Barbra Streisand raising fingers like cat claws.

Wandering wind—

Winter sun, savage dancer.

Cedar, I hate you.

Well, darlings— it’s mountain cedar season here in South Texas, so I feel like I’m breathing chunky-style soup. And you know what that means— that air-soup is just full of my favorite condiment: allergens. Stupid allergens!

Do you have year-round or seasonal allergies? What’s the best non-medical thing you do for yourself and your loved ones if somebody gets super allergy sick at your house?

ALAS, ALLERGIES. I KNEW THEE WELL. The Condiments of my Childhood

*DUDE, THAT IS SO NOT A REAL HAIKU: This poem is a real haiku. Sort of.

The Pigeon King

*For A.F.

You are not the story you are seeking—

not on this calm October morning,

not in this quiet downtown library

where you walk, soft-footed, on the carpet

towards the effulgent fiction section.

Look at me. I am shaking. And you

are a chimera wrapped in smoke and denim.


You raise your hands in rumination

of the volumes stretched the length between us.

I put down my pen in apprehension,

but you don’t know I’m here, nor do you care.

It is a story your fingers solicit—

the alchemy of true transformation.

Does such a book exist? For any of us?


You were not the story that I wanted—

I craved an anointed queen; I got the pigeon king,

squinting at books and shuffling three languages.

Is it hope that draws us to these holy places

where books and man are the only miracle?

Or is it another cloudland gimmick from a king

in need of a book, by a woman in want of a story?


*This poem is a poetic response to A.F.’s exquisite poem about writing a novel: “What I Asked For.”

This poem was originally posted on October 17, 2012. I’ve since revised it for the tenth time, and I’m considering doing an audiobook version of “The Pigeon King” over the weekend.

Étude No. 3 (Sleepless)

Woman staring into the inside of a giant cedar tree in Stanley Park at the turn of the last century.

I never wake, nor do I sleep—
I creep to bed in neutral twilight
like a woman enticed out to the sea
by a tide, a tow, a rip that rocks
and pulls me free from gravity
and her heavy embrace.  But, no.

No.  I never wake.  Nor do I sleep,
and yet I find myself in the deep dream
kingdom of stories that rouse and break
the silence of an hour by speaking
to me en sotto voce.  And I listen.
Mio Dio, mi penso e mi dolgo.*

I never woke, nor did I sleep
when I was young.  I sang to myself
a rondo of language I did not know
and watched the shadows from the tree
that raised me climb my bedroom wall
to try to rock me free from gravity—

and time.  For a moment’s rest.

But I never awoke.  I never slept.
For there are hours to be dreamed
into stories into kingdoms into the deep
green sea of light that dapples my wall tonight
from the heart of a tree,  stretching forward
from childhood, bough by bough, to gentle

me back from the horizon’s strange light—

because I will never wake.  And I will never sleep.

*Translation: My God, I repent and I am sorry.

HEY! You can download the spoken version of this poem for free, right here on Bluebird Blvd., thanks to the good people at SoundCloud.

I, at Seventeen

1930s young woman posing photo booth

I, at seventeen,

grand star of that film inside my head,

am spilling light into the yard

while peering out into the night

from my room amongst the trees.

I want a word to break my fall,

so I take a word and I take one more

and I take a third, and from those words

I begin to write a brand new poem

in the notebook on my knee.

I, at seventeen,

am turned in and in like origami

am surely no one’s pretty baby

am foul and sharp and full of points

am already on and gone— and gone

to whatever lays beyond the trees

to a history stretched across my knees

a word and a word and a third word still,

and none of it enough.

I, at seventeen,

watch two thousand faces light

like torches when I dance onto the stage—

to the band’s bright haunting  jig.

Then I turn and pause mid-flight to flaunt a grin

to hear ’em roar and when I land,

I’ll hit that beat and they’ll roar again

and off I’ll go into the wings,

sweating, pinched, a bit more broken,

catch my breath and back out again—

a-one, and a-two, and a one-two-three.

And then I fly.

I, at seventeen,

can jab an elbow in your throat.

Don’t walk up on me way too fast.

Don’t you come up on my six.

I am small but too damn quick.

I can fight you f—king dirty:

I will kick your kneecaps backward.

I will **** your ****ing world up.

So keep your distance.  Yeah, you heard me.

I, at seventeen,

wash some dishes in the kitchen,

catch my face flit in the window

just above the kitchen sink—

I’m pale and worried, framed by night.

I’m so much sadder than I should be.

The glasses clink, submerged by water.

I dance a step and shake my head.

I turn and dance another step.

I want a word to break my fall.

Oh my lord, I’m seventeen.

A-one, and a-two, and a one-two-three.

Off I fly.

Meanwhile, A Poetry Reading

Courtenay Bluebird with Goopy Henna in her Hair on Bluebird Blvd.

Consider this photograph of me a placeholder for later this evening.

My plan is to post an audio clip of me reading poetry (hopefully!) for your pleasure*.

About the photograph: The Husband took this picture this afternoon. I am wearing a full crown of goopy henna.

Why all the fuss with my hair?

I’m reading at a poetry event tonight.

In fact, I am I am getting ready to leave right now.

Thinking of you! —Courtenay Bluebird





No one watches correctly— the conjurer makes sure

all paying eyes stray to the glint of his large amber ring

before he speaks again:

And where’s the Queen of Spades now?

She appears, but she’s not where she’s supposed to be.

The retiree at table seven is astonished to find the Queen bobbing in his gin.

The conjurer loans his grin to the surprised man while the crowd applauds.

Night after night, at home in his pajamas, the conjurer works the flourish,

the drop, the fangy smile in front of the standing mirror in the hall.

And where’s the Queen of Spades now?

Not at home with the conjurer, that’s for sure.

He begins again. The flourish, the drop, the fangy smile

while the unseen world turns and snores in its bed.

(Or that’s how he pictures it.)

No one knows his patter— the story that goes with the cards

and the props and the brassy little band that drops its brassy little cues.

There are

the missing girls and the broken plates; the lost cards and the vanished flowers;

the doves that rise as smooth as white scarves,

from his well-scrubbed palms as he feigns surprise.

And under each story, another story:

the vastness of darkness and the terror of loss.

And where’s the Queen of Spades now?

And the band misses its cue. Again.

In the conjurer’s version of his favorite trick,

the missing girl is a jaguar crouched in a tree, and the broken plates,

three men out to woo her down from her perch

with cards and flowers and white shuddering doves,

which she eats, whole.

(Spoiler: She consumes the men, too.)

And where’s the Queen of Spades now?

She appears in the salad bar, crammed into the olives.

A woman yips, a man jumps.

No one goes back for seconds.

One night, there is a woman—

a smiling woman, alone at a table,

a beautiful woman, attentive and supple,

who laughs at his jokes and oohs at his tricks.

The conjurer begins his jaguar tale, caressing his cards.

(Under each story, another story snarls.)

It’s a beautiful day and three man go a-wooing

this woman with great big golden eyes.

(Here’s a surprise, she’s bewitched.)

At this point, the woman

turns her full amber stare on the face of the conjurer—

her eyes see all: the pass he fumbles,

the surprise he conceals, the volta, the drop,

the hidden drawer, and the fine secret pocket

that contains the map every man hides

of himself to himself.

He glares at the woman, who returns a toothy smile—

Do you see the Queen of Spades?

No. And now she’s gone.

But he must continue. So the conjurer tries

to enrich those familiar stories—

a woman transformed, a recovered map, a dove

to watch over you when you cannot sleep.

That what is smashed can be mended.

That what is unloved can be endured.

That there’s forgiveness from the unseen world.

But no one hears correctly— in this version

the jaguar goes at a nightclub

in the guise of a woman, a beautiful woman,

a smiling woman, starved for a meal. And guess

which magical dish

delights her amber eye?

Do you see the Queen of Spades?

No? Watch closely—


Frank O’Hara, I Hear You

Subway Construction in DC

blooming in my head this morning while the jackhammers

kick the asphalt six feet below the windows next to my bed.

Construction is not symphonic when it keeps the rhythm

of an old headache blistering under your left ear, like this—

Why is noise so indiscriminate in its audience? Your poems look

like noise, but they sing quieter than I do, though. In the end, each line

is you, whispering the names you love in a plainsong litany.

I think of you, writing, and I see a slip of notepaper unfolded

in your clean hand; you, grit-smiling in a bleached undershirt;

you, keening at your typewriter the day Lady Day died.

Your poems haunt me, Frank O’Hara. They do!

Your sweet experiments in tabloid tenderness; the way you pause

between stanzas to lean back and talk to your friends,

all those poets, all those painters— we know who they are now.

But that’s you, isn’t it? You knew how to croon over a name’s

own story, while I sit here, wearing old bed sheets at my desk,

fingers slapping the keyboard, kvetching about jackhammers,

carping at the road dust that will coat my words when this poem

is over.


This poem is a response to Frank O’Hara’s Personal Poem.


The Hobby Shop


Today is like a rare curiosity behind a glass case

in the old dusty hobby shop that never looks open.

Still, you try the door this one time after you

get off the bus. The knob creaks, but it turns.

Today is like the man behind the dust-etched counter

of that old hobby shop. When you clatter inside,

his whole face lifts and blooms to see you,

a small stranger in a patched jacket.

Today is like a glittery shelf of all your wants,

and you’ve got ten dollars twitching in your pocket.

You’ve been saving up; you’ve been daydreaming.

But today, you’re awake and—

Today contains a simple event you don’t expect

to recall years later— a man with a combed mustache;

a box with ovoid lettering; your tiny voice, clear,

sure of its need: That one. That one, please.


Anatomy Lesson

Ruth  Kaufman 1942

Consider the animal nature
of your breath.
Consider the humid air that will not rouse
beneath the porch fan, and—
consider the paper flowers pinned to the eaves
bleeding cinematic dyes on the wall
in this heat. Oh, this heat.
Consider the blonde in the open car, careening
down the blacktop that leads to your house.
Consider the light, in swags, on the low grey
clouds that crowd the hills.
Consider the woman’s determined face,
haloed by the mad roar of her six-piston engine.
Consider the bright and uncertain nature
of most Saturday mornings.
Consider your hands. Consider the door.
Then consider—quickly, please—
bolting the lock, just this once.


Fine Calluses

Entering the Forest

The forest bends on one knee to take us into her arms.

Are you coming? The snow and wind write cursive

words in the frozen air. I wear 
a capelet of ice.
You wound your woolen sadness ’round
 your head.
I’m going back to bed, you tell me.


I stop to watch you turn back. This is

the last time we’ll dance together, and I know it.


I cannot wait any longer.
Neither can you. 


The wind stops
 its animal howl when I cross the threshold
of piñons; the lake drinks the fringe of evergreens,
and toys with a darkening sky. I am 
the why of these things; there is no why:

Human nature is only nature, after all.


The trees complain of the ice. The forest knows


I keep my humming to myself. I walk deeper
towards her heart.


In a different year, I would have felt your absence.
But that year went. This year built fine calluses

on my naked hands. In the spring, the thaw comes,


and I will rise from a green sleep, garlanded with

a crown of seeds.


No one mourns in the forest; no one can mourn here—

life begins in a place like this, and ends in a place

just like this. And there are songs we sing for each
wilding moment.


Some day the forest will sing those songs for us.
But tonight, the lake fills with evening stars,
and the wind carries birdsong and the rustle of pine trees
and there is silence that is never silent
for long.


A Secret Spring

Walking Barefoot Across the Sky

And some days it comes a little bit easier than others,
bubbling up from the loam, a secret spring
in a dry and lithesome land. And some days, but not
others, I am walking through the drying linens tucked
away from the street in Mrs. Kormos’ backyard,
where I left you going back and forth on a swing
twenty years ago, singing to yourself like some girls do.
And some days the alarm rings and no one wakes—
but the dreams produce sublime green tendrils.
So, it’s forgivable.

And some days, we rise up in a barking dog rush
mumbling up from sleep, alert, but late.
And some days, in fact, most of them.
I look up and realize I never finished
pushing you on the swing that day. I left; you kicked off
with your feet, climbing up that bright blue winter sky.

And there are days
when I can hear the snapping of ghost laundry on a taut line.
And other days still yet, I cannot hear anything but the marshy
hum of my own words bubbling up onto the page,
crude and wild while the phone is ringing
and I miss every little important thing
save for the words in front of me. And every day,
I remember a little bit more of how to tell this story
because it’s happening, it’s happening as I tell it, to you,
while you push back and forth on that crummy swing set,
climbing that brusque winter sky, singing loudly as you go.


5-Minute Dance Party [Bluebird— Stunning Short Film]



There’s a bluebird in my heart that

wants to get out

but I’m too tough for him.


I am simultaneously posting a different version of this Charles Bukowski poem on the new Bluebird Blvd. Tumblr— where you will find fragments of stories like gestures from a slow hand and slow-thrill photographs I’ve been setting aside in that overstuffed cabinet that is my heart.

Also, if you do get a chance, please check out the link to the filmmakers who created this beautiful piece below. The group California Is A Place does the most magnificent work. Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff.

Bluebird from California is a place. on Vimeo.