there are white lines
on the skin of my forearms
the involuntary tattoos
of her fingernails and once
a chef’s knife
those days where my mind
wants to trick me
into thinking it wasn’t so bad
I look at them
Someday I will sit
and have ink pierced into my skin
an easily visible design
that is about joy and not anguish
and I will never
have a tattoo placed as cover
over the ones I dare not forget
the reminders I survived
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Things that make me go mmmm

dripping ripe slabs of watermelon
finding the solution to a design problem
the feel of cool breeze on sweat
warm, but not hot, beach sand under my toes
peeling a mandarin orange
the way impossibly thin shavings curl from the cabinet scraper blade
the taste of your pussy
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Is there any relationship
between the idea of a place
and the actual place?
Sunflowers bend in the breeze
in the small bit of dirt
they inhabit at your curb.
Standing, on my way away,
seeing them for the first time again
inexplicable minute variations in each.
A bee lands on one, unconfused,
it’s place and idea
inseparably congruent.
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The edge of my porch ceiling
is dripping, slowly.
Not enough to warrant
a bucket on the red tile.
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I’m really good

There one thing I’m really good at:
Low self esteem.
My girlfriend said:
you’re the king of low self-esteem;
you’re the best at low self esteem I’ve ever met.
I relish the taste, the scent.
Give me an afternoon of sinking in shame
over a bouncy happy day anytime.
I have a Spotify playlist
called: sad; it’s made for these kind of times.
Crying and me are old friends.
The only problem here
is that self-put-downs
just aren’t sexy.
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Lots of people can hold a grudge.
I’m pretty good at putting one in a drawer,
where it slowly gets looser, bits of fluff separating
from the main body of memory, becoming less urgent with time.
My ex-wife, though, didn’t just hold grudges.
She planted and watered her grudges
until they were room sized vines,
luxuriant foliage of resentment,
long clasping tendrils of insinuation.
Her grudges were of the old school
Dutch masters of projection, Goyas of  misunderstanding
Raphaels of things made up from whole bolts of cloth.
She nursed her grudges
held them close to her chest like a holy child laid in a manger
wrapped in cloth strips of sullen meanness.
What a joy it was to tear that babe from her breast
and smash it’s head against the stones
to take a spray can and deface her carefully-crafted art,
sealing her grudges in a layer of rainbow colored graffiti,
 to wield my machete in that room,
slicing through the trunks of twining ugliness,
letting the hacked up bits slide to the floor,
never again to strangle my joy.
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I wanted to be more

I wanted to have an important life,
to help people, to change things,
to be part of the solution
and all that crap.
Somehow, I gave too much credence
to what other people thought
and spent years chasing routines,
self-discipline, appearances
I never actually examined.
If only I could let myself be ordinary.
If only I could not compare myself
to the handsome, fit, sexy men
I see all around me.
I’m too heavy, which leads to diabetes
and sleep apnea and sore muscles.
I could, but don’t, do yoga every day
or walk, or eat only healthy food.
Then I began loving you
and you told me I was enough
just how I am right now
and that I am enough
the way I was yesterday
and how I will be tomorrow.
You told me I am not what I accomplish.
You told me I am a kind person,
that I am sexy to you, that you
love being with me.
Keep saying that,
maybe someday I will believe you.
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Needle tip under this stitch, pull yarn between
from behind, then needle tip pulling stitch off
onto the other needle, repeat
the slow repeating calms my mind
lets me sit in your presence without fluttering
this could go on forever
You look at me, your eyes beautiful and shining
you touch me on the back of my hand
peace flowing between us, impossible to encompass
outside, slow rain all day, grey and drab
we eat leftovers from my separate holiday table
last night shared a glass of old Tokay, sweet and tart
the memory of your skin against mine,
your arms around me, looking in my eyes,
this memory is a weekly stitch, added to the long slow
playing out of yarn, tying our lives together
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one morning in my second year of teaching
from under the sports equipment trailer
a pale cream streak of fluff
shot out and climbed my leg
I put him in a box
he mewed all day non stop
I’m not sure what the children learned that day
except maybe to be kind to strays
II.  when you are part of a couple
and have pets
most of them are both of yours
Ditto was always mine alone
in older age he was diabetic
I gave him his insulin shot daily
he always turned his head back
to look at me
and opened his mouth
in a silent mew
III. dogs are not the only beings
to recognize the sound
of their master’s approach
Ditto would, if outside, come running
when I drove down the street
and so one day, when I was stressed
coming home to an abusive wife
none of which is an excuse
I was in my head and not paying attention
and pulled fast into the driveway
when I couldn’t find him a couple of hours later
I went outside and heard him mewing
from under the car
with a dislocated hip
for which there is no real recovery for felines
from there he declined quickly
I knew that night I had hit him coming home
and told no one for years
I have been haunted by shame and sorrow
this poem is my exorcism
Ditto died long before I left my marriage
for several years
there was a ghost cat
that felt like him jumping on the bed
every few nights
His ghost is gone, or maybe
he jumps on my ex-wife’s bed
emerging from the urn in her closet
that I gave her back when I left
I am only occasionally sorry
I did not fight her
for more money, or more accountability
but I miss my ghost cat
few people understand
when I say I regret not fighting
for my cat’s ashes
but those that do
have deep space in my heart
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What more is there

She told me
she would stay with me.
I guess now
we don’t have anything else
to ever say
except the little things
that make each day one more
stretching out
to the end
where she still sits
beside me, taking my hand,
beyond speech.
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Water Birds

I have had to pull back
from worrying about the world.
The things I can manage
are more intimate and modest:
who am I really, what do I do next.
I am not pretending
the world is not broken.
Water birds sit on the dam
that creates a flood-control lake;
drawing in my remembrances
opens calm where none was.
It’s been 4 years since
she last hurt me.
As I walk by, the birds, startled,
take to the air;
my memories swirl in like patterns ,
too complex to discern,
hinting at wholeness.
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My mind is your screened porch.
You sit in my imagination
on the daybed, reading.
The outside door inaudibly taps it’s frame.
Wind moves slowly in the trees,
almost overborne by freeway sounds.

My mind is your dining table.
You glance up at me,
unable to hold gaze for long.
The candles flicker, we taste our wine.
I feel heat pouring from you,
your desire, your reticence.

My mind is your bed.
I trace the hollow of your back
fingers brushing your skin.
Time slows, then resumes.
Outside this space, birds
sing, flutter, fly.

My mind is our space together.
Between us lies transient lily pads.
We walk across them, feet submerged,
almost falling into the pond.
Flowers open, close, we continue.
Everything stretches out ahead.

My mind can only barely contain
the thoughts of you, the touches of you,
the ways you open me, willing or not;
the impossible peace
being with you has created,
unexpected, cherished, my being remade.

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My skin remembers yours
the way a puddle remembers the storm,
the way a shaving remembers the chisel,
rememberings that are not thoughts,
your back to my hand, your head to my shoulder.

My hand remembers yours
the way a pecan remembers the husk,
the way a chameleon remembers its color.

My lips remembers yours
the way an apple remembers the branch,
the way a cloud remembers the ocean,
the taste of you, sharp and sweet,
heels pressing my back.

My eyes remember yours
looking up through your hair, silver and purple,
the way an owl remembers the vole,
the way a sumac berry remembers its own tartness.

My heart remembers yours
the way a pinion remembers the wing,
the way this poem remembers, dimly,
your inconceivable wholeness.

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Firsts stick in memory. 
My first kiss, Cynthia Sims,
sitting on the piano bench
in the house of my upbringing
with all the adults in another room; 
the first mountain I climbed,
Granite mountain, with my lover and
about-to-be second wife, at the outset
of 28 years filled first with love and companionship, 
only much later with terror, anguish, scars, recriminations;
my first ever fish, caught at age 9, my first sex with Sharon at 18;
and, on September 1st, 2020, in the middle night,
within the bud of a soul-shattering year,
while the long-late Townes sings in my ear 'If you needed me'
at age almost 61, the first ever time someone, 
no, not just someone, my someone, 
lying in her bed a few miles away, me lying here in mine, 
said to me, in text on a dim phone screen,
I adore you.
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You have a difficult time looking at me;
your past made certain of that,
eye to eye too close to danger.
I have to find signs in other places:
your hand on mine in the night;
the way you tremble when your desire rises;
a text after hours inquiring about my day.
Only at pillow distance do I get your eyes.
Only when our skin connects do I get your heart.
Only is enough.
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I heard a song that wasn’t yet written,
tinkering in my head with harmonies
adjusting the rhythm of one spot
the thread of it wound through midair
smoke on a bright sunny day;
it would have gone on forever
but I couldn’t contain more
I saw it slide into your hearing
your face turning into a smile

I read a book that hadn’t yet been written
full of surprises and joy and sorrow;
somehow the author had, without my knowing,
taken the last few years of my life
and written them out in excruciating detail;
I had to close it, stop reading,
then I realized you had been reading it to me
your gentle voice turning each page, each day

I wrote a poem that hadn’t yet been written,
this poem, echoing me in ways I can’t follow;
even here, you are, as you are everywhere I look
or listen or read, as you are most completely
hidden away, a summer wildflower, in the inner pocket
of my heart that is always yours

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Decades spent longing for another life
anything but the one I inhabited
wondering where the border could lie
how I could possibly cross
if and when I discovered it

one day I suddenly stood there, at the line
the signposts were her eyes and hands
at the last, all it took was to walk across

each new crossing comes
just as unexpectedly as the first
a tiny spiderweb between two blades
of grass as we sit talking
the twitching of the bluejay’s tail
perched in a branch overhead
the look in your eyes
when I tell you I love you

I remember how it felt to stand
on the other side, certain
change was impossible
now I make forays back
retrieving parts of me I left

Almost no one, even those I thought close
has followed my out of my old life.

For a while, that made me sad
so I stopped thinking about it

Then the people I missed became dead seedpods
floating away on the wind
when I brushed against the dandelion

I turn and a whole field of flowers
is stretched out
gold and blue

And you come behind me
your arms circling
your head against my shoulderblades

in the old country I had no love
now I have the love of three women
and friends more than that

I am bigger than I can understand;
each time, each time you touch me,
I finally recognize myself

You stand at the sink.

I’ve dropped off fresh bread;
I come up behind, close,
my arms around you,
one hand cupping your pussy
through your shorts;
you take my hands
move them to your nipples
your shirt is thin and soft

we have an afternoon date,

not soon enough

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Your head is on my shoulder
you are deep in sleep breath rhythm
hair against my face.
Wind is whipping the branches
of the pecan tree outside my room,
dead pecans showering the patio slab.
My arm might be asleep,
or I might be walking, awake,
into an unknown room,
fear dropping away, your hand resting
on my chest; in my awake dream
the room is paneled in oiled pecan wood,
you sit at a table in the center
eyes shining, the dinner I cooked last night
still in front of you; everything an amalgamation
of what has been, what will be;
I stroke your hair and you murmur
sleep-words of care and freedom.

How I got here from where I was
how I was able to walk free of abuse
how I found you and her and her and him
is a mystery, a blessing, a grace.

I no longer find the Divine in everyday
except in the touch of your hands
the embrace of his arms
the feel of her lips on mine.

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My skin has no more space for words;
they come out my eyes instead,
pointy and impolite.
They told me, you’re not done
until we say you are.
My heart has no more tolerance
for carving the pain of children
into the spines of books,
my hands bloody when I put them
back on the shelves.
Their moans pursue me
down library aisles.
Like everyone,  I’ve already forgotten
more than I ever knew.
It’s better to forget some things.
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Someday I will be a meme.
I’ll make you chuckle knowingly
confirming your existing bias;
or, maybe, I’ll piss you off.
If I have to end my days
as less than 30 words
I want to be rainbow sparkly,
and dig a new wound
in the heart you had forgotten you had
reminding you that you’re alive.
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The ways you look at me

There’s a way that you look at me
when you sit at my dining table,
right before you start eating,
when I’ve cooked something you like,
that tears my heart open.
There’s a way you look at me
sitting up in my bed, reading
when I come in the room
the light in your eyes
says, I’m yours always
There’s a way you look at me
tilting your head up
hair on my shoulder, soft and thick
your hand across my chest
when you say, I love you, Daddy
There’s a way you look at me
when we are skin to skin
your eyes getting wider
your voice a little hoarse
and you call me Daddy then, too


There are ways you look at me
and every time, no matter where
or when or why or how much
it tears my heart open, and afterward
it’s just a little bit bigger
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Defiance 4/20/20

I’m lying in bed, texting with my Princess,
I tell her I am so in love with her;
as of yesterday, 39 people here have died;
it’s been a month since her head
rested on my shoulder, hair in my face;
the epidemiologists say, take confirmed cases
and multiply by 100, so, 101500 cases here
in reality; not quite 10% of the population,
I probably know someone who is sick,
maybe without symptoms; reality is where I want to live
and reality sucks, missing her is aching
in my chest, worried that those I love
will fall ill, so many large and local talents
have already left us, and its not like
that doesn’t happen every day usually;
I measure my desire against the length
of time I can expect to have left;
another lover’s young cousin is recovering,
he says take the regular flu and make it
ten times worse, and that’s what this was;
in my back yard, a patch
of bright pink evening primroses, planted, no doubt
by birds, not by me, sprang up two months ago
I mow around them so they can reseed;
I see photos of workers loading bodies
into refrigerated trucks, they get paid
the first day in case they are too sick to come back;
mass graves being dug in other states;
I am digging holes for my plants and vegetables,
killing weed roots, enriching the soil;
gardening is hoping in the face of doubt,
waiting for something miraculous,
the first green shoots breaking the dirt,
at first weed and flower indistinguishable;
allergy attacks and coronavirus at first
often indistinguishable, death mimics pollen;
in my daily life, texting with a new person
suddenly realizing they are a new bloom,
so many weeds pop up from dating apps
that a real connection is as unexpected
as volunteer wildflowers, or the mint that resprouted;
every day now is unique, the gift of reappraised mortality;
I sit on the piano bench during our worship recording,
church done by 4 people with an empty sanctuary,
feeling in my body the absence of the assembly,
realizing that the Sunday after Easter this year
is the 10th anniversary of my last time
presiding at the table for communion,
being ordained a deacon took away
being able to do sacraments in the Methodist church
that I was able to do when merely licensed, a weird system,
getting kicked out of the ordained club was only one loss;
driving home, 5 or more colors of wildflowers
are blooming in the highway median;
life continues, with mine on a deep pause;
I am learning small things matter most,
longing to stand at my stove cooking for her
while she sits up in my bed studying;
I am able to see one of my lovers, and that connection
deepens and morphs, skin and heart and vision;
today I will plant the antique roses that were shipped
from a farm in east Texas, an act of defiance
against the real possibility that I will get sick,
against everything that is fucked up in our world;
an act of raising my middle finger to our liar-in-chief;
an act of planning for the near-time, maybe in weeks
when one of these will bloom, amazing fragrance,
one bud, cut, filling a room with rose scent,
and putting it next to her side of the bed
when she will once again be there,
her head on my shoulder.
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Princess, maybe not for a while again

You are sleeping in my bed;
I am loathe to wake you,
torn between moments I need
and your need for rest.
It had been seven weeks since
the last time, and now,
will be months, your life
circumscribed by uncertainty
Searching words to fill this space,
not wanting to admit
not seeing you will be best,
anger at the circumstances
and people who leave us here
The way you touch my face
the way you ask for me
the way your body art
feels under my fingers
subtly different than bare skin
The taste of you, your sounds
the feeling of your hands in my hair
your desire pulling me in
I knew I needed this
now I am uncertain how
I can go without
Lying in bed yesterday, laughing
at some guys inept response
to you on a dating app
smiling at kitten pictures
laughing at our silly mispronunciations
outside, the sound of wind;
as you lie sleeping I let myself expand
aware of my yard, the plants
in containers on my patio
the scent of flowers not yet formed
However long it is until this is again
is too long, however long it is
until I know that I can bear uncertainty
is too long, however long it is
until you come into my arms again
is too long
the world is patient but I am not;
my roses will bloom whenever
the conditions are right, but I will not;
plants flowering, possible fruit and food
will come when the seasons allow,
but I will not, my desire for certainty
wars with knowing it is futile
I only hope, against fear,
against the sinking in my belly,
against whatever old pattern
sucks me down into despair,
that there will be this again:
you sitting at my table, you in my bed,
you on the phone and in my thoughts,
and when I am too old to hold you
I will still see, inches away,
your eyes, in a radiant smile.
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Last Straw

John Prine died today
and that was the last straw for me;
I’m watching videos of him
and crying: come on home, he sings
no you don’t have to be alone;
but I am alone, we go through days thinking
there’s always tomorrow, sliding into
the ease of open arms;
it’s all a lie we tell ourselves
because the truth of unknowing
is too terrifying to face daily

Tonight is a supermoon, silver fuzzed by clouds;
the world goes on, humans
are mostly inconsequential to the orbits of moons;
one lover at her home watching Moonstruck,
another outside looking at the moon
with me, but not with me;
the sweet sad songs run through
tears clean my eyes
an owl’s cry pins me into this moment

I want never again, though I know I will,
to displace now for tomorrow,
never again to dissociate
when a lover repeats a story,
never again to dismiss
the precious distinctness of each moment.

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Supposedly a sword, my tongue
but really not even a dagger
it is best dipping into you
leaking pleasure, spiraling, twisting

so many places intersect:
my benchmark for a taco house
their lengua, soft and rich
gravy on my tongue;

my inability to persevere
in learning another tongue,
the one she desires to hear
soft, romantic, boleros in the air;

my tongue gliding along skin,
intent on tasting arousal;
my tongue tied, abashed
unable to express expansion;

too many tongues, not enough;
words plastering my ears back
and finally, silence, savoring
the end of all speech and sound,
as your tongue meets mine
hearts electrically connected

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I can wait to get back to normal
normal was destroying the earth
normal was destroying my soul
in unnoticeable tiny bites

maybe what matters is now
the now of seeing you on screen
the now of knowing I am not alone,
that many beautiful humans care

outside my window in the morning
birds sing on, the same songs
they have had as long as memory
memory being so fickle anyway

soon enough we will again directly
see each other’s eyes and smile
I only hope we remember
the gift of quiet, the sound of breezes

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I’m driving to a lover’s house
during what should be a full lockdown
but most people aren’t doing that
we are, because to do less
seems irresponsible towards everyone
who might die if they get ill
I drop what I was taking her
on the front porch
and retreat halfway down the walk
she opens the door and her dog
is going crazy on the other side
wanting to see me and lick my hand
all this tears my heart open
not petting him, not holding her
not knowing if we will be ok in 3 months
i cry foul curses on all those
who elected our national clown
who could have slowed this and lied
i cry foul curses on all those
who have put their personal profit
ahead of the good of the world
I am not good enough
to love them or their ilk
if there is a Divine
may They have mercy on us all
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Heaven is not a place

When I was a pastor and sat with people 
who were actively dying, like Anna,
by her hospital bed, holding her hand,
sometimes they, or their children,
usually a little timidly, as if it was something 
they should know and had forgotten,
would ask me, what is heaven really like?

Now, I don’t personally think
heaven is a place, but a condition of existence
but that’s not the time or place for metaphysics,
so I would tell them, I don’t know,
but I can imagine, because if what I imagine
isn’t true, then it’s not really heaven
and I wouldn’t want to be there;
and I would tell them, you can also imagine
because your heaven will not be the same
as mine, but they will have in common
that all the goodness of our lives
will be distilled into one continuous infinite joy:

everyone I have ever loved will be there
close by, even the ones with whom
it ended badly, or who died before
I could ever tell them I loved them; 
I’ll get to now. My parents will be there,
arms open, and we won’t ever have another fight
and they won’t ever again irritate the holy fuck out of me.
My brother will be there reminding me 
to joke them if they can’t take a fuck.
Every cat I’ve ever known will be rubbing against my legs
my Dittocat climbing my leg as a little kitten
Cringy the stray dog licking my hand,
all my lovers surrounding me in their arms, 
somehow all at once.

I don’t see any reason that we would see God 
any more than we do now and it doesn’t matter
whether there even is  a God or not
if I have all my feline and human loves again:
my heart will have no limit to how big it can be.
I will cry freely every time I see someone I have missed,
it will be a continual rediscovery
of everyone who ever passed through my life
and love will go on and on without end.
I realized, as I was sitting there,
holding Anna’s hand, that sometime 
while I had been talking, she had stopped breathing
a beautiful smile on her face,

I want us all to hold closely, 
in easy times and in difficult ones,
whatever we think about a divine or not,
that there is always a point to love,
always a reason to be profligate with it;
the promise, independent of any doctrine
but rooted in our bones and flesh,
in the knowledge we have 
that we don’t know exactly how we acquired,
is that no love is ever lost or wasted.

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I’m lying in bed, naked, alone
sleep is elusive
my lovers come to mind randomly
times we’ve had, times not yet
the sheets are cool against my skin
I used to long for someone, anyone
nights like this, skin to my skin
opening my bed to people unworthy to share it,  violating myself
now I  have more alone nights than not
by choice,  desire subject to self care
remembering the feel of her skin, hers,
the total enclosure and safety of his big spoon
none of this profound, and all of it
more complete than any previous fantasy.

Love is random and inexplicable
I remember looking across the room of her cousins
out in the country, just back
from my first slightly terrifying
horseback ride
our eyes meet and I know that night
we will again be skin together
in the small old bed, in a house
full of history but no ghosts;
or seeing another lover,  our weekly after-class date,
come in my house, throw her arms around my neck
her playfulness, hair thick in my hand;
or memories of other lovers now separate,
joyful and sad simultaneously;
or recalling the feel of his head
stubble under my palm
my arm around our mutual partner
relaxed, joyous,  after a meal out.
Moments slide one into another
nightlight on,  I’m sixty years old
and sometimes still afraid of the dark;
sleep still eludes, but memory sliding past,
scene passing into scene, unwinds
the tension I hadn’t even noticed
and then it is morning
another day I can allow transparency
another day more full than the one just past


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Old Shit

I learned, finally,
don’t reread your old writings.
None of it is true.
You,  not anyone else hearing it
you alone
know what you were feeling
and these words, that you so wanted
to catch that
are a bald-faced lie.
If only
I could stop trying
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17 verses for 4

drunk on you, your words
push clouds of scent,
frankincense and orange,
penetrating the secret fortresses
I thought no one knew of,
softness sliding across my skin;
my ears burn with your thoughts
As you have become
more present in my life,
you are less in my longing
and more in my being;
the poems of separation
transformed to poems
of skin and smile and touch;
your fingers running along my back
leave trails of invisible words
that only partly fade by morning;
accretions of desire-ink
I am loathe to wash away
I lean into your car window
to kiss you again
this could go on forever
I pull away sooner than I would
so that I can pull away at all
I want a time
when there is no constraint
honey on your lips, all of them
that I lick off luxuriously
your eyes inches away
terrifyingly, completely safe
fierceness melted into surrender
I make the brackets and such of wood
to install the $2 wall-mount lamp
I got at the thrift store
for your side of the bed
when you are here studying;
I text you a picture and you return
a heart-eyed emoji
It’s my eyes that are full of hearts
stars circling overhead
My skin has its own memory
better than whiskey
more real than ice cream
the memory of what your skin
is thinking; I hear a voice
speaking my own thoughts
before I have them.
salmon sky morphs to rose
then violet at the edges of grey
then the almost dark
reminds me of your hair
butterflies migrating
from my stomach to my head
even so, the anticipation
of your lips against me
clears my mind
talking, you hold your hand out
to take mine; such a small thing
and unaccustomed for me
to be obviously desired;
I see something blooming
a secret flower, perhaps,
and want to cup it gently
in my hands, waiting to see
what it becomes
I imagine your face
pillow distance
and in my mind
I grasp your hair;
soon enough,
I will know what sound
that elicits
Your smile opens your face
light in your eyes,
when I see you as we approach
wherever we meet;
electric heat runs up my spine,
sparks in my hair,
flashes of energy passing
heart to heart, unseen,
except in the edges
of your smile.
you lean over to take me in your mouth
28 years of marriage without this
always makes me want to say,
no, you don’t need to,
and then I think, shut up stupid
Sitting on the edge of the bed
your back to me, the robe
slips down your shoulders
white silk for one of you
and red velour for the other
the gesture so similar
revealing to me your back
the top of your ass, the curves
and my leg is already tingling
knowing the weight of yours on mine
After a while, there’s no I
no you, simply edges colliding
your eyes singularities
I am pulled in inexorably
and sometime later
emerge from the other side
a little more whole, a little more healed
your love patching all the cracks
my walls have sustained
I go to meet a new potential partner
coffee, conversation, the dance
of becoming acquainted;
all of you who are mine now
have set the bar high,
it’s perhaps unfair to new people
but it’s me finally, from now on,
putting myself first, without guilt
My ex said I must have been
weaned too early
because I never get tired of nipples
and she got annoyed
lucky for me you never
get tired of my mouth on yours
I lie awake listening to the rhythm
of your sleeping breath
it sinks into my belly
the warmth of your hip against my hand
is the anchor for my calm
Earlier we kissed and I asked you
if you were sleepy and you nodded
my heart sparkled that you feel safe enough
to tell me your real life, your real desire
that you now can, with me, simply sleep
when that is your body’s need.
Your breathing in the night,
in my ear within your arms,
in my hearing sitting at my table:
I am so grateful for each breath you draw in
another moment you are with me
leading on into unimaginably
greater and greater presence,
Your voice on the phone
ripples in my belly
It is a few days until I will hold you
if you think that it’s going to be sedate
you’re so totally fucking wrong
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My Girlfriend’s boyfriend

I went on a date
with my girlfriends boyfriend
and she said the next day
I’m glad you didn’t fuck him
I told her, you know
I don’t fuck on the first date any more
I was the first person she dated in a few years,
when we met, who hadn’t
tried to get in her pants, subtly or overtly,
on the first date, so it’s a running joke with us
because she always asks me, why didn’t you?
I mean, I’m not opposed exactly, it’s just that
I don’t know how to get past the awkward thing on a first date,
one minute you’re all, oh cool
your oldest daughter is in gymnastics, or,
I really love Thai food too, or,
and then you’re, oh by the way
when was your last STI testing? and, hey
I know there’s a big stigma around herpes
which I am trying to help dispel, cause unless
you’re pregnant or trying to get that way
or have an autoimmune disease,
it isnt’ a serious health risk, and yes,
my ex-wife had type 2 and I test positive
but I’m taking valcyclovir and never have had
an outbreak, even so,  it’s a little bit awkward
on a first coffee date to bring that up,
although I have when the date has stretched into hours
and it’s clear we are going to have sex the next time,
of course with my girlfriend’s boyfriend
it wasn’t either of our first polyamorous rodeo
it naturally came up and STI status
was a relaxed topic of conversation
so, no we didn’t have sex,
but I did kiss him and it was hot
she had texted me partway through
while he and I finished dinner:
What’re y’all doing? In bed yet?
She likes to text me when I’m with another partner
I used to think just to see if I would answer
but now I know it’s really a slight signal
of unease; what most people don’t realize
is that even when you are consciously polyamorous,
and know that to be your orientation,
you can still have feelings of jealousy
or fear of missing out, and with her,
when we realized a year ago
the special nature of our relationship
the type of relationship we have
makes her feel more vulnerable,
so I don’t get upset when she texts me, I’m just reassuring,
I said. no, we’re talking, and she said, what is there to talk about,
because she had told me he is a good listener, but a better fuck,
and doesn’t talk much, which isn’t true, he just doesn’t talk much to her;
so I replied, there’s LOTS to talk about, he is a very interesting man, and she replied
with the peach and eggplant emojis and I said, going offline but not for sex
not that I wasn’t thinking about it
he is one of the most attractive men
I’ve dated in the past year, and not
just because he is her lover also
I had been sitting there while he talked
looking more at his mouth than his eyes
and he knew it, I was thinking
about something in his profile that speaks
to what he wants to do with his mouth
to potential partners, and also
thinking about things he says in his Fet profile
that make his kink line up so much
with mine, and we talk, of course, about
our mutual partner, her alleyways and side paths,
and that leads to talking about pleasuring our other women,
I say, there are some books I need to write,
Pussies I have eaten, a memoir, or,
Pussies I didn’t eat, a very short story about adolescence,
I tell him about trying to have a section in a poem
about pussy- flavored ice cream
and how I lost it trying to read that one.
I realize I don’t have to try to be funny,
he is just taking in who I am
and I can see that he likes me, which makes me shy,
and we talk about how our mutual partner
is Princess to my Daddy, he is glad
she has that with me, she wanted it with him
but he already has an exclusive Little;
He is a switch, I am looking for signs of his sub
and find that, finally, right at the end of the date
his goodnight kiss is all about me
he is so clearly desiring my pleasure
that I freeze at first and then relax,
my difficulty in receiving is still real
even though my sex- coaching mentor
energetically blasted the block open
in front of 80 people at an event 18 months ago,
and little bits have come popping out since then
in somatic therapy or when im with a lover
like the way they blast a kidneystone
with a sonic blast but then you still have to pass the pieces
letting bits of my receiving block out
had been necessary but no fun,
so his kiss is all for my pleasure,
and I have to deliberately open to that;
later that evening, we text about it and I find
I don’t have to explain anything to him;
when was the last time I met someone new
that needed no explanation, maybe not since
I met his girlfriend who is my girlfriend
I have been with other men, I am beginning
to connect deeply with another partners other partner
he and I are seeing each other every few weeks,
he texted me from his vacation how much he misses me,
and suggested a few very dirty things he can’t wait to try
and still, this man who lives two thousand miles away
who I won’t see in person again for months
when he is here again on business
and sees our mutual girlfriend, this man
is hanging large in my fantasies;
she said, I get first dibs
on date night with him, of course, I said,
but in between we have text and maybe phone
and maybe I am already falling
and I’m certainly in lust
with my girlfriend’s boyfriend.
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Dusk (expansion of Circling)

When I came in you came to me
and you were trembling; I liked it.
When I stood behind you
and leaned toward your neck,
your arms shook; I liked that too.
When you lay on the bed
trying not to look at me
your legs were, in slow motion,
opening then closing; I liked that more.
When I told you that all I wanted
was your complete surrender
your body arched up from the bed
You knelt above, naked,
and pulled your hair across me.
Your hair hides your face.
I had to reach
and push it aside to pull your mouth to mine.
Your eyes flutter open against your will
when I tell you the only way to get what you want
is to look at me.
Our awareness narrows to my face
almost touching your shoulder.
I trace my fingers more slowly than possible
down your spine, when I reach the top
of your ass you open your legs
another surrender, another access granted
I trace down your cheeks then sudddenly spank you
you gasp and make the sound I love
somewhere between complaint and arousal
a sound full of promise and desire.
I mold my hand to the back of your thigh
sliding around and finding your wetness
dipping in my fingertips,  bring them to my mouth
anticipating your full taste later.
you reach over and pull a pillow under your hips,
offering yourself to our ritual.
I ask you, do you belong fully only to me?
You say, you know how I hate
that question, and I strike full force
with the stiff-fall flogger on your ass,
you make that sound again;
you say, yes, I am yours, David.
I lay down the flogger and, retrieve your day- collar,
an antique bracelet, silver and mother of pearl;
you have been wearing it when we go out
without any prompting now.
You hold out your arm for me to fasten it on your wrist.
I say quietly in your ear,
you know that my possessing you
is what you want
so why would you ever think
you could go back to not having this?
Your breathing quickens.
I give you permission to roll over
and the look in your eyes,  full surrender,
full acceptance,  melts my heart
and brings me to full erection.
The room eventually grows dark
and we are, for the moment, complete.
Even now, in this moment, your surrender
stirs my heart and my arousal,
and when next I see you,  kneeling,
coming into my bed desiring my pleasure,
I will again claim you, my sub and my Beloved.
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Cantos for R

You ask me, are any of our texts poems?
They could be, and this one is;
if poetry is the essence of experience
you send me an exquisite two-word poem:
pussy throbbing.
The poetry I have most with you
is enfleshed: your hand
in the small of my back, your other
grasping my hair, pulling my motion
toward what brings your climax.
The poetry of openness, you at my table
the spaciousness of less conversation
living a few hours together at dusk
in the quiet of my house, and my bed.
I can and probably will text you poems
but, my dearest lover, the poetry I most desire
is you in my life and my bed and my heart.
we dance, a fully-free primal
ecstatic dance time, two hours
with simple rules: you may only
touch yourself but no one else.
a huge crowd, people allowing
their full erotic potential
to translate into movement
energy moving through the crowd
women sitting on the subwoofers
pressing their sex
into the corners of the cabinets;
I dance with dear friends, coach colleagues
people that, if we lived closer,
might have been lovers but now
we have moved beyond that;
it has been almost the entire two hours
since I lost you in the crowd,
then I move into an open space
and you are there;
we dance not touching per the rules
but energy passing between
you hold out your hand to move away
holding the space above my outstretched hand;
I put my hands across my heart
and then you do the same;
tears begin to flow, for the exquisite
connection we now share;
allowing each other space
not being a couple, not clinging,
choosing deliberately
when to come together
has opened a new way to be;
these tears are my heart
overflowing the corners of my eyes
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I’ve said a lot of things that weren’t true.
It’s not that I was lying,
although there has been that at times.
It’s mostly that I didn’t know myself
so I said things that weren’t me.
I wanted someone to like me
so I spoke only the parts of me
that I thought would catch their fancy.
I wanted to feel like I mattered
so I left out the trivial
forgetting that life is lived in tiny bits:
the fluff left from brushing my lover’s hair,
the things in the kitchen drawer
that there aren’t quite enough of to categorize;
the feelings that pass through seeing a blue heron fly,
and how my energy surges when you touch my arm.
I desire to arrive at the end of my days;
no, wait, forget grand gestures, I desire
to arrive at the end of this day
a little richer from the tiny things:
sunlight coming through the spaces in my blinds,
remembering your lips on mine last night
and anticipating that again when next;
the pleasure of slowly, over the course of a day
preparing for dinner, for tomorrow’s work,
tiredness in my muscles, sweat and effort.
I want to finally be able, at the end of this day
to know my own truth fully enough to speak it.

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We chose to add distance
to see what was essential between us,
and let the rest fall away, packing material
discarded into the recycle bin.
Consciously uncoupling, we barely talked for weeks.
It hurt at first, because I did not understand,
for some time I thought it was the end,
I flailed around like the skunk on my porch did once
backing into cacti then picking out thorns,
sharpening words to methodically
talk you back into the comfortable patterns
until I felt the truth of my body
that I needed this as much as you
that too much closeness had robbed me of my power
and diminished the electricity
tamed it, turned it into routines of dinner,
walking your dog, going to events, watching movies.
All those things are lovely, things I want
but not at the cost of the torrent of sparks
that opens now each time you come to me
the blast furnace door lifting
molten metal rushing out, heat between us
your skin against mine, your hands touching
the places you find both familiar and strange at once,
pulling me into you, looking at me as best you can,
eyelids fluttering in the winds of our connection;
our needs are the same, and become real,
a root connection, and also belly, and heart.
Six months ago I thought we were as deep as it could be;
I knew nothing; it is beyond my being left of the slash
or you the right, my surrendered one;
all modes merge into simply us,
I grow more and more translucent
power channeled through me
into heat under your fingertips
and your radiance shining through me
into the rest of my life, my other lovers,
my work, this poem, dear friends, everything new.
I have filled my life until now with pretension and bullshit
trying to be someone I am not, someone others
might find worthy, someone interesting
or at least not massively vanilla;
I ask myself, what has this gotten me?
failed marriages, relationships that have no real presence,
The result has certainly overreached the cost
I have lots of experiences of disconnection and loss,
well, fuck that, all I want now is to really be here,
in my body, in my heart, connected with whoever I am around
roots in the earth, sprouting amazing flowers
the deep red Autumn-blooming species tulips I have
still in my garden from 30 years ago
or the sticky burs from the weeds,
I am flower and bur, weed and cultivated plant.
I have had amazing sex and boring sex,
deep love and surface infatuations,
dearest friends and people who pretended to be.
From every time, every person, something is left.
The quality of each connection
is more on whether I am there than whether they are.
No love is ever lost or pointless.
As a child I was told ‘Honesty
is the best policy”, but really,
it’s the only way possible for me to be with you now,
exposing all of the pains I have carried for decades,
both of us doing that, letting it slide away into nothing
owning who we are, flawed, knowing
that we can still hurt each other despite intentions,
and still, each time we connect now
is like the first time, the joy spiraling out,
no more routine or expectation
letting go of what might be, of plans
or what I thought I desired for the future
my thoughts dissolving into vapor, floating away
into this moment, and the next, and the next.
You seldom make puns, but you called
our first sex after the time apart our ‘re-entry’,
with all the images that conjures erotically, but also
the spaceship coming back to ground,
flaming in the atmosphere, radio contact
momentarily lost, those journeying in it
alone but not alone, as it is in the isolated
calm and peace of my bed, the quiet
I have cultivated in my house for my lovers
in which I am immersed as I write this;
in front of me, in the window shelf,
is the lavender ceramic pot holding one of my orchids
the pot open for air and water to pass through,
nourishing what is inside without constraining it,
holding closely but lightly, the way, my beloved,
I will hold you when next we meet,
the way I hold your life now in mine.
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Cake at Midnight

You come over for our date, supper,
conversation, then you study,
about 10 I crept into the bed next to you,
your books on your lap, and I lay there
and watched you surreptitiously, the concentration
on your face not unlike how you look
when your arms are around me, and your legs.

My heart is overflowing looking at you
remembering a couple of days before that look.
I drift off to sleep.
About 11:45 you are putting your books away
and I wake up and remember we never had dessert,
and although I would like a different dessert,
my favorite thing to eat,
I thought once that if there was pussy-flavored ice cream,
or maybe seasoned salt, someone could make a fortune on that
but of course it’s not just the taste,
it’s also the scent of arousal, it’s the softness,
sounds and movements, my beard getting soaked;
well, I digress, this night you are as exhausted as me,
so I cut two pieces of the lemon-rosemary birthday cake
you brought me from your weekend in Austin,
where you had a second date with the man
you had been chatting with, which was fun and also
a little awkward, cause there were those first-time-sex things
he was perhaps embarrassed because he hasn’t contacted you again,
part of me was sad for you about that
and part of me was, like, fuck yes I’m your Daddy
don’t forget who takes care of you, Princess.

So we sit at my little white pine dining table that I need to build
a new top for, but I am loathe to because I have had it literally
for 42 years and even though my ex-wife tried to ruin it
by leaving it outside for months after I had left,
before I could come get the rest of my things,
the joints between boards in the top have opened up a little
and it’s not exactly flat, well, when I was 42
I was getting a little looser and less flat myself,
she thought she was getting back at me with this,
like, I’m not a woodworker who made it in the first place?

Still, this table is meaningful to me in ways a new one wouldn’t be.
I remember all the women and a few men who have sat with me,
eating love made visible in food I cooked, drinking wine, 42 years ago
Simi Rose’ of Cabernet Sauvignon, I thought I was so sophisticated
for having a “real” rose’, then later on German wines, Ausleses mostly,
because, let’s face it, I grew up Jewish on Mogen David
and sweet wines are where it’s at, even though now
I am more likely to get a good Madiera
when I go to dinner with my other partner,
or like last night, an oloroso sherry, deep brown and intense,
and now lately I am finally getting back into reds,
Rhones and Riojas, so I keep putting off remaking this table,
with all the memories that are embedded in the top
like the few remaining tiny pieces of glass that are also,
from where my ex threw my favorite deep cobalt blue
citrus reamer at me and it shattered on the table;
tiny fragments of blue glass still sometimes cut me slightly
when I clean, which is fitting, I am still cutting myself
against memories of the relationships that did not end well,
wishing that I had been a more compassionate person then,
but fuck, I had to live through hell to get to the beginnings of compassion.

We sit at that table, not really talking, there’s no need
your love is so obvious and I am enveloped in it
and all the little bits of glass embedded
in my skin are slowly being pulled out of me,
iron filings drawn to a magnet,
by the warmth you exude when you look at me,
tears welling up in my eyes;
my gratitude even more in that moment
that you did not know me in my asshole years,
when I was so self-unaware; all the others who have sat at this table,
the memories, mostly good, of who they were
and how I felt about them, cannot in this moment
even begin to approach what I have with you,
eating cake at midnight in our underwear.

Life routinely turns itself upside down:
You come into my bed, your head on my shoulder
opens long-unrehearsed paths, each time new,
my power flares and spreads out my extremities
sparking from my fingers into your palm,
tigers and lilies and the unknown becoming real,
my thoughts cannot keep up with sensations;
the certainty of my path I had 42 years ago
has given way to only a willingness to let go
of what might be and live in what actually is;
I know less and less each year;
but I do know some things:
on the other side of despair is clarity;
on the other side of heartbreak is joy.

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I had my 60th birthday yesterday.
Over the weekend gifts showed up:
unexpected and delicious time with my lovers,
a party surrounded by friends,
phone calls from people in other places
who love me, some new earrings,
my Princess saying at pillow distance
I love you so much, Daddy.

I have been thinking about past birthdays.
I hadn’t written about this before
until a couple of weeks ago on Facebook
when the actual day was there, mid-September.
Three years ago, two weeks before
my 57th birthday, I went to a meeting
of the personnel committee at the church
I served, and they told me they were reducing
my salary by 40% for the next year,
that I wasn’t worth the amount of money
they were paying me, that I was ineffective
despite the same people telling me the Sunday before
I was the best music director they
had ever had there. I went home from the meeting
and told me now ex-wife and she yelled
and said I had ruined her life, I had made her
move to this shit-hole of San Angelo
and now I wasn’t even going to have enough money
to pay the mortgage, which of course was factually wrong
and she threw things at me, my grandparents china
she was eating off of, two plates broke,
two more out of the 16 I used to have, and she hit me.
Not the first time she had hit me either.
As a friend I have now says, why did you stay
when you weren’t even getting any pussy?
I know now, but that’s another story
and another poem, perhaps.

So that night, I went in the bathroom
and got out all the pills, the leftover opioids
from dental and surgical procedures,
and put them in a line on the countertop
a total of 11 bottles, see, the expiration date
which had passed on some didn’t matter for this,
and I looked up on my phone what the overdose
for each one was, and I had about 80%
of what was needed for three different kinds
so I figured that together it would be enough
plus they all had acetaminophen mixed in
to keep you from taking too much, but it wasn’t relevant
if I killed my liver, so I opened up all the bottles
and lined them up, and wondered how many
I could swallow at once, would I get halfway and decide
not to finish or not be able to keep them down
and have to go get my fucking stomach pumped.
I was thinking about that when a colleague
who knew what I was going through at the church
with the allegedly Christian assholes there
and knew I had the meeting that evening, he texted me,
hey David, how are you? and I thought how I didn’t care
if my wife would be hurt and distraught and angry
if I ended my life and that anyway I hated my life with her
anger all the time, no sex, her hitting me and yelling
but that there were other people who would care
and did care, and I sorted out the pills
into the different kinds that they were
and put them back in their bottles and put the bottles
back in the cabinet and went out into the living room
where my wife threw a book at me literally, and hit me again.
I was ashamed of this for a long time.
Now I know that I am not responsible for my abuse
that I stayed with her because of childhood patterns
I was not the master of, I never learned how
to be in a relationship in a healthy way before
and I don’t blame her now, she was just as unconscious
and hurting, we all are in some way, so that now,
when I wake up every day more and more conscious,
I am deeply grateful that my life is amazing and glorious.

Three years later I am in a place where I would not
ever think about that again, I know that for truth
because I was that distraught again recently
when I thought one of my lovers was leaving me,
and it didn’t cross my mind to end my life.

So this birthday, I am fucking 60
and alive and in love and joyous
and have women and men who want
to be in my bed and text me that often.
I am surrounded by love, I have more sex
than I have ever had, except for that two year time
when I was 24 and 25 when I picked up
a different woman or sometimes man almost every night,
I estimate a total of 600 people, not bragging
because I’m not exactly proud of this
I survived it and this was in the early 80s
and many of my friends died of AIDS,
I did this without caring about my safety,
kids, don’t try this at home,
until one morning I woke up next to a woman
who was clearly my mother’s age, whose name
I couldn’t remember, and I decided I was done
with anonymous fucking but in reality it never was joy
it was pain, self-medicating through my cock
so now, when I can handle everything in my life,
when I am becoming more self-aware and conscious,
I can say with truth that I have more love than I have ever had.
This past weekend I was surrounded
by lovers and friends and even some family,
and if there ever was a good way to start a new
birth-year, goddamn this was it.
Somebody at my party said, 60 is the new 30,
fuck that, 60 is the new and perfect 60,
60 is the light streaming down when the sun
comes out from behind rain clouds, 60 is the taste
of the ripest strawberries and bitter chocolate,
60 is my lovers eyes, each of them in their turn,
at the other edge of a pillow, their hands in my hair
telling me what they want to do to me,
60 is knowing that each day I have left
is irreplaceable and lovely and perfect,
I”m not even looking ahead to see what might be,
today, right here, now, is enough.

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Echoes of Hayden

I wanted to write a poem about being a feminist
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
that landscape belongs to women
who have experienced oppression in their bodies.

I wanted to write a poem about being gender-queer
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
I might be queer but I’m pretty damn safe
in my expression and sparkle.

I wanted to write a poem about religion
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
I don’t believe anything or not believe anything,
it’s all just irrelevant to me now.

I wanted to write a love poem,
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
the lover it is about isn’t my lover at the moment
and maybe we will be together again but I don’t know.

I wanted to write a protest poem,
and I did, but I can’t read that one;
I am weary with outrage fatigue and I don’t really know
that I have any right to protest when I am so comfortable.

I wanted to write a poem to make everyone happy,
and I think I have, but I can’t read that one;
when children die by suicide how could I?
and besides, happy doesn’t sell anything.

There are lots of poems I wanted to write
and I have, but I can’t read them today;
this is the only one I can read today:
it’s where I start each day, full of possibilities
that I want to own but that aren’t my path,
browsing through joys and angers and frustrations
that aren’t legitimately mine, sorting them out
like the coins in my change jar when I get low on cash.

The poem I can write, this one
is not long, or complicated, or beautiful
but it’s real, and all I want any more
is to do whatever I have to
to start each day real, and alive;
to be faithful to who I am even when that’s not
who I wish I was in some odd fantasy;
there are so many things not right,
all you have to do is look under any bridge,
or talk to the parent of a child who has died,
or sit with someone whose cancer is overrunning
their body like the weeds in my alley,
to put the lie to “God won’t give you more
than you can handle” and other sentimental bullshit;
but I am convinced that if each one of us
tries to start each day as real as we can be, then maybe,
just maybe, together, we can heal the world.

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Princess Poem #1

You don’t mind when I have one of those days
where I want to listen to sad songs
and cry a little, for no real reason
If you’re here, the time I see you each week
you just snuggle up to me
and put your head on my shoulder
and sometimes, you tilt your head
and look up at me with those eyes
that pierce me into my deepest parts
and tell me I”m your daddy
Your tiara is hanging on a little place on my shelf
by the door to my bedroom, I see it
every time I go out the door and remember
the time we first realized this was our true desire
to be this to each other, for you to let me
nurture and hold and care for you
in ways my heart has always desired
and those times when your skin is against mine
and you look at me again, your eyes radiant
I live somewhere between joy and tears
holding what seem on the surface to be
disparate emotions but underneath are not
my joy and sadness are merged in your touch
and your pleasure cries open me up to parts
of my life that used to be dead, now awake
from your touch and your smile and your words

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The leaves are dropping from some of my trees,
maybe heat stress, or they are confused
about the season, cause, here that’s easy.
I am confused at your ambivalence
you say we are only friends then want to go to bed
you tell me we wont talk about our relationship
but we do, you say, no contact for the weekend
when you are at a retreat and then text me.
Ambivalence is unsafe in my body.
My mother was loving and compassionate
helped poor people, volunteered in the community
and could fly into a rage and yell and slap us
and so ambivalence in a partner now lands in me
as inherently unsafe, unsafe in my body and heart
waiting for the slap or the anger even when it never comes;
the leaves are partly fallen and partly still green on my trees
and I so want to be safe with you, to draw you into my arms
every part of you becoming alive and me also, everything green.
I don’t know when that will happen.

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All the little griefs
of a day or a lifetime
and sometimes, other’s lifetimes
gather in my chest
and without warning, unexpectedly
my body turns them into joy

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there’s a familiar unfamiliarity between us
or perhaps it’s an unfamiliar familiarity,
the reverberation of times together;
the way you held my hand so tightly
after a long and intense joint therapy
at the end, your arms around me, you saying I love you;
later, that echo again, at dinner, then later
walking your dog, who I had missed so much,
when thinking that perhaps we were through,
realizing that in a breakup you break up with pets also
so that early in the evening, arriving to your house
when he greeted me in his total energetic exuberance,
as I was kneeling in your entry hall, holding him close
and scruffing his back as you went to dress
for a date that was not a date, picking out burrs
from his uniquely kinky fur, then, tears came, gratitude

because it wasn’t a breakup, it was something
beyond, unexpected, beautiful, unknown,
like the flower on my desert rose that hasn’t blossomed
for the 5 years I’ve had it, until this week;
like seeing you, so radiant, earlier, in our session, struggling
to bring the truth of your body into existence,
like feeling the sheer physical pleasure
of myself in alignment, of my edges being solid,
energy running up my spine, and simultaneously,
the barely defined path forward, hovering
in the space between us, fragile and unstoppable both,
something beyond the immediate past, new and old all at once
something with no label, starting to be.

Watering plants on my patio, I reach down
to the feathery leaves on my copal tree,
the miniature of the ones we saw on the mountain in Oaxaca 2 summers ago,
many small leaflets, slightly green,
aromatic, leathery; I crush a few between my fingers.
The sticky resin on my fingers, fragrant,
reminds me of afternoons in our hotel, your sap on me
the limbs of our bodies connected; we have
put this aside for now or forever, we don’t know,
the rightness of that, the truth of it in my body
shocked me out of unawareness.
Bringing my fingers to my nose, I inhale,
the fresh scent of the copal leaves greener and brighter
than that of the burning resin, tears of the gods,
that exude from the trunk when cut.

Smoke rising from the charcoal in an incense burner
is the path we are choosing, transcendent and transitory;
your radiance and bravery burned me earlier.
What was before has to die, to be burnt into new fragrance,
for me to be whole, for our connection to be completed,
to open between us something unknown
and known, completely new and older than the day we met,
where perhaps we can both, finally, be safe.

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I am standing in my kitchen making dinner for a lover
and suddenly I am overcome
it’s not the onions making me cry, this is real, deep sobbing,
I’m leaning against the counter with all my weight
so I don’t fall over holding the 10″ chef knife;

My brain wants to make up a story about it,
that it’s thinking about how the lover who is coming for dinner
is talking seriously, with her husband, about moving out of the country, for good,
whether or not the narcissicist-in-chief is reelected, that the bigotry and hatred
that is so evident in our country, that was hidden before, is too much for them,
and they are going on mini-vacations over the next few years
to check out different places to possibly live and see if they could do that,
and I know if they move I will see her maybe for a while on Skype
but it will be too hard and sad for both of us and we will drift apart;

or my brain wants to take me to why I don’t have pets now,
how I had to stand there by the vet’s table while my snuggle cat Artemis
was euthanized and before that my Bubba and my Otis and my Flea
or I had to see my Ditto-cat shivering in a cage at the vet’s clinic
who fucking didn’t treat his injuries and all my rage couldn’t reverse
what that asshole vet did fully on purpose to try to sell me
on expensive surgeries and procedures that wouldn’t have done anything,
all those things coming up in memory, knowing I can’t bear
to have another animal-love die; or it’s the dreams I have sometimes
way too often, too realistic, and too frightening, dreams of complete loss,
of standing in the cemetery at my Beloved’s family ranch,
standing at her grave with her siblings and dearest friends,
not knowing what happened, inconsolable;

or it’s the real-world, solid grief, of missing my brother
who died in 2008 of a sudden massive heart attack
while stoned, sitting in his hot tub, getting a blow-job
from his second trailer-trash wife who had to be SURE
my elderly mother with dementia knew those details,
and fuck, when I die, getting a stoned blowjob in the hot tub
wouldn’t be the worst way to go, except, I’ll have to get a hot tub first;
so he went happy, but I am still angry at him
for not taking better care of his health because I need him here, now, to talk to,
I am already older than he was when he died and he always accepted me
just as I was, and I know he still would, and there are days
where I need to know someone is out there who does.

My brain tries to make up all these stories about the grief
because that’d what brains do
but the grief isn’t about anything
some of it is older than me, inherited
some is just my anxiety magnified infinitely
so I simply stand there until my chest opens a little
and the tears stop and my heart is back to something like normal.

My lover will be arriving soon.
I think: vulnerability turns her on a lot,
maybe if I’m still crying I’ll get laid.
When I text her this, after the fact the day
I am writing this, she said: sorry you didn’t get laid.
I said, Princess, your head on my shoulder
was what I needed last night, and no more.
I think: it’s so easy to mistake boundaries for rejection
when she needs time alone, I feel cut off
when I need time alone, I don’t even need to explain
but I do and fuck it up
because I”m not being true to myself,
I’m trying to fit my need for quiet and solitude
into a framework not meant for that,
and maybe I can just say: tonight, I am enough
I am not broken, I care for you,
but my need is to be my own primary.

All that is going through my brain, leaning
against the counter, holding the freshly-sharpened knife.

slowly, ever so slowly, everything unclenches, the joy I have almost always now,
joy at being alive, joy at being in love, creeps back in, pushing grief ahead of it
like the tide pushing shells and rocks up the sand at the beach, and maybe, even,
just barely maybe, and I think this because hope is always hovering
over my shoulder in the same space where my connection to everything resides,
maybe they weren’t tears of grief at all but joy-tears, tears for all the beauty
I have in my life, so that I seriously need to ponder and uncover why
my brain goes to sadness as it’s default, because I have more joy
than I ever would have thought possible just three years ago:
deeply-connected lovers, new possibilities for more of the same,
women and men, some more closely connected already than others,
expanding each of my edges;

As I dry my cheek I realize they were cool tears, not burning ones,
cool water to wash away the silly distractions of the day that I got caught up in,
so that when my love arrives I am really, finally, completely here.
All this slides away as I hear her key turning in the lock.
In the end, only joy matters.

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The Dance of Becoming Acquainted

The dance of becoming acquainted
at first, is just wild rock and roll
or maybe R&B,
you do your thing, I do mine,
perhaps we do them in the same space
with some influence that shapes
what the other is doing, but mostly
I move how I do, and that’s that;
I’m always moving to the slower beat
the one behind the main beat
feeling it in my hips and wanting to sway;
like one partner said, as if this was
an insult, I dance like a girl. yes, proudly so.

A little later in becoming acquainted, it’s more like Bachata
in open position; your hands above, mine inverted, yours resting in mine,
two arm lengths apart, but moving at least
in the same direction to the same rhythm.
Then, in dancing as in everything, I’m the lead
and I bring you into closed position
my right arm around your left side under your arm
hand on your shoulderblade, your elbow resting on mine
other hands giving each other enough pressure
to keep the form, sense the moves.

When I know you more fully, it’s Kizomba
chest and belly to chest and belly
my lead in my intent and pressure,
slow and sensual. There’s the old joke,
why do Baptists not have sex standing up?
Because someone might think they are dancing.
I think about that, and the Irish saying,
dancing is a vertical expression of
a horizontal impulse, when I see anyone I desire
across from me, their body moving in ways
that make my heat rise, energy moving up my spine;
or when I see her dancing with another man
her hips moving in ways I know from my bed
and sometimes, just sometimes
I get it exactly right, exactly locked into my partner’s intent
and we are like one body, the beast with two backs
but on the dance floor and not the bed.

One night at a dance workshop, where there were
separate rooms for each style, in the Kizomba room
the songs flowed one into the other without pause
and I watched a couple who had just met,
an older man and a gorgeous young woman
getting acquainted through their moves, his lead sure
without being oppressive, her follow only a moment behind
and my heart longed for that with each of my loves,
that connection, that intensity, so that my eyes were teary;
and then my dance and bed partner, seeing what I was watching,
leaned over and said, seeing them makes me wet, I want that with you;
and I realized that it’s not the dance of becoming acquainted
that I need to learn, but the knowing each other in every sense of knowing
that I need to let flow into my lead, so that whether or not we are lovers,
my follows surrender, as all good follows eventually must.

I look at you and hold out my hand and you stand and take it;
I lead you onto the dance floor, for now, perhaps,
in open position, or we can still dance rock and roll if we desire,
but inevitably, as we dance ever closer, learning the other’s stories,
opening our vulnerabilities, we will be dancing
belly to belly and chest to chest
and most lovely of all, for me, mind to mind and heart to heart.

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When I was married, if a woman flirted with me,
I could count on a nuclear barrage when I got home;
even if I didn’t flirt back, all hell broke loose
she threw things or threw things at me
and there was no protection, like when I was in elementary school
and we had ‘duck and cover’ exercises getting under our desks,
as if that was going to make any difference
if an atomic bomb went off at the refinery a handful of miles away.

Nukes are no longer part of my daily life
that arms race I just walked away from
so now I can just figuratively sit back
and enjoy flirting, the energy, the fun, the playfulness,
although with you, well, the heat was almost
as fierce as a bomb blast, when you touched
my leg with your foot, or took my hand
and placed it on your ass, even though I had set
the container to only be making out,
that was a difficult, I should say hard, moment
to withdraw from.

Flirting is location and person specific.
Flirting is the wind going through the trees in my back yard,
sitting crosslegged on my couch, wanting to look
at your short skirt when it rides up, but instead
looking at your face, thinking about how your lips
will feel against mine. Flirting is the connection
when I put my arm across the back of the couch
and touch your shoulder. We talk about our histories, music, friends.
Your eyes are shining, radiant.

The energy of flirting is the energy
of fucking, 100 times slower; approach, withdraw; enter your space
move away, a little, from your space, each time a little farther in,
savoring the connection as much as I savored the salad you made me for supper.

More, please.

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Picnic Table

I liked the way your hands felt
between mine, soft and powerful
I could feel the energy,
touching the inside of your wrists
your gaze changing, some hints of passion.
I like hints. I like the slow movement
with someone I am meeting;
the teasing out of story, of connection;
the possibilities, or not, that open.
Your eyes are soft and stern simultaneously.
When I approach a definition of self,
a naming of your path,
that fits you, your whole body relaxes.
My desire is to open that path
since where it leads can’t be known
from this side of the gate.

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Surrender lessons

Surrender is your head
on my shoulder, fingers
tracing through the tangles
in your hair, my cheek
against your head.
It is in your eyes,
maybe even as a plea.
Surrender sprouts from words,
from tiny gestures.
It lands in your settling
more and more against me,
as your breath become gentle waves;
in the energy waves of your back;
in the way you allow
my enclosure.
Then it has escaped for now.
Perhaps, soon, we will open again
the fence that allows it
to enter and run freely,
howling at the moon.
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Across the room, my three
lovers, my delight, comfort,
and Beloved, sit, close together
in conversation, about what
I don’t know, unnecessary to know,
and I see from a distance
mutual respect and admiration
and you, all of you at once
look up at me, and in your eyes
I see myself reflected, for a moment
as you see me, through the lens
of your affection and love
and suddenly my heart
is entirely too large for this chest,
I am dizzy with joy and humility
that all of you love me,
that my life has brought me
through every bit of anguish
to this point, this evening;
the rest of the room of people
oblivious to my revelation,
to my certainty that my desire
to grow old with each of you
is an adventure only beginning;
I am larger than I can be,
and coming back to myself I find
your eyes, and yours and yours,
where I get lost repeatedly,
now are places where
I am finally, completely found.

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