Thursday, March 05, 2015

a short personal history of american exceptionalism, first draft

we ended up
in what the original people called
turtle island
by circumstance
or luck
or just plain running away
from what was
to what might be
such is the case with all migrations
voluntary isn't the first word that comes to mind
millions crawling forward
in the dark
of a thousand pogroms
or swimming in the wetback
of a hungry village
we had no right
or document
to flee
just an instinct

yet we weren't marked as slaves
no chattel chains
nor categorized with three-fifths personhood 
     set on the auction block & bled
     or lynched
     never the betrayal of
     forty acres & a mule
but herded into the cities
already stolen
& carved out
divorced from the indigenous
& all natural habitats
now home to our tenements
& industrial row houses
bodies stretched
across an open-hearth
a fiery sacrifice

the push west
wasn't made
of john wayne wagon trains
& staged sunsets

manifest destiny       the code word
before the word genocide
     wounded knee
     & trails of tears
marking every milepost
with a land imprisoned
to copper & gold & zinc
& oil & gas & uranium & coal
of eastern bankers
& misnaming it

so now you see
it all came
from the blood
of someone else
never a shining city
on a hill

leaving it up to each of us
dwelling in the voice
of the ancestors 
listening to every inflection
before saying it
     with metaphors
     of wolves & buffalo
that there's a haunting
we should welcome  
and from loneliness
     perhaps grace

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

earth note 319

smathers beach, key west

a mustang convertible
barges onto
the atlantic ocean
bicycle/walking trail
just to put pretty bodies
to a scenic backdrop
bringing everything else
to a halt

i bite my tongue
before saying
oh fuck     your tan is good enuf
a worst case scenario
of when school ends
they take on the world

--- e b bortz

Saturday, February 21, 2015

sure as shit

a war resolution
from congress or duma
will heap unforeseen tragedy
on every red-blooded young body
thinking that it's time for them to
answer the call
of iraq syria ukraine

the decapitators & zealots
will cheer them on
cashing in another bank note
for a new facebook page
of surface-to-air missiles

what good is a nation or caliphate
if you can't grease
the machinery of private profit

eugene victor debs knew the score
     look him up

all blood flows downhill
the rain turns red
like the desert

--- e b bortz

Friday, February 20, 2015

earth note 318

bicycle tires
wear like my gloves
with no permanence
the mark i leave
is less than
what's expected
with the road
by default
another beginning

--- e b bortz

Monday, February 16, 2015

two hots & a cot

red & white abandonment
just another building
across from key west salvation
& chapel
like another southernmost
former burger dive
poet outcast artists
not welcome
in the world of 
do not trespass
surveillance cameras
& parking spaces

so this is what
the beat evolution
has come to

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 15, 2015

earth note 317

dark shadows
shallow water
sponges tremble
just below the body
of the kayak
occasionally some grunts
near the culvert
white ibis
dilly-dally nearby

a perfect angle of sunlight
lights up the ocean floor
man-o-ray quivers out
just ahead of my approach
slips ahead again

a hand
has opened
i follow

--- e b bortz

Friday, February 13, 2015

earth note 316

there's no copyright
on the flight pattern
of an osprey

it has those broad
cursive sweeps
easily confused

even when the intent
should be enough
to satisfy the archivists

when there are two or more
there's the beauty
of disorder

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 08, 2015

music for tips

big pine key flea market
another saturday
busting out at the seams
if two guitars & a harmonica
won't move you
then go further down
past the diver stalls
wood & jewelry artists
a thousand tee-shirts
to where
original poems for tips
hangs out
gathering up
little more than a sunburn

--- e b bortz

Thursday, February 05, 2015

earth note 315

hearing the rain
for what it really is
     a drifter tapping
     on the roof
bare feet
like a sculptor's hands
there are signs of gray clay
by the roadside
moving on
when the wind
says so

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

no joke

a day before
the super bowel
a cruise ship
docked in key west
full of uneaten buffets
stacked red wine glasses
and a shit-load
of hyper-ventilating sport shirts

not a plumber
on board

--- e b bortz

earth note 314

when the retaining wall
finally gives way
underground will become
above ground
an elaborate root system
beginning anew
finding the sun again
recovering water
from the mountains
rain from
the heavens

--- e b bortz

Monday, February 02, 2015

ideas small enough

to fit on the sidewalk
on fleming street
in key west
with tree overhangs
and crowded porches
tossed-around bicycles
steroid tourist traps
just down on duval
but liberated also
from the mundane
of empty
gas guzzlers
still looking for directions

with darkness
begins a reevaluation
of the milieu
(i thank many minds for this word)
and with each step
another phase
to be absorbed
     and without
a landing

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 01, 2015

in the here & now

let every breath
its own

think oxygen
& blood flow
without the dogma

an extension
of their own

have no place here

--- e b bortz

Saturday, January 31, 2015

earth note 313

even a room full of light
a glisten on the water
makes no promises

every assumption
might rest
on self-fulfilling prophecy

what gets forgotten
are the few moments
like this

--- e b bortz

Sunday, January 25, 2015

i'll go out on a limb today

and say that
the cold southwest winds
blowing into
the florida keys
is unusual
yet crazy
from where they came
upsetting the gulf stream
waking up a few more
greek ex-pats to go
& vote for syriza
but of course
you don't need a weatherman

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

unfairness of a utility pole dissecting the bay & cumulus horizon

it's a small view
in fact
but nonetheless
a subtle branding
not to be ignored

the clouds have
moving into
a bison stance
pooling their
great historical
of fur
& nonconformity

water chops
like an arbiter
without an opinion

--- e b bortz

Sunday, January 18, 2015


isn't all that it's
cracked up to be

you can't meet it

you're either in
or not

be ready
for disappointment

look around
for other signs of life

who's hiding

the wind
is the guide

watch for
first shadows

coral dust isn't soft
it comes from a crematoria

the moon glows
but only when you're not looking

--- e b bortz

Monday, January 12, 2015

earth note 312

are heavy today
in the denseness
of the air
suffocating in fact
like a transformation
still not defined
gone awry
every cloud
grinding to a halt

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

disrupting the loop

every gun
should melt back
into the blue steel
it came in

from the wood
of the nightstick
     baseball bats
     for the neighborhood kids
     who will thank you

the sky
is bitter
a rage above
the storm
like a temporary boundary

unlike the milky way

--- e b bortz

Saturday, December 27, 2014

earth note 311

the year ends
with a nest
of osprey chicks
amid the noise of living
without asking
for approval

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

the jam

following the death of joe cocker

is running out
from harpoon harry's
on to caroline street
long after caroline
without being noticed

and where
the hands
so springs
every tune of the earth
     deserts & stars
     hard-knock blues
     colors of reggae
a previous life
is always close by

long before officialdom
& hollow authority
foolishly cast
their caste
of street rules

ignored with perfect pitch
every note
     a story

--- e b bortz

Sunday, December 21, 2014

earth note 310

there's a depth
to the shallows
of big torch key
with the words
that come to mind
the syllables seem
to slip past me
when i least expect it
the tops of the mangroves
at a distance
appear like a hill
or at least a knob
clustered with the horizon
like a continuous
labyrinth not quite
making it to the water

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

earth note 309

the canal jumped
the seawall again
prints of the key deer
left running
the open house
down the road
ended in a hurry

a cloud
of turkey vultures
for an answer

--- e b bortz

Friday, December 12, 2014

window/doorway outta no name key

sometimes the view
is blurred
by distraction
intentional and otherwise

touch the water
rub it in you

--- e b bortz

Sunday, December 07, 2014

earth note 308

turkey buzzards
know when to make noise
their wings shout
don't fuck with me

--- e b bortz

Thursday, December 04, 2014

minimum wage job on duval street

key west

to shake a tee-shirt
off the 75% off rack
inflated by 200%
as the cruise ship horn
screams over the seascape
to return
at once
to the pier
before sunset

the fishing jobs
and artist hangouts
are in decline
like the empire itself
so all there is
is the catering
to the high-rollers
international financiers
shift changing
off of wall street

a throng of christian dior
wagging tongues
will never
bring back margaritaville
they're only a whiff
on the sidewalk

a conch highway
can't be bought

--- e b bortz

(published in opednews.com, Dec 25, 2014)

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

earth note 307

high tide is higher
this year than last
the canal crept up
last night
and left its mark
at the feet
of the houses on stilts
road has a wet gray
to its face this morning
the bay is upset
wind blasts away
then suddenly dies
     osprey goes hiding

--- e b bortz

Monday, December 01, 2014

a blank piece of paper

and a gust right out
of my hands
blowing into the unknown
finding itself
gone & away
below the porch
fluttering on
the bicycle spokes
     ready for
     a journey

--- e b bortz

Saturday, November 29, 2014

i offer no excuses

or truths
we are vulnerable
     humans that is
to the glitter
& status extraordinaire
of dominant specie-ism
rationalizing dog-eat-dog
     a rabid misnomer
to career seeking
banking with a smile
payday loan-sharking
     shark misnomer

the district attorney stands
without clothes
but with his gun still cocked

so what will we do with our lives
before and after
     the great fall

we've never learned
to take care
of each other

--- e b bortz

Monday, November 24, 2014

no polemic

it's been one-half century
since the real streets
of hearts & minds
found each other

egos falling 
to the drama kings
coming and going

empty chants
making it
holier than thou
tuning out still an option 

a drum
even without rhythm
could become
an unexpected insight

began at dawn
caressed unconditionally

--- e b bortz

Friday, November 21, 2014

if you look long enough on big torch key

there might be an escape route
back from the mundane
that will reveal itself
maybe hidden just before the water
or right behind a misplaced road sign

it won't look like much
just a few well worn hoof or foot prints
like an old newspaper
before times new roman
took over the world 

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

first draft: life is a sea

conclusions from first contact with key west
& surrounding navigational maps
7305 days ago

you always need a safe harbor
or at least a cluster of mangroves

when coral becomes dead rock
rock becomes a road of trepidation
don't go barefooted

osprey see
far into the future

every pelican has the poise to lead
elect some to congress

from the barracuda
comes tenacity
from the sandpiper

find the patience
of a jellyfish
waiting for a rising tide

waves connect all beings
from the gulf of thailand to the mediterranean
from the source waters of kilimanjaro

a cajun band at the green parrot
was about as close as i got to mardi gras
     and then you danced like it was mardi gras

a sunset shadow
becomes a celebration
of sunrise

every storm seeks an eye
a tear is stronger than a poem

life is a sea
there is no final draft

--- e b bortz

Monday, November 10, 2014

iron ore strike update

near thanksgiving 1977
the strike ended
we went back to work
the layer of taconite dust
still in place
where we had left it in august

the machines started up
with reluctance

bodies moved across the grate
up steel steps & ladders
finding nothing mystical
in the grit
true or otherwise

sulfur exhaust
the chemistry
of the damned

& combustion chambers
moving without emotion
firing thru the seasons

every ton
a landscape paid for
lungs without resilience
even thunder
turning away

--- e b bortz

Saturday, November 08, 2014

the politics of collapse

can't be bailed out
by wall street

a dry river
leaves a bad taste
in your mouth

for every carbon artery
there are a thousand
hemorrhaging forests

the crows
will not be silenced
they gather for the darkness

corn rows
left their calling cards
the silos all are empty

the money
of the desperate
has no collateral

there are sunspots
to pull you closer
call it void if you must

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


isn't the best word
to begin with
it has way too many
misleading ways
but the election is over
and the roosters came home
a long time ago
when very few
were paying attention
     don't look for a way forward
all anyone can do
is feel what moves inside
and then
feel it again

find a tributary and let it touch you
before it dries up
shut off the noise
     sing while you still have a voice

--- e b bortz

(published in opednews.com, Nov 8, 2014)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

earth note 306

there's a pile of gold
across the avenue
that should be left
to decay
& feed the soil

stall the blowers
with their own exhaust

listen for the starlings

--- e b bortz

Sunday, October 26, 2014

earth note 305

it feels like
the last warm hour
before the night chill
takes over

open hands
around a spinner
in the yard
cups the breeze just right

takes off in a burst
repetition turning
with illusions
of perpetual motion

this is what upsets
the blue jays
who know better
deep into the hillside

every stadium echo
is hollowed out
by wooden chimes
trembling rose of sharon

--- e b bortz

Friday, October 24, 2014

the river is my addiction

every step
to a new revelation
so it seems
like a shifting current
collides with the wind
never repeating itself

it's easy to miss
what's significant
my eye takes in the landscape
but once 

geese head to
lean-to shelters
     weeping riverbanks
a flock

these are not
the whitecaps
of yesterday

nor tomorrow

--- e b bortz

(published in Antennae the Antennae,
Green Panda Press, Jan 2015)