Friday, August 18, 2017

pandora's box

as I lie on the floor
with a flashlight
trying to read
off the numbers on my router
and the password
I think back dreamily
of buying 45 records
and placing them on the turntable.
dropping the needle
and hearing the tin
scratch of music
coming out of the hinged
speaker.
but it's come to this now.
hooking up
to the cloud, or sky, or
someplace I have no clue
as to where it might be.
it's a place where everything
exists.
I just need to download
one more app,
connect the speaker,
turn on the phone,
plug in the computer,
pray and then i'm done.

enough is enough

after a while
you stop throwing pies
into the faces
of clowns.
it's no fun anymore.
the thrill is gone.
it's too easy.
your arm hurts after
awhile.
what good is it if they
can't duck,
or throw back.
they just take pie
after pie, wiping
the cream filling
off their faces,
out of their eyes.
it's no fun
anymore for you,
or them.

the crayon box

his art work
should have been framed,
the way
he used
the colors, all
54 crayons
in the box,
deftly handling the slender
stick wrapped in paper
with the name
on each side.
the subtle
blues, called robins egg,
or rain,
the velvet violets,
a variety of
greens,
canary yellow.
he outlined each
face,
each figure with the narrow
point of black.
giving blue eyes or brown,
then signed the bottom
before turning
to another page.
he was da vinci
with his coloring books.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

three words

the gathering of black birds
at her grave
with heads bent in sorrow
does nothing for you.
nor do the flowers,
the words said in tears.
none of that matters.
it's what came before
that counts.
the meals, the homework,
the clothes she washed,
the gentle way she held
you when you were sick.
how she laughed
and shook her head at
so much you said,
ending each call with
three words.

what comes next

a few keys stick
on the old typewriter.
with the indigo
ribbon in place,
the white out
ready,
the jumble of letters
smudged
together, making
almost illegible words.
it's an abstract painting
on the white sheet.
but what better sound
then the clink and pull
of metal keys
striking down, the bell
rung, and the pull
of the bar back to the left.
you smile with
your fingers ready,
set for what comes
next.

the next season

the season is long.
the summer
warm
and sticky beyond belief.
there is
little to do but
sit and swing on the porch
sipping tea
and talking about
how the stars
appear and go away,
as does this harvest moon.
we speak of
yesterdays, of loved ones
gone.
we remember when the kids
were young and would
sit with us,
sing songs. the stories
we would tell on
each other.
the summer is long and sweet,
but as the light
lessens, we're ready
for fall.

speeding tickets

my lawyer, my friend,
calls to tell me to slow down.
you're driving too fast,
too reckless on the highway.
your tickets are piling up.
I tell him where I've
just been and who I've been
with and he laughs.
you need a faster car,
he says,
next time borrow mine.

celebrate

the family squabbles
have made the views skyrocket.
the profits increase.
the readers
have come out of the woodwork
like
ants seeking crumbs.
it's a champagne
celebration,
let's eat cake.
let's sing, let's
turn the music up
and dance all night.

half open

the moon,
in half,
the smooth opal
orb
above
us, then below,
it's out there with
its one
good eye that
never blinks, stoic
in its thoughts,
its views
on what we do, what
we think and say,
the truths,
the lies.

the gossip column

they love to read
what you write.
they look at it
every day, obsessed,
and say,
oh no, what next,
what will he say today
that will make us sad
and weep.
the phone rings, and they
hear the secret messenger
saying, he's done it
again, hurry up
and run to read todays
paper, then hide.
oh me o my.
where's my bottle,
my binky, my blanket.
these words, these words
will make us
go tinkle and cry.

the islands

there are islands
in your world.
places that you can go,
that you can easily
swim to,
or row by boat.
there are palm trees,
there is white sand.
there is the surround
of a blue
lagoon.
it's these people
you adore and who
welcome you ashore
with open arms
and kind words
of love.

the future is now

can you imagine
having to buy water,
to drink,
or air for your tires,
or paying for tv,
you say twenty years ago,
laughing
with your father
as he adjusts the rabbit
ears, then gets us
a drink from the faucet,
what a strange world
that would be.

the water's fine

a foot into the ocean
gives you chills, you wonder
how anyone can
be out there swimming.
the other foot goes in,
then you're up to your knees,
your waist.
a wave crashes against
your chest,
finally, you give it up,
and dive in.
in time, when the cold
subsides, you wave to shore
and yell for her
to come on in, the water's
fine. but she's says no.

the family gathering

you order up a few straight
jackets for the next
family meeting.
one large, one extra large.
duct tape too,
and pepper spray.
you buy two masks,
similar to the one
used on Hannibal
Lechter,
leather with a small barred
grate to breathe
through. you are determined
to make this next
family gathering
peaceful and fun, perhaps
with drinks
and finger foods.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

the pattern

the river
is full of tears
and apologies.
such is the pattern.
to sin
and seek forgiveness.
tonight we sleep,
tomorrow
it starts again.

the salesman

the salesman
calls.
he wants to make a deal
on your house.
you tell him no, please.
go away. I don't want to sell.
the next day he shows up
at your door,
he's dripping
in his own oil, slick
as a seal
off the coast of Alaska.
he has a pen
in hand.
a contract.
he's already pounded a sign
into your front
yard.
you try to close
the door, but he sticks
his alligator shoe
inside.
sign here, he says, smiling,
holding out a contract.
he hands you a business card
with his photo.
it looks nothing like him.
he tells you
that you look marvelous,
asking if
you've lost weight, or
if you've been working out.
how much can you lift into
the air he says,
over your head. I bet
it's a lot.
he stares at your arms.
finally you let him in.
you make
him coffee, he tells you again
how wonderful
you look as you read over
the small print of the contract
with a magnifying glass.

Saint Charles

your brother is a good man
who always
tries to do the right thing,
no,
not that one.
but the other one,
the one
with the Bible
in hand.
you can hardly blame him
for leaving this
little taste of what
hell must be like
in Saint Charles
County,
for running
away from it all
and staying home
with the phone off
the hook.
safe with loved ones.

the quiet

the woods are still.
calm.
no wind.
hardly a snake moves
upon
the ground.
there is no chatter,
no
noise
that you can hear,
there's not a bird
in the sky.
the worst is about to
happen,
or it already has.

living the good life

when they were young,
the small children would visit
their father
in prison, place their
hands upon
the glass as he would
his on the other side.
murder, drugs, embezzlement
and fraud
put him finally behind
bars.
wanted in three states, but
soon out
after finding Jesus
for the umpteenth time.
he used to hide behind
his wife's couch
when the cops
knocked on the door
for another warrant.
at the thanksgiving table,
he'd sit there with his
bullet wounds,
his neck held straight
by a metal halo,
and pass you the salt
if you asked.
she turned her head and whistled
while the crimes went
on, while the cash stacked up,
and was hidden.
he'd tie bricks to the bodies
of those he
killed letting them sink
slowly
in the muck of the Maryland
shores.
but the money was good.
all cash.
flights to the Bahamas.
friends and family,
a party for all with a
a wall around the house
and the kidney shaped pool.
it was a good life while
it lasted.



over the bridge

going home
is sweet. over the bridge.
away
from what brings
you pain.
how nice to drive
under blue skies,
rolling on the open
road, the windows
down, the music up.
free
from all that they are
and always
will be.

mints on the pillow

the woman at the inn
is old
now.
bitter and alone.
the game is over.
the rooms are empty
the sign swings
off one hook on the post.
everyone is gone.
there is nothing
in the oven,
no cakes,
no buns.
the flowers are all
dead dried
and brown in the yard.
there are no more mints
on the pillows.
for no wants to be there,
no one comes.

the long end

it's a low b rick house.
in the bowels
of southern Maryland.
a broken
van on the grass,
a storm door
off it's hinges
leaning
on its rusted screws
against
the frame. a gutter
swings loose with moss.
a cracked window lets
you see in
to where the patients
sit,
shadowed in half light,
in various stages of
sleep,
chins on their chests.
unaware of where they are,
or who they are.
you ring the bell,
but there is no bell.
you knock,
someone looks out, then
lets you in.
they point with a smile
to the room
where your mother lies
alone
between the thin walls,
in silence,
living out her long long
end.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

let's get the money

money.
it's about the money.
about what's left.
inheritance.
stuff.
junk.
worn out everything.
a shack of a house.
but the money
is green.
the money will buy
shiny things.
the money will soften
the life
ahead, they do,
they do, they do believe.
now let's be friends
with the king
despite how evil
he was and always will
be. let's sidle up
to him, pretend we are
his friends,
for the queen
is almost dead,
we want the money.

the russian tea cups

before she's cold.
before her
last breath has been taken,
things
go missing
in the light of day.
rings and watches,
rosary beads,
photo albums. a radio,
a pair of shoes.
how quickly the living
want what
the dead or ill
can no longer use.
a bathroom robe,
her slippers too.
Russian tea cups
and saucers
that were never
used.
like vultures they
wait and prey
with wretched claws
to take
what's left behind,
where is that stash of
money, please, one whispers,
tell us.
where is it buried,
give us a clue.

the public pool

the public pool
with its public bath
and public view.
the wide
l shape
of blue.
the spring of the board,
the whistle
blown.
the splash, the radio
playing,
the smell of lotion,
as I lie in bliss next
to the golden
stretch of you.

the final curtain

the curtain closes,
we applaud.
we stand and clap until
our hands hurt
tears in our eyes,
the lights go up.
it was a good life,
a long play.
then the curtains open
and there she is once
more.
still here,
still alive. still a wonder
and a joy
to behold. it's not
over yet.

is there a doctor in the house

is dr. freud in the house
we need him
badly.
we have two new patients
waiting
in the hall.
twisting their fingers.
crying,
as they like to do over
spilled milk,
or a poem.
blaming everyone but
themselves for the world
they live in.
they remember the past.
fifty years or more
ago through broken lenses.
who said what.
woe is me, woe is me.
is dr. freud
in the house, we need him
badly.

the lemon girls

what bitter
lemons their lives are.
what sour
thoughts and words
come forth.
their backs are bent
with worry
and sadness, nothing
has turned
out right for them,
or ever will.
they'll never leave
the tree they choose
to stay under.
tomorrow is just
another day,
another lemon
about to fall into
their waiting hands
and bitten into.

family

you call your
doctor to see if you can have
a dna test
to see if you're truly
related
to some of your own family.
it can't be true,
you hope and pray
that your mother
had numerous affairs,
perhaps
with the milkman,
the postman, or someone
who looks exactly
like you.

bee hive brains

their minds
are like bee hives full
of bustling bees
struck by a stick.
the words
fly out
in all directions,
they swarm
trying so hard to sting
whoever
might be in their
path,
it's hard to imagine
that they ever
get a good nights
sleep. do their wings
ever stop,
do their dark hearts
ever rest
and trust a higher
being.

baby talk

there was a traffic jam
of strollers on the sidewalk
the other day.
a woman, my wife,
was taking out her
brand new baby for a walk.
five women
were bent over pinching
his cheeks,
touching his hands,
talking baby talk to the pink
bubble
of a child.
but not a single man
was around, just me wondering
what all the fuss
was about, wanting to say,
hey, you're welcome.

after

there are many afters
in front of us,
after
labor day,
after the summer ends,
after the holidays.
after I get
over this cold,
this limp, this chaos
i'm going through.
let's get together then.
after the first
of the year,
or when spring arrives.
let's try then.

a new well

some days
the well is dry.
you drop the bucket
and it echoes when it
hits the bottom.
you've drained it dry,
taken all
that it has to give.
time for new a well,
a new place,
a new change of scenery.
time to start
digging
all again to quench
your thirst
for words.

Monday, August 14, 2017

hanging clothes

I see my mother in the backyard
at the clothes line, wooden
clothes pins in her mouth,
stuffed
in the deep pocket of her apron.
I see her hanging wet
clothes on the line.
sheets and dresses, pants
and shirts. the white basket
beside her is full
and heavy.
the grass is wet and cold
against her feet.
a wind blows. it might be late
march, or april. wild flowers
fill the yard.
she sees me in the window
and waves. I wave back
as she smiles and blows me
a kiss.

full circle

although her brown eyes
flicker with awareness,
she can't speak,
she can barely swallow.
her teeth are out.
she can't move her arms or legs.
her hands
are wrapped in socks
so that she doesn't scratch
herself.
there is baby food on her
chin,
a cup of water with a straw
in it on the sideboard
that she sips on from time
to time
when the nurse comes in.
there's nothing on the wall.
no pictures,
no tv. no music.
no flowers. this could
be anyone's room,
anyone's bed and will
be for someone else
once she passes.
this is where it ends,
not unlike how it began.
an infant
in a crib depending on
others for everything.

the good and the bad

the good sister
is practical and smart.
rational,
logical.
she got out of dodge
a long time
ago, packed her bags and
headed south
to the orange groves.
the two crazy sisters,
Thelma and Louise
are small tornados of gossip
and mayhem.
they are black cats
crossing your path,
they are the ladders
you don't want to walk
under.
they are the cracks in
the sidewalk
that you don't step on.
look up into the sky,
and you'll see
them on their brooms.
hard to believe we
all came from the same
set of parents.

love potion

she knows every word
to love
potion number nine, tapping
her feet
on the floor of
the car, her hands
drumming the dashboard.
she throws her
hair around and sings loudly,
you're going to need
a lotion,
a calamine lotion.
we're nineteen again
in my dad's buick,
cruising the hamburger
stand,
a can of beer in our
laps,
the windows
rolled down, the night
in front of us
as a half moon appears
out of nowhere.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

taking lunch

the mailman looks sad,
but he always does just a little
in his soggy grey
uniform,
no hat, the heavy satchel
bending his shoulders,
curving his back.
I see him eating a bowl
of rice and chicken in his squared
truck
parked sideways
in a handicap spot.
he waves, and nods.
wipes his mouth with his sleeve.
he holds up his white
bowl, then looks
into it as you walk away.
your row of houses is next.
but first lunch.

not monday yet

it's the stuck door,
the key
that won't turn,
the car that won't start.
it's the lace that
breaks,
the button
fallen off, it's
the sour milk
poured, the soft
spot on an apple,
a stranger at the door.
it's not Monday yet,
but it feels like it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

when you know

at some point
the phone will ring,
a message
will appear,
or maybe there will
be a knock
at the door.
doubtful.
most likely the hours
will pass
in darkness,
but you will know.
you will feel the exit
of a loved one
without a word
being said.

letting go

it's hard
to let go of this world.
our nails
dig into
the side of the cliff
we hang
from.
we fear the unknown
despite
our faith,
we fear what lies
beyond.
we worry about those
left behind.
it's hard
to let go of this world,
to push away from all
that we love, all
that we know.

the melting

how she loved to
eat.
to drink.
to cook and set the plates
out.
to watch
everyone else sit
down
and eat.
she waited until all
was fed
before sitting down
herself.
sweat on her brow,
out of breath.
how happy she was to
feed
her children,
friends who knocked upon
her door.
I remember this as I
stand by
her bed and watch as she
melts
like the ice
chips being spooned
into her
open mouth.

Friday, August 11, 2017

luck or fate

the right place
at the right time, a lucky
turn left,
or right.
a call on your phone
making you stop has
kept you out of harms way.
a second sooner
when crossing the street meant
doom.
missing the plane
that goes down.
going out the wrong door
at the right time
to meet the love of your life,
sleeping in,
or leaving early, each
has its question,
asking is it luck, or is
it fate.

steak dinner

it was a tough piece of meat,
this flank
steak brought
from the kitchen
still sizzling with grease.
after twenty or thirty
thorough chews, you
couldn't take it anymore
and disposed of it in a
napkin.
but the potatoes were
good. so was the corn.
in fact you made a point
of it to the cook
and said, love this corn.
to which he nodded
and tipped his tall white
chef's hat.
they don't make meat like
they used to,
I guess. should have had
the cod.

a nice place to visit

it's a nice
place to visit.
the past, that is.
look how you've romanticized
the time,
the age,
the loves that you had.
it's a rosy
colored lens you peer
through,
and make believe that life
was so wonderful
back then,
but it's a nice
place to visit
once in awhile
on a grey
cloudy day, the rain
falling
gently on your mind.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

the good dog

she was a good dog.
she sat
when told to sit.
begged
when asked.
rolled over and played
dead
with the right
words said.
she had no fleas,
never chewed a shoe,
never barked too
long
or howled foolishly
at the moon.
she was a good girl.
so happy
to see me when the day
was through,
so happy to see me
when the night
ended too.

the turnstile

sometimes it's best
not to unpack.
the visit is short.
keep the cab
running outside.
keep the door open,
keep your shoes
on, your hat too.
sometimes things don't
last as long
as you thought they
would, no matter how
good they are in
the moment. accept
and move on,
the turnstile keeps
turning.

cooking together

we cook together
a great
pot of soup. I say
more salt, more pepper,
she nods okay
and pours in more
broth. she stirs awhile.
I stir. we both
lean over the pot,
to the steam
rising and say,
I think it's ready.
later, we'll make
love and agree
on that too.


the table cloth

her hands
keep moving, smoothing out
the table
cloth.
is she
planning a meal,
pondering
what gifts to buy
for her children,
what flowers to grow
in her garden.
Christmas is just three
months away.
back and forth, her fingers
stretch the linen,
her palms circling
smoothing the cloth
of her past life.

day at the zoo

we go to the zoo
to see the animals in their
cages.
to smell
and hear the life
they have come to know
and have surrendered to.
they look at us,
we look at them.
we go on about our day
as if
we are different.

inside the box

inside
the room, inside the box,
beneath
the bed
are photos, tickets torn,
mementos
of a love
once had. cards
received.
they smell of her,
the scarf,
the glove,
the ring taken from
her hand,
the brush still holding hair,
a book unfinished,
the page
earmarked, left
opened
near a light,
her glasses
on the stand.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

the wedding cake

the wedding cake
was three or four tiers,
vanilla
with a soft white creamy filling
in between
each moist layer.
it was a large wedding, so
the cake was
enormous and she saved
a piece or
two or three, wrapped
in paper for the freezer.
when the marriage
was over three months
later,
she took the frozen slices
of cake and the new blender,
a new toaster
and went home to her
mother.
I cared only about
the cake.
even now,
all these years later,
if I close my eyes,
I can still taste it
on my tongue,
on my lips,
feel the softness
of it against my face.

cataract class

one of them,
I sit in the room as the
clinician
shows a film
of what will happen,
or not happen
when they lay you
down
to operate,
to surgically remove
a lens from
your eye and put a new
one in.
she speaks from the side
of the chairs
where we sit in
shadowed light.
we are partially underwater
it seems.
it's clear
she's done this before,
many times.
please hold your questions
until the end
she says, though
no one raises their hand
except to ask
where the restroom
is..

the unsaid

the silence
if full of words.
full of what really is.
what really
will be down the road.
it's more clear
than any shout
or soft whisper into
my ear.
I hear it
clearly without
a sound being made.

enough

being kind,
not weak, turning
the other cheek,
letting
one get their way
time after time,
is fine,
to a point, but then
a stand
must be made.
a line drawn in
the sand.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

it looked good

some gold
is fool's gold.
the shine comes off
quickly.
it melts easily
when
the sun gets too hot.
it bends,
it breaks.
it turns green.
it's not
what you thought it was.
but for a moment
it looked good on your hand.

mornings come too early

mornings come so early.
I rub
my face, feeling the bristles
of my beard. I let out a yawn,
a groan.
two drinks too many, perhaps,
last night.
there's a note on the pillow
beside me.
it's over, it says. don't
ever contact me again. I found
a blonde hair in the sink.
oh well, I say out loud
and crumble the note into
a ball and send
it towards the basket
in the corner.
I stretch, then lean
towards
the window.
I peer out the blinds at
the neighbor on his lawn.
why is he so cheerful,
so early in the day?
he's whistling for God's
sake
as he walks his dog.
now he's kissing his wife
goodbye as she hands him
his briefcase
and lunch. she winks at him
as he waves.
he beeps his horn farewell
as he pulls away.
I have to get out of
this happy neighborhood.

the risk

deathly afraid
of love,
you reach for it anyway.
take hold
of it
in both hands and hold
it to your heart.
you know the danger
of this
journey,
you know it through
and through, but take
the risk
in spite of everything
you've ever
learned.

mirages

on our camels
in the desert at night,
we rely
on the stars.
the moon,
the shifting wind.
we block the sand with
our arms,
our robes.
we push forward over
the dunes
towards a light
in the distance.
without mirages we
have no hope
to ride on.

days like this

I've lost my appetite\
for food,
for drink.
nothing has
any taste to it. no
sugar,
no salt or pepper,
no spice
can
bring it to life, this
meal in
front of me
is dry and flat,
the drink is
without fizz.
the clouds move slowly
on days
like this.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

what could have been

there was time
once.
there was a place,
a moment
where things could have
been different.
a word
said.
a gesture made,
something,
something if only
you had
done things differently.
but no,
it's too late for that,
and with that said,
you move on.
you don't look back,
at least not
too often
at what could have been.

grey bats

dusk brings
out the bats,
dropping down from
wherever they
spent their day,
hanging on their sticky
claws,
upside down, their thin
leathered
wings
bending with each
wide jagged
flap. chasing what?
they never travel
in a straight line,
it's almost
as if they can't see,
that they might
be blind, but they're
not.

a full tank of gas

she likes
my new Italian car.
white, with the top down.
her hair
in the breeze,
her sunglasses on.
she turns
up the radio
and smiles. let's go
nowhere, she says,
and you agree.
what a day it is to ride.
to be in love
with a full tank
of gas,
to be on the wide open
road
under a jewel of
a blue august sky.

mid century man

his blue pants,
his yellow sweater over
a white shirt,
freshly ironed,
loafers, two toned over
his stretched
white socks,
with diamonds up the side.
a crew cut
from the barber once
a week.
he kept his glasses
perched on his nose, as
if about to
give wisdom of some sort
to anyone who
might pass by, to stop
say hello and
listen.
he was of a different time,
one of frank
and dean, kennedy
and ike,
a mid century man
who knew how to whistle,
how to drink,
who would snap his fingers
to the beat
and dance on
a dime.

all that

where is the man
with the shaved ice,
the thick red syrups,
pushing his cart along
the narrow streets.
where is the milk man
with his cold,
bottles, his eggs
and cream.
where is the news boy,
with his wagon,
his dog, throwing
the batons he made
to your porch.
where is the tip of
the hat,
the kind hello.
the thank you cards in
the mail, or letter
by hand.
what's happened to all
that?

said and done

not far down the hill
from the estates of homes
made of brick,
surrounded by thick trees,
gardens
led to by slate
stones, is the high rise
on the water.
when all is said and done,
and night approaches,
when things
are sold and the children
get what they want,
they move
into the building,
two rooms, a veranda,
a front desk to call.
they hold hands and wait,
or fold them together,
if only one.

the sunday call

side by side
you wouldn't know
each photo
is of
the same person.
the wind of time has
blown
hard
across her body.
it's hard to know
if she knows
who you are, if she has
something to say,
her voice
now closed for good.
how plentiful her words
once were,
especially on the phone,
on sunday.
miles away.
in the kitchen
leaning over a pot boiling
on the stove.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

maple syrup from the north

I don't think much
about
Canada anymore, if ever,
hardly a thought crosses
my mind
about that country to the north.
I have nothing against it,
it's just so far away,
and cold
and rarely in the news.
someone did bring me
a bottle
of maple syrup
from there once.
she said it was the best
in the world.
it's somewhere in my cupboard,
still unopened,
the cap too tight to turn.
her name
escapes me, I think
she was from Ottawa,
or Nova Scotia.
she wore a pair of fur
lined boots
when it snowed,
and had a maple leaf
tattooed on her shoulder.
I should make some pancakes
one day
and try to get that bottle
open.

Friday, August 4, 2017

sweet tooth

I don't mind
her uneven cake, two layers,
a soft
cream lathered between.
I don't mind the tilt
of one
on top of the other,
the swath of icing
dripping down.
I complain not at all
about the sweets she bakes.
the cookies not so
round, or soft.
my sweet tooth
goes beyond
what she brings in dish,
or pan, or cold,
in a ribboned box.

the best in town

they know, they being them,
that we
have little else to do but
look at the bill boards planted
near stream
and woods, a row of flat
roof houses, along
the highways, set inside
fields of bored cows,
the billboards stand
as large
as movie screens, they yell
to us, the best in town,
proclaiming, or suggesting
what we should do
or eat, or
smoke. where to go is
mentioned as well
as we speed by, but not
so quickly that
the message isn't made
clear and caught
and saved to some degree
in our supple minds.

chicken and wine

the fat gypsy
with black eyes was not
always
this size. she used to be
skinny
and long,
a lean dark glass of murky
water
sitting on her velvet
throne,
the crystal ball on her
felt table.
but it's been a good year,
she thinks,
pushing a plate of chicken
to the side, pouring
another glass from
a bottle of red wine.
it's been
a year full of worried
customers at her door,
cash in hand,
sick about love
and life,
asking how things will
begin,
how things will end.

taken away

swimmers
go too far sometimes
and get taken
away
by the rip tide.
they're too tired to make
it back in.
their arms and legs
churn hopelessly
against
the blue sea
gone green.
what do they think as
they stare up
at the jeweled sky,
summer in full
bloom, their last words
towards a guardless shore
unheard
amongst the seagull's
cry.

baby blue

the nursery
is blue. the baby a boy.
the crib, the curtains,
the border
around the walls.
all shades of blue.
but maybe
he won't like blue,
maybe he'll
be a child
that prefers pink,
or chartreuse.
a soft shade of yellow.
who's to know anymore,
to which direction
we lean,
when we're old enough
to do so.

in the dead of night

the thief
waits until everyone is asleep.
he sits at the top
of the hill
in an old car. lights off.
he has his tools,
his flashlight,
his bag to hold his take.
he's only looking for small
things of value,
rings, watches, cash.
he saves
your car for last, having
been there before.
this time you leave
him a card,
a small batch of cookies
and a glass
of cold milk.
please don't break anything,
you write
in a hand written note.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

return to sender

the e mail
skips back, undeliverable.
I send it again,
and again.
no luck.
it's always worked before.
what gives.
I call the number,
it's busy.
it's dead.
no one is there.
I send a letter,
a post card.
return to sender is stamped
on the front.
my mother is getting harder
and harder
to reach these days.

i'll have the grouper

i'll have that
I tell the waiter pointing
at an item
on the menu.
yes. that's what I want.
my favorite, he says.
of everything on
this menu that's what
I would have chosen.
wait.
wait a second, you know
what.
I think i'll have that
instead, pointing
down
to the bottom of the list.
great choice again.
if not
for the first one you
picked that would have
been my choice
too.
let me bring you your
drink and some bread
and i'll be right back.
wait, wait one second.
I've changed my mind
again.
what's the catch of the day?
grouper.
that's what I want.
bring me the grouper.
is that your next favorite?
the waiter, smiles and said,
actually it's what I would
have ordered all
along. nothing quite like
fresh grouper.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

the vegetable garden

I see the animals
in the woods peering into my
yard.
talking with one another.
mumbling,
whispering, asking each other
when is he ever
going to grow a garden.
He's got plenty of room.
it would be nice if he
had some tomatoes growing,
some corn, some green beans.
Or carrots
two rabbits said.
nice big fat carrots.
maybe some hot peppers too,
a squirrel chimed in
twitching his
tail,
which made all of them laugh
and shake their
heads.

the late night prowl

when we were young,
long haired
and lineless, free to do
whatever we wished to do,
such as ride around in a car
with other friends
until late at night,
the radio loud, looking
for girls.
the cops would pull
us over.
search for beer or weed.
finding only wrappers
of hamburgers
and empty drinks.
annoyed and disappointed
they'd lecture us with
their billy clubs,
pushing them into our
hard bellies,
our backs.
they'd tell us to get home.
get a hair cut,
and don't let
us catch you out
here again, this late at
night,
having fun.

soap

we see the soap
on tv
and see how clean it makes
others.
the bubbles,
the joy of it,
the smiles as wide
as miles,
and so we want that.
we want to be that happy
and trouble free.
we find it
in the store on a shelf
in a bright
aisle.
we take it home
and scrub and scrub
but to no avail.

once more

she seeks
perfection with her flashlight,
her
knees bent
and kneeling to the floor.
pointing
with a wand.
make it right, make it more
even,
make it just
so, or else I won't
be able to sleep
at night.
so do it all once more,
and then you
can pack up,
go.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

summer children

shoeless
the bug like children,
mouths open,
eyes wide are jumbled
like bees
set free from a hive.
their screams
echo off the trees,
bikes
on the hill, a ball
in the air.
how they love the light
of summer
and dread the call
from mothers, standing
on their porches
watching, wishing
that none could grow
further from
where they are.

new and unused

the things
you never use have their own
place
in the cellar.
they gather dust
among the spiders, the webs,
boxes holding things
you've long
forgotten. stacked in a dark
corner,
there is the coffee maker,
the food
processor.
the dehumidifier,
the weed whacker,
a turn table awaiting
a disc
to spin
and bring back even
more stored memories.

the olive branch

you put the olive branch
out,
but it does no good.
some things can't be mended,
some things
must end
with no looking back.
sad but true,
how the world works,
how
friendships begin
then end
so quickly.

Monday, July 31, 2017

the early bird

I get up at four
he tells me. sometimes I might
sleep in late
to four thirty, but
no later.
I beat the traffic that way
and get to work
early.
I get more done with no one
else around.
I go to bed at ten, he says,
pulling on his red
suspenders
and sticking his chin out.
and you, he asks.
when do you rise
and shine, hit the hay?
I shrug. maybe eight.
maybe eight fifteen.
but then I stop for coffee
and read the paper.
if the bagels are soft,
I might have one toasted
with irish butter.
at night I can barely stay
up past midnight though.
a nap at four helps.

the soft landing

we are all looking for
the soft landing,
the gentle drop of
the parachute, slowly
delivering us
to the ground, to
safe harbor.
to a place where
all is well.
where love is in
abundance,
where we no longer
have to scratch
the earth for a meal.
who doesn't want
that?

the red car

I used to find
a shady tree and pull
the just washed car up.
a red car at the time,
white interior.
baby moons, a radio.
i'd take a chamois loth,
a can of wax and polish
it until it shined
like glass.
the music would pour
out of the open
windows. the beach boys.
Motown.
it was summer.
there was a girl who would
tell me how
nice my car looked
and would say yes. let's
go for a ride.
so ride you would.

not over yet

we're old, he says
repeatedly,
whenever he shows.
this game has slowed down.
my back hurts.
my arms
and knees.
we should have lunch
instead of this.
talk about the old days.
it's hard
to listen to this kind
of talk,
and agree. it's not over
yet.
but is for him.

the same girl

the chemo took
my hair, she writes,
sending a picture along
with the words,
a smiley face,
a wink.
she's a plucked chicken
now,
bone thin, but smiling
like the moon at night.
her eyes large and brown,
it makes
no difference.
she's still the same girl
she always was
and will be.

into the light

the middle is where
we need to be.
on the same page, in
the same
book, on the same shelf.
in the same
time zone
and hemisphere.
but me in space,
and you on earth is a good
start,
the light that you
are will guide me in.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

my fault

all day i
walk around with a strand
of lint
a black thread on
my white shirt. no one
says a thing.
no one reaches over to
pull it off,
no one
points and says hey,
you have
something there,
let me get it for you.
maybe they don't know
me well enough
to help, or get close.
which could be my
fault.

the secret

the box arrives
on the sunlit porch.
taped
and marked with date
and my name. there is
no name
as to who sent it.
I take it inside.
hold it in
the air.
shake it.
it's light and soundless.
it could be anything.
it could be
nothing.
there's no way to tell
where it's
from, but it's here
with my name
on it.
I stare at the box
all day wondering what
it is, who
sent it. but
I can wait to know.
what's the rush.

good and bad

there's good
and bad in all of us.
one surprises the other
at times
with words said,
things done.
they discuss
what to do next,
leaving you out of
the discussion.
we are split in two.
but who owns
and who rents,
who holds the deed,
the papers on
you.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

dog days

the cling
of summer rain,
of wet skies,
the heat
and drip
of it all making
us heavy.
making us sigh,
making us long for
the cold drink
the cool
tide to rise
and blanket our
feet. summer
is fine,
as is the last of
its warm rays,
its wine,
but fall
is delirious and
delightful
in its wake.

blinking lights

it takes awhile to reset
all the clocks
after the power goes out
in the middle of the night.
the stove,
the microwave,
the alarm clock.
each with its own
complex way of staying true.
one by one,
I stop the blinking,
some red, some white,
one blue. I push the buttons
getting close
to what time it really is.
all a little off
by a minute or two.
it's hard living in
this digital world
of blinking lights,
give me a wind up
any old day.

trip to the market

the sky had a religious fervor
to it
as I drove
my Cadillac
convertible to the market,
going past
the corn fields,
the wide fenced stretches
where cows chewed sullenly
the earth,
where they hardly
looked up
as I waved.
but the sky, wide and blue,
puffed
with long robes
of white, spun cotton,
glimmering
in light stunned me.
it made me want to pray
for forgiveness,
it made me thankful and filled
me with a feeling
of wonder, so much so
that I forgot what
I was going to the market
for.

on the move

it's the turn
of a phrase, the turn
of a head,
the squeak of a knob
going round,
the movement
of clocks, the hands
swinging
down.
it's the spin of the earth,
the orbit
of the moon,
all in all it's things
like this that keep us
going,
two hearts
on the move.

Friday, July 28, 2017

the short list

it's a short
list of things to do.
work,
the bank,
coffee,
a store or two.
a visit
to a woman who no
longer resembles
anyone I knew.
saying what?
maybe just to lean
against
her skin
turned porcelain,
and whisper into
her ear,
I love you.

the best part

the best part
of the story is the end
of course.
but who wants to get
there that fast.
it's good to hear
or read
what's leading up to
the next page,
the next
chapter. savoring
the words,
enjoying
the rise and tension
of the tale.
falling in
love is like that too.

you're getting sleepy, very sleepy

the woman I used
to see
was a hypnotist
and was always putting
me under
making me do strange things.
she'd say you're
getting very sleepy,
very very sleepy,
while swinging a ticking watch
in front of me.
I did whatever she asked
me to do.
I started to open
doors for
her, buy her flowers
and rings. take her on
trips to exotic places.
I didn't pester her
for
affection when it was
obvious she wasn't
in the mood.
sometimes though for fun,
she'd make
me cluck like
chicken or bark like
a dog.
that was the mean side
of her coming out.
when we finally broke up,
she clapped her hands
together and told
me I was free to go,
but not before she made
me give her my car.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

almost there

the line is long
for pills.
brown bottled
pills of all sorts.
all sizes and colors.
pills for what
ails you,
what might come,
what has
and still remains.
you can hear the bottles
being shaken
as they
pay the man,
slip the card into the box,
a rattle in each
hand.
the line is long.
it wraps around the block
and back again.
i'm almost to the
counter.

her candle burning

I imagine her
in the window, the light
on.
she's at her desk.
working.
glasses perched on her
nose.
pen in her mouth.
hands on a keyboard.
working.
taking small bites
of strawberries
she slic4e
early this morning.
she's not thinking of me.
is it the weekend yet.
has vacation
arrived.
will there be anything
left of
her candle
when it's my time
to light it
and make a fire.

the blue bird

there's a blue
bird on the sill staring in.
a bright
ball of
feathers, and beak.
small
black eyes.
still and quiet,
accepting
all that is and
will be.
we both agree
on so many things.

the duct tape solution

she loved
a roll of duct tape.
silver and wide.
she fixed
the bird
cage with it.
sealed a window
where the wind blew
through,
wrapped it around
our shoes
when the bottoms
came loose.
where's the duct tape
she'd yell,
when the rain
came through
the ceiling, when
a tile fell off
the roof.
I wish I had it now
to wrap
my two sisters in.

in time

in time,
the ashes of what
we were
will rise into the clouds
and be gone.
what's left
behind
is held in the hands
and minds
of those
that loved, or
knew
who we were.
no need for words,
or gestures,
just a simple nod
of acceptance,
is enough
love shown.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

the gathering

some weight has
been gained, a house built
or swept away.
divorce
and grandkids along
the way.
the lines have deepened
on our faces.
we sit around the fire,
old friends,
laughing or crying.
we are the same.
wine helps make the words
come out,
as the blue sky
blackens
and the sun slips
under a bed
of waves.

the game

it's a card game
where everyone's cheating,
slipping
an ace or a duce
our of their sleeve
or hat.
the money isn't real.
the stakes
are low. the game
long over,
but everyone wants to
win, take
home the pot, just
to say so.

wake me when it's over

wake me when it's over.
when
the last breath has been
delivered,
when the body stills,
the heart
recedes
and takes a final
beat.
wake me when
the dust has settled.
the last words
said,
the cross planted
at her head,
then i'll grieve.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

snack time

the shark has no feelings.
no remorse
in biting us
as we swim in our bright
green trunks
or rose petal suits,
frolicking
about in the deep
cold ocean
waving to loved ones
on the shore
taking pictures, waving
back.
he's just doing what he
does. what he's done
for a million years,
eating, swimming,
a leg here, an arm.
no seasoning necessary.
no vegetables,
just us.
snacks before moving
on.

together

together so long, they
answer
before the question
is asked,
speak as one, on
many things,
remembering the day
they met, the year,
the place,
how young they were,
how small
the space of the first
house.
she leans, he leans.
both
stir the tea together.
shake
your hand in the same
soft way.
they are one,
from the first day,
until the last.

keeping time

none of the clocks
in my
grandmother's house worked.
no watch,
no cuckoo clock,
no chimes,
no ticking
of any kind.
the hands all still
at when they stopped.
she used the sun
to plan
her day, to end
her day. watching
the length of shadows
in her yard.
that seemed to be
enough.

becoming us

the small choices
add up.
like rain finding a shallow
stream
that flows
into the river, to a bay,
then ocean.
it all becomes one
somehow.
becoming us,
each
small drop that
falls from
the sky.
each choice made.

Monday, July 24, 2017

seven strangers

despite
having the same parents,
raised under
the same room,
having meals at the same
table for years,
we are
all completely different
as if adopted
from strangers.
three brothers,
three sisters. me.
no one agrees
on anything.
no one thinks alike.
seven opposites
with the same blood
coursing through
our veins.
the love is there
somewhere,
but so is the passive
and aggressive
fight.

she's doing great

we have to wake her
up
to feed her the woman
on
the phone says in broken
English.
she sleeps all day,
never gets up.
we change her, bathe
her where she
lies. we put her pills
in her food,
moving her mouth up and down
as best we can.
sometimes, on rare
occasions,
she may open her eyes
and try
to say something,
but we don't understand.
we love her, and want
her stay here
with us
as long as she can.
her room is clean,
her bill paid, although
next month,
due to increases in
expenses it will be
raised.

july

I was out
frying bacon and eggs
on the sidewalk,
when I saw
a squirrel
beneath a tree
sleeping,
a robin, stretched out
on a leaf
floating
in the bird bath.
there is a wilt
to the crowd
departing from the bus,
some with a glazed
look in their eyes,
others
soggy from the ride.
the white
sun
of july, is taking
the starch out
of most of us
with no relief in
sight.

rewriting

moving words around,
commas.
lines
chopped off,
or added to.
a period here,
or there.
rearranging the sequence
of thoughts.
making it rhyme,
making it
not rhyme,
the title could
be better.
it's exhausting
trying to fix what
never was broken,
much.
making it no longer
what it was meant
to be makes
a long day,
tough.
time to move on
to the next.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

carrying sugar

a long line
of ants, black soldiers,
carrying
what looks like sugar
spilled
out of my kitchen,
off the floor
is not bothered
by the vibration of my
feet, nor
me bending over
to take
a closer look. they have
work to do.
they are unafraid, of
the broom or spray.
death has no meaning
for them.
it's about this.
about living life
to the fullest.
carrying sugar until
it ends.

the world has changed

it's rare that one sees
a chicken
truck anymore
in transit on the open
road,
a flat bed thing with
crated
birds stacked high,
feathers flying,
a cacophony of
clucking,
sitting
beside you at a red
light.
chickens don't travel
like that anymore.
the world has
changed.

hallmark card

I like that she prays.
that she's
kind,
compassionate.
I like how she bakes,
and brings
me some.
I like the way,
she laughs, the way,
she sighs
and rolls her eyes
at what I say.
I like
the way she kisses me
hello,
or goodbye,
sending me on my way.
I like nearly everything
about her,
everything, but
showing up so
late in life.

rotate those tires

the lube job
on my car was not so jiffy,
there were
filters that had
to be discussed,
my wipers were frayed,
did I know that
my tires hadn't been rotated
in like forever,
not to mention
my transmission fluid,
and brakes,
and other things that
should be topped off.
I listened
to the manager
as he scrolled down
the computer screen
listing in green
all the things
other than an
oil change that he
highly recommended
that I get done.
I stared at his fingers,
his blackened nails
and wondered how he
ever got any of it off.
ok, I told him,
go ahead, then settled
back into a chair,
and skimmed the five year
old mopar magazines,
and home and gardens.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

no where to go

the cool
clean sheets stretch
blue, like a pool
of water on the soft bed.
the fan quietly
spins above.
the blinds are pulled,
the sun sets
behind the rain
somewhere,
how nice to have nowhere
to go,
no work
to be done, no calls
to be made.
just me, awaiting you,
at the end
of a summers day.

closing time

one drink past two
is one
too many
at happy hour,
the bartender pours
them
strong.
then pushes towards
you a menu
with bad
food.
it's an easy slide
down
the slope
of drinking and eating,
finding a home
on the leather stool,
then suddenly,
the moon is out
and it's
closing time.

staying alive

the bird
is fond of bugs, worms
lying
on the ground, crawling
through
the earth.
snakes
like to get into the trees,
to where
the eggs sit in a high
next.
each
to his own meal,
his own
needs.
his own way of going
up
or down the food chain.

the gift

it's hard
to buy a gift for a woman
you adore.
earrings,
a ring, a bracelet.
something that resembles
what you've seen her wear,
but then why another
if she already has that?
a dress or a pair
of shoes
would be impossible.
a blender or a vacuum,
something sexy
from the lingerie store?
perhaps a cook book,
no,
that mistake has been
done before.

Friday, July 21, 2017

waiting

i'm waiting
at the station,
pacing anxiously,
staring at my watch.
waiting
for her to arrive.
or maybe
she's already
here
and I haven't figured
that out yet.

best not to think about it

the blur of years.
the wind
of time, how quickly
leaves
fall,
then begin
again.
there is more behind us
than in front,
best not
to think about it
and press on.

the cat nap

everyone, at 5 pm
should
stop what they're doing
and lie down.
take a nap.
a twenty minute cat
nap. close their eyes,
fold their hands
onto their chest,
and slip into dreamland.
I think it may solve
much of the worlds problems,
unless they're driving
a car,
or bus, or flying
a plane.
or a doctor doing
surgery.

a bee's nest

from thirty feet up
in the air,
on a heavy ladder,
I don't think about falling,
although it's happened.
I think
about other things.
family and friends,
siblings
gone mad. dinner,
ginger and her baked
goods. I wonder
why that bee keeps
circling my head?
then I see the nest
a foot away
above me.
so much is right in
front of us
that we don't see.

the lunch prayer

as I stared at the rack
of hot dogs
spinning ever so slowly
in the primordial grease
at the 7 11,
I asked myself, what
are you doing?
don't even think about
it.
there was sausage too.
and a burger thing
shaped like
a hot dog, but brown
with texture.
a sticky bulb put an alien
glow on all of
it. slightly
green and yellow,
a tinge of blue.
the smell was almost
meat like.
I prayed about it,
as I stood in line,
nervously jingling coins
in my pocket
like rosary beads, my
hunger growing,
then the answer came.
just water, I said,
pushing a dollar onto
the counter.
nothing else. just water.
and these hostess cupcakes.

what's the rush

we almost broke it off
because she wanted to get married
and I didn't
want her to.
who is this guy,
what do you really know about
him,
I asked her,
as we walked hand
in hand along the beach
in front of our hotel.
you should go through
a year
of seasons first,
that's my advice. meet
his kids, know where
he works, who his
friends are.
she kissed
me on the cheek
and put her arm around
me.
we stopped and looked
at the sun sinking into
the sea.
she drew a heart
in the sand with our
initials in it.
you're right, she said.
i'll tell him, let's
wait for awhile.
what's the rush.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

a long work week

the desert
is a wide dry ocean
of sand.
annoying
cactus
mockingly dot
the land,
prickly and green,
horrible
things. rattle snakes
shake their tails
in the shadow of rocks.
the dunes roll on
forever.
no water, no oasis.
nothing
but the sun beating
down
like an inferno
as I crawl
across on my knees
and hands.
if I ever get to the other
side,
i'll give you
a call.
let's do something fun
come Friday.

side of the road

nothing
sadder than a flat
tire
on the side
of the road
in this summer heat.
stuck
in traffic, waiting
for a tow.
cheer me up.
bring me something
cold
to drink.
a sandwich or two.
let's kill some time
together,
bring a deck of cards,
your lips,
your charms.
i'll never get to
the places
I need to go.

the empty nest

this tattered nest,
once held the perfect
shell
of a blue egg.
the strings and twigs
bent into a home
are frayed now,
the base uncertain,
as I flap my greying
wings on its edge.
where has he
flown to?
I see him in the air
at times
floating towards
a different tree,
to a nest all his
own, someone else
is flying with him,
not me.

the old and the restless

this is it, my sister tells
my brother in a breathless call,
who tells me that my
mother is nearing death.
she's on her last leg, about
to take her last breath.
arrangements are made.
the dirt pushed back from
the earth to make room
for her. flowers are priced.
a family gathering is
organized, someone mentions
Chinese food. mom loved
Chinese food, lets do that.
but when i call the nurse
at the hospital, before i
visit her one last time,
i'm told that she's been
discharged and sent back
home. she's eating, and
doing fine, she's wearing
her favorite yellow dress,
but upset that she
missed her show,
the young and the restless
five days in a row.

i'm still here

as they drag the lake
for the old woman, reported
missing, seen wading
on the shore, she stands
there smoking, trying
to explain that she's
still here.
she's not drowned, but alive.
they don't believe her
though, and row out to
the middle of the black
pond with their
lights, their long poles,
their oars.
i'm alive she says out
loud. i'm still here.
she waves her hands in the
air, she says her name,
only to be ignored.

text me

why have lines
on the road anymore. what with
drinking
and texting,
phones and all the distractions
that technology provides,
everyone is swaying
from side to side,
crashing into one another,
light poles,
mail boxes,
just to send a smiley face,
a photo of a cake
they baked, or just
to say hi.

her muscles

i remember feeling my mom's muscles
when i was a little kid.
she'd flex her bicep and we'd
all try to squeeze this muscle
made from
washing, cleaning, cooking,
beating rugs, and hanging
clothes on the line. it scared
me to think what she could do
if she was fast enough to catch
me, after i mercilessly teased
one or more of my sisters.

at ninety five

I can't believe it all
went by so fast,
she says, laughing,
at ninety five
living in Miami without
a cat
or dog, a friend,
or husband.
everyone is gone, but
i'm still here.
i'm getting my hair
done
today, bingo tonight.
what are you up to?
you should visit sometime.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

a few things

the things she'll leave
behind,
are few.
trinkets mostly, a tea
cup,
used, a plate, a ring,
her rosary beads.
dresses still on hangers,
shoes
not worn for years.
she's on the train,
on a trip
without luggage,
without
anything she owned,
these things
were few.

one more dance

it's a dance,
this tug and pull,
the tapping
of feet
when it comes
to dying, dying old,
dying slow,
with nurses, doctors,
taking
a pulse, folding
against her
body,
the long white sheet.
listening for an end.
she's still there though,
slipping, but
hearing the music
of her life,
still dancing, one
more time
around the floor.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

his front lawn

we used to talk about
the girls
we were seeing, dating,
when we gathered
together
for sports, or a night
our,
that's ended.
we now
talk about what hurts.
how's your leg,
that sciatica still giving
you trouble.
when's your cataract
surgery?
I've had this rash for months.
we go to lunch,
if it's not raining, or
too hot, or too cold.
we get soup and a
grilled cheese sandwich.
we show each
other pictures on our
phones.
no longer bikini shots
of a flight attendant
someone met
from L.A.,
now it's a dog,
a cat,
a grand child.
a front lawn newly
cut and seeded
with
Bermuda grass,
a fire pit that keeps
the bugs away.

non stick

the pans
on late night tv,
at 2 am,
with the energetic salesman
on crack,
frying candy,
setting them on
fire,
sautéing live chickens,
is what I want.
I want my eggs to slide
off into my
plate, the bacon to sizzle
and be crisp,
I want these pans,
these crazy pans
from outer space,
with a life
time guarantee,
non stick.

love poems

she scolds me for love
poems
written in haste.
hallmark she screams in bold
italics.
stop, just stop
doing these she pleads,
they make me cringe,
too gooey, too not you.
I want some dirt,
some edge,
some bitter end.

sweet tooth

we have the same
sweet tooth, so
it's a race to get
to the last
slice of cake.
sometimes we'll meet
in the middle,
lips colliding,
icing on
our face.

they're not done

they don't fade
this band, this group of men,
grey haired
and worn,
standing
in the spotlight
singing songs
from when they were young.
when we were young.
they can't hit
the high notes, or the low
notes
anymore, but their fingers
find the keys,
the chords to bring
back the memory
of what once was.
they make joy.

Monday, July 17, 2017

let things happen

caught in the rain,
we give up
trying not to get wet,
and get wet.
drenched, we laugh.
we find puddles
to step in.
we throw our hands
into the sky, and let
the rain hit our
faces.
we open our mouths
and drink.
we need this laughter,
we need to stop
worrying,
we need
to give up sometimes
and let things
happen.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

an american dream

he fell in
love with opium and an
Asian
woman
from Cambodia.
he was a soldier
and she was his homecoming
queen. he
married her and brought
her home.
together they dealt
drugs on the boardwalk,
made children,
made a life for themselves
near the ocean.
I often wonder what happened
to them,
as the years
went by.
living their version
of an American dream,
nothing being true, nothing
being a lie.

persuasion

some of us,
from hunger and thirst,
our knees sore
from kneeling,
would pass out and hit
our heads
on the pews.
the mass was in latin,
high mass took at
least an hour.
confession and penance.
beating on
our hearts and crossing
ourselves.
there was incense too,
the stained glass letting in
strange clouds
of colored hues.
the cross
above the altar.
Christ in death.
what wasn't there to
scare you
into being good, or at
least trying.

the russians are coming

the headline
with a photo of the president's
son
is all over
the paper.
he's putting Russian dressing
on his salad.
next to him
is the daughter
of the commander in chief
drinking a white
Russian, the foam
has given her a mustache.
she's eating caviar
too,
sturgeon from the red sea.
the kid and the wife
are playing catch with
potatoes
in their colorful
Ukranian costumes.
for dinner, after
standing in a long line,
they'll have stale bread
and cold soup.

something on her mind

she pushes her food around
on her plate,
carrots
and peas, broiled fish
of some kind. she
fiddles
with a piece of bread,
taps her
knife, her fork,
against the edge
of her plate.
she looks away
with something on her
mind.
I keep eating,
i'm hungry
and fear where this
might be going.
I squeeze
into my vodka tonic,
the dark green
wedge of lime.

the walkers

the walkers
are out early
this morning, trying
to beat the heat,
exercise before
the sun
is high.
with arms held up,
elbows swaying,
like birds
they head for the path
down to the lake.
they adjust
their head bands,
their socks
and shirts.
phones attached,
water bottles
in place.
off they go, a mile
or two, some stretching,
then back.

into the drawer

I wake up with her
earring stuck
to my back.
it's a small diamond
no bigger
than a pea,
it could be fake,
or real,
who's to know
these things.
I hold it up to the light,
spin it around.
then set it in
the drawer with
her bracelet,
her glasses, her rings
and something
complicated that
she wore.

one last time

we're going
west.
the truck has everything
we own
packed in the back.
the dog is in my lap.
the kids
are all grown.
we're going west,
out
beyond the Mississippi,
beyond the mountains
the desert,
to the ocean,
we're moving west.
there's no reason to stay
here anymore,
everyone we've
known has died, or
getting old.
work is over, so is play.
we're going
west to start again,
one last time.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

his shoes

my father would put
his shoes on the steps.
starting from the bottom,
going up.
five pairs, at most.
casual and dress.
a pair of boots too,
for when snow fell.
sandals, and slippers.
i put mine beside his,
he always left
enough room.

our own lives

ships sink
all the time. there are
bleached bones
picked
clean along the bottom.
treasures too.
chests of gold.
diamonds.
jewels.
we swim above this.
merry with
in our day, splashing
away, uncaring
and busy with our
own lives,
trying to stay afloat.

finding the strike zone

all day
you could throw
the rubber ball against
the wall.
the chalked in
square,
a strike zone
for no one
there.
wind up and throw
in the hot
sun
behind the rexall
drug store.
check first,
check second. a little
spit,
a hat adjustment.
shake off the catcher,
then nod and throw.
who needs players,
or bats,
just a glove and a ball
on a long
summer day
was enough
to bring joy.

pajamas?

hearing the truck pull up,
the fire and rescue
truck of west
springfield
adorned in lights, flashing.
no siren, I peek
out the window to see
what's up.
young men wearing blue
plastic gloves
and dark t-shirts
are milling about.
it takes a while,
but then I see my neighbor's
date from
last night
being wheeled with
an oxygen mask on,
strapped onto
the white sheeted
stretcher.
he's wearing pajamas
and a pair of green slippers.
who wears pajamas
anymore on an overnight
date?
the slippers don't even
match.

water front view

we ignore water.
we build on the shore,
where it will
rise and flood,
take everything away.
we rebuild.
we think we can drive
through
the stream
that swarms the road.
we think
water is on our side.
the ocean too.
the enormity
and power of it.
the rip tide. let's
see how far, how
deep we can go.

life insurance

when the life insurance
man
stuck a needle into my
arm
to draw blood, to see if
I was healthy enough
to be taken
on as a customer,
I passed out and fell
off the chair onto
the floor.
when I awoke, the wife
was standing over
me with a pen,
placing it in my hand,
quick, she said, sign
here.

back to your old self

my crazy meds
aren't working, lately,
she tells, me
drinking coffee
and smoking a s cigarette
sitting there in her
underwear
and sunglasses.
i'm sorry for all those
awful things I said
about you and your mother
last night.
I think I need an adjustment
on the dose.
oh, really, I haven't
noticed, I tell her,
packing my suitcase.
you seem
quite fine to me.
in fact I think you're
back to your old self.

going forward

there is no need
to explain
to the horses what they
are to do.
they stand still and wait
for the harness,
the straps,
the weight of the wagon
behind them.
with blinders on they
are steady
in the middle of the road,
accustomed to the pull,
we too,
go forward without
a thought, or clue.

Friday, July 14, 2017

her love story

will you read my book,
she asked.
taking out a box
of yellowed typed paper.
she brushed off the cobwebs,
with her blue veined hand,
and shooed her cat away.
we were having tea and toast
in her sun room.
we were forty years apart
in age.
sit for awhile, take a break
from your work, she said.
cream and sugar? jam?
I lifted the manuscript from the box.
it was a romantic story.
the second world war,
two lovers with a sad ending.
there were lines crossed out
with blue ink,
notes in the columns. arrows
and circles going
in all directions.
i'll read it tonight, I told
her, looking at the last page.
reading the last line.
i already knew what i would say.
it's wonderful. it's perfect.
it's lovely. send it out.

Morty's Steak House

you don't question why
one scoop of potatoes costs
seventeen dollars,
because you want some, and
don't want to seem cheap
in front of everyone. so you
get them.
the steak alone
was seventy, so what's another
twenty for a few broccoli
sprouts.
mushrooms, of course they're
pricey. people
are bending over to pick
them by hand,
and who can eat mashed potatoes
and a steak without mushrooms,
so yes.
bring me those too.
salt and pepper, no charge,
oh my,
you people are way too generous.
onions, gravy. fifteen,
bread, with butter? ten.
how much for a glass of water?
hold on, let
me call my bank to see
if my card is still good.
how about a half a glass,
and no lemon?

the crash

i'm behind the five
cars
that crash accordion style
into one another from
behind.
nearly everyone
is on their phone,
talking,
texting, checking e mails.
in quick succession
the air bags go off.
wind shields crack.
a cloud of smoke
puffs out the creases of
windows.
doors fly open, trunks
and hoods pop up,
crimped and shorn.
slowly I go around
the debris on the road,
staring at the shaken
drivers, standing near
their wrecked cars,
shaking their
heads, still looking
at their phones
while a siren wails nearby.

if you get thirsty

don't forget to drink water,
the weather man
says
as he points at the map,
colored in red,
to indicate heat
without relief.
if you go outside dress
light, hydrate,
stay inside.
we are three year olds now.
unable
to know
what to do when the sun
shines. what should I do
if I get sleepy?
if I get hungry?

a small thing

who doesn't have a leak.
a wet
spot
rusted brown
on the ceiling or wall.
there's a drip somewhere,
a pipe
sweating,
a hole where the rain
gets in.
but it's okay.
it's not the end of the world
as we know it.
it's
just a small thing
that tells
you something
about everything.

being selfish

being selfish
and carefree
seems to come natural
these days,
what with
the kid gone,
marital status at one,
with only me
to fend for
to decide being lazy,
or going out for fun.
there is no plant to water
no pet that seeks
to play.
let the phone ring,
let
the clothes sit,
the dust gather.
we'll get to it later,
maybe tomorrow,
maybe another day.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

the chase is over

you can tell
the men who are done.
finished,
maybe widowers, divorced,
but finished
with the love
part of life.
that chase is over.
perhaps they do love, or
are loved,
who's to know, but
they're shabby now in dress.
unkempt, not caring
about stripes,
or checks.
matching anything.
the eyebrows have gone
wild.
hair nearly everywhere,
nothing combed.
you see them in the market,
pushing a cart. mumbling.
staring a crumbled list.
one can of that,
one can of this.

all things

the boy
who went to nam
was different now,
standing on the porch.
hair cut short. clean shaven.
once upon a time he looked
like George Harrison
on the cover of All Things Must Pass.
then his number came up.
there were medals
on his
green uniform.
his boots were polished,
a lacquered black.
the drugs were out of him.
there was
something else
in his veins now.
the wistful
boy who once sat
on the same porch,
playing guitar
and singing all night
long was gone.

run boys run

when we stole
the watermelons off the vine
in the dry
plowed earth of St. Elizabeth's
farm,
we had no idea
that there were prisoners
in orange,
picking too.
there were guards holding shotguns
pointed to the ground.
we were thirsty
and hungry, going fishing
on the Potomac river.
what did we know?
we held those heavy green
melons like gold bars in our
skinny arms
and ran back through
the woods, waiting to hear
the gunshots that never came.
I can still hear the shouts
of the pickers,
telling us to run boys,
run.

handle with care

you are careful
with what you say around her.
careful
not to step too far
inside her circle.
you are a moth
circling the light.
she has you on edge.
on thin ice.
gently
you lean towards her
to kiss her, but it's never
good morning.
always goodnight.

the happy hour

the happy hour
became a four hour event
on Fridays.
we were young
in our
cheap suits,
bad ties
and shoes.
we unwound after a few
drinks,
talking about how
much we hated the boss,
the work,
the office
in general.
it's like taking coal
out of a mountain,
someone said. we rowed
this boat all night long.
by eleven we were
exhausted
from drinking, singing,
flirting,
saying things we wished
we hadn't said.
sometimes we'd stagger
home alone,
other times,
we had company.
Monday came too early.

monday trash

in the morning,
lying there, alone.
the sun slipping in.
the trash truck already
backing up
in the court, beeping,
grinding away,
its big door slamming
as bags are tossed in,
you lie there thinking,
summing up your life.
where it's going,
what's been done.
what's next, but then
you think about the three bags
of trash in your
kitchen. it's too late
to run outside.
now you have to wait
until Monday.

how to books

I buy another how to book
and skim it
like I did the others.
how to hang a door.
how to cook a duck.
how to put a new engine
in your car. how to appear
younger by wearing
hipster clothes.
how to write a poem.
the books are endless.
falling in love for
dummies is nearly worn
out, underlined
on nearly every page,
the cover wrinkled
from being wet after
reading it in the tub.
i'm waiting for the next
edition to come out.
the reviews have been good.
I have it ordered
on amazon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

how to make a sandwich

when showing my son
the art
of making a sandwich,
he seemed perturbed at first,
but then sat there and listened
intently as I went to work
talking him through the complicated
process he was
about to observe.
bread, I told him.
bread is very important.
I can't over stress how important
brad is to a sandwich.
sometimes you might want to use
a baguette or a roll, but
we don't have those, so
we'll use two slices from
the package, white not
your mother's wheat. now,
this is when you have to
decide if you want the slices
toasted or use them as is.
three's no going back on this.
as is he says. okay. I set each
piece down, flat
on the counter.
mustard or mayo? ummm, mayo,
he points to the jar.
choose your cold cuts now.
I tell him. we have salami,
roast beef, and ham.
may I suggest honey ham
as the first layer and then
top it off with roast beef
in the middle and salami next.
whatever, he says. yawning.
your cheese comes next.
we have muenster, provolone...
he points to the yellow
cheese. okay, okay, good choice.
i gently lay a square
of yellow cheese on top
of the meat.
lettuce? I asked him,
he nods yes. we need to
shred it in small pieces.
I show him my shredding
technique, using a serrated
knife, then show him my fingers
to show that i'm not bleeding.
tomatoes?
hmm hmm. he says. I slice
those and place them
on the sandwich.
onions, hot peppers?
no, he says, are we almost done?
patience my boy, patience.
we're almost done.
okay. now we put the other
piece of bread on top,
securing it down with the palm
of your hand. pressing,
but not too hard. we want
to keep it firm and have
balance
so that the sandwich doesn't
tip over.
sometimes you can stick a decorative
toothpick in the middle
to hold it all together, but
we don't have any, so i'll
just cut it in half.
diagonal? sure, he says. sure.
okay, almost done.
hand me the bag of chips.
I place a handful of chips
on the side, and wring out a
sweet gherkin pickle
from a jar to lay
beside the sandwich.
voila, I tell him, holding
the plate up. there we go.
now go get the camera so
that we can take a picture.
oh brother, he says.
what's wrong with you dad?
I'm starving.

no tell motel

it was a clean room.
it smelled purposely clean,
the odor
of pinesol
stuck in the air.
beds where beds should be,
with no spring,
split
between a picture
of flowers, wildlife,
a stream.
a place not meant for
sleeping.
the phone, a tv
chained to the wall.
two lamps
on matching nightstands.
a dresser with tight
drawers that squeaked
when pulled.
hot and cold water,
three
clean towels, a map
of the city. a new bar
of soap.
a bible
in the drawer where
it can't be seen.
two glasses, short,
and covered in paper.
the heavy shades
were pulled tight,
but creased open enough
to show
the beams of white,
of cars pulling
up or leaving throughout
the long
cold night.

dress light

the sun
waits for you.
its warm white whip of
heat
already
wilting the trees,
making the squirrels
less hurried for now,
staying on one side
of the street.
what's the difference?
dress light,
drink water.
stay in the shade.
all good advice
you'll try to obey.

good and bad

why the bird
flies into the window is hard to know.
his beak
cracks a small
hole
in the pane.
he falls to the ground,
to the soft grass
where he lies unmoving
until awake again.
in the shadows,
other things
with hunger make their
move.
there is good and bad
in everything.

the bakery

the woman behind
the counter, looks tired.
it's a summers day,
late in the afternoon,
tomorrow has already begun
in the back room.
she wipes the counter,
pours out
the old coffee.
it's two for one now
for what lies
behind the glass.
chocolate and glazed,
cake.
not stale, not fresh,
but wanting to be taken
home
in a crisp white bag.
unsmiling, she waits
for you to decide.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

would you like to dance?

the first time you ask a girl
to dance
is scary beyond belief.
beads of sweat
gather on your forehead
as you reach out a trembling
hand.
your heart begins
to beat like a rabbit's.
you have no idea
what you're getting into.
you've never danced before,
except when practicing
alone to the radio
in your room.
you've studied the moves
on bandstand,
and soul train,
or others that have
the nerve to be on the floor,
but you really have
no clue
what will your legs,
your arms,
your head will possibly do.
can you find the beat
and shake
in an appropriate way
that you don't look
too much like a fool?
who knows,
but here we go. maybe,
just maybe, if you're lucky,
she'll say no.

ear plugs

I don't handle anger well.
pushy people.
loud and brash egos
that need the floor.
I can't listen
to an argument on
tv.
I shake my head at
barking dogs,
and crying babies.
I don't even like to read
a note
that disagrees,
that contradicts how I
feel
about things.
I pretty much have to avoid
most people, most days,
especially relatives,
and pick my hours
when going to the dmv.

nearing the end

you make a list.
gas, electric, food
and
insurance.
all the monthly bills
in a column,
added up
to see what you could
survive on
if you quit working
and walked
to the lake everyday
to throw bread at the ducks.
you stare at your 401 k,
miscellaneous
savings
and investments.
how much
would social security bring
in?
medicare.
there's lots of loose
change in the blue bowl
on top of the refrigerator.
senior discounts on
pills
and movie tickets.
you could cut back
on coffee.
what about shoes, do you
have enough shoes
to get you through
the final
years. yes, you say
to yourself,
turning each pair over
to look at the soles.
got shoes.

randomly matched

they want paper
where paper shouldn't be.
squares in the coffer
ceiling. pink
grass cloth
in the loo.
two men
with a nursery.
giraffes, chimps perhaps,
peach or
pale blue,
or something over the top
from milan, or berlin,
paris with a view.
black and white stripes.
the Eiffel tower with
polka dot balloons.
the laundry room
too.
a French paper
randomly matched,
embossed
and metric measured.
let's railroad
some,
from side to side,
make it different by design.
flock in the kitchen
of course,
a place to eat, fit
for a king,
or a queen or two.

unbitten

the roped coil
of a copper head,
diamond
crossed, unblinking
devil
blacked
eyes, sits
in the corner of
the musty shed,
I touch
him before I know
what it is,
before he stiffens
and rises. he's
just high enough
to be safe.
why I reach out
and touch,
I don't know,
perhaps the shine,
but i'm happy that
he doesn't strike,
and take
my life, such as it
is.

imagination

with a stick
and a box, a rock or two.
a tree,
the wide open
yard
the kid plays all day.
you see him
out there talking to
himself,
his imaginary friends.
maybe when he gets older
he'll be in a
straight jacket, or maybe
not.
maybe he'll be just
like me.

mice on the road

how fast
these cars go.
bumper on bumper
through the maze.
speeding through red lights.
trying to
get to the next
one before me.
trying desperately
to get to the place
they need to be.
how fast
their hearts must
beat,
their minds
unraveled by the smell
of just a small chunk
of cheese.

Monday, July 10, 2017

let's swing

it's too hot
to work. too hot to do
anything
but sit in the shade
on the porch seat,
and swing,
wave
to people going by.
bring ice tea, a fan
to make
a breeze.
set the radio nearby
and listen to the game,
makes
no difference who's
playing,
strike one,
or three.
it's too hot to do much,
but lie back,
and swing, come join me.

someone else

the calm of her face,
the brush of
hair,
the small beads
of sweat
along her neck.
out of breath you watch
as she turns
to the window
where a shred of light
seeks in.
is she with you,
or is someone else
inside her head.

we decide

the scrape
on the knee early on
in life,
an elbow bruised,
a chin cut,
falling to the pavement
after
running,
or wheeling along on
a board.
the bike tilted over
to the side,
a tree branch
that won't hold your weight.
this tells you
early on
that much of life
is risk,
and most is from what
you decide, alone,
to undertake.

side by side

my mother could throw
a dish
or glass, or serving
spoon
with either hand.
she was ambidextrous
when it
came to anger
towards my father.
but he had skills too,
able to dodge and duck
a plate of
baked beans, a roasted
chicken,
mulligan stew.
the place was a mess
when we awoke,
but they had somehow
made up,
as you could see, peeking
into their bedroom,
side by side,
in each other's arms,
asleep.

her one big secret

her one
big secret is impossible
to know.
you can't get it out of her,
no matter
how much chardonnay
you ply her with,
how much tenderness
you
kneed into her soft
supple skin.
you look as far as you
can go into
those deep doe
brown yes, but get
nothing.
she should have been a spy
for the country,
all secrets
would have been safe
with her.

who are you

the longer we live
the less
we know.
the person in bed beside
you
becomes a stranger
given enough years
together.
enough meals shared,
enough
love making.
kids raised, hair turned
grey.
she says, I don't really
know you,
do I,
and you answer, who
are you.
you look familiar,
but I can't place the name
or face.


any day

some days, they don't have to
be rainy days,
they can be bright blue
full of sun,
but you need that day to stay
in, to stay home
and open boxes,
to sift through the growing
debris that has washed ashore
in your life.
closets need to be emptied
and clean,
the refrigerator too.
the list of numbers in your
phone need to be pared
down.
the number of towels
and sheets, that go unused
thrown out. shoes,
never worn,
sock never slid onto your
feet.
it's hard to throw away
what doesn't belong anymore,
but any day will do,
when ready.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

three out of four doctors

three out of four doctors
agree,
but i'd rather hear
from the one
that doesn't. what does
he know,
what's his problem
with these pills, this
line of action
to cut or not cut
on your ailing anatomy.
I want to know what
the fourth has to say.
do the other three hate
him because he disagrees.
do they shun him
at lunch, passing him
in the hall without a
so much a nod
in their surgical garb.
do they
ignore him as he stands
with his golf club,
alone
on the 15th green.

being free

the lion
in his cage paces,
staring out
as we stare in.
there is distance
between us.
the gully paved,
a brook of water,
man made,
the chain link,
barbed with wire,
the bars.
both are equally safe,
but wanting
out. only happiness
coming from
being free, not in.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

other things too

we agree on sweets.
chocolate
for one.
anything with cream inside,
a puff of pastry
for another.
scoops of ice
cream
stacked in two on a sugar
cone
is something what we both
want.
but there are other
things too.

the car alarm

that horn, the car alarm.
the siren
of theft
that never is begins.
a jiggle
to the car sets it off.
a cat
leaping onto the hood.
hail,
a strong wind.
blow it a kiss and the lights
blink,
the blare starts.
finally the neighbor
appears
in his shorts, without
shoes or a shirt
and waves
his fob, his wand of
silence towards it.

years later

a sock, a glove,
a bottle of her perfume.
pictures
too.
a ring, a list of groceries.
tickets,
unused.
all
tight within
a box, pushed back
on the shelf.
grief once
hard, now graciously
has left
the room.

already decided

can a prayer
be heard for the turtle
seen
crossing
the early road, his shell
thatched
in green and brown,
soft stripes
of yellow.
can you pray him
to be faster, to move
those
clawed legs
hurriedly to the other
side?
can these prayers be
heard, or
are these things beyond
us,
already decided.

and then

on any given day,
in any year, it may occur.
this affection,
this
promise of tomorrows,
this life
you've imagined
with her, a stranger
yet,
may appear.
and then.

Friday, July 7, 2017

making a salad

will you
chop these for me, she says.
while talking
on the phone,
pushing
a bowl
of carrots towards you.
radishes,
a red onion too.
lettuce,
sure, you tell her,
taking the knife,
moving the board into place.
easing the blade
down
again and again.
you do what you are told.
for now.