a sketch & a poem

Sanctuary for Sinners

You must confess, there’s not much here.
Just a couple of chestnut trees,
a few potted flowers, a vine-covered statue
of Cupid,
and the light of dusk
making everything glow.

You stand in the glow, the light slithering
up your shins, another one pouring
into your heart.

Only the second light is real.
And in the warmth of its rays
there lay the refrains of some hidden
orchestra, the delicate murmuring
of plums,
of cold summer rain,
of the beggar’s cup filling with pearls
of water
and poured out into in the dirt.

There’s not much here,
you must confess.
Only presence, only emptiness.
Only light and wind to make you invisible.

This is where
Narcissus tears out his eyes
and discovers a strange and profound
inward-looking one.

This is the delirium of falling away.


(The sketch above is of the late Captain Kirk, a former mechanic of mine, as Pan)…


A Desperate Character

A Desperate Character

I had become a baby sitter of illiterate,
inveterate drunkards, of crackheads, of men with strong backs
and low foreheads
and weak minds. I had become the smell of exhaust
fumes and cheap tobacco smoke.
A broken-down lawnmower, a severed head gasket,
oil drums, cracked piston rings, flyshit in the carburetor
of a 2-cycle leaf blower
had become me.
I was a burglar alarm at 3 a.m., the jarring sound
of a telephone on Friday afternoon,
the collective sigh
of the people in my small town, their jeremiads,
their habits and obtuse convictions,
their sad obituaries.

Sixty hours a week for sixteen years, I had become
institutionalized. I had created a Frankenstein.
I would think about the grand discourse
of the universe and all its galaxies. I would dream
about red dwarfs,
about gamma ray bursts, the asteroid belt,
the oceans of the earth,
monochrome rainbows, volcanoes, rain forests,
The Great Barrier Reef,
Prague, London, Venice.

Did it all exist
for me to sit incarcerated
in some anonymous little shop
in some anonymous little town playing the anonymous
little merchant,
a role I knew in my heart I’d been wrongly cast for?

Well, I thought. If this is my destiny,
I reject it. I reject my life. I will give my life back.
I will jump
off the Seven Mile Bridge, I will gargle rat poison.
Whatever it takes I will do it,
but I will not stay here. I will not live a disingenuous
life with a dying heart
because I am afraid,
because it is safe to be afraid,
because being flyshit in the carburetor of a 2-cycle
leaf blower somehow suits me.

No, I thought, I’m going to be a red
dwarf, that’s what I’ll be.
And with that, I washed my hands of everything,
got on a plane
bound for Berlin
and became one.

The Street Musician


I’ve seen them so many times, I no longer see the birds or the trees, the lampposts, the cobblestones, the flowers or the parked cars. I walk along in a daze. I walk among the people and look at their faces, but do not see them either. It’s as if I’m half-blind, or half-sleepwalking, my feet carrying me along, my mind only half-understanding the force impelling me. I enter a street market and the sidewalk narrows and the crowd thickens. There are people here selling fruit, vegetables, kabobs, fish, jewelry, textiles and odds and ends and they are laughing, and they a singing and shouting to draw people to their stands. But their noise goes through me and the jostle of the crowd stifles me, sucking me in and we drift along amid oranges and pomegranates, conch shells, oriental rugs, sunlight beating through the tents, the hoarse snatches of a violin gliding on the breeze. When I get to the edge of the market, I see that it’s a humpbacked old Balkan woman playing. She is wearing a purple headscarf, her dress is a patchwork of blues and oranges and limegreens, and at her feet there is a leather violin case, open with loose change scattered on the floor of it. Her eye floats toward me as I approach, she gives a tender smile, and keeps playing, the music whirling in circles around her, grazing the birds and the trees, the cobblestones, the parked cars, giving life to the flowers and the people. I dig in my pocket. I have no change. I have nothing. I shrug. She gives me a forgiving smile and her eye floats in another direction, her impassioned bow continues working, the music following me as I cross the street, walk two blocks, take a right, walk another two blocks, cross another street, unlock a door, go through a courtyard and return to my flat, and return to my desk. I can still hear her music as I write this.


Journey to the End of the Night


Journey to the End of the Night

With a bottle of Belgian beer, I sit among pigeon
feathers and broken black branches and a choir
of darkening leaves, the murky Landwerkanal
gliding past my feet, the choppy ripples reflecting
aureoles of green and amber patches and the flat
white of a solitary swan floating silently through
the mists.

I watch it pass, watch the clouds eat
a maple tree and the Ferris wheel and the purple
geese and I watch the remaining fragments
of the sun as night comes and places a shadow
upon me. I am not supposed to be here.
I am standing on the wrong continent. I am following
the wrong orchestra. I have strayed from the people.
I am not supposed to be here.

And yet here I am,
half-drunk, my mind ecstatic, my heart torn apart
by golden
salamanders by the glittering
pallet knife of some mad expressionist
painter. In a word, by love.
I sit listening
to carnival music carried over the waters.



It’s Walpurgisnacht here in Germany,
the night the witches take Brocken, night of bassoons
in the concert halls, and sirens
and heat lightning flashing in the clouds.
You watch from your garden
which sits amid a canyon of dim and oddly-shaped
pre-war buildings. You watch while listening
to the people in the buildings murmuring, banging pots,
playing old jazz songs. Every five minutes or so, the clouds blossom
with fire, glowing and throbbing, revealing their shapes.

And now it’s dark. Only the lights
in the buildings gleam,
the reddish-gold glow of the rooms spilling over
the balconies and onto the walls.

A shadow moves behind a thin, luminescent curtain.
Another one appears. You watch them tango and whirl
as loneliness, that hissing serpent
with red eyes, enters the garden, slithering
through a bed of flowers and up the tree, coiling
around a limb just over you.

But now the light of the room goes out,
now the shadows disappear, and fat luminous insects
take the air, swarming the pollen
and the pollen exploding from its pods,
glittering as a wave of hot sulphurous breath
hits your shoulder. You turn around, the serpent is gone.
Your loneliness abates and soon becomes
love for the wind, for the leaves, for orange peels
and elevators, a love of solitude, love for the inviolable
flower someone planted in your chest,
for the miracle of being alive and on the earth on this night,
Cherubim blowing their horns from upon
fire-lit clouds.