Chester’s Box

planes running into buildings
Michael Jackson dead at fifty
old newspapers
here you sit
seven inches higher than
the rest of the world

you are a king
with eyes of jaundice yellow
with the voice of a field mouse
sitting on a throne
of memorabilia

you are invincible
but ever so cautious
they watch you with daggers
hidden in their palms
scheming and crawling on all fours

but there you stand
a king, nonetheless
over the tiniest kingdom in the room

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Cartography

if they remade the world from my memory
they’d find it small, but finely detailed
only a few hundred square miles
of empirical knowledge

all the places I haven’t been
would be vast fields of empty space
peppered with monuments
I’ve only seen in photographs

these backroads, which twist and bend
along the stubborn railroad tracks
might have them scratching their heads
as they draw up the blueprints

every brick and corner captured
by this distracted aperture
until it all comes to a stop
beyond my usual exit

trees and buildings up ahead
teetering on a cliff of understanding
clinging only to the grounds
of my assumptions

as for me, careless confusion
as they map along my shoulders
place my head squarely on top
and send me along

down this road and every other
which might outlive my memory
past the vanishing point
of an infinite horizon

Pictionary

wearing a little frown
staring deep with concentration
making bold, determined strokes
in simple polygons

something new takes shape
within the ever-changing lines
of our unpredictable
improvising lives

we are not creating life
only uncovering it with time
when a form emerges
maybe a bird or submarine

Quantum Physics

I was lying in bed
when I decided to write this poem
then the universe split
into a web of alternate timelines
chasing after each and
every possibility

each letter and each line
the endless things
that I could type
diverged into another
universe

a few universes ago
some version of me is still asleep
having decided not to bother
and to get some rest instead
that brilliant bastard

spinning off into infinity
into a sea of other worlds
I guess that me must be
much smarter than I am

Adansonia

adansonia, great baobab 
towering tree of Madagascar 
the gods couldn’t keep you 
from wandering away

so they flipped you upside-down 
left your roots up in the air
to balance on your head
for a thousand years

adansonia grandidieri 
another victim of jealous gods 
they’re afraid of letting you 
discover for yourself

the fruit of knowledge 
the tower of Babel
the liberating truth
of a world without them

Insomnia Blues

“I woke up this morning”
blues singers always say
I guess that’s a good place to start,
when their troubles begin

“I woke up this morning”
sometime before breakfast
before the golden eggs can fry up
in the pan

this makes their heartbreak
seem that much more unbearable
enduring hard-luck situations
on an empty stomach

“I woke up this morning”
they narrate once again
but if I wrote a blues song
I’d have to start it differently

because I spend my nights
turning in bed, watching the ceiling
there’s no waking up from
never falling asleep

if I finally splash through
murky waters of unconsciousness
trouble won’t wait to follow me
down into my dreams

Bill Evans

a glass of scotch on the piano
in a photo, black and white
the player hard at work
on a forty-five

emotionless and calm
with unbreaking concentration
picking out the notes
somewhere off camera

a cigarette held patiently
between his parted lips
scanning the situation
with half-closed eyes

eyes of a surgeon
keen and calculating
sizing up the keys
where his fingers follow

you’d expect to see those eyes
on the face of a watchmaker
leaning hunched over a table
assembling parts

neither surprising nor complex
yet he always finds the notes
saying only the right thing
at the right time