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

Monday, January 18, 2016

earth note 386

a cold wind
subtly separates
verdana from tahoma
every once in a while
you wonder if that's
all there is to it
you're still looking out
for the joshua tree
but realize you're off by
a couple thousand miles
     the gulf won't take you there
     the sun will wane before your eyes
     the broken road still leaves
     a bad taste

so you'll wait for a better day
to open your hand
and release every gnawing question
even a fist can be clenched too long
fingers forget how to point
'til the soil with its own clock
and heartbeat
remembers forsythia
will break out in the spring
to be
     and if there's a renewal gifted
     the ground will shake
     and transform
     to a season unexpected

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

earth note 385

doves lined-up
single file
in the strip mall
on the pizza works roof
fifteen hundred miles
and forty years
from the time clock line
at the homestead works
     faces still gray

--- e b bortz

Monday, January 11, 2016

poetry raw

makes no excuses for itself
no anti-acids
to calm it down
it rips from within
'til it spills out
and if you think it will fit
the labels and keywords
maybe you're missing part of it

and/or repetition
plows up the row
most efficiently
tiptoeing      sleepwalking
past every new embryo

for the jargon
or genetically modified perfect constructs
there will always be a place
of servitude
elbow patched corduroy jackets
and at least another workshop

--- e b bortz

Saturday, January 09, 2016

dead zones

in the forecast
embed the soil and oceans
the great ice sheet in greenland
turns away
and shrinks
surgical masks have replaced lungs

bankers and their fossils
have generously
offered up the latest gizmo
for all of us to hang
don't take it

the cumulative wealth process
has concentrated carbon to diamonds
to gold
to money
to junk bonds
to social collapse

the declining labor participation rate
(for decades)
is the only good news
redistribute the wealth
(guarantee a livable annual income for everyone)
or put your head back in the sand

the tide will do the rest

--- e b bortz

Friday, January 08, 2016

earth note 384

the days are inching longer
a reflective sunrise off the canal
brings color

but there's no peace
in the shadows
behind the sand pile

even a clear morning
has confusion
the tides wash overland

someone mentioned
that the flea market
won't be deterred

osprey takes the highpoint

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

economic growth

is a cancer
projecting from
the mouth of
talking heads
     spoken in many languages
it matters not
what the trigger is
     war     climate catastrophe    
     ebola     rocketing healthcare costs
     oil speculators     rent gougers
if the prices go up
all is justified
all is short-term
all is forgotten by the next election or coup d'tat
poverty is a street
paved in spreadsheets

--- e b bortz

Monday, January 04, 2016


is a highway
of interrupted dreams
though you think they
can be cupped
in your hand
saved for another day
to a perfect midnight sky
each memory
still intact
or made whole
filling in each crack
is what you do
your work comes
then leaves
nothing is compromised
nor traded

--- e b bortz

Saturday, January 02, 2016

earth note 383

a couple hundred bodies
on a narrow strip of beach
brought a new year
into focus
where they all came from
isn't so important
as where they might all be going
young ones in floatation
old ones creaking on beach chairs

hurricane season may be hiding
but there's a tornado or three
in the midwest
our floods are coming home
to roost
every kayak a life boat

a mangrove becomes our nest
the sun squeezing in
equals a puddle rising up
an uneasy equilibrium
won't dry the clothes

a swarm of needle fish
dive below the pier
a fishing line and pelican
shake off entanglement
     there are no absolute destinations

--- e b bortz

Monday, December 28, 2015

in the daybreak

there is the excuse
for a moment
of honesty
not pretty
like the palms
coming to light
but it is moist
and alive

--- e b bortz

Saturday, December 26, 2015

by gosh

it seems a lot of us humans
get so philosophical
and sentimental
near the end
of each roman calendar year

those romans knew how
to prick you
didn't they

and of course
we've left another
year of devastation
& turmoil
behind us

so being reflective
isn't so bad
an idea

but still
if there's a way
to escape tomorrow's humdrum
surely someone
will package that
for the next
big box store

i'm trying
not to make light
of these deep deep
after all we really
go around
but once
don't we

so when the new calendar starts
i'll try & get things rounded out
in my own head
     no guarantees of course

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

earth note 382

a cloud covered sun
in its own magic
is often overlooked

at the roadside pull-off
last night near dusk
we musta looked like
local experts in our
beach chairs
at least one tourist
wanted our advice
on a good viewing spot
we didn't have any authoritative answers
so they drove off frantically
missing the cormorant's sunset catch

this morning
for a moment
sun & rain converged
dwelling together
letting the ibis
pick their turf
between the puddles
     'til the turkey buzzards
     showed up

the sun will eventually
win the day
     try again tonight

---e b bortz

Sunday, December 20, 2015

gale cometh minus the video

scaring the birds away
the gulf raising its whitecaps
leaving the gray sky
to shift for itself
in the wake of a bending tree
     there comes a time
to just sit
and listen

--- e b bortz

Thursday, December 17, 2015

even this machine can be dismantled

begin at the beginning
the steam turbine is obsolete
to raise coal from the ground
to something like an altar
is sacrilegious
feed water systems
are poison to our purity
     sacrificial bodies line the flyash pond
a million coughing refrains
is not hard to understand
     in any language
there comes a time
for a shakeup
doggerel & all
but a plan is nothing without tools
those darkened fingernails
only scratch the surface

--- e b bortz

Sunday, December 13, 2015

earth note 381

sun and wind
finally crossing over
the rubicon
the clothesline at little torch key
drying out
pools of mosquitoes
can still fool yah
hiding in the shadows
haven't seen much
of the puffy white clouds
the season of tourists
decked out again
in their weekend best
a bathing suit in marathon
becomes a conversation
a few kayaks and fishers
jostle for an open space
the chinese buffet batters on
air conditioning contractors
still get a preferred table

--- e b bortz

Friday, December 11, 2015

walking highway one

some roadside stores
change each season
the constant struggle
of the mangroves
with the almighty dollar
even a new church
with an obscure name
advertises that it's
     'coming soon'

patches of thicket along the highway
homeless made to hide
     shade from the sun
     a torn sheet of visqueen for rain
     a place to pee

at little duck key
the water is especially warm
jellyfish flutter close to shore
     a tourist gets stung
great egret
     like into a ballet dance
     feet mingle long enough
     to make an impression
     then moves on

little duck key epilogue
     a sudden hawk attack on the sandpipers
     seagulls screaming sound the alarm
          everyone gets out alive

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

earth note 380

little torch key, florida

they rose up since last year
migrating from the next key over
you'd have thought
that the prehistoric calendar
had gone awry
and what was clearly extinction
had rolled right into evolution
my biology admittedly more shallow
than the nearest mangrove root
but every one of those green or brown tails
scurrying across the road
for the first sun in a week
had my bicycle wheels swerving
out of the lump in my throat
& looking up from the wild
where our gazes met
     iguana finds refuge

--- e b bortz

Sunday, December 06, 2015

earth note 379

the road that leads
to highway one
is paved now
light droppings
from soaring turkey buzzards
do their best
to leave their marks

in the distance
there's a sound
of a helicopter
on a training mission
or surveillance

but the wind is strong
fronds brush and hiss    
     fear fades

--- e b bortz

Saturday, December 05, 2015

ask any writer

about writer's block
and it might just bring you
a twisted face
or no response
like an embarrassing
round of constipation

and when it comes to poets
it really goes downhill
where the deepest doldrums
are reserved
for the immortal
     like poe
     sylvia plath
and too many more to mention
     the last century is manic
     in its darkness

open the windows and try
to gather up those anemic
bands of sunlight
take it in and
it'll all pass
in this life
or at least
in the next

--- e b bortz

Friday, December 04, 2015

earth note 378

high tide 4:44 am

you can only shit & eat
in the same place for so long
once the fracking chemicals
start showing up in your veins
you'll know the canaries & pelicans
were right

the one thing the president
failed to mention when he saw
fish swimming in the streets of miami
was that you shouldn't
be eating the fish

the fools in tallahassee have actually said
they want to frack the everglades
yeah      the wetland of all wetlands
regulation is just a code word
for corporate capitulation
     just ban it damn it

of course what use to be lowlands
might be an underwater key tomorrow
when it feels like rain clouds colliding
with high tide
you might want
to sleep in your life jacket
& hazmat suit

the folks who should know better
seem distracted by a hundred other things
even a slogan like
there is no planet B
is too weak too late

looking to the gators to save us

--- e b bortz