From now until the end of the year, the Marco Poems chapbook will be discounted from $6 to $5 each, with 100% of that money going to The Coalición de Boricuas en Minnesota. We can all do a little bit of good together when we try to. From The Coalición de Boricuas en Minnesota's Facebook page: 

"The Coalicion de Boricuas en Minnesota formed immediately after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico Island. The coalición is form by a group of professionals in Minnesota whom are Puerto Ricans and have family on the Island. 

"Funds donated to la Coalición de Boricuas en Minnesota are collected and distributed by ImpactLives™ a non-profit organization 501(c)(3). Funds will be used to respond to the immediate and urgent basic necessities of those affected by this natural disaster."

* * * * * * * * * *

I sent Aaron Cometbus a copy of the chapbook a while back, since his zine is mentioned in one of the poems. At some point since I received a mangled reply that was damaged in transit and then sat with a bunch of other mail in a tray until I discovered it today:







"It captured som--[unintelligible]," raves Aaron Cometbus!


braggadocio to let you know

braggadocio to let you know


This is a Drone not Drones poem

A making broth out of bones poem

A poem so fresh it probably never had a home phone

Peace summit at the Pizza Shack with Vice Lords, cops and Stones poem.

A Yanez verdict burning straight up systems overthrowing poem.

This shit’s self published and collected in its own tome.

This poem’s grown.

It groans, moans.

A bright light shone on all the places where you won’t roam.

Dig a little deeper and discover that this loam’s foam.

You’re thrown, holmes.

Your seed sewn.

Put your ear to the universe and listen to this poem’s ohm

Vibrating tectonic plates till we’ve all got our own thrones.


Big Sales Pitch and Sneak Peek Poem

I heard a podcast the other day talking about how the idea of sound might be somewhat unique to earth, that in space it might mean something very different, based on things like atmospheric pressure and a bunch of other science I barely understood. 

But it did make me think about how, when we try to communicate with The Others, we do things like sending gold records into space.

Sometimes I wonder if these blog posts are gold (silver?) records that I'm sending into space.

And while that may absolutely be the case, it is also possible that all the space records get intercepted. Maybe it's 2078, and despite every medical advancement, I have somehow perished, but somehow the internet has persisted, and you, dear reader, have discovered this site. 

First things first: congratulations.

It seems only fair that you should be recompensed for your efforts. I offer you, below, the poem "Hole in the Wall" from my inaugural chapbook. Please, if you don't already have a copy, get in touch with my estate and demand that they sell you a copy. Lord knows those bastards are probably making a mockery of my legacy.

The Hole in the Wall was a real place, located in what used to be called the Warehouse District of Minneapolis, but, through the miracle or realty is now known as the North Loop (because it is just north of downtown, presumably, but I can't for the life of me understand why it's a loop -- this is not Chicago). It was an actual hole in an actual wall along the railroad tracks that abut downtown and head west to Willmar and east to Somewhere Else. 

In its day, as I understand it,. the Hole in the Wall was a famous homeless camp for the sorts of made-classy-by-history railroad tramps that likely frequented the nearby skid row (itself a casualty of 1960s urban renewal). 

I got these stories as hand-me-downs when, at 18, I was working for the Salvation Army out of its Harbor Light shelter on a truck that delivered sandwiches to those homeless citizens who didn't want to come in to the shelter (and in those days, at least, I can't blame them -- it was chaotic there at best, and I didn't ever really feel too safe there). It was a hard spot to access by truck, as I recall, and so we didn't go there too often, and, on many occasions, struck out when we did.

But then we heard about a family who was staying there, and we visited them a handful of times, delivering sandwiches and whatever else we could. I don't remember much of those visits, except that there were kids, and a mom, and that everyone seemed generally on edge, furtive even. I can't blame them. 

Twenty years later I'm almost certain that the Hole in the Wall has been razed,.sealed off, or otherwise been made inaccessible by the construction of Target Field and the march of progress. It's a difficult internet search, too, for what was purportedly such a famous homeless camp, but the one link I did find features a guy I knew back in those days from another camp.

I should also acknowledge that the poem features another character from the streets, Thumper, who was a real person. Her real name (if she and/or my memory are to be believed) really was Diana, and if she's still out there somewhere and ever has occasion to do so, I hope she'll forgive me for taking liberties with her story here. I don't know if she ever camped at the Hole in the Wall. 

I also want to say that, while the paint huffing part is not fiction, Thumper was extremely kind, exuberantly so. It is not my attempt to demean her in any way, only to shine a light on realities that I think many of us would prefer forgetting.

Hole in the Wall

You meet all kinds of people on the streets —

One Thumper, nee Diana, flecked with gold,

The remnants from her favorite way to fly.


That week that Marco spent with her in camp,

Along the railroad tracks outside downtown,

A place those in the know just called “the Hole,”


was six days longer than he’d planned to stay.

The holidays had brought him low again,

to drugs, to sex, to life away from life.


A place has never been more aptly named;

a wall, a hole, a cellar long forgot,

a world apart, lived mostly in the dark.


They’d met at Harbor Lights in line to eat,

scored drugs from someone she knew at the desk

and walked the railroad line back to her “place.”


They’d both smoke crack and she’d huff paint all day,

and here and there they’d find the time to fuck,

and that’s how Marco spent his lowest week.


and its noon

or its midnight

or its thursday

and with every inhale

every droplet of perspiration


pregnant on the brow

and thumper pregnant too

the immateriality of time made manifest

beneath warehouse district streets

tasting the darkness marco is green

stealing the last of the holiday decorations

from his souls interior

and little cindy lou who

cheek smudged with dirt

books in her hand

coming or going from school

through the hole in the wall

and marco didnt know there were kids

he didnt know who was there

in the haze of no light

forms in the dark

rodents and humans and ghosts of each

mythological conflations of the two

he didnt know and then he did

and what the fuck and hes green and

the contents of his stomach present

themselves at the girls feet and

marco is out



out of the hole and





at the river

at the trestle

and almost over

almost over

almost over

marcos lowest week is almost over


Out Now! Marco Poems Chapbook

I'm so pleased to announce the publication of Marco Poems, a chapbook almost two years in the making. Click on the "Buy Poetry" link above to purchase your copy directly from me. $6 gets you what I think is a beautiful little book, 8.5 x 5.5", signed and numbered just this evening by yours truly. This has been a labor of love, and while the DIY aspect has made my brain ache at various points along the way, I'm thrilled with the end result. 


I'm teaching summer school and (per the above poem "Middelschmerz") we've been looking at issues of police brutality and race. We started out by reading some poems from a poetry workshop that took place in Baltimore (poems by Afiya Ervin, Brandi Randolph and Kyemah Clark  found at We analyzed those and then the kids wrote their own poems, which were in turn peer reviewed and revised. 

Because it's summer school we have limited technology available; I put my email address on the board and implored the kids to share with me if they felt so moved so that I could share them here, explaining how compartmentalized we all get as adults and how fortunate I feel to be exposed to their multiple perspectives every day. There are many more beautiful poems that didn't make it into my inbox, but what I did recieve is below. It's worth noting that, because of the rich diversity of the environment I'm in, there is a diversity of ability where the English language is concerned. As you read, you'll see what I mean, and obivously these are students, not professional poets. Even so, the sentiment is moving and beautiful and deserves our gaze:

Jasmine McBride

I just don't understand..
Is it because our skin color is labelled as the same color of an officers gun that we are forced to interact?
Or are you upset that we are children of the sun, and our melanin bursts, sparkles, and pops until the sun finally sets
My skin is a warm color, brown sugar, radiance, pure divine!
You wanted to be an enemy, your skin white like snow, the heat from my skin, voice and presence will melt you quicker than a gun could ever shoot on your best day, because I am warmth! you hate my kind
Maybe it's because my lips are projected for BIGGER, POWERFUL words, that your ears ache when heard
Hit me, beat me, torture me, I'll still yell the truth with a broken jaw, with words of slurs!
Don't get my anger mistaken for racism, I believe in equality, why can't you?
This will stop, we will make SURE of it, you can't turn every "black" face, blue
And lastly, you should know there are more of us being born stronger, every time you kill one, another warrior is coming through!
Calling war now that we're prepared, is the last thing you should do.

Tayler King

The love we've worked so hard for is gone
the love we protested and boycotted for
for a brief moment the worlds of black
and white were in almost perfect harmony
as we once thought it would be
what is the meaning of these actions
why must you treat us this way
why must you resort to these methods
when we've done nothing to provoke you
my brothers and sisters do not feel safe
they are the deer chased by the hunter because
of who we are sometimes we lie in bed and
wonder will I still be alive in 24 hours.

these acts of violence you say we committed
these unspeakable acts from those who say
they're here to protect us yet we hide from you
the crime is you drawing your weapon not my race
you thought because i'm black i've done something
all i did was be my black Self


Damylia Stuckey

I'm tired of hearing about shooting and killings

From the ones who serve and protect
It hurts to know that my brother has to watch his back
While walking down the street
He's not a threat

My people are dropping left and right like flies
Open season on African Americans is what my country knows
My heart cries just knowing that this is justified

My prayers are angels being sent to the victims families
The families that's still asking why

A question that everyone wants to know

Still slave under the apartment "hope"
Omar Ghada

I hopeful the world is not gonna end like this, it's going to change one day. I hope one day we have the social justice accept our folder open. I hope one day the oil and water gonna change to like salt and water.

I wish black live a long like Mississippi River, not short like deer in the jungle.

The moon played hide and seek with the clouds. What happen if you walk on the street at dark night, and you don't have the flash light and the sometimes lighting for you, but sometimes goes behind the clouds. The police like a moon.

Oreo and milk are two very different things, twisted linked dunked mission accomplishments. Oreos under the milk until the bubbles stop. Nowadays they wouldn't be not surprise if they on the news for murder. 

Chained Kings
Savion Benton

It was way before our time so we would never understand, they use to walk around freely with crowns placed upon their heads they had each other they shared a kingdom with one another. No enemies they all wer Brothers.

they there came a time when the Aliens came to the Kingdom in boats tied them up with ropes that's the day we became restricted from our freedom but they don't know, they like is this a joke can you come untie this rope the Aliens are taking souls and all the kings are being dethroned

they sailed ship on a a boat and made the Kings into lost souls, so generations after that there never was an aftermath, so if we give you present time you would see it's in our nature on how we act. there was a Black man he was a college graduate with a family on top of that he was on his way home from work and being attacked and just because he was Black all he heard was put your hands behind your Back. Chained Kings.


Note: I've been working on a series of poems about a character named Marco. He's maybe kind of autobiographical but also kind of a composite of a handful of real life characters I've encountered over my years. At any rate, of the three Marco poems I've created so far, I like this one the least, which means you get to read it here. I'm trying, against my every impulse, to be better about keeping things back, since the reality is that so very many journals require things to be previously unpublished, and even consider the most modestest vanity blog to be publshing.


Marco hops off the eleven
and immediately onto Matthew 5.
Glassy-eyed, grinning, and with
“No Gods, No Masters” backpatch,
engages three elderly evangelists
in front of Giant Laundromat.

Asked about it later, he’ll explain
something about having sold a deed for a lot
but retaining a blueprint to build.

“I hang on to the framework.”

He’s got, it has to be said,
Something of a holy fervor,
Righteous zeal;

The crux: Swords into plowshares
versus highways and byways,
Paul as a megalomaniac,
Preaching versus protest
“against war and profiteering!”

At the end, he’s really ramped up,
High on coffee, a handful of speed,
And the smell of his own shit.

His voice almost takes on
A certain something southern,
Like he’s out shilling for
a tent revival he is hosting,

Instead of flyering
for a punk show.


Vern's Elegy

Vern’s Elegy

Increasingly I walk in your shadow,
Your voice imprinted on me like a brand.
Eighteen years have passed—then I was callow—
Enough to watch a boy become a man.

I wake as you did, long before the light
The timbre of your voice is my north star
In guiding scholars to their greatest heights
But now I cannot wonder where you are.

The distance from your ashes to the urn,
The space between, let’s measure it in years.
If teachers still have lessons left to learn
Will they be taught by opposites of seers?

All this to say, I’m teaching now, a gift
I’ve opened from you, one you meant to give?
Speculation’s all I’m left with. I wish
I could have found and thanked you while you lived.

Though shrewd folks sit and labor over wills
The dead don’t choose the ways they are revered
With every drop of coffee that I spill
I honor all the brown stains on your beard.


Por un Futuro Mejor

Archbishop Óscar Romero's birthday was last week. My family marked the date with a trip to a pupusería for dinner, something I know some other friends were doing a couple time zones away. I know that the Catholic church is in the process of beatifying him, which I think is maybe how you become a saint. No longer a believer myself, I'm only glad that I was able to pray at Romero's tomb while in El Salvador in 2002.

Americans would do well to understand that our current refugee crisis with unaccompanied Central American minors has everything to do with the atrocities against which Romero bravely preached and U.S. involvement in those atrocities.

Por un Futuro Mejor

When asked about the war
Miguel lifts his shirt to show
a tangle of scars from
a homemade bomb.

Imagine Miguel in conflict outside
el Museo de la Revolución Salvadoreña,
tracing the lines on his stomach,
which is now so uneasy.

A neighborhood of sadness and struggle,
como la linea.

La Linea where he makes his home,
a sprawling slum from San Martín
to Soyapango and beyond,
a sea of shacks on a decommisioned rail line.

Miguel remembers it wasn’t always this way.
He tells a story of a boy he grew up with
who lost his legs to a speeding train.

“The existence of poverty as a lack
of what is necessary
is an indictment.”

Miguel never heard the Archbishop’s words
broadcast on rebel radio
while fighting on the other side,
but he can’t get them out of his head.

Imagine me in Morazán
outside that same museum.
Me and Miguel and Monterrosa’s ghost
and a myriad of unanswerable questions
about life and death, wealth and without
and history’s immutable thirst for blood.



I saw Dunbar's Mask in reverse:
black journalists don't choose the news
anymore than the rest of us.

A straight face can be hard to come by
when talking about black protesters,
majority-white police departments,
and efforts at community relations.

He imagined the press bulletin:
Terribly sorry about how we reacted
to how you reacted
when we shot and killed that kid.

This is not a justification.
I believe in stoicism
where the news is concerned.

But let's give the newsman his due.
He kept it together until he couldn't,
till it started to crust and sugar over.

And there, nearly imperceptible
at the corners of his mouth,
glass breaking in the night.


Sanford Florida Public Works

Sanford Florida Public Works

They’re ripping up the sidewalks,
cardinal calls drowned out
by jackhammers, bobcats.

You can’t weaponize a sidewalk
that isn’t there.
No more crime scene photographs,
no more guns discharged.

This is a peaceful place –
and don’t we all deserve
some peaceful ground
to stand on?

Soft and grassy,
surrounded by gates
a worn path in place of pavers.

A word of caution:

This is our life.
People not from around here
who make us so afraid
that we go towards them
instead of away –

They don’t get a warning shot.
This isn’t Tallahassee,
this is a peaceful place
where we do what needs doing.

Bring on the jackhammers:
We’ll walk on the grass
if we have to.



Animate an arrow on a map.
Imbued with all of the cultural sensitivity
of an Indiana Jones movie.

Launch in lush Laotian jungle,
cross continents and seas,
and split
like the forked tongue
of a serpent,
or a dragon,
upon reaching the Mississippi.

One end lands in Minneapolis,
calls itself Fong Lee,
and falls, one weekend
outside an elementary school
on the beleaguered North Side.

No saint, this Fong Lee,
or maybe he was,
or maybe it doesn't matter,
when chased on a bike
by cops in a squad car.

When rammed, run down,
when running like hell isn't enough.

When shot eight times.

And a gun recovered later
has no prints,
no bullets fired.
Official reports attribute it
to the late Fong Lee.

The arrow's other end
lands in Saint Paul,
on my roster.
This Fong Lee is quiet,
yet alive.

His shirt reads "I AM FONG LEE"

This one gets the joke
because he tells it,
but forgive his lack of laughter:
There's nothing funny
about having to know
that some kid with your moniker
and migratory history
was killed by cops
not fifteen miles away.

Indiana Jones only had snakes
and caricatures of Nazis
to contend with.
This shit is for real.

An animated arrow splits in two,
dead ends,
but cannot retract.
It must remain,
A red stain on a map. 

New poem after long hiatus... first draft... crowdsource workshop!


This poem sets up on the floor
no pretense, no bullshit
preferring a basement, 
eye level.

The secret handshake anyone can learn,
this poem is not interested
in selling
or in being sold.

It is the lyric sheet passed out
at the outset,
because the words fucking matter,
a butterfly pressed in your pocket.

This poem is the moment there by the water heater
that you realized both your privilege and your potential









These are loud stanzas, and, okay,
a little abrasive,
but they know that's not enough.

They are also starry-eyed,
and why not?

Nothing good ever came
out of anything that wasn’t.

The Texas GOP Weighs in on Higher Order Thinking Skills

This is based on the Texas Republican Party's 2012 Platform, excerpts from which you can read here

The Texas GOP Weighs in on Higher Order Thinking Skills

A magician (or a fancy waiter with a lot of flair)
yanks a tablecloth in one fluid motion.
Audiences gasp, convinced
the silver and china will be casualties
of this man’s caprice.

But that’s not the trick,
and our man is to be commended--
everything remains in place just so,
only a little lower.

I am neither waiter nor magician,
but a teacher; even so,
I take no joy in having to explain
the more obvious metaphors.

So ponder, please, (though of course not critically);
I’ll cut to the candid:
“Challenging the student’s fixed beliefs”
is my life’s calling,
not because I don’t respect them,
but because I think that someone should.

I am a teacher, and this is what I do.
Oppose this work,
and I am a revolutionary, too.

New Guy's Villanelle

I like writing poetry much more when I have a prescribed form to follow, so I've been playing with different forms lately.  This may or may not be the first villanelle I've ever written.  My wife and I are expecting our first child, a son, in May.  This one's for New Guy.


We will give you all that we are able
though so much is left outside of our control.
Soon you’ll take your own seat at the table.

We both know that soon this very day will
fall to memory, etchings on a scroll.
We will give you all that we are able.

Giving hope: for other days to wait till,
not knowing what they’ll overlap or hold.
Soon you’ll take your own seat at the table.

We know not how long your lungs will stay filled
or what you’ll say about us when you’re old;
we will give you all that we are able.

I imagine something brimming, something stable,
something glowing with an ember never cold…
soon you’ll take your own seat at the table

We can’t wait to meet you, let’s just say we’ll
never be the same (or so we’re told).
We will give you all that we are able –
soon you’ll have your own seat at the table

Sickbed Sestina

I believe that this is the first sestina I've ever written, and, I have discovered since, not a true sestina. Oh well. The end result is maybe a bit overly philosophical and plodding, but the process was pretty fun. Common and Very Common Nouns courtesy of Random Word Generator.


What does a half-filled glass of water represent?
What trite and useless lesson might it teach?
And can such aphorisms save a man
or woman’s beating shipwrecked heart enough
to buoy it toward something more complex?
Can mystery and meaning join with plot?

Those who’ve read the ending, know the plot,
and can decode what symbols represent,
(the ones that are straightforward, not too complex)
and these we might well count upon to teach
us something – not quite all but quite enough
about the heart of woman and of man.

And who am I in all of this? A man
who ruminating on it hatched a plot
to etch the glass’s midpoint just enough
that drinkers decide what drops do represent
and maybe then they’ll all decide to teach
lessons arid, waterlogged, complex.

For is life empty? Full? A complex
of organisms making up a man
or woman waiting for the thing to teach
or data points that we forgot to plot?
Hold the film up to the light and represent
it in reverse and see if it’s enough.

Tip the water over, then we’ll teach
the lesson of having had more than enough
of forced compliance with a placid plot
of fearing the blurred edges and complex
paradoxes intrinsic in each man
and woman with all they represent.

This man hopes to muddle through a plot
at once complex and never quite enough
to represent what he could never teach.






Northern Poems

A photograph of a lake with trees.

I've been sitting on this Word document for the better part of a year, maybe even more, called Northern Poems.doc.  The idea, if I remember correctly, was to try to capture in verse something of the idea of Minnesota, whatever that is.  I think, to be honest, that it wasn't even Minnesota, necessarily, but that thing that we in the Twin Cities call "Up North."  It's a funny thing, really; if you look at a map of Minnesota, you'll see that the Minneapolis/Saint Paul metropolitan area is located in the East-Central part of the state, and maybe even hovering just a little bit south of that designation.  That means that places like Hinckley or Lake Mille Lacs become "Up North," despite their considerable distance from what might be called Northern Minnesota.

Geographical innacuracies aside, there is something kind of wonderful about getting out of the city and pushing into that part of the state that is not prairie but woods and lakes.

I remember reading Tony Glover's liner notes on the Jayhawks' 1995 masterpiece Tomorrow the Green Grass something along the lines of "these songs are Minnesota" (if anybody can provide a link to these online I'd be grateful), and it changed the way that I listened to that record, which, for what it's worth, is still one of my favorite albums ever.

I don't expect these poems to gain such wide popularity and/or endurance, and I'm actually fairly insecure about my poetic dexterity, but even so, I offer these Northern Poems.

As a final note, the irony in these poems is that they seem to celebrate a certain warmer something than the seven degree temperature that's here today (which is to say nothing of the windchill, of course...).  I think fellow Minnesotans will agree that we endure winter in order that we might be able to breathe in the more temporal beauty of our state's more temperate months.

* * *

There is a juniper berry
between your thumb and forefinger
And birchbark in your voice.
I will build us a canoe.
Your laugh will be the oars,
Stirring up the depths
As we make our way.

In time this lake will freeze,
The snow upon its surface
Crunching under heavy boots.
At these temperatures,
No one questions the integrity of ice.

We will walk without purpose for a while,
And you will lay in the snow,
Arms and legs working together
To make a snow angel,
And your laugh will echo across the granite.♦


The air is wet and full of pine.
A tawny miracle stirs not twenty feet away.
Eyes meet, a question mark against birch and fir,
Answer: hooves push off for safety.♦

The lake dark and shimmery,
Sky reddening as the sun
Says, “this is all you get,
But not all there is.
Also: this is spectacular.”
We stand silently, a vigil
To its departure, emptying
As it goes.

You say, “well,
Should be getting back,”
And a spell that stretched
From the eastern shore of Elbow Lake
To a distant spot below the earth
Snaps, component parts
Lighting up the night like fireflies.

I say nothing, and we walk slowly
The worn path to the cabin.
“This is everything,” I say,
Hoping to stretch something.
The air is sweet with wildflowers, and
You laugh your laugh,
Which I also have to tell you is everything,
Say, “it is?” and kiss me under the porch light.♦

New Morning Poem

Astringent air blows in with morning,
Wet sand like witch hazel.
My breath lingers just there,
In the space between the workweek and a sunrise,
And in the distance, a loon.
In another second, both will disappear.♦

Marking Time

When the last of the whiskey is gone,
Secrets buried in the yard
Roll over to get comfortable.
You rub your bleary eyes,
View the world through ragged pouches,
And listen to the crickets.
A million little metronomes,
Keeping pace of life up here,
Restless legs more symphony than syndrome.

Sloshing spirits can’t bring him back
Forty-five years on,
But the crickets, tiny and dependable,
On the smell of the tall, wet, grass
Fold time in on itself.

On the long walk back from the ballfield,
He strutted in the road, just next to the shoulder,
Tony Oliva will be Rookie of the Year.”
You, younger, afraid, dependent,
Straddled the seam between pavement and dirt,
Kicking a rock that you found by the park,
Trusted he was right.

Headlights now, and you want to yell “look out,”
To grab his waist, to pull him near you,
But he is gone, and they fall across the kitchen,
A million pieces of glass, future sands,
Upon which tomorrow’s insects scurry.♦


This island pulls radio
From Hibbing,
Some nights as far away
As the Cities,
North to International Falls,
Those clear nights,
You sit with CBC
Radio One
On your grandpa’s old transistor
Pale ale and a map
That came with the cabin.

How easy it seems,
Those clear nights,
To pack up the truck
And drift north,
Slipping undetected
Into a foreign land
The way radio floats
On the wind.

How many gas tanks,
How many portages
To Winnipegosis?
Or in the other direction
To the great Hudson Bay,
To the sea?

Greenland and Iceland
Become mere stones,
Breaking laws of physics,
Skipping across the surface
Of the sea
En route to Edinburgh,
To Ireland.

Grandpa’s transistor,
A six pack of beer
And a map,
And you’ve traveled the world
From a cramped lakeside room
That smells of mildew.♦


Amidst moss and wet leaves,
Little room for worry.
There’s the smell of the earth:
No small comfort.

Soil in the fingernails
Signals a day spent well.
The dock your father built,
Forgotten paperback
Left behind years ago,
Both weathered now.

Maybe it’s holy here,
Wooded sanctuary.
Amidst moss and wet leaves,
Holy moments.♦