Works of verse

Il Herculano è Solo

Dirt rain clings to my spoiled

marble, gathers in oiled puddles

in the basin of a mosaic. The

lemon sun grows shadows

from ombrello pines like

the sparse weeds of my stone

garden. Still, the sidewalk cracks

from the pads of feet. No vendor

stands in the ashes of my

market, zucchini-iron fences

coil like garlic, my dry bones

reach beyond them for contact.


Nonni pause beyond my gated

serenity and lift their wilted eyelids.

I am a graveyard among living

houses; restful and untouched.

Pompeii would love to gather my

rubble and we could breathe

in the smoke of Vesuvio, but I

lay in the centre of Pozzuoli,

stretched like a single painting

hung in a gallery of walls.


When I stopped being an angel

I filled the freezer

flowers, marigolds, lilies, dandelions

trembling lovely in the white emptiness

stems brittle, petals cracking

my faith dry and scattered


God; my hope, my fear


I was told a lie, pain inflicted upon me and my people

6 million: Auschwitz, Krakow, Bergen-Belsen

yet I did not scream for revenge

if another must suffer for my suffering

then I too deserve to suffer again


someday I will build a mountain

show you to love all your people

because if god is unjust

the world is a prison with no reward

the light at the end only a future of consumption


your promises so many times broken

oh-so-holy-glares from the best of humanity

because they still have faith



following a coyote into his den

convincing yourself his bite is only a test

as he tears your skin apart


You broke your promise

left me here alone

on the frozen streets of America

where the sun is never hot enough

to burn away the inequity


didn’t answer my cries

didn’t guide me when I was lost

in your mess of creation


no, my eyes will not lower

as eyes have lowered to me

I am better then you

don’t make promises I can’t keep


you selfish god

happy as long as praised

children cursed for their fathers’ sins

and me



toward hell

somehow lost my way.


I used to be an angel

eyes strong, pulling you toward me

fingers forever clasping yours

now I am a shadow

hands grip each other

eyes avoid yours

tomorrow I will be a bird

free again

raise my eyes like wings

as I fly toward yours

Dreaming Dusk

All the light of heaven’s gloaming

Seeks the valley I am roaming,

Flashing, cutting, pierce the darkness,

Fill it with the twilight starkness.

Flying! Trying!

Flying is the daylight leaving,

Trying is the night of grieving.


Twilight speaks the tongue of knowing,

Freeing day and midnight blowing

Of constraints that bind the living

In the blackness unforgiving.

Whiteness! Brightness!

Whiteness blinds the eyes enlightened,

Brightness keeps the darkness frightened.


Oh, that time between the weary

Toils of the daytime dreary,

And the chilling nights of sorrow,

Breaking for the pains tomorrow.

Dreaming! Seeming!

Dreaming dusk, I start to ponder,

Seeming that my thoughts a-wander.


Seeks the valley I am roaming,

Flashing, cutting, pierce the darkness,

Fill it with the twilight starkness.



of nature

and its tendency for life.


I will ride to the sun

on the chariots of gold,

and listen the mountains play

what stars have long foretold.


The lake does live and breathe,

the wind does speak to me,

the trees are still immortal,

and the rivers know the sea.



of nature

and its tendency for death.


Does not the earth still quake

at every command of God?

Does not the wind lash out

and beat us with its rod?


And hail of heaven and of stone

that is the poor man’s plight,

and storms that send the land abroad

into the simpleton’s sight.



of nature

and its tendency to be.

Did You See the News Tonight?

I saw a man in his prime

shrunken and emaciated,

eyes tinted red and unaware

his whole image stretched out

on a 12-inch screen.


“James R. Thornwell died today

of an epileptic fit.”


Moments of unconscious

rolled by like white-washed waves

in a black sea.

Up and down, flowing with

the current and then crashing

on sandy banks.


Heart beating in a fury,

eyes shocked wide,

fingers embedded into

white sheets as soft as clouds.


The sense of touch is lost.


“James R. Thornwell died today”

He left the manic depressive

world of floating orange clouds

and transcended

into a plane of floating light.


The cornhusk is

oblong and green with overlapping peels.

The interwoven quilt covers

a sheet of silky threads that sticks in white,

fades to yellow and then brown,

twisted ragged at the top.

Huddled underneath are the kernels,

deep yellow dulling to white

through the cob’s length,

little teeth,

stuck in close and rooted deep.


Row by row the kernels dig into

the bed of the cob,

which nestles them close,

a firm mattress forming

to their soft, waxy skin.


I wonder how it is that they never argue,

lying so close together like that,

like my mama and daddy argued

before they divorced.


Now I have to find my way,

my teeth navigate the cob,

from Rock Hill to Cross Anchor,

with Lockhart in-between

and McConnells on the way

to Lockhart from Rock Hill.


Silvery Silent

Out here in the moonlight

Half light, night light

When the pity and despair in your eyes

Says a thousand more words

Than could ever be uttered from your lips


You’re mercury

Fluid and liquid, but steady


While inside you’re violet

Transcendent and flickering

With droplets of every rainbow colour


In the furthest,

Beneath your silver shell,

There is no jeering laughter

If you’re not what they expect you

To be;

But this you cannot show them

For fear that they will smother it

Or snuff it out

With their foolish consistency



I am rocked with uncertainty.

My mama taught at Whitten Center.

Where the retarded children rocked


And forth

In their seats. I wonder what they thought.

I remember my thoughts as a child.

I knew them, but could not say them right

Out loud.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

My mama got sick when I was in first grade.

My grandmama came to take my sister and me to school,

And I got there late for the first time.

Ms. Kelly was eating lunch with the other teachers

In the reading room.

She asked me to bring her a fork from the cafeteria.

I did.

I told everybody that the teachers did not eat in the teachers’ lounge,

They ate in the reading room.

No one believed me.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

I dreamed that I had extra toes on each foot.

It was so real.

I did not worry about fitting into my tennis shoes.

I was sad that I could not wear sandals.

When I woke up, I was so relieved.

I had five toes on each foot.

I slid them into

A pair of sandals.  My toes looked like cute pink piggies,

And I was pleased.

I have not worn a pair of sandals in eight months.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

I think of the rocking chairs on the porch of the Cracker Barrel

In Rock Hill.

I sat in one as my sister and I played checkers on a blanket board.

Mama had taught us how.

No one could beat me at checkers.

I moved my king back and forth in the corner

Until she tired and gave up.

I have not played in four years.

I don’t know that I could still win.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

I am sure that I will go to heaven when I die.

Dr. Shrum’s son killed himself by overdosing

On that stuff the dentist gives you to numb your mouth

Before he pulls.

His father was a preacher.

Did he go to heaven?

Dr. Shrum read a poem someone had written called

“Spring Will Come Again”.

I remember a sermon about how everyone passes through

The Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus did not want to be crucified.

Allen Navlyt committed suicide in the eighth grade.  He shot himself.

He had been sick with some kind of muscle disease.

He could not take gym class, so he was the library helper after I was.

He finished a poster I started – clouds and kites for March.

He put all the grey clouds together.

I wonder if he went to heaven

I wonder what he thought

Before he pulled.

Symbiotic Summersaults


when the planet does


and your words slash my





I, in the fetal position,

feel the blood beat

in the skin beneath my ears.


A hand touches my back and,

like IV leeches,

we remain


A Thousand Martini Hours

Working and sweating in the afternoon sun,

Old man joints aching and creaking,

Dust floating up and onto his old jeans,

Remembering a thousand days out in the heat

Working and thinking

Of the past

And towards the future

And now, in his own garden,

Picking the crops they’ll eat tonight,

Corn and peas and carrots and potatoes,

Wrestled from the ground,

A thousand dreams and memories,

Held like water in his worn hands,

Dots of moisture on bald head and gray hair,

A few hours work in quiet apprehension,

Before strain is laid to rest in brown sofas

Gin is poured and that angry juniper taste

Flows down down down the throat fast and hard

Good breath and subtly worsening speech

Just like the last night,

And every one before that,

As far back as he can remember,

He’s melting into the brown sofa,

Old and content in his home,

Unlit fireplace in front of him,

Thinking and reminiscing,

Till night falls down and carries him with it

Into ancient dreams