Our Own Personal Dionysus

We use your name like an amulet

to conjure the good times

and ward off the forces of despair.

“When Jeff comes to visit,” we say,

“we will have so much fun.”

Everything will be better, brighter, bigger.

“When Jeff comes to visit,

we will go Here, we will go There.”

We can’t truly go


without You.

“When Jeff comes to visit,

We will do This, we will do That.”

We don’t truly do


without You.


Beer in one hand, shot in the other,

your staff and scepter,

You are myth, an urban legend

we tell to strangers, to amaze and

impress them.

We tell of

your unrivalled

drinking prowess,

your madness,

your charm.

We may lose faith in

ourselves, in America, in God

But we will never lose faith

in You.



Praise Poem for Tyler M.

Most fair.

Fair of face, strong of mind,

Steady of heart.

His heart is his darling’s, and

no other’s.


His kindness is a balm to the old women,

His slender body, a delight to the young girls.


Gold his hair as sun shaft through storm clouds,

as sunlight dancing on water,

as light dappling the waves.


Blue his eyes as the sea beyond the ninth wave,

Clear as the cold mountain lakes,

Blue as the summer sky in their clear waters.


Quick his wit as a rabbit through heather,

Sharp as the frost on steel

Easy and ready his laughter,

A pleasure to others is his wit.


Not all that glitters is my hero,

But my hero is all that shines.




I dreamed of you last night, but not in the good way.

I stood alone in a closet next my living room,

a Sharpie (standard, black) slipping repeatedly

from my weakening fingers.

Frustrated, I called you,

railed again about the


of my existence.

“Sing like a monk,” you said in a voice

slurred with three sleepless nights

of hard liquor.

“You mean Gregorian chant?”  I needed


but I couldn’t understand

a word you said.




It is Wednesday

down at the pub;

they are

handing out wisdom

along with the grub,

but it’ll cost you.


It is Odin’s Day,

One Eye for Wisdom Day –

That is the going price for

Wisdom Pie – an eye.

That, and a

day or three

stretched out hard

on the old

World Tree.


I couldn’t say why,

but trees and eyes

Make us wise.



Delivery System

They say storks deliver babies,

But it’s just not true.

God peels us, one after another,

from Texas-sized sheets of

plain wax paper, like so many

slices of bacon (Why else design us

to stack so nicely?).

He shakes us gingerly

to remove excess fat,

then shoots us

down silver slides





on our still-greasy


to cure in

the noonday sun.



Stone Cold Hot Chick on the Ave

“Hey, Baby, you come here often?” he whispered

in her marble-smooth ear, though he tried

not to stare at her breasts.

She gave him her stoniest stare and silence;

the answer was obvious.

She was admittedly rigid,

trapped in her routine,

her form, her responsibilities;

Empress of the Avenue,

people expected her to be there.

After long years of

impassive watch

over weather and passersby,

a little travel would be nice,

perhaps a visit to cousins in Egypt

or Greece. Something classical.



Weber Grail

You know the canal that runs along Lake Shore Drive, the one with the so-so yachts and the rowers practicing up and down the waterway?  It passes through that park with the prominent statue of a guy on a horse…or should that read “the statue of a prominent guy on a horse”?  Is it Lincoln? The park, I mean, not the guy on the horse – I think that’s Grant.

Oh, and there’s a dragon garden.  Not that the city is growing dragons, but they erected a lime green dragon of some indeterminate, if weather-resistant, construction at the southern end of the canal.  The dragon is none too intimidating.  True, I have not crept near enough (my view is limited to what I can safely observe from behind the bus window), to notice if he has goggle eyes (a sure sign of none too intimidating), but his wings are small.  They must be waterwings,  as the greens planted round give the impression that he is plowing through water, his long breast a ship’s prow.  Maybe he isn’t a he or a dragon at all, but rather Nessie on sabbatical.

Yes, that canal.  Lincoln Park, I’m pretty sure.  At any rate, the “yachts” are moored at hexagonal docks in the midst of the canal. Not sure how people actually get to them…perhaps someone is always on duty to row them out, or their dinghies are moored on shore, or they swim out, or run across water like basilisks or Jesus Christ.

When winter comes, everything is removed from the canal: the boats, the gear, the coolers, and only the docks remain with their heads above the freezing water and subsequently, the ice.  Last winter, a small Weber grill (standard black, the size that accommodates four burgers and a hot dog or two along the edges – I know this, because I have one myself), sat abandoned on a dock halfway down the marina.  I waited anxiously for its owners to return and claim it, sure that they must have merely forgotten it in the flurry of the exodus.  Every day and every night the grill maintained its lonely vigil…I waved at it on my way in to work and I saluted it on my way out.

After months passed and still they did not come, it occurred to me that there was something special, something sacred about this economy-sized grill, that this was the communal grill of all humanity, or at least the Chicagoland area.  I was certain the searing heat and shine of summer lay in wait there, nestled in secrecy under its modest black shell and when the lid was finally lifted again, the sun itself would burst forth and warm the world.  Summer smells of many things, but more than anything, a Midwestern summer smells of charcoal and lighter fluid.  This grill held the promise of rebirth.

It took a long time for the true ice to come…the winter was mild (perhaps the ever-present grill still radiated some quiet heat), and parts of the canal remained open until mid-January.  But the ice did come, and the fishermen upturned buckets on its frozen face, drilled their holes and sat and waited.  Some days after the canal became safe for foot traffic, I noticed the absence of the lone(ly) grill.  As sometimes happens with communal property, somebody borrowed it and didn’t put it back where it belonged.  No more did it stand sentinel on its dock waiting for the right moment to release the sweet, sweaty season back into Chicago.  When the ice melted, and the disappointing yachts returned to their summer homes, the grill did not.

It is June 11th and 50 degrees at high noon downtown…if the summer never comes again, we can hope the grill kept someone warmer on some bitter winter nights.  I can see it, camped beneath some dark viaduct strewn with old water stained papers and rusted cans, a merry fire burning in its belly, and a silent man crouched beside it, warming his hands.

(Note: I think 2003 was the year of the dragon in Lincoln Park – if it even was Lincoln Park.)





I want to dance with you in the thickness

of a city-lit summer night,

in parking lot or street,

in makeshift ballroom with floor of asphalt

and walls of nothing more than


and orange/white/orange horses.

Let our souls rise together on waves of wine, heat, and song.


I want to dance with you in the thick of the summer night,

head half-gone with the drink.

I want to come to you, naked beneath my dress;

with a brush of your hand

you bare my breast, my thigh, my…mind.

Let our souls rise together.


I want to dance with you.

There is a temperature at which the world holds still.

Halfway between

the sacred cool of an October evening, and

the profane warmth of a July night,

it separates each sound and breath from the next,

creating a staccato of solitude.

Let us rise.


(This poem was inspired by the World’s Largest Block Party. I’ve only attended it twice, but it was glorious both times.)



Chickory and Queen Anne’s Lace wave

from the wild summer side

of many a western way.

In delicate

blue and white frocks,

they traipse

block after block,

set up shop

in lot after lot.

They follow me

from Wheaton to Whitewater,

from 4 to 44,

with intermittent stops in

Chicago, Champaign,

Carbondale, Kansas City, Seattle,

and back again,

from wherever I wander

to all the way home.



The Hoarder’s Wife

I am the seawall

against the

rising tide of chaos.

I have weakened

over the years; cracks in my


allow ingress to the pressing

flood, a trickle at a time.

Things pile on the dining

room table, the living room table,

the chairs.

There is a permanent installation

on the kitchen table…

It is not art.


Occasionally I rally,

reinforce the bulwarks

with sandbags of organizational

tools – containers, shoe trees,

bookcases, file cabinets.

Then they too become

One with the clutter.


You cannot fight the sea – you

can only delay its

takeover by running

for higher ground.

Eventually, it will surround you;

you will drown and

be past caring.