How To Have A Poet’s Heart

She asks me, “Is there any advice
you can give to someone who
wants to have a poet’s heart?”
First, find the poet of your choice.
Subdue them. There are many ways:
drugs, perhaps, although be sure
to choose ones that won’t damage
the various atria and ventricles
of your poet’s heart. If drugs are
too illicit for your tastes, consider
seduction, an abundance of alcohol,
or what my father would call
ball-peen anesthetic.

Next, you will need a cardiologist
with a questionable ethical character
and a mostly-clean operating room:
I hear you can get a great deal
on them in Brazil or maybe Colombia.
And of course, you will need a
very sharp scalpel and a jar.
You will need a large glass jar
to keep your poet’s heart in,
so you can pull it off the shelf
from time to time and admire it.

Incidentally, you might give some
thought to what you will do with your poet
when you have claimed his or her heart:
a heartless poet tends to sour
and really isn’t good for anything at all.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.

Ars Poetica: Davey Jones

You plagiarized your heart, love,
copied it uncredited from storybooks
the rest of us have abandoned.

Don’t you know that our hearts
are salted and stowed
in the echoing holds of the
storm-tossed hulks
to which we resigned our fates?
Like you, we pickled our dreams
in barrels of paper and ink.

You’ll sink with the rest of us, love,
you’ll drown amid the uncredited echoes
of our extinguished ambitions:
you will fail, you will fail, you will fail.
Swept beneath the keel
or faceless in the flood:
understand, love, that your words
are only new to yourself.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.

The Bones of Neruda and a Red Pomegranate

I read on the news
that they are pulling up Pablo.
His bones, at least, and the coffin dust
and whatever else is in
the bottom of that Chilean box.

You have put on your apron
and are peeling the jewels
out of the last red pomegranate
of the season. The sun sneaks
through the window
to play gold in your hair.
You do not care about dead poets,

only the ones whose hearts
still thump beneath their ribcages,
but I tell you about Neruda’s bones
anyway. His driver says he was poisoned
and they are pulling him up to see
if you can poison the poetry
out of the marrow of a man
swallowed up by it.

I tell you this, but you are not listening,
and you pop a tiny blood aril
into your mouth, a tart-sweet gem
the taste of which you pass in a kiss.

With juice and you on my tongue,
I give up on telling you about Neruda.
You already know what poetry tastes like.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.

Sleep Study

Because I snore at night and wake
chewing on a tongue of terror,
my doctor prescribed a sleep study.

Tonight, at the hospital,
a nurse binds me to a clinic bed
with sensors and wires and straps,
an electric kind of bondage —
I am tubed and surveilled,
expected to sleep soundly
in this antiseptic ghost of a bedroom,
where someone always listens
and someone always watches.

Two a.m., half-addled, I teeter
on consciousness, stumble-drunk,
one foot in the world and one in slumber.
Stare at the glass eye over my head
and wonder what all this paraphernalia
tells my nurse about me. What
can she read on her charts and monitors?

Can she see the yellow eyes
that have stalked through
my sleep since I was a child?

Can she see the name tags
fettered to my wet dreams?

When I wake, I’ll ask her
if she can draw me a map
through the architecture of sleep
to the fountain where
my poetry spills forth,

to the spring in the rock
and the steaming basin of words
where I drown every night;

every morning, I surface and gasp
for air, wring what drops of poetry
I can out of my beard and onto the page,
and, spent, forget my way back
until sleep seduces me again.

Poetic Forms

You have asked me to recite you poems
but why dwell on poems past?
I would rather undress you,
close my eyes and let my hands
find the poems your body hides:
your shoulder’s sonnet,
clavicle clerihew, haiku hip,
pantoums in the palms of your hands,
limericks that lick your lips,
ballad and villanelle of breast and vulva,
free verse fingers roaming.

Your body speaks enough poetry
for the both of us.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.

The Special Dinner

I wanted to cook a great dinner
for you tonight, so I went to the market
and bought armfuls of fresh ingredients:

new herbs and ripe bright vegetables,
oil and wine and fine cuts of meat,
everything I needed to make a meal
for you.

I spent an hour in the kitchen,
I chopped and seasoned and mixed,
I seared and sauteed

and then somewhere between
the asparagus and the tarragon,
the muse put her lush lips against
my ear and seduced me off
to write another poem.
I lost track of time.
I burned everything.

This is what happens
when you are loved by
a poet who plays at being a chef.

Now the house smells of smoke,
of the stinking charred mess
at the bottom of the trash can,
but we’ll open the windows
and order Chinese takeout,

sit on the living room floor
and eat lo mein and egg rolls.
When you open your
fortune cookie, I’ll hope it says

Don’t run. He is a good man
even if he is easily lured away.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.


There will come a time
when all my notebooks
will be full of poetry.

I’ll be forced to scrawl
poems in the margins
of books, on the backs
of grocery store receipts,
all along the floor and
across every wall in this
house and then I will
grab your hand and
pull you into the bedroom.

I will undress you, expose
all the naked parts of you,
and I’ll make love to you like
you are one of my notebooks
and my fingers are inkpens;

I mean I will find poems
for every inch of your skin,
for throat and thigh, for
shoulderblades and hips,
poems to wind their way
into the wisps of hair at
the back of your neck,
poems for earlobe and
clavicle, for palm and wrist
and the arch of your small foot.

I will write the tiniest poems
to fill up the spaces
between your fingers
and to fill the spaces
between your toes
and to fill the spaces
between your skin and mine.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.


Some poems are not meant for the page.
They are meant for cups and bowls.
They are meant to be poured out
onto the floor or dashed off the bedside table
by rampant elbows.

They are made for splattering,
for long rivulets dripping down the walls
like watercolors or alcohols
or to be drunk, to get drunk upon
and stumble, tipsy and blurry-eyed,
slurring out through the lips
and encouraging bad decisions.

They are poems meant to taste
like paint: pigmented and thick,
or watery and slick thin,
but poems that recolor you
from the inside out, just the same.

They are poems like slurry and mud, meant
to hold footprints, meant to be tracked through
and ruin your mother’s just-cleaned linoleum,
poems that can be followed by
those who come in your wake.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.

Bucket List

You asked me once
if there was a list of things
I wanted to accomplish before
I died.

My list is so long.

I want to wander it all:
Arashiyama, Giant’s Causeway,
the glowworm caves of Waitomo.
Even the old coal mines
of Bibb County, Alabama,
even the cracked streets
of backwater towns no one
visits anymore but coyotes
and weeds.

I want to explore all the secrets
this world tucks into her rocky deserts,
into her wild grasslands, into the valleys
and caverns slung beneath her blue sea belly
like stretchmarks three days after
a new mother gives birth.

I want to write a thousand books
about all the beauty I’ve discovered,
about all the raw ugly beauty of us,
and buy with them a place
among my idols,

and if I can’t,
I want to subvert them:

to scrawl 10,000 poems
like graffiti into the walls of buildings
on every continent on this planet,
even goddamn Antarctica.

I want to hack the airwaves
and interrupt these
regularly scheduled programs,
to interject poem
after wild guerilla poem
between the nightly pundits
and the shitty sitcoms
and the car insurance commercials.

I want to experience weightlessness,
to slip the chains of orbit
and see the world the way asteroids do,
to fling my poems down from satellites
and watch them burn up like cinders
in the atmosphere or crash into cities
leaving craters so smoking and wide
they can never be forgotten.

I want schoolchildren to know my name;
I don’t give a damn if it’s for greatness
or for infamy.

All these grandiose things
are never going to happen.
But truth is, I don’t need
any of them to be content:

Let me hold your hand every night
for the rest of my life, even if
my fingers grow arthritic and gnarled.

Let me kiss you every morning
for the rest of my life,
even if, in my old age,
I forget the sound of your name.

Let me write for you
one little poem every day:
a haiku, a cherita, a rhyming couplet,
if that’s the only thing I can muster out.
I just want a poem for you
as the last words
to breathe past my lips.

That’s all I need.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.

To The Poet At His Girlfriends’ Office Party

When her coworkers ask
So what is it you do?
Do not tell them the truth.

Say, instead,
I am a firecracker.

I am a time bomb.

I am a hurricane whirling,
an earthquake shaking the earth awake,
a rocket screaming open the bright blue sky,

I am a war cry.

and then, when they know
exactly what it is you do
take a sip of water
and mumble something about
poetry books and publishing them.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.