A Singer Has Died (A middling American Poem to the Great Canadian Poem)


The space was shared but night comes on
& I am the only real thing left
to recount today as only I may.
What can I say?
if it be your will – O spirit of my poet-betters

& the most recently lost among your choir –
allow hard work to make us well.
I am hard at work & hardly working
as minutes die to nothing, clacking
& smoking though the darkness.
You encouraged us boys
to sing another song & I have started


forgot so many
that I fear I will not
get far now
waiting for the miracle,

the natural anthem
that I would sing as voice of a generation
entitled something so steeped in earnest
reverence that it makes the professor blush
& the football-fan father Hail Mary
its pages towards the trashcan.
I’d call it prayer if religion stuck
but it only sunk me towards madness
& a darker darkness beyond it.
I will open & allow myself to make
anything & maybe anything
will be beautiful as your anythings
always were
If your golden voice was ever true,
show me the place where the
holiest marriage of you & I
can occur, bestow upon me title or assurance
that the center never completely gives way.
Tonight will be fine to profess my love
& my sadness & it might as well begin
with serendipity, with synchronicity,
with another in a long line of happy surprises,
spring in autumn & joy after unexpected loss…

It’s four in the morning, a terrible November
here in America & you got out right on time.
You’re better off, we both know.
Rest in peace.
I am here & you are gone.
You will return or I shall come to find you
& we will share the feast

of sweetness restored

& reconciliation between the mirror
& the world.
I’m writing you now
so we can look at it later
after you have woken up
after the future you have already seen
has been added to the ash-heap.

It may be soon
if it be the will of the people,
the consent of the governed
working the word out
among themselves.
It seemed the better way
that things occur in the body
all at once in time & always now
& sometimes
too little too late.
The stars move in guided paths
because of things we cannot see
but governments are not heavenly
bodies though they are susceptible
to revolution.
May it be soon
that those entitled with natural rights
& keen eyesight, aware of
the strength of vulnerability & the wisdom
to counter the cultural-institutional intuition
to look beyond their prejudices
& make amends & amens
with one another, one at a time,
each deep place crying out
in one voice together.
Many are beginning to harmonize
& it only takes gust of wind
to form a snowball
that causes an avalanche.

Some woke up yesterday
to a nightmare, others to an ugly
new dream. Some woke up
empowered to hate while
others endured the cold bite
of such long-brewing poison unleashed.

Our little house America
in the desert of the Real

was not ready for this blizzard
& we go unprotected (as we always
have been, but only know it now)
& we never repented
from the traitors that we trusted
& held onto far too long
& now they’ve opened the door
to a murderous storm.
We are living for nothing now
though we are trying to find
what once was to restore it
but we do not what
that unknown form will be.

I am doing my best to pay attention.
I am attempting to keep some kind
of record, one notebook notions
of newness, one plotting Pythagoras,
one kept clear with kindness
(some new skin for this old ceremony)
one contains immediate sentiments
all of them so sentimental.

I’ve cried for the second time
in a week. The Cubs won
(a gift to my father & believers
everywhere) seven days ago
& tonight was a result
of greeting one
& saying goodbye to another
both of whom I love.

I loved the ones I marched beside.
I loved the ones who took my arms
I loved the one I told when I told her
& she may remember it as the first
time (should she wish).
I knew love because I was a drop
in a sea of plenty, one of a bunch
of lonesome heroes & light
as a breeze was the spirit of the assembled
children of the millennial generation
tried by fire of unexpressed passion, by flood
of information, by sun of stranger-smile,
by night of revelry that does not kill them
(only gives them heavy sleep & bad dreams)
but wakes them up
to question the law they were given
& to find it lacking so close to home
in so much injustice;
putting trust 
in a cruel old way
where those who may really decide things
go against our divined will,
where those sworn to serve & protect us
kill our children & brothers & get away with it,
grope our sisters & oppress with impunity.

Death-to-the Ladies Man!!
they cried & I promise you
they meant it.  I kept my mouth silent
of the most hateful things
I heard, but involved myself
where I could ring out clear:
Not my President!

I had given up a pretty dream
that never did come true,
that the people would seize power
in the ways The People do.
We were far from what is possible

We were close, of one accord
There are moments yet
& days ahead for more
to be restored.

This is what Democracy looks like!!

They are young & scared of nothing
& they read The Republic in every
liberal arts college & some students
must actually be reading & replacing
unlearned habits with real knowledge.

Meanwhile, in redder places
diminishing pensions & social security
are making monsters of the Good Americans
& they hate their children
& their children’s friends
in the name of unliving souls
yet they know nothing of appreciating those
trapped within the same tax bracket
getting nothing from the government
but a headache & grief & a hate to brandish
& it is not pretty to see a world
full of unafraid people
when they are the darkest
the free market has to offer.

May it be soon that the young
cut real ties with their hateful families,
that they may teach the truest lesson
of love returned only after
abstaining from the fam
& daddy’s checkbook
the same as they would a lover.
Detaching is difficult work
in any case & one needs
a port to aim for in the stormy
seas of disconnection. May they
steer their way to a gracious treaty
between One Love & another,
day by day, thought by thought.
themselves traveling lighter
all the time
while filling their pockets with morsels
of manna & snacking upon the daily bread
of hope & the shared milk of human kindness.
Their parents wanted love & more devotion
while keeping the dinner table silent
of talk of politics & anyone’s religion.

Their kids couldn’t talk about
most of what youth was & now
they feel the pain of everyone,
then they feel nothing
but the clothes that touch their skin.
(I am lost between the senses
& the feelings & I don’t ever
claim to get it right between
the two. I am lost between the
they & I as well)

The young are hurt but healing
themselves & one another
proving that there is more pain
after the loss of feeling.
They felt until we couldn’t feel.

They learned they’d never lose the touch.
They did the one & called it real
we never did the other much
We purchase rags & baubles
from salvation army counters
We adorn ourselves in talismans
& we know not what they mean;
japa mala, hamsa, pentagram,
bling, crystal, irony,
gold chain of nothing.
We bear our crosses though
we are not up to the task
but we are awake
& therefore sentenced to Responsibility
& Leadership & to own our own way
lest we lose our sense of style.  

We are them without a country.
We are those who believe we can
because we have learned the greatest
things alone in places where no one else
ever gets to.
We are those who have loved & lost
& loved more & more each time.
We are those who have awakened
to the reality of a bloody hill
that was & is & is to come
& the portion of it
that is ours to claim.

We have patched up the wounds of another
in the comfort of our own city.
We have looked one another in the eye,
soldiers under General St. Joan of Arc.
& the great good lost ones.
We have gazed at the gates of mercy
– inner soul through empty space – into the like
windows of the Other & we have known
love. We ran through too many promises
of it never kept & came to know healing as
a penitential hymn, as all our healers
were themselves broken & bleeding.
We have found ourselves on different sides
of an imaginary line whose tongues
stretch forth to lick one another’s wounds
but never theirs so much as our own.
We have tried to be free in this way
together & we want to change
the ways we make love
make sense to our words,
our worlds of feelings & senses.
We take the ones that find us
to the childhood scars & we drink up
their attention & sweet words
but never call back soft enough
to keep the frightened thing
from bolting. We fastened the doors
with five different locks
to prevent another escape & many of us
are searching the wreckage for
bits of wood to board the windows up.

We know we do not have to be scared
We know this – but we are
scared & lonely
& not always sure which is which

We ache for one another
& we fall in love a thousand times a day.
We watch terror fall over the faces
of the innocent & we shiver in compassion.
We catch each other
like the cold & we never warm up to where
we give a coat or two to the less fortunate.
We are privileged with a life of boredom.
We are all doing the same thing
unless we are not
We meet in bars & apps & wonder
where the magic went.
We never find a cure for the L-word
& we never find it passing our lips.
When it does, we most often leave
the subject blank
as we feel ourselves to most truly be

We suffer together.
We weep alone.

Anyhow, we are crazy to love
one another: it always ends in wounds
& a pint (or five) for every tear
to wash the pain of what
everybody knows away.

We have been sentenced to death
by the blues & we have learned too much
of love from the voices of those
we never truly really see
& have accepted it as par
& we take the hand of death
to waltz through an uncertain life
& we never call it the valley of shadow
but an impossible comfort remains with us
in the words of the singers
sentenced to th’eternal sleep


By word or deed, by song or silence
by firearm, overdose, stove, sea,
hook, crook, father, sniper on

the grassy knoll, sniper in
the brain, the timebomb
of the heart.

O our gods & heroes
O our teachers;
O our truest friends;
O you who waged your private wars
& went so far for art & beauty,
penned anthems for revolutions,
lullabies for the lonely nights;

O you who left a bit of what
the world calls soul for us beyond you
to grasp on to as night comes on

O you who did so much so young
& so prettily gave up the ghost
& left behind the body & the memories
to become a part of ours

O Playlist of Number 1 songs
all over heaven (nevermind)


O tower of Song


O life bled out onto tape
or ones-& zeroes
left for a posterity
that has arrived, a future
that is now happening in America’s Cities
as the children of
the butchers of a union
& the breakers of the ancient western code
& the makers of the watches
that count all minutes away
march down policed streets
with clenched fists raised
in solemn peaceful vow.

O guides, be for real:
is this what you wanted?

We didn’t know what you meant
when you said ‘repent’ but we
emerged from the purple haze
of a blue dream (the smokey life)
humbled in love with your work
& we listen to the songs you left
& now you got us singing.

We are torn
we are pressed – pressed on all sides
We are grasping at one another
in a more real way now

Our parents have done so much
to deserve this with their suburbs
& their necessary 2.3
by matrimonial decree
We were born in chains
of uncertainty
just as they were but we should not
allow so many to suffer over
a couple of generations,
afraid though unconfronted
declining rapidly
(in the sympathetic human sense).

We came so far for beauty
& a sense of who we might have been
We met the faith when you,
dear Leonard, were yet among us
(you know who we are)
Seems like we are finally
your kind of partisans remembering
the old revolution
& ushering it in once more

Things are hard & heavy now.
We feet it in our own hearts.
We know it gets beautiful,

but when?
How much debt remains
to be paid back?

We have been unkind
& forgiven.  We have been untrue
lovers & liars & we have still
been understood
We have been wronged
& learned to make real pacts
(Do we ask too much of ourselves
& our broken, bleeding hearts?)
We sold our youth for education
& a sleeping mother’s sad dream.
We sold old clothes for shitty meals.
We sold ourselves for love
but now we are free
to come home

to a war that only some of us
half-knew we were half-fighting
because we have always been
too close to see it.
The war is a hypocrite’s history
& a father’s silent ‘talking-to’
& it is as old as man
(but will not die)
& it is sure as death & taxes
(but offers no return)
& it is the checkered game of life
(Milton Bradley Company, 1860)
& we find it in the mortal coil
(for the ghost of Billy S)
& we call it slavery
(though we see no true masters)
& we represent it by chains
(or bars over window/door)
& we are fed that the human spirit
is stronger than everything
(though the pill is hardly sweet enough)
& we doubted until we saw
ourselves overcome minor obstacles
& we have overcome so much
& we are still suffering this too-tight knot
of three (six? nine?) chains we cannot untie
though it will not take much more strain
& we can do nothing
but everything we can
to stand with the sunken heroes
& the morning children
& the weeping widows
& we can be nothing but beautiful
but we are still too burdened
by what was before to crystalize
the thought.

I’m a child of a weak nation
too young to internalize the mineral fact
crying over spilled blood, mutant milk
& old wounds, told to toughen up
the stiff upper lip & strengthening
our voice by the hour.
Marianne, Suzanne & Nancy
& the sisters of mercy (all outdated names)
have not departed though they
become invisible with our suspicions
& disappointments. We are fortunate
to be remembered by them
& we fight this war for them
far more than they ever knew
that they could fight.
We took a longing from still-living generations
of silence & found ourselves remembering
some long-forgotten thing
& now we expect to find it
even if we have to conjure it out of thin air
every moment it is missing,
even if we have to make it with a few
thousand hands here in the city
of brotherly love, even if we have
to build a new city on our own.
Our delirious aging families view us
as petulant, as they drink the poisoned
water & tell us that it’s Kool-Aid.
We found little love in that story
yet we hope to find something akin to
human decency from an institution
controlled by dollars & debt, trapping
as many as possible with justified interest

& board-approved rhetoric & a consistent Dow
& a lie about how slow change happens.
We see that it is impossible to them.
They never taught us how to dream.

I don’t believe I ever learned.
It all just came to me.
I lit a bit of palo santo
to clear the air of the anger
welling within. You would be jealous
of my place in the living room,
sitting with her reading cards,
preparing once more to walk through
the fire that always burns us up
& yet we walk right through it
as we walked together down that broad street
in the company of lovers
who returned clear sight for sight.


I see so much in every day
& some extend to the next
Another sleepless night

& the day’s confession…
I myself am too proud to show
my heart to any doctor.
I have taken well-being upon myself
& I will quit when I need to
just as you did. The only physician
I ever trusted was locked up in a library
that burnt down centuries ago
in a dream of a myth called Atlantis (by Maya)
& he was no Houdini
& he burnt up with his work.

I dreamt it & I saw it
& I said that it was real.
I dreamt that darkness won
a battle & the war was quickly called.
I dreamt I would not find you here
& surely you were gone.
I dreamt a woman loved me
& I wake to find her here.
Some voice that sounds like yours
tells me I can’t win them all
so I trade the dreams for reality.
Tonight will be fine for practice
Tonight I do not dream.
She is here & I left her
waiting to write this:

in my secret life I see things
& I don’t know what to call them
but right here between the newsreel
& my tiny pain I will greet you
in spacious empty eternity
where there is a word for everything.
I’ll stand there in a paper-thin hotel
(a speck of dust on Mondrian’s Boogie St.)
by the rivers dark to greet you,
to tell you of her smile & the meaning
of her name.  I will hug you &
say the same thing I said to you
in that dream of Atlantis,
the same thing
always the same thing I say
in the dreams of forever
& the reality where I find my true kindred:
My oh my, did I ever love you?

I do not know that I shall ever trust the grace of dreams that have been shown to me but a seed sprouts in its particular way, needing good ground, light & rain. I will water the young shoots I find & love a dream in return when it calls me by my name.  You know who I am, or at least you did once in that Green-Gold city where your works also burnt up in those infernal stacks to be lost & yet somehow recovered, just as our weak nation will be,  Just as the feeling of studying
under you comes to my fast asleep body, my spirit awake & following you to learn where your work stood in relation to mine. We returned to a central table in that tabernacle & you sat at opened pages of half-formed thoughts & you hummed a Orphic tune; sweet, somber. The jew’s harp stood up on the table between us & I held the burnt-down cigarette we passed back & forth like time playing tricks on itself while you showed me what letters really meant. You taught me what you could that our short rendezvous & I shall remember it for all of my days.  You bid namaste & adieu & removed for greener fields in a subtler costume than the one you had grown so attached to & out of, the uniform which could not have stopped bullets in the war that I woke up to the next morning, the nightmare that is this time. You fought your good fight & you welcomed your good night in the darkness of day with shekels, suits, study & you will surely be rewarded. You will finally get your new name even as this one lives on in the world of delayed gratification & freedoms promised & deferred.

I cannot speak for us all but
I may & can & will honestly say
that I am confused & scared

& excited from the top of my head
to the bottom of my heart.
I am alive from the soles I walk upon
down to the soul that tramples me

& I will repeat only loving words
that you once uttered to me:

Hineni Hineni


One thought on “A Singer Has Died (A middling American Poem to the Great Canadian Poem)

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