The nature of things





The gulls and geese check in

To this part of the river

Like irritable hotel guests,

Overstaying their welcome

For the whole of winter,

It encroaches from the banks

On both the Clifton and Garfield sides

Thick with winter’s hints

The gulls and geese don’t get,

Bend reeds from last fall

Lean in like overworked bell hops

Their faces frosted and haggard,

Foretelling the rough season

Before any of us see spring again,

George Washington took this way

To cross in his harried retreat,

A guest who had no time to tarry

With British soldiers on his heals,

Now the state takes a hand

Carting in cartons and cages

Sometimes boxes of poison

To accommodate the angry condo owners

Who protest the bird poop

That drops on BMW hoods

Bi products of the cracked corn

The old later up stream hands out

In violation of state law

That insists the blasted birds

Must die





We break our fast and go our separate ways

Two strangers rubbing together against winter’s frost

Sighing under our smiling as if unable to resist

Woods and creeks clogged with ice,

While we long for the sparrow’s song

Already long gone


Our bare limbs mingle with the bare limbs of trees

Each snap of approaching footsteps

Sounding like the snap of breaking bones


I breathe my breath into your mouth

To melt away the frost,

Snowy white glistening out of me

And into you


The night winds swirled around us with winter’s breath

Neither of us can breathe,

We moving together in and out

In a desperate ghost dance to keep warm

And to find some spirit we long lost

Me in you, you in me, repeating the ritual endlessly,


The footsteps fade into the night as we moan,

As for one moment in this utterly frigid existence,

We let summer explode over and within us,

One intense magical moment

That soon grows cold again

And we sigh





I walk beneath the trees of his forest

And I am in awe,

Beauty and birds, deer darting,

Bears lumbering over stones

And I stub my toe

This love of nature bit is overrated,

Ticks ticking me off as I pluck them out of my skin,

Mosquitoes buzzing in my ears until I scream,

West Nile less a threat than fear of vampires,

We reverting to what we once were: savage,

Beasts in the forest scratching our lives,

Survival of the fittest,

Not our brain so much as our killer instincts.

We fools believing the fibs of the Bible,

telling us we rule this roost

when we really are little better than apes

I crave the nature I see on post cards,

The safe seas full of sunsets and silly poems,

Not toes stung by jelly fish or ankles clawed by crabs,

Deep down, I know I really need to kill every

Other living thing

In order to feel

Truly safe.





It fell from sight

Over the lip of the horizon

Its salt-battered hide

There one minute

Gone the next


A rusted face vanishing

Even as I started,

The memory of its chained mail

And wet next

Fixed in my mind

As vividly as the fire and fume


It fell from sight

As if burying itself

Amid all its wet adventures,

Rust dripping down its cheeks,

Marks of men’s hands

Leaving the metal skin chapped,

My mind painting in brown faces

I could not see at this distance

Desperate men gripping the metal flesh

As flame gnawed at them,


It fell from sight

A wounded sailor,

Staining the sea red

As it died.





Wordsworth to a rap beat

Echoes from under the bridge’s arch

Timed to the blinking traffic light above

Cars line in static rows

Ice cracking as steam oozes through

The frozen reeds


The islands house homeless ducks

Poor nature poems with mangled wings

Cold dilapidated paper mills

Form concrete canyons

Though which the river flows,

Water bending then breaking

In its great escape,

Passing steaming chemical plant pipes

Where no ice forms,

Though air howls through these

Like the angel of death

Leaving cold fish floating

Belly up where the green slime drips.





The snow began around super time

Twinkling, tumbling drives down the line,

Two men sitting before a small fire

Waiting for food before they retire


“Say fellow,” a voice said from out of the night

as a stout man stamped out into the light

He was short and round with a pitched night cap

Some unkind men might have called him fat


He word a find best but now sorely cracked

From year upon year of his following the tracks,

“What have you there,” said Bernard with a sigh,

hurting and aching, but young to the other’s eye


“I worked for the railroad when I was a boy,

before jobs became scares and I, unemployed,”

said the man as he winked and put down his bag,

then yanked out a pipe from which he took a drag.


“It’s a present,” he said with a tilt of his head.

Handing them gravy, coffee and bread,

Charlie, the talker and keener of eye,

Looked at the man and simply asked, “Why?”


“Well,” said the stranger, thumb hooked in his belt,

winking while speaking – he knew how they felt.

These were hard times and sad times for all to heed

With mouths here a plenty for whole families to feed


And where comes this stranger with a bundle of joy

Giving out food as if he was still employed.

The old man just grinned from under his beard

And claimed he was Santa and asked if they liked beer.


They saw the can in the palm of his hand

And nodded and smiled and started to stand

Yes, they had bread, they had meat and small pies

Drinking beer and coffee until it brimmed at their eyes


“Tell me,” Bernard said as he munched on the bread,

“Where did you steal this? Do you have a price on your head?”

Charlie, the talker, laughed until he sneezed,

But clung to the fire to fight his disease


He’d suffered for weeks with a ought and a pain

He needed a doctor more than a job on the trains,

Which were all dying and the rails in decay,

And the men who once ran them are now in the way.


“No,” said the stranger with a loud jolly laugh,

“The laws does not want me, I have no fear at my back.”

“Then why are you out here?” asked Charlie very low,

“It’s cold in thee meadows and it’s starting to snow.”


“I’m here out of choice,” the old man replied,

though something quite sad showed in his eyes.,

something which said with Christmas so near

it was hard to keep happy and full of good cheer.


“Ah, my friends by this time next year,

things will be different and you won’t be here,”

The two men did not believe him, but wished him good by,

Then drank to his heath and mud in his eyes.”





Sleep children,

While outside

The sun rises green

Like a storm

Filling the furrows

And frowns,

The folds of land

With flowers


Sleep away the morning haze

The voice of cherubs

Alive in the trees

As the hard dark ground

Is broken by shafts of light


The scent of roasted meat

Creeps over the wood lawn

To wake you

Sizzling on your neighbor’s fire

Blow in with gray

Smoke on the wind


Sleep while you can

As the day quickens and threatens to end

The sooner your rise

The soon you’ll find

The most permanent place

In the hard, hard earth.


Sleep while the morning wanes

The flies and mayflies

Finding their sway

As they move away

Like dark clouds


Sleep while showers of light

Still slant from the east

While the west waits

With scythe and grin

For the sun tip to dip over noon


The woods are light now

And gay with dancing,

Leaps of logic,

Wild as dreams

The prancing step of hope

Seeping in to touch you

Even in sleep,


But sleep children,

This day is not for you,

These silences are your absence,

Which rise before and after you

Like waves upon the grass,

To mark the invisible

Moving wind

You bend,  a twig in passing,

That is all,

Crating a stir even in your sleep,

As the hot day waiting you,

Dripping with some great design

That is not yours.





The only tears here I see

Come with the rain

Wash buckets and squeegee men fingers

Reaching across my windshield world

Because the real worlds doesn’t want them

Or wants them in jail


I hear the thunder over

The hocking horns

Impatient New York City

Cab drivers angered over my delay

A New York Minute, they say,

Is the time it takes for some asshole

To beep his horn after the light turns green

And this delay feels like an hour

Me staring at the drenched gray face

Through the glass

And that face

Staring back


He looks like one of the seven dwarves

And I look nothing like Snow White

Yet we both live in the same fairy tale

Of trickle down that won’t trickle down enough

To keep a man like him from starving,

Where the only fairy godmother

Marches in the Gay Pride parade

And all the mayors and presidents

Look and sound like Cinderella’s

Evil sister, hating this guy for being so free

He doesn’t pay taxes

Or punch a time clock

The cop taps my door to make me move

Even if it means I have to run

The poor drenched sucker down





They lie on sand like grave markers

A daily Normandy in a struggle

To merely stay alive

Washed up by waves

Then assaulted by

Legions of sea gulls

Performing aerial acrobats

Before they kill


The squawking is nearly enough

To raise the dead,

But not these dead,

The remains of the dying

Picked over for weeks,

As if the winged tyrants

suspected some deception

Turning over the same shell

Again and again

To make certain these dead

Stay deal

Until the waves wash them away



But we humans disturb the ritual

Wandering out to this remote place

Seeking peace and mistaking

The slow wash of waves

As calm,

Little realizing

The intensity of the conflict,

Even when we pick up each

Abandoned shell,

We, admiring the beauty

If not the brutality,

Never bothering to associate

Any of it

With our own lives





Hungry beaks chase bits of yellow

Sailing down unhurried river water

Like tiny islands,

Masterful, clucking collectors

Of oiled fathers

Singing wearilessly as they eat

To the back beat of lapping waves

The water surface shimmering

With reflected and refracted colors

Like a moving chunk of stained glass

Each character playing out

Some Biblical role,

Mumbling over half forgotten lives

Stumbling over the drift wood

Of their simple existence,

They edge onto the sand

Near the pier,

Where my mother, a saint,

Gives them each simple communion

Of cracked corn








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