Bad Poetry Week

I just found myself rubbing my palms together in the kitchen and thinking, “Time to write some bad poems about whatever. Time for a bad poetry week!” One of the biggest obstacles to writing is fear of writing something bad. So, we have to find ways to embrace the bad, to enthusiastically nod our heads and step into the bad. I remember at my ten-year high school reunion, feeling kind of stiff and awkward when it came to dancing. My friend turned to me and said, “I just do my goofy dance,” and his arms went loose, his whole body let go of tension and he became a rubber chicken. I tried it and it was incredibly liberating. If you’re going to dance, dance. If you’re going to write, get goofy, get loose, and instead of letting bad snort and tease and shut you down, walk directly over to bad, hold out a hand and invite bad to the dance floor.

In the Tent by the Lake

in the tent by the lake

the water makes its voice


licks the rocks all night

humming yummy yummy yum

and the wind grabs Tent

by the cheeks

pinching, shaking, shouting,

You look like-a mamma!

The rain falls in socially distanced drops

kerplop plop


a pingping

a patterpatterpatter

then breaks into

a doowop a boowop a pingy pingping


In the lake by the tent

Tent peeks out

under half lidded rainfly

smiles sheepish

guffaws, awwwwww

turns redfaced

can’t believe its own glory

When the clouds see the tent

it’s the rightquick glance

of a flying elephant

snorting wispy cloudboogies

Hey Tent, why not fly?

cue trumpet


In the undermarsh, below Tent

creepycrawly squishy intellectuals

pace caverns and corridors

looking up,

wringing mollusks

adjusting antennae

the world has ended!

Il mondo! Il mondo!

Great Tent has landed

Sitting on the dock of the lake

with murmuring sorelle in Tent behind

two posts frame frothy ripples

like finger goalposts

for flicking triangular paper footballs

in math class

By the side of thedock

tucked, everlasting,

the big rock talks to the lake

stern, granite, shoulders above water

Rock barks, haw haw!

eagley eep yippityyip

Wow wow blippity blip wow haw!

imagines smattering applause in the wind

Rock beats chest

gazing out to lake core

tries to formulate a granular idea

but needs years


to capture next thought

never gets a word in with cheeky cheeky birds

sputtering yeehaw jetski

and even slow humans

if we could just remember

to pause a millenia

Rock would surely supply a witty rejoinder

women are from Venus

Men are from Mars

and Rock is from Earth

and this is a dimple

filled with happy water

and by it sits

a palace made of air

curved poles

stretched nylon


and soft cotton

Before the Lake

A travel blog for the post-, mid-, pre- pandemic lifestyle. This is the night before heading out. No, I’m not heading to Senegal, like you, or off to Croatia, like you. Nor am I wisely staying home, like you, you and you. Just heading east. Capital E, really. And capital C. East Coast. There’s a lake awaiting. Family. A folding chair and a good book. It’s raining now, it seems, but just a blip, a thunderyawn, a conflaguration of uppity clouds.

I will ride with my family to the San Francisco airport in the early hours and we will fly out over this great divided nation of lunatics and elitists, of the misinformed and the misinformers. I’ll pull out my chilango chess set and ask my son, “A game?” and he’ll say, “I will play but not right now.” He means it, but…isn’t there only right now, right now?

I’ll look back out the window, down through the wispy clouds at the red and blue checkerboard nation. What a mess, what a mess. I’ll fly like James on his giant peach, heading for the Empire State, well, Jersey really. Down below, sharks, seagulls, well, redhats anyway. And bluehats.

And then there’s just Gladys. See her sitting there in her rocking chair on her porch? She’s waving to you and me. Gladys doesn’t care if you’re vaccinated or planning an insurrection, just so’s you’re neighborly as you pause your stroll. If she offers you a cup of coffee, or something stronger, you’d better say yes.

Tomorrow, we cross this confused land through the air, if the BART trains are running and the airplane leaves the ground. We’ll trade it in on the other side for a rental car and drive a landscape we barely know, from Newark, over the Hackensack, cross the Hudson, follow the coast — Who came up with this coastline??? It’s a landscape I don’t know anything about. Up the coast, make a left at Ragged Rock, cross the Connecticut, and find your way.

Hard to imagine all that, sitting here in my chair.

Paperback Rider

I climbed on my

pedal powered bicycle

blue helmet like a dweeb

and verily flew down the hill

to the independent bookstore

I climbed off my seat

tied the reins to the post

and ambled into the store

(my bike whinnied behind)

into a store?

into a store

out in the world?

out in the world

the booksellers carried on

their conversation behind plexiglass

as I pumped covid killing goo

and rubbed my simple hands together

eager and clean

eager and clean

I was searching for a birthday book

for my curly-haired friend

(we met in the dorms,

he was clutching The Autobiography of Malcolm X)

I held up Murakami’s new short stories

but it was glossy and unpleasing to the eye and hand

I put it back down

I found instead the Moscow gentleman, written by Towles

a fabulous read I just read

slipped it into a brown paper bag

and was gone

pedalling across town

dodging potholes and pushers

(someone under the underpass was removing the tires of a car)

until I reached my friend’s sunny street

I sat on a rock

and wrote on the brown paper bag:

“Just another paperback book

from an independent bookstore

delivered by a pal

on his pedal-powered bike”

I knocked on his door

and handed him the bag

and the paperback book

had a quick chat

and was gone.

Imagine that!

a paperback book

you can hold in your hand

a bike powered only by my legs

a friend somewhere in the world

and a bookstore filled with books

all still in this world.

Wait, You Haven’t Read Caste Yet?

Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste is so amazing. I’m just returning to it after a fiction detour (I take a lot of those). Check out this quote from a conversation she had with civil rights historian Taylor Branch in 2018, discussing the surge of racist violence under Trump. Branch says, “So the real question would be, if people were given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness?”

Leaf vs. Human

who is more intelligent

a leaf or a human?


a leaf drinks golden light

cleans air of harmful gas

understands water

and uses all three to make sugar

feeds mama tree

grows in good company


a human eats mush

throws applesauce on walls

screams NA NA NA NA

dirties diapers

grows teeth at high moon


trades mama milk for 7-up

gin and tonic

crashes car into tree


a leaf does not linger

grows, saves the world

changes colors

and then lets go,

falling in perfect tumble

to the ground


a human plants a tree

if lucky

helps a child learn to read

sings at weddings

finds friends

wonders what the hell does it all mean?

begins to shrink

wraps fingers around steering wheels

clings to the bitter end



Imagine living like a leaf

knowing which way the wind blows

growing, saving the world

changing colors when it’s time to change

and then letting go,

falling in perfect tumble

flipping slowly in the sunlight

slowmo final flash of color

flickering flipping

down down like a rock lobster


singing NA NA NA NA


Hey Jude

Hey Jude

landing on the ground

in good company

Stuff I Think About at 4 a.m.

How do you actually resign as president of the United States? Is it enough to just write, “I hereby resign” and sign it? What if you forgot the period? Or do you have to use an exclamation mark? Can I call you Mark? Are there other verbs allowed under the Constitution? I quit! I hereby Step down? I’m fired? I’ve decided to go in a new direction? Would it suffice to write “I didn’t want this job anyway!” in shaving cream on a West Wing mirror?

Could you, I don’t know, if you hadn’t been banned for life…resign by tweet? What about a post on a social media platform that you just started by Executive Order (where your only follower is Don Jr.)?

What if you took an Ambien and resigned by accident? Are there take-backs?

Is there a presidential big red button or a little hand-held radio, like in “Alone”? Can a president “tap out”?

“I kind of had it made but then I set my own shelter on fire. I’m tapping.”

OK, back to bed.

How Long Will Vote Counting Take?

Breathe Walk Dance

If you are carrying around the weight of the world today, as I am, as the plot takes a terrifying turn with Supreme Court voter suppression and the clear evil master plan to steal the election surges forward…

Remember you need to breathe. If the air is not on fire or filled with smoke, you need to get outside and walk.

You need to put on music and dance, even if it’s your angriest dance.

You need to dust off that guitar or violin or clarinet and just lose yourself in music for a bit.

Not to escape. Ever vigilant. Determined to do everything you can every day to bring the bastards down and save the nation…

But you have to free up that tightness in your chest, a few times a day. You have to stretch with your favorite song blasting.

You have to stop scrolling, looking, listening to it all, for stretches of time, and open a book, and do nothing else. Scratch out a drawing. Pound on some drums.

The purpose of the news is to get informed and then act based on that information. The purpose is not to have a heart attack, not to let your anxiety meter burn past red. The purpose is not to lie face down on the floor, defeated. Know when to to turn it off and heal.

We are here now. Take a breath. That’s your breath. The system of your body is keeping you alive for some purpose. The planets are rolling through silent black space.

You or someone near you is healthy. Celebrate that.

Make a nice bowl of soup for someone you love.

But please don’t carry the weight all day, every day, without music, without breath, without dance, without a walk or a ride or a run. Find a tree. Stare at the tree. Watch the breeze move the leaves or needles. Let your two dimensional digital mind unfold, expand, breathe. Let the record in your soul spin. Hear you heart beat.

We are good people. We are angry. We are strong.

We will eventually make the bastards pay and move past these feelings of desperation.

Sending love from Oaktown!

A Simple Epiphany Would Be Nice

And so it came to be that he tossed upon his gilded bed. And an angel visited him and spoketh thus, “Yo, Man, that sh$% you been doing is so f^&$^ed up.” And suddenly deep in his…well, not soul exactly, but his cavernous selfhood, he felt the stirrings of something new and painful yet glorious. And when the fever broke, he called up ol’ Joe and said “Sleepy…er, Joe old friend, I’ve seen the light! I am withdrawing my name from consideration!” And he called upon his friend Joe and Joe’s friends to take leadership then and there of the nationally coordinated assault on covid. The previous “leader” of the effort, found playing Mortal Kombat 11 in the dungeons, was informed of the change with a post-it on his forehead. By the next day, a national mask mandate was in place, the most generous stimulus package yet was signed, sealed and delivered, and the military were sent into every community to deliver high quality PPE to the schools and nursing homes and neighborhood health clinics. And it was good.