Friends & Enemies

A Duet

Art was long.
Paul was short.
Art sang the song.
Paul was the sort

who made one up
as if from air.
Paul had more gift.
Art had more hair —

which isn’ t to take
away from Arts.
Many sing well
if someone starts,

and it robs no Simon
to get paid like Paul.
Along was Art’ s way
to be singing at all.

If Paul robbed some,
it’ s harder revealing.
What stuck in his mind,
he stuck to concealing


Bashō, with your grass pillow, what underground sounds come into your dreams?
Do blue-horned beetles scratch against the starless night sky that lines your head
with the starless night skies of their own domed backs? Do centipedes trickle through?
Do worms burrow with their snouts, with their bodies that are entirely snouts?
Snoozer, I can only ask you this because now you are dead asleep:
Do I ever appear as a nightcrawler whispering in your ear?
Are the words, “I love you,” as soft as the cough of a good luck cricket?

The Metal and the Flower

Intractable between them grows
a garden of barbed wire and roses.
Burning briars like flames devour
their too innocent attire.
Dare they meet, the blackened wire
tears the intervening air.

Trespassers have wandered through
texture of flesh and petals.
Dogs like arrows moved along
pathways that their noses knew.
While the two who laid it out
find the metal and the flower
fatal underfoot.


Now, when he and I meet, after all these years,
I say to the bitch inside me, don’ t start growling.
He isn’ t a trespasser anymore,
Just an old acquaintance tipping his hat.
My voice says, “Nice to see you,”
As the bitch starts to bark hysterically.
He isn’ t an enemy now,
Where are your manners, I say, as I say,
“How are the children? They must be growing up.”
At a kind word from him, a look like the old days,

The Party

And that’ s how it is; everyone standing up from the big silence

of the table with their glasses of certainty and plates of forgiveness
and walking into the purple kitchen; everyone leaning away from the gas stove

Marie blows on at the very edge of the breaking blue-orange-lunging-

forward flames to warm another pot of coffee, while the dishes pile up in the sink,
perfect as a pyramid. Aaah, says Donna, closing her eyes,

and leaning on Nick’ s shoulders as he drives the soft blade of the knife

The Unsung Song of Harry Duffy

Pure veins of bogus blue-blood and such fancy hungers
In the end no surprise of reports of you dying younger than your gods
Kicked back in the classic toilet scene
With a spike in your arm and twelve large in pocket
Thanks to a lucky day scamming the dumb Social Services folks
It’ s a human thing, pants at your ankles, leaving unclean
Because life’ s road is only one night in a bad motel
Harry, you could play basketball in your bare feet, and win

Three Addresses

1642 Argonne Place, NW
Alley of giant air conditioners, you roared
your ill wind our way day and night. We burned
you down, little house, but you rose right up again.
We played guitars by candlelight and sang songs to the cat.
We stole each other’ s cake and dope, dancing
all night, sleeping late, driving down Columbia
Road to the Omega for Mexican-style chicken,
which two lovers could live on for an entire day.
We threatened you
with a sledgehammer
if you wouldn’ t let us go.
Enough, you finally stammered,

Dear Gaybashers

The night we got bashed we told Rusty how
they drove up, yelled QUEER, threw a hot dog, sped off.

Rusty: Now, is that gaybashing? Or
are they just calling you queer? Good point.

Josey pitied the fools: who buys a perfectly good pack of wieners
and drives around San Francisco chucking them at gays?

And who speeds off? Missing the point, the pleasure of the bash?
Dear bashers, you should have seen the hot dog hit my neck,

Three a.m.

Our cabdriver tells us how Somalia is better
than here because in Islam we execute murderers.
So, fewer murders. But isn't there civil war
there now? Aren't there a lot of murders?
Yes, but in general it's better. Not
now, but most of the time. He tells us about how
smart the system is, how it's hard to bear
false witness. We nod. We're learning a lot.
I say — once we are close to the house — I say, What
about us? Two women, married to each other.
Don't be offended, he says, gravely. But a man