Clowns and Angels

I’m not sure it matters anyway
what we wonder
what we mean to say.

I’m not sure it matters
don’t you know
what we fear or where we go.

But there are clowns and angels
everywhere teaching leaves
to tumble down and birds

to dare to claim the sky
and showing roses how to turn
their faces fade and die.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
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Well this doesn’t feel right for Easter but what can you do? It’s the most close to ready piece in the notebook. And I like the cadence and the weird rhyme between the third and last stanzas. I don’t use rhyme much but sometimes I like to experiment.

Happy Easter. I hope the bunny or higher power of your conception made timely delivery of whatever peace, happiness, or sense of purpose you needed most.

Old Hawks

The red-tailed hawk turns
on a thermal above the wild
brushy ground and cries

There is nothing you need
Nothing is precious but time
Nothing is worth dying for but love
Nothing is worth living for but peace
Nothing belongs to you but now

I have lived with this mystery
for so many years:

Where do old hawks go to die?

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Human Life

Below is the last poem I wrote in 2022; it was a lean year for creative output, to say the least. My bad. And I don’t know if anyone is still reading this blog. At one time it had 7,000 subscribers but I have been neglectful. I hope that 2023 will be better. One of the things I’ve been trying to teach myself is that writers/poets have to practice their scales just like musicians. Of course that means setting boundaries, protecting the hour or so a day that’s the bare minimum for doing anything with one’s life. And the people around me don’t respond well to boundaries. They see spending time living the life you’re working to make a living to have as a reward for being successful enough that you don’t have to work. Which is like saying a farmer can’t harvest any of his crop unless he harvests enough to throw some away.

I see life differently. I believe that we’re born to live a certain secret amount of time, and that every moment of that time belongs completely to the person whose life it is. Not one second ever belongs to anyone else. It’s ridiculous to think you have to borrow some of it back from your employer, or your family. You don’t have to justify your self-expression, how you spend your time, or deny the fact that being not busy doesn’t mean being available. You should keep your promises and support others, but you haven’t promised to be with them all the time, and they haven’t promised to pay you what your life is worth.

How infinite and amazing a human life is, and how completely we reduce every life we see – even our own – to its most basic appearances. It’s tempting to see only the surface: the hair, the tattoos, the piercings, the clothes, the secondary sex characteristics. When I see people, I try to see the sadness, the gladness, the pain, the fears and hopes and history that has all brought them to their Now.

The way we see each other and our fleeting lives is like looking at a distant galaxy and saying well, that’s not quite enough light to read a menu by. And it makes me sad and I can’t communicate in words how much life is worth loving, how much people are worth their freedom and the celebration and defense of their solitude.

Happy New Year

Human Life

Thinking about a human life
makes all the light held by time
retreat to the distant corners of the mind.
Time can’t imagine such a life, can’t
can’t hold it, and time can’t set it free.
Eternity is the only – oh, so lonesome –
measure of a thought.

And how can I love you, who
never arrived, was never found,
barely sought: the walled garden
unmapped in any world?
But I do, I have so for long.
I swear to die with your secret name
still forming in my thoughts.

If I see the surface of the ocean
and think I know what lies beneath,
I must be ready to accept a slow death
by thirst, shivering and steeped
in a cold mist. Eight billion lives
is so many infinite worlds.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
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But for the time being I am in the center of everything that screams and teems.
And it’s subtle as the most intangible reality.
For now time is the duration of a thought.

Clarice Lispector
Agua Viva

Boomer is living on borrowed time.
He has very little he can call his own,
so he borrows as much as he can.
It arrives from the sky in tiny packages
that glance off the struggling grass,
brush his face and become exactly
the just-now moment of a thought.

Boomer is in love with words,
even their droplets of darkness.
All night and sometimes in the day
he mumbles words. He conjures
them out of paper and they
skitter and lurch away into short
lives, meaning nothing to anyone
but him. When he sleeps the words
fall out of line and make a run
back toward chaos. And they are
glad to be scattered. They were
no good for each other.  

Boomer wakes and looks around
and laughs – he knows he’ll find
his words again beyond the deep
blue channel, past the islands,  
outside of time. And also dogs.

Boomer will be an excellent ghost.
He loves to be quiet. He’ll be a spirit
of wood – of furniture and windowsill –
the vague squeak of a floorboard
when no one living is up and moving
through the dark house. A phantom
of ambiguity and a slight tingle
in the nerves. So he practices
being forgotten and unnamed.

Boomer will be a friend to sleeping cats,
focusing puddles of sunlight on the rugs.
His thoughts will float like motes of dust
and make the room a little sad,
though no one will remember why.
And somewhere in eternity,
old Boomer will be asleep in his words.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
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Oh! My (for lack of a better word) God
You who are if I am not,
You who are not if I am,
for for that matter both and neither,
I pray to you the unnamable, 
incomprehensible Being, 
for peace, for consolation in my
inexorable solitude, for my life 
to light (even if weakly) the lives 
of those I touch and hold fast, 
for my moment in the space
of time to do no damage,  
cause no suffering,
abridge no freedom, 
and then for me to be forgotten 
in the long birthnight
of mystery and oblivion.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
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Blood Moon Rising

We were never lovers and I don’t know
if that means everything or nothing
since so much of everything I imagine
remembering is meaningless now.
It’s not important but maybe

I saw the moon one night last week.
Alone, I just stood there and thought
it looked strange, smoky as it rose
over Rincon. Later I realized
I’d unseen the blood moon in its flight.

My mind was somewhere else while
Earth threw a bloody shadow
on its bone china innocence.
(The only place that Man has ever
reached and not committed murder.)

But why did you take my hand
that night in the college parking lot
under the oak trees, interlacing
your perfect young fingers with mine,
if everything means nothing?

Never mind: I’m too old now to
misunderstand the maimings of love.
The great eye of the moon looks
down from eternity and they say
we’re meeting on the other side.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
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The maimings of love are endlessly funny,
as are the tiny figures of talking animals,
being blown to pieces in cartoons.
~ Gilbert Sorrentino, The Moon in its Flight

A poem should be motionless in time   
As the moon climbs.…
A poem should not mean   
But be.
~ Archibald Macliesh, Ars Poetica

Shining Eyes

On every screen we see
the smoke climbing
reaching for the pity of Christ
and we realize
they dress their babies
just like Americans
their children have the same
expressions of uncomprehending
fear, the same shine
reflecting the pastures of Heaven
in their Ukrainian eyes
and is this some kind of trick?

I watch news in small doses
because plague time
has compressed my life as well
and my dull eyes fill with tears
because this is pure evil
and someday a screaming
may come across the sky for all of us.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
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I made a few new year’s resolutions, which aren’t going well so far. I intended to focus on every good opportunity to shut the f–k up and stop giving unsolicited advice, to stop sharing opinions about choices or situations outside my own responsibility and control, and to write positive, grateful, hopefully uplifting poems. I’m still taking when nobody – least of all me – wants to hear me, still opining about things that are up to others from my family to global psychotic dementors like Voldemort Pootin’, and here’s another dark sad poem.

It’s not my fault. I would have been more than happy to write an ode to the wind clouds hovering over the coastal range this morning, and I’m not the demonpuke bombing innocent, defenseless people. Art has to meet the world where it is and tell the truth.

I would have been happy. I’m not sure I can see an opening in the funhouse mirrors of protracted chaos to find the exit to happy tonight but I can close my eyes and find reasons for gratitude. That’s something; in fact, it’s a lot. I’ll take it, gratefully, and hold fast to hope for the survivors of the massacre in Ukraine. Maybe they can use our hope more than our sadness and faith more than anger.


After Two Years

“Am well. Thinking of you always. Love.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague

What if there is no I, no not-I,
maybe only We, certainly no Them?
What if it is all one light, one darkening
into death, one ineluctable pain?

There is so much more to write poems
about than death, I know. But the birds
simply sing as the humans rise and fall
on waves of plague. Their music
hasn’t changed my mind. There are
nights I just want to sit here alone,
listening to dogs barking
at nothingness, and weep.

So let’s burn it all down, let it shine,
sing, walk down old roads, leaving
the dead behind to bury the dead
as they become more night than day
more peace than fight, more joy
than struggle. Of course I am afraid.
Aren’t you?

I don’t know what God intends to do
about it when I die but my house
will be occupied by not-Me.
Time will stop but continue turning
in its widening gyres.

Maybe we will sit in the dim coffeehouse
under the shaggy eucalyptus
but I will sit apart.
Maybe we will stand in the last bookstore
of eternity, listening
as all the old ink turns to rain.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed


In the cold kitchen of blue hour
I sit drinking coffee, echoing a song
you wrote for someone else.
The piano answers in a farther room.
Communication is impossible, just a myth
of the old oceans and their blue-black waves,
the early trees and smothered rock.
It depended on shadow and gladness.
It has always defied us.
We pretend, we orate and whisper,
weep and entreat the trembling air.
We unearth stones, carry weapons
to speak for us, beg the birds to sing
from the hedges to help us talk.
No, it’s not sound that matters.
It depends on shadow and the folding of distance.
Now the sun is down!
Light candles that smell better than reality.
Call every memory together
but in the sum of all parts, the parts fade away.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

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the view from here

The Man in a Black Coat

Citizens of hope & glory,
Time goes by, it’s the time of your life

— Genesis

Sometimes space goes on and on
as when we were children
whose feet didn’t reach the floor
from Grandpa’s chair; who grew up
and tried for years to reach the sky.

There are spaces where time goes
on and on as when we grow older
and can’t reach across the field
of flowers where a coffin stands
and the cold hands of our watch fall still.

These don’t account for the ocean
which is infinite space or the night
sky or Disneyland’s eternity.

So I measure the distance between us
in memories and longings,
in the desperate need to be held
against the shade of forgetfulness,
or simply in hundreds of miles.

The shapes of fear rise up in our dreams
like infinite rooms collapsing in on us,
expanding forever yet never big enough
for angels or lost dogs, or the name
we had before the world was made.

There are empty kitchens in this world,
vacant houses full of leaves, sheets
dripping on the line in dishwater light.
If the sheets block the fence and the fence
blocks the view of the trees,
isn’t everything an empty space?

Look, someone is standing there, waiting –
a man in a black coat, beneath the trees.
I’m afraid it might be me. What do I want?
For the world to stop spinning so fast,
for time to return us to people who love us.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Autumn Equinox 2021
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