Monday, April 25, 2016

every shovel full speaks

the tag read like a flag
     gold mop false cypress
a disguised cousin of the
     japanese lemon thread
as we liberated mostly clay
some sweat & spirits
and stood them up proudly
in holes three feet apart
on a terrace still recovering
from the sharpest
of rose bush
many red badges of courage
and history of pain
     where a fort once stood
     a hundred-fifty-three years ago
and people dug defensive trenches
designed to stop the confederates
if they turned west
instead of east
     to gettysburg

--- e b bortz

Saturday, April 23, 2016

earth note 398

head of the ohio river

there's a gray tinge on the water
skimming across to brunot island
making a mix of reconstituted green
and a reflection of fool's gold
from an orthodox dome in mckees rocks

barges and railroad cars labor in coal
diesels get hot under the collar
trying to finish by quitting time
after all it's friday night
     and earth day

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

a blue jay flew in with a message

and a blank new york state ballot
singing the praises of an idealized world
rationalizing even forecasting
how every bird song will grow into
a chorus of justice and peace

is there really any other way
to carry on?

reality fracks into the soul
eating away the marrow
drowning your better instincts
before being fully exposed
in the pain of revelation

but for this day
let the treetops

--- e b bortz

Friday, April 15, 2016

no one invited me

but i'm gonna throw out the first pitch
for bernie sanders
and his brooklyn neighborhood
in memory of jackie robinson
and ebbetts field
and the wooden bench bleachers
of forbes field
and roberto's first games in right field
in a strike against the lynch mob
and the cackling thugs
miscalled the masses
     just wake up

--- e b bortz

Monday, April 04, 2016

freeport pennsylvania beach 1959

if you thought there was sand
you'd be wrong
nothing but pebbles
along the allegheny river
the morgan kids leaving their farm
for the day
showing us the world in their
customized '50 chevy
and even the surf of a few coal barges
ripping past our side strokes
always mindful of the current
with a dream of a mouseketeer
on santa catalina island
without sunbaked beauties
or sailboats
no jellyfish in these parts
to get stung by
but plenty
of fishing line

by the time dusk fell
the cars revved & moaned
their loneliness
i didn't know the word
and maybe still don't
but we changed back into our denims
circled the block one last time
     never finding
     that beach road

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


sometimes there are wild blackberries
you can't reach
in the thicket
of butler county pennsylvania
without a grownup's hardened skin

at least that's what
my dad's second wife
would say
and then she'd say
don't worry
there are bigger worries
in this world

like when the mccarthy committee thought police
served a subpoena on my dad
at 3am on the darkest night
in 1953

and he didn't bow
and he didn't talk

and denim long sleeves
became my shield

--- e b bortz

Friday, March 25, 2016

earth note 397

clouds seamlessly overcast
refuse to fall
they have a premonition
of what might come tomorrow
the streets want a drink
but the bartenders have all gone home
and anyway
poison and glory can be well disguised
and not something
an anonymous life 
will consciously crave

where will the sewers run to
how does a storm find its way
to a promised land of no dimensions
a new marina has little to do
waiting for what comes next

there's no advice for broken dreams
'cept to say that
every stone in this river
will eventually turn over
and face the rage
before the deluge

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

earth note 396

by good friday
the birdhouses
will be resurrected
high above the political fray
mean spiritedness will be ignored
cardinals and finches
and their flocks
will raise their wings
sing virtues
that can't be bought

--- e b bortz

Sunday, March 20, 2016

earth note 395

vernal equinox

those morning snowflakes
refuse to settle
like their lives would all end
if they landed
melting into conformity

so they ride the wind

--- e b bortz

Thursday, March 17, 2016

earth note 394

so you think you see
a cloud smiling
through the barren maples
grass rolling in its first real color
and what looks like
a busting out of life all around
maybe is just a beginning
to something new

but your eyes remain closed
because they have fooled you before
reaching out in the blind
to grab sun before it sets
has made you a skeptic
shaking off every last illusion
     this promised land
     needs no owners or kings

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

wind chimes against the xenophobes

just out the back door
the sun opened up
to a perfect pitch
bringing in
a song carved out of wood
both melodic and hollow 
a beat unpredictable 
from a natural drummer
refusing to back down
in spite
of manufactured diversions
breaking through
like a tenor

--- e b bortz

Saturday, March 12, 2016

earth note 393

concrete ribbon
weaves around the mountains
once sacred

geese are returning
for another trauma

there are still brownfields
awaiting wildflowers
if the well stays wet
     though the poison
     is another story

if i'm repeating myself
it's only out of habit
like the sun arcs
even without shadows
or reflections to record it

ego now replaces light

--- e b bortz

Monday, March 07, 2016

berning up the highway

saw a guy blow past me today
on I95 in florida going north about 90mph
with a bernie sticker on his bumper
and a michigan license plate
     maybe a pissed off former auto worker

every vote tomorrow
will count

oops...sorry...forgot about the super delegates

--- e b bortz

Friday, March 04, 2016


swaying side-to-side
over brighton place
we decided not
to take it
and get a few extra
games of pin-ball
down on federal street
walking instead
to downtown

i hated the slick look
of shark-skin pants
but wore them anyways
'cause the mouse said
it was cool
& i was new in the neighborhood
from out in the butler county sticks
& it went along with my
trenchcoat (collar up)
pall-mall on my lips
one of those fedora-type hats
so you could pretty much call me
a wanna-be

about the time we got
to the poolroom
on the second floor
fifth avenue downtown pittsburgh
it was looking cold gray outside
and i said
we should save enough
for the streetcar
back to the north side
and mouse agreed
but only after he
ran the table on me
a couple times

--- e b bortz

Thursday, March 03, 2016

earth note 392

holland park, hollywood, florida

ibis clustered
like a herd
methodically moving together
across a wetland likeness
not much has changed
over millennia
with this

from the observation tower
looking south
the apartment buildings
look full to capacity
waves rise against the causeway 
between the ocean
and another development
this original land
is unrecognizable

dump trucks
add to the piles
at the heart
dust blooms
expands with a northerly wind
if you look hard
the beach
in the distance
is bleeding

--- e b bortz

Saturday, February 27, 2016

having no expectations

or mission statements
will shake you just as surely
as every grandiose moniker
stumbling on to enlightenment

the road isn't a carefree proposition
you'll need to tear a piece of your flesh
and leave it for the opossums

the lost are those
that still believe

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 21, 2016

earth note 391

old frame houses in key west
almost seem to creak with a good wind
     especially when the porches are filled with people
and at night
away from the lights
walking the streets
when all else is quiet
you'll hear fronds sweeping
over the sidewalk
whispering voices
many languages
a lone guitar or mandolin
a taste of saltwater on your lips
     these streets have comforted
lonely planet searchers
     of beauty

--- e b bortz

Friday, February 19, 2016

earth note 390

a windy chop
is rough water
no matter how
it gets cut

pelicans eat
on the fly
ibis lollygag
in the weeds

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

my mother knew how to hide the red diapers

my brother and i
were born into
from the peeled paint
on moore street in toledo
the tracks were well covered
even if i still had my ear
up against the victrola
listening to sweet lorraine
     my step-dad's favorite song
paul robeson
the weavers
yiddish freiheit
songs of my father's lincoln brigade
my mother fully acknowledging
the justice and injustice around us
even if she said that
sonofabitch lawyer
who settled
my parents' divorce
wasn't a good representative
of the brotherhood
of man
of woman
of children

the roll-top desk
in the living room
was my place
to hide the dark
and bright drawings
of an eight-year-old
the desk coming to us
from the estate of a noble doctor
who had to go underground
to escape the mccarthy committee
this desk had the temperament
and perseverance
for life
from the margins
into our own self-acceptance

and of course
everyone knew better
than to ask us
the name
of the good doctor
     we never give up names

--- e b bortz

Monday, February 15, 2016

earth note 389

the mobile homes
on the canal
were placed
almost half a century ago
temporary has evolved
into permanent temp
like a seven dollar fifty cent
stuck in low tide
with no way out
to the bounty
of the trophy fishers
just beyond an arm's length
where your trusty reach
is a sign of manna
where only the sun
speaks your language
deep mangroves
your only peace

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

earth note 388

faint cloud streaks shoot across the sky
southwest to northeast

blue makes a pale excuse
for high noon

there's no space
for the outlier
lacking intensity

turkey vulture
bears down
in the bicycle lane

a parrot next door
repeatedly says hello
even if he doesn't mean it

--- e b bortz

Friday, February 05, 2016

geranium street, pittsburgh 1967-68

one gas space heater labored
to keep the second floor apartment
warm enough
aluminum siding
flapping in the wind
in this experimental living situation
sometimes we'd watch the blue flames
in a darkened room
like they were a fireplace
belonging to judy collins
or buffy sainte marie on cripple creek
speaking to us in notes and moments
in time being marked
and then consummated 
     spontaneity meant that
there would be no turning back
from the inevitable
bound to be lonely
every decision thereafter
feeling like worn through boots
for a wishful thought

from the surface of every unmarked road
there was incongruity
loss of wholeness
an empty treeless coal fog hollow
visualized angst
leaving only one way in and out
footsteps blindly retraced each day
past new experiences
missed in translation

by summer
bodies had replaced barricades
tie-dye mixed within the text
of a half-dozen slogans
from a mimeograph machine
rippled over every alleyway
a teeming heat wave
made of dreams
deep black ink
marking songs
to grow
beyond the hollows
to free the rivers
to square the city steps
to lift the stones of sisyphus
with love

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

the radio chirped away next door

about the traffic jam heading in
to key west
the bridge work again
getting to the hot & bothered
but at least it isn't raining
the high tide retreated
ibis to pick through what's
     left behind
florida's nonexistent groundhog day
passed without being noticed
though there were iguana
scooting across the road yesterday
     in full sun
with & without shadows
bright fluorescent iguana green
     giving everyone the middle finger

--- e b bortz

Friday, January 29, 2016

that wind in your face

on a bicycle seat
is public defiance
or at least a self-serving illusion
     so i'll take the criticism
that the holier than thou dish out
and live with it
in my own mind's eye

the atlantic never
comes up to you
in a friendly way
nothing idyllic
the beach
being offered & sold
from some new internet portal
is a scam
to get you cornered
& stripped before
you cancel your credit card

if you're not careful
you'll find yourself
stuck watching
some bullshit political debate
carved out of stolen
coral & sand
& imprisoned mammals
     let the whales speak

there's more substance
than the dogma can identify
take what you need   
     leave me the wind

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


a crusty old sailor
told me he lived on a mooring
with a shabby boat
near no name key
almost as good as a mailbox
though he needed a kayak on board
to get back & forth to shore
especially when the storms came
and they always did
least expecting

toilet pumping out
was a steady expense
cooking on board
required a lot of creativity
living alone with an acoustic guitar
and a few soggy books
wasn't paradise
but surely better
than a homeless shelter
in some mega city
or suburban wasteland

he kept an old bicycle
hidden in the mangroves
for his overland transport
or trip to the bus stop
or public library internet

of course none of this
was set in stone
he had to be nimble
with no expectations
somewhat immune to bug bites
and jellyfish
content in losing himself
in the prism of a sunset
skedaddling when necessary
following the glide of a pelican
the eyes of an osprey
the scrappy mind
of a turkey buzzard

--- e b bortz

Monday, January 25, 2016

primary question

it's such a struggle
to suppress the base instincts
when thinking back
on the democratic party convention
police riot in chicago 1968
tear gas is indelible

like a billy club
the size of a baseball bat
ramming my skinny ribs
shoving us thousands
back up michigan avenue
bloody heads
made for hubert horatio humphrey's
law & disorder legions
mayor daley's thugs

a few eugene mccarthy delegates
would sometimes come out
and give the throng
soft drinks
even as we asked them
why aren't you with us
in the streets

it's still a fair question

the same old film footage
plays again on cnn tonight
i'll try again to purge
the poison
some of it my own
without making excuses
looking everyone in the eye
asking as honestly as possible
where do we go now

--- e b bortz

Friday, January 22, 2016

earth note 387

rolling waves on the gulf of thailand
pitching the travelers
to grab on to the rails
the ferry plows ahead doggedly
two and a half hours
to the port of na thon
on the island of koh samui

i do my best to ignore the commotion
rolling with my bicycle wheels
down the ramp
on to the island ring road
and then away from the town center

the sun and water are dominant
giving the coconut trees
the best chance to stand out
to ignore the buzz
of the tuk-tuk traffic

in a dream
the world can be clear
though fleeting
sometimes lives
in the smallest
of spaces

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

pend oreille river

idaho / washington

near july fourth
the river flow still
had a mind to rush
even as the dam choked it
& the mosquitoes gathered
'til sunset
hanging on the tent mesh
like a refuge
not discouraged
by the campfires above us
deep green forest moisture
creeping back into the river basin
the ranger clued us earlier
that this very spot
didn't get a lot of
the local kids stomping
across the wooden bridge
told us as much

we weren't sure
whether we slept
on the idaho or washington
side of the 'border'
to where the original people
lived     spoke     sang
fished     hunted
dreamed     loved     created         
cut wood     hollowed out canoes
sewed clothing     taught children
connected generations
buried ancestors     wept
danced     made community

--- e b bortz