Sunday, November 29, 2015



Perhaps I had forgotten to tell you
why I do this
out here on the steel railings of a coffeehouse
chairs stacked up on tables
brushing down the deadbolt click of a
chapter’s final word
the easy snap of a dictionary.
I need this
I need this more than
solid blue numbers in a checkbook
a young girl’s smile
a cereal with fiber

Grant me one small brake on the
steady slip of time
a night-fed gap where teenagers
kick coffee cups around the parking lot
where tomorrow’s mist hangs high
across the road, patient as a hawk
and your thoughts settle so heavy and warm
that your eyes cannot quite focus.

And so, if I had forgotten to tell you
that place, tonight
I was there
and my head still rings with sound.

Notes: Written as a response to my Dad's quizzical looks when I embarked on my nightly three-mile Rollerblade trips to the Coffee Society in Cupertino. Just across the street from De Anza Community College, the place had a rowdy, young energy to it, a quality that I valued very much.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Anywhere Fair

The Anywhere Fair

occurs at a time and place that are
completely unpredictable,
making publicity problematic.

First indication is a subtle surge of
blood from the aortic valve to the
left wrist, followed by a
slight breeze from the southwest.

Two minutes later, you will find
yourself telling a joke involving
two rabbits and a popular children’s toy.
Later, you will realize the
joke makes no sense.

Two songs hence, you will find
yourself swinging a dark-eyed
Italian girl through a series of
moves that would not seem to
be physically possible.

She finishes a spin, plants a
silver heel on the hardwood and
strikes a pose once assumed by the
most favored of Nefertiti’s handmaids.
The room fills with a thousand
mosquitoes composed entirely of light.

Now is the time.

In your shirt pocket, you will
find the jack of hearts.
Thrust him into the air.
He will assume a position next to
the mirrored ball and accelerate into
a spin, producing a sound resembling
a sleeping yo-yo or a russet
hummingbird dining on bottlebrush.
Everything else in the room will freeze.

Move freely among the statues.
Steal one of Roberto’s cookies.
Pour yourself a hefeweizen.
Please do not fondle the barmaid.

Have a seat.
Savor the tableau:
Mallory at mid-laugh, hands flying;
Rick and Darlene in a promenade;
Howard at the mic, holding a high G;
Randy reaching for the soundboard.

When you’re ready, set down your
drink, take the Italian girl’s hand,
and the room will spin into life.

When you get home, kick off your shoes.
Place your wallet on the windowsill.
Loop your keys around a lightswitch.
In your left rear pocket, you will
find a matchbox from the Tonga Room.
Light one. Blow it out.
Watch the smoke feather to the ceiling.
Hum a few bars of Misty.
Open your favorite book to page 213.
There you will find the jack of hearts.

Save this for later.

Notes: inspired by a night dancing with Diane at the Three Flames Restaurant in San Jose. I was having so much fun I wanted to freeze it. Published in Abby magazine, Baltimore MD. Photo by MJV, 4th of July 2015.

Monday, November 23, 2015

And Roy Rogers Sang the Torah

And Roy Rogers Sang the Torah
North we go a-roaming from Wyoming to Montana
All upon a tankful of George Custer’s diesel gas
Jesus Christ is savior on the local reservation
But still we eat our snow peas on the Powder River Pass
Eastward in the gloaming from Wyoming to Mount Rushmore
Searching for the faces in the South Dakota night
Ripping down through Deadwood in the name of Rapid City
To see Abe Lincoln glowing in the cold arena light
The Seder means a shuffle low from Buffalo to Casper
Cruising for a synagogue and good unleavened bread
Jesus ain’t no savor in our private schoolhouse kitchen
And Jewish New York cowboys need a place to lay their heads
Gave us such a chilling there in Billings, South Montana
Fictive flames of Zion just beneath the bookstore glass
Driving back down ninety just as fast as wheels would take us
To watch them burning ridges in the deep Wyoming grass.

Notes: inspired by road trips with a gay Jewish art critic at the Ucross Arts Colony in Wyoming, the poem is a parody of the formal cowboy poetry style. After appearances in journals in Idaho and NYC, it served as an example of "trochaic septameter with internal rhymes" in Writer's Digest and the basis for a psychobilly song by the band Exit Wonderland.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Poem: Amaryllis Asphalt

From Michael J. Vaughn: Collected Poems

Amaryllis Asphalt

Jacaranda snows are a lovely thing if you can find them, splitting the narrow sea of Highway 5, wondering if your hand will slip from the wheel, if life holds more for you than three-minute eggs and a waitress named Jolene.

The Texas rain does you large favors, curtaining off the horizon before it swallows you up. Western states do not stop for passengers, and morning waits like a dial tone on the rail fences outside Dallas.

The only thing better than being here is being three miles from here, three minutes from now.

And nothing so good as a rest stop blackbird, picking crumbs off the pay phone shelf.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Poem: Alcyone

From Michael J. Vaughn: Collected Poems


What you are doing here is a
matter for minds
greater than this

All I know is the
curve of your spine as I
cradle it in my hands and

refugee mockingbirds
calling out the hours from
across the street.

Our lips have been moving for
hours now but
finally are good for something

And when I slip my
fingers in yours and
pull you my way the

moon breaks open and
spits out stars like
drops from a shaken umbrella.