Thursday, December 19, 2019

After the Gold Rush

The sky its azure reticence
(azure residence?)

between rainstorms

The Dark Rose in her bed of thorns
pinwheels, springs, pendulum ghost shapes
& in the space between molecules
a tractor gracefully rusting

as I said to the lady behind the counter at the
gas station mini-mart
             a name that means "gift" in Greek
                     in mythology a sea nymph
                             geographically a mountainous region north of
                                      the Gulf of Corinth home to the Dorians

I said "Descriptions should always be misleading"

"Whatever" she said

             In French "d'or" means "gold"

Sunday, December 1, 2019


There's no place I'd rather be than
half way there
         walking like a Peloponnesian
                  as though it might cure the common yearning
                           love leaves in its wake

         The audio clip ticking like a waterproof watch
         from the T'ang Dynasty

                  A sun tan neatly folded over the
                  balcony of my heart

& sure you can pretend that you see your reflection
in the polished blue mirror of the sky but
it isn't yours
until you give it away

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Cashing in on the 7 Deadly Sins
Trying to build a banjo out of
used car parts & a lost weekend in San Bernadino

Jimmy Reed & Ida Lupino
Listening to the wind skip like a broken needle

Motive & Opportunity
I could swim thru all that you spill I said
but drinking from a puddle
at the bottom of the ocean
wasn't the only way to
express my thirst

Friday, November 1, 2019

You'd Better Have a Plan B

The onshore breeze as articulated by
Big Sur windchimes
         at 4:19 in the after-
         noon the
                  sunlight coming in at an
                                                autumnal slant

         Did you notice? I didn't until just now
                  the surging ocean waves paved for sunset

My troika was pursued by wolves
but I do have an assortment of acrylic paints
& the gravitas of an Obi-Wan Kenobi or
Baba O'Riley

         tripping the light fantastic they used to say
                  practicing eccentric breathing
                           scanning the dial for the sound of gulls
                                    insinuating fate

It will either inspire prophetic dreams
or leave you stranded in a dark corner of yr mind
begging for more like I said to my gal Sappho
the first one's free but I'm seeing double

Friday, October 4, 2019

Where Have All the Payphones Gone?

The Wizard of Oz wasn't a wizard at 
all, but a little guy named Oscar who
had a glass eye & a knack for the short 
         knocked around Venice Beach w/a hunch-
back named Vera
                                 operating in & around a phone 
booth outside the Fox Theater on Lincoln
Blvd circa 1971 or so

A few years later . . . no where to be found

yr guess as good as mine

I moved north to Half Moon Bay in '76
the phone booth went away two decades after that

The Fox Theater was converted to an
indoor swap meet which
is pretty much what it was
any night when the lights went down
& the screen lit up
& a drowsy numbness was dealt out in dime bags

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


What else is enough to make a poem
in this day and age?
                                      In this day and age,
it's dark, a poem needs a small flashlight
and a cordless power drill with which to
remove the screws.
                                    It needs to be a kiss
that stings.

a new book of poems by Duncan McNaughton
available now from Blue Press.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Torching the Pier

You didn't have to follow me there to
                               catch the sky repeating itself
tipping down into the sea like an albatross drumstick
                      marinated in phosphorescent kool-aid

                                            something imaginary & for keeps

A black tar reckoning & the slippery slope
carpe the shit out of this diem

                     the light squaring up between tides
                              copper & steel
                                        morning glory
                                                  Dreamsicle orange

& on a clear day you can see the Great Wall of China
shimmering in the distance
              like the Marquess of Queensberry rules
                                                                   in a space suit

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Down in the Groove

I'm only holding on so that I can
feel it all slip away

Pursuing several
lines of inquiry
not the least of which is
raiding the fridge

It either will or it won't
change the complexion of this
late summer sky
glimpsed thru a rail of mist

like all debts
                             real & imagined
a cocktail olive
                    no bigger than the South China Sea
a flock of electric eels
                            riding in on the tide
Death's big toothy grin

The wreck of the Hesperus makes a cameo appearance here
There's really nothing in the fridge
Leaps & bounds a measured response thick as a brick

Sparrows in the cypress hedge
           conspire w/the wind to
                      distract me & it works

           Subliminal Green Waves
                                           (some assembly required)

Driving north on the PCH the
ocean was there a minute ago
good to the last drop

Thursday, August 15, 2019

X Makes Y Sound Like Z

The cypress whistles from the cliff
            the blue sky turns gray turning pink
                        the ocean performs deep breathing
                                    exercises in the kelp grove

1. Trickle trickle
2. Blink
3, Mumbles                    alongside (parenthetically)
                                              Medieval French Verses
                                                  & The Principal Upanishads

The light the air as yet unbruised

                        & the truth kind of sneaks up on you
                                    like a perfumed cigarette

a long way from the sky garden
                        & its hydraulic chrysanthemums

Friday, August 9, 2019

Black & White & Blue Sky

for Miguel Price

Palm trees grow upsidedown in rain puddles outside the Chevron station on Hwy 1 but the Huichol they wear mirrors around their necks & talk about the bird that came from the underworld to place a cross on the ocean. Even though something may have been lost in the translation I'm sure that they meant every word of it. "That the poem will not abandon you is the one score that counts. Today's Bishop Sheen platitude." -Duncan McNaughton, Bolinas, California, somewhere in Dubai, Santa Cruz, later that same day, San Francisco. "Hope Springs Infernal" was how Philip Whalen said it. I wasn't sure if you knew that. Light / radiance / air. It's all right there. Hanging by a thread.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Ripple Effect

I was observing a
psychosomatic minute of silence
& she was drinking tequila from an abalone shell
absolved of beauty
& the unconditional ecstasy of loss

It's all a game of echoes
emotional sonar
done w/mirrors

& later in the morning the rocks north of
the cove will be under water
& a clean right-break will peel in around the point

"Love's Apparition & Evanishment"
if you want to get technical about it

"It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars
and then back to the tide pool again."
                             (John Steinbeck,
                                       The Log From the Sea of Cortez)

Those empty waves at the
Lane deliver news of distant
storms that died at sea
leaving nothing but a soft
sigh to be picked up by a weather satellite
& transmitted to palm trees
along Beach Street

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Myth of the Eternal Return, or You Had to Be There

Orpheus vs the Doppler Effect
The sunset sky rocking
mirror shades
          & the fogmist
                  threaded w/colors
                            blue, green, orange, red,
                                      chrome & turquoise
suggesting the absence of a quorum
as the tides reprise a game of give & take
clobbering the eternal verities
           & just as in the tragic relationship 
                    between flamingo & flamenco
           you could ask whose voice it is this time
           & remember how the guitar came in
           a step behind

Butterfly on Canvas
Changing gears, watching the paint dry,
carving yr name in a wall of jello
                                         The indirect lighting
glimpses & winks
          where the rain slips between
                     but she doesn't have the words
                                 to circle or designate
I would if I had a minute to
think it over
          one minute later than that the
                     sky's a different color & she's not there
You might want to rethink the
spiritual calisthenics at this point
It's 7:32 p.m. & the pier is wearing a silk veil

Mariachi Night on Squid Row
The wings of a gull strumming the breeze
as maybe the whisper of car tires
on the wet pavement of a street that
runs right down thru the
central nervous system of the universe
a one-way street lined w/tattoo parlors
& the occasional roadside shrine
gleaming in the sun like
an empty mirror on the shadow side of the beach
like a silver spoon bending to the flame
like the tinsel light of stars
leaning back into the tuck & roll upholstery
of the evening sky

Friday, July 5, 2019

Suzie Q Does the Zombie Twist

Behind every dark night of the soul there's
a victimless crime w/yr name on it
& babies get tossed like kitchen 
sinks from 8-story windows
only to land w/a thud in the middle of 
yr violin solo

Expecting it all to rattle down into the sand
is one way to say it

clang.  wiggle.  crash.  blink.
The Art of the Fugue

& the band plays & the road hums
inside a cloak of sea mist that
thins out as the sun climbs into a flat blue sky
as though it was a litmus test gone terribly wrong

You could always just chug-a-lug a quart of Pennzoil
& go splashing thru puddles on the ocean floor
          listening to seagulls riffing on something
                    Fats Navarro played in 1950
                              recorded a week before he died

& the wind shifts off-shore to hollow out the waves
that Spring morning at Playa San Pedrito
as I drained the last of the tequila & w/numb fingers
unlaced my sneakers

Some things are given to you
while other things are taken away

Monday, July 1, 2019

Launch Angle

The pale green sky tilted in such a way the
hydrogenic haze slides off into
episodes of stained glass

            sun dazzle
            Madame Butterfly

                                                    Don't even try

The Garden of Earthly Delights like a bottomless
cup of coffee
looking for the pulse of Punta Baja

                        I'd say keep yr sunglasses on
                                    & lose the accent

Walking in on flames
like Mayakovsky
w/a dog named Snake Eyes

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Sunset Motel

The sun drags a string of rusty cans along the horizon & the onshore breeze rides in thru the cypress like Venus on a half-shell huffing airplane glue on the road to Xanadu. The bluish silver-green haze tied w/a pink ribbon & my hesitation to bail on the scene drifting like smoke rings under water, but it wouldn't hurt to read the footnotes. The supplication & the statistical anomalies dissolving in the mist of former expectations. I wasn't listening but I heard every word. The sky bends into flickering neon. The tuning fork lays down a weary doo-wop. The Coppertone girl rides a mule into a field of poppies.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Letters of Transit

"You get what you pay for"

Strumming the Tide
The octopus has three hearts that
leak out thru its manifold
& set fire to the seaweed

I own "The Poems"

The Sheik of Araby
1. Digging the breezes as they go
2. Counting horses on bingo night
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
variations on a theme
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Let's don't & say we did

15 Seconds of Fame
All the little chosen ones
Google yr name

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Never One to Drop the Dime

Beyond the heavy crash of waves
assume only the possibility

            brilliant blue gray silver fog
                               pages turning
                                          Mexican rock & roll

Memory of waking up beneath the Venice pier
it is as it was
            by reason, shame & reverence
                                           A Test of Poetry

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Walking Tiptoe Thru the Ruins of Western Civilization (w/Headphones On)

The rolling dark rocking
deep green turquoise steel
& corrugated foam

which from here resembles the warped
pages of a water-damaged book
the inscription illegible
a map of veins that have burst within
a bouquet of suicide morning glories

but taking it an octave higher than
any dog-eared hymnal would ever recommend

like a black pajama death wish
on the slow train to the Hollywood Laundromat

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Buried in Whispers

These streets belong to another place, another time, set on fire in the yellow tree as the story goes. One step in any direction & you're somewhere else entirely. The deciduous architecture is noted for windows that catch the light & toss it back, as well as for the lack of doorways. The sidewalks & alleyways are always dark, even at high noon on the longest day of summer. Foot traffic is sparse, passersby are mere shadows. I wouldn't even know that you were walking beside me now if not for your ritual string of pearls which seem to glow w/a pulse of muted neon, like the bioluminescence generated by creatures that live in the deepest, most remote parts of the sea.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Stalling for Depth

It is Palm Sunday, a Tuesday, in September
& you're in La Jolla
a suburb of St. Paul, the Assassin

The fortune palms murmur
Sappho whispering to Homer
what being means
as an unspecified amount of rain falls
deflected by the windshield's aura of confidence

The sky sort of breathing
a jungle of details

couldn't tell if I was feeling exalted or exhausted
the giant agave over-run w/second & third thoughts

dancing in parentheses

Septremble, Octember. Nowonder

A single word read sideways could be your
ticket to "The Poems"

Satin & lace
Seaweed & foam

No one ever said it would be easy but it was
lessons I've learned at last forgotten
where in other sentences if Truth is Beauty
it is again but who will be there when the bell rings?

I don't know I'm asking

As I made my slightly unsteady morning rounds I found a delicate, perfect spider web shimmering in the sunlight, so fine, precise, like a transparent LP, like the diaphanous ghost of an LP, suspended in the air above the mint & ragweed

Chet Baker's solo on "Summertime"

(Yeah, fuck the liner notes, Jimmy)

Not to be otherwise
here where I am & you
an instant felt but endlessly in the mind
as it flutters

A million dollar show w/a million dollar cast
in the musical extravaganza of the century

& you'll be there like water beneath the sea
like a shadow in the shade
like a word
whispered into the wind

Monday, April 1, 2019

Where I Live it's Wall to Wall Ocean Thus to Drift is Character

Damp gray days strung out like pearls
but a bluer shade of gray
w/dual exhaust
driving a little pink tractor 
thru another brutal sunset

all tricked-out in
fever haze

I wouldn't know 
from where I part the drizzle but
if you run the numbers you could probably make it work

half past Topanga, Santa Barbara, & Papua
New Guinea

It's raining right now
I left my feet in my other shoes
& yr heart is like a parking lot
paved w/clouds

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Conflict Resolution Among the Mouth Breathers

She wanted to know the preliminary 
parts of whatever
empty rules of heaven
& though I was convinced it had
more to do w/coconut milk & tequila than
the Gnostic scriptures
I just couldn't see how she could
drive that truck all the way there & back
w/a leaky head gasket & no muffler
but like cutting forever in half
w/the sky behind smoked glass
& bongo windchimes knocking in the
late afternoon seabreeze
further is just about as far as you can go

Saturday, March 2, 2019

To the Gods of Medicine & Ding Repair

A flicker of wings maybe
to float the memory
she used to say it that way
on the Avenida
beneath a tropic sky
the same color as 40 links of chain
w/mudslide tremors & gaited horses
out where the coast road veers off into
Bohemian rhapsodies
& the wingless per diem
often mistaken for a synthesis of
ocean fog & Lee Marvin
that random apprehension where
sea meets sky in the pretense & the vapor
doesn't necessarily ring a bell
anywhere but here

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Twofer at the Five & Dime

Transparent reflections on the window glass
are reminders of the illusory nature of existence

A dusting of clouds in the beach sky

No one notices how the color changes but it does

Green, pink, orange & blue
which is strange for this time of year
when pearls & moths should be the prevailing hue

Other colors are playing mahjong & smoking Pall Malls

going to El Segundo, metaphorically 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Pseudo Ensenada

Had me a sky gray Chevy once
w/a backstory that would've made
Coleridge weep

That was back when I used to listen to the 
waves crash in the margins of
The Book of Songs
returning my dreams to their default settings
always careful not to spook the horses

but no more than a tablespoon
as directed
& like Ali Baba bending over backwards
on Walking Crucifixion Day
I wore my hat execution style
because some things never change

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

After you take that step
& the next
                      I mean the one after the last
bridging the gap between
what you want & what you need

highlighted on the chemical map
along w/me & you & Blind Willie McTell

I saw the reflection & heard the echo

TV babies tapping out Morse code jazz
content w/the legend of parachutes & spiritual abuse
so as to hypnotize the walking wounded

It's 10 minutes to sunset
the burnt pink & turquoise sky is
turning somersaults
& you're easily dazzled

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Name of the Rose

The wind backs down the tide
picks up & we're no different

Time spins to the ground
& yr eyes are sand formations
constantly shifting          changing color
though if the light catches them just right they
could be mirrors
suffused in restless ocean gray shadows rippling
in pale sunlight

The mockingbird sings the same song 
but in a higher register

& yr soul if it even exists
I couldn't say if any of us for certain but
something in the air anyway
besides this damp compression of tinsel mist
reaching down to rap its knuckles against the waves

or remember how someone else may have said it
& how easy it was to forget