and: explosions, flames, smoke


sirens, moans, blood & tears

all buried in dust



or: strutting the night


the bowlegged wolverine

sniffs the air, disappears

and is gone


for: who holds the rights?


who knows the wrongs?

how many dead?

questions, years


so: table for two


honestly, I’m a coward

how about you?

are you like me?


rather: relieved not to be


in the schools today

watching how we “commemorate”

this solemn “remembrance”


if: the demolition of empire


fans nationalist, fear-based fires

grooming children to believe

their “ultimate service” to US


yet: this love of country


(maybe) involves killing

and/or dying for . . . it?

more sawed-off bullshit


but: still what? how? why?


i smile, will the lesson

give the benefit of doubt

tell tales of human pain, neither


nor: ignore dark beauty


our black cat staring

into the night sky, i see

three yellow moons

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Champagne Music

I watched The Lawrence Welk Show

on PBS last night half-drunk

on whiskey and was struck by

the blatantly overt whiteness of it,

like this was the model vision

for the reinvention of Making America

Great Again, a sea of well-off

church-going, content and polite whites,

smiling and swaying slowly in

“living-color” to the orchestra

following that white baton waving

hypnotically under glinting chandeliers,

nary an off-white complexion in the bunch,

nor anywhere on screen I frantically scanned

for a hint of that darker American story

of melting or melding pots. Nothing

but Anglo blood bobbed to the polka beat

till Arthur Duncan stepped out to dance

one of his pat “Mr. Welk” style taps

where he’d step-tap and fetch-flap

to a gangly-grinning unpassionate climax,

no smart-assed Sammy Davis, Jr. act,

more of a token appropriate Bo Jangles show

of kowtow and restraint. It Made White

America Feel Good, generous about creating

a space, a prominent (if small) place

on the program to feature a Colored man

exercising his physical agility, the prowess

of his race. Yes, it was mighty white of us,

we thought fifty years ago. We believed

the rhetorical American rainbow was just

a few miles down the road, but the further

we drove, the better we understood that

elusive pot of gold, brother/sisterhood,

wasn’t anymore tangible than Lawrence Welk

reruns—a satiric stroll down memory lane

when white men were forced to integrate.

Change is slow, painful, and that pot of gold

is a complicated metaphor. So before

I pour another glass of whiskey to toast

the luxury of my lower-class privilege,

go ahead and uncork a bottle of bubbly

to join me in celebrating Bohemian Rhapsody,

Roma, Blackkklansman, The Wife, and

let’s hope the hounds baying on the News

tonight are on the trail of a Hollywood ending.

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is a joke

but not

a cruel joke—

just a joke.


What’s cruel

is how we obsess

on something,

get so serious

about it—

that we fail

to laugh

and love,

live today,


enjoy all

the punchlines

and the pains,

those cream

pies and boards

in the face.


What else are you

going to do?


Roll your eyeballs

and wiggle your cigar,

make light of being

in the dark.

Futility grins

and humility

shakes its head.


Each moment

delivers . . .



And then you die.

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Swallows and Rain

Dark clouds burn yellow over Lolo Peak

heavy with rain now puddling dust.

That sweet earth smell recalls my youth

on hot summer days when I waltzed

hay fields and conjured thunder clouds.


Bucking twine bales, building golden temples,

was muscle art to us. We danced and whirled

around the rolling wagon, a clean and dip,

jump and push through sun and hum and sweat.

We sculpted tiers like puzzle kings, compressed

the loaves of cattle larder firm as a stonecutter’s touch,

each corner tied tight and square enough to pass

the niggling pharaoh’s eye. He weighed the threat

of darkening sky molding his crop on the ground.


I craved much more than chaff and wind or

blisters that proved my worth. Vole and tractor

puttered black dirt, Blue-Boy nipped their heels,

a pregnant doe on Butler Creek hung bloated

dead (its broken leg tangled in barbed wire)

and barn swallows dove to bomb our stack, then

fled from our apple-missile attacks, left their nests

(rafter targets) hearts of mud and straw.


The pump-house hose and lunch break swim

quenched our dry, sticky skin like afternoon thunder

pushing winds of promise like weekend pay.

Raindrops began a syncopated increase—like gunshots

on opening day, bombarding the tin-roofed barn.

The wagon crew cut the elevator engine, ran

for cover to wait it out. I collapsed flat on my back

atop the stack, grateful for rain, inhaled the cool-

damp air. I watched a swallow watching me,

both of us dry while the torrent raged on. She was

collared by her bulbous brown-pebbled nest,

calm and grave as a sick pet. I took in, released

alfalfa breath, fingered eggshells glistening in straw.

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I Think

therefore, I have made

myself a poet by insisting I am

a poet after years of insisting

I wasn’t a poet even though I did

know it back then when

I kept insisting I was just a guy

who wrote the shit that came to mind,

those thoughts and observations

we all have, but most don’t

take the time to write down.


So I became a poet by virtue

of putting words on paper

and publishing them in books,

reading them aloud and

acknowledging the proclamations

of others calling me a poet.

I guess a poet is someone who

is determined to be a poet,

wants it enough to read and study

those deemed or claiming to be


poets—a mysteriously undefinable

club begging absolute freedom

for contradiction—that uneasy comfort

of nonconformity—constantly seeking

the safety of distance to confess

ignorance, fear, ecstasy, and suspicion.


Poetry—the delirious diary of existence—

those fragmented lingo-bits gathered

and strewn—a display intoning

straight-on-honest spews or veering

into-through the elliptical, surreal,

ba-jibbity voodoo of language

voiced and heard—our scribbled

account of dreams whispered.


I have made myself a poet

because I claim I am. Therefore,

just ask me, and I will tell you

I am a poet (I think).

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If Beale Street Could Talk


If Beale Street could talk

would America listen?

Maybe if she sang.

New Orleans gave birth

in bloody cobblestone blues

to beat black rhythms 

that blew up the cool

Big-Muddy Jazz river, Sweet

Home Chicago style.

B. B., Howlin’ Wolf,

Hoochie Coochie Man, Satchmo

bled while Lady Day cried,

so white folks might gain

an inkling of shadow pain

wading Beale Street’s tears.


Mark Gibbons

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butterfly effect

vertical bars

on the window

colored flashing lights

piles of newsprint

cigarette smoke

billows outside

a small stack of books

poetry on the sill

intermittent hammering

in the steam radiator

the alley-scape latticed

with poles and power lines

snow covers a ridge

high in the distance

an odd perspective

standing up there

in that saddle before

on warmer days

looking down on this

lake-bottom pose

just one year ago

a young man

chose to move on

for better or worse

who can calculate

that ripple today

the short whelp of a siren

an open garage door

red-blue lights flashing

bottles on the floor

everywhere held breath

and unfinished poems


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Winter Solstice, 2018

Late Migration by Greg Keeler

the long night

sips the chaos

of the day

shapers rape the dream-

time dark

that stew stirring

fat witchery

brewing jack boots

coming closer

doors slamming overhead

they cower in the basement

signal from the shadows

sweating and shivering

they cannot awake

the black night promises

nothing can be done

yet all is illusion

the practiced arts of deception

creation and manifestation

don’t wait hold on

make plans create

cultivate the seeds to bake

the bread loaves rising

from winter wheat

the sun will come

the dawn will break

new light and new days

praise the cold nightmare

incubated by death

the most urgent

and deepest

of dark dreams


Mark Gibbons

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sorry i didn’t call

couldn’t force myself to

pick . . up . . that . . fucking phone

should’ve done that

on the weekend

but i’ve gotten through this

shit before


didn’t work this time

timing is everything

right? wrong

like so much

in the world

and in my head

which finally triggered

that alarm

in the heart

slammed the doors

and locked the exits


don’t worry about me

punching walls

crawling in holes

and hanging

with john barleycorn

are the limits

of my self-



sorry to let you down

but the ship

was taking on water

and i couldn’t bail

fast enough

life rafts

were deployed


nothing worse

than being the focus

of a drama offstage

what i want most

is an audience

who loves me

and my poems


i know you

have been down

this dead end

road old friend

failing to rise

to the challenge

of selling yourself

in the name of cold

cash and credibility


so please give

my love and regrets

to those i know

i left in the lurch

like you i am just

one more lost fool

searching the dark-

hearted wilderness

           —for Sheryl Noethe


Mark Gibbons

July 2017

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My son’s thirtieth birthday.

His mother turns sixty next week,

and her mother, eighty,

is coming to celebrate the dawn

of the decades with us, them,

me, and my other son who turns

twenty-seven in April close

to his brother’s conception date.

Numbers, accounts, descendants,

family. Our DNA marches on.


Dylan told us not to trust

anyone over thirty, so why have we

listened to him for the past

forty years? My old neighbor

told me everyone over forty votes

Republican, but a decade later

he discovered his Butte grandfather

ran guns for the IRA. Today


The newspaper is looking for stories

about the infamous Grateful Dead

concert here forty years ago

where according to many sources,

“nobody liked the show.” Sure,


I was stoned, and what do I know

sitting in the field house nosebleed

seats grinding my teeth, and riding

the waves of adjusted perception,

Jerry’s blues tiddly-rumpling

in front of that “wall of sound,”

a mellow rock and cocaine roll—

three and a half hours of tonal flow?


As the legend goes, on the anniversary

of that show, somebody threw a plastic

pitcher, hit Bob Weir in the head, and

The Dead walked off the stage.


Up in the rafters for hours on end,

when they walked off from the encore,

I figured they were all in, most likely

as tired as me. After all, I wasn’t

quite twenty, and they were close to

being as “untrustworthy” as Dylan.


“Disappointed” some said described

the show, but I guess I was too high

up in the bleachers riding the flow

of music that just rolled and rocked

on and on, then played and played

and played some more. I figured

I’d gotten more than my money’s worth.


It was the Grateful Dead for

fuck’s sake! That was just a decade

before my son was born

which was another drama that went on

three times longer than I figured

it would, culminating in a life

change, fatherhood, something else

I knew nothing about going in.


Let’s face it, we’re along for the ride

and grateful to be here, I imagine

even if we’re Bob Weir. I know

I’m thankful for this gathering

in the guise of numbers, decades,

anniversaries, Earth spins around

the sun, another one for the books,

the records, and those beyond

keeping track of it, all that

silly shit we do to count coup

on the old wolf, father time.


Mark Gibbons

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