Watching The Exorcist A Month Before Trump’s Inauguration

It’s one of those movies I watch 

No matter what part it’s at  

And this time I catch it from the beginning:

The lull of a driving sequence  

Through a leafy suburban lane, only ominous because we know 

The horror that will soon juxtapose;

We are devastated, and so to be 

lured by leaf patterns into shadow

Into a darkness illuminated

by the light of a bedside lamp

gives my brain a rest 

From all I can’t 

wrap it around. In a few weeks

a former reality show host will be sworn in as President.

Watching a preadolescent girl get

possessed by a demon

Seems apt, watch what happens

when a malevolent force is let in

through the front door,

Knows where the children sleep,

is told every secret

regardless of whether or not

we have given consent.

He needs a female body to exist. 

Poor Linda Blair  

In the early stages of her possession,

baffling Ellen Burstyn by 

Urinating on the carpet. It’s not yet

to the pea soup or the bone crack. 

Soon, she’ll pant all trucker mouth

and flesh wounds 

Sizzling as holy water whips her limbs;

Mother’s still trying to figure out

What the fuck’s going on. 

And the demon’s just getting started

on his joyride through a young girl.

It’s still early enough in the movie

to hear Regan, 

she can still be heard 

inside of her body, not yet completely

taken over.

“Mother!” she screams, bloodcurdling. 

During the Shut Down (after David Berman)

How long would it take for the uninspected meat

to wind up on the toxic table?

Relationship dynamics are a sad stand in for actual pyrotechnics.

My wife snapped sections of the big city news. Her face stretched like a

tribal mask, her exposed incisors reminded him of flesh tearing and then torn.

I smoothed the palms of my fingers across the material of my button down shirt.

My heart heaves weakly, “i can i can i can”

and is not to be believed.

Upstairs, our children slept under rhymes gone straight, once upon a time presented as a fact.


Leaves see-saw ground-wards, dehydrated and curled; idyllic autumnal breezes, delicately scrape leaves across vacant parking lots. Sunlight bounced all around;

it seemed celebratory.

Mrs. Robuschard was on the line again.

The call center waited for her like monks in a hive, meticulously inching

the patterns of the district like,

Tell me the forthcoming season and

What number the dead in the century.

At 2:00 and 4:00, Tiffany unhooks her head phones,

clicks the Log Off icon on her screen,

considers the cartoonish woman stuck in a choke hold on the

Heimlich maneuver poster slowly sliding off of the break room refrigerator.

The day is never as good until what could have gone wrong gets its due.


After her shift, Tiffany strolls the vacant halls of a high end mall.

The shops erupt with the closing of metal entrance gates;

each gate closes as she passes it as if each store was boarding up

just because she was walking past. She knew this wasn’t true,

but it felt true.

She forced herself to remember that the trees were real.

Before she could turn it off, her car radio reported the shooting of a child, not 30 miles down the road.


Deciduous umbrellas patched a shadow play of alluring light from the gorgeous massacre of a Mid-Western sunset.

A Tennessean glanced up at the city’s famous moment, deconstructing it piece by piece until he felt that he was right to get the hell out.

He quit smoking years ago and still appreciated the taste of his own mouth removed from the sour milk heaviness of spent tobacco as if that train had only recently jumped its track.

Alone, in a car that can handle the drive, with a good 500 miles to go

he accepted whatever strangeness visited his mind,

and the fact that none of it will get down,

tonight, for this was the county he called his own and here he was

free to bullet its infrastructure

and every billboard proselytizing Jesus spoke directly to him

and he considered for miles

the possibilities of a new Bible,

the story our children’s children will lay down.

The Bottles Sing

I Love You,
sing the bottles at the grocery store.

They wink at me from their Christmas tree,
sets off a little whir in my brain that’s familiar
like recognizing a former lover,
but not remembering his name right away.

Between quittin’ time and dinner’s ready,
I find myself dumb
before the beer display.  

It’s then I see Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg slowly rise up,
from beyond a mound of citrus. Behind the peach and orange rinds,
they reveal to me their droopy, love-filled eyes.

All I Want for Christmas plays.

Moving on, the Honey Baked Ham man offers me ham,
between his forefinger and thumb,
covered in a blue plastic glove.

But that Christmas-themed 6-pack of Newcastle in festive glass bottles
splits my second,
wants to overtake my basket,
is not Walt Whitman or Allen Ginsberg
exploring the possibilities of produce
beneath a halogen moon,
but my very own
liquid courage teacher,
salivates my orifices,
looms larger than interior voices,
promises the ahh … my kind wants, doesn’t want;
the wanting and not wanting collide in me like horror plot,
but no one at the grocery store crashes carts.

The bottles sing
I Love You,     
until I pass them by
and then they hiss at me
as if they were shaken and dropped.

Next aisle, cereal. I splay my chin with my fingers like Andy Warhol,
contemplating variations on high fructose corn syrup.

The second that split a few stanzas ago mends itself like mercury
and the check-out woman delivers her genuine self, straight-up.
I can tell she’s a good woman who doesn’t run away.
And the bagger, O glorious existence, the bagger! speaks to me in eloquent enjambment,

My sister, he begins, do you in your holy state of attention
desire more than this America in your shopping cart?

He says,
May I help you with your bags to your car?

Glory and Wretch

“Life if glorious, but it is also wretched. It is both. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other … They go together.”   — Pema Chodron

A long married couple, resigned to one another’s opposing nature,
Glory and Wretch sway on a dance floor.
Groomsmen puff cigars underneath a half moon.
Bridesmaids massage their cheeks, sore from smiling, with no end to their smiling in sight.
It is almost October. Louis Armstrong Oh-yeahs.
Glory and Wretch finish their dance
At the wedding reception of a very young couple.
Glory captivates as she steps off the floor,
Slides her milky palm into Wretch’s rope-rough hand.
He wanted to go home before the ceremony began;
He’s seen this all before, a common reception hall
Where separate wedding parties bleed their amplifications through thin room dividers;
He curses the whole rotten show, damned if you do, or don’t   Anyway you look at it
t’s a burial, and then oblivion. The bride barely notices him,
Wonders the secret to Glory’s radiant glow …
She’s come to life for this occasion, kisses bride and groom,
Leaves a lip print wafting of spice cake.
Wretch aggressively pumps the groom’s hand.
Arm in arm, the half-century Mr. and Mrs. step into their own midnight –
She replays the moments of heart-felt emotion.
He regrets zeroes scrawled onto their gift check.
Their silence grows spongy in blue glow of a Trail Blazer.
His breath shoots out of his nostrils like an instigated bull.
Her whale eye superimposes onto the window
Against a swell of intermittent city stars …

me off of sugar


butter pecan, maple glaze, sweet, but not too sweet, apple cake, honey pour, cup of light brown sugar leveled with a butter knife, blend of dough,
no such thing as too many chocolate chocolate chips, fresh maple syrup,
pancake drip, a baker’s dozen, oatmeal raisin, fresh hot doughnuts,
cinnamon rolls with thick white icing, cupcakes from a box mix,
Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, frosting left to warm on the counter,
spoonfuls of peanut, almond, cashew butter, whipped cream,
strawberry shortcake, pumpkin muffins, Halloween candy
dibs on everything chocolate or sour, warm apple pie
a la mode, crepes drizzled with Nutella and powdered sugar,
Cadbury eggs, cheese strudel, 
hot, sugared coffee, ice cream scoops
on a sugar cone, Moose Tracks, Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl,
sundaes topped with caramel, a cherry on top, yellow cake,
fudge icing, strawberry rhubarb jam spread
onto warm toast, bread pudding, Hershey Kiss pressed
into the warm peanut butter cookie, Godiva on my tongue …

I’ve never been without
the sweetness
my tooth calls for.
A month now,
craving confections,
life’s only delivery method
for what makes
the coming and going
To refuse
feels like
I’m missing out on
high stakes good times.

I’ve always had my eye on
what’s around the corner:
dessert sailing
its saccharine aromas,
a substitute nurturer
who tosses me up high
and then lets me fall to the floor
a lot like love.

Job Ad in the Afterlife

to be
no one
and everything
all the same.
This position assists
with the day-to-day operations
of the Infinite.
Requirements include
a demonstrated aptitude
for butting up against
the cold, hard ground.
Must be formed of stardust.
Must have breathed your last,
certification as
sacrificial lamb welcome, but
not necessary
Dissolving as ash into atmosphere a plus!
Utter and complete bafflement preferred.
100% relocation compensation,
irrelevant sick and vacation leave policies,
opportunities to haunt.
The out-of-body
need only
apply. The Afterlife is
an equal opportunity employer.

The Tarantula



When I talk about my fascination with tarantulas,
people usually say,
“Don’t get one. What if it got out?”

Conversations begin innocently enough,
but no one thinks it’s funny when
I tell them I was 3 yrs old, living in a trailer park
in Downriver Detroit, visiting a wheelchair bound Vietnam vet
who kept a tarantula acquarium in his double-wide.

I read that people are more afraid of spiders than they are of death.
An average of three per year creep down our throats as we sleep.
What if it got out? Crawled on me as I slept,
lodged its coarse hairs into my neck, bit one of my cats?

I’m not really going to buy
a Chilean Rose, but I found a dry aquarium
in the alley behind my apartment building
along side Thursday’s trash.

An open box of glass ideal for my pet
if I ever carried him from
the things I only talk about
into that other world,
the one where the living require something of me.  


I’m loosing it,
falling between the spaces of the Mackinaw Bridge
like a casualty she’ll hear about on the news,
ruining my body
out of panic or boredom or neurosis or addiction,
neither wife nor mother, no one to be,
a future job for an engraver of stone,
having called forth
the tarantulas of Downriver
to gape at their silent captivity.


The man I’m in love with will knock on my door within the hour.

He’s heard me tell people
that I think about owning my own pet tarantula.
He laughs and says, not the tarantula thing again.

But I wonder if he, or anyone I talk with about tarantulas,
have ever really looked at one, creeping across
the miniature valleys of its arid cage;
its large, hairy legs gripping gracefully,
its bulging body almost invites touch.

I met a Rastafarian one night who kept one in his blunt smoke flat.

“She’s deep,” he told his dreadlocked comrade.

On a web of silk, white as hair,
his tarantula perched its claws.
No one else ogled its hairy appendages.
They spoke the non-silence of alone togetherness.

I could have peered at the spider until dawn,
wondering if my mother was four trailers down,
searching for me.



Enough Room


When the discourse swings up overhead
Like circus acrobats,
Ooos and Aaas may be heard
From the seated audience.

Wanting to speak, but not speaking,
I twist a furrowed brow.
Acrobats perform their daredevil feats,
Complete with a satisfied bow.

Most of the seats are vacant,
But the ticketeer shouts, “There’s no room!”
My mind wanders
As I stifle a yawn.

Acrobats fling themselves
Skilled in their contradictory talents
Like falling until parallel
Or flying inside of a tent.

A few foreboding spectators
Uncrane their necks to the ground:
Below the adroit acrobats,
The fat lady coos at a new calf

And look! a fire juggler makes mouth masks
In the shadows, beside little people
Who bounce each other onto stilts,
As a caged lion dream-runs.

Better to catch that shock of light
When someone lifts the curtain, late to the show.
Follow that shine out, out, beyond the tent,
Passed the little people trying to be taller than they are.





It’s the last thing I want to do
And yes, I like the place better when it’s done
But actually doing it wades far out
Beyond my lazy stretch, miles away from where I currently sit
In my green silk pajamas, doing funny voices
Of picture book characters for my 2 year old girl
Or flipping on a show for her;
The needle bounces at peak volume
As the tea kettle whistles again
And across a page, my hand scratches the tip of a pen.
Morning’s rays whip corners like a flashlight:
Cobwebs, pet hair, miniature dust-bunny-tumbleweeds come to a halt.
Smudged window panes tell on me.
I loop and scrawl my book.
Soprano puppets yammer on.
I dream the day when I’m alone,
Rich with solitude, in silence, rolling. But, also leery of that empty nest
For I whither if secluded for too long.
Unlike the dirt, the hair, the crumbs, the unidentifiable goo
That dares, 
Don’t erase me. What do I care?
I like who I am. I’ll make more.

Downriver Grocery Store


Bounce the pothole parking lot
At Kroger’s, south of Detroit
Where chem-trails smear up overhead
Like rainbows that don’t disappear. Enter to a stench
Of stale beer, can crush
Spits out receipts for spare change.
Familiar onions. Over here a brand called Simple Truth.
How many specials on root vegetables have been
Brought a boil to my cast iron?
Degrees of abundance,
Cries the have-nots
Whose tears measure rivers verses oceans.
Still, the places we want are not the places we frequent.
Questions of pedigree regarding the cheeses
Gives you strange looks from the clerk who wheels
Boxes towering Better Made and Private Selection.
Sweetness in the aisles.
High fructose corn syrup and smiles.
The consolation for residing
In a pit of Michigan.
Good folks pushing rusty carts,
The salt below the demolition.