My Father, Dancing

Son of a bitch, you still have all your hair,
dancing with the French actress with all
that gorgeous skin, tangoing up the stair

and down the hall, your hand pressed in the small
of her back; and although I carry your
big-talker genes, shaman of the tall

tale, with a joke for every Rwandan store
clerk, friend to the Armenian cook, the gent
from Yemen, stevedore from Ecuador;

and though some secret gene in me gives scent,
a mojo juju dogs get frantic over
so when politely guesting at some event

My Father, Lighthouse Keeper and Priest of the Holy Typewriter

My uncle Howard was an architect who designed our house in Indiana as a modernist barn made out of weathered barn wood and stone – really a Barnstone of a house. There on display were our mother’s batiks, some mounted on wooden frames and lit from behind so the wax glowed and illuminated the colors like stained glass. And every wall held our father’s library of poetry, history and philosophy: Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, Borges and Calvino, Dickinson and Akhmatova. In a very real sense we grew up inside our uncle’s skull, thinking with our father’s mind, and seeing through our mother’s eyes.

Fine Young Cannibal: What I Learned from Ritsos

A Tribute to Edmund Keeley

As a teenager interested in poetry, I spent a lot of time scouring my father’s bookshelves for poems and poets who moved me, and, importantly for any creative writer, for something I could steal. Writers, after all, are cannibals. We eat what tastes good to us, to fuel our own creativity. In this short essay, I want to scroll back in time as far back as forty years to when I first encountered the work of the modern Greek poets, mostly in translation by Edmund (Mike) Keeley, work that was very much to my taste.