Outside the Closed Church Door

This is a poem in my Lisbon series (1, 2, 3…) about longing for my monogamous Christian husband, and finding damn good company instead.

“Outside the Closed Church Door”
Igreja Paroquial de Nossa Senhora das Mercês (Parish Church of Our Lady of Mercy)—Lisboa

Disused door doves
say sacred sensations
wait willing and wanted.
Fleeing (feminine phantom)
closer cooing, crumbling
in need not unknown,
I look at the locked-out lingerers
and pray for pairing perfect.
What would also work
would be wanted oneness,
so needed necessary and now.


Finding Praça do Comércio

Like some others, this poem was inspired by my time in Lisbon in 2015. Most of us have spent the decade following the last financial crisis observing outcomes worsen for a lot of people in a lot of places as inequality and corruption increased… Without having the power to either stop the forces of history driving that march, or not feel them.

“Finding Praça do Comércio”

The water calls you even if your feet are as stupid as mine,
not knowing direction in your own country,
much less finding your way wandering, except
there is no more way to find, but you know what I mean.
Every time I’d wander out, I’d find myself at the water
and so the city center where the Tejo meets the Atlantic,
or nearly enough that the water tastes of salt
and the cruise ships look embarrassing.

Juan wants to sell me weed.
Nicolás wants my number.
And a tiny, unbent butterfly of an ancient, burnt sienna woman
dressed in a doll-pink dress and backpack, long white pants and orthopedic shoes,
red hair barrette, gold hoop earrings, silver cane,
and imperial frown lets me walk beside her in the protest against the failed bank,
showing me her statement with her money she can never have—
her life savings, stolen by bankers who will get away.
I ask if I can take her picture, and she has me snap
her paper with my cellphone, too, as if believing
in my ability to see, or know who to show.

But I never know who to tell anymore.
So much is going wrong.
Someone give Lucilia Santos Cruz her 106.56 euros back.
Or was that all she had left after the theft?
I am trying to understand the world and failing,
because the world does not make sense.

Still the water pulls me, away from the shouting of protestors
who would like to but will not attack the bankers’ police in their new riot gear,
away from the wider everyday bustle of Baixa,
away from the litter and mosaics of Lisboa,
to the smooth stones and mossy rocks by the gently rocking water.

One circle of stones not too far out looks like a wreath underwater,
or a nest the fish-birds are flying over, skipping stoney kisses
across the bright and cloudy surface of their sky.
A young boy’s melody of question laces a father’s answer
as a migrant’s bench-beat hugs the farther coast,
and there is so much music in all this longing.
The water pulls us—its force without logic, demand without reason,
peace without words.



Art Reviews from Cologne to Marrakesh

Dug this up from MACAAL. Generally I avoid selfies, but their bathroom was irresistible… 

Lately I’ve been traveling and reviewing art at Delicious Line. Here are my latest:

Eckart Hahn: The Black Dog Dresses Brightly, at Haus am Lützowplatz (Berlin),

James Rosenquist: Painting as Immersion, at Museum Ludwig (Cologne),

Black Power – Flower Power: Photographs by Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch, also at Museum Ludwig (Cologne),

Indigenous Australia: Masterworks from the National Gallery of Australia, at me Collectors Room (Berlin),

Wolfgang Tillmans: Fest (Firmly), at Galerie Buchholz (Cologne),

Africa Is No Island, at Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL/Marrakesh)



“Kokopelli,” oils on 40 x 50 cm stretched canvas (web store).

I must have painted this a year ago, and forgotten to blog it. It’s so nice and thick and bright. I’m down to a partial tube of white and have gorgeous cherry blossom photos to paint from at last—but couldn’t get to the art store all week. Web maintenance is happening now, as my shop appears to be slightly out of order after a software update. So I see this among the accidental uncategorized—the god of fertility conjuring a flower with his lute, the flames coming off his back, the flames coming off the petals, his hair flying like wild birds, and it could almost be a cherry blossom, but look again and it’s a rose, or at least it has a flow about it, I like it, I should give this one away. And get some new paintings up in my web store. And get equipment to flatten and photograph all the paper work from last spring/summer, e.g., in the Nuremberg 2027 series.

But for now I’ll content myself with clearing dozens of paintings out of the entry-way where I inexplicably stacked them after photographing in the beautiful light. Spring cleaning!


Wandering Cemitério dos Prazeres

Like a previous poem, this was inspired by my time in Lisbon in 2015. It’s about feeling peaceful in a cemetery after being terrified.

“Wandering Cemitério dos Prazeres”

Something splendid about being surrounded by stone and natural death—
a peace, a slowness, a feeling of family and of rest.
The job that must be done matters less now, again,
than this togetherness with stones, bones, sun, kingfishers, and former men.
There is no job. There is no “I” who must and must. There is not one recorded line
echoing the violence that breaks the eternal mirror, tricking us into time.


Make Tea Not Lists

“Make Tea Not Lists”

This appears to be a poem whose protagonist has suffered attentional problems, and that will (appropriately) not cooperate in becoming more dense and poem-like. I’m laughing at myself trying to edit it yet again while this week re-trying all sorts of list-making, mindful meditating, journaling, task-reorienting, yoga-procrastinating, mantra refraining-from-mocking, autogenic something things, and enjoying a really good book on organization called The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin. And a really good Guardian interview with physicist Carlo Rovelli on the nature of time. While currently on a poetry book manuscript editing timer. God help me. Is this a poem or not? If I don’t know, then I guess it’s got to go… But I like it enough to blog it before taking it out of the book.

When I went in for shot attention to Mrs. Which and Whose, and Not-It, Frau Doktor asked why I couldn’t Just Do It—whether I kept stopping to have cups of tea. Now when I read Eliot, the tea is all I see.

When I told my office about the very important man’s very important hands and how I couldn’t sit still—they said to do nothing, if you will. Then my files were trashed, and it saved my ass—that needing to move, run, dance. That dashing far enough away at last.

And when I slept in our big red bed under the big blue sky in France, sleeping as much as I needed, eating and loving the same—I knew I needed this animal luxury, being my scatter-brained poet self, living in the wild in my rhythms, listening without acting through effect-minded prisms.

Then I don’t need to be invisible. Breathing is allowed, unmeasured—and dreaming.

Usually I don’t remember my dreams, and wonder whether they are civilized. Not in the sense of denying my most basic needs, for sleep and love more than money or a good life above. But in the sense of making more of my animal—cuisine of her hunger, love and sex from sex and love, delicious rest into some art, or the search for it. This feeds me. Feeding others sets me free.


If you could replace your unremembered dreams with prayers, in the Middle Ages, you probably would. If you could replace them with podcasts or books on tape today, you probably would. We always forget Luther, and intend to save ourselves—mostly with other people’s good works and none of our own faith. Faith in the brain, in the self, in the unseen rhythms poets and physicists point to quietly all our lives. Quietly because we are soft animals. We are not priests and presenters, though we may try on the robes and seem sometimes to sing out. Feels better to do without. Remember what happened to Galileo, and who knows why not to Copernicus. They don’t like us.

We know something now about how drinking three cups of tea a day cuts your depression risk. And coffee—diabetes. Miso—breast cancer. Or so we think. We see the substance and not the sigh, sit, drink.

What do we know about listening to birds and looking without seeing out the window? What do we know still about sleep, about our own lives when we let go? About the brain washing itself at night delicately, like a kitten, going over and over what has and has not been done, and what cannot be said or done, but must be imagined in secret and in silence? About the half-gone washings in-between, when we are doing nothing—and everything?

We know without it, our hands are drunken, our minds are dull, we start to hear things in the lull. What we call nothing and waste is sanity. And like sanity, sleep is not what we used to think—is not either-or. You can be part awake, and part on a different shore. Memory systems out. Attention and doubt in a drought. Sleep is a thief that takes what it can get. You don’t know it, because you forget.


Last spring, when my love bought me a full-sized electric piano, that feels and sounds like the real thing with its great wooden soul—I asked my first teacher for a few pieces, and learned new Bach and Chopin after twenty years. The headphones helped assuage my fears—that I would suck, or bother people. And my own brain and fingers clicked in ways I had forgotten, but they had not. I could do this, full stop. Then, when I napped, they kept playing Bach.

How lovely, dark, and deep the woods of our minds that when we play again, we play also in our sleep. I’ve never had such delicious rest.

I used to beat the others out for money as a kid. But then I quit and now I’m not on par with all the rest. Would it be better than my play and replay to be like Mozart, dreaming his own symphonies instead? Or Harry Potter waltzing into J.K. Rowling’s empty head? I never feel that I receive my own ideas, but something or someone else’s— the great creative self-deprecating moue. But when you’re in the flow, it’s true. Often I am not. I am in the way. It’s just what I’ve got.

Listen, I don’t know if there’s a force like God or the collective unconscious. I don’t like religion, homeopathy, or other frauds, though they have their uses—and yes, sure, abuses I have seen and known. I have a trippy artist brain wired for ecstasy, and it’s often lead, misled, deuced, and helped me. I just know Bach, being left alone by big fat chiefs, and drinking tea will do for me—and when I interfere, to enforce discipline and plans, it doesn’t work as well. I am not Mozart, and will never be a Potter. I come here into the blank space to see what happens. It is not impressive as a life. It is just what I need. I hope that in time, more work of worth will bleed from the leaves; but I need steeping still. When I can let myself make tea not lists. When I can rub the beads of a meaning that matters like this. Sometimes it boils down on its own. Maybe this one is not full-grown.

And if you let yourself do the same, we might meet here. Or nay. Neither invisible nor strident, unnecessary by necessity. That’s civilization. Playing the same old tune with new feeling. Sipping like old friends, knowing the time and not the leaves are revealing. This is where ideas pour into and not from you, without searching, out of the blue. This is where you are welcome, my dear, to find me. Although I am most me when I am here, which is to say, when I am not here. It’s on the tip of my tongue, so near. Yet entirely unclear.


Doubting Tom

Two more poems relevant to #MeToo (previous ones here and here). That’s a section in my second poetry book that keeps growing and shrinking, because there’s always a new reason to write more about it. Now I’m fantasizing about writing a short story set in a dystopia where there is so much surveillance that abuse allegations can be more easily verified—and abusive men get branded on the face. So at least you know who has behaved badly toward other women in the past, since that’s probably the most useful heuristic for predicting future abuse… (Not that more surveillance results in better outcomes for crime victims, or that “believe victims” makes sense in the context of due process, or or or…)

“Doubting Tom”

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”—John, 20:29, NIV

Bagladykiller, shopping cart caddy, glad he
feels so sure that he can shuffle me out like that—
I am currently mentally homeless.

Shuffling along in my tattered thoughts,
replying to things long said or unsaid but present,
I would abide by conversations more pleasant.

But all the streets
and all the houses
are empty when one turns to enter.

The doors don’t open
and the intersections stop
at ends of the world.

If there were others here,
but there are not even cats,
we could find a way
out of the stranded fray.

Ways do not exist here.
What you want is rest
what you want is chaos
what you want—who knows?

What you want is to have known
before he showed you
that he was one of those.



There are some tribes of men
who show themselves when
they have a chance to do
what they want to you.
And they do.

It is not all of them.
Their tribe may not be very many.
I have not counted.
This realm is always unaccounted.
Forgive, forget his moment’s whim.

But if there are any
left who are pretending to be a friend,
let’s skip the violation
and make our timely end.
Even rainbows run out of ways to bend.


Walking to Mauerpark

Never finished, always relevant. I must have started writing this poem last fall on the way to Mauerpark here in Berlin—a now-vibrant park that on warm Sundays bursts with relaxing young people and families, busking musicians (some really amazing), graffiti artists, slackliners and slackers, food vendors and flowers, that was once part of the Berlin Wall and its Death Strip. Spring is almost here…

“Walking to Mauerpark”

Steel supports like blades of grass
stretch up to crane-cut clouds
on the old school’s rooftop. They look
like easel spines between paintings
like giraffes pointing noses at a changing sky
and like the steel supports in the field near Mauerpark
nearby, stretching up and back into history,
marking where the concrete chunks
were carried off, for resale or for memory.

Also along the way and easier to miss,
small bronze tiles break sidewalks
with names, dates taken, dates killed.
This one was the doctor who built the orphanage.
That one, his infant daughter.
His wife, her mother. His son, her brother.

Elsewhere, such steel spokes and small marked stones
silently sit and do not stir in walls and under dirt.
But here they are bare in the biting air
as if the past were present,
as if the Wall and Die Wende had been a dream,
and as if all rewritten stories are not what they seem.

Layers of trauma sift like this,
from the German traüme—to dream
and not know how to remember different times.
The steel spokes in the brain stand up,
lattices of memories we must make fiction to tell
and so cannot clear up with words—
are yet filled in. Marked stones filed and misfiled
scatter, cannot be secured on crumbling walls.
In this deconstruction, landmarks can comfort or alarm.

For some the spokes and stones are solace.
Remembered deaths were not in vain.
Remembering helps us rise again
toward something better—
the idea of freedom,
the possibility of better dreams,
the melting of old into new.
Not leaving the past to be true.

For others, sadness:
touching the cold plaques
caressing the bent shoulder of the past
with nothing whole there to retrieve
yet impossible to leave
as its distance closes in
as the empire cries sin
and as we wonder how long their warning will last.

For its part, all this steel and stone
wishes us neither solace nor sadness.
Our mementos will be another’s clues
as to our fatal madness.