Apr 30, 2015

Baltimore, Spring 2015

The pizza place in Whitefish, Montana has CNN on,
which is playing live footage of Baltimore S.W.A.T. teams
lining the streets, pulling up in tanks and paddy wagons.

The pizza place in Whitefish has CNN on.
They’re there to enforce a curfew till dawn.
The customers watch and chew their cheese.
The pizza place has CNN on,
which is playing live footage of S.W.A.T. teams.

Svladi is Icelandic for Coolness

“Measuring cups, play a new game,
Front of the class, measure your brain,
Give you a complex, then give it a name.”
—Andrew Bird

Tonight I was reminded
that in kindergarten

we had these religion worksheets
we had to complete

every week. Crossword puzzles and
coloring in the pictures.

My teacher Mrs. Svaldi
reported to my father

that I had colored a person purple
and a dog blue.

She was concerned.
My dad informed her we had a kerry blue terrier.

In 2015, it astonishes me
that in 1994, a middle-aged woman found it

preposterous that a 5-year-old boy
would color a person purple

and a dog blue.

Apr 28, 2015

The Long Highway Shifts

Life is a lot of grief.
I looked up from 
writing that and saw
a clock.
                    My dad and I
walked into the Kohl’s at
the strip mall this morning
to buy a suit for his father’s
wake. At the end of the
parking lot was the interstate.
“As much as I miss you and
Mom,” I said, “I don’t miss that
          The morning my mom called me
and told me Papa died, I played banjo
staring out my living room window at
the mountains, then went for a run
down the highways lined with pine and
fir and spruce so dense, ten trillion needles
pointing into the air, pointing into my skin,
breathing in the snow and exhaling into me.
Imagine, trees breathe! You can’t hear it
so it’s like they’re already dead. I was so
thankful the horizon was the end of a high-
way, a forest, and over the trees a mountain
peak. I was so grateful I didn’t see a car
for three miles. I was so thankful I didn’t
slip on the the thin ice that was everywhere
because it got warm after it snowed.
Everything melted and froze again,
melted and froze, and now
conditions are shitty and
you have to watch it
while you run
down the long

You're the Best

The set up, the rise both take a little time
no one ever laughed at a joke that was just the punchline.
I mean I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 9,
but by 10 I was riding no hands in the sunshine.

So come and unwind don’t be so confined
by the obsessive expectation everything should be sublime.
The dumb mind finds something wrong everywhere,
step back—take in the air and the errors.
We are heirs to mistakes that our parents made anyway,
every day children and adults both misbehave
like "Never leave a mess for someone else to clean"?
I guess unless it makes you money is what they mean. My nose got

broken when that bully knocked me over playing tag,
and the pot found in your pocket really pissed off your dad.
My boss said she doesn’t like my snarky attitude,
but I was just jokin’, I didn’t think it was rude.
Your girl told you that she’s been fucking some dude.
On the rocky road to life we’re all bumbling through.

Now—step forward boldly. Make your moves slowly.
No one knows or has it all. Inspect your thoughts closely.
                           To find your balance takes a whole lifetime
but it was still a great day when we couldn’t make that kite fly.

The Adventures of Surrender Duck, Chapter 17

Surrender Duck paddled past the banks of Bigfork.
On the shore was a man lying on the ground, barely conscious
in ragged pants and a bloody shirt

“Are you okay?” Surrender Duck asked.

“Ooohaaoowww,” mumbled the man,
mostly to himself.

“Where are you headed?”

The man did not respond.

“What is your name?”

This duck is quite persistent
the man thought.

Surrender Duck encouraged,
"I will help you. Hop on!”

So Christopher did
and rode Surrender Duck downstream
all through the afternoon.

They came to several rapids
and each time Christopher was afraid
they would be destroyed by the rocks,
Surrender Duck would shout
"You just gotta roll with it!

Sure enough, every time
Christopher and Surrender Duck
emerged unscathed.

As it got dark,
Surrender Duck and Christopher were laughing,
telling stories of where they came from
and of the family and friends they missed so much.

They built a fire
and Christopher caught a rabbit for them to eat.

As they curled up in the dark woods,
Surrender Duck hummed a lullaby
and Christopher felt the world
and all of his troubles
fall away into the night.

When morning came
and Christopher awoke,
Surrender Duck was gone.

The coals were still hot
in their makeshift fire pit,
so Christopher caught another rabbit
and had breakfast.

Apr 25, 2015

What Gives?

Every time I drive
from the Flathead to Missoula
at least once
after I pass someone
I see them in my rear view
giving me the finger.

An Old So Long So Long Ago Love Letter

So long prairie sky.
The ears of corn have heard

what I have to say.

I’ll see you in the mountains
mingling with the magpies. 

Don’t know what I’ll do when I get there
but I’ve got $800 and some ideas.

The landlady of the boarding house
has a room ready.

Chicago, you were good to me while you were,
but now

I’ve got to get out of the billboard squawking.
Take me through Milwaukee,

past Madison,
let the earth look like the earth again.

Come on, rocks.
Come on, hills that work themselves up

into ridges.
Come on, ground

that suddenly drops out from under you.
I want to look down

and down you, staring
at your voluptuous belly, hips

of river banks where I can sit
and watch the water plunge by me.

Plunge on by, water.
This rapid world shoots by so fast I think

I’m an eagle.

Apr 23, 2015


Yesterday at the Cubs game
a foul ball fell
right into this girl’s beer.

Everyone around her saw it coming.

Stop trying to write the story before it happens.
You can’t outsmart the path you’re on.

This is an experience to be experienced,

not figured out,
not planned,
not safe,

just surrendered to,
obliterated by.

The cup was resting on her knee, suddenly


How much of your day did you plan on?
Yesterday when I woke up
I still had a job. My whole week
had a schedule.

You can watch her face on the video
drunkenly realize what has happened
while everyone around her shouts
“Drink it!”

Today I have absolutely no plans.

She hoists up the cup
looks around
and chugs it down.

It’s the staring into the face of fear
that makes me love so fiercely.

Now there are all these men proposing to her,
and maybe that’s this sexist predatory thing—
a chick who likes beer and baseball,
sweet, I want her—

but I also fell in love watching that video.
To watch someone embrace the unexpected
so spontaneously, joyfully
is beautiful.

The crowded universe
will laugh in my face
and wrench away my fingers
one by one
from whatever I’m holding.

She’s got that roll with it drunk going on,
her body bobbing in the waves of
this moment, this
moment,  this moment.

I’ve come to know
I never dance so well
as when I’m shaking with fear.

She drinks her cup dry,
head tilted back
kissing a foul ball.

Apr 22, 2015


Blown away by every second every day
every particle, leaf of grass, and inch of space—
not a single one of us is vile.
I see for miles, the world intricate Indian carpet splayed out
as the herds parade down the river’s banks, how the birds follow
the berries and the flowers find the bees, the seas
teeming with sharks, starfish from the Arctic to the coral reef,
all wound together with a supreme ball of yarn,
old fingers stitch the visions that we gather from the most beautiful dreams.

The world is changing though it spins the same old way
while the sun slowly grows till it explodes on us some day.
Remember staring at the stars in your backyard
when you were little, asked your Father, “Where’s God?” He said, “Far.”
Now you’re a bigger little and no, God doesn’t live up there,
She’s right here on the ground with us, a loving touch in the air
stretching from the crust to the thinnest slice of atmosphere.

Humble Gasoline, Part Four

give me a crow

on a branch in front of the moon

a bouquet of bad experiences

i leapt over the deer fur

on the path, muddy knees and face

bit it hard

mouthful of rocks

the phone to my ear she’s telling me she fucked that guy

walking down first street in front of the school

bring me boiling pots of red

potatoes, something tough and dirty

that needs to cook to soften

to take it in

all the bad omens

all the good ones too

at the bottom of the garbage can this morning, maggots

the current got me

branches in the road

we had a mud fight for twenty minutes and finally this huge chunk

just as i looked up

Apr 20, 2015

Perspective in Time, Place

Last night as I drove home from work,
the moon was low in the Eastern sky.

Four miles North to turn
four miles East.

Approaching the mountains, the moon fell and 
set behind the Swans.

I pulled into my garage,
put a camp chair out in my backyard,

poured a beer and watched
the moon rise

over the mountains.

Apr 18, 2015

On a Rock on the Bitterroot River

Walking, sitting, lying, running,
happy, sad, scared, content
all are equal.

Hunger comes and is sated
eventually, returns eventually.

In between all that
why raise your voice
but to shout for joy?

Unless you want to 
make someone mad, which is fine
but why put your life
at the risk of shortening?

Snow will fall
on your ashes
soon enough.

Apr 17, 2015

Baby I Got It

In my head
I don’t need anything.

In my bones,
I need calcium.

In my skin,
I need touch.

In my stomach,
something savory, juicy, not too bitter, not too sweet, every few hours.

In my heart,

You thought I’d say love because I’m a poet,
but no, let’s be real here.

In my head,
I don’t need a damn thing.
Just a warm place to put my head down each night.
A little food, a little beer,
some good friends,
to be listened to,
to be accepted,
to not be yelled at,
to not be made to feel I’m an asshole,
some free time each week
to play music,
a lover who’s sensitive
but not too needy,
sex, sex, sex
always helps,
and while we’re at it
a hot tub would be nice.

In my head,
I believe I don’t need anything to be happy.

My head forgets.

I’d like to be a bacon of hope

sizzling on the pan

in the morning,

a smell wafting up to your room

to wake you from your nightmares.

Apr 16, 2015

This World

Are you done screaming about the gays yet?

A trout just jumped out of the river.
I’ll make lunch in a minute
and we can eat it out here in the yard.

Yes I know it’s a serious issue.

Did you see that baldie swoop down
just now, over there?
There he goes again.

I can tell you’re sick over this,

but, my, what a sky today.
Across the river in the woods, deer--
three calves with their mother.

Corporations make me angry, too.

I wonder how cold the water is.
Let’s dip a toe in.
Let’s throw rocks.

And the poor and health insurance.

What do you want
for lunch? I have a cantaloupe
and a block of pecorino.

Isn’t it all going to hell?

I don’t know. Watch
your step going inside,
there’s broken glass around here.

Apr 15, 2015

Superb Bird of Paradise

I’ve started having dreams about you again.
Which is funny, because I don’t think about you
as much as I used to. You must be
somewhere around my knees, somewhere
I don’t bother looking often, but somewhere
that wakes up when I dance.
Remember when we were drunk and
dancing in the bar and there was
no music playing? All those scientists
had just got done with their convention
and were watching us. Let’s be odd
tropical birds again, engaged
in an esoteric mating ritual.
Our veins become conga drums.
This isn’t for people with words
or degrees. This is for those animals
who can survive in the desert,
the swamplands, the arctic.
This is for those animals
that panther cried in us
when I first saw you
dancing all alone.

Apr 14, 2015

Courtois River, Mark Twain National Forest

The drunk old man
stumbles up the path
slugging a PBR,

nods to us as he goes by,
walks to the edge of the cliff,
turns his back on the river--

a perfect backflip,
lands it with his beer can
held up out of the water.

His head emerges.
He takes a sip

and swims back to his raft.

Apr 11, 2015


Kiki is a cat.
Kiki don’t give a shit what you got to say.
Kiki will paw the words out your mouth like a mouse.
Kiki will cuddle the shit out of you.

Go ahead,
say aww.

Kiki don’t care.
Kiki sticks her black tail up in the air while she walks.
Kiki watches you while you pee.
Kiki gets her face so close to the pee.

Go ahead,
say eww.

Kiki don’t dance like that.
Kiki stands on two legs to look out the window.
Kiki sleeps on your boobs.
Kiki sleeps on your mom’s boobs.

Go ahead,
say what the fuck.

Kiki is a cat.
Kiki don’t give a shit
what you got to say.

You're a Borrows

The world is definitely ending
right after these ducks
land in the Swan River,
the really slow part
just before the dam.
The world is going to end
once I lace up my shoes
and once Charlton Heston dies, I swear
the world is going to end.
Let me finish spreading
Peanut butter on this toast
‘cause once it’s gone, it’s all gone.
Everything. Jelly. Justin Timberlake. Late night
infomercials for drunk naked girls.
The crusty stuff in your eyes
when you wake up. The great bird sun.
Drive-thrus. Credit cards. Toenail clippers.
Everything is going out the window,
even windows. The rug is getting pulled out
from under your rugs, an enormous serpent will
emerge to swallow us up, and you will be left
sitting there with kleenex in your lap
muttering something about a frozen pizza.
Haven’t you noticed the world is ending?
Clock out now. Grow a potato. Raise a cow.
Crawl into a hole somewhere and sleep out this winter.
Spring will devour itself into Summer,
Fall will fall upon us like skyscrapers
dominoing from Chicago to Tokyo.
The ocean erupts with itself.
Watch the whole mouse world
get slurpt into the snake’s mouth
over and over and
over again.

Apr 9, 2015

A Night in Spokane

Three hundred miles away from my cares
and my cares, admittedly, aren’t very stressful.
But. It is amazing what being in a strange place
will do for your carelessness.
I’ve got a case of the Ha-ha-has
and I’m ready to talk to anyone
about anything.

There’s a short man with glasses,
a ponytail down to his belt,
a beard down to his nipples,
and a belly down to his crotch
stacking glasses in the little kitchen next to the bar,
which is in an old radiator garage.
Who needs to care?
70-some-odd years and each of us
goes the same way.
Why is everyone so frantic so often
about so many

More often than not,
more often than I’d like to admit,
the answer is
Y’know, I’ve got some money
in a savings account
and my income is steady and enough.
I’m blessed. Now
say I suddenly have
a stabbing pain in my side,
my gall bladder goes out,
or I feel tired all the time, then
it’d be a different, dire story.
I might be freaking out.

Oh well.
70-some-odd years
and none of that would matter anymore.
All of my debts
to the detriment of the US taxpayer.
But I don’t know them or owe them
and most of their pennies are going towards
blowing people up overseas
anyways, so

let’s lift a glass
and toast

to all our cares,
the ones that truly matter

and let’s drown
all the ones that don’t

and let’s learn
to live lives that

every second
truly matter to us.

Shirtless in the Summer

I hate horseflies.

Someone told me recently
if you catch one,
take a small stick
or a toothpick
and shove it in their ass
it weighs them down
and the horsefly
will fly straight up.
The thing is
trying to fly
away from the pain
and can't fly
any way
but up.
I don’t know

if bugs have
anything like realization,
but there must be a moment
high above the trees
when none of the
impulses can be satisfied,
nothing to smell,
nowhere to land,
up and up and up

and there must be
some chemical overload
of a hundred bug thoughts
scrambling fear
as the freezing blue sky
becomes everything
fills your insect body
and there’s nothing to do
but tug up this enormous weight
and suffocate.

It’s that moment I wouldn’t wish on anybody,
not matter how many stupid times
you’ve bitten me.

Apr 8, 2015

Apr 6, 2015

21st Century Crab

It's either the bugs or the cold,
there’s always something nipping at your skin.
And no one acts how you want them to—
have you noticed that?
And when people tell me what to do

Get out of my way.
Learn to drive.
Don’t ask me questions you could answer yourself
if you just took an extra two seconds
to look around, it’d be obvious

where’s the bathroom.
I peed like ten minutes ago!
Stuff runs through me like water.
Always eating, always drinking.
Can’t I just be full? I just

wanna lie here and not do a thing.
I’m all itchy and bitchy and
my stomach hasn’t been feeling well.
Why don’t they make a blanket
that just makes you feel good

everywhere, all the time?
I wish I was a rock.
I wish I was a fish.
I wish I was a dog.
I wish I was dead.

I remember one time I was
happy and comfy.
How did that happen?
Did I just forget
what it’s really like

with rain pummeling my tin roof
and a hundred errands, shit
I should really write these things down.
I can’t keep my head straight.
I can’t deal with all this.

The water
is falling
out of the
and into the mud.

Easter Sunday

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?… 
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
---Matthew 6: 25, 27

I had a marine and an engineer in the bar today
for the first two hours. I was hungover.

The marine said we don’t work
the way they work in Afghanistan. He told me

he watched a couple guys every day in the desert
digging a hundred mile trench for water

by hand.
“And we bitch whenever anything breaks down

for even a minute.” He spent time in
Alaska, North Dakota, Russia, and Japan.

Wherever he goes, he said
all he needs is trees, mountains, and water.

One of my regulars came in
and told the story of the dead mouse in the growler.

After the brewer came out of the brewhouse holding
a paper towel with a skeleton on it

the guy whose growler it was said, “Well,
I’ll take the Brown in there.”

A woman from Helena was upset when I told her
she couldn’t take her beer outside:

“You guys are really uptight here.”
Wallie and Anita and Pat and I

talked of our gratuitous exorbitant defense spending
and then the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says

“When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans,
for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Go into your room, close the door and pray.”
I went

across the street to pick up my dinner.
There was a guitarist singing with only one person in the bar.

Paul came in towards the end.
He told me how to hunt mountain lions with a dog

and how he met Freddy Mercury
a month before he died.

Paul helped release
Innuendo in the States,

and Freddy
was so grateful.


I locked up,

and drove home with a little orange glow left
reflected in the lake.

Everyone Stop

Leave your apartment.
It’s sunrise.
A miracle
every squirrel and deer
and pine and pigeon knows
is happening

and you’re asleep.
Cubed in by dead wood and dry wall.
Your few small windows
won’t bear it to you.
You need to feel the air change.

The sudden smell of light
smacking ferns
licking cement
spilling onto the parkways.

This is
what you’ve been
waiting for.

The darkness is gone
for now.

Apr 3, 2015

Driving Up from Missoula


To my right
I see the worst storm
dark colliding with the mountains.

To my left
the sun is beaming on
cows grazing in Spring pastures.

Above me the sky is perfectly gray.


Remember when you were always
sulking in my shotgun?
I’d look across the car
and have no idea how to reach you.

What?             What?
You sat with a magpie silence.
I could never predict
the storms blowing in.

I’m sure my laughter was grating.
My prodding. Times like those
I wished I kept a tin can telephone
in my car. I could have whispered

down a taut line to you
something sweet and summer
air you could can
and open when you needed.

Maybe you just needed
to brood in my car for a while.
I didn’t appreciate it.
I didn’t want to stand

under the clouds hanging over your head.
I’m sorry I couldn’t shake this feeling
it was my fault. Always my fault.
But you never said that.


Pull up to a dark house,
crawl into an empty bed,
lie there like an animal

remembering the breath
and warmth of some mammal
who used to sleep here.

Remember waking to dreams
that had us clawing the air,
barking at each other

when all I wanted to do was

be quiet with you.

Apr 2, 2015

On a Day like Today

when people are being blown up on the other side of the world,
when a friend is having a wake for his mother in another state,
when it is so oppressively sticky and hot outside,
it is comforting to have a few basic tasks—

pour beers from the taps into glasses,
take orders,
set steaming food down in front of guests,
refill cups with water—

to repeat over and over through the overcast afternoon.
It feels like Grace to make a joke and chuckle
as I ask a stranger can I bring you anything else?
What do you need?

In the paper today there was a picture of
two men holding each other
in front of a building blown to ruins.

The looks on their faces,
I can’t explain.
Just destroyed.

People are fleeing fast out of Gaza.
They were told that any movement seen after noon
would be shot at.

After they leave, there’s crumpled
napkins, ketchup-smeared plates,
dried beer clinging to the glasses.
I stack it all neatly and take it all in

one trip if I can,
to leave the table
bare and open
to the next hungry thirsty people.

I'm in a Bad Way

I’m sinking under a sea of regrets. Steady
gentle rain on my windshield,
in my throat.

I’m choking on a soaking cotton field.
All the expectations leapt up like
a herd of deer bounding through

green paradise, then the rains came
and everything turned flat and brown.

Disembodied antlers came through my windshield.
Hooves all over the road.

Deer guts hanging from the trees in place of leaves.
How does life do this over and over?
Brings birdsong sun through your windows to wake you

and then they all come down with leprosy.

Birds’ heads are falling off, Harry!

Might this be easier if I was a chicken
in the six, seven minutes after decapitation?
Just a torso scrambling around the yard.

Waiting without waiting
for the inevitable end.

A thud in the grass.

New 30/30

Yes, it's day 2 of an April 30/30. But I'll play ketchup. 30 poems in 30 days. Here comes.

Old Sap.