Its name is a hood of snails
That have sealed their shells.
It has two eyes fixed on you
Like a saw-whet owl.
It is made of dead cicadas,
An old wind and one drum.
Looked at for a long time
You begin to see falling leaves
In bright blue weather. October
Is a mouthful of wine grapes
Sounding out the burning vine.
Writing it, is to pause with ghosts
In the mist of memory,
Not knowing your own face.

Crow Feather Totem XI

My wife hands me a crow feather
She picked up on the road.
Now she’s part of my totem.
Between her hand and mine
The feather seems to float
Like time in mid-summer.
The feather retains the full sun
That first shone on it in flight.
Thirty years of marriage
Have flown by like a mirage.
I thank her for the feather.
She feeds my spirit with wings.

“The Empty Spirit in Empty Space” Wallace Stevens

for Eugene McNamara

Dear Gene, I regret not seeing you,
Not bringing poetry to your door
Like a “basket of shadows,”
An image of mine you admired.
Looking at your photograph
With all my heart I am sorry
And say a last goodbye, old friend,
With your American poetry
On the tip of your tongue,
Your Dillinger derringer wit
And streetwise Chicago grit
And the branches in the window
Tracing their delicate lines
In the space of our magical changes.

Granada II

Granada, gypsy dream weaver
Strumming guitars
For Claudia La Debla’s dance.
I’ve fallen under her spell,
Her every expression a fantasy,
My song lost in her drama.
Granada, wine-stained stones
Of drunken nights.
Woman that waves the fan
Of her painted hand.
I dream her Flamenco fire
Stamping down roses.
I kiss the death of her mouth.
Pomegranate, her secret destroys me.
Granada, city of adoring poets,
Of ageless sun and blood–
I’d give you everything
For the jasmine drifting
Through Lorca’s door.

Philosophers’ Stone

            for Bob Pinto

The day my professor died
I found this stone.
It stood out from the others.
The stone that others reject
Becomes my cornerstone,
The first matter of all things.
It’s a good stone, full of questions,
A complete mystery,
And sometimes its own answer.

Phone Notes from Spain


Strange thing about Madrid, even though I have only been here a short time it feels like a long time. It feels like I have been here my whole life or like I had come back at last to some other incarnation that has recognized its own shadow on the street.

The Desperate Bookshop

Was under repair. An American from Seattle who now lives in Paris was building new shelves for the bookshop in Madrid. He allowed me to browse the few desperate shelves that were still standing. One shelf was poetry. I read through a few collections, which seemed to me like the most desperate thing to do.

El Rey

Seems surreal to be sitting outside a Madrid theater at five am, seeing the garish, glowing advertisement for the Disney musical “El Rey Leon.” A homeless man approaches me with open hand. I reach in my pocket. The sun hasn’t come up but there is an orange light from the theatre marquee shining on us both. He smiles like the King of Night.

The Bolano Cafe

I saw a guy in a Madrid coffee shop who looked exactly like Roberto Bolano. Bolano lived in Spain. I spoke to the body double and told him he looked like the great Chilean writer and he said: “who?” From then on I referred to the coffee shop as The Bolano Cafe. Who knows what is possible in the metaphysical realm of fiction?

Gran Villa

Everyone on Gran Villa seemed to be tumbling down the street like acrobats from another dimension. In the evening light between blue and rose, I thought of Picasso’s “Family of Saltimbanques.” I joined the circus of the human family.


Her name was Salome. Salome. Our eyes met and for several seconds her Flamenco was suspended in that wild gaze when guitar strings come undone and even old men lose their heads.


The Gift of Literature

My son says that being home is like a replica of being home. I say Kerouac captures something of that. My son says interminable minutes of nothingness offend him most. I say the best I’ve read about interminable minutes of nothingness is in the arid landscapes of Roberto Bolano. My son says that the baseline of existence is chaos. I say that for Empedocles love was the opposite of chaos. My son says that he feels trapped by language. I say you’re sharing an office with Wittgenstein now. My son says life seems emergent. I say Henri Bergson did some creative thinking. My son says nice talking to you dad. I say nice talking to you son. Between us I think, interminable highways of nothingness, replicas of towns, chaos and something quite emergent between fathers and sons.