Recent Work

The poet and his cat, Nala, at work.

Selected poems published between 2009 and 2023

I was not surprised to find a steel spring lying alone on a sidewalk, on Spring Street, in Redwood City. I am aware that the population of lost springs in the city is growing. I am not talking about the spring in my step, nor the virgin Spring. I have handled many springs in my life, and yet I know it takes special training to relate to springs in a meaningful manner.  

 This one will never return to its job. If I took it home it would rot in a drawer jumbled in with some old nails and screws. I bet it has “boinged” away from several rescue attempts already. Its original dereliction from the work world probably caused frantic searching, cursing, and anger. It may have drawn blood on someone’s finger when it first snapped out of where it was confined. Just before it let go it uttered unnerving little squeaks that no one paid attention to. 

I warned you, it said. The escape may have taken place this morning or two years ago. Springs have a way of keeping their distance, especially in winter. This one pushed itself away from my extended finger just now; it is rolling, it has leapt over a speck of gravel, it is bouncing and vibrating. It has wobbled and rolled just out of reach under a Toyota. If it were a cat it would be hissing. 

 In the back rooms of small hardware stores there are bins full of springs that are never used, many just like this one. They are kept segregated from birth, by size, and shape. They wait sometimes for decades for a chance to hold one thing away from another thing at some useful distance. When they are put to work, they are forced to absorb all that animosity, that subtle flexing, which keeps machines going. 

 Unlike me it has a Maker, but just like me, it has escaped. This one may have already performed more work in its life than I have in mine. I would love to kick at it, pursue it down the block, with drivers honking at me, and pedestrians staring.  

The Licker of Sweet Walls
midnight CHEM, October, 2023

Alien I come 

to you who feeds me 

in my dream-prowl;

half-wittingly, in your sleep, 

   the lingering prayer

of hunger, in kinship 

of hands, and easy flip 

      of your pet door.

I prowl the cat-abandoned garage,

as headlights sweep 

under the door, 

a bed creaks somewhere—

makes me freeze, as  

         I wash and gobble 

your gift, lick the dish clean.

I rake the kibble dust 

out of the broom, 

I lick the stiff flakes on the 

crumpled foil, the frosting 

petrified on cardboard.

          I eat the tissue wadded 

with face smells. And over here

the open plastic cooler smeared 

with Coke and egg, mustard-streaked,

the rubberized pickle—  

                    ah       I climb in there 

as into the very mouth of the beast 

who provides in sleep, lick and wipe 

and rub the richness, 

wade into the mire of taste,

          and twist and go with a claw 

at the smooth corners, at crusts of sugar

popping like scabs. I snuffle

full face down onto the smooth, lickable 

meal, until the thing simply

          tips, teeters, 

and falls, snapping the lid

closed, then I scramble upright, 

gain the lick of the top and the new

crumbs which sprinkle my fur,

and twist all around until it is clean.

          And there is no way out, nothing 

gives way no heaped leaves, 

no screen ajar, the snag-less 

corners are tight, walls curve back, 

the claws slip, the teeth strain 

through the lips,

scrape for any edge, but there is 

     none, nor      a breeze, 

nor room for a tongue 

to dissolve the dirt over a beaded crack, 

and the air becomes dim with 

the doped clock of home 

calling, as from 

             the other foragers, chirruping 

outside, back-walking, stretching up, 

pacing and licking the 

storm-drain floor, 

calling and sniffing for the missing 

one, who is dying here, 

the breath restrained

     with each breath more, 

in the unknowing mouth, 

the plastic trap of 

someone sleeping.

I seem to discover myself alive for the first time as a toddler, in a small family, a circle,

of Irish women. A circle that was concentric to circles of farther and further reach continuous and variable,

BUT I go back to the beginning of my mind, finding the world, first, as a toddler, present at a breakfast

which materialized out of colorful cartons, which taught me my first non-family words:

Sun-Maid, Arm & Hammer, Calumet, Aunt Jemima, Folgers:

and – to this this day I wonder how Cheerios are made so round.

I remember my enthronement in a high-chair, where I was nose-wiped, dimple poked -

and all of this in the perpetual aura / odor of fresh coal-fires

in the basement furnace on winter mornings.

I am that. And . I AM The first thing I was taught to do with the conscious control of my fingers,

which was to roll tin-foil balls, and rubber-band balls and spare-string balls,

all for the war effort, or FOR the starving Armenians (not sure which was first)

And the members of that family -

I wish they were still alive – Aunt Helen, forever crossing herself, who swept

the creamery floors after-hours, and came home with DOLLOPS in jars for us:

Aunt Agnes tapping her black Shillelagh cane: and Great-Aunt Grace

late of the convent and late of a railroad-man husband, and Mother, Margaret-Mary,

with her thin Angelic face, who napped with me before her night shift,

sewing parachutes, she said.

I was carried everywhere. I was carried so much I learned to stand-up and warm my toes in apron pockets.

And I am still My face, which was dab-washed with spitted thumbs multi times per day

and scrubbed with a harsh cloth after each meal.

I was from a father who’s only distinction to me was that he might not return

from Dunkirk, or Bastogne – and we were waiting.

Oh – and the voice On the radio, I was told was hopeful, announcing an uneven march

of French-named cities, liberated – they told me.

Oh, And I am still the first time I was sent to the out-house alone.

I am that first dime I fisted onto the collection plate by myself, for the poor people

who lived down the block, I was told.

Always before dinner:

Angelus Domini nuntiavit (nun-si-A-vit) Mariæ,

Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Always before bed Six or eight bare knees on that wooden floor….

I was held and kissed against six or eight breasts before every bed-time, my forehead

wetted by sweaty cheeks, and throbbed with the pulse in wiry necks, as we prayed the Lord

our souls to keep.

It’s all in one small attic photo box,

and in the accents of the Emerald Isle

I heard everyday. The Emerald Isle, which I have yet to see.

Terence Adams

He began all his dreams in those curled painted flowers

on the wall facing his bed

as the house quieted.

       – then he was dreaming the flowers burning and

his cousin with flames on his face

shaking him

under the window glowing and ticking with heat –

        –then the black spider nets his bicycle spokes

the seat charred tower of bare springs

where he dreamed of riding no-handed

and it came true

       –then the smoldering flowers were above

his pallet on the school floor beside

black axe-head, melted rake,

nested saws welded scattered

sins of screwdrivers with no


        –then he got on his knees to look out

the window at the blackened

yard and remembered watching the one

black side of all those rescuing


pulsing with odd light as they yelled

throwing water and dirt

their red flat faces fastened

to huge shadows

bending and weaving

across the glass.

Someone catches a mule,

ties her to a sign by the highway

with a bucket of water,

then leaves,

fleeing the fire.

The mule is leaning hard,

pulling her rope taut toward the white line,

the highway still un-melted,

air full of smoke.

Cars and trucks pass

but it’s not clear what kind of help

would help.

Bucket melts

from the bottom up.

The water escapes.

Someone thinks to take a photo

of a mule tied up so we know

the story,

how even freedom

is useless

at some point.

Heterosexual Middle Age Males
Mayday Magazine, Issue 10, Fall  2016

I lie down with you, I feel my beard crush into your beard,

I remember pressing my 14-year-old face

to a mirror to feel the prized whiskers

crumble back to me.

I finger the lumps on your balding head and you feel me.

Our hair has retreated.

Our stomachs have moved softly out into the world.

When you rise and walk to your shoes

I see the wear, the used look. You hang from your frame

like towels. No soft drink will ever claim you

on TV. I think of you as old full flowers

hanging at dusk from a fire escape

in an alley above a stage door

where those trim young guys would see us hugging and

imagine the AIDS virus boiling off us like flies.

Because I have not stood up, you come back,

drop to one knee, then the next, sway a little in your weight,

and fall on me with a growl that says

we are wrestling, asking would anyone

want to touch you, how shall I try to love you,

how shall I love myself?

I turn to the airplane’s window, away from the crowded, padded hum,

and the mountaintops below pull my breath into space, close as that ancient

gauze sliding door

in the Confessional,

of my youth, where the old,

deaf priest’s breath

was the only sound in the holy dark,

drawing those tectonic syllables

from my throat bless me—

remembered now in fight,

bless me Father,

in the burden of my chest,

as I ll and empty myself over the mountains—where I see 

myself a rock on that closest peak,

lifted there by the movement of geologic plates, dried oceans, 

and I am breaking

from myself, by grace of thin air,

this thrill of personal weight,

grinding the stone of my

thoughts into water

and slurry. Love of the body

pulled, changing every syllable,

my deeds fractured,

bouncing into the canyons,

into the creeks receiving

the sand of myself,

knowing like the mountain

I shall be lifted,

and folded, cracked and layered,

buried and crushed and redeemed

into air, into earth.

Inheritance II
Sandhill Review, 2016       

I was my father’s feeling,

but first I was his inkling,

or his pinky

on mother’s clit.

I know what you are thinking:

what about that glint?

Well, life begins factually

when one is hit,

or hugged, or lifted from

a crib and squeezed to fit.

He was the ache of

sleepless midnight,

the sound of a distant fight,

the 4th primary color in me.

I aspire to his likeness.

He is the fallen

from my living tree.

I am his confession,

his penance,

his glee.

Other ant says

go see him over there

but him asks what is the word and memory says white so that one runs off

for some reason I’ll try this guy coming

along the edge & he says go back

oh my God but nobody confirms keep saying white

so I’m looking but I can only go the one inch

I forget & must check and this next one

circling says wait but I might

sleep so I ask again and get somebody

else saying still and then mustard so I sit

here but too many smell like a different life &

want me to say something more definite I

sense emergency but nobody is

dead yet so keep on saying white I think

meanwhile folks are walking slower

together usually about food but I only

ever ate once & maybe should not

ever again.

I Am Waiting That Everything You Say
Silver Birch Press, I am Waiting Poetry Series, January 3rd, 2015         

I am waiting that everything you say will be held against you in a court of law

I am waiting that everything you say will be repeated in the court of the hereafter.

I am waiting that everything you say was said before.

I am waiting that everything you say is the only way you touch.

I am waiting that everything you say is building your home

I am waiting that everything you say will not lie down in your casket

I am waiting that everything you say is solid as anger and invisible as the Pentagon.

I am waiting that everything you say is hoarse with voices of ancient fire and

cried through the breath of the hunted

I am waiting that everything you say is spelled in the ink of need

I am waiting that everything you say begins the reconstruction of the mind

I am waiting that everything you say is the shape of music and the power of strawberries

I am waiting that everything you say lightens the burden of the future

anything you say should be complete in the time it takes

to give your cat an enema

the body is the nun of your lonely thoughts

the priest of our oldest wishes.

Your wireless minutes have exceeded their limits you have unused

icons on your desktop I am waiting that everything you say

your voice is a vote for the party of the unspeakable

your voice is a claim for the innocence of hell

I am waiting that everything you say will drag you by the nape of your neck

We are caretakers in fire-watch towers in a single forest,

We are tenders of medieval gardens,

We are silent at the oil cloth table light bulb vigil

high over sunflowers abandoned and bending

We are champagne wedding in earliest sun

we are Martin Luther at the celestial suggestion box

which face is yours at the Greyhound window — are you reflected

in the glass of night?

Are you the spark advancing along the beach

Are you slung across a saddle on the way to Kabul

Is yours the scream that will stop the clatter of machine guns

Are you electrocuted at the microphone

Your sentence will pardon the eyeless and open the ears that are buried in doors

You are an unlawful assembly

you are an unlawful assembly

The rock of the law is the sand around your feet

  Your description of the sunrise begins the healing of the world

Your description of the spirit is the birth of the Spirit

Your question is the question the Universe has been waiting for

Your command tells the future to begin

you are shuffling a stack of grammar parts at a language fire

under the freeway

you are advancing the spark in the motor of breath

Shake your can of verbs onto the bar top

buy a round of soul for the vagrant children

Is there a lighted wick crackling along the base of your spine

Is there a lighted wick crackling in the base of your spine

Doing It In Your Head
Red Wolf Journal #4, 2014,  2015     

This candidate for stepsister,

Sherry, is playing arithmetic games with the son’s father

in the dining room with the potential stepmother


Fifteen plus eighty six? Dad asks.

Sherry flops her shoulders forward,

opens her mouth, squints her eyes,

and tilts her head way back until she looks

like a birdbath.

Suddenly dad turns to son, who is staring at Sherry,

expecting an answer.

Son stammers ninety nine.

Dad is visibly embarrassed with son, potential stepmom decides

the cookies are ready. Sherry stops being

a birdbath and says no,

a hundred and one.

Next question,

son folds himself backward at the neck,

opens his mouth like a birdbath

thinking he’ll get the answer that way,

and dad backhands him off his chair for making fun of Sherry.

Later Sherry explains to her possible stepbrother

how she says the numbers out loud in her head,

and she’ll show him how to kiss, too,

if he’ll come out in the hallway after everyone

is asleep. In the hallway she asks if he has been saying

numbers in his head the way she showed him.

The son says yes.

She says: kissing is the same thing except you say mmm,

mmm instead of numbers, you squint

your mouth instead of your eyes,

and you don’t tilt back

quite as far.

You Do Not  Have The Right To Remain Silent
In World Of Change, edited by David Madgalena, New Way Media Fest, 2014.   Reprinted in "PORTSIDE," edited by Peter Neil Carroll.

You are under arrest!

You have been declared an unlawful assembly.

Your keystrokes are jailed in the Cloud and you are already indicted.

You no longer have the right to remain silent.

However, you are entitled to representation by a soul. If you cannot afford a soul,

if you cannot find your soul, if you do not understand your soul

a soul will NOT be provided for you,

nor will there be a soul present at your interrogation by the jury of verbs.

You are accused of abandoning your words in the market of

muteness at the door to the dollar.

You shredded your words on plastic bags blowing from wire fences.

You suffocated your words in the diaries you never wrote.

You no longer have the right to remain silent.

You are entitled to an opinion. If you can’t afford an opinion

you will be assigned one by the search engine of your peers.

You are entitled to an attitude

if you do not have an attitude you may obtain one

with a Corn Dog from a Wal Mart lunch aisle,

or maybe you will be sentenced to one in a court of law.

You are entitled to a feeling. If you do not have a feeling

you will have one by the time you are finished

and you will not enjoy this feeling.

If you cannot afford a feeling read an old one out loud

in a San Francisco alley or look one up in the manual of diagnosis and therapy.

You do not have the right to remain silent.

You are entitled to one phone call.

I suggest you make it to the unborn child

hiding in a bomb crater in the future you failed to imagine.

You do not have the right to remain silent.

You are the author of your civil rights. You are the author of your equal rights,

You are the author of your rights withdrawn.

YOU must speak.

You must finish your thesis in the University of heat.

You do not have the right to remain silent.

You must finish your thesis in the University of heat.