Sunday, October 29, 2017

I’ll Be (Nothing)

I’ll be nothing, that’s what I’ll be.
I’ll be the limbs breaking on the ice,
I’ll be desire melting onto itself,
I’ll be the longing that possesses me
That I’ll never possess.

I’ll be nothing, that’s what I’ll be.
I’ll be the vicious hope that rides me to death,
I’ll be just another breath, another step
To nowhere...

(originally posted on December 06, 2004)

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Smallness of Life

(To Katy)

the smallness of my life, I said,
can you see it?
But she said nothing,
she just wrote
a series of details
and small spaces.
My life used to spread, I said,
over pot-holed streets and easy laughter,
a time when youth was
just another smell in the air.
But she said nothing,
she just sniffed;
from where she stood,
she could smell it still.
But my life has stretched so thin, I said,
it has shrunk into this square mile
between where I sleep and where I yawn.
This corner of the world, I said,
that I call my own;
this bit of the earth
I staked as home.

This piece of life, I said,
that I squander at will;
this circle of friends
I ignore to call.

This head resting on my hip,
this hour of the day when the sky
looks like Mary in front of the cross.

This hollow in my heart
where they used to be;
this cat, this breath, this,
this smallness of my life...
But she said nothing,
she just blinked.
Her life wasn't any bigger.

(Originally post on January 30, 2006)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Time punches holes in my being
With each passing loss
I am emptier
Till nothing remains there
But a big gaping void
That reminds of me

(Originally posted on April 15, 2003)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"We Are All Dead At Twenty"

"We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off the flower of age
Hanging from the tree of spring
In the most beautiful of landscapes

The earth rotates for children
Those who grow up too bad for them
It will swell the regiment
Of the officials of boredom

With days that resemble
Habits and grimaces
And migraines, trembling hands
From wrinkle to wrinkle, from ice to ice

We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off of the sick flower
Of an agonizing ideal
Of a barricaded spring

I who detests war
Sometimes envy
The dead child a spot of earth
Without having time to cry

Without seeing the sad smile
Without listening to the bird lying
Twenty years is to learn to live
The rest to learn how to die

We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off the flower of dreams
In a station or on a bench
Where the first love ends

Why prolong its youth
Why play at being still
Love is dead and tenderness
Committed suicide from body to body

We're all ghosts
Of a certain sex, of a certain age
With words for feelings
With masks for faces

We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off the flower of age
Hanging from the tree of spring
In the most beautiful of landscapes

La la la la la la la la
La la li la la la la la la
La la li la la la la la...

We are all dead at twenty..."
Original text in French: "Nous sommes tous morts à vingt ans" (Dalida)

Monday, October 23, 2017

"One World" by Joe Bolton

I have a photograph:
It is the green of a Kentucky summer,
A few skinny sycamores
Gone white with afternoon light,
A shadowed dirt road
Curving off who knows where in the distance.
You are leaning against a blue fence,
Legs tan and hair bleached a little from the sun,
My T-shirt tenting your breast.
Years later and a thousand miles removed.
A waiter named Rico lifts his sad eyebrows.
I nod.
I've been drinking at this crummy bar
In the spring dusk of Florida,
Watching the cars go by
With their headlights just on,
Hearing a siren wail.
I don't remember how it was
We came to live in cities.
But I think that somewhere this evening
A man has checked into a cheap motel
And shot himself in the head.
His driver's license and an empty bottle
Laid on the bedside table
For explanation.
Maybe he had a photograph
He couldn't reconcile his life with anymore
And wondered, at the end,
What he had come here hoping to find.
Soon enough now,
I'll be either drunk or out of money.
And there will be nothing to do
But walk back home in the first dark.
I can see on the television
It’s cold where you are,
And the sky is failing all across America.
Why were you smiling
That afternoon so long ago?
I can only think we must have been happy.
Somehow that helps.
We are still here, after all,
And it is the same world.

-from "The Last Nostalgia"

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Like pieces of a puzzle, we fit into tragedy
Nice and easy,
We fill the background with our little lives.

In your absence I have perfected my loneliness,
I have strung it like a clothesline between us.
On it I drape fragments of my being:
A lunchbox, a cyclamen, and a sigh.

By the greasy glass of the diner
We sat with our dreams in our laps
Staring at what could have been.
My hopes were too big for me, you said
No wonder they were sagging.
It is too much to ask of life, you said
But the streets I painted still glow
With the sheen of autumn drizzle,
And the laughs I imagined are frozen agape.
My place at the table is vacant still,
And that city that doesn't know me
Misses me already.

(Originally posted on June 08, 2005)

Friday, October 20, 2017


We stopped celebrating
was irrelevant now.
Anniversaries can survive
the things they celebrate
only for so long.
And then the date goes back
to being itself,
only itself,
and nothing more...
And we to being strangers again.

But the slate is never clean;
the pressure lines remain
there, in the paper
where the writing once was.

(Originally posted on October 26, 2006)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Coming

So here it is
Sew my lips together
For I have come back
To the futility of words

Here it is
Living like it makes a difference
A shroud colored
With the self-importance of the wind

I open the doors
To a new balcony
Leaves falling down my throat
Rake the dust
That has crusted over my eyelids
And blow me a sliver from afar

I have not emerged unscathed
In the chaos I let your hand
Trail its angry wayward path
I have been where the river ended
And we began
But our ghosts have abandoned its banks

I am coming back
Like a thirsty tomorrow
Like a shadow that's been strained of life
For much too long
I am coming like an old bombastic verse
To ring, ever more, in hollower ears

(Originally posted on July 25, 2005)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


When all is said and done,
what have I given
and have you taken?
When one day we sit across the room from each other,
legs crossed, the silence suspended in the air
like a ray of light on a late winter afternoon,
what will there be to say to each other?

When that day we look back, will it all
weave together in a sprawling
tapestry just coming to light?
Or will the strands and loose ends
clutter the room like dust bunnies
piling underneath the couches
and in the crevices in between?
Will we think, yes, that was
a good life we lived together?
Or will we despise one another
for having wasted each other's?

Now, late at night, as you
and the animals lie asleep around me,
I scramble for a coherent thought,
for meaning in your pattern of breath,
for something to sink my teeth into.
I wonder as I push sleep aside...
And then, exhausted,
I let it take over me.

(Edited; originally posted on August 02, 2008)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Laguna Beach Breakdown" by Joe Bolton

You had come searching for a second chance,
But trying to break through, merely broke down,
Until at last any sense of purpose
Seemed nothing more than something else to lose.
You let it go and, seeing no reason to mourn
What you could no longer name, kept silence
Under the vast vacuum of heaven
Someone had nailed stars up to to hold in place.
You were hoping maybe a change of season
Might help, but there was none. You woke at dawn
Shuddering in the indifferent embrace
Of your own arms, unable to turn or return,
Dreaming of drowning, neutral as a seaweed in the war
The sea continually waged against the shore.

-from "The Last Nostalgia"

Friday, July 28, 2017


as I read my heart
out on the sidewalk,
you won't be listening.

The hunger you have sown in me
no one else could have.
How could hunger outgrow
the void it inhabits so?

In the white curve of imagined skin
I found my thirst staring me with a cleft lip,
lifted slightly at the corner,
eyes wilting above.

The rippled sinuousness of a childish gesture,
in red overalls parted right where it hurt,
was all I needed of summer.

And in their expectant faces, I saw my hunger—
but you still don't.

Here hunger is nameless—
only the slam of a door,
and an absence that lingers—

And here I lay your silence to rest,
step out,
and seek another...

(Edited; posted originally on 28 April 2007)

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Death Will Come" by Cesare Pavese

Death will come and will have your eyes—
this death that accompanies us
from morning till evening, unsleeping,
deaf, like an old remorse
or an absurd vice. Your eyes
will be a useless word,
a suppressed cry, a silence.
That’s what you see each morning
when alone with yourself you lean
toward the mirror. O precious hope,
that day we too will know
that you are life and you are nothingness. 
Death has a look for everyone.
Death will come and will have your eyes.
It will be like renouncing a vice,
like seeing a dead face reappear in the mirror,
like listening to a lip that’s shut.
We’ll go down into the maelstrom mute.

Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), a poet, novelist and critic, was a major Italian author of the 20th Century. "Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes" was among the poems found in his desk after his suicide. Considering the circumstances, it's strikingly haunting.

(Translated by Geoffrey Brock; reposted from Poem of the Week. You can find the original Italian text, "Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi," here.)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

"The Starlessness of the Fortieth Year" by Joe Bolton

"Maybe it's OK after all if you
Never write the great novel or make love
To the tan, oiled movie star in Rio.

Stretched out under an ordinary mauve
Sky, you count the stars that couldn't care less
About you. Blinded by their own cold light,

They've wheeled these forty years above your loss
And are little consolation tonight.
Even grand failures were beyond your reach:

Those heartbreak letters written and burned,
That Jewish girl who rode your hand so deep
Into orgasm she could not return.

What night requires, the singing dawn gives back,
Trustworthy as your inevitable heart attack."

- Joe Bolton, from "Bad Sonnets"