Original Poetry: Magritte’s Panels

On the Threshold of Liberty (1937)


On the threshold of war,
      Magritte promised liberty
with a painting compartmentalizing
      an octave of ambiguities held in check
by an appliqué-flat
      black cannon

in the space created
      by angled panels.
Walls of verdancy and altocumulus clouds.
      Tessellated mechanisms.
An anonymous nude tilts
      toward a suggestion of flame.


July’s uncompromised
sun on the collarbones
      glinting rivulets of sweat

      a sprouting of slightly curled
hair fanning out
      to just beyond the attentive nipples
      sepia-flow bisecting the abdominals;

slick hands, thumbs shuck
      fine cotton from hip-hooks.
Every inch glistens

      upon a precipice
among the tiered ledges of Hippie Hollow,
      and he
one of many young men
      who plunge
into the dam-made distensions
      and depths of Lake Travis.


A graded cement path embedded
      with river pebbles
ascends to the threshold
      of a charred pit, a cavity
like December, an emptied swimming pool.

Nobody was hurt last night.

Something smolders.
      Skeletal studs transgress
the retaining wall wet with the elements.
      Drizzled mist obscuring
ravines, then neighbors.

A young woman came home to marry.

Affixed to the metal banister
      a seared veil
(dripping, rustling)
      blossoms like the ohia lehua
on the scorched slopes of Mauna Loa.

She’ll borrow more than planned.


The Hennepin Canal, a weeping gash
      cleaving corn fields,
slides toward Rock Island.
      Docks. Mississippi River barges.
The railyards that reel in mile-long trains
      more economically
than a gouged waterway

without expediency among the stands
      of cottonwood, catalpa, black
walnut. Mulberries, raspberries
      lower their fruit
to the murky mirror-surface
      to colonize new banks
to see their feral reflection.

Shouldering the northern boundary
      of an historic distribution,
a clutch of red-eared sliders basks
      on the emerging
limbs of a submerged hickory
by unretrieved sport fish.


All dials align
      in a confluence of eights.
The Water Cube waits empty, incandescent.
      Its ready lanes maximized
for glorious upon glorious
      achievements in speed.

Tenths of seconds matter
      as eight and two thousand
volunteers from the compulsory Red Army
      Fou drum
the Olympic countdown
      in the bowl of the Bird’s Nest.

The machinations.
      The mechanistic precision
of rachet wheel and return spring.
      The delicate hairspring
tensely wound; the holding back
      of Tai Chi masters

and space between the Gate
      and Hall of Supreme Harmony
near Military Eminence
      in the Forbidden City.
Southward is the stage,
      Tiananmen Square, counting.


Venice of the Middle East – Basra City.

Canals radiate from the Shatt al Άrab
      until it unfolds into the sea.
Stillness envelops mid-day
      along pockmarked streets.

A sun illuminates
      empty window ledges.
Sheets are drawn
      where there are no curtains.

Armored vehicles define
      areas of influence.
There is a dusty
      matte-sheen to them.

And a torpid response
      to necessary errands.
A dull peace
      derives from their presence.
[Check out other original poems here.]


Original Poetry: Jazz Sonnet #2

This clear air crisping the high moon
a fuller shade deep with some blues
that radiates a new distinct hue
downward to neighborhood streets
of a lost town sleeping too soon
for any thriving jazz gliding beats
doubly so sweet when off-time
from high classy dandies stepping out
and dressed out prime—shuffling
that swaggering step to start the dance
about close-like, always pulsing without
known notice of the crooning mic
that surrounds all with a single glance
stands tall over this February night.
[Check out other original poems here.]

Original Poetry: A Song for My Grandmother

Two trumpeters standing tall . . .
From deep within, two trumpeters,
like a pipe organ warming up,
causing shivers and glassy eyes . . .
(It’s an anthem?)
Billows of fabric, flags, circle slowly.
Two trumpeters standing tall
from deep within, an anthem;
and flags, mere billows of fabric,
grandiose flags arc upstroke skyward
in a burst of white doves on a blue sky
causing shivers and glassy eyes.
The crowd, two trumpeters,
a field of uniforms . . .

I am alone
on a high box in white spotlight—
The Moon (Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding).
I am alone and not seeing the crowd
in the blackness; voyeurs watching
me sing of death and longing.
Blue hair, white face, and painted brown
lips, hands clutching (bowing) an upright double-bass.
I am singing what he knew,
of what I’ve yet to know,
of what she knows; and I am alone.

She, my grandmother, straddling her cello,
bows the exhaustion, the longing;
with a trembling upstroke,
does not see the crowd in the blackness

The white doves, anticipating,
are waiting for their high box to open.

Trembling, she claims the microphone.
(It is an anthem.) From beyond
her girth-protected pharynx,
from deep within, like a pipe organ
warming up, she sings
of white doves in a field of blue.

She, the moon,
with wild brown hair and gypsy eyes,
has always sung through the blackness.
Her bone white in a blue sky
sees the anticipating crowds
from her high box on the upstroke.
She announces.

With billows of fabric trembling,
the white doves upstroke
toward a knowing moon.

Two trumpeters announce an anthem.

She, at the microphone, anticipates
the crowd and sings.
I am alone (but am I brave?)

White hair and a blue dress
are laid out on billowing fabric.
The bows are silent.
The brown earth lip-trembles
like a lover anticipating.
She, my grandmother,
does not see the brave crowd
in blackness singing,
causing shivers and glassy eyes.

The moon knows of longing
and sings from deep within.
It’s an anthem “of the brave,”
that she, at the microphone, sings.

He knew the moon.

I have yet to know the doves
that two trumpeters announce.
[Check out other original poems here.]

Original Poetry: Suspension

From the tiers of the river,
      a floe of fog shears
Chicago’s drifting citadels—

their buoyant bulk hovers
      like oscillating droplets
amid eddying vapors overflowing

the locks of the man-hewn Hennepin.
      Like Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge,
a smudged tint in suspended mist

on the opposite bank,
      my parents’ place, gains definition
as I silently slide away.
[Check out other original poems here.]

Original Poetry: Amazonian Dance

A man dances in the tropical night, gyrating possessed
        running through jungle brambles, searching for lost
        Kayapo blood masked by skyscrapers and networking
        highways teeming with lights and smog.
Clouds of pollen dust and smoke rise from leveled land, ride the hot
        breeze bellowing out over embers, ravines, creeks stirring
        the sediment, grabbing at banks, lapping, surging forth
        away from the gridded land, beach-lined, where the lovers
        roll submerged, embracing.
Sperm and fish schools dart, angle synchronously in filtered
        light revealing silver lamé scales in vector changes like rush
        hour traffic merging with the expressway to be momentumously
        thrown arcward, spiraling out with hundreds of satellites.
The refuse, astronaut laden, plunges, slams in an ocean bellyflop
       collapsing the lungs, leaving the man screaming helplessly mute,
       fearing hysterical madness, convulsing, dancing the seizure
       in spasms and rhythm.
The shaman’s head explodes with ebene and snot revealing
        and stomping the Hekura in a fiery frenzy burning, devouring,
        leaping the canopy tops with scarlet papagayos
        shrieking uproosted.
Abandoned feathers cascade with the rains upon pink dolphins
        spilling streams, washing banks, flooding bushes
        at the feet of Yanomamo dancers with feathers flying and manioc
        sprouts piercing dampened ashes.

[Published in tres diversity (1999) as part of the Austin International Poetry Festival.]
[Check out other original poems here.]

Original Poetry: The Soapbox

The clusters silenced and turned
toward the makeshift podium
as the youthful male in layered
white robes coughed dryly.

“It has been decreed that we,
as individuals, have the liberty
to choose to be any type of pickle
that we wish, dill or sweet.”

After a brief moment of contemplative
silence, a favored audible
reaction spread in waves pulling
bystanders into its depths.

The old, heavy woman parted
a temporary path to the platform,
then proceeded to nudge the site’s
predecessor from the creaking, old boards.

She scanned the crowd with her non-twitching
eye. “Do you not realize that if
we were truly free, we would have
the opportunity to stay a cucumber?”
[Check out other original poems here.]

Original Poetry: Dinner In

Through my double-paned reflection
who looks less hurt than me
      is one piercing
      alley light, the faint
geometries of a brownstone,
           trees like an inkspill
           blotting everything else.

Our table bares your unsullied plate
and mine – barely touched.
      The stove has cooled
      onion and cabbage chips
in congealing butter. Raspberries
           and shiraz – exquisitely
           reduced. I wrap the steak.
[Check out other original poems here.]