Category Archives: Poetry

October Layoffs

Almost every layoff I’ve seen involves some sort of grieving — for the job itself, for who we think we are in business and maybe for a faith that hard work will pay off in the end. But the image I remember at the time is a dandelion in full bloom given a hard shake — with all the seeds floating away on the wind. We all ended up in better pastures, eventually.

October Layoffs


Working in a troubled office, you develop
a fine ear for door slams, like the managerial
“Now see here!” — righteous and swift.
But you also distinguish the other kind,
still forceful but touched with a miserable hint
of reluctance that says, “I truly hate
to do this, but I’m your boss.”


Sitting at my desk, heart pounding,
almost in tears, I listen to our supervisor
talking rapidly next door. I put my ear to the wall,
and I hear Pat say, “Well, I figured …”


Full moon, October. I lie awake
half dreaming, drifting, and I see myself
making the rounds at the office, saying
goodbye, hugging each person in turn.
“You’ve done a good job. Be proud.”
Then immediately another image:
I’m sitting tailor fashion on my desk,
literally in burlap and ashes, head lowered,
my collar open, cool air on my neck.
A broad ax rises. I lower my head some more,
and the ax slices easily through my neck.
I feel my head tip forward
and fall, blood washing my chest,
soaking my shirt.

Startled, I lie in the dark. I’ve seen,
I think, what I needed to see:
that I’ll never work again for anyone else,
not with my heart, not with faith,
and I close my eyes, falling asleep
and sleep like the dead until morning.

The Wild Deer at Armonk

IBM has a number of corporate facilities in Armonk, NY. The buildings are perched on the top of a hill, very quiet and remote, like nature but not completely, like the royal deer parks in Europe.

The Wild Deer at Armonk

On the corporate hilltops outside New York
we organize and soar.

Outside on the lawn, wild deer press
cautiously through the patchwork of late
snow, quiet as the moon,
to nibble at the thin, expensive saplings
we traded for the woods.

Ghosts rise up out of our bodies
like laundry, sway and look around, still
hungry for the joy of finishing.

The deer approach dark windows, as lost
in the starving spring
as we would be without them.
They would help us provide. They would
feed from our hand if we let them.

Business Class

Working at Saatchi, I would fly down to Florida on a regular basis to meet with clients in Boca Raton. I wanted to memorialize that life somehow, leave a record of what we carried in those briefcases, me and all the other poets on the plane.

Business Class

The flight attendants maneuver their way
down the darkened aisle, bending and smiling,
checking our condition. After three good
bourbons, I glance around. I’m surrounded
by people in business suits who look
like me, the older ones reading,
the younger ones pointing out bonus
rewards in their sales catalogues.
“Have a nice day,” the recorded message
at the airport urges, in all sincerity.
We’ve tried, in all sincerity.
We’ve tried to make money, for ourselves
and our homes and expensive families.
We’re doing the best we can, living
out of briefcases filled with Maalox
and PERT charts, rental car tickets,
stock quotes, cigarettes and gum.
On the seat beside me, a senior man
is already asleep, a finance review
resting on his stomach, his mouth half open.
Each year I tell myself that I’m leaving
in the next few years. A writer can’t
live like this, can’t think, and yet
if I had the perfect leisure to think,
with endless mornings and a massive desk
overlooking the ocean, perhaps I would think
of nothing at all, or a little
less each year. No. I have my heavy
bills to pay, like every other poet
on this plane. So tell me this isn’t
a life or a living. Tell me that it all
doesn’t count.

Night Song

I think any conversion is a kind of mystery. We’re different now. But we’re not. But we are. That’s one of the reasons I keep this quote from Joan Didion: “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”

Night Song

My son cries and I stumble
over to pick him up
and he hangs on my neck,
dependent, and love
twists deep inside me,
the good knife
working at the pointless
tangle of old roots and fear,
the baffled heart prized
open by small
and normal degrees …
How easily
we waste our lives,
lavishly, with so little
thought, and then
such tiny

In New York the Women are Dreaming

I wrote this after visiting New York for a few days in 1982. I was overwhelmed by all the noise and blare, the energy bouncing around the streets, but afterwards what struck me the most was a kind of covert female energy, all the more forceful for being denied. As before, I’m writing about interiorities, the inside pushing to break out.

In New York the Women are Dreaming

In New York, yes, the women are dreaming.
In the lacework of hallways, hesitant with pearls,
In the violets of evening, one night reaching to the next,
In the amber water of Victorian aquariums,
Under glass, asleep in the Hotel of Stars
The women are dreaming and beginning to dream.

And in cold steel driving Manhattan, the women are dreaming,
In black granite and the city’s hunger
And all the food that feeds it, the power
Forced on its aging body, dying and ascending,
The women are dreaming. They’re dreaming
In the long weight of the physical buildings,
In masculine iron weeping in tunnels,
Dreaming in concrete, in the crumbling legs
Of archaic bridges, in the midnight freeways
The woman are dreaming and gathering their dreams.

They’re dreaming in boilers buried underground,
In the blue, untouchable voltage, in warm routers and switches,
In green waves of traffic surging by minutes,
In crowds emerging from the steaming subways,
In the child half-carried down the steps,
Looking back up at the sky in wonder.

They’re dreaming in money, in the glittering,
Delicate conduits of trust, the precise
Twinklings of magnetic data,
In platinum bars stacked in freezers,
In the severed heads floating through hallways
Of the mild, organic corporations,
The women are dreaming and changing their dreams.

In the hands of the butcher, the women are dreaming.
In the subtle reasoning of fat, in the carcass
Drained and lightened, in the broad, clean breasts
And flying shoulders, in the moist
Sawdust of bone and teeth, in the milk of the vein
Split open, in the tongues of cattle
Loose and pendulous, organs of the earth,
Of the lamb, of the life we feed on,
The woman are dreaming.

In the broken body, in the frozen nerve
Of the doctors, the women are dreaming.
In the snowy white rooms, in the shoulders of men
Bending over the patient, in scalpel and response,
In needle and clamp, in blood
Foraging through the gauze,
In the lost collections of Quaaludes and Valium,
In Bentatrax, in Tri-Barbs and Nidar,
In Placidyl, in Lotusate and Seconal
and the government of Thorazine,
The women are dreaming and trying to dream.

In the shoes of the dead, the women are dreaming,
In death’s double song, in the coffins of men
And coffins of women, the women are dreaming,
Fitful and stubborn, in the buildings burning
All night in East Brooklyn, South Bronx and Harlem.
They’re dreaming in the neon smeared on the asphalt,
In screaming hallways, in the iron cold darkness,
In twelve men taking turns
In a vacant lot, fire burning in a steel drum.
In the brain of the rapist the women are dreaming
And dreaming to breathe.

The women are dreaming at sea, underwater,
In the dark hulls of ships steaming in moonlight,
In planes and buses approaching the city.
They’re dreaming in Central Park at sunrise,
In the streetlights still burning, in the lovers
Coming home, dreaming as he takes off his shirt
And kneels, kissing her legs and belly, so carefully,
Sliding his hands up under her dress, loosening
The fabric and she draws him up, and with them
The women are dreaming and almost awake.

They’re dreaming in the bright wreckage of god
And goddess burning, dreaming the dawn
As they stand on the towers of Manhattan,
Their free, white dresses
Floating in the wind, and their eyes are open
And they’re dreaming of a world returning and alive,
Dreaming of the world and dreaming of women.