When the Muse is Sleeping
I fight sleep until I go to bed and then
I lie awake, thoughts whirling like a dervish
inside my cluttered head, the way the young
view love, quite content to be so confused.
There, navigating its way through the maze
is the word that was the missing child
at the carnival, now safe and snug in bed.
There, too, is the answer to the riddle,
perhaps not the mystery of your life solved
but the mystery of my life solved, perhaps.
The thoughts are Tilt-A-Whirls and trapezes,
and I dare not interfere or they will freeze
and I will be pulling endless ribbons
like a baffled clown. Air, air, everything air.
And because I did not move, I will fall
asleep at the hour the farmer rises
and wake without the recollections of words
or answers; as such, I go about my chores.
Tragedy of Commons: A Polemic
If a baseball player is an egoist
and cares more about his statistics
than he does about his team,
what harm is there? The better
he plays, the better his team does.
This is an economic argument
derived from Adam Smith’s
invisible hand theory. However,
the tragedy of commons
argues the opposite. A goat herder
who adds a single goat to open land
is the only one who benefits
as there is less grazing for the goats
of the other herders. It is not that
the herders receive no benefit;
they receive a negative benefit.
What is common to most will
receive the least amount of care,
argued Aristotle. If a finite resource
is freely accessible and its use
unrestricted, then man, in his finite
wisdom and infinite self-servitude,
will overexploit it. Naturally.
When First I Heard Jazz
I watch the jazz musicians and notice
the discipline of improvisation.
Tunes and tones tempered, yet freer than any
bird ever flew. There is a blues element,
something that has been fossilized in the air,
something that is unspeakable, that cannot
be taught or shown but is known when it is heard.
It is crocheted into the sky’s tapestry
and is but a knock, knock from heaven’s door.
The trumpets are descendants of Patmos,
the bass an anchored ricochet in my skull.
The instruments, like the lyre, can soothe, can heal
but only the listeners, not the players.
When I begin writing in its rhythms,
my veins become the blood pressure pump, my heart
caught in the cuff. Relieved of its duties
and replaced by a scab, my heart gives up
but not out, and, like love, like things of value,
it believes it can be restored to newness,
and, finally, finally, the beat, the beat…
What Words Spoken in Quarrel
What words spoken in quarrel
Have been spilled with great regret,
Seemingly hollow, idle
Words that have been weaponized,
Followed by those incentivized
To wash away the damage
Like a medic in the field,
Still aware of the danger,
But hoping for things to cease,
While making false promises
Meant to be disguised as hope.
When Bruce Raised Henry from the Dead
The dog that had raised Henry from the dead
Was gone and this time would never be found,
And so we turned our energies instead
To Henry, who was three feet underground.
I had discovered the dog underneath
A torn-down shed where a three-legged bitch
Made herself at home. She’d show her bad teeth
When she’d topple each time she’d scratch an itch.
The pup fit full in the palm of my hand,
Its wet, feathered fur capturing my scent,
And I feared my mistake had abandoned
Him to my care, something I had not meant
To happen. But I noticed Henry, who,
Since my good friend had tried to introduce
Us, had said nothing more than “hi,” come to
From what seemed to be a coma, and Bruce--
We’d named the dog after Springsteen—I’m sure,
Was the sole reason for his newfound life,
As if both runt and litter held a cure
For an illness Henry’s children and wife
Were certain would be the death of him soon.
They were astonished when he went outside
Holding his dog and pointing to the moon
As if teaching a child, and they cried
For different reasons, I presumed. Laughter
Ensued, lasting as long as was able.
It wasn’t very long at all after
When Henry’d have dinner on the table
And hold court, telling an ad man story,
Quite proud to impress me and the others
Of his decadent golden-days glory
When he’d smoked Cubans and wore Brooks Brothers
Suits and had an expense account that was
More than his salary. He had to “schmooze”
His clients and drink hard with them because
“Good deals were the byproduct of good booze.”
And Henry was Madison Avenue,
He’d tell us over and over again--
The heavyweight champ of ad revenue--
Though dry, high as when he’d been drinking, then
His voice grew thin and he said, “My poor wife,”
And I saw him struggling to look at her.
His stories changed as he relived the strife,
Like when he gave away their furniture--
“I always was a generous drunk,” he said,
“Some checks were gone before I’d deposit
“Them. Some nights, I just wished I were dead.
“I always hung my clothes in the closet,
“Though”—as if the word “though” made it all right--
A fact that his wife painfully confirmed.
Then Henry finally called it a night.
We didn’t admit that we were alarmed
Until the first time Bruce ran away,
Straight into the path of a moving car.
Resilient, he was brought home the next day,
Again retrieving Henry from afar.
One lick brought Henry’s chin out from his chest
And tripped the switch of circuits in his head,
No longer was death willing him to rest.
Convinced were we Bruce raised him from the dead.
Then Henry, in his new lucidity,
Said creatures born like Bruce were meant to stray.
We wondered when, at last, the dog was free
If Henry deemed they both should slip away.