Tag Archives: Portland


I must have written this in about 1986, when I was living in NYC or Hoboken; it’s about missing Portland, and the last house I lived in there (I believe it was 4034 Reedway, but I’m not sure), and various other things, I guess…



Summer curves its white spine

near, a shallow nervous arc

between two points three thousand miles

apart, between the house and here.

My nights end more than once.

On Reedway now are flowering

three trees, azaleas, fingers

of long irises, pale rhododendrons.

Inside the house old flowers writhe

like desert snakes along the walls

or break, made dust

by the inconstant light.

Failed as a guest and not invited back

I live there anyway, not in the rooms

but in the hall with ghosts of birds

drawn in and lost for good.

Another Poem–“The Monkey Tree”

Thanks to Tom Murphy, my English teacher at Shady Side Academy in Pittsburgh (I keep meaning to get in touch with him to thank him), I started writing poetry when I was about sixteen or seventeen.  Then I went off to Reed College as an English major, and as a senior wrote a creative thesis (with the wonderful Lisa Steinman as my advisor) composed of twelve sonnets.  After that I went to New York and studied under Galway Kinnell and others in the graduate Creative Writing/Poetry program at NYU (unfortunately, I was apparently too preoccupied with my hipster lifestyle in lower Manhattan to write my thesis, and therefore never actually got my degree).

Like just about any poet, I always wanted to see my poems in print, either in literary journals (a few of which published some of my work) or as a book.  I’d kind of given up on the latter ever happening, but that was before the advent of indie publishing.  So I’ve been kind of amazed to find myself, all these years later, putting together a manuscript of my poems from about 1983 to the present (I don’t seem to have my high school poems any more, but I have a feeling that most of them probably shouldn’t see the light of day anyway, as they would definitely be labeled “juvenalia”).  It will take me at least a few months to put it all together and include some new poems that I’ve been working on (seeing some of the previous posts here), but I’m getting kind of excited about it.

Anyway, every so often I’ll be posting some of the poems here, although this blog is still primarily dedicated to my first book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days.  Here’s one:

(An entry in my journal from June of 1985 notes that I wrote the following poem after meeting and having a conversation with “the most amazing man” at the Lutz Tavern in Portland the night before.  I remember neither the man nor the conversation, but the entry tells me that this is one of the few, if not the only, poems that I’d ever written in less than an hour.)


“All the pennies in my pocket dropped

unnoticed through a seam I never found.

I never spent a single one.  Tonight

I can remember everything: the salmon

stabbed with a stick and stolen, all its flesh

unwasted, sweet; the perfect curve and glare

of balls turned off their course on an uneven

table; the sticky bitterness of every beer

I ever drank.  Sometimes I wish I had

more schooling.  Once I met another boy,

brilliant in hard science.  No one knew him

so I took him to the monkey tree, black

and aching and arthritic, rooted

in dead water.  We shinnied down into the swamp

and ran like beasts on fire through the fog.

That same year he killed himself.

If you come down there with me

I’ll take you to the monkey tree.”

Something Different: Prose Poetry

I haven’t really written poetry in many years, but lately I’ve come crawling back.  It’s felt strange, like clumsily re-learning as an adult how to do something that came very naturally in childhood. (In the same spirit, I’ve been listening lately to the music that moved me so much when I was younger, and yet that I’d somehow almost forgotten about; this morning it was Hot Tuna’s “The Water Song”, which I used to play first thing on sunny mornings when I was at college.  OK–there weren’t ALL that many sunny mornings in Portland, but there were some. I’ve been wishing lately that I were a musician, so that I could put my words to music.)

As I was “messing around” with lines (of poetry) lately, I found that I was spending far too much time and effort trying to decide where the line-breaks should come.  I guess I’ve always found them a little annoying and somewhat beside the point, unless I was writing my sonnets or something.  Anyway, a day or two ago I decided to say to hell with them, and see if what I’ve been writing works as something along the lines of prose poetry.  So far, I’m happy with the results.

I just finished this–the third in the series of which the poems I posted a couple of posts ago are also a part:



Fires along the walls.  Lost light caught in corners, starved dogs summoned, sweat and smoke in little yards.  Moon begins her wayward fall.

Fingers practice the anatomy of stone. You drink, you dance, you spill your wine on dust that soaks up time.  You like to sing the sparks that flicker in the gorgeous mind, in the heart always dismissive of stolid, arid tunes.

Ruptured stars: down here it’s night.  Sleeping hills are turning now to space where nothing matters, your finger sliding warm and welcome down my arm.

Swallow sweeping twin-tailed to a secret room to dive, my dress a bloom. There is a bead of love between each wave, a peace that rights the murder, the only sense we ever made.


(P.S. re: my previous post–apparently marketing isn’t my forte. Fortunately for me, that comes as no surprise. In any case, the Giveaway of the print version of Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, is still open until tomorrow–David’s birthday.  As no one has entered so far, anyone who does has a pretty good chance of winning.  🙂  Here’s the link to the book’s Amazon page, just in case:


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