What God

There is nothing here / That does not see you.

The old cat calcifies on the sterile
…….silver table, the veterinary staff
Having quietly and kindly withdrawn. Thin,
…….unstable, he had wanted desperately to go
Outdoors, and while he was able, I took him.
…….He said goodbye, each by each,
To the elements. Now I watch the chemicals
…….leech the brilliance and pain
Out of the little that’s left of him.
…….He was Achilles among the mice, and I
Have killed him—because of the cancer
…….that cankered his bones,or because of
My weakness? I can’t heal him, even though
…….he has watched me create kibble
Ex nihilo and knows I summon light
…….from the darkest air for my own
Comfort’s sake. So why not his? But now,
…….With one clear look, he forgives me,
I want to imagine, and dies. I sit alone
…….watching Angkor Wat and the Parthenon
Crumble and fall in the sculpted blankness
…….of his drilled and verdigrised eyes.

It Isn’t Personal

I am out there with the two old men sitting
…….on adjacent balconies the first warm day
Of May, unblinking as iguanas, glaring hatred
…….at each other while they sip their bitter coffee
And argue politics. In the lottery of assisted living
…….they have ended up widowered, solitary neighbors
Who lived on the same street growing up and despised
…….each other on sight as toddlers. In those days
There were tanagers in the pyracantha, frankincense
…….on the sirocco, an actual sun in the sky.
Then deaths, deaths, and sicknesses—and still
…….the rage persists in the partisanship
Of the chromosomes, the ancient, pointless argument.

Techniques of Ecstasy: James Brown’s Multiphonic Sublime (“Cold Sweat”)

The first time I heard James Brown’s “Cold Sweat,” the hair on the back of my neck stood up, just like Emily Dickinson said it should.

It was early morning on a spring Sunday in 1967. I was in a car, driving home from a gig where the band I was in had played “Gloria” and “Midnight Hour” to the wannabe-unwashed frat boys of Mississippi State. I always traveled with the drummer, a buddy for years; we were on the same page musically as in a lot of other ways. We knew without saying anything that, after midnight on the drive home, the radio would be tuned to WLS rolling out of Chicago. At that time of night it was legal for them to crank up the station to 50,000 watts so we could hear them even in an old Ford Fairlane on Mississippi Highway 45.


By 6 a.m., I have already walked the dog, emptied
the washing machine, and considered breakfast
Carefully over a gallon or two of coffee. This is why
old white men like me have no business whatsoever
Writing memoirs. Emerson was all about self-
reliance, but never scribbled a word about the laundry.
Did Emerson do underwear? Who cares? Transcendence
is transcendence, in the end, but nothing is universal
Except the universe. How many humans know what
the latest space probe found in the rings of Saturn, much less
How long a piece of thread the Fates have trimmed to embroider
a monogram on the pocket of my shirt? My shirt, buddy,
One more vanity, one more possession with my initials on it
that has to be cast in the washer, given over to that supreme
Agitation, spun in the vortex, whipped, and cleansed.