Archives for posts with tag: Michael Dennis

there are enough
stars in the sky
for all of my wishes
and all of yours

my reasoning
is no better
than yours

we climb over
one another
like we were monkeys
in a puzzle

like we were alligators
in the reeds
our big bug eyes
breaking surface
all that menace

you need what I have
and vice versa
we all want
our version of joy

the apple in the tree
doesn’t recognize the picker
doesn’t care about much
at all
apple sauce or gravity

we will eat the apple
or the worms will get it

if we eat the apple
or not
the worms will get us

Michael Dennis


“The truth is, most wisdom is embittering.  The task of the wise person cannot be to pretend with false naiveté that every moment is new and unprecedented, but to bear the burden of bitterness that experience forces on us with as much uncomplaining dignity as strength will allow.  Beyond that, all we can ask of  ourselves is that bitterness not cancel out our capacity still to be surprised.”
Phillip Lapote

so Nelson Mandela is now
where he’ll never have to crush
another rock

so is Tito, so is Jimmy Stewart
“we are dust” cry the Mujahedeen
“Ask the Dust” suggested John Fante

it’s hard to know
who the smart people are

I suspect the best of them
never reveal a thing
they keep their wisdom
to themselves
hold their cards close to their chests
never raise their hands

at home
in their quiet rooms
they lament over idiocy

put their pants on
one leg at a time
wait, patiently
for the next thing
to happen

Michael Dennis

Conventionality is not morality.  Self-righteousness Is not religion.  To attack the first is not to assail the last.  Charlotte Bronte, 1847

in our country tolerance is waning
as the world turns right

all those long battles for human rights
papered over with short-sighted dogma

heartless theory where
ideology trumps reason

historically, we know all these things
just ask the Jews of Berlin

all those crazy Russian cats
playing jazz in those cool gulags

ask the Cree how ideology
worked out for them

as the Jesuit crows descended
like black rain

as the future faded fast and final on Hiroshima
in the bright light of a promised dark

we are dust
specks under the illuminating sun

what we take from this earth
and each other

the measure
of our complicity

what we give back
our only chance at grace

Michael Dennis


it’s so hard to know what is true
this is the same all over the world
burning monks try to tell the truth in Nepal

the Berlin Wall is now in pieces
in a million different homes
scraps of painted concrete
sold by East Germans
and enterprising Poles

ghosts sing silly songs in Rwanda
and the Taliban still shoots school girls

Nelson Mandela, who was so angry
he saw black and white and red
walked out of that stone-breaking prison
and turned the other cheek

while somewhere in Serbia
a monk, desperate and holy
forgives himself in a sea of pivo

Leonard Peltier may have been at Wounded Knee
he sure as hell was at Little Big Horn
now, well, you know where he is now

it is so hard
to tell the truth

like the butcher with his thumb on the scale
we try to balance
what we know
with what we need
we try to reckon with reason
tell ourselves the story
that makes us feel best

dogs bark their barky bark
and cats meow and growl

I’ve even seen
a cat who could bark like a dog
when the occasion called for it

although she felt guilty about it
when discovered

it was the first time I saw
that animals are liars too

Michael Dennis

in Cuba
he is present everywhere

perhaps loved most
because he didn’t live

long enough
to diminish his legend

being a revolutionary
is romantic stuff

building a nation
and an ideology

as Fidel will tell you
can be hard on one’s reputation

Che’s beautiful charismatic face
never ages, never compromises

the old Grandmother sits under glass
behind the old palace

as tourists get sunburns in sandals
spend their hard currency

on cigars and hats
they will never wear again

somewhere in Bolivia
the ghost of Che cringes

crumples his fatigue coloured cap
in frustration

Michael Dennis

the Beatles tore the 20th century apart
the 2nd World War tore the 20th century apart
Dr. Martin Luther King tore the 20th century apart
the mercury soaked lips
of the beautiful Yasar Arafat
tore the 20th century apart
Michael Corleone tore the 20th century apart
Nazis tore the 20th century apart
Mao Tse Tung tore the 20th century apart
John Wayne Gacy tore the 20th century apart
Woodstock and Biafra tore the 20th century apart
Henry Ford and the automobile tore the 20th century apart
Coca-Cola tore the 20th century apart
Little Joe and Hoss Cartwright tore the 20th century apart
the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall tore the 20th century apart
Women’s Liberation tore the 20th century apart
my sister Sally tore the 20th century apart
AIDS tore the 20th century apart
the Kalashnikov tore the 20th century apart
racism tore the 20th century apart
greed tore the 20th century apart
Elvis Presley tore the 20th century apart
Richard Nixon tore the 20th century apart
and so on

Michael Dennis

you are travelling
with a large group of people

guilt by association
idiocy by proxy

it’s simple math
in any large group

you are going to have
a Larry, a Curly, a Moe

the average age on our bus of fifty
is fifty, or more

plenty of years to hone idiosyncrasy
no one is worse than any other

just louder or more devious
or more out of place

my seat mate and life partner
we are not immune

we have our own silliness
our own aging flaws

our tourist bus magically
arrives at our next destination

our group spills out
like wilted flowers
searching for a stream

Michael Dennis

we drove out of the city towards the mountains
as the haze of Havana disappeared in the mirror
a ’51 Ford cut in front of our path
belching black smoke
out of its’ sixty-three year old muffler

we rolled through the country side
past the proposed grand canal ditch
and into those hills
that we were told looked like China

at a small private diner tucked off of the road
my wife ate the chicken
and I had the shredded beef
there was lots of salad, beans and rice
tender yucca with sweet oil

in the mountains we found the caves
and in the caves a river
and on the river in the cave
we took a motorboat

the motorboat went down that river
and out the other side
of the mountain

where a man was offering rides
on a saddled long-horned oxen
the beast didn’t seem to mind

driving back to the city
we were quieter

as we watched the Cuban countryside
roll out and away from us
in every single direction

Michael Dennis

it’s almost midnight
in a few minutes I’ll pick up a book
and head up to bed
I usually read a book of poems before sleep
tonight it will be the Collected Poems of Lenore Kandel
when I get into bed
my side of the sheets will be cold
I’ll cuddle with my sleeping wife for a moment
it is a sleeping ritual, she’ll wake, smile, kiss me
and then curl into my back
as I turn the pages, read those poems

in the morning, she’ll be up for an hour
before she wakes me to shower
I’ll drive her to work
and then back home
where I will make the bed, do the dishes
cook the supper
and then wait for that moment
that comes late at night
where she wakes up again, smiles
loves me

Michael Dennis

it was the weekend before Christmas
I’d returned to the town I grew up in
for a funeral of sorts

an old friend had died too young
and his clan was gathering
to fete him out in style

hundreds came
raised a glass

on the same trip
I went to the local hospital
to see the man who raised me

the man I called Dad
I’d seen him several weeks ago
and he’d been okay

in the intervening days
he had tumbled
he’d fallen headfirst

into his own
he’d quit

taken out his teeth
and given up

this man and I
don’t share a name
or blood

the space between us
has always been tempered
by my mother, my sisters

as death approaches
slower than my father would wish
it seems all pretense is gone

I’ve called this man Dad
for fifty years
and when I arrived

and asked if he
wanted a visit
he said “no”

knowing it might be our last
I said those things
I wanted him to know

attempted to say my goodbye
longed for some connect
some eye contact

my voice echoed around his room
and I sat there listening to it
until it was time to leave

I kissed his balding head
and watched his eyes
not watching me

I said my sad goodbyes
and then
walked quiet down the hall

he’d never said

Michael Dennis

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