The Dream of An Office

…Ranks of books
On the sides — old Miltons, Tolstoys, Wuthering
, Ackermann’s Oxford. A holograph
Copy of Keats’s “To Autumn”…

— from The Dream of a House, Reynolds Price

I find myself in medias res
as one always does in dreams
in a small office, such as
an associate professor
at a branch campus
like the one I attended
would have.

In real life I have
a home office
my office at my company’s office
an office under construction at a new location
an office I can borrow at my company’s main office
and the use of a co-working space downtown 

So it’s not surprising that I’ve forgotten about this one
since it doesn’t really exist
but still I kick myself for having done so
and wonder why I rented the co-working space
which really does exist
and what would have happened
to all these books, every single one of them
a Penguin edition, bearing an orange and white spine,
had I not remembered them, or this wonderful view,
this forest outside a picture window.

Still dreaming, but starting to suspect,
I think of Reynolds Price’s poem
The Dream of a House
and compare my middlebrow taste in dream books.

But the principal motivation remains,
the recurring theme in these many
fugues of the subconscious
This is yours, understand. Meant for you.

I wake before being taken to the closet.

We Reduced our Mascot to Nothing

and studies proved he was still recognizable.
Parallelograms of any shape or color
provoked recognition of our brand.

We found out later it was caused by smell.
The aroma of our particular plastics plant
fastened as it was to every cup or wrapper,
every test print we produced.

But at the time we posited
that it was the parallel lines,
the suggestion of railroad tracks
stretching to sex or infinity
to what we used to call god.

Pantoum: Album

A scene in The Birds
reminded me of the time
you told me about the time
the old man kept calling you Miss

which reminded you of the time
you played an old woman in a play
in which a young man calls you Miss
We were standing in your kitchen

You played a nun in a play
It was our senior year in college
when we stood in your kitchen
and I fondled you through your shirt

It was our freshman year in college
We’d just met during Foreign Studies
and I kept looking down your shirt
while you were looking away

We met during Foreign Studies
when you told me about the time
that you had to look away
during a scene in The Birds

Forming the LLC

The cardboard binder and box from LegalZoom
rode in the back seat of her Camry for two years.
The deluxe set, with a company seal,
50 certificates of membership,
and an SS-4 form which we e-filed but never signed.
We were going to be different.

Earnings from an unwanted farmhouse
from an unloved aunt plagued us.
Not the casual sloth of adding a room
or buying a new car for us.
We were going to be different.

We joined the chambers of commerce
in three counties, gave
the free samples, printed
the t-shirts, wore
them everywhere.
We were going to be different

It was not the cash-flow,
key-employee leaving,
embezzlement back-story
of so many friends, frazzled
as they were by lack of planning.
It was the lost weekends, the
opposite of procrastination, the
day I missed her Dad’s funeral.
We were going to be different.


for M.B.

A handwritten note I found
that had nothing to do with me
and wasn’t particularly wrenching
or well-enjambed

still startled me
because the handwriting,
the blue lines and charcoal grey
reminded me of days in school
when you would write to me
thinking about me instead of
world geography.

The faint smell of your wrists
and the sweetness of paper itself
I imagine it in
a handwritten note I found
that had nothing to do with me.

My wife and I exchanged letters
by the mail across hundreds of miles
before we were married, and still
write things in cards three times
a year – but mostly we text, and
keep our grocery list synched.
She sends me an emoticon kiss.

It’s love like I hope you have
with your husband now.
I believe it in
a handwritten note I found
that had nothing to do with me.

Somewhat after the style of Leonard Cohen; Tedious explanation of what I’m up to after the cut.Read More »

Morphine Dreams

in my dreams I was always walking somewhere
half-aware even in my dreams
I wasn’t walking anywhere
not for the time
being I’d had an accident in one
I stood behind a man speaking
on a podium he was leaning back
against me a heavy
weight a marching band advancing
everyone on their feet a
strange rhythm made musical
by repetition
muffled drums and low brass.

I half-woke hearing the solenoids of
some hospital bedside machine
clacking the music I’d heard.

My Uncle Was a Policeman

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
from Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden

In the faded Polaroid colors of the early 1970s
he sat quietly eating at the Thanksgiving table.
The guests hadn’t arrived.

My aunt called from the kitchen,
sounding concerned, because he wasn’t –
asking for the third time if he wanted coffee.
“It’ll just keep me awake,” he said.
“I’ll see everyone tomorrow morning.”

There is no dramatic turning to this story,
no subsequent events to make it tragic,
and I doubt anyone else remembers.

Dull Sermon

He bleats a grey cardboard version of the word of God.
He makes me wish I believed in the kind of Spirit
which strikes men and women with prophecy
or else shuts their mouths to wait for a true saying.

Not the god of committee meetings, an ice-milk
calling no one else heard; a gentleman’s C
In Communications at a community Bible college.

He should have been a farmer.
Maybe then he would have understood
dry days and lightning on the plain,
What it is to work, curse and be cursed,
wrestle with God until your hip pops. He
should read Reynolds Price. He
should weep because he doesn’t understand,
not crow three points about how I don’t.


Sometimes, as with Isak Dinesen,
Raymond Chandler, LBJ, or other famous people,
a casual picture becomes their life-mask –
shown on any book cover, documentary,
or magazine article, their logos.

They may
have been returning from a restaurant
or sitting, waiting for some entertainment
to start when someone produced
the massive picture-taking equipment.
They gamely smiled, or didn’t –
just another day in their typical age.
What if they had known this shot
would become what they were known as,
that others would not recognize them
ten minutes before or hence?