you’re always on a couch;
i’m always crawling across the floor

trying to get to your life raft.
the air down here is desperater.

at the heart of every hoard
is fear.

i am holding my breaths,
my swallows, my skin cells,

my orgasms.
i am an old soul

pushing past a curtain of
wind chimes.

through the swinging pieces
of glass you are the

air singing to
my fire.

how does one person
uphold so many lives

without un-raveling;
without un-becoming?

the incandescent smirk is
a sacrament.

we sit together and watch the
paint dry: ossified in octaves.


Photograph: Casa Batllo; Barcelona, Spain; designed by Antoni Gaudi; 1904-1906


we are all connected (or, the softer side of obsession)

for tjr: today and every day

it happened while i wasn’t looking;
it happened while i was in pretty deep—

trying to climb up and out from that steep
dark that meets me even in my sleep.

but this time, you. you were there, too,
saying, yeah, i feel it; it’s true

but, it will pass. hold on, like the last time;
hold on, and it will lose its power,

and you will

it means every thing to have another
being there to say – i’m here

and not
much else.

it means every thing to have
a hand reaching out, an ear opening,

a heart-mind waiting to
wrap itself around you.

even across the creeping
light-years, miles, blues, trials:

we        are        all        connected
and that has made all the difference.


Painting of Tommy Joe Ratliff by Olivia Santiago

the open-aching field

when my girl was two, she would catch me
gazing off into the distance while sitting with
her on the quilted bed, the green carpet, at
the white-tiled kitchen table. she would later

say this look terrified her. she didn’t
know why. maybe it was because she knew
i was not really there; that i was off
some-where else, galaxies away:

floating, wishing,
running, escaping—
to a place she
couldn’t go.

sometimes it was as if i were looking
right past her, through her; and she would
know an emptiness she should not. now and
then she would break into my line of sight

with a jolt or a giggle, wake me from my
daze with her chubby cheeks and hands and
might. i would come back down as if from a
dream, into the most beautiful night-mare.

sometimes when i woke i would forget: every
thing had changed; we were no longer living in
our home; we were no longer living in our lives.
i’ve thought about this for fourteen years and

i still don’t know how to live in the present, to
sit on the floor with my child and just be with her,
just be with the miracle, the fade of the moment,
the open-aching field of expansion and loss.



i stepped into an apartment once,
the basement apartment of a poet;

i could smell it in the cedar,
in the ink and terracotta.

i wanted to stay until she came back;
i wanted to know her, be in her

circle, trace her curves as she
spun her words from the earth.

too small, my friend said—
this apartment is too small.

i left with an ache that
stayed with me for days.

on my way out i touched a green
stone on a shelf by the door:

it may have been sea glass,
it may have been my birth stone,

it may have been my
birth right to say

i’m staying.

Art: Sea Glass by Jean Avenidas

to be

To be, or not to be: that is the question…
To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come…


a new day is here, tiny bits of
fireflies from last night still caught in
my mind, still flitting, nudging at my
hands and feet and eyes, and saying:

wake up! listen to the clear sky all
around you; gaze up and out into
what is waiting to finally give you
every thing you need.

some thing is opening, some thing is
shift-dancing, some thing is reaching out
to take my hand and bring me into a
different light: where every thing is possible;

where i am allowed to feel this bright joy—
even layered on top of the grief and fear and
guilt and dark nights. it is all beautiful, because
it is all my life. and it all goes back to the light.

i can begin to see now where i was,
where i came up and out from,
where i was headed, and how
i was saved from myself.

as i wipe the sleep from my life, from this
spinning bundle of neurons harnessed now
only to make me stronger, i need only ask:
where do i want to go next?

i already know the time is short.
i already know what it is to love and to lose.
i already know what it is to not love.
i already know it’s time to stop looking back.

i am letting myself reach forward for the things
i do not yet know; for the things waiting at the gate;
for the dream-things chomping at the bit to
take off in any glorious direction i choose.

i am ready to dig my heels in for what i want,
for what i am, for what i have to give—
even if i have to rip it up and out of my-
self from deep down inside my own grit.

my time has come. i am giddy,
gathering myself behind the
sweep of the red curtain, inside
this sonic celebration of being.


Inspired by “Perchance to Dream” by Tommy Joe Ratliff
All of his music just sings. Go have a listen: https://soundcloud.com/tommyjoeratliff

in a heart beat

i want to show you the abstract paintings

behind my eyes, in my head, in clear disguise :

threads singing, spun together,

strung out on string theory.

i tried to tell you that

water was living;

no one wanted to listen,

no one wanted to see :

the non-cellular

entities moving,

dancing toward

each other;

sliding their non-cellular

bodies over non-cellular

rocks : slippery wet dream

layers, stacked stories getting

laid down before lost—long and living

and hard; but not beyond being dug back up.

pre-cellular rough

drafts, perhaps.

they expand out and focus in; a pre-

served deep dive tunnel through time.

i tried to tell you the

earth was round.

i tried to tell you to come

and fucking get me.

some-thing drew us in

with a big black sharpie;

some-thing is still drawing us

in like magnets :

across these raging fields of

poles on shoulders, grit-gripping

at the hours under the

hungry tick of the clock :

dark points stripping,

ripping in(side) a heart beat,

inside the applause

you rode in on.


Photograph: Butterfly Nebulae, Hubble Telescope

give me


give me your suffering,

your training wheels,

your spare rooms.

i implore you to share

what you were about to

say, standing there

cute like a cupcake, in-

voking an in-voluntary rush

that runs and runs and could

elevate the dead. but first, engage

the fluid backdrop of the head: forti-

fied with a sand wall of lit-up dixie

cups. welcome to the stellar

circus, where we are all cotton-

woods coming apart on the wind.