Poetry from Duane Vorhees


I need to be careful dragging these words from their minefields and dungeons, these weighted syllables of assayed worth. They guard against the bludgeons applied by the enemies of my growth.

When I forget how to live, then that’s the when when I will start to die.

My fault lines can’t fill my rifts, my rainbow vow can’t heal my rainfull sky, until When conquers If.

I live in this continuing city of self-mirroring mirrors.

It is the there where I double and split. Other wheres wither into unintended identities.

My face picks its own disguises from among these many costumes and masks I saved to reveal the lies I wield, with my executioner’s axe, when I end hindering cries.

Forgotten thought may find a place to hide in the nooks of memory. Experience can be buried alive – amnesia as amnesty – but the ignored remains can never die.

In the act of becoming the mind is not molded by the body; it thinks it is eyes and wings. The who I am is never my what. I’m part of everything.

My brain is inferior to my soul, my chamber is not my heart.

By navigating the oceans of Whole and staying true to the art, tomorrow’s ship escapes yesterday’s shoals.

Timeless time measures changes.

No stone is a stone until you kick it, and then time rearranges stones into the anchors of a frigate to mark and limit its range.

Time’s economist tallies the cockroach, the coelacanth, the centaur, the allosaurus, the ape, and the sloth … and assigns expiry hours.

But I prolong, impersonating ghosts, while time rearranges me. I am what I was and what I was not, but I’m always becoming me. The “mine” is distinct from the “common lot.”

And I think I’m almost me.


Look at me, bald, fat as an apple.

Here I am, bald, fat as an apple.

But don’t value goods just by their wrapper.

Old as your father, that’s what you said.

“You’re old’s my father,” is what you said.

But that’s no bother, ain’t decrepit yet.

May look like a wolf, pitted and ugly.

Big bad old wolf, grizzled and ugly.

Feed me love enough, tame as a puppy.

You think I’m a shit, I make your garden grow.

I may be a shit, but I make your garden grow.

When you need a prick, let me be your rose.

Look at me: bald, fat as an apple.

Look at me, bald just like an apple.

Don’t value the goods just by their wrapper.

(Lean me against your marrow like a giant midget jumbo shrimp. Hold my poor minute against all infinity like any other parasol you’d prop against a hurricane. A gossamer-armored middleaged scholar in swimming trunks, let my steady frailty hold the frailty of your own, let my cardboard walls withstand the world’s assault.)

If you break your compass, I am true north.

You lose direction, here I am, true north.

And when you end your wanders, I’m fire in your hearth.

If I’m silent, don’t have much to say.

I’m kind of silent, not a lot to say.

Just like my violence, words left yesterday.

Horny old bastard, last grape on the vine.

Horny old bastard, the end of the line.

Wrinkled and blasted grape a-makes the sweetest wine.


So, you inhabit a steady orbit,

you’re comfortable – or, that is, until

chaos comet comes. Not on provisions

have you spent your self, but on emptied shelves.

You paid prostitutes to wear all the boots.


So Jennifer you are.

Wrapped in just your thoughts,     (and mine too)    [not that you'd notice]    you assume the Mummy pose in bed. Are you sure your heart's hermetic, secure in its canopic jar? Or is it yet in your breast, just beyond sight, cowering still? (And don't forget your nightly negative confession – the world's bad deeds you've never done -- all of them – don't miss even one.)

And that kind woman in the Registry told you, didn't she, as kindly as she kindly could (but in the blameless guilt of your secret vacuum heart, what was it you heard? And how in your soul did it reverberate?) "Sorry. This is all we have. This is all the information anyone has. We can't find out who you are. We don't know what year you were born. We can't find out where you were born. Nobody knows who your parents are, your mother or your father, or why they didn't want you. Someone – we don't know who – found you, wrapped in a ragged, dirty blanket, lying by the side of the road. You were turned over to the authorities and you were sent to the orphanage. And that's all we know. I'm sorry. I wish we could help you. Sorry." Of course, you knew the whole story already – how could it hurt you now? "Don't touch me," you warn me as kindly as you can manage. "If you just leave me alone     [you, too!]      I can handle this by myself." But a single slow tear somehow engineers its hopeless escape down your Alcatraz cheek.

Wrapped like a glove on the dresser. Lovely warm solft leather. Carefully crafted. Turned nicely out. Waiting for the proper hand.

Together      (does that word really mean separately alone?)     in bed again. Pickets intent, rapt in their mission, inspecting invisible perimeters.

      "All lines secure, Sir."

No intruder can penetrate.    (friendly, or otherwise)     And there you lie, wrapped around your arms     (not my arms),       world-weary frightened.

So Duane you are.


[and the radio cowboy sings]

Come lay your body down close next to mine,

Sure, yes I'm sure, your husband won't mind.

We're in Montana, and he's in Japan.

So lay your body down. Lay it close next to mine.

Just turn your lamp off, and close down the blinds.

If he came home to find us entwined,

Your husband's a good man, he'd understand.

So lay your body down. Lay it close next to mine.

(asleep beneath the bower of other tresses,

i do miss the slow flower of your eyes.

but i'll water i guess the garden of her yesses

till i rest in the hollow of your thighs:

is what we learn worth the loss of what we forget?)

Come lay your body down close next to mine.

Sure, yes I'm sure, your husband won't mind.

Sure, yes I'm sure, your husband won't mind.

Sure, yes I'm sure.... Sure, yes I'm sure....

(though i taste the desserts of another's mess,

i still miss the silvered service of your limbs,

i must suppress the appetite of these whims

till again i can dine at the table of your breasts.

who else turns his face from the light to stare at shadows?

who abandons the concert to attend to echoes?)

Come lie here beside me, pass down the wine,

Sure I am that your husband won't mind:

Needs in Montana can't wait for Japan.

So lay your body down,

Lay your body down, body down. Body next to mine....