Category Archives: 40 poems

Forty Poems in 40 days-sputtered out at 35.

Well, it was a noble experiement. And if moving and the busiest work week I’ve had in like, ever at this job, and an out of town trip all conspired to zap me short of the finish line, I still learned something. Namely that, despite what I have long believed, one does not have to passively wait for the Muse to arrive to do poetry. It can be practiced on demand. Maybe not always prettily, but it is possible. Good news for stuck poets everywhere who want the kick-start! Below are entries 21-35. You can find 1-10 and 11-20 in previous entries.


Two shakes of a lamb’s tail
Urban Dictionary:
Where did the phrase come from?
Answer Girl:
No one seems to know.
Her dark matter:
One who has seen, sees readily.
The Maven’s Word of the Day:
Visualize those little tails
constantly thrashing
back and forth.

Book of Love
Who, they ask
(understand, despite
my coming disparagement
of it,
that it remains
a damn fine question)
who wrote the book of love.
Who wrote it?
We ought to ask:
Has anybody ever read
the motherfucker?
The world has
by and large
seems to have
left it on the shelf.
But you and I,
You and I…

Meeting Abbey’s Mom
Curtain pulled to one side
staring out morning window
with the cat.
Hand on doorknob
deep breath before opening
warm flannel
deep bosom hug.
Amused smile
sideways glances
holding her hand.
Hearing of
embarrassing childhood
now warming
to possibilities.

Do it now!
Turn down the dog
Switch off the cat
Floss your pants
Fluff the driveway
Put on your groceries
Unzip the TV
Slip on your car
Make the garden
Water your bed
Fold the eggs
Whatever word is given
Act don’t think
Do it now

Concrete Poem
one square
with hints
of silver and white
smooth plane
marred by chunks
and lumps of age
spotted with pads
of squashed black
sticky gum
white splatter
left by
passing bird
and green-yellow scrub
growing at the margins

Ergonome’s 12 Golden Rules for safe keyboard use #11 & 12 work well for life in general too
When you travel
from Home,
don’t resist
natural movement
When you’re not traveling,
Rest at Home

Church Street Café
Back when it was Muddy Waters
this place
used to be
a train-wreck,
each pitted, scarred table
a coach carrying
a choir of whores
who gargled
waterfalls of scorn,
their filth lodged
in every crevice
of the cracked,
blackened brick wall.
When it was renamed
a gong must have struck
in some eternal realm
sparking a baptism,
the whole place born again
as a respectable haunt
of laptop computers
and advertising execs
talking independent film.

Morning commute, 28 Fort Mason
Bank of dirty brown-gray cloud behind
Stonestown pull of the magnet from the
journal clasp on the pen ivy-choked parking
lot fence work crew shoveling piles of tar
into hole in the road hedges look like an
80s rapper’s haircut San Francisco Masonic
Center glares through lack of windows
Taraval Vietnamese place orange green
red splash of color on the corner Sunset
lettered avenues a sea of pastel houses
squat peach Jiffy Lube guards Noriega’s
slope down to the sea growing crowd of
elderly Chinese at the front of the bus
broken by lone Russian newspaper reader
“wet paint” sign by the barrel-chested
green trash can on Judah chipped paint on
a forlorn tan house between Iriving and
Lincoln thick green trees on either side of
the fast route through the park clear smell
of eucalyptus through the window blue-suited
crews watering & pruning he rose garden at
Fulton the girl on at Balboa long straight
blonde hair mass exodus at Geary as always
California connection to Chinatown finishes
off the stragglers white arrows point toward
narrow lanes green walls climb the side
toward the tunnel flickering halogen light in
concrete tube on the other side tall trees in
the Presidio like matchsticks white clock and
red lights on the toll booth steel gray bay and
red thrust of bridge up into foggy
disappearance ivy ripples in the wind at the
turnaround Coast Guard ship clipping white
trail through the Bay Palace dome with white
city dully gleaming in background light is
transparent here at the stop.

The first twenty minutes
always makes me cry
With the medal cast
on the burning sands
The Golden Gate
And the shuttle
with the admiral
circling the ship
like a lover
approaching the beloved
with hushed reverence

Changing Viewpoints
We are flat, and
it moves around us.
We are round, and
it moves around us.
We move around it,
in epicycles.
We move around it,
in ellipses.
We move around it,
in ellipses, determined by
the force of gravity.
We, and it, and millions of others
are all gathered together.
Billions of others, all gathered
together in a giant pinwheel.
Our pinwheel just one of billions.
Just one of billions
all expanding outward
from a single point.
From a single point,
that’s a quantum fluctuation.
Quantum fluctuations
are influenced by observers.
It moves around us?

This seat is mine motherfucker!
Surge of adrenaline
and leap to the feet
from the crappy side-facing seat
as the bus slams to a stop.
Launch down the aisle
icy stare-down of the old man
bounding my way,
with no regard
for little old ladies
boarding in the back.
Slide in to the last forward-facing seat
for the long ride to come,
panic finally subsiding.

from pointing straight up
to shriveled
can happen in six seconds flat
when she pulls a gun

Ode to Sinatra and Sean Combs in Hell
I see k.d. lang
on TV screen
singing with Tony Bennet
and I like her less.
What’s she doing
with that thug?
Then I realize I’m confusing
Tony Bennet
with Dean Martin
and I like them both again.
And really
I only feel that way
about Dean Martin
because he palled around with
Frank Sinatra.
So maybe
he’s innocent too.
my contempt for P. Puff-diddly Comb
and his whole genocidal crew
remains undimmed.
I guess I just don’t like gangsters.

Every day in recovery is like this
The bee on my shoulder
It is his nature,
he means no particular harm.
I move to swat.
It is instinct,
I contemplate it without malice.
I use the umbrella strap
to brush him off.
A new day has dawned.

Singing the lease
walking from room to room
checking the fixtures
your ghost was on me
like a rabid Pomeranian

Forty Poems in Forty Days- part II

Half way through my self-imposed challenge of writing 40 poems in 40 days, and I’m still in it. As proof, here are the poems from days 11-20. Fair warning: among the prompts in this ten day period were writing something repulsive and/or not politically correct, and writing an over the top erotic poem. If you read further, having been warned, I am not responsible for what happens to you…

Day 11 called for no punctuation
The thing is (comma)
it’s not hard for me to do (period)
It’s easy (exclamation point)
I often leave punctuation out
in my poems (semi-colon)
commas (comma)
semicolons (comma)
even periods
or question marks (period)
Doesn’t everyone (question mark)

It’s a
twisty white
to heaven.

It all makes sense now…
All the mother wounds
God-shaped holes
shifty obsessions
and cat love.
Even the Disappearing Mine
when I was ten
and the meaning
of the Green Flash incident.

I understand it all,
the secret.
The key lies in realizing
that your whole life
is actually—

Ah, but I don’t need
to tell you.
You can see for yourself
just do what I did:

In Microsoft Excel 2009
go to the menu, click on “tools”
choose “data analytics” from the dropdown
install the “analyze my whole damn life” toolpack
then use the help menu
to write the “understand everything” equation.

Minor Hues
Everybody knows
about ochre,
and burnt sienna.
But who respects beaver?
What praise draws timberwolf?
Wherefore not into glory goes cornflower?
Is there a palette
that will honor
these marginal shades
before Crayola
shuffles off
their mortal coil?

The Ideal Man
You can keep
and young Ganymede
buggered by Jupiter.
Give me
William Shatner,
circa 1967,
yellow-green tunic
torn at the shoulder,
wiping blood
off of his knuckle-busted
Elvis sneer
before teaching
a quarrelsome Klingon
the facts of life.

(untitled haiku)
Poop? Poop! Coprolites?
Maybe in a few million
Shit hardened years

Summer of Hate
I hear it was
really something
that first summer of 1967.
Peace and Flowers
positive vibrations
all that happy hippy bullshit.
But within a few years
the hippies switched
from LSD to speed
started killing cats for food
and the streets
filled with real shit.
Ever since then
it’s been
a Summer of Hate.

A Summer of
disease infected homeless
in crap-caked clothes.

A summer of
sneering teen gutter punks
from the burbs
playing homeless for the weekend
spitting on passersby
who don’t give them change.

A Summer of
abscess ridden junkies
leaving their fluids in the gutter
and port-a-potties overflowing
with the orange caps
of their syringes

A Summer of
Those who never made it out
of the Sixties
wandering emaciated
food and dried slobber-ridden
birds nest beards shaking
as they rant to thin air.

A Summer of
faux nostalgia head shops
yuppie ice cream parlors
and comodified counterculture
drawing in
fat, complacent onlookers.

Summer in and Summer out
for almost 40 years now
an Endless Summer
of Haight.

Autoerotic asphyxiation
Every time I think of you
I pull the plastic tubing
a little tighter
swell another half inch
and reach for the lube

How I Know I’m In Love
Sometimes it comes
In little things transformed:
Your earplugs on the dresser
Coated with dried wax
Beautiful to me

Captain! Oh Conservative captain!
(with all due apologies to Walt Whitman and Abe Lincoln)

This twentieth day of May
Two Thousand and Nine
you left us, dear Rush.
Call me no more, you said
the titular head
of the party Republican.
“I never sought it.
I give it back.”
Oh sweet selfless prince!
At the thought of politics
shorn of your presence
I weep, unashamed, like a woman,
and tear my shirt in grief.
“Mention me not,”
you told MSNBC,
“for an entire month!”
An entire month!
Scarcely can I imagine one day
without you by my side
to stem the Liberal tide.
The dark days ahead
seem to me as grim
as to you must seem
the thought of life
without oxycontin.

40 Poems in 40 Days!

At the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in February I went to a poetry workshop where two poet-professors from Davis, Brad Henderson and Andy Jones described their semi-annual ritual/challenge of doing 40 poems in 40 days. The idea is, regardless of quality of result, to write a poem a day every day for forty days as a way of kicking your poetic muse into gear. They do this a couple times a year, although typically only a handful of the resulting poems go on to be used elsewhere. They even provided a list of daily prompts to guide your efforts if you need direction.

This whole venture sounded like fun, and fit nicely with my own intention for the year to re-connect with my muse. I knew I would be busy in March and April with my film project, so I decided I’d give it a try starting in May. And here we are! Being a confessionalist in my writing, I’ve decided to share the process with you, my hapless victims. The first ten day’s worth are below, more to follow…

Warning: These are meant to be exercises, and some of the prompts that inspired them are intentionally nonsensical. Proceed at your own risk…

Hot Water
(for Robert Frost, “Fire and Ice”)

Some said fire, some said ice
but Frost (great seer)
got it right on both counts:
the lineaments
of our slaughter
are even now
being traced
by the drip, drip, drip
of hot water

A Truth Beyond All Truths
(owing something to Wallace Stevens’ “Landscape with Boat”)

Anti-matter, florid, eccentric

Meets its opposite and wipes out all things
Leaving behind the scintillating blue array
Of particle trails
Rushing out from a point that is no point
Primeval blank vacuum field

In the Night before all nights
Something erupted there,
Or nothing,
Whichever, kept expanding
Into all the things that now are

The truth, even now,
Is that these things are still the nothing
They once were,
Even we are that nothing
Which is to say something

We, all, the empty space
From which pours infinite creation

I would lie there
twelve years old
on the sand
between the dusty spread legs
of two oak covered hills
yearning for something
that stirred
like the slit-eyed leopard sharks
in the crusted salt
brackish tang
and sinuous twist
of the slough before me

Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu
All 200 patients
of the Denton Regional Medical Center
in Denton, Texas
have custom headphones
built into their beds
that play every Aerosmith song
ever recorded
on demand

Since most of the patients are older
classics are popular
In Cardiology, Radiation Oncology and
Geriatric Neurology
it’s strictly
“Sweet Emotion”, “Dream On”
and “Mama Kin”

Even down in Progressive Care
and the Adolescent Unit
they still have the good sense
to pick it up with the Run-DMC remix
of “Walk This Way”
and cut it off circa 1994
with “Cryin’”

Only in the Psych Ward
in the basement
does anybody have the
bad taste, or derangement
to listen to
“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”

Nightmare of myself given childhood encouragement and high school confidence
He feels nothing but satisfaction,
a kind of ownership,
as he slaps the behind
of the lithe young blonde
lounging in satin
on his way to the shower.
More of the same
in the streamlined gleam
of his sports utility vehicle
gliding down LA freeways.
The feeling reaches a peak
in the glass-walled office
where all eyes at the trading desk
behold him with nervous regard
while his view
sweeps the city
that the electronic millions
he commands
courses through
as he confidently ignores
their expected reverence.

Of all the…
I have ever…
the one
that endures is…
Even now… rises
at the memory of… …
lying… on the…
as we… the width
and breadth
ran its course
took its weary toll

It’s Surprising to Me Too
Legions of menstruating grandmothers for Obama
Will have their final battle
With the spider monkeys of doom
On the caldera of an Icelandic volcano
On July 4, 1876
For reasons that are yet obscure
But will one day be the subject
Of Applied Chronametrics term papers
Flashed through cerebral upload academies
By eight year olds

600 Montgomery
It squats at the bottom
like a giant marble bullfrog
The functionless top scratches heaven
with its ornamental cement pylons
stack upon stack
of white stone, black window
options narrow

Question to the Taiwanese birders I met at the Explorer’s Inn, Tambomachay, Peru
Do grebes float
In the Rio Tambobo?
through a fluidic space
whose muddy bottom
is as bone-littered
as the Chauchilla Cemetery,
do they brave caiman,
giant river otters
and threats whose taxonomy
I can’t even name
and then emerge
to build nests
in green jungles
abutting sandy riverbanks?

I began to seek the way out long before
We lived in Salinas, I was only six or seven. I was not allowed to go to the 7-11 by myself. I snuck there anyway with my next-door neighbor. On the way back we cut through an abandoned lot. We got away with it! Home, no evidence, parents never even knew—“What happened to your foot?” I looked down to find my right foot covered in blood. I must have cut it on broken glass in the lot. I didn’t feel it before, but as soon as I saw it, I screamed and cried. Pain? Yes. But almost as bad— Caught! Lying, guilt, doing what I wasn’t supposed to. My foot throbbed and pumped out crimson. The blood shooting up the dropper’s neck, in my system even then. It left behind a triangular scar that remains to this day.