it hunts

Abstract Darkness


i wear my black

est black. funereal, almost.

and lay flat

est flat; under a dusty rug that is

under a heavy rock that is

at the bottom of the black

est black well. and i think

i will be safe here.


cannot find me, certainly, and i

exhale, a long, long

hiss, a tire leak

ing air through a crack that

cannot be sealed. and when i am

still, silent, breathless,


it speaks.

its slithering voice

whispers to me, saying,


i knew

all along

this is where

you would try

to hide.

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.”  -Psalm 32:3


image credit:

Honey from the Rock


There’s no falling back asleep once you’ve wakened from the dream  – from “February Seven” by The Avett Brothers


Is it possible a scent can actually hurt? That the right particulate olfactory matter can actually translate through some registering synapse into legitimate pain?

I didn’t go there with any purpose other than to kill time. Get out of the house for a while. Stretch my legs. Live up to some other clichéd phrase about wanderlust or boredom or some such sensation. I certainly, at least on the conscious level, didn’t go there to catch fire or to have life breathed into my stagnant malfunctioning lungs. I hadn’t been there in months, in fact. Used to go every day it seems. Did some of my greatest work there, though greatest is at best a relative term and at worst a complete misnomer. My portfolio, to date, hardly includes anything that merits the creation of a ranking system.

But the smell. It burned like icicles on bare hands. I’ve been to coffee houses many times since, and I drink coffee every day, so it couldn’t possibly have been just the coffee. Instead it must have been some amalgamation of that scent mingled with the aromas of unread novels and newsprint that did the killing; or rather, undid it. I found myself almost unwittingly back in the bookstore which during my fervent writing days I often haunted. Now instead it was I who was the haunted: potent, almost feverish, memories of those days when I felt right with my purpose and place in the universe now plagued me as I wandered from shelf to shelf. I felt like an amnesiac almost; there was a lingering and perfect sense that something significant had happened here, but I couldn’t grasp it, couldn’t lay hands to it and hold it tangibly, lift it to the light and inspect it. Instead I could only walk from floor to floor in the store, wondering, fearing. I was covert, on the sly, sneaking almost, either hiding from something or desperately searching for it. Rows of books that I had never read assailed me like the faces of people I thought I should recognize, yet I was adrift in a crowd of strangers.

I settled on a book, almost at random (although I have my doubts that anything is truly as arbitrary as it may seem) that was a compilation of essays by various successful writers about their motivations for pursuing the craft.

Not one of them said they did it for the money.

I would love to claim that I didn’t know the reason I stopped writing, but that would be a lie. I know exactly why and when it happened. Truthfully, I didn’t actually stop writing altogether, I merely stopped doing it for myself and began doing it for someone else instead. There was an immense and seductive thrill in this: someone actually wanted to give me money in return for borrowing my skills. Isn’t this, after all, what we all dream about? What we all think we need? Finding someone who is willing to pay us for doing what is our passion?

I have awakened from a dream that was not mine, as if while I slept my mind was transported into someone else’s body. In truth, money is a beautiful and alluring mistress, and an absolute, horrid lie. I probably run the risk of alienating my employers by even saying all of this, but nevertheless I felt snapped out of a coma in that store. I have left something essential, fundamental to who I am behind to pursue something that is not only unsatisfying, but ultimately unreal. I haven’t felt so sad and wonderful at the same time in a while. It is the blessed delicious hurt of tonguing a sore tooth or pressing on a knotted muscle. I feel bruised and bloody, like a survivor of a building collapse or a car accident, and I have the same sense of contrite gratitude at still being alive, the same sense of having narrowly escaped a crushing and tragic fate.

Who can say why the Lord gives us what He does? The obvious answer, of course, is that we need whatever He supplies, but sometimes it seems He gives us those things not so that we may be satisfied by them, but so that we may truly know that they do not satisfy. It is hard to say, but it seems this might have been the case for me as far as my recent “jobs” are concerned. I will undoubtedly continue the “professional” gig for a time, at least to fulfill my contract, but I am beginning to be possessed of the notion that said path is not for me. After all, money comes and goes, but the impressions we make upon our brothers may echo many lifetimes into the future. This is what writing should be about. Forgetting that was like forgetting my own name.

And I already hear the clamor: Rich, you have said this before. In fact, I can recall several posts, (this one and that, among others) in which you stated nearly the same thing. What can I say? My heart is fickle, and a liar. No doubt in a few months I will need to learn this lesson again. In the meantime, while this correction is fresh (and since this prose is awful and meandering and utterly indicative of someone who is out of practice), I will stop boring you with all of this and get on with some real writing.

May the results matter not nearly so much as the reason for the act.


I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

“But my people did not listen to my voice;
Israel would not submit to me.

So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts,
to follow their own counsels.

Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!

and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Psalm 81 : 10 – 13, 16b

some thoughts on productivity



Not sure that i have ever felt quite this way before. i am profoundly stricken today with the sense that i have done something wrong, or at the very least, exorbitantly wasteful. i took the day off today, partially because i could, and partially with the motivation of spending the entire day writing. i have done this once before, and had a highly productive day. Such was not the case today. i struggled all day to get into a groove, and wound up accomplishing very little on the writing front, nor did i even manage to do any reading. i am left wondering if there was a certain threshold that i failed to reach. Was there a magic number of words that would have made a day off “worth it?” If there was, i didn’t make it there, and now that the day is nearly over, i am quite disappointed in myself. Now i know there will be responses to this with the character of encouragement or empathy, but that is truly not what i am fishing for here. i am not, in fact, seeking a response at all, merely musing on my own inability to be disciplined. If nothing else, i am merely writing this to have a sense that i have at least accomplished something today, and although that something is rather paltry, i am hoping that it at least assuages some part of the sensation of guilt at my own sluggishness. Count it a confession, to which no response is necessary. If you are reading this, consider it an encouragement unto discipline and productivity. i have lived today as if my time were infinite, and the result in my heart is rather strikingly sad. i pray that tomorrow God will grant me a more willing and diligent spirit, and though i realize that i have not “disappointed” Him per se, i have disappointed myself. These lessons are good, at times: they remind my heart that work is, in fact, a gift, a blessing. i pray this translates into a grateful attitude towards my work tomorrow.



Oil on Canvas


the particular, peculiar

purple bruised sadness of sunset

lies not in the light fleeing us,

but rather in whole hosts

(nations, tribes, families)

of men, we, turning, in concert,

daily away from it.


(and darkness, as we know,

is the time

for secrets, for shame, for

deeds best left hidden, for

theft, for stealth, for

private weeping, for

lonely bedtime sorrows.)


the particular, peculiar

blushing red joy of sunrise

is that of embarrassed gratitude

that when we have turned ’round again

it is still there to greet us,

at least for another day.


an episode of “survivor”





stopped at a light, on my way to

somewhere I wish I already was,

the curve of the windshield seems today flat,

like a muted television in a department store

tuned to some episode of

reality TV, while I am

shopping for something else-


nearby a woman sits cross-legged on

naked concrete median, packing

spare clothes in freezer bags-

she mumbles to herself,

taking inventory of her

ragged rugged pack, which

contains all that she owns-


in two dimensions

she laughs to herself at some joke that

none of us can hear-




at dinner my friend explains his

brother’s experience as a

cast member of this or that

reality program.

“Everything he said,”

he tells me, “was entirely

scripted. He is actually

nothing like that.”

We laugh and take small bites of

twenty dollar entrees.




the light turns green and

we all drive on. The flatscreen shows now

pristine white shopping centers, as if I

changed the channel to

programming I could understand and

think about later while falling asleep

in a warm bed-


Love Letter to an Unnamed Poet



You are a cable,

singing alive with

Electric hum, home to an

endless Flock of perching

soontoscatter crows—


(Standing coldly on

pavement, built atop

Bones of greenest memories:

I alone, shivering;

ready to be home

as night falls.)


Birds spring ghostly up,

disintegrate like

Chimney smoke, specters, into

purple prose of sky and

I touched none of them,

none of You—


ghosts present, ghosts past


No one here. Strange.

Daily in the seat in which i now

recline there is

a crossword sudoku man, never

looking up, but always

concentrating which looks

a lot like ignoring. i have

never spoken to him, nor he

to me. i wonder if

this chair knows that

it is me and not him

or if the table is burdened by the

crush of computer, yearning for

newspaper mornings. Or maybe

they are just as fulfilled

either way, as long as there will

only, always, be

someone here.


Variations: Psalm 1


the arborist arrived at noon

smally perspiring in drips and drops from his

forehead, summer already parching, perching like a

laughing parrot. i offered him a glass of water, which he

gulped gluttonously and would have taken

intravenously, had it been an option.

We make our way out to the yard, and even in

the shade the heat lies in wait like a

merciless unseen assassin. He has already seen the

reason i called: the graying bark, no longer rich and

earthy brown, the paper bag leaves rotting like

landfill trash, brittle branches splintering under

no weight but their own. Where years before the ground had been

littered with acorns now there are only sticks, leaves,

kindling. He shakes his head and

frowns sadly. Across the street are

oaks older and wiser, still flourishing flowering even

late into waterless summer. His gaze is

pitiful, intense,

careworn when he looks at me. Unfortunately, he says,

there is nothing to be done. It cannot be saved. Suddenly i am

frowning too, missing its shade now more than ever.

Why then, i say, are those trees across the way still

so vibrant and alive? He pauses, and his response is

measured, precise, and

unfaltering. Water, he says. This tree is dying from

a tainted supply. Whatever source they are tapped into

across the street must be

different, cleaner,


His work done, he is back in his car,

onto his next job, and i retire to my living room,

welcoming the cool of air conditioning.

A week later the oak is chopped down,

rooted up, and ground into

firewood, leaving in its place

a gaping hole in my yard.


Author’s note: Thus begins a series of poems of which i just conceived last night, which simply entails writing variations on existing poetry. i cannot say how long it will be, nor how many variations i intend to make, but if it proves successful then i imagine i will write quite a few. Criticisms, as always, are warranted and appreciated.

a trip home: two haikus


i dream of spiders

devoured mercilessly

by their starving young

waking up after

i feel as if i have not

slept in many days


What’s the point if we hate, die, and kill for love?   – from “Killing for Love” by Jose Gonzalez

excerpt from a run-on sentence


, so he left, closing the door behind him, and went into the other room and

turned on the TV, searching for some mindless wreck of a show, but instead

landed on some nature show on public access, being drawn in by the sight of

two birds circling around one another in mid-air, furiously

clawing and pecking at each other, obviously fighting over

something, and each one’s peck seemed to be perfectly dodged, perfectly

countered by the other’s flying parry, and the two were locking claws and

spiraling toward the impatient unforgiving earth and he had the slightest natural

inclination to warn them but obviously he knew it wasn’t live and they couldn’t have

heard him if it was, but it still didn’t seem that anything could be

important enough that both were willing to smash into sun-burnt stone,

so engrossed in their struggle that they were completely oblivious to

death’s uprushing inevitability, but since he had missed the

beginning of the show it was impossible to tell why any of this was happening,

because if there was a narrator he had yet to explain it,