Category Archives: Poetry

Vanishing Tracks



Doris Marie Lawson Schwaner, 7/3/1939 – 11/8/2017

I wrote this for my mother a little over six years ago. She’d been battling Alzheimer’s disease for several years. I heard her voice yesterday afternoon and she heard mine, thanks to my sister. 

Vanishing Tracks (II)

What is resilient in us is resistant to memory
When the memory goes she will be some other self
Still resilient to the sailing light and shadow
And hungers and exhaustions of love
Made maybe even more immediate

When the resilience goes what is that then

When the resistance goes what is that

Just outside her heart she hears a sound in the night
I am out there knocking on the dusty porch
I have brought a friend with me
When she opens the door will she see herself
Holding my hand?

Do you remember when the car door opened up
As you drove and I hung out there clinging to it
Legs dangling hollering your name?

Do you remember hollering my name
In encouragement
As you sat in the bleachers to watch
the smallest second baseman ever?

Do you remember the rides on rainy days to school
In the golden Rambler you called Goldilocks
Your children and their friends sitting forward
And backward like sardines to fit more of us into the back seat?

You spent so much time doing these things you have the right
Not to remember

Nothing can change what you have done
What is has made in me
I will remember these things
For you and when I can no longer remember
Nothing can change what you have done

Everything I can remember makes up only a small part of your life
The rest of it now becomes more you to me I see that now
You become your childhood your mother in that picture
Is you now as you look at it which is not
A bad thing as you tell me laughing
Your nephew becomes your father in that picture
Standing beside you younger than you somehow
It doesn’t matter
He has always stood beside you
From the moment he died when you were thirteen he was there
And you grew older as he remained a young father
I only understand now
how you see that picture

The mind’s tide’s becalmed
The beach endless
These memories now rise
Or settle
With little difference in depth
To the step of the moment that splashes



So a year after we buried it it got right back up
Though we piled the dirt heavy for months on its corpse

It tore through the earth’s severed roots with a hand
(bigger even they say than the hand of the boss)

grasped the grave keeper’s ankle who throwing his cup
to the wisdom of stars fled over the wall. One or a million

or more maple leaves or simply a rustling stillness was stirred
and nobody spoke till they gave it its word


The woman who came in with the voices

The woman who came in with the voices

In the city where the underground cafe is actually underground. A row of brick buildings built into the hill a block down from the railroad track. Beneath the parking lot a creek whispers and appears at the pavement’s end like it was not even aware it had been buried. The woman came inside and down the stairs while I was ordering coffee. I thought she was talking to herself, or to a stranger, that measured quiet tone you take when speaking in a new place when you want to be heard and are speaking loud enough to be heard but not so loud that you are embarrassed if you say something to the room and nobody in the room responds. I looked up but the woman wasn’t talking. She looked like she had just finished talking, her lips parted, or that she was listening and about to respond but hadn’t yet. But I could hear her talking nonetheless. More than one of her. When she ordered her coffee the voices moved politely aside but did not stop. She sat down at a table across the room and the voices clustered around her. I could still hear them as I was plotting criminal charges into a spreadsheet. The voices were as real as the rows and columns on my laptop screen,they overlapped like columns and rows overlap without losing their distinction. When she got up ten minutes later the voices moved with her, getting a little louder as she passed by and the voices went up the stairs with her and went outside aboveground and it was quiet. I was done with my coffee but still had a long way to go tallying the the bad things we do to each other, so I stayed for a while longer, underground, by the buried river and the eddying voices wandering, wondering what I had heard.

Piracy (at the graveside of the living I bury my poisoned thoughts)

Piracy (at the graveside of the living I bury my poisoned thoughts)

I have prepared for their deaths for so long
That who is dead to me among the living no longer matters

As much as the living spark, like a match at the edge
Of a cigarette on a cold porch where the night

Before moving a couch pushed from the second
Floor window turned on its way down and landed

Half inside the window below. It stuck there
Like an impossible place. Those versions

Of my life thin enough to break on someone’s faith
Never broke my faith in them, in my versionless them.

It’s not up to me, the gangplank of the past
Keeps getting longer. The sea turns to grass,

The foam to the dirt I kick onto my buried selves,
Albatross to cricket, an old house creaking in the wind.

Moonlight & Shadow now available as free PDF


The limited edition of Moonlight & Shadow has been sold out for some time now, and I have received some requests for a paperback edition. Since it will still be several months before I can get to making a trade edition available (likely spring of 2018), I am in the meantime making the PDF of the limited edition available for readers.

Thanks to all those who followed the adventures of Sung Dynasty poet Mei Yao-ch’en and myself as the poems were individually posted on this site.



[#fullmoonsocial] Waiting for the moon to rise over the power lines behind the fields by the old school for the deaf and the blind

[#fullmoonsocial] Waiting for the moon to rise over the power lines behind the fields by the old school for the deaf and the blind

Home of the cardinals.
The train sound twins as it passes through

Echoing off unresponsive brick and glass
Over the darkening grass. It’s like there are two

Trains, the past casting an echo of the future
And then it’s gone, both of them

And still no moon.