. He walks through the door
and seats himself at a desk. On the desk a guest book
is open to the days when he rode the rails
of the Illinois Central.

He brushes a fly aside, signs a nickname, the number of times
he passed this way, and today's date.
He looks at the last entry. A time worn signature
is scrawled on the leaf. It might be one of his friends.

It might be his own.
It might belong to wildflowers.


No arrows of popularity point here.
I point my camera,
and my reflection appears objectively.
My shadow hurries to cross the strong diagonal.
My real self may be with the water
or sunning with the moss on the tree trunk.
My Ego stands on the stone platform.
I am unwilling to change,
     resolute in this century.

The Lighthouse Keeper

It is an operational myth that each soul,
rich or poor, has to look at their reflection
in the mirror each morning.
Hundreds twist their tie into place.
Thousands solemnly excuse the rule
stating excessive eye contact
with another shows shiftiness, aggression.
Millions have applied to borrow worries
from a self assured smile
that crowds their mirror only yesterday.
Ascend the spiral staircase
to the small room and the radion beacon.
The choppy surface may be a mirage,
only there is so much water.
Chant a passage from an oration,
a summons to those in peril.