Monthly Archives: January 2013




Insuffle-moi ta peine


You drove a cross into days

that tasted like eyebrows

strangled your pain around syllables

for him, over there

the one who doesn’t see you

and    for     parasites like me


today I want to be sad

and so I am

I want to pour sadness over my head

from the swill bucket of sadness

and after I’ve doused myself

I’ll light a match and set sadness on fire

…I’m so tired…


I’ll think of the monk and his immolation

I’ll think of a planet in its isolation

I’ll think of the crushed wing of the butterfly

I’ll think of the salesman’s smile, the girl who didn’t cry

I’ll think of what I don’t remember

I’ll remember to close the door

open it again


New Year’s Day



there was a question I wanted to ask the barista

the one with the sharp elbows, tattooed forearms

cleopatra eyes

and ink black pig-tail that stuck out straight

who instinctively knew I pinched pennies

and did not take offense

who had somehow gathered a world of worldliness into her thin body

more than I could ever hope for

and a light-fingered humanity come from scraping by and making do

who knew how to be a type without a crack

still, I wondered what there was when the eye-makeup came off

the question doesn’t matter anymore

“what would you have been in 1908?”

and I?




“It was worse than 1984!” I was told

“Icicles on the inside – that’s how cold!”

Early in the morning a wagon turning

down a back alley my eye discerning

the gypsy ironmonger


“You’ll see a cow in the middle of Burcharest, I swear!”

“I think I had a happy childhood” he said with care

The poet has a country villa by the Donau,

A neat turning of the back on Lenin and Mao,

Where he entertains friends


If you touch this lamb, it’ll bring you good luck

You touched it, so pay! – and I’m stuck

Little piles of sunflower seed shells on the train,

Inchishi Ushile the ethereal refrain,

In the corners where people stand


Old folks, like silent gnomes, stand at attention

They can’t live on their pension

Some sit on a ledge here and there

Others get in the way on the metro stairs

but they don’t put out their hand


The grime and the gray of the blocuri

Have a poetry and allure

Old Nicu, in the wheelchair, worked in a pretzel factory

I listened to his story

and changed his euros into leis


Imagined Poverty


You are six or seven

small enough to fit into a cardboard

box.  The rooftop is an expanse

of concrete, empty except for the

box against the parapet, set on its

side wherein you sit, huddled.  You

in your red winter coat with the

fake sheep fur on the inside –

your brother has one just like it – and

your boy’s bowl cut.  You look

out on the blank concrete, you can’t even

see over the edge.  The wind blows cold

but there’s nothing to blow there save

the flaps on the box.  You hug yourself

and imagine you are poor.

All you have in the world: the box,

the concrete, the cold wind.

What nectarous pity you feel

for the you who are poor, this

feeling you squeeze from your imagination –

you know both pain and pleasure.  Is life and

intimation of life.




for Aaron Swartz



I had seen the headlines


some kind of computer whiz kid

twenty-two (they got it wrong they always get everything wrong)


and then heard the story second-third-fourth hand

on a leisurely walk for celebratory coffee

(but of course you knew the world would go on without you)

I exclaimed my share of “how terrible how terrible how awful so young”

and again at the cafe

we talked about you, excoriated the prosecutor woman. . .


you wanted to punch a hole, just a small one

to let the world breathe

but didn’t you know, fresh air is poison


every youth finds out and grows old – or dies

you died


what avalanche did you hear roaring behind you

you saw the ghouls and the insane at the helm, didn’t you

it always does paralyze one


Aaron Swartz, I didn’t know you

but today and tomorrow I will mourn you






I’m sleepy, I’m sleepy

I sit here dozing

under a down sleeping bag

waiting for neither words nor epiphanies

squinting at the last flash of triumphant day

waiting for its decline and night,

so I can surrender

so I can lie down

to sleep.



My black wool coat puckers at the bottom
My gaze turns groundward
That’s from the hand-washing.  I got it for a dollar at a yardsale.
I rolled it back and forward in the tub, watching the water turn dark. . .
After, the sleeves were just right, but the puckers remained

Into the evening sunshine flicking lint from my black wool coat
Cat fur, threads, white dust, hair, crumbs, how do I get them all?
A most unbecoming January warmth
A blue sky
(I remember thinking on arrival in Romania, the grass, the trees and the dogs are
     the same)
My poor running shoes have matching holes now, on the outside of the foot, near
     the pinky toe, on the mesh part
If I were to show myself to the in-laws. . .
Into the tilting pink of the evening sun
The monotony of an affluent neighborhood these days
The people in their houses, the cars in the driveway
My tarnished ambition hanging in the sky like a faded moon
What to do? day to day, minute to minute
Be content to shuffle along the sidewalk (and it is one of the more solid things I
Watch my fate merge with the cripple begging near the exit ramp
     pale against the highway; give alms but look away
Look away, look away
Up into the sky at trees that never do wrong
And when the watermelon light plays among the skeleton tops
I pause – I’m the querulous child and it quells my whimpering
Oh, monotonous sunset, pat this child on the back. . .


I step out, expecting adventure
The two loaves in the oven behind me
like the sweet backs of docile animals
A jogger ahead of me, a military air about him
My over-layered self in this over-mild winter
A completely different path today
From which I expect epiphanies, at least one
“Signs of life” he said the other day. . .
When I was younger – I can say “when I was younger” now
     though without conviction
Every encounter was hallowed in retrospection
Today I have it back, or I think I have it back

You see there, a fine house in foreclosure
A man paces slowly in a yard holding a broom – horizontally
And I pass by, walking and waiting, walking and waiting:
He sweeps the brick walls of his house
At the end of the road there is a tiled arch, flamingo pink, at the top of which is a
     tiled image of a blue car, the kind that drags main
Is this the epiphany?
I didn’t see Christ’s face there, or anywhere
Just a crisscrossing of destinies at the intersection
Across the busy road two men standing on a balcony
Another man walking toward me swinging a white paper bag, cell phone
     to his ear


Fingers of cold air slither up the legs of my sweatpants
(the ones I never remove, even when I sleep)
I avoid shadows, cross the street in search of sun
The warm hand of the sun on my back, like a comrade
The heat reaching my cheeks as if self-generated
Ah, the boredom of the same old route
I defy this boredom and walk on. . .

On second thought, this boredom. . .
This boredom that accompanies me like clumsy overshoes I don’t need
This boredom that is the very air I step into
That is blinders that keep me from feeling
Leaves me reeling in the middle of the sidewalk
I must go on – the feet do all the work

I’ll conjure up another city. . .
another going round and round
another winter, wafted forward as if
a new lover were waiting around every
corner in some fateful pose and I
only had to pause under lamps
listen to the wind embrace squalor
caress dilapidated storefronts
sweep empty snow-covered streets with
ardent gaze
the tableaux of other people’s lives
framed and lit in convenient succession

back then, my loneliness was full.