Monday, May 21, 2018

next

he had a tattoo on his
arm, etched in
blue green
ink that ran
and was splotched.
it read
Next over his smooth
muscle.
not mary, or sue,
no
linda
or karen, not
sally
or Francine.
just the word Next.
I saw him
on the street the other
day.
he didn't look
unhappy at all.
his sleeves were rolled
up, as always,
but the next was gone
and the name ginger
in red had taken
its place.
he smiled, we shook hands,
then moved on.

sweet cherries

when they went away for a day or
two
we'd climb the black cherry
tree on the corner
and like monkeys
scramble up and through,
to eat our fill.
our skinny arms and legs
would hardly
bend the tender
branches.
we'd stuff our mouths,
our pockets,
the white t-shirts
stained with the blood
of stolen fruit.
we'd spit the seeds
at one another
with glee.
we ate until we ached.
dropping down the trunk
when the car turned the corner
the owners returning,
coming into view.
two summers we raided
that fat sweet cherry tree
before they took it down
with cruel strong swings
of a silver axe.

the ice cream truck

I remember the unemployment
office
in the 1970's.
the squat red brick building
in Beltsville Maryland.
the long lines
the waiting.
a dreadful time
in so many ways.
sitting for hours
until it was your turn
to prove
you had skills, that you
were unemployed
through no fault of your own.
the check per week was
less than
a hundred dollars.
better than nothing, I said
to my friend john.
we earned it, we both said.
we worked all year
before the lay off, now
it's time
for us to get something
for nothing.
we looked for another job together.
our long hair, his beard,
and beret, our youth keeping
us from doing much
in the world
but painting houses,
cutting grass, or driving
an ice cream truck.
our classes at the community
college did nothing
for our short resumes.

john's been dead for over
two years now.

when I hear the bells
and music of the truck
as I sit on the front porch
alone, I watch as it rolls
slowly down the block.
the children
appear out of nowhere
running as they always have
every summer,
burnished with sun,
in their bare feet, with
money clutched
in their tender hands.

get happy

we buy a bigger
house. one with a better
view.
another boat, another place
to live in.
another car,
another suit, another
set of ear rings,
a watch,
a stick pin, more bling.
we lie inside the tanning
booth
for darker skin.
we get the fat sucked
out of our bellies,
our chins.
we buy a wig, new teeth,
new shoes.
we do nearly everything
to make ourselves
happy,
everything, but working on
what lies within.

no more clowns

when the clowns
keep coming out of the small
car.
I don't laugh.
I don't find it amusing
at all.
it's ridiculous.
I don't want to send in
the clowns.
there is nothing funny
about a clown,
in fact the exact opposite
comes to mind.
the make up.
the permanent smile.
the squirting flower
and horn
blowing.
I want a world without
clowns, without
their polyester yellow
jumpsuits.
their red bushy air
the animal balloons.
I want a clown ban, that
goes for mimes too.

evil dessert

jealousy
is such an evil dessert.
so cruel
an emotion there never was.
a devil's
dish
of angst.
you keep spooning it
in,
the black heart
never quite full.
the flight of rational
thinking
flies quickly
out the window.
just a word or glance
is enough
to throw a jug of
kerosene
onto a single flame
of a match struck.
it's a sick world.
crazy
and mean.
how rough the waters
can be
so quickly, though once
so placid, so relaxed,
so serene.

the barber shop

as a child
I feared the razor of the old
man,
the barber
in Barcelona.
his belly brushing against
my buster browns,
his garlic
lunch a cloud of despair
upon me.
how small I was in the thick
hot chair
that held me down
like sand.
I watched and listened
as he sharpened the blade
against a strap
of Spanish leather.
preparing me for what?
I was only six,
what possible reason would
there be
to place that shiny
knife against my brow,
my cheek,
my lineless face.
how would I look without
ears?
where was my mother to
save me
from this death.
shopping?
eating shaved lemon ice
in the promenade,
flirting with a
conquistador or a bull
fighter
in the cool arc of shade?

new desire

washed ashore
you drag yourself across
the sand
and away from
the roar
of waves,
the blast of sun,
the salt
of being thrown
overboard
in a rage of sea.
you won't look back
at the wreck.
at the bones of the ship
gone down.
beaten,
you are still alive,
still certain
of what's to come,
what's
survived.
you'll start
with that tree over
there,
take it down,
build upon it,
make a solid place
to live
on higher ground.
you'll thatch a roof,
build a fire.
you'll be safe once
more, you'll be who you
were, once again.
strong and alive,
confident with new desire.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

put the money in the bag

the first time
I robbed a bank
I didn't know what I was
doing.
my hand written note
was nearly illegible.
put the money in the bag,
I scribbled on the back
of an envelope.
the teller, a nice young
woman, asked me
what the note said.
I can't read this, it
looks like you wrote
put the baloney in
the box.
no, no I whispered
loudly, the money in
the bag. money, moohlah,
cash, dough rey me? get it?
I put my finger into my
jacket to indicate
I was carrying heat,
but she paid it no mind.
you're going to have to
go to a deli for
baloney, she said.
and we don't have any
boxes or bags here.
I gave her a paper bag,
and whispered to her
again, my hand
cupped to my mouth.
money, dollars, cash,
into the bag. now or
I might have to hurt
someone.
do you have an account
here, she said, I need to
see some ID.

In the woods

it's a long night.
I look out the window
and see
them creeping about
in the shadows.
longing for what's inside.
they're in the woods.
in the trees,
they crawl
and scratch their
way through
the thickets, the fallen
leaves.
I see their eyes,
red in the moonlight.
their sharpened fangs
bared
and dripping
with carnivorous desire.
nothing stops them.
nothing
keeps them at bay,
not even daylight
sends them back home,
back to the lives
they've made.
they stay and wait
on their hind legs,
they pant and beg.
what they want's inside.

fresca?

the gypsy
takes my hand and stares
into the lines,
she bats a fly away
from her face
and yells out
for someone
to shut the screen
door.
I hear it slam.
I see trouble, she says.
lots and lots of trouble.
what are all these
lines?
do you mind if I smoke
she says,
lighting a cigarette.
when I see hands like this,
I don't know,
it breaks my heart.
take out a handkerchief
and wipe
the dark paint off my
hand, still
wet from work.
oh, she says. much better.
she touches the clean
lines
on my palm.
things seem to be going
well for you lately.
are you in show business
by any chance.
I see wonderful adventures
in your future.
do you want a fresca?

the water color

it's a water
color
world of unskilled
strokes,
the reds
bleed,
the blues are mottled.
the greens
have
slipped into muddy
brown.
the hand moves across
the canvas
trying to make sense
of it all.
trying to put
a straight line
into view.
it's harder than it
looks,
what isn't?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

land fill

the landfill
is overflowing with what
we don't want
or use.
tires and books,
pants
and broken chandeliers.
there goes a heart or two
as well.
they truck it in from
Baltimore,
from
new York,
from LA,
and Brunswick.
it keeps coming.
doesn't stop.
I add my share to the pile
shoveled
onto the rising heap.
I purge
the life I led,
the encrypted world
of me,
but there's always
some newer stuff.
always.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

survival

I wring out
my muscles, the sinew
of an aging body.
i let my bones crack
under the weight of me.
I lie
on the floor
and stare up at the ceiling.
I've been here before
and survived.
i'll live through this
one too,
and be all the stronger
and wiser
when I come out the other
side.

don't we?

the lights
are dim. the shadows
long
this time of day.
the world slinks home
from work.
from school.
the children get off
the buses.
lovers depart
from their rendezvous
in green parks.
the day is nearly done.
we all go home
to something or someone.
don't we?

old cars

the car has seen better days.
royal blue
is now denim faded.
there's rust
on the running boards,
in the wheel wells, the radio
doesn't play.
a crack in the windshield
serrates the glass.
in the morning she
groans when she tries to turn
over. when i hit the gas.
the pistons stuck,
the gear shift, the doorknobs too.
she was a great car for
many years,
smooth as silk on the open
road.
plush and fun around the curves.
I remember the beach
on our first trip to the eastern
shore.
the bridge, the gulls.
the salt in the air.
i'll miss her, as I have all
the old cars I've been down
the road with.
but it's time to go, pull
up the truck and take her.
i'll wipe my tears away
and get another. maybe a foreign
job with a convertible
roof to let the sun in.

the clean slate

I take
the eraser and wipe
the black board. it takes
all day.
I scrub hard
at the words, doubt,
fear, loneliness, etched
in with a heavy hand.
I want a clean slate.
it's a joyous occasion.
I remove all the chalk
of yesterday. I sponge
it down, make it new
again.
the board is pristine,
ready for a new day coming.
that lesson is over.
those dark pages are gone.
the next chapter
of my life begins.
I can hardly wait.
I take a new piece of chalk
and begin to write.

two hearts


the rain is bliss,
the summer pour of warmth
from a layer
of brushed silk clouds
is fine
on this late morning.
I can hear
it on the roof, against
the tin,
the tile, the wood.
I can hear the beat of my
own tired heart
wanting two.

the hand not taken

we make mistakes.
we do things that change
our lives forever,
not for
the better but for the worse.
regrets
are sharp stones we carry
in our mouths
and can't spit out.
what could have been
rattles
around in the iron
cage of
our minds. always there,
always reminding us of
the hand not taken,
the vows not spoken.
we stay lost and mired in
the fog of doubt.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

what the problem is

my new personal yogi,
guru and wise man,
jimmy,
says that my problem
is a spiritual
one.
he's turned over a new
leaf. in fact
he's turned over a tree
full of leaves
since I've known him.
but I think he's on
to something now.
it's not money, or love,
or work,
or relationships, he
says,
that's keeping you
blue, in the dumps,
it's where you are
in your spiritual life,
he says.
all of man's troubles
are the result of a
spiritual one.
who's first in your world?
who or what means most to you?
straighten that out
with the man up there
and you're home free
my brother. surrender
is the answer.
I look up to the rafters
when he points with his fork
full of rib eye steak and says
the man up there.
I see a tiny
brown sparrow looking down,
there's a small
worm in his mouth.
jimmy raises his cold bottle
of Budweiser and waits
for me to clink
his bottle with mine.
I do.
surrender man, he says
again. let it all go.
could you pass me the ketchup?

a piece is missing

a piece of me
is missing. I can't find it
anywhere.
I've looked all over
the house,
in the car, the yard,
on the street.
I've sorted through
the laundry,
shook the pages of books.
I don't even know what
it looks like,
how to describe it.
I just feel that it's gone.
a broken chunk
of me removed and lost.
strangers and friends alike
stop me on the street
and ask, what's wrong?
I haven't been myself
without it.
perhaps the x rays
will tell me more.

the hand you reach for

sometimes
the hand you reach for
is not the one
who is going to help
you get over
the side of a cliff.
it seems right
at the time,
dangling a thousand
feet above the ravine,
your life in the balance,
but they don't have
your best interests
in mind.
having done so many
climbs,
you are more wise
these days,
and so you wait patiently
for another hand,
a stronger rope to arrive.

the land line

i don't have any money
i say when picking up the phone
before hearing a word.
it's the irs.
i can hear a thousand voices
talking at once
in the cavernous warehouse.
it's about a student loan,
it's about discount
drugs
in Canada.
new windows, or the police,
or fireman wanting
a donation.
sorry, but i'm plum out
of cash at the moment i
say, then hang up
and wait for the next call.

kenny and mary

I get a postcard in the mail
from the karrikers in Miami.
come soon, it says.
we miss you.
we'd like to see you this
year.
a flamingo is on the front
of the glossy card,
pink against a pale
blue sea.
we have oranges here,
it reads. we have plenty
of room.
come before it's too hot.
before we're too old
to walk, to hear or see.
come soon before kenny dies.
he's not well.
we have cable tv.

which way

the canvas is white
today
despite the rain outside,
the emerald
green of trees
is lit
under a sunless sky.
no ink spilled or brushed
yet.
what to do.
what to say, where to go.
I stand at the intersection
of young hours
and turn
in each direction.
who's available
to paint outside the lines,
to hit the road,
to misbehave,
what trouble
or goodness can we
get into on this long wet
rainy day.

the other life

the baby tooth,
the small white shoe
the bellini crib,
the mobile
swinging
from a vine
above.
the monitor,
the plastic toys,
the smell of powder,
the warm
bottle
spritzed on a wrist
to see how
hot.
the blankets
and soft pillows,
the binky
and bear. the video
tapes,
and albums.
that life is boxed,
stored in a cellar,
an attic,
somewhere.

old ink

yesterdays news
is stale.
but I read it anyway.
I open up the paper
and graze upon the mass
of words.
the headlines
screaming war or terror.
nothing's changed since
the last
paper.
the funny paper unfunny.
the horoscopes
and puzzle
ignored. the ads in color
so as not
to be confused with the news.
final clear out
on mattresses. everything
must go.
the rib eyes are marked down.
I flip to the sports page.
where's mantle,
where's
sayers and Lombardi.
where's
clemente when you
need him?

point of view

the walls of the infirmary
are white.
the long coats
of doctors are white
too, the nurses
are splattered
red
as if Jackson pollock
had just left
the room.
the gurney I am
rolled upon
is sheeted white
as well. i feel the ironed
starch of them
upon my skin. I see the life
of me
puddle in a brownish
hue.
unheavenly lights
flicker above me,
fluorescent
and full of sparkle
from this view.
I see the face
of a surgeon lean over
me
as they insert a needle
into a vein,
place a shield
of air
upon my mouth.
his eyes are dark
and worried.
everything will be just
fine,
someone says.
why do I keep hearing
those words.
I see the knife.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

until the first bite

the apple
on first sight is red
and glorious
in its color, its
simple orbed life.
look how it shines.
how often we don't see
the worm
on the other side,
burrowing
through the white
turning
it soft and brown inside,
all unknown to us
until the first bite.

the sand lot

when we were kids
we'd go down to St. Elizabeth's
Hospital
and look through the iron
fence at the mad men
and women
who wandered the grounds.
set free
from the red brick building
to be in the sun.
some in conversation with
the air,
or trees, others slumped
on benches, or on
bent knees.
we wondered how, we wondered
why, as we stood there
with ball caps on,
our gloves in hand.
bats and balls.
we stared and wondered
about this strange
dark world we were yet
to know about,
before running off to play
on a field not far
from where we were.

fire in the engine

half the year
is
in the can like
a dead fish wrapped
in yesterdays news.
how is it possible?
the wheels of time
are on
greased rails
it seems, going down hill,
speeding ever closer
to some end.
i'm hanging on to
the straps,
knees bent, eyes shut,
waiting
to get out of the tunnel
and around
the bend.
I do see a light.
and sigh. I see there's
still time,
still track, still fire
in the engine.

starry eyed

who hasn't been
starry eyed,
mad about someone.
a loon howling
at a silvered moon,
running wild across
the fields at
night.
who hasn't
tripped and fell
when running towards
love.
who hasn't
flown with thin wings
into the light
above,
believing that now,
finally now, that
all things will be
just right.

good people

we are good people.
we go to work.
we obey the laws of
the land
as best we can.
we love our children,
our parents,
our friends.
we wipe away the tears of
others when they fall.
we listen,
we pray. we sin,
then ask forgiveness.
we start all over
again.
we brush and floss,
we drop a coin into
the homeless tin.
in time these days add
up to something.
I think. but
are we accountable
at the end.
did we do enough, we're
we selfless,
and kind enough,
or does it even matter
as we fade
back in the ground where
we began.

no plan

i go into the safeway
without a clear plan.
hunger is setting in.
i take a cart and roll
it down the aisles.
the wobbled wheel steering
me to where I don't
want to go. I rest
and admire the glimmer
of it all.
even the cans of beans
shine. the olives.
the foil pans.
all heavenly objects
in orbit.
i walk around store,
then circle back again.
i'm making friends.
i nod and wave to all
the other men, scruffy
with three day beards,
in long coats, watery
eyes, some women
too with strollers,
or riding in the scooters,
wearing flowered hats
holding pads and pens.
purses on their shoulders
as large as hens.
the deli man says hey,
back again?
i stare at the rotisserie
chickens
spinning slowly,
basted brown,
in the silver oven.
it's a good store. clean
and polished,
well lit. the pyramids
of pears and apples,
set high. dead fish on ice,
blue eyed,
yesterdays bread at half price.
i can't think of a better
way to spend time
so late in the afternoon,
so late in life.

the early day

it's too early
to take a nap.
too early to eat.
i'm not in the mood
to read, or write,
or do anything,
I look at my phone.
everyone's at work, or
out of town.
the house is clean.
laundry done.
there's nowhere to be.
it's a good time to have
a dog,
perhaps.

i need to borrow some money

we're lucky
he says, nodding, smiling,
folding his
legs
as we sit on the park
bench.
i'm glad you picked up
the phone
after the last time.
it's so nice to see you
again.
yes. I say. it is nice.
we go back a long way.
we have so much,
he says,
stretching in the sun,
but we need so little
to survive.
we're blessed,
aren't we? you
and me. we're winners,
aren't we?
what are you talking
about,
I ask him.
he's an old friend
and when he talks like
this I begin to worry.
I need to borrow
some money he says.
just a few grand. and your
car next
weekend. i'm in a jam
right now, but things will
be fine
in the end. things
will be fine.
this is the last time,
I promise.

catch and release

the fish
I take out of the sea
is large.
I need both hands
to hold him.
he's green and silver
in the sun.
flecks of orange.
I pull the steel hook
from his stiff mouth,
trying not tear at his
skin. I see the fear
in his eyes.
the cold panic
of is body, writhing
in pain.
he wants to swim.
he can't breathe in
this air.
who doesn't know
that feeling at some
point in their lives,
wanting to be thrown
back in.

the storm clears

the swing of the broken
blades, the hard
slap of metal
and rubber against
the glass
reminds me
of something,
a different place
and time
as we drive through
the rain.
I can't put my finger
on it.
a deja vu kind
of thing. but i'm
careful on the curve
of road,
the detoured lane,
both hands on the wheel
but at ease
as the storm clears
and the wind settles
beyond the trees.

the blue squid

a blue squid
appears in your dream.
slow moving
out of water,
he lies on the kitchen
floor
a fleshy lump of life
from some far away sea.
we stare at the long
limbs. the dark button eyes.
the suction of his
arms, or are they
legs?
what to do with him.
or her.
whose to know these
things, whose to know
what to do when a squid
appears in a dream.

who's next

he counts the days
towards the end. no gold watch.
no group photo.
no nothing,
just a hug, a pat
on the back,
thanks for the thirty
years you put in.
it goes like that now.
the farewell of us is
not what it used to be.
the ceremonial dinner
is at denny's.
some come, some can't
make it, some never knew
you or where you sat
at your desk.
but it's clean
now. ready
for the next guest. who's
next?

new wings

I peel off the old skin.
the wet
clothes
of me.
I cut my beard,
my hair,
sink into the warm
bath.
I burn everything
I bring.
I start anew.
a fresh pair of clothes
new shoes.
a new set of wings.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

a good place to be

I awaken from asleep
between the snowy sheets
that rise
and fall in billowy
drifts of cotton.
it's three a.m.
I see the fan
above swirl
in the shadows,
I touch my arm,
my face to see if i'm
still alive.
I am.
what's come and gone
hasn't killed me.
this is not a dream.
I don't want morning
to arrive,
I don't want another
night to start.
here is a good place
to be.


i'm coming home

the war is over.
i'm coming home. my sea bag
on my shoulder.
i'm limping,
my arms are tired.
my back sore.
it was a long war.
a long
battle full of sleepless
nights.
I can still hear the bullets
in the air,
the blast of bombs nearby.
the dead and dying
fresh in my mind.
but the war is over
i'm coming home.
be there for me
won't you, when I arrive.

no charge

how nice
the suds go over
the black
metal, my arms
stretched onto the roof,
the sides.
the tires next then
the rinses of a long
red hose,
the sponge, the rag,
the bucket
at your soggy shoes.
i'm settled nicely
in the shade without a care,
out of the sun.
a cold beer in hand.
the radio on.
the neighbor smiles
and says,
mine next?
sure, I tell him, pull
it up.
no charge.

Friday, May 11, 2018

getting closer

the rungs
on this ladder are old.
aluminum
steps that feel the weight
of me,
the strike of my
boots.
hot in the summer,
so cold
when the wind
blows in from the north.
I climb
and hold on.
my fingers grasping
at the sides.
I reach the top
and look down.
i know i'm closer to
where i need
to be.

juggling

so many knives
in the air,
kids
and work,
lovers and friends.
we juggle
so much, balancing
on a wire is
our
life long act.
it's never easy
keeping
it all going.
not enough time,
not enough
energy.
but we try, oh how
hard we try
to keep it all
from falling.

the seed

the seed
buried will take
its own time in coming up.
water
and sun,
there is little else
to do,
but wait
and wait
for what's to come.

to the moon

as we glide
forward
towards the moon,
the earth behind us.
what is there to see?
stars,
rocks, a lifeless
orb,
the white dust
of nothing.
we want to travel
to places
where there is nothing
there to see.
no air
to breathe.
all that matters
is behind us.
the love
we've made,
the friends we choose
to keep.

the joy last

the birds
are fat in the yard.
they teeter
with red and blue
bellies
on the wooden fence.
the feeders
are full but not for long,
the suet gnawed on
and broken
by squirrels
and raccoons
a woodpecker or two.
too much, perhaps?
are we upsetting
the world
beyond our grasp by
making life
too easy? so much
is about
the struggle, the hunt
that makes
the joy last.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

zen painting

i stare at the wall
and watch paint dry.
it's a zen thing.
i go into a zone, a place
of bliss.
my mind is empty
of yesterday.
tomorrow doesn't exist.
i can paint all
day and watch it dry.
wall after wall.
i find that ignorance
is bliss.
i want bliss.
it keeps me
from the real world.
from truth
and worry.
another coat goes on.
i watch it dry.

and cake

if not for ice
cream and cake, i'd see no
reason
to go on.
I used to think that love
was important.
not so.
that having money,
a home,
a car. that things
were necessary
to make me happy,
the frivolous
je ne sais quoi,
that the world
offers,
but I see how quickly
things fade
and break,
disappear.
I stare at the hole
in my
expensive Italian shoes
and smile.
I see now that ice cream
is key
to life and happiness.
and cake.

the swan dive

the rapids
are tempting. perhaps a swan
dive
from the highest rock
into the vortex
of the river
would do the trick.
going under
until my lungs are
empty of air
and full of ageless water.
my arms too tired
to swim,
my legs like leaden pipes
taking me down.
it would be a magnificent
dive.
arms extended, legs
together like I learned
at the airman's pool
on Bolling base when I was
twelve.
my chin would be up.
it would be a ten on all
the judges cards.
i'd keep my eyes wide open
in a final glimpse
of a wonderous world.
hours later
they'd find me in calmer
water, drifting alone in
the low swirl of peace,
which is where I always
wanted to be
in the first place.

the whistle

as the train crosses
the trestle
the whistle blows.
we stand
below, near the flat lake,
powder blue
with ducks.
we watch.
passengers wave.
some of us wave back.
we are here
to stay,
they are moving on.
it's always been
that way.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

friendship

how sweet to have
an ear
that listens, a friend
indeed.
a kind word, or touch,
a hand
upon your shoulder,
telling you
all the things you
need
and want to hear.
how gently a true
friend can be,
sorting through
the waves,
the tsunami of heart ache
that leaves your shore
littered with debris.
how kind of a friend
that tells you
what the truth is,
who untangles the flowers
from the weeds,
lifts you up with a tender
heart,
gathers you
from your calloused knees.

doing nothing

I make a day of it.
doing
nothing.
I exhale all the dead
air
and angst out of me
and inhale a fresh breath
of love.
of goodness
and virtue.
I lie down in the sun
like a fat cat.
drinking a beer.
reading a magazine
or two.
flipping through
a soft book, nothing
too hard.
I call up some
friends.
I ask them if they'd
like to come over
and do nothing.
they can't get here
fast enough.
they bring food.
we put some music on.
we should do this
more often
someone says, rubbing
lotion onto his arms
we should do nothing
more often.
we clink our bottles
together
and say yes.
here's to nothing.

self help bonfire

it was a wonderful
bonfire.
we held it on the beach.
a crowd gathered,
each bringing their own
pile of books.
self help books.
hundreds of them.
pages and paragraphs
underlined and marked
with dates
and names.
dog eared
book marked.
so many. so useless.
together we danced
as the flames licked
at the stars,
the sea beside
us, black and roaring
with life.
I threw book after book
into the raging flame
and felt
enriched. felt freed,
felt joy for the first
time in ages.
done with the pyscho babble
of the pseudo therapists
and doctors
making a mint on our
human needs.
it was worth every penny
I used to buy
them, just to see them
burn.

slave world

we live in a world
of factories,
hunched over
our keyboards,
chained to our desks,
our phones,
our laptops.
there is no leaving
the job
anymore.
we drag our so important
work
into homes
into families.
there is no escape.
there is no time to smell
the roses,
for there are no roses.
they're dead,
unwatered or cared for,
the violets too.
all night, all day.
the beeps and bells
keep sounding.
demanding
come to your master,
dear slaves.

this grape

this grape,
this simple thing,
green as spring,
succulent
and tart
as a true love's kiss
in may.
this grape
means everything
to me,
this day.

the baby's room

the wallpaper
is green. it's for a baby's room.
some stripes,
some flowers.
a matisse sort
of thing.
eight sheets
across.
I paste and smooth,
I place the level upon
the edge
making the bubble just
right.
I cut, then sponge.
soon
the job is done.
the check is made
and i'm home to write
about it.

steak on the grill

the liquid diet gets old
after a while.
I need
red meat.
a pork chop. a slice
of prime rib,
something with blood
in it.
something
to bring me back to life.
i'm growing gills
lately.
i'm swimming upstream,
my skin is green
from lettuce
and asparagus. kale
and spinach.
my eyes have turned
yellow
from succotash.
throw me a steak on
the grill soon,
asap.

the portrait

a newer shade of blue
goes up
on the wall.
near grey in certain
light when the shades
are drawn.
but it will
match
the drapes, the rug,
the newly upholstered
sofa
that's centered in
the living room
as you come down the hall.
a vase
goes on the mantel. ming?
doubtful, perhaps
home goods
or Tuesday morning.
flowers too, a bundle of
fresh roses,
of a pinkish hue.
a painting of a
man, a woman,
unsmiling, goes over
the fireplace.
they don't touch,
but look
at the artist as if
he held a camera.
a small dog sits between
them.
they most likely
have passed on.
whatever happiness
they shared
is not shown.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

out of scratch

my brain
is bankrupt. there are
no words
left
to be said.
the safe of me is empty.
everything has been
withdrawn, over drawn,
or stolen.
I have no coined
phrases, no
letters inside of hearts
to be written
or carved into
trees along the wooded
path.
the bridges are all burned.
my knife is dull.
my nails
are bitten to the red.
i'm out of scratch.
out of bread.

the shadow world

it's a world
in between worlds.
a shadow world
of doubt. of secrets
and things
hidden from your eyes.
the lies of omission
cloaking my world
in fog.
not knowing where
to step,
what words to use,
what place
to sit.
it's a murky cave
of running water,
locked doors and
misunderstanding.
I hear the constant bell
of a phone.
the desperate ding.
I hear the birds
outside
the window.
i'm startled by touch.
I know there's
another heart in this
room, somewhere.
I know there's
a window,
to open, a shade to raise,
a door
that isn't closed.
I remember the blue sky
and sun,
the open and free world,
the joy of life,
but where?

Monday, May 7, 2018

what mercy

folded
together like sticks.
her bones are stuck
in place.
she looks not unlike
the photos i've
seen of bodies
stacked as lumber
at Auschwitz or Dachau,
but her eyes are open.
blank
and brown.
staring into yours.
her mittened hands
scratching,
scratching
at the boards of her
skin.
parchment now,
yellowed and veined,
sagging
under the weight
of what's left
of her.
what wisdom is there
in this kind of dying,
what mercy
is there?

we are here

a friend or
two
come to the rescue.
they see me lying
in the road,
wounded, near death.
they see the bloom
of my breath leaving
my body in the frigid
air.
they bring
food and drink.
a blanket from home.
they place their
hands
upon me,
they tend to my
wounds. they lean
their faces onto mine.
I can see the infinite sky
above.
the salt of stars
against
the black cloth of night.
lie back they say.
close your eyes, don't worry.
you are loved.
you are blessed.
we'll never leave you
or forsake you.
let us wipe
your tears,
let us carry you
to a safe place,
or further
if need be.
you are not alone
in this. have faith.
we are here.

almost there

the mirror
talks to me. says what's up.
where has
the smile been
lately.
the joy, the grin, the smirk.
the roll of eyes.
the mischief?
I nod, and say, yes I know.
hold on.
it's coming.
it's on its way.
be patient.
i'm almost there.

killing vines

so quickly
in rain, these vines
reach
towards
the fence, the brick.
under foot,
the petals of purple
and green rise
from the hard earth,
life goes on
no matter how much
you trim and cut
away of the past,
the slate is never
quite clean.

calm waters

your lips
have said enough, you've
made your case.
let's go silent now
and pull the boat down stream.
the words have fallen
out, rushed like the rapids
of a river
nearing rock, and falls.
how much you need
to be beyond this
rough water, this turmoil
of wash,
the jagged cliffs,
the vortex of pools
trying to suck you under.
is there clear and calm
waters ahead? maybe,
let's hope so.
I row patiently
in that direction.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

the hunter, the hunted

the cat
full of ancient wisdom
learned
through the centuries
lies hunched
in the shadow
below the bush,
patient with
claws drawn,
just out of site
of the bird feeder
and its
sway of life
upon it. the flutter
of wings,
the pinching of beaks
against each nut
or seed.
in time one bird
will alight
upon the ground
and quickly the cat,
its patience rewarded,
will strike
in a pounce. it's always
been this way.
the hunter,
the hunted.

the panic attack

breathing
used to be easy.
so was sleep.
you remember the taste of food.
the touch
of a hand.
the wetness of a kiss
against your lips.
so many things you recall
as you lean
against the iron fence
with heart racing,
the beaded brow,
the ache and groan of
the unknown.
the spinning wheel
of your mind
greased with
fear and worry.
this too shall pass
you believe and know,
but death seems like a
sweet option
at the moment.

tar road

the smudge of sun.
the flint of
a broken smile,
the shoulders hunched,
the weight
of arms
and legs
lead pipes swinging
to a distant
drum.
the road of tar
must be laid.
names stenciled
against the orange backs,
the shovels turning
over and over
the turn of steel blades,
the heat rising,
shimmering, nervous
in an unkind world
without shade.

the dry yard

the flowers in the yard
have seen
better days. it hasn't rained
for weeks.
they're limp
and dry.
the petals no longer
soft.
you know the feeling,
colorless
in the shade,
even the tangle of vines
and weeds
await rain, then sun,
a new day.

in the dark

each watch
ticking away
in a drawer by themselves.
keeping time
for no one.
they never stop.
you come and go,
you live your life
without them
strapped to your wrist.
it doesn't matter
to them.
they have lives of their
own.
they need not know
where you've been
with who or what
you've done.
what lies you've told,
or untold.
the story of your life
is written without
keeping time.
these watches lie
in the dark,
in a drawer kept closed.

Friday, May 4, 2018

the punching bag

we jab and bob,
weave,
we shadow box,
beat the big bag
with all our strength.
hooks and crosses.
upper cuts.
leaning in,
with torso and legs.
we pound
at it. striking
with fists
wrapped in white tape.
we are at war
with this
thing, this lifeless
stuffed
leather bag,
all the while
cursing a fight
in the real world,
the one we can never win.

a dolls life

the doll,
with her pinked skin
chipped,
her large
black eyes. glossed
in fictitious thought,
though
not a thought has entered
or left
this plastic
work of near art, ever.
the plaintive smile
is unchanging
through the years.
the tangle of wired hair
brushed and held back
by a small beret.
she never shows her age.
from garage to box,
to attic,
to this shelf at a
flea market, besides
other lost dolls, or
thrown away.
whose hands held
this faux
baby, this replica
of life.
what child grew up
and held
this thing and cried,
or cared for it,
cuddled to it in a nightmarish
night,
as if real, as if almost
life?

the fine day

how fine the day is.
the light blue
of sky
and clouds. the warm
tenderness
of spring before summer.
how sweet the hand is
upon your face,
your chest,
that warm embrace
when love is real
and not imagined.
how fine the day is
when all is well,
when everything
is safely in place.

ants

the ants
are everywhere.
the word is out.
a black strand,
like pepper
come to life, linked
from sill
to counter, to the floor.
an army
of sorts, an insect
platoon
of dots
marching on tinsel
legs towards
crumbs
left behind,
things not swept
by a careful
broom.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

her new poems

the bricks are loose.
but she
pushes them
back into place.
they're ancient,
browned
from sun and winter.
no mortar left to hold
them still.
each step she takes shakes
them, crumbles what's
left.
pieces fall and tumble,
but she doesn't care.
she's old and new
in her wisdom years.
back in they go,
and the next time too
when she comes down
the stairs
with tea, a book,
a handful of
her new poems, happy
just to see you.

over the back fence

my mother
liked to gossip over
the back fence
while hanging laundry
on the line
with her friends Jolene
and Linda,
or on the phone
to far away lands
like Philadelphia
where Gloria and Delores
resided.
it wasn't malicious or
mean,
but just good fun
with no harm intended.
that can't be her
real hair
color, she'd say.
I've never seen a red like that
in nature,
have you?
or what about Francine,
I heard
she went to Miami,
by herself!
for a short vacation.
what divorced woman
does that? travelling
alone, oh my.
and bill, next door,
the lonely married man,
how many cups
of sugar does one man
need to borrow in
a week?
he always tries to sit
next to me in church
when his wife isn't with
him.

free and easy

for an hour
you stare out the back window.
you have a plate
of hours on your hands.
there are
birds on
the feeder.
cardinals, hummingbirds.
blue jays
and sparrows.
they feast nervously
at the seed
and suet hanging
easily in reach.
life is like that sometimes.
free and easy
when least expected.
safe with
no predators in sight.

luck like that

I take all
the lucky pennies
in the penny jar
to the bank.
I say lucky
but don't mean it.
I let them slide
into the slots
where they make noise
like a one armed
bandit
coughing up three
cherries
worth of winners.
but it's just pennies,
brown round metal
stones,
all adding up
to a 12 dollars and
seventy two cents.
I let them go.
I don't need luck like
that anymore.

without a need

fatigue
is sweet in a strange way.
when you
can't get up, or talk,
or raise a finger
to argue.
you just want to unfold
your bones and lie down.
on a rug or bed, under a table,
in the cold
black street. makes no
difference. you don't
care about the dust
upon your brow,
or the rain falling
in blue pellets
from the low bank of clouds.
you've reached a point
of being done. cooked.
tired beyond tired,
beyond belief.
seared and burned.
the eyes are red.
the mouth is dry.
nothing seems worth
reaching for
to drink or eat.
you can't fall asleep.
you can't stay awake.
you just want to lie there
without a thought,
without a care
without a need.

chasing the truck

I chase the trash
truck down the street
with a bag
of old shrimp shells.
fish heads,
and orange peels,
but i'm too late.
i'm in my bare feet,
my pajamas.
hey, I yell as the truck
turns
the corner.
I look at the bag,
holding it with
two fingers.
now what.

what breaks your heart

sometimes it's the scent
of something
in the air,
a whiff
of yesterday,
or past mistakes,
misgivings
that sets you reeling.
while other times it's a
word said
taken the wrong way,
a mere echo of a thought
misplaced
and spoken.
it could be the color
of the sky,
a song.
a wing with a broken
bird.
a flower you once gave.
maybe it's something bought
and set aside
in memory
of someone else.
hidden in a corner,
but once seen
breaks your heart.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

dear diary

i start a diary.
i type in all the things
i can't say
out loud.
it makes me realize how
untruthful
I've been
with so much of my life.
telling others, everything
is just fine.
i'm good, but I've been
holding back what i really
need and want to say.
I've been polite and kind.
cautious,
like a man walking
on thin ice,
trying so hard to not
hurt anyone,
while i suffered in pain.
i pound furiously at the keys.
i'm off the chain.
happiness is a warm typewriter!
i have so much to get out
and rail about.
feeling after feeling,
I peel back the layers
of skin, get down to the bone,
the marrow,
whether right or wrong.
i don't care.
i'm running free again, at last.
no borders, no fence, no
wall to keep me in.
this is for me. each
word a nail driven hard
and fast into the paper.
I've cut a vein and use
the blood
for ink. i punch goodness
in the face
and write it all out
with vengeance and venom.
no one gets out alive.
it feels wonderful.
no punches held back.
each blow a direct hit.
part of me would like to print
out each and every page
of what I've written and
make ten thousand copies. i'd like
to drop them from a plane,
from the tops of buildings
so that everyone could read them
and know the truth, at last.
but no. this is all vanity.
i'm too much of a coward
for that
and what would be the point
anyway,
nothing would change.
would it, dear diary?

i see an island

I see an island
I want to get to.
it's small and warm
surrounded by water.
a few trees are there
for shade.
it's a place of rest
and relaxation.
no worry.
no angst. no trouble
from the past
or present.
a place where my mind
is free
and easy.
to hell with the future.
just get me
to the island.
point it out on a map.
show me the way
by the stars.
steer me in the right
direction.
i'll swim, i'll row.
i'll run as fast as I can
to get there.

when the mood strikes

i take chance
on a dozen lottery tickets.
when the numbers
come out i have
none.
not a single number
is on any of my tickets.
i tear
them into halves
and toss them in the wind
towards a waste
basket.
i have to laugh.
what else is there to do
but try again
when the mood strikes,
and the heart is healed.

the smell of bacon

the dream
comes to me at four a.m.
it startles me
awake.
i'm in a barn yard,
in the mud.
pigs are everywhere.
fat pink
pigs ready for slaughter.
small and large
with their wiry tails,
glassy eyed.
they are all
around me,
snorting in their pig
like way.
one large one seems
to be running the show.
large and onerous.
I try to escape the mud,
the pen
that i'm stuck in,
but they keep me there,
they bite and pull
at my pants my
shirt,
my shoes. they want
to devour me, these
pigs.
I hear laughing.
mocking me. telling
me i'll never get away
and be done with it.
perhaps my love of
bacon has put me here,
put me into this dream,
into this
crazy nightmare.
who's to know.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

giddy up

I take the whip
out
and crack it against the red sky.
I load my gun, the one
with the pearl handle.
i'm wearing
boots. pointed boots
made out of snake skin.
I mean business.
I put my badge on too.
tarnished, but
still, a badge.
I whistle for my horse
who comes running
from the field.
saddle on.
my wife brings out my
hat.
I slap the dust off it,
then mount my horse.
dinner's at six sharp,
she says, don't be late.
she blocks the sun from
her brown eyes,
then waves as I ride off
towards town.
I mean to make the world
right again.
giddy up.

the egg moon

I was talking to myself
the other day.
we had a deep discussion
about life, death, love,
all that heavy stuff
that no one talks about
anymore unless
you're in therapy, or
on the other side
of the screen at confession.
we had a good talk. me
and myself.
we've disagreed on so much
at times, but in this
conversation we both
agreed that life is tough
and we're all dying.
some faster than others.
we decided to try and be
happier and to not to worry
so much about things
we have no control over.
we shook on it.
afterwards we went out
for a drink, a steak
and a potato, a nice green
salad, and a slice of cherry pie
for dessert.
relaxed and full,
I felt better as I walked
home under a shiny
egg moon, as beautiful
a moon as I've ever put my
eyes upon.

we make buttons

where do you see yourself
in five
years, the interviewer asks,
leaning back
in his leather chair.
twisting a pencil
in his soft hands, waiting
with raised eyebrows
for my answer.
his shoes are up on
the desk, pointing towards
where I sit in a low chair.
what I want to say is
anywhere but here, or
away from this building
would be a good place
to be. but I don't say
that. I need this job.
I've got a wife and kids.
I've got credit cards maxed
out. tuition to pay.
dental bills. the list goes
on. so, I bite my tongue
and tell the man.
i'd like to still be working here
in five years.
perhaps working my way up
to be a manager of some
sort. doing what I can to
make this company grow.
I see myself in a tiny
cubicle working 60 hours
a week, dedicated to making
these amazing rivets that you produce.
buttons, he says, squinting.
what?
we make buttons.
oh right, I mean buttons.

no secrets anymore

the word gets out
on the street. onto
the grape vine.
monkeys swinging from
the trees know too.
even fish
are going upstream
with this secret
on their lips,
stuck to their fins.
everybody knows.
drums
beat the message
through
the trees beneath
the sweaty
canopy of branches
and leaves.
the word is out.
it's on the street.
on the tongue of loddie
doddie and nearly
everybody.
names are being named.
places
and times.
it's all out there.
whispered from one ear
to another.
everybody knows
what's going down.

under the grey rock

she hides the key
to the house
under a grey rock.
it's to the left of the porch
she says
in her message.
there are a hundred
grey rocks
though.
I turn each one over.
one by one
searching for
the key.
there are other keys.
I try them in the lock.
they don't turn.
I keep looking.
rock after rock.
soon it's dark
and there's one last
rock.
it's there.
I find it.

the party

I dream about
barry white.
he's an enormous
chocolate man with a long
braided silver
chain around
his neck.
he's in the kitchen
drinking wine,
talking in his deep
baritone voice.
a crowd is around
him.
I can hear the music
as he begins to sing.
people are doing
the hustle
in their polyester
clothes
and chunky shoes.
they are eating cheese
off of crackers.
someone brings out
a dish of shrimp wrapped
in bacon.
I take three, lifting
them with toothpicks.
I find my pina colada
in a long glass,
then I begin
to dance.

in the cloud

the electronics
baffle you.
the technology of fobs
and plugs
chargers and screens.
speakers.
the wireless,
the wired.
where is this cloud
that knows everything
about me?
and how do I blow it away?
it's a tangle
of pamphlets
in Chinese.
you just want things
to work,
open the box
click
on the power and
voila.
like a toaster.
I miss the toaster.
put the bread in, push
down. in a mere
two minutes you have toast.
no fuss or muss.
no need for a phd
degree.

Monday, April 30, 2018

that new car smell

I remember
that new car smell.
that vinyl
scent of fresh from
the factory.
the clean windows
snazzy dials.
not a scratch to be found.
ah, that smell,
but it wore off at some
point.
the tires thinned
down, we spilled
things on the seats.
broke the handle.
the lights dimmed,
the battery died.
the oil burned
and leaked.
what happened?
too many miles,
too many hard drives
down one way
streets. too many
pot holes
and snow drifts.
detours and crashes.
maybe it's time for a new one.
a new ride.
something sleek
and swift, something
we can go the beach
with, or down a blue
highway to nowhere.
a car to get us
to wherever it is
we need to get to.
a car to finish the ride
with.

the flea market

the flea
market is open for business.
the cups
and glasses.
all lined in rows.
unpacked again
for the show.
old shoes and suits.
postcards, hand written.
the ink now smudged
after a hundred years
of handling.
vinyl records. a dentist's
chair.
whose lamps were
these.
what hand wore this ring
in love
or friendship. what story
is there behind
that dress,
yellow as a hummingbird
hung beside
the drab rest.
the tables serpentine
under the domed
roof. the vendors
tired from the day,
counting their coins,
their folding
money.
looking at their watches.
opening boxes
to pack once more
and go on their way.


this does

the father
loves his daughter.
holds her
as long as he can with
each short visit.
he whispers
to her his adoration.
the glow of both
brightens the room.
nearing the end
of life
it becomes clearer,
what matters most,
what doesn't.
this does.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

more than the game

the boys
at court are old.
but still boys.
the white hair, the limps,
the bandages.
the braces on knees.
still young enough
though to run,
to dribble and shoot
to rib one another
about
life. each with their
own nick name.
all is fair game.
and the love we share
for one another
has little to do with
wins
or losses, or who
scores.
it's more than that.
much more.

put it to bed

my fingers are tired.
so I tuck each one into bed.
enough
of this.
enough typing for one day.
there's only
so much ink in the well.
and story has grown old,
grown sadly stale.

rose colored glasses

I see the valley
of rose
colored glasses.
it's getting fuller
by the hour.
I take mine off
and send them flying
into the broken
piles of metal frames
and lenses.
I get it now.
what wasn't seen is seen.
everything is as clear
as it should
be without those
tinted shades.

Friday, April 27, 2018

getting out

it's nice to get away.
to go
to some foreign port
where you don't know
the language. where
the people are strange,
where they cast their dark
eyes upon
you and flick ashes
in front of your path.
the houses
look different.
the tilt of red tiles,
the broken chimneys
and gates.
even the dogs that wander
the street
have a look about them.
the smell of food
cooking, what is it?
it could be anything.
what's in the wind.
how did the ocean become
that color of blue?
nothing is the same
as it was
from where you came.
you could live here
forever
and forget the past.
be done with all the things
you know.


the oil painting

the painting
at the museum
is less in person than
in a book.
so small.
so underwhelmed I am
in its presence.
once unknown
to my naked eyes,
I stand back
to take it in.
unseen so close it's
diminished
now in luster.
the promise of its
glory
unfulfilled.
are we not at times
to one another,
the same.

the soft wild

I disappear
into the soft fold
of subtle
fog
along the swamp like
waters of Huntley meadows.
the life there is hardly
wild. i see the blue
tips
of heron.
the thatched backs
of turtles,
afloat like metal
hats
in slow parade
across green plain.
the red winged black birds.
deer, as still
as the trees, aware.
across the boards I go.
my feet striking the wet
wood that creaks
with my weight.
out into swirl
of other's lives I progress.
this was a place
in times of trouble,
times of despair.
I go there now,
again. twenty years
later.

six months since your last visit

the dentist
calls
leaves a message.
sends an e mail.
texts.
it's been six months
since your last
check up.
your last cleaning.
I relent,
and say okay, okay.
i'm coming.
I prepare myself
for the flossing beat
down.
the lecture
about brushing
and grinding, and
rinsing, and
all the other things
they want me
to do.
I check my bank account,
I guess I can
skip
rent this month.
I go.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

i smell what's cooking

it's a mumbled response.
I hear it.
I write it down.
make a note of it.
there is static
on the line.
morse code is clicked
across the wire.
there are words
written in the sky.
I see
the headlines
on the front page.
I see what's written
in the sand.
I smell what's cooking,
but still,
still, I resist and
refuse to understand.

the empty house

out of breath
I reach home, I've run for miles
to get here.
my arrival
goes unnoticed.
there is no one to greet
me. no bark from my dog.
he's not here.
the blinds are closed.
the doors tight.
the locks have been changed.
the mail box is empty.
I peer through the window.
the rooms are dark.
no lights are on.
the furniture is covered
with sheets.
the floors are full of dust.
I see no one.
as I stand there,
then go from window to
window.
the weather changes.
spring has turned into
fall.
I am in my shirt sleeves.
shorts.
I am not prepared for this.
I sit on the porch
and try to remember
the life
I had before this one.

the circus 1962

she was there.
her son too. Jackie
and John,
Caroline. small
and smartly dressed.
all three in the front
row
minus
her husband, who
was busy
with the country
and other things.
but there they were,
three rows in front
of us at the circus.
guarded by dark men
in dark suits.
I remember my mother
pointing to them,
and whispering. look,
it's Jackie and her
children.
how my mother loved the mythology
of Camelot.
the handsome prince,
his smile, his
grace.
his humor.

quickly this life
moves on.
from the sawdust
and clowns,
the elephants, the high
wire act.
I can see them still.
royalty among
the littles,
the smell of grease paint
and cigars,
the animals. the cotton
candy and hot dogs.
all the sites and sounds
that a circus come to town
can brew.

I wonder if my mother
remembers too, as she lies
curled in a dream
in a bed she'll
never get out of.

don't touch

the mother
puts the cookies into a large
glass
jar
on the counter.
don't touch she says.
they're warm
and delicious, but I
don't want you to have
one before dinner.
now please,
don't touch.
I've put them into
the far corner of the counter.
they're for later.
okay?
okay.
now i'll be outside on
the phone with your father.
she leaves.
the boy approaches
the counter, pulls
up a chair
and touches the lid
of the jar.
he wants what he cant
have so badly.
he can almost taste
the cookies.
she knows this and watches
him through the window
as he takes the lid off
and takes one.
bites into the soft
warm dough, freshly baked.
the lesson has begun.

the green

an inch of rain
falls
in the middle of the night.
the dogs
are quiet.
birds too.
I can hear the stream
now a small river
cascade against the rocks
outside the window.
I can feel
the wind whip through
the old windows.
bang the shutters.
tomorrow the yard
will be full of flowers.
the trees will
magically
go green.
each storm, each heavy
rain
brings us out
of darkness, then into
a new spring.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

yesterdays news

I buy the paper
for some news. it's Tuesdays
edition, not todays,
Wednesday.
I don't return it.
bad news keeps.
it's still news so I sit
and read under
the arcade,
the rain is falling.
I watch a woman pushing
a stroller. her hands full.
I see her husband.
holding a bag, then kissing
her blushed cheek.
his arm goes around her
as he whispers into the thick
brush of her hair.
they are in love.
I turn away, go back
to the news. yesterdays
news.

then rise

the sweat on the window
rolls
down the etched pane
of glass,
the glass is fifty years
old.
not as old as I am.
fourteen years
have gone by.
I know who's been
to this window.
who has looked out onto
the same
woods.
has seen the same seasons
change
with time.
I wonder when it's my
turn. I touch
the tears of condensation.
then rise.

falling fast

I let go
and fall. what seemed
important
is no longer
important.
I've been wrong
all along.
I stare at the blood
on my hands.
the callouses.
the twisted grip
of my fingers still
in place.
I let go and fall.
I wonder
why was I holding on
so long.
I feel the air
in my ears, against
my back.
I am falling into
light
away from the darkness.
my heart beats
with anticipation,
and relief.
I let go and fall.
my hands unfurl
and fold
upon my chest. I am
smiling.
at last. falling
falling falling.
falling fast.

ironing

I see my mother
at the ironing board.
the baskets of clothes
at her feet.
I hear the steam
from the iron.
I see her slowly,
methodically
press the hot metal
down upon a shirt,
a blouse,
pants, making a crease.
she is quiet.
the children
are asleep in the small
rooms
above the floor.
the husband is at sea.
I see my mother ironing.
her mouth closed.
a pair of black framed
glasses
pressed against her nose.
she is never so still
and at peace
as she is now, ironing.
folding.
standing on a small
rug on the cold floor
in her bare feet.

the end of life

I see the end of my life.
I see my body
stretched out
in a white coffin.
the flowers are everywhere.
I can smell them
and know instantly what life
isn't, what life is.
I see people crying.
I see the hall is full
of mourners.
I wonder where they were
when I was alive.
I wonder about the suit
they have placed me in.
how my lifeless body
swims in the black fabric.
but it doesn't matter.
it's what I will wear
until I dissolve into
what I was before this life.
the bones I leave
will turn to chalk.
nothing into nothing.
my teeth. the cross
around my neck.
a ring on my hand
left as proof of love
once given.
I feel the absence
of worry.
the relief of no tomorrows.
my eyes are closed, but I see
and know everything.
I see the end of my life.
I see the beginning.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

about tomorrow

some
moons sing
with color.
blossomed
in fall, or
the starch white
face
of rock
in sunlight.
we can't go there.
but we
are there.
we have always been
a part
of that thing
above us.
so far, so close.
so white
and pure
it makes you look
and wonder
what else is there
to know
about tomorrow.

Monday, April 23, 2018

so they say

I see the bones
of me
in the mirror.
the absence of food
has tightened
my face.
deepened the lines
as if I've been made
wiser.
which I haven't.
I seek refuge
in red wine.
in sleep.
in books about
another land,
a place
far from here,
across a calm sea.
everyone has a cross
to bear,
so they say.
so they say.

enough about me

I whine all
day about the trouble I've
seen.
who hasn't?
but it's all about me.
my woes,
my trials and tribulations.
I bring
the house down.
throw a wet blanket
on the party.
I spike the drinks
with my
gloom
and doom. too bad
for them
having to listen,
but so it goes.
I hate being this way,
but sometimes
i'm a child
lying in a crib
wanting
warm milk and a hug,
a slap on the back
to burp me.

quiet bird

a quiet brown
bird
without a chirp
lands
on the sill.
looks in at me
at this machine,
my fingers
quiet on the keyboard.
we stare
at one another.
him with wings,
me with hands.
both doing pretty
much the same
thing.
getting by,
making a nest.
digging
worms
to keep us alive.

it's only monday

we chain
ourselves to the white
house
fence in protest to the long
work week.
we want the three
day weekend
to be permanently
part of our lives.
we made our placards
on sunday afternoon
after
going to Michaels
for a sixty per cent
off sale
on markers
and construction paper.
but we aren't really
chained
to the ancient wrought
iron fence.
we have Velcro
wrist bands
that can easily be
removed
and large coffees with
scones.
we yell out our complaints
across the manicured
lawn.
three day weekend
we chant over and over
again.
others join in.
a throng of like minded
tourists
cheer us on.
this lasts about five
minutes
until we're tear gassed
and dragged away
getting a wood shampoo
by the cop's baton.
and it's only
Monday.

Friday, April 20, 2018

no land in sight

in the ocean
I swim.
one arm after the other.
I kick my legs
and feel the cold
water burn
within me.
the sun is above
where it's always been,
the ocean is everywhere.
once blue,
a sweet azure
holding the wisp
of white clouds,
I look at it differently
now. I see it as
something that can swallow
me whole.
take the air
from my lungs, dissolve
the skin off
my bones.
I swim.
but I don't know where
i'm going.
I just know that I am
as alone now
as I've ever been in
my life.
tethered
to nothing, to no one.
no boat,
no raft,
no land in sight.

the light

I can see the light
of day
outside the narrow
window
of my cell.
I see the placard
of blue,
of grey.
the essence of clouds.
I can smell
what blooms beyond
the walls,
of this
barbed cage.
I can almost taste
the lips
of a loved one, feel
her warm arms
around me,
her sweet voice
telling me your safe now,
everything,
everything is okay.

i don't know

I sweat
and swallow
into the night.
cringe
at the light,
lay low
and be quiet.
words
are silver,
unpolished but
holding
what needs to be
said,
to be made
right.
not now though.
maybe later.
maybe never.
I don't know.

some days you need a friend

some days you need
a friend.
an objective friend
with a moral compass,
a faith,
a person of truth to
go to.
you need an ear
to spill what ails
you.
someone to bare your
soul to
to share your fears
and hurts.
someone to wipe your tears
away, or let
you cry in pain.
a person who will listen
with compassion
and love,
then tell
you whether you are
right or wrong.
give you advice
and steer you towards
the right path for
the rest of your life.
some days you need a friend.
call soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

bring water

the air
is tightly woven
hot
above the flat sand.
the heat
shimmers.
cacti
reach out to the
white blue
sky.
prickly
and cold
in their green suits,
fat.
single vultures,
black
stripes of hunger
float
over the dead.
we shoo them away
with our hands.
not us,
not yet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

the suggestion box

the suggestion box
is full
of little notes I've written
over the course
time.
do this, try that,
or maybe it would be a good
idea if you
didn't do that.
or perhaps we can do something
different
for a change.
mostly the notes
are directed towards
myself or a significant
other.
small adjustments trying
to get to the same place.
they haven't changed
much over 50 years.
each
one written in the same
vein.
wanting trust and love,
building
a quiet nest of peace
and harmony
to grow old in,
to stay young in.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

ghosts

the ghosts
of loves past
rattle their chains
in the attic.
I can hear
the floor boards creak.
the sighs,
the groans,
the pages of time
being ripped,
boxes full of yesterdays
being thrown.
I can hear
the wind seer through
the creases
of old windows
bent frames,
tiles broken free
from nails and wood.
we too are ghosts,
alive
and here,
but unseen.

benign neoplasm

in the near dark
of the examination room
he says,
you'll feel a pinch.
I see the long slender
needle in his hand.
his goggles on,
the white coat and plastic
gloves
upon him.
my chin is pressed
into a cup
my forehead pressed against
the cushioned cage
before me.
grip the handles he says.
turn your head to the right,
but look up to the left.
your left.
the needle goes in,
then again. piercing the small
nodule.
a third time, it's more
than a pinch.
several words come out of
my mouth, words
that once required soap
at the hand of my mother
to wash them out.
once more he says,
then a pair of long nose
needle pliers
begins to squeeze the benign
neoplasm free
of whatever debris lies
within.
tears stream down my face.
my hands are red from gripping
the handlebars
of this machine.
twenty minutes later
I'm in shock from the pain.
the nerve that runs
across my face, from eye
to ear trembles.
a trickle of blood finds it's
way upon my lips.
that's it he says. not
so bad, was it?

Monday, April 16, 2018

mercy

this farm,
this field, these cows
and chickens
plump with eggs.
these
goats.
these horses.
the cattle thick
with feed.
pigs.
this barn full
of wheat.
the silo overflowing.
the rusted rooster
still red
in the wind
on the peak.
the lush sweet
land
blessed with rain.
we're good,
we're thankful,
but without it
we bring all sins
to the table
real or imagined,
we throw dust onto
our backs
and beg for mercy.

a place to grow old in

a simple life
would be nice.
a dog, a house
with a small reasonable yard.
birds
in the tree.
a fence
to keep love in.
a fence to keep trouble out.
a fireplace,
a couch.
music
from the corner.
chilled wine in hand,
a wall of books
to read
and a calendar
full of years
to grow old in.

dry land

a cold front
moves in. moves out.
what to wear
each day has become a mystery.
a stretch
of sun,
of eighty degrees
isn't
happening.
boots, coats, hats,
scarves.
the grey wet
of spring goes on
as we
row forward,
two oars in the water,
our shoulders
bent
in pulling us to
blue skies and dry
land.

our plans

the waters rise.
the rough
wind raked sleeve
surges,
goes forward,
down.
down towards the river
the bay
the great
ocean
before us.
the water fills
the world
where it can,
as we do
with our uncharted
lives.
our plans.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

true life

the wood pecker
black
and white.
some red in a small
dash
of color
upon his breast
and neck
alights on the fence
beyond the window.
busy with his
survival,
unaware of my eyes
upon him. in
his skittish nature,
going from
board to board,
a seed
or bug
in sight. how we
busy ourselves
with the work before us,
distanced
in short
from
our inside, true life.

friends fade

slowly
your friends leave
you.
they fade
into the past,
between the pages
of year books,
old haunts,
vague connections
from
long ago.
it's hard to even know
as the numbers
go down,
who's
come
who goes.

the photo

the camera
doesn't tell all. it just
captures
the smile
in the moment when
someone says
are you ready,
then clicks the button.
but what
lies below
the gloss of an image
is to most of us
unknown.
the history of things
so often
untrue.
a mirage
for future eyes and
hands to hold.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

the red ball

the church at St. Thomas More
still
stands.
there it is in red
brick
off south capital street
on the ravine,
the walk way to Maryland.
sturdy
and still, dirty
from the years since
built.
the stain glass
still holding the light.
the indigo and blood red.
the emeralds
and yellow.
the washing is inside.
the souls
of lovers married,
bodies
taken to graves not far.
the confessional
packed so tight with spent
and forgiven sin.
I remember the black top,
the nuns
in black. outside with folded
arms,
their crosses in hand, crosses
around
their necks.
and the red ball. it was
all about that.
how it flew through those
cold spring
afternoons,
each red faced boy or girl,
upon it with hard shoes,
kicking kicking,
with so much
of our lives
before us.

the nesting

the songs
of birds outside,
the racket of wings.
the scratch
of existence into the sides
of trees.
the fallen seeds,
the insects
frenetic
in their small world
found burrowed beneath
dried leaves.
how they sing and sing,
without
regard to what's to come,
the shortness of
their lives
unknown, unnecessary.
the nesting of spring.
it's just now.
this moment
this joy of today
in being alive.

baked love

it's a fine
balance
of ingredients that makes
the cake
rise,
the soufflé
go,
the dessert be
sweet but
not too so
that one cannot
finish
or eat. love is
that mix
of tried and true
recipes,
old
worn and torn pages
in yesterdays book.
but in all things
it comes down
to the lick
of a spoon,
the taste of it
to know when it's done,
when it's
ready, or needs to be
tossed away,
and started again, taken
out too soon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

the burning

there is a fire
in the north woods. we
can see it burn from here.
so far away.
we are safe, we hope,
from the flames.
it's not our house,
our land,
that burns.
we watch as the smoke
rises,
the flames
paint the sky in ribbons
of yellow,
spikes of red.
we hear the scream of engines.
the sirens
bellow down
the canyon road.
we pray for the best
for them.
we can only watch so long,
in quiet,
before we go inside.

a higher power

when all else
is done.
when all the words are said.
when anger
has had its day.
suspicion,
jealousy. all those
dark emotions that rattle
around within,
after every drop of
angst
and mistrust has been
wrung out of the wet
sheet you've
become. then there's
a chance
to move forward
and let a higher power
take hold.

red roses

it's not
like you to fall like that.
to faint
away
and land in the rose bushes.
picking out
thorns.
wiping off the blood
that tears
upon your skin.
red roses at that.
the flower
of love.

tomorrow is a long ways away

tomorrow
is a long ways away.
today.
is
always here.
yesterday
is beyond saving.
where do we start.
where do we
begin
again.
where do we
draw that line upon
the dirt
and let
the next life start.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

so many birds

so many birds.
of so many colors.
so many wings and beaks,
claws,
so many nests and eggs.
so many
thing afloat in the sky.
so much we learn
and know about so many things
upon this earth,
but at times so little
do we know
about our own
or other's lives.

Monday, April 9, 2018

before dusk

there was time,
when I had time, and tools,
and a better back.
and I was more limber,
there was a time
that I would open the hood
of my car
and begin to fix whatever
it was that needed
fixing.
oil pump.
water pump. shocks.
points and plugs.
filters and tires.
small stuff, but things
that I could do
on a Saturday
under a tree,
in the hot summer shade
with a drink in hand,
as the radio played.
trying to get
the car on the road
before dusk.

the fear

a fox appears
from the woods, daylight
receding in
a grey wash, before the rain
begins.
he slides on soft
feet to where the stone
walls is,
peering
over.
his coat a burnished
blonde.
the fear in him
equals the fear
in me.
rightful caution.
what's out there?
what can get us, is
there anything real
that we see?

the fence

the broken fence
leaning
in the wind,
almost over,
flat against the ground.
the posts loose
in the soft
dirt.
the way in is
the way out.
what wasn't seen
is obvious now.

Friday, April 6, 2018

around we go

the carousel
moves slowly around.
the grind of
rusted edges screeching
below
our feet.
the strange plastic
horses
with smiles, with eerie
melted frowns.
once white or black
they're muted now by age
and sun. broken stirrups
that flap.
the music
is warped,
a kaleidoscope
of sound.
the keeper holds his
hand
on a greased bar,
to stop and start our ride.
a knot of keys looped
through his
blackened jeans.
around we go. around we go.
around, never knowing
where it might
stop,
where it might end.

smudges

the blue ink
smudges
on the note.
my finger pushes against
the words,
the name,
the date.
I erase yesterday
with a simple
swipe
of a wet thumb.
though know that
life is never easy
that way.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

the old sailor

my father
in his garden on old knees
with his
thick hands
tending to wobbled fences,
beans
and weeds.
his shoulders browned
by the sun.
his hair
as white as milk.
how lovely
and sweet this old sailor
has become.

just tired of war

I retreat
behind the lines of fire.
i'm not a coward
just tired
of war.
tired of these bullets
these cannons
these
swords.
I tunnel down into
the soft trench of earth
lying
in other's blood,
of those who died before
me.
I see the crimson
steam of their
lives
rise into the fog
of morning.
I fall back,
no longer answering
the bugles call.
i'm not a coward,
just tired of war.

seconds are hours

the night is long.
how slow
the hours move on this stranded
raft.
what clock
is this
that has no feelings
for time,
no movement forward.
no end
to these weary hours
that crawl
across my troubled mind.

the yellow bird

I see the fence.
the stone wall.
the guards. the guard dogs.
I see the rifle
in the tower. the glassy
gleam of the scope.
I can almost feel
the barbed wire in my hands.
I see the cold tray of food
being slid into my cell.
I turn on the hard
bed I sleep upon.
I ache with
the emptiness of
no human touch,
or kind word.
I see the sky. t
he squared patch
of sweet blue.
I see the small
yellow bird on my
barred sill.
I am happy for the bird,
for his wings
and life in the air.
I smell the flowers in
bloom beyond the walls.
I hear the splash of a
stream full of melted
snow.
I imagine all that is
beyond where I am,
all that could be good,
then start digging.

away from it all

come with me
to this other land.
to this other place
we can get to.
you know it.
we both know it.
let's buy a one way
ticket.
pack light.
leave every care
or worry behind.
the muck of life.
let's get warm
get wet in the surf.
let's eat
what the earth
brings to us.
let's be in love
far far away
from it all.

diving for pearls

I find the deepest pool
of water
to dive into.
there I will go and sort
out
my life.
decide on what is wrong,
what is right.
in the dark blue
depths
of a quarry.
i'll let my body slide
down
inside the envelope
of icy water
and find my true self
once more.
with each struggle of no
air or light,
i'll come alive
and rise again.

start again

when there is nothing
left to do
when the words have all
been said,
the emotions expressed,
when the weariness has
set in,
do nothing.
let go.
let go and start again.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

hands together

take this roast,
for example, how it
takes me
back to childhood. to my
mother's table,
her hand ladling
the soup, the potatoes.
setting out the bread
and butter,
pouring milk from a glass
jar.
how the warm scent
of meat rises, thick
in memory.
the oven heating the house.
the celery and onions.
the salt shaker next
to the pepper.
our boned arms on the table,
anxious to begin,
our hands together
for prayer.

why go there

there was life
on mars
once. I was there.
I was in a café having
coffee.
reading a newspaper.
the ground was red
and it was hard
to breathe.
the dust was tremendous.
but it was no
different than here.
no different at all.
people lived
and died, they fell
in love and had children.
they had full lives.
just like here.
so why go there.

the silvered night

a small moon
is out tonight.
see how she shines.
the station lit by
the watchman's light.
see the trains.
the glisten of track.
see the man
in his seat
at the window,
alone,
looking out into
a silvered night.
hear the owl
in the trees.
the clack of wheels.
the rumble
of steel.
a small moon is out,
showing everything,
revealing nothing.
see how she shines.

angels

once. not once upon a time,
for it's true.
I felt
the heat of God within me.
the flame
of Christ.
a forceful spirit
that swept me into another
realm of light.
the warm glow
coming from within.
it spread inside my body,
through my heart
until
tears flowed.
I was not touched.
no hands
were laid upon me.
but three strangers came
out of the rain to say
to me the same thing.
bless you they said.
in the street, in the shop,
in the car.
one after another, all within
minutes of one
another. angels, who's to know.
I look back upon it
and have no explanation,
except
that I was willing.
I was surrendered to this
world
in perfect grief.
i'm willing once again.

the missing piece

the puzzle
has a missing a piece.
it can't be finished.
we look
everywhere for it.
under the table,
in the cuffs of our pants.
down our sleeves.
we move other pieces in,
but they don't fit,
but perhaps
there is an empty
spot in all of us,
waiting to be filled
with just
the right piece,
the perfect match
to complete one's life.

he's arrived

he loved the game
of golf.
the long green fields
trimmed just so.
the eighteen holes of bliss.
no matter
the slice
or swing, or sand trap.
he played
all day and talked about it
all night.
I see him
still, banging his cleats
against
the sidewalk,
his face bronzed with sun.
his shoulders wide.
his large hands
swinging a putter once
more before
going home.
he's arrived.

the tall oak trees

in the end.
she heard voices. saw things.
had conversations
with invisible
souls
long gone.
she was rattled and confused,
the clothes
hung on her bones.
her once blue eyes now grey,
sunken in.
she lived
behind the store
in a patch of woods
and would come out at
times
to hold a sign beside
the road. a red hat.
I knew her when. who
hasn't
known her or him,
now
wandering in the shadows
of tall oak
trees.

to wait. be brave

this puddle
I step into, holds me.
the long shadow of me.
I see in its
shallow mirror
my grey
face, my slender limbs.
my mouth is dry.
my stomach empty.
I am alone
and quiet.
the weight of rain
pulls
me deeper into my
soaked shoes.
my bones ache with cold.
there are no words
to say.
there is no one to
turn to. no tender heart
to take my hand,
telling me
to wait. be brave.

sleep come upon me

in my dream
my wings,
my arms begin to move,
upwards and down,
a wide winged owl taking
measure.
I start to run
slowly across the field.
then faster.
after a short distance
I am in the air,
taking flight.
I begin to soar.
soon i am in the clouds.
I remember this feeling
from childhood
when I ran with my wagon
throwing newspapers
onto the porches
and lawns of neighbors.
breathing in the chilled
morning air. embracing
the stars, the violet stripes
of a new day.
I am free in flight,
free from the weight
and gravity of a world
that holds us down.

the onion in hand

the sweet onion
when peeled, comes off
in layers.
the sheet
of skin
stripped by your hand.
over and over
you continue
until there is nothing
left to hold,
no pit,
no center.
no understanding
of what you were told.

the train is off the tracks

too fast,
the train is off
the tracks.
the whistle silent.
the steam
and gristle of the stack
seeps
what's left of embers,
black coal.
the passengers are strewn
across the cinder,
the engineer is dead.
the sky is an awakening blue.
birds
are still flying.
I pick myself up, dust
myself off, grab a bag
and go on,
this is what I do.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

the tilted stones

the ground was too hard
and cold
to dig, so they placed her body
with the others
in a bricked mausoleum
on site, beside the tilted
aged stones,
grey, iced white.
an iron fence around it all.
in time. by april it was her
turn
to go under. to be taken
to where
the ones of same blood
were taken before her.
the name etched deep and clean
in the stone.
the mason's chisel
efficient in his thick hands.
the date of arrival
and departure made clear.

like Amelia

silence.
the quiet of night.
the bitter
sigh
of lost winds.
the flap of wings.
the infrequency of touch
with home base.
of love,
and small talk.
the chatter of the air waves.
off the radar,
the scope,
the world map
of who we are.
flying solo like
Amelia,
never to be found
again.

through the glass darkly

of good cheer,
he laughs at your plight.
quotes Dylan Thomas,
do not go gently
he says in an Irish brogue.
he gives me a hearty slap.
he's a friend you don't
need
at the moment.
what could he possibly know
about love,
about death
about the wounded soul,
the broken heart.
so full of good cheer
he means well. he pours
another drink for himself.
one for me.
how different you
are from the world, I think,
staring deeply
into the glass darkly.
how different, indeed.

on the same page

instant
gratification. like a child.
we want
pain to stop.
for hunger to be filled.
for
our tiredness
to end.
we want the rain to cease,
tomorrow
to begin.
how little patience
we have
with ourselves and others.
wishing all
of us were in the same book,
on the same page.

under my skin

this other
thing. this other pebble
in my shoe.
sharp against a toe.
this thread
unraveling,
the lost button,
a belt that won't
hold. this space
unfound
for the car.
this burn in my eyes.
this thorn in my side.
this
cut on my finger.
the long line,
a rain without
a coat.
the lamp gone dark.

the long walk

this flat desert
we walk on.
waterless, under a flat
blue
wall of sky.
no green to be found.
no bird afloat,
no soul
dancing on this sanded
ground.
what we think we
see, or know, is not there.
what was behind us is gone.
what lies ahead
we turn into an oasis
of life.
of hope and love.
we keep at it,
walk forward
knowing that at some point,
it will be true.