The most common use of surreptitious is with the -ly suffix: Surreptitiously.
But to use it as a noun, “He is surreptitious” is surely loquacious behavior.
However, I’ve been more interested in the root: Surrep-
which can sound like syrup depending on how you pronounce it.
Although there’s always been something unsavory (no pun intended) about syrup.
It lacks couth, where molasses, with similar viscosity, seems able to maintain integrity.
Syrup, or especially surrep- owns decidedly clandestine attributes.
I stole the idea of molasses, it seems to say, replacing it with an imposter.
And perhaps you aren’t even aware of the difference.



According to etymology crisp is defined as meaning
“to become brittle”
though the use of brittle, I attest, would have to be its pejorative form.
Brittle’s connotations suggest something less desirable
as though calling a potato chip “brittle” would be an insult,
which is the highest of inconsistencies,
since I doubt anyone would want their chip soggy or leastways, malleable.
It is not a mistake that Chips and Crisp are nearly identical and easily mistaken in their spatial relationships:
The isss sounds with no ‘Z’ and the hard ‘P’ defends its case with its own onomatopoeia;
the sound of a chip crisply snapped;
or breaded and fried chicken crunching in my mouth;
or a hard pretzel crumbling over molars;
or glacial mountains thundering with a splash into the ocean;
or the popping of meat over a fire; edges browning, blackening until carbon laces the steak in gristle.

Crisp’s associations with brisk are prevalent.
A winter morning is both crisp, and brisk.
And the proximity of both words in tandem is utterly delicious.
Say it, you’ll see. Crisp. Brisk. Mmm.
The crisp briskness is a crisply aural sound;
the hard sucking of teeth in response to pain or in sympathy to it;
the crust of the snow that has melted and refrozen atop the powder;
the temporal slate that squirrels skitter over unimpeded by the snow’s depth.
My own boots, for a moment look like they will walk on water before crashing inward;
Snapping like a crisp chip, salt particles flinging into the air.

God is Calling


The backlight is lit and flashing.
The phone is rattling in my hand.
But I wonder if I will answer?

I see him in a hole in my sock.
His peach-colored handiwork swirls
Peek out into a fabric-less world
Where my footprint is his fingerprint.

The words you have said—
I am the door
I am the living bread
I am the light of the world
I am the good shepherd
I am the resurrection
I am the true vine
I am the way
I am the truth
I am the life
I am Jesus

—can I believe that?
Why have you made such a fragile me?

I’m masquerading false humility.
What good is it?
If I got turned inside out
And saw the way I really am
What would I think of me then?

Not intestines, entrails and organs.
But abstractions and presumptions.
I am dead while I breath.
This is fodder to feed my fears
And proof that problems
Never go away by ignoring them.

Hello? I say.
It’s me, he says.
I know.



On the sand it all makes sense:
Lay flat, balance, position is important.
Feet at the end of the stick, paddle out
And paddle through the whitewater.

I’ve got to go outside.
I’ve got to go to the unbroken waves.
I keep staying in the whitewater.

Go straight out through the oncoming whitewater—

You’ve always told me
Take that surfboard straight through the waves—
But I’m stuck in the whitewater.

You tell me to trust you.
You tell me to take courage.
That you will keep me afloat.
That you will save me.
Can’t I stay in the whitewater?

Why must I be Peter?
Wasn’t he enough?
I am content, so don’t call to me.
That’s a lie.
I’m in the whitewater.

But don’t call to me.
It’s churning and I could never—Come
Haven’t I come far enough? Can’t you come to me?
But I have
You’re beyond the whitewater.

When will I stand up?
I must kneel first.
Will I ever kneel first?
I’ve got to go through the whitewater.

Brewing Beer


—for Mike

I can make a clone
if you give me the right ingredients.

Brewer: Me.
As far as batch size is considered,
taste my preferred draft first and if you like it enough, have as much as you want.
The color should come as no surprise: Dark—one might say brooding—and ambiguous with a bite.
Yes, it’s very bitter.
ABV? It’s called intoxication for a reason. The less I have to think, the better.
And most of my fellow brewers would agree.
I call it the All American Dream Ale.
Equipment? My equipment, of course. It’s all anybody’s got.
The Boil Time is all day, every day. Never know when you’ll need to be ready.
Don’t want to be caught unprepared.
Mash Profile: Single infusion, heavy body(burdensome even), and a lot of mash out.
Taste Rating: As long you’re not a connoisseur you won’t be able to tell the difference.

I can make gallons of this stuff
so close, you can’t tell I’m a counterfeit.

Bigger Better More


Robert Creely imitation—
“The Warning”

I wish my hands were bigger so that I could hold more of you;
that my arms would grow longer to wrap around you like mummified linens.
I wish I could exhume your deepest secrets like an unstuffed taxidermy;
pull them out, pile them up, and print them in the dailies.
I wish I could pluck your out your eyes,
stringing them like Christmas lights that would glow through July.
I wish I could trace your outline with police chalk,
so I could snap photographs of your curves to shelve in the evidence room.
I wish I could crack your breasts like eggs, pouring them into a molding cast
to preserve them in bronze marvels at an excavation.
I wish I could rip off your ears like pink mushrooms growing along trunk roots;
clasping them up to my throat so you can hear every sweet nothing whisper.
I wish I could swallow the looping licorice crescents of your lips
savoring the finest cut of rare steak with each bite.
I wish I could knock out your teeth and tongue to keep in jars;
shaking an instrument the emanates the sound of your voice.
I wish I could replicate your hair, unsheathing strands like scrolled blueprints,
thumb-tacking each down to sketch the angles with a pencil.

For bigger, for better, for more of you, I would.
And yes,
For love-I would split open your head
and put a candle in behind the eyes.

When I say I love you, this is what I mean: I am never satisfied with being close enough.
I wish I could graft myself to you with a blow torch,
heating our skin until it melts together.
Like when our fingers intertwine into a ball of squirming snakes,
hungrily swallowing each other to get warm.
I want to cross section every piece of you,
So that I can know you inside and out like my own personal Mudder Museum.

At Last


Where men are finished with their speeches and can finally hear God
I hold my arms above my head and gravity pulls them down against my muscles
And I can hear the earth spinning—all the groaning of millenniums—
Trucks braking on abandoned highways, wheat stalks bending in forgotten fields,
And all of it spinning—held close—and forever fragilely intact,
With the precarious balance of a top—that in a moment it should fall.

(Edgar Allan Poe) In My Pants


The Raven in my pants.
The Black Cat in my pants.
The Cask of Amontillado in my pants.
A Descent into the Maelstrom in my pants.
The Gold-Bug in my pants.
Hop-Frog in my pants.
The Imp of the Perverse in my pants.
The Purloined Letter in my pants.
Eldorado in my pants.
The Masque of the Red Death in my pants.
The Oval Portrait in my pants.
The Pit and the Pendulum in my pants.
The Premature Burial in my pants.
The Haunted Palace in my pants.
Annabel Lee (Er—I mean my wife!) in my pants.
The Tell-Tale Heart in my pants.
The Bells in my pants.
The Conqueror Worm in my pants.
A Dream Within a Dream in my pants.

Mourning Poem


death makes me want to shut down, shut up, shut in and be a child again;
one who doesn’t understand what it meant when grandpa P passed
and mom and dad said he’s in heaven,
one who got excited for him and hoped he’d write a letter and tell me what heaven is like
and for a few weeks whenever we would be in the car I looked at the clouds
hoping I would catch him peeking over and wave to him.
all I want is to be that same child
pulling out plastic figurines and directing toy battles on the carpet with my brother
with an evil boss and his entourage of saber-toothed tigers running and leaping on the hero and his knights and army men.
and even though many of them fall, in the very last moment the good guys win the fight,
killing the boss and his dinosaur minions… and yet, they were never really dead.
as soon as they went into the Tupperware container and the lid snapped shut and opened again, everything was as it should be,
because everyone died, but everyone came to life again to play their timeless part
and even the bad guys got a break…but it’s not like that, and people stay dead
the good and the bad die, the heroes get old and have strokes, and the villains get pneumonia
and I miss them both because the bad never got to know what it felt like to be good, to be loved, to be the hero, to be in heaven.
and I miss the good, because they were good, and it’s selfish and I don’t care because I wish they were here until we could all go together.
but that’s not how it works and grandpa P isn’t in the clouds and I’m never going to see some of those people again.
and I want to cry, but I don’t,
I stare vacantly remembering and wishing I was a kid again;
where none of this mattered, where none of it hurt,
where people like Florence get healed of her breast cancer and where husbands like Danny still got to still sleep next to her at night and hope for the future where somehow they could still be together
and not have to bury his wife
and I tell my own wife “it’s times like these that people get angry at God, when instead they should be running to him,”
and as I say it, I feel myself getting angry.

The Light has Returned (Sestina)


Beyond the pinpoint of midnight there is a light.
And within that dollop of a spark there is heat,
The flames jockeying for position on a red wick.
From a hand protrudes a slender white candle
That connects to the silhouetted body of a man
There, some unknown messenger of long lost hope.

Like Noah’s dove, he has returned holding hope.
Grasping securely onto the remains of a guiding light
Wax slides onto his fingers as he raises the bright candle,
Incandescence illuminates the hands of this man
Coalescing gently over his skin, it purges liquid heat.
A wavering glow, desperate sparks cling to the wick.

A filament pyre, colors of fire race through the wick,
Cycles of autumn re-imagine the vision of hope
And will long sought deliverance be found in this man?
Has he come that we may walk in his marvelous light?
We in darkness have dreamed of knowing heat,
But until now have had no way to light our candles.

A great and reviving jubilation exudes from the candle
An ever-changing aura of flames frolic on the wick.
The winter of darkness has been overcome by heat.
And with that warmth comes an even superior hope,
As our eyes swell with promise at this newfound light
And it draws deliberately nearer in the arms of this man.

But why would he be mindful of another man?
Who are we that he would care for our extinguished candles?
Why would he come to crown us in his light?
Yet he beckons, that we would come near to his wick.
He promises to generously share this flare of hope,
And we will be renewed by the heritage of its heat.

Carrying the fire, our own bodies will emanate his heat
Selflessly given to us by this figure much more than a man.
And from his coming, we will walk forward in hope,
Abiding in the sight afforded to us by his candle
With his offering we are captivated by the golden wick
That we may forever return with him to the city of lights.

With the consuming heat that radiates from this man
We have understood that he is our only hope and as his candle
Has lit our wicks to burning, he declares, “I am the light!”

You Got the Wrong Guy


No, no, don’t call me that,
I told you, you got the wrong guy.
He ain’t me, or I ain’t him,
but either way, I’m not the man you’re looking for.
No, no, it’s not up to you, heck, it’s not up to me.
I am who I am, and I’m not him.
You’ve misheard, or been mistold,
you’d be better taking your allegations elsewhere.
Try as you might, plead if you will,
it makes no difference ‘cause I’m not your man.



“Nights like these I wish I was dead,” she says
and he nods assent knowing
that could only be but about half true
when she’s been known to exaggerate
every now and then
and how could she know
what dead is like anyway
or if it’s any better
for that matter.

Wouldn’t she be in for it.
But he doesn’t tell her that
because he knows better,
knows that once she makes up her mind
you’d be daft to tell her otherwise.
He tried once and remembers
how well that turned out.
No sir, not at all,
and there’s nothing you or
anybody else can do about it.
So he keeps nodding
and says, “yeah, definitely,” every
thirty seconds or so
but who’s counting?
He’s not.

Every Atom


An all Walt Whitman imitation—
“Song of Myself”

For every atom belonging to me belongs to you.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this air,

The smoke of my own breath, passing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sound of the words of my voice to the eddies of the wind.

To elaborate is no avail, sure as the most certain sure,
I and this mystery here we stand.
Clear and sweet, the unseen is proved by the seen,
Till that becomes unseen shall I postpone my acceptation and realization.

These come to me days and night and go from me again,
Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am.

I believe in you, swiftly spread around me the peace and knowledge
And I know that the hand of God is the promise,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother,
And that creation is love, and limitless are leaves, and brown ants, and mossy scabs.

I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A gift bearing the owner’s name, that we may see, and say
All goes onward and outward,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.

Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?

The little one sleeps in its cradle, living and buried,
I come and I depart.

The doors stand open and ready, and I am there.

You should have been with us that day.
I saw the far west and he came to my house, I heard his motions and led him in
And brought water, and gave him a room, and gave him clean clothes,
And remember perfectly well, I had him sit next me at the table.

Night Interstate


He pulls tired eyes from the sideview mirror
Watching headlights chase dark highway
They skim to the rearview and dashboard

And he, the road’s only passenger
As miles bleed into an unaltered scenery
With tree walls that hedge him on either side

Faint premonition settles in his seat
It stares quietly at the back of his head
Enticing his mind to wander more than he would like

Prompting solitary introspection
Until a gleam of twin stars a half mile behind
Appears and gradually erodes their distance

For the length of a breath both cars drive parallel
Their engines sharing a thrum as though
They were two halves of a much larger machine

But his neighbor slides into the lead
Breaking their momentary bond
Once white headlights, now red

Driving off the pace at three hundred yards
Eased, he shifts behind the new leader
Knowing that he has found someone to follow
And the road cannot end without his knowing:
The one who goes before will be able to tell him that

Night inks out dormantly, absorbing their exchange
His exit magnifies and he takes the overpass
Counter-crossing the expressway from below

Arriving at budding sidewalks and civilization
He brakes to the stoplight to face opposing cars
And as the signal climbs down to its green perch

For a moment, he may not have remembered if asked,
He wonders, not so much where they will go, but instead
When they enter the empty parkway, who will they follow?



Thoughts are so very different
they have no boundaries, need
no explaining; they are words
and pictures but totally unlike
A picture still needs words to
animate it
Words are still needed to
describe a picture but a thought
has use for both, but is never
dependent on either
A thought is already alive where
commentary is cumbersome, it is
the wordless movie we have seen
so many times, we already know
the score
And expending one-millionth of
the time to think then the time to
explain—and even when we do
explain, the colors aren’t vivid
enough, the expressions aren’t
genuine enough, not quite how
we’d like them, the proportions
are off.

As she stands in the entrance
of the sanctuary, every sense
taking in the chatter, the perfume,
the palette, the cool air on her
bare forearms, the acrid residue
of a breathmint and still cannot
ascertain the beauty which is not
sight, and the voice which is
not words, which he says
to her

Enjoy, my daughter! Look
what I have done.



I keep drawing strawmen
sketched, smoldering somewhere on the backburner

my consciousness registers the faulty pitch and swings
right from contact I know it’s a knockout

shredding the stuffing out of scarecrows
stepping on a rake I already knew was there

lurching up like figures of target training
where I’ve been waiting to fire away

every argument wide with holes big enough
to light on fire and cartwheel between

but could we stop before another round
I’ve tired of this charade

and you would never say something like that
so shut up because I’m tired of arguing with you

A Drive on Interstate 390 and Other Places


Away we go away from Owego
And by the place where all’s well in Endwell—
To where perhaps there’s gold buried in Gouldsboro.
Further on, to where one wonders why
There’s such animosity towards vegetation in Bushkill Falls.
Of course, that’s nothing compared to Buttzville,
Which must be a terrible place to live, butt made a great rest stop.
There were others. They’re still there.
I imagine I’ll go back some time.