Category Archives: New Poem

A Time to Comb

I comb my hair just for you.
I pull out the twists.
The grease left in the tines,
the black fuzz from my sweater.
I listen to the jazz music and comb my hair.
My hair is not even wet
and it hurts a little.
But my motion is smooth,
my stomach grooves at the thought
in wavy waves.
I’m smiling combing my hair
and wonder why I haven’t done it sooner,
why I keep the comb in the shower.
Watching a movie, then with the bathroom light on
and walking through the house.
I brush the comb clean with tap water and soap
and then pull my dark brown black hair back like a gangster.
My beard can almost wag, a guru, and catches.
The bass twinges, the piano swangin’.
I am happy to live in the flurry minute,
the bright light in the bathroom.
I wish I was more hairy. Where you couldn’t see my skin,
Sweep my body from head to toe, from toe to head.
Sigh, a stringed instrument. I probably have red
marks down the back of my neck, don’t I?
I smell the comb.
It is the right thing to do.

Samuel B. Harwell (August 2014)

Dear friend. Opponent. Where did you go?
Our TRIVIA CRACK competition was so well matched.
You, with your knowledge of “sports,” equalled
my expertise in “science.” My muse in “art,” balance
to your “history” buff. I’d win a few, you’d win a few…
We’d LOL and say, “It’s either feast or famine in here!”

But it’s been two days and you didn’t answer. So much
time to answer! But now I win by default and I
get no enjoyment from that! No triumph in that!
Come back, Sam!
Oh, Sam. My Sam.


I was off the hook when I dialed it in,
when this blue moon face
told me to head ‘er.
An action film at the Ridge where
I hit the curb on a righthand turn,
I’m not in my body today, babe.
Too many hours unsticking pages
in the old man’s ‘zines. 
Yeah, yeah, I blame it on too much protein.
So, I go for late night carbs at
Anna Miller’s where I pull
on my beard, straining from bacon to, “What if..
I’d’ve given in to cigarettes?”
But they don’t look right on me,
like tatoos. Like tight pants.
Less James Dean, more Jimmy.
Damn them pigs!
With guns! With intentions!
There’s a scientist somewhere that says 
the missing link may be swine.
Thinking of you, babe, with you’re too much sun.
A crispy, burned belly and boobs.
A lot of bright, brown faces here pull me from my theories,
simultaneously making my mouth water, my stomach bleed.
Smoking bodies. Sizzling bodies.
Rotisserie bodies.
No cure for me, babe.
My head between two shanks,
addicted to the briny aroma.
Looking for the pink, throwing to the coals
pulling for the pork, covering with dirt.

Lanai Alumni at Golden City Chinese down from Kenny’s, which is closing.

Around the table.
One woman has a dark, black line 
between her gums and teeth.
The one across from her keeps flipping her tongue,
unwrapping an imaginary Starburst,
while the one next to her keeps saying,
“Well, ooh, that’s nice.” All brown.
The man across to my right,
the darkest one, wears a checkered red and white 
worker shirt. I hear my dad say, “Hey, is dat a Lanai shirt?”
The guy nods, but he can’t hear him. 
His wife made the deaf sign earlier, shaking her head
and pointing to her ears. The one 
with the black-lined gums, and is apparently known for her ong choy.
That’s what I had today at this luncheon, with rice and gravy.
The man directly opposite me, who
seems slightly annoyed with my dad, has cataracts 
so thick he looks like a blue-eyed filipino.
He’s a manly, stern kind of guy, but the ladies
are more friendly with my dad. My dad, Bruno, with his
high pitched laugh-sigh, is the most chatty of them all
besides the “ooh, that’s nice” lady.
The guy next to me hardly says a word, but he gently
puts his hand on my shoulder when he leaves to pay. He wears
glasses I remember seeing my grandfather wear in photos.
Malcom X kind, but brown. 
I can’t stop watching the lady with the tongue.
How she forms her words! It looks like it takes 
so much effort, but her speech is smoother than 
anybody else’s at the table. It’s a round table, by the way.
I look at Shirlene, in the corner, bagging the leftovers, been with my dad a long time.
I wonder if she is ever embarrassed that they aren’t married. 
The lady from my Auntie Connie’s class at the table next to us tells me,
“Hawaii has claim to two saints now!”
I offer Shirlene some of my rice cake and she wipes off a fork and takes a piece.



Boom! Cried the falcon passing the speed of sound.
She forgot her place in the chain,
not concerned with mice
but with the holiness of falling and flight
she breaks from her thunder.
Shout back to those now looking up
that you’ve found only death in the form of blood
before you dive beneath the earth and feed from the sun!

But don’t pass far from the bulbs buried beneath the moss,
the Rose of Charon. Dear, helps your soul
back from the dead!
You’ve found you can’t be a prophet if too concerned with loss.

Bald bird! Can you hear it, now?
Your song is polyphony,
your song is our bees!
Chase, until we give in
to your sol-sense soul!
Shake the air with your humming
so that we put our heads to the roots
where we find the bass line,
replaces our violent heart with rings.
Many, many strings with stories to let go like balloons.
And with free hands we dig to fold fingers with the oak.
And the blades just sway,
the blades sway, dull.”

There comes problem with blood.
A horse eats the grass
as his blood pumps hind legs to kick teeth out.
Blood flows and moves and violence.
The goose will chase, too, a game
children play in a circle. Until blood turns around, cuts off
head, eats and drinks blood ’round a table. Betrayed!
Life for life for life.

And the martians won’t come until we look like them;
They don’t take to complements well.

Checkpoint, Call

Just listened to a Radiolab episode, Rocked by Doubt. It’s a super close hit to home because one of the deciding factors of the end my marriage to Heather was my backing away from Christianity. It is important to me to stress that it was/is a backing away because I am not turning, or “repenting” from Christianity; the things that brought me to it (i.e. selfless love and empathy) are still, for me, at the heart of spiritual health. I imagine myself panning back, like that American Museum of Natural History video I saw years ago. Moving out from earth, then our solar system, then our galaxy, to behold the known (even uncharted) universe before rubber-banding back. I don’t know where I am on this journey (maybe somewhere around the Voyager 2!!! ) but I know I have to do this. I have been abducted, Close Encounters style, by my doubt, my experience, my lack of experience, my desires to go deeper, my knowledge of religious fanaticism, human psychology and tendencies, etc. But more than anything, steering this ship is the tug I feel inside my chest when…. I look into the night sky, for example. This excitement and magic that I know is out there but links up in here.

I walked out my balcony door last night and saw the bright moon and venus and a few stars, and I felt it. It called. This is not my imagination. This is why I cannot and will never give up my spiritual enterprise. It is in many other things, too. Often nature, but also people. I always find the biggest deterrent to moving forward spiritually is myself, never demons or the devil or Facebook.

As I walked around last night there were so many voices in my head drowning out the one I went out to hear: “Go right.” “No, left.” “But what about straight?” “Maybe you are called out here to prevent that woman from a possible mugging and rape.” “Maybe you are supposed to take out 20 EUR from your bank account and give it to the first person who asks you for help/money.” “Better that you use your judgement if they really need it.” “Why do you always think how you can be the hero!?!” “Just walk.” “No, let’s walk under the trees with the lights.” “Dammit, I don’t want the police to think I am going to break into these cars.  Also, the dog shit.” “You aren’t even listening!” “Where did the woman go!” “There she is. I am being ridiculous.” “Does that graffiti signify a secret meeting place for ‘free thinkers.’ I should see if I can move that panel of wood and squeeze into that empty store.” “Nope. It’s nailed.” “Maybe I am supposed to talk to that guy who’s just…” “Too late! Just walked past him. He looks fine anyway.” “Oooh, the moon!” “Oh! Some abandoned lottery tickets.” “Aaand, nothing. At least I can put these in the trash.” “That’s really beautiful street art that I never saw before, I wonder….” “I wonder if a hot and thoughtful woman is watching me right now from her apartment window and we will meet and she will remember me walking down the street appreciating the moon and graffiti…” “Stop it! Stop it!” “Just walk.” “In the middle of the street?” “Ok.”

I will keep trying to quiet my head. I will try to remember the old proverb:

The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.

Anyway, here is a poem I plunked out before I left for that moon walk. It’s a bit Frostian, but whatever.

January 14
Something calls me in the night.
Over rooftops, whispers
under wind and blinking light.
Gentle moon, what’s this that keeps me looking
in corners, among roots?
“Put on your coat, your boots.
Come out, press close to my petals.”
The city gate beyond is black,
the wood’s of whistling nettles.
I’ll tell you when I come back.


The Dust off a Dionysian Album

The dirty water in the dirty dishes,
the smelly banana in the smelly trash,
the messy blankets on the unmade bed,
the rolled clothes in the open suitcase, I
lay on the new carpet, I
take off my cap (put it on the cap-shelf), I
create a “Genius playlist,” I
file my 15,000 KRW’s for next time.

The novels are years I wrote in those parallels,
The years are novels I write in these poems in songs.

We middle-agers surprise ourselves in our 8-bit menus,
The levels we have beaten or have beaten us
become tribute to our red, wind-beaten faces.
Our tears dry as they come, the years, novels
that we flip through to find the underlines but never reread
while writing new ones. We edit as we go.

The wildfire is contagious! It eats all and leaves none.
Our beds are barely slept in and our landlords love us.
The air is fresh when we move, but when we stop,
we get slammed by the bus carrying the losers from pageants past,
banners become nooses swinging the wreckage we kicked dirt over.

But the stories come. Oh, there is not enough ink for them!
There is no shelf so strong for the binders of source material
that collect like cars in highway traffic, backing, beeping, busting for attention.
Only we are a space shuttle and have no time for earth-thing(ling)s,
we are artists and we don’t read our own history.
The life we bring is the life we take and the balance is a high wire act that
helps the people forget how miserable they are, or reminds them how miserable they are.

“The shape of the smoke we inhale
fills the fucked ships we sail
that no one else will captain
and no one will again.”

But you’ll not understand if you’ve nothing in your gut.
Eat! Eat our food. Drink our drink.
Mind not the dirt, the germs. We share our dishes!
Let Narcissus bury Narcissus and free your hands;
let those who shelve shelve themselves!


There’s disease yonder:
slow blossom venom
swimming in
tapped lymph
fingering the ache. The whimpering dog, soft body attack.
Sores in the mouth and appetites dry.
Six month gestation’s what I remember
the last time, no immunity.
this one__________.

Love lives

Love lives far longer than the death of the girl.
The memory in the cells you took, you gave, stay
stained, but moving in your body,
a homeless part of yourself that wanders in your veins,
like an epileptic cat that spins and recovers on your floor
full of piss and drool, a vulnerable,
deadly seraph that’s forgotten its god.
Yes, she lives but she doesn’t remember you.
You can only watch as she floats by, lips unconsciously
mouthing your name and caressing the flower petals
you’ve thrown her that pass through her fingers.
Follow her and you find the nettle too thick,
turn into thorns and take your blood.
But this blood dripping from your legs,
your arms is where she lives.
Eggs that hatch and feed from the inside,
grow, mate, and release more eggs
until you are so bloated with love
you can’t keep yourself from birthing
a song, poem, dance, blog post.
Maybe you shave your head or find a lover in a bar,
maybe you throw stones,
to distract yourself from the killing-contractions.
But she lives in you, love, still,
then out. Then out love.