This strange glyph,
some artist’s desperate incantation,
attempts to bridge the gaps
of these quietly eroding walls,

but even art cannot redeem
this blighted old mill
that once devoured the giant
firs guarding virgin shores,

these strange letters can do
no more than celebrate
the beginning
of an end,

demarcate a time
when unable to restore,
even art seems to
deface our world.

When all else crumbles
and industry lays waste
our land,
what more can

one expect of art
than to record
the slow coming on
of that final dissolution?

It Depends

Six and sick,
I loved to lie abed
ringing the little bell mother
gave us to ring
when we needed
or wanted something,
mostly her undivided
attention all day long.
I’d ring the bell constantly
’til we were all out of
orange popsicles,
or she finally
took it away.

In the hospital there’s
no need for a bell,
the IV unit’s flashing
red lights, piercing scream
bring aides, LPN’s or RN’s
rushing to my side
to poke and probe
places no man,
and few women,
have gone before.
Defeated, I beg
for a popsicle,
orange, if you please,
just to appease
this growing dis-ease.

Released from the hospital,
still no need
for mother’s bell.
Leslie awaits
my every beck and call,
can barely stand
on my own two feet
before she’s there
to help me put
my pants on,
one foot at a time,
stuff this tube here,
that tube there,
replace bandages
in places I don’t
even want to see.
Finally, I send her
to the store, supposedly
for orange popsicles.

Hell isn’t fire or ice;
it’s ending up senile
in a nursing home
blabbering literary nonsense.
I ring mother’s bell,
and some sweet, charming
ex-student arrives,
wipes drool off my chin,
calmly sucks an orange popsicle
God clearly intended
for me.

Not Just Piss and Blood

Tethered to this gurney
by IV drips, oxygen hoses,
catheter tubes
lying in this pool of pain,
surrounded by flitting
shadows of loved ones,
it’s not hard to imagine
some means of escaping
a pain that transcends
even this morphine drip.

Following the morphine
button’s cord,
one could silently slip
into the comforting darkness,
lie on the forbidden side,
curl up into a fetal position
silently slipping
into that next dimension,
the one just
to the left of this one,
that left-hand of darkness.

Though something vital
has been sliced away,
some secret part
of me left behind,
these voices
from the shadows
pull as tightly as
umbilical cords,
until it seems I must be
tied to this world
by love as much as
by piss and blood.

Paen to the Gods of Medicine

Written after three days in the hospital without any sign of a bowel movement and learning that the doctor wouldn’t release patients until they had one.

when you’re stuck
in the tideflats
of despair
and nothing,
but nothing,
seems to float
your boat,
you just’ve
got to
give a shit.

Nothing else
will work.
No amount
of whining
will budge
that heavy barge
of sorrow.
The only thing
that’ll work is
to just plain
give a shit.

Of course,
if you’re
an old fart
or just
a real
pain in the ass,
you can
get by
by mustering
a real stink.

But in the end,
you know
if you’re going
to right
your ship,
no amount of
hot air
will really
get you going.
You just
plain have to
give a shit
to get on
with your life.