Friday, December 9, 2016

the pie eulogy

each and every mourner
though
hardly in mourning,
expressed with some touch
of mirth their
eulogy for aunt jean,
though never really an aunt,
or parent of her own.
instead of grief
and regret,
they spoke of joy, of
her baking
skills,
the culinary masterworks
of her life.
one said
how soft and crumbly
the crust
was on her blueberry
nine inch pie, how it
won the county prize,
the blue ribbon even
now adorning
the silver casket which
sits aside
the dirt which will fill
the perfectly carved space
that awaits her.
another talked of pumpkin
pies
which she made for the holidays,
another eulogist brought
up
her mince meat wonder,
the secrets of which are now
departed with her.
she would be as missed as she
was truly
unknown, or even perhaps
loved, though
finding a way through eggs
and cream, sugar
and dough, a way to overcome
all that.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

before night

the worker
at his station, bent
over
a machine, grinding
metal down
into a different shape.
the heat and flame
in his hand,
his head
masked hard
to protect him.
there is no complaint,
no concern
about what he does,
the danger,
he only fears that one
day
the job won't be there,
then
what is there to do,
what good
are empty hands
to his children, his wife,
the day
he needs to fill
before night.

these woods

these woods you walk
into
then walk out
haven't changed
much over
the years, so you
think,
as you do of yourself.
ignoring
what's fallen,
what's died
or grown over.
there are bones scattered
along the path
that you walk
over.
the bare whiteness
of flesh removed
awakens you
to nothing new.
you'll return to these woods
many times
before your own death,
before your own bones
are laid bare,
which bothers you
less and less
as you go deeper into
these old woods.

she's not there

you can rent a room
by the hour
in Amherst
and see what she saw.
peer out her second
story window,
sit where
she sat
and wrote in her strange
exact
way of writing,
perhaps feel
the heat from her stove,
touch
the bed, the linens
where she lay
before
placing beneath the mattress
her poems,
but still you won't
know her.
everything remains
as it was,
except she's not there.

firmly ashore

it appears to be a short
swim
across the river
to the other side.
the lane
of water moves blue
and soft under
a warm sun.
it looks easy
when you're young,
but you think,
differently now
knowing what you know,
and what lies below.

what draws near

all day
the dead are with you.
whispering
into your ear.
putting a hand on
your shoulder.
there is nothing to be
said in return.
you can only listen,
listen
to what is said,
and wait for
what draws near.

the game

the men are getting old,
after decades
of playing ball together,
yet,
they still show
up
in woolen clothes,
hats,
sweats buttoned
and pulled
tight to keep out
the wind,
the cold. the limps
and aches
laughed at as we press on.
it's more than a game,
more than
exercise,
it's beyond all of that.
it's beyond what we
can even begin
to know.

these tools

these tools
that know your hand,
shaped
by days of work
are neither friend nor
foe, but
things,
things you hold
only
when it's time,
when they are needed,
so perhaps,
they are no
different after all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

giddyup

I've been thinking about
buying a horse.
I know nothing about horses.
I've seen them
on tv and in the movies though
and they look like a lot of fun.
if I had a horse I think
I could meet women
who also like horses, which
seems to be every
woman on earth.
I like those pants they wear,
and the boots that go up
past the knees. nice.
love the boots. not to mention
those tight red
jackets with shiny buttons, and hats.
I hate to admit it, but I like
those riding crops too.
maybe I could buy a medium sized horse,
similar to the one
roy rogers had,
trigger. same color, blonde
with brown eyes.
I wouldn't have to get on
it, or ride it around,
I could just keep it in
a barn somewhere and go
down to visit once in awhile,
swat some flies
off it,
hose it down, maybe walk it around
the pasture, bring it some
carrots, oats, cubes
of sugar. maybe for Christmas
someone will buy me a horse.
that would be swell.

love notes

a rock flies through
your window
with a note attached.
it must be from an old
lover, you think,
watching it as it rolls
to a stop
against the far wall,
next to all the other
rocks with notes attached.
you sip your coffee
as the dog goes over
to sniff the new
rock. he looks at you
and shrugs.
some people never quite
get over things, you
think, as you write
your own note
and tape it to a nice
sized rock.

the new you

my therapist asks me how
things are going
lately with the new job,
the new
girlfriend, the new dog,
the new apartment.
i'm stretched out on her
sofa staring at my new
brown shoes and playing
with the buttons on my
new shirt.
good, I say. good. I
think that change is good,
right?
but sometimes I feel like
I don't know who I am
anymore after turning
over so many new leaves.
I see she says.
I look in the mirror with
my new haircut and suntan,
and I almost don't recognize
myself. I ask my new friends
who I am and they laugh.
but are you happy, she says,
clicking her pen open
and closed. are you happy
with the new you?
not really, I tell her.
not really. I sort of miss me.

heading south

it's almost time
to hop the freight train
to florida, find an orange
grove to call home.
you've thrown out the plants,
cleaned
out the perishables
from the fridge.
folded all the laundry.
yesterday there was
ice on the windshield.
you stared at your snow
shovel
still against the wall
in the basement.
maybe after Christmas,
or new years
you'll go down to the station
and pick out a nice
empty box car,
chase it as it rambles
slowly south
and jump on.
a bag of clothes, a pocket
full of cash
a banjo strapped
to your back.

Monday, December 5, 2016

escape plan

it's good to know
where the back door is.
where the key
is hidden, which window
is not latched.
it's good to know,
there's
a basement or any attic
where you can go
and get out in a flash.
it's good
to have a plan
of escape
in any form of endeavor.

how easy


how easy
and cruel it is
to argue and not agree,
preaching
one's own
brand of knowledge
and opinion
to any ear
within reach, that
cannot flee.

rest in peace

til death do we
part sounds
ominous, but it's really
an optimistic note
on a tragic ending.
you are finally free
to eat
what you want, wear
the clothes that you want,
snore and snore
away
stretching, having
the whole bed to your self.
you can stay
home and watch the game
in your underwear,
no longer
attending the gatherings
of in-laws,
making small talk, while
checking your
phone for the score.
may we both rest in peace.

the beard

a completely smooth
shave
is difficult
as one ages.
the creases and sags,
the nooks
and crannies
of one's face grows
increasingly strange,
becoming new
terrain for the razor.
some stubble
is left behind, shaving
cream too,
behind an ear,
along the neck.
there are nicks, cuts
that dribble out
rivulets of blood,
stopped only
with tissue
or the collar of a shirt.
as time goes on you have
new admiration
for those
that give it all
up, and discover
the ease
of a walt Whitman beard.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

the rainbow arm

we signed
the cast on my mother's arm
the next day.
colored it
with paint
and crayons.
a rainbow appeared
on the white cast
that went from
wrist
to elbow.
thick and smoothed,
wrapped so that a thumb
and fingers
poked out.
she still
had her left hand
to boil water,
fill bottles,
change diapers
and get us to school.
my father
remained unscathed.
sleeping it all
off,
only a small scratch
on his unshaved
face.

the all night store

some cans,
some jars with labels
torn
expiration dates
met
and passed
remain
on the shelf.
some in the ice
box
others
in the cupboard,
nestled tightly,
side by side.
sometimes I move them
to the back
to make room
for more.
like us.
what was new becomes
old,
replaced, renewed,
replenished
from
the open all night
store.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

physics class

i know little about science
or physics
having learned
the bare minimum
back in high school
the rudimentary knowledge
forced upon
us by narrow
collared teachers
with thick
spectacles. my thoughts
lay elsewhere.
there was no enjoyment
in learning
how an apple
on the moon dropped
would hit the ground
at the same time as a feather.
did Cyndi know that?
three rows up
in her plaid skirt.
her pony tail.
her small hand raised
for nearly
every question posed?
of course she did.

was it fun?

it's less
about love or money,
things
possessed
things lost in the long
shuffle
of life.
it's not where
you are, how far you've
come.
who you know,
or
sleep with.
it's not the car, the house,
the prizes
that you've won,
the diplomas earned,
it's about none
of this as the end
draws near.
as the light grows dim
around you.
was it fun?

the day and the next day

early
in the morning,
I watch the man
smooth
the mortar with a pointed
trowel
along the walk way,
tapping
new bricks into place.
his level
tells him less
or more.
he wipes his brow,
sips
his water.
in time the stairs are
new again.
settling hard,
for feet to tread upon.
he goes home,
has dinner with his wife.
tells his
children
goodnight, and thinks
about
the next day, the next
set of steps
he needs to make
right.

this wind

this wind
carves
the woods. unsettles all
not tight
and wound
upon the trees.
the shiver of winter
nears.
how quickly
the pages turn,
the lives
of loved ones,
once flowers,
disappear,

Friday, December 2, 2016

i've met someone

through the shared wall
I could hear my neighbor
playing her piano.
sometimes if there were no
students there,
she would sing too.
she had a high pitched voice
not unlike laura nyro.
I preferred her just playing.
it was easy
to lie there
and fall asleep on the couch
as her fingers danced
easily across
the keys.
we never talked about it
when we greeted each
other in the parking lot,
coming and going, raking leaves,
or shoveling snow.
one day she told me that she
had met someone.
it wasn't long after that,
that she moved.

season tickets

on the phone, very late
into the night
my friend
calls.
he's unusually calm, whispering
into the phone,
I imagine his
hand cupped around the
speaker,
as he looks towards
the basement steps
to see if anyone
is coming down.
i'm getting a divorce, he
says.
I found a place, a condo,
on the west end.
it's perfect.
he gives me no time to
respond and keeps
talking.
I've met someone, he says,
actually I have
maybe three prospects.
my wife doesn't know,
the kids
don't know. I've only
told a few people,
you being one
of them. he waits.
I here him breathing,
waiting for me to say something.
what about your season
tickets to the games,
I ask him.
my god he says, I haven't
even thought about that.

like us

the ship
seems still
that far out along the grey
green coast
of the atlantic
ocean.
it hardly
appears to be moving,
going anywhere.
you can see the curve
of the earth.
looking left to right,
the way shadows
lie down
like blankets
upon the wide sea,
but the ship, it's dull red
hull remains still,
until it doesn't
anymore, and like us,
disappears
from view.

be happy

it's not just another
day
the speaker says, jubilant
and glowing
on the stage,
giving his seminar
on positive thinking
and finding joy
in your life
no matter what the
circumstances.
today is the first day
of the rest of your life
he shouts.
he bounces around
in his new suit and shoes,
his hair slicked
back. his books
are stacked up on a table,
to be sold,
signed and ready
to go.
it's all going well until
someone in
the audience
throws a tomato at him.
hitting him in the head.
he's not so
happy then.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

spit polish

I haven't shined a pair of shoes
in a long time.
maybe decades have passed
since I took out the small
bag with polish
and brush, a chamois cloth
and put a sheen onto a pair
of buster browns.
there hasn't been a need to.
the funeral shoes
get dusty, but are almost
new. the wedding shoes,
which look like the funeral
shoes, but more fancy,
are the same. dusty and just
need a wiping of a dry cloth.
but if I had to, I could.
I could take a pair
of dulled leather boots
and make them glow, make
them shine in the overhead
light at the kitchen table.
the newspaper down, just like
my mother told me.

we need you

when you worked in an office
any task
that involved lifting
came to you
being low man on the pole.
they found you in your boxed
in corner,
behind a desk,
holding a mere
pencil that was about
to be broken in your restless fist.
what was the point of
being young
and strong if you were
not to be used
in this way.
get the box off the top
shelf, we need more paper,
they'd say.
get the dolly and wheel
this water cooler out to the curb.
lift it into
the trunk.
can you move the copying
machine out from
the wall,
can you lift that desk,
slide the cubicle
down a few feet?
but you didn't mind.
at happy hour things were
different.

hot tea

the hot tea
burns your tongue.
for hours
it stings
at the tip, along
the edges,
it's a small reminder
of what can
happen
when you sip too quickly
too soon,
put your lips
to the edge
of any hot cup
you don't know.

you're welcome

the boy who sat
next to me through twelve grades
of school. the boy
who cheated off my
papers, copied
my homework, word
for word.
the boy who never read
a book, or
raised his hand
in class.
yes, that boy,
the boy who I slipped
the answers to
during every test
for years and years,
that boy
is now a doctor.
I want to visit him
at some point
and tell him, you're
welcome.

unlike mine

I worry about my son,
how casual
and carefree he is living
in southern California.
I want him to once
struggle
and be unable to sleep,
to concern himself
about money and a career.
but no.
instead, he's happy
with his life.
basking in the glow
of a warm sun,
making ends meet.
he's content with his girlfriend,
his dog,
his ability to relax
and live a life
unlike mine.

holiday decor

the lights won't go on.
you flip
the switch.
but no.
the silver tree stays unlit.
you pull on the wire,
pop in new batteries,
still nothing.
you pick it up and give
it a good shake.
it might be time
for a new Christmas tree
to set upon your table.
it had a good
run though.
seven or eight years
being carried
up from the laundry
room
to complete your extensive
holiday
decorating.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

nothing said

the small boy
with his truck, makes all the noises
that he imagines
a truck would make,
going forward, going backwards.
he's in the middle of the floor
of the rest home
where my mother sits in a rocker,
rocking towards
the television
in the corner.
the boy wants attention, wants
someone to play
with.
my mother stares at him
blankly, unsmiling,
unsure
of this boy, his bright eyes,
his light hair,
his feverish game alone
on the floor.
she can't get the words out,
then looks at me,
trying so hard
to make sense of any of this.
there is nothing i can
say to help.

i understand

the salesman
rings the bell. I see him
straighten his
tie
as I peer through the peep
hole
in the door.
he rings it again,
then uses the knocker.
banging loudly.
I can see you looking out,
he says.
I know you're in there.
he goes to the window
and sees the tv
on. the pot boiling water.
I duck down
behind the sink.
come on, he says. open up.
I know you need
term life insurance
and this is a once in a life
time deal.
hey, he yells.
finally I yell back to him.
I can't open up,
I say loudly.
I have a woman in here.
oh, he says. i'm sorry,
so when is a good
time to come back?
I don't know, I tell him.
you never know about
these things.
to which he says,
i understand
completely, then leaves..

islands in the fog

I can't remember her name,
but I do remember what she looked
like. what her skin felt like.
black hair, black eyes.
short, on the curvy side.
she said she was half American
indian and half French. who knows.
we went out for a while.
I can't even remember where
I met her.
in a club, maybe. dancing,
drinking,
doing what young men did
back then.
it wasn't really going out,
it was more
her coming to my apartment
and spending a few hours
eating and making love.
she never spent the night,
she had a kid, or two kids
she had to get back to.
I was never clear on that.
a lot of what I remember about
her is vague, as if it all
happened in a fog.
but I do remember her skin.
how rough it was. how hard
and grainy it was to the touch.
I had never felt skin like
that before
and would slowly
drag my finger tips across
her back, being amazed,
but not saying a word.
in time, I drifted away,
so did she.

new choppers

he is proud of his new teeth
and opens
his mouth
to show them to me at 8 o'clock
in the morning.
a cloud of
Marlboro smoke
puffs out.
nice, I tell him.
they look
good, real.
they only hurt a little,
he says.
they smoothed down
the bone that was keeping
them from snapping
into place.
nice I say.
i'm going to the steak house
this
weekend,
he tells me.
i'm getting loaded baked
potatoes along
with a ribeye.
good, I tell him.
good.
then hand him a bucket
and a brush,
and point to a spot
near the ceiling
that he missed yesterday.

while eating nuts

I could be a doctor
by now,
or an esteemed lawyer,
or scientist
solving the mysteries
that confound
the world,
but no, instead I sit
here on the couch
breaking apart pistachio
nuts with my
teeth and tongue,
spitting shells into
a bowl
cupped between my legs,
while
flipping back and forth
from channel to channel
on the big screen
smart tv.

the pool

how excited you
were
to see the pool in the backyard
when you came home
from school,
your mother
in her plaid shorts
filling it up with a garden
hose.
the dog already inside
splashing around.
these luxuries
made your summer.
an above ground pool,
blue,
and bulging at the sides.
a wire mesh
holding it all together.
like birds,
the neighborhood
filled it up with children.
it lasted a week,
but a good week
it was that early june.

the door is ajar

the door is ajar.
someone has just left
or just come in.
there is no car
in the driveway,
the dog hasn't barked.
I hear no footsteps
about the house.
nothing. I go and sit
on the sofa.
await, whoever it
might be. ready to hear
their story
and then tell mine.

a love poem

the itch is still there.
nothing can
reach it, no stick or door
edge,
no rolling in
the blankets,
no book will find
it.
no stranger's hand
can locate
where it is
within your heart.
only you
can scratch it out,
come soon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

who needs them

if not for the cats we
wouldn't have to change the floors,
she says to me,
pointing at brown
rust spots in the carpet.
the previous owner had five cats.
can you believe that?
one or two should be the legal
limit, I tell her,
watching where i'm stepping.
personally I prefer
dogs, she says. not a big dog,
or one of those small
yapping dogs, but a medium
sized dog.
me too, I tell her.
to be honest with you,
i'm a dog person.
in fact, she says, I like
dogs better than most people.
I smile and nod my head.
I agree, people can be a pain
in the neck, I say. people,
pffft,
who needs them.?

from here to there

not everyone
wants to go home.
go back to from where they came.
some want
to stay on the open
road.
keep moving, keep
getting farther
and farther away from
where they came.
so many directions to go.
so many ways
to travel.
so many years to get from
here to there
and to forget.

stop doing that

oh my
the dental hygienist says,
adjusting her glasses,
and her mask,
there's a lot
of blood coming from
that gum
behind
your wisdom tooth.
I hold up my hand
in a koko the monkey gesture
to stop.
grimacing at the pain.
she sucks the blood
out of my mouth
with a plastic tube
and then I tell her,
it's bleeding because
you keep stabbing me
with that metal tool
sharpened to a razor
like point.
every time you jab it
into my gums,
I bleed. why are you doing
that?

Monday, November 28, 2016

one more

a woman once
brought a baby to our parent's
house
wrapped in a blanket.
no one but us children
were home.
she had dark hair,
dark eyes.
she looked like
none of us. we were children,
but took the baby
from this strange woman.
here's your father's
baby she said,
handing the small thing
to my little sister, who bent
from the weight.
tell him I left his baby
with you, she said, then left.
we watched her out the window,
lighting a cigarette, then
driving away.
someone changed the baby's diaper,
someone heated up
a bottle of milk,
someone brushed her hair,
then rocked her to sleep.
what was one more?

a side order

she likes love.
being in love, being with
one person
for the rest of her life.
whether bound
by the laws marriage or
a simple handshake,
but she says it's like
having your favorite
dinner every night.
steak, or pasta, or a
fresh garden salad.
it never changes, she says,
still smiling,
but looking down the road
at the neon sign
of a diner, flashing open.
sometimes though, she says,
it would be nice
to have a side
order of something different.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

the burden of love


when my son tired
walking around the lake,

I picked him up,
let him ride

on my back for a mile
or two, then set

him down.
we'd rest on a bench facing

the sun,
skipping rocks,

searching for turtles
or frogs just to say

we saw one.
he's too large to carry now,

living on another coast,
but I do hold him

in my heart at night,
the burden of love

is never set down.

found money

you find
a warm, crumpled five
dollar bill
in the dryer
and consider it luck.
but it isn't luck.
it's something else.
it's money
laundered clean,
ready to be spent
or lost again.

have a good one

you can't remember
if you've sent this card before.
the generic one with
snow
and a sky full of stars.
not an angel or mention
of Christ to
be found.
the box of a hundred
has dwindled down
to a dozen or less
over the years.
your list
has grown shorter
as people die
or move to places far
away. there are
other ways now
to say merry Christmas
happy new year. benignly
of course
so as not to offend,
maybe a smile
with the words, texted,
have a good one.

jumper cables

there was a time
when
it got cold, really cold.
when the streets were
white,
ice on the windshield cold,
so cold
that no one's car
would start.
the whole block was full
of beat up cars
with their hoods up,
jumper cables
strung from one car to
another,
the men would stand nearby
by as the batteries
charged,
and blue exhaust
dirtied the snow, bloomed
acrid in the air.
the men, old and young
smoked and grunted,
tightening their thin
coats while
rubbing their
two day beards. the women
would be inside,
waiting,
looking out the windows
with long faces
thinking things they could
never say
or do.

holiday memories

let's not fight
today, I tell her as she
picks up a plate
of left over turkey to hurl
at me. the look on her
face
is that of her mother's.
I suddenly see the future.
let's let bygones be
bygones. okay?
I duck when the plate
comes flying towards my
head. it crashes into
the wall
knocking down our wedding
pictures
on the mantle.
the dog, cowering under
the table
seizes the moment, rushes
out for bones
and debris, some gravy,
the inedible butternut squash
that her
mother brought over.

spice cake

what is there
in the cake
that isn't in you.
sugar, eggs, cream
and butter.
icing. spice.
I could have a slice
of you a day
but that
might be too much
for my
sweet tooth,
making me take you for
granted.
just having you near
under glass,
with knife
nearby is enough
to get me through
the day, or night,
without a bite,
a nibble, a slice,
although a midnight
taste would
certainly be nice.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

the red planet

you sign up
for the mission to mars, and strangely
they accept your
application.
you just want to get away
for awhile
in a space suit,
eat things out of a tube,
look out the window
at the planets,
the stars.
you just want to go along
for the ride
and not work, or push
buttons, or
say things like all systems
go, or roger that.
maybe you'll take a nap
along the way, stretch out
and do some crossword puzzles.
use your phone
to take pictures, on
the alert
for alien space ships, pointing
interesting things
out to the busy
astronauts.
you can help gather rocks
and stuff like
that when you get there
if your back hasn't stiffened up
from the long trip.
maybe you'll straighten up
the ship
when the real astronauts
are out doing things.
you imagine there will be
red dust floating everywhere.
maybe you'll see
if betty can come too.
she doesn't eat much or take
up too much room.
we can share a space suit
if need be. she can bring her
vacuum.

maybe Spain

they live
and die politics. listening all
day
to the pundits,
to the blabbering talk
shows,
but just one side.
they rattle
the paper in front of you
and cry,
did you read this.
look at the headline.
did you see what he's going
to do now?
they are distressed
and crying. everyday they moan
and groan,
they can't sleep, or eat.
it's the end
they say,
we're moving to Canada,
to cuba,
to the Netherlands,
maybe Spain.

the long visit

they come
to visit. luggage. a dog.
three kids
in tow,
all table high,
all turning knobs on
the stove.
the back door is left
open.
the music turned
up.
in the middle of the night
they wander
and cough.
I hear the steps creak,
the bedsprings as they
make love,
fight.
these blood strangers
who come
just once a year,
have settled upon
the sofa,
holding the remote,
asking
if there is anything
cold to drink,
or hot.
nothing is put back.
the dishes
rise
in the sink. it's only
Saturday morning.
but not too early
to start drinking.

Friday, November 25, 2016

unhurried

unhurried
in a fast world, I hug
the right lane,
linger
at the end of any line,
unrushed
with groceries.
I have the luxury
of time.
no place to be,
no traffic to beat,
no concern
about the bridge or
weather.
I am free.

it's different now

she rocks
perpetually, front to back,
in her red sweater,
buttoned
by hands
not hers. her slippers on,
her soft pants,
her hair chopped
across
then combed straight,
unlike
any hair, I've seen
on her
throughout my life.
she says my name,
over
and over, as I ask her
what she's
thinking,
what she remembers.
childlike she looks me
in the eye
embarrassed by her shyness,
her tears.
I think of you, she says,
I think of everyone all
the time. but
it's different now, she
manages.
it's different, then
I too
cry.

the holiday

her photos of ample food,
of silver
ware
and plates, emptied,
full.
her snap shots of lights,
candles
flickering,
before the carving,
after.
tell me
little.
not a single face
is seen, not
a tear wiped by the back
of hand.
not a smile,
or sweet kiss given.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

turkey chain gang

I saw a chain
gang of turkeys running
down the street,
in my dream.
they looked back at the butcher
in his bloodied
apron, carrying an axe.
together they ran
until they got on a bus,
taking the cross
town
where they hoped
to board a train at Penn Station
and get out of Dodge.
they sat in the back,
keeping their long necks still,
their nervous voices down,
looking out the window
at the butcher,
shaking his head,
his long frown.

a swan

the white swan
in the man made lake,
shallow
and wide,
moves gracefully
across the water,
a beauty out
of place,
behind the mall,
the tire center,
the rail road tracks,
a gutted barn
at the edge.
she glides from side
to side,
her long neck
elegantly poised.
she's beyond this.
above this
pond she's landed in.
some women
can handle this, some
can't.

the cousins in philly

the cousins,
the ones in philly with their
dark
Italian eyes
and hair,
half of them named johnny
or delores,
or marie
or joey
don't see eye to eye on
many things,
but when they gather
together for the holidays
they hug and kiss,
bump hands,
drink to excess and eat
eat eat
until there's nothing left.
the only time
they stop yelling
about politics or football,
or remember whens,
is when they
pray before the meal,
quiet for a minute until
it all starts up
again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

forgetting the olives

the checker,
numb with pushing fat
frozen turkeys
across the belt, lifting
each one into a bag,
then cart,
says little. for what is
there to say but
did you find everything you
were looking for?
who can answer that
truthfully?
what right does he have
to ask such a question,
so deep
and meaningful
as I remember
that I've forgotten
the olives.

she's different

the tint
lies on top of the paint,
the third gallon,
now open and
marbled
in a swirl
of color, raw umber,
black,
magenta red.
unshaken, it comes like this,
before yellow takes
hold,
becomes whole,
readied for the wall.
for now though,
the circle is pretty,
before blended
and made
to look like all the rest.

she reminds me of you

she reminds me of you,
who reminded me
of her,
and the one who came before,
no,
not that one,
but the other
one, the who preceded
the first, or was it
the second, and final
love of
my increasingly
confusing, yet
shortened life.

Monday, November 21, 2016

walking the lake

I know this lake,
each bend,
each break of woods
where the sun
comes in.
the island off shore.
the blue heron
alight on wide wings.
the gravel,
the hills, each bridge
walked a thousand
times or more.
I know this lake
in every season, having
walked it with
others, or alone.
today it seems longer
in getting around.
something that I always
feel as each new
year becomes old.

the snake

thinking it was rope,
or an odd
circle
of something stored,
tucked away in
the shadow,
hatched tan and brown,
coiled in the corner
of the damp
shed.
seen only by the light
of a sun
through trees
and the bent wood
where it crawled to rest
and wait.
you touched it's hard
skin, poked
at it with a finger,
feeling the indent
of small bones
and a steel meshed band.
the snake reared
it's head
before you could speak,
falling back. it's pink
eyes and pinker mouth
white like cotton
opened
with slivers of teeth,
a tongue split
and moving, ready to lurch
upon you,
to satisfy your fears.

a cold brew

a cold brew
of clouds and stars
scratched
out
across a curved black
bowl
of sky
leaves me wanting for
warmth.
something
like love, but not exactly.
something
I can't put
my finger on, or say
in words.
I feel a need
undrawn, unsaid, but
will know it
and rest my head upon
it's pillow
when it does arrive.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

what's left behind

we leave behind
so much
for others to gather
and make their own.
the empty
rooms will be filled
by those we don't know.
the bed
slept in, perhaps
those shoes
will fit another's
feet.
that coat in the hall
closet.
worn on a winters day
such as
today.
that table, those dishes.
another meal
will be served
and eaten.
a hand will light that
candle,
take a book and read,
sitting where
you once sat
and pondered, what next.

bridges

from this bridge
across
rock creek park,
the great divide of woods
and city,
a sleeve
of water rolls below.
it holds in it
the silver coins tossed
for wishes
that never came true,
on this overpass,
this ancient bridge
of stone and steel I can
imagine tossing myself
off
as others have, when blue,
but don't,
though I understand
completely
how other being lost,
and do.

flowers

a vase of flowers,
freshly cut,
watered,
is sometimes all a room needs
to make
it right.
set the mood,
so it is with you
here
in that chair,
legs crossed, eyes
bright.
hands in your lap.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

the ice box

the jelly
and jams sit cold and squat
on the metal
shelf, side door
of the old ice box.
my grandmother in north reading
had a fridge like this.
she used to defrost
it with a butter knife,
standing on a small
stool,
towels on the floor
to catch the puddles of cold
water.
the fur of old ice
melted slowly.
she'd have the radio on.
big bands, mostly.
but I never saw her
shake a leg, or move a muscle
to the music.
she was too busy
with her short arms
in the box, chiseling
away on the thick
ice.
the jelly and jams,
remind me of her, how she
loved her toast and tea
in the morning,
and demanded we have manners.
telling
us to ask politely
and to get our elbows
off the table.

the whistle

I can hear
a train whistle as it crosses
the trestle
through the thin woods,
the trees
bent and losing leaves
on this harsh
night.
the train moves on,
sleek against the tracks,
silver
as it bends,
the yellow light of windows
flashing softly
by.
I can imagine being
on that train,
ticket in hand, a bag
at my side, coming
to you,
and you at the station
waiting,
with open arms.
with tears in your eyes.
wanting me
to be there, me wanting
that too.

in the wind

a blue scarf,
almost violet in color
is in the wind.
it reminds of something,
some place,
some one.
a vague memory,
now touched
and brought to life.
it blows so quickly
into the air,
plays in a swirl,
circling,
not caught
on a thing just yet.
no one is chasing
it.
it's lost its way.
this pretty blue scarf
in the wind.

not now, honey

not now, she says,
pulling on her sweat pants.
let's do this later.
let's
get out in the sun
and take
a walk.
not now, later, I promise.
okay?
but this will only
take a few minutes.
I know, I know.
and it's been awhile,
but let's do it
later.
i'm not keeping track
but it's been three weeks,
two days,
and six hours.
okay, okay. you can
hold out a little bit longer,
my love.
I promise you won't
be disappointed.
cross my heart.
so let's take that walk.
it's so nice out.
a quick walk, right?
not all the ways
around the lake and up
the hill. and we're not stopping
at starbucks
and petting every dog
along the way.
okay?
we'll see she says,
tying her hair up
into a knot.

holiday shopping

I was in line at the liquor
store
the other day,
holding my webbed green
bag to carry out
my bottles,
when I realized that I forgot
to bring my list. i
listened to the fake
santa ring
his bell in front of
pet smart, driving the dogs
crazy,
making them think that
a door bell
was ringing and watched as
a man and woman carried out
a hundred inch
tv from the big store.
then I remembered.
aunt helen wants a fifth
of bourbon and a carton
of lucky strikes
dad wants vodka. my brother
wants tequila.
sally, wine, cindy wine.
sarah wine.
Josie wine. Candace wine.
Stephanie wine. donna wine,
ginger, wine.
I need a bigger bag.

on stage

he has a small part
in a play.
there will be singing and dancing,
of which
he likes neither,
but it's
something to add to his resume.
last year he was
in a production
of the wizard of oz,
he played the wizard. this
year he's George
in a wonderful life.
he walks around
all day pretending to be
someone he isn't,
memorizing and acting
out his lines.
he's happy this way,
and so are those that know
him.

Friday, November 18, 2016

i know i will

I can't work any harder
than I did today.
I stare at my hands, blackened
with paint.
under the nails,
into the skin,
not even an hour long soak
in the tub
takes it off.
ten rolls of wallpaper
smoothed onto walls,
paint,
more work outside as the sun
came down.
she leaves a check
on the counter.
shows me how the door locks
itself.
shows me the button
for the garage.
it's dark out when I back out
of the driveway.
I have places
to go, but can't get there.
I can't work any harder
than what I did today,
but I know I will.
I know I will.

whatever

you left out a comma,
she says.
it's almost like you don't even
work on
these things you write.
your craftsmanship stinks.
I hone and carve
my poems down to the bone
before I read them
at the slam,
at the workshop,
for my admirers, she says
beating her chest
proudly. it almost
seems like
it doesn't matter
what you write
about, coffee and eggs,
traffic,
dogs. you don't seem to care
who reads
it or likes it or anything.
your line breaks are ridiculous,
my professor would
beat you with a stick.
it's almost like you're
writing just for you.
what's up with that?
i'm sorry, did you say something?

how about that

everyone knows
somebody
that knows somebody
that puts them into
the winning circle.
close
enough to rub
elbows, be in the glow
of greatness.
whether writer, or actor,
doesn't matter.
the king
of England,
or the kings of leon.
it's enough
for some to say, hey,
you know so and so, yeah,
him,
we talked.
we were on the elevator
together,
we might have a drink
some day.
how about that?

our room

they talk metaphorically
about
the elephant in the room.
the one big thing that isn't
discussed.
we had monkeys
swinging from the chandeliers,
we had giraffes. we had
snakes
slithering beneath
our feet,
llamas. chickens pecking
at june bugs.
our room was full of many
things we ignored
just to keep
the peace.

when things

when things are going good.
the world
being rosy.
and love is near,
or approaching like a white
sheeted sailboat
on blue water,
you relax your bones
and settle back
into the chair your life
has become.
you rock gently,
and breathe
a pleasant sigh.

eggs

I've known lots
of eggs.
good eggs, bad eggs.
hard boiled,
over easy
and sunny side up.
free range eggs.
organic.
brown or white.
large or small.
I've even been in love
with some scrambled
eggs. but
you don't know
until you crack
one open and put
her in the pan
what you're
going to get.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

answering the bell

the prize
fighter sits in his corner.
blinking
sweat
and blood from
his eyes. a wet sponge
is squeezed over
his head.
the crowd
is restless, they want
a knock out.
he thinks about his life.
that it's come
to this.
leg weary and too old
for the game,
but needing
the cash, the affirmation.
what is there to do
but get up
when the bell rings
and go out
and strike the man in front
of him.
win, not lose.
who isn't answering
the bell
each morning.

finger on the scale

things don't always
add up,
sometimes a finger is on the scale
tipping it
erroneously
in the favor
of the butcher.
deals are made
in the back room.
someone utters a threat
beneath his breath.
someone will
pay, heads will roll.
justice
will be served,
cold. who said the world
is fair?

local corn

it's easy
to make light of the farmer's market,
with their
apples
in a basket, their
tomatoes
piled
high. men in straw
hats
and overalls.
presenting local corn.
local
peas and carrots.
local
lettuce. home baked pies.
I don't really care where
it's from
as long as it's fresh
and bug free.
have some warm cider,
the sign says
beside
a woman who may or may
not be dressed
like Martha Washington.
made from organic
apples
by a local farmer,
using real
cane sugar.

what's come has gone

the goodbyes
are adding up.
the hellos are few.
what's come
has gone.
what lies ahead is shadowed
beneath a cloud
of age,
of time
refusing to stop
for anyone.

renters

renters, how
little they care about
the floor,
the carpet, the dogs running
wild, off chain.
the broken window
is someone else's
problem.
the drips of leaky spigots,
the toilet
that won't flush.
mice.
they make a list
and at some point put it
in the mail
with the rent check,
a week late.
why lock the door,
why turn the heat off,
why bother with
the spill,
or care about the noise
they make.
renters have a way of not
caring
about consequences.
some lovers are like that.
just renting,
not caring
and about to move on.

beside her

she misses
the warm body beside her.
the bed
tilted in
that way
that bodies do. the hand
across her hand.
the gentle snore
as he lies
asleep
in dream. she misses
the rising sun
beside
someone that loves her.
someone
who wants to be there
and only
there
when he awakens
to her kiss, her love
given fully
in return.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

let me get my card

please take me off
the call list I beg the caller.
please
stop calling.
I have enough Cialis,
Viagra,
snow tires and
windows.
I don't need any lightbulbs,
or to refinance
my mortgage
again.
please, I beg of you to stop
with the calls.
stop.
today, you can get a fifty
percent discount
on prednisone,
this one time only,
the young voice says
in his mixed and garbled language.
a hundred pills
for ten dollars.
I hear chopsticks
going into a bowl, stirring.
free delivery,
he says.
hold on for a second, let
me get my card.

the unread

what happened was,
was this.
a life comes
in.
a life is lived.
death occurs.
but it's the in between
that
seems important,
not the start or
the finish.
though most
never find out what that
is.
sure, we
pass each other
on the street and say
hello,
or goodbye,
or say how nice or cold
it might
be, but that's all we
have time
for.
we have our story
to be written,
then left, eternally,
to be unread.

some days

there are some days
when
people
are annoying.
sometimes the whole
day
they are on your bumper,
angry
or impatient
in the lines we all
must stand in.
things are said.
gestures made.
no one is happy, or even
close
to contentment.
there is the underlying
feeling
of unhappiness
in these people.
they live under a dark cloud
and bring it with them.
but then there are some
days
where it's quite
the opposite.
these are the days when
you don't leave
your house, but stay home
and look out
the window.

Monday, November 14, 2016

too much good

back on the sauce,
he calls
me. I love you man,
he says,
slurring his words, I hear
the clink
of glass, the cold
rattle of ice,
a bottle against
the rim.
the music is turned up.
let me know when you have
some more work, he says.
his ex wife's voice
rails in the background
telling him to get off
the goddamn phone
and come here.
too much good has
come into his life and it's
time to right
the ship,
sink it down
again.

the thin man

his eyes, were what I saw.
as he sat
still in his glass cage,
sawdust on the floor,
a pail of water
nearby.
not a crust of bread
to be found.
his ribs looked wooden
beneath
his slack skin,
the hull of a thin
ship raised
from the ocean floor,
rows
of bones protruding,
making the crowd
gasp as they leaned
upon the glass
eating glazed red apples
and hot dogs,
cotton candy.
his cheeks hollowed
so that his teeth took up
too much room.
why did he even need teeth
a boy said to his mother who
shrugged.
he hungered not.
this was what he did.
not eating
as the carnival rolled from
small town
to smaller towns.

the evil ones

the condo board
and their brown shirted minions
march
the neighborhood
with clipboard
in hand, taking notes,
numbers
and names.
marking whose trash
is out early,
whose dog
is on the loose,
or has left
a small
pile behind.
what gives you the right
to change that
door knob from brass to nickel.
who has no sticker
properly displayed,
who dares
to park in a visitor's spot
without
authorized approval.
they are crafty weasels
elected
by a majority of three
or four
who attended their
holy meetings
under the dead of night
in a small
room at Washington Irving
elementary school
where only evil,
and assessments
come out,
and gloom.

so it goes

I listen again
to the old music.
I read
the same books over
and over.
the poetry that rings true
to me
is by my bedside.
I like the old
pair of jeans,
the worn shoes,
the sweater with a hole
in the sleeve.
it's about comfort
and knowing,
and so it
goes with me,
with you.

the fire

the fire
in the old house
shot through the windows.
outside
the family stood in
their
night clothes
watching
in the cold as the flames
licked
and licked
at the wood frame,
taking
in the roof.
someone said there was
a baby
inside.
a dog. a small child.
but there was no going back
in.
the firemen
arrived in their long red
trucks
unable to get close.
they stood with their hoses
as the water
arced into the red roar,
doing little.
we didn't know
the family.
but I remember how hard
my mother cried
for the children, for
the mother.
not knowing their names.
but knowing.

let's be friends

let's be friends
she says,
without benefits, without
the quagmire
of sex
and intimacy.
let's have a conversation
and sit
by the fire,
wile the hours away
with tv,
talk about life,
and books,
things that make
us happy.
let's be friends she says,
sipping
her drink and lighting
a candle.
let's keep it this way,
so that things
won't end.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

discontent

the woe is us
march down the street
after the election
is running
out of gas.
it's the end
of the world
they say
while sipping on a grande
vanilla skim latte.
their voices
hoarse, the feet
blistered
in their not for marching
boots
and shoes
from DSW.
they look at their phones,
take a picture,
smiling
with their home made signs.
soon they
have to go home
and feed the dog,
pick the kids up at the bus
stop.
the revolution and discontent
is slowed
by the hunger
for dinner, the rain.
what's on tv
at nine.

instant

instant
coffee, oats,
potatoes.
instant rice.
instant gratification.
love
and sex.
fast food,
fast
women, fast cars.
the speed of light,
of sound,
the bullet train.
leave the bag this side
up
and hit the button.
quick dry,
quick spin,
the ez pass, the express
line.
where are we
going in such a hurry.
tell me,
if you have
the time.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

a twist of wind

a scrap of paper
finds
the wind
and circles upwards,
a small
twister
gathers more.
across the concrete
playground
it spins,
slides
dips and turns.
the world
is a magical
place
at times,
when watching
these little things.

brain food

Istanbul
I yell to the tv
as alec trebec in his smug way
shakes his
head no,
and says morocco.
what is
Pi
i stand up and yell
to the next answer,
pressing
an imaginary button
in my closed fist.
what is
prime numbers
alec says.
I hate this show
tonight. i'm
standing there in my underwear
feeling the breeze
from the balcony door.
I haven't had one
right answer
I say to my new wife betty
as we enjoy
our honeymoon
at the beach on the jersey coast.
you need to study
more, she says,
opening a can of tuna fish
for a snack.
or maybe you're just
dumb, she says.
here, have some tuna,
fish is brain food.

the ghosts

the ghosts
are here. on the wet field.
in the huddle.
they are still
young,
these four boys.
four men.
their early deaths are
inconceivable.
you roll their
names in
your mouth,
friends you loved,
without ever
saying the word love,
as men
rarely do
towards one another.
you throw a tight spiral
to each
as the low
winter sun
rises in our eyes,
our lineless
faces.
the ghosts are here,
some days
more than others.

Friday, November 11, 2016

the break up

one tire wouldn't grab
the pavement,
it kept spinning in the soft
slush, the snow,
melting ice.
i'll get out and push
I told her. so I did that.
pressing my hands
against the back bumper.
hit the gas just
a little I
yelled to her.
but she floored it throwing
a splash of cold
water onto me,
salt and sand.
feather it I yelled out,
spitting out
granules of road salt.
she lightly tapped
the pedal this time as I
rocked it then
pushed with all my might.
the car finally slipped
out of the rut
and moved forward.
she kept going. waving out
the window.
she threw out my suitcase
and I never saw her again.
timing is everything.

election blues

the election blues
has made
her make run like a wild
raccoon.
she's sad,
bone weary. what now, she
sighs.
my girl didn't make
it.
she's done.
she's too old to try again.
it's the end of
the world, she says.
this country
is going down the drain.
i pour her another
glass of
bourbon
and pet her hand.
oh well. i tell her, who
knows
maybe he'll surprise us.
this man
with yellow hair.
i hate you she says to me,
drinking
her whiskey. it almost
seems like you don't care.
oh, but i do.
i tell her.
i just remember Nixon,
and we got through that.

bonjour

i'm French, she says.
did I tell you that.
yes.
three times
in the last hour I tell her.
yawning.
staring at the ceiling.
I was born in france
and will die
in france, she says,
jutting her chin
out.
i'm dying now I say into my
napkin.
pardon? did you say something?
non.
I was just commenting on
the escargot
that is stuck in my throat
and trying to crawl back out.
the French know
wine,
know culture and art.
we live a different
life than you
cowboy americans.
we know how to love and live.
relax and enjoy ourselves.
you work work work
and want big cars, shiny things.
we don't care
about such things.
i'm French, she says again,
sipping her red wine, gargling
it in her mouth.
these grapes were picked too soon,
she says,
spitting out the wine
into her dish of pheasant bones
and quail egg shells.
I know wine, I am French, she says.
I nod, then see a waiter
walking by.
I yell out as loud as I can.
garcon....check. sil vous plait.

this pie could save the world

i'll die with my secret
ingredients in me,
she tells me
as I shake up a can
of whipped cream.
she's setting her pie
out to cool
on the counter.
she's made
six for the holidays.
this recipe was passed
down from
my great grandmother
when she came over
from Poland.
she used to make these
pies on the ship
coming over, kept
everyone fed.
I stare at the pie
ignoring her story.
it looks like a regular
pie to me.
crust, etc.
the crust she says is
special.
the dough has to be
kneaded by hand,
the spices just right.
what?
I say. touching the top
of the orange brown
filling.
don't she says, slapping
my wrist. it's not time.
this pie could save the world,
she whispers,
if everyone had one of these pies
there would be more love
in the world.
who can fight and argue
while eating pie?
I tell you, this here is
no ordinary pie.
yeah, right, I say,
getting a small dish
and a knife out of the drawer.

before winter

a thin
bird lights upon
the window.
he looks in
at you then averts
his eyes.
flutters his wings.
you want to say something
to keep
him there,
to keep him near,
but he has things to do
before winter
sets in.
we all do.
we all do.

into the fog

in the beginning she
would ask the same question
she asked
ten minutes ago.
you'd tell her that.
she'd say, I did?
yes, i'd say.
but then she'd be hurt
and want to get off
the phone.
over time you
answered, once,
twice, three times if
necessary the same questions.
you let her go into
the fog
where she was heading.
gently holding her hand,
answering what
she wanted to know,
again.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

the long story

always, there is more
to the story.
more details to tell, a
better middle,
a more
exciting ending.
you've been telling it
for so long,
refining it, that it tells
itself now.
you listen to your voice,
as your tongue and lips
rattle on
with the words
you've said before.
it's your go to story,
the one
that gets a laugh, a gasp,
a roll of the eyes.
but you're tired of it.
you need
a new memory, a new story
to tell.
boredom has set in.

the window

the stuck window,
the one that faces the back
of the house,
the woods,
the stream,
the squared yards, fenced
in.
that window.
you get a hammer, a
crowbar
and you try to free it from
it's frame.
you just want to open
the window
once
before winter sets in
and feel the clean air,
the fall
wind, you want to lean
out and look
as far as you can see,
then close it again.

the long line

some minutes are like
hours,
days
like years.
the long line doesn't move
as you stand
there with
papers in hand,
daydreaming, wondering
what the hold up is.
someone coughs,
which makes you cough
and lean
towards fresher air.
at some point
you forget why you are there
with all these other
people.
these horrible people
and their horrible
screaming children.
you question your own
life,
your sanity,
you stare at your shoes
and see a hole
in the bottom of one of
them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

a cold front moves in

she's funny
when she's drinking, the one
or two
high balls,
that tipsy giggly time
when her eyes are
bright
and gleaming, when her
hands touch your
knee,
she laughs at all
your attempts at being
funny. but then,
the third and fourth
drink
change her.
a dark cloud moves in,
a cold front
arrives with a gust of wind.
she becomes
inquisitive about
where you were last night,
last year,
who are you texting or
talking to now.
what are your intentions
with me?
she asks.
those have changed, i
say to myself,
watching closely
the dessert fork in her
hand.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

her legs

my grandmother's stockings
were
pulled up around
her fat piano legs,
calf high,
but would soon unravel
and slip
down into her snow boots.
the boots were my grandfather's
boots actually,
which he no longer wore,
seeing that he was dead
and buried
years ago, his name rarely
mentioned because of the strange
and beautiful
woman who showed up and cried
at his funeral.
the stockings
were the same color
as her legs,
a creamy flesh tone,
if your flesh was that of
a store mannequin,
except for the blue veins
that bulged out.
being small, our heads
up to her waist, we spent
a lot of time staring
at her legs beneath
her black dress,
forever in mourning,
as she shuffled about the kitchen,
kicking at us gently,
speaking in Italian,
singing, sometimes whistling.
they were muscled and thick
with knobs and splotches.
they looked like roadmaps,
relief maps
of northern Italy where
she was born
and learned to cook the meal
she was now
cooking for us.

can you kill this chicken for me

I can eat
a lot of chicken.
fried, baked, barbequed,
sautéed or
even boiled in a stew,
but I could never actually
kill a chicken.
wring it's neck,
or chop off it's
unusually small
and pointed clucking head.
same goes for the cow,
or a rabbit.
I even feel bad about
dropping a lobster
into a pot of boiling
water,
but not as bad as I would
when killing a chicken.

tell me a joke

your father wants to know
if you have any
new jokes.
you don't have any, but
you tell him an old one
you've told
him before. not the one
about a blonde standing on
her head, or
the dog who claps his
paws together
during a movie, or even
the one about
pie being round not
squared, instead you tell
him the one about
the priest, a sailor
and a redhead go into a
bar.
he likes longer jokes,
the older he
gets, and you like to hear
him laugh,
even if it's not funny.
it's nice of him.

optimism

I feel optimistic
about the coming days, about the coming
hours, actually,
or maybe it's this high
test coffee i'm drinking
on the way to work,
or the prednisone
that I've been taking to calm
my allergy related asthmatic
symptoms.
or maybe it's the traffic,
being light,
the sun up
the air cool and calm.
or maybe i'm thinking about
the weekend
when betty might come over
in her high heels.
there is so much
to be thankful for.
I need another cup of coffee
though
to get there.

Monday, November 7, 2016

now i know

from the window,
elbows against the furrowed
threads of an old
sofa i'd stare out at my mother
hanging clothes on
the rope line.
a clothespin in her mouth
as she pulled
the heavy wet
shirts and pants, dresses
of her children
onto the line to dry.
sometimes she'd stop and smoke
a cigarette,
leaning against the fence,
staring into the overgrown
grass, and weeds.
I wonder now, older than she
was then,
what went through her mind,
how would her world
change,
how could this struggle
she was forever in
ever end. now I know.

the empty field

behind the fallen boards,
the field
is bare. flat acres of brown
and scrub brush
stretch
until it stretches no more
at the edge
of the road where I've stopped,
getting out of my car to stare
at the empty
field.
far off to the right is a house.
a small silver silo.
no lights are on.
no tail of smoke from the chimney.
a rusted plow
sits near a dying oak.
I let the sun
come down, blue and cool
against the earth,
upon me and my shoulders,
then I get back into the car
and drive on.

no choice

by the fifth phone call
i'm
sassy
and sarcastic to the caller.
are you going to vote
they say.
the election is tomorrow.
do you need a ride,
remember to bring
an ID.
we're counting on you.
I sigh, and listen to the young
voice on the other end
of the line.
I think of Nixon.
Johnson, kennedy.
we are living in a world of
hot air balloons
now.
the uneducated masses
who stare at their phones
and don't read books.
they listen and watch,
absorbing nothing
into their mush brains.
these are the leaders that
truly represent them.
you vote.
i'm not.

more fun

the fiction of you
or me
is more interesting than
the truth.
so let's play at the game
of being
more or less
than what we've become.
learn your lines,
find your spot
on stage and sing, or
recite the words to the part
you've learned
to play.
what does it matter,
as long as no one gets
hurt and you're
having fun.
no one wants to breathe
their final words
and say,
I wish I wish I had
worked less and had more
fun.

slow moving

the old house shakes
from the road. the trucks passing.
the cars against
the pavement.
over time
even thunder has rattled things,
made the boards split,
the floors bend.
the slow
movement of earth below,
the constant settling
of fissures,
of cracks, made on
day one. even glaciers,
with their
slow plodding melt
in time
as they drag towards you.
nothing stays the same.
not even us.

other ways

what other ways to go,
you think
as you drive slowly
towards
your destination.
the dark rise of buildings
beside you.
what roads
haven't you taken.
what corner have you
ignored and not
turned to?
this way seems slow,
and narrow.
there has to be a
better, quicker way,
with a better view
of the skyline,
the clouds,
a distant farm set
on green land.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

grilled cheese sandwich

tell me about your childhood,
the therapist
asks me, as I flip over
on the couch.
do you mind if I take off
my shoes, I ask her.
no. she says. don't do that.
so,
tell me.
do you come from a good family?
what do you mean
by good, I ask her.
no one killed each other,
although there were
daily threats.
I used to make my sister
hold the wad of
aluminum foil on the antennae
when
the twilight zone was on,
so yes,
we got along.
it was good.
it was nice being older
and bossing
the little ones around. I miss
that.
one sister made a mean
grilled cheese sandwich.

snowflake on the front

you see them shoveling
the Halloween
candy out the back door
into the dumpster to make
room for
the Christmas candy.
out goes the costumes
and pumpkins,
and in
come the plastic reindeer,
the glow in the dark
santa,
and nineteen various
fake trees
all with lights
and trimming.
a crane lifts in
the scotch tape and wrapping
paper,
boxes of generic cards,
religious cards,
funny cards,
and blank cards.
blank seems the way to go
these days.
maybe a snowflake on the front.

the leash

a cat on a leash
is not
a good thing.
it's not right.
the cat
is anything but tameable,
it's a cat
not a dog.
we're different,
men and women.
no one likes the leash,
especially
me.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

sex therapy

you never say anything romantic
to me anymore,
she says, adjusting her
pajamas and fuzzy pink slippers
as we lie in bed,
almost asleep
after making love for
a few minutes.
what, I say.
did you say something.
the zip has gone out
of our love
life, she says
rolling over
to stare at the ceiling.
which is dark
and shadowy.
my heart's still beating
like a rabbit,
I tell her,
it wasn't good for you?
five minutes?
thanks for nothing, she
says.
we have work in
the morning, I didn't
want to keep you up.
I think i'm being very
kind
and compassionate.
it's Saturday night,
she says.
oh, right. well, I do
have basketball in the morning.
right,
she says.
what are you trying to say,
I say to her, fully
awake now
and also staring at the ceiling.
we need to spice
things up
she says, or we're doomed.
maybe we should see a sex
therapist.
what?
I was talking to my friend sally
and she was telling me about
all the fun stuff
her and her husband do
after they went to a therapist.
hmmm. I say.
like what?
sometimes they tie each other up
and blindfold each other.
use baby oil.
with duct tape?
no, ropes and cuffs.
what about the key? what if you
lose the key?
he drips candle wax on her.
ouch, I say. that's got to hurt
a little.
or sometimes they pretend they
don't know each other
and pick each other up
at the bar at the Olive Garden.
love their bread sticks.
i'm serious, she says.
we need to step things up or I
might...
might what?
oh never mind.
I reach over and take her hand.
okay, okay.
let's start tomorrow.
maybe i'll be a cop and you can
be a woman of the night.
i'll pick up some candles
and oils
and rope. we'll give it a shot.
she sighs, and kisses me
on the cheek. okay, she says.
good night.

Friday, November 4, 2016

after all

undeterred
by what happened
during
the week, you fall asleep
easily.
pillows,
blanket, sheets.
a half moon in the window.
quickly
you go under after
a pleasing
sigh,
a gentle exhale.
by morning
whatever it was
is better, almost
forgotten.
perhaps
it wasn't so bad
after all.

getting wet

a cloud
spill of some merit
wets
you.
applies a cool wash
of clear
water
upon your brow,
your coat,
your pants.
umbrella
in the car, or closet,
or lost
on a train.
call
it rain, call
it
a front
moving in,
upon you,
call it what you
want, but
you're wet
and seeking shelter.

she recycles

sometimes the stripper who lives
two doors
down from my door
gets home late at night
with a strange man.
sometimes a new man
appears, or
an old boy friend,
or woman.
or a group of people who
all sound very
happy.
they feel the need to make
their presence known
at 3 a.m.
there is the clinking of bottles
and glasses.
high heels
against the sidewalk.
cursing and laughter.
when I see her the next day
she says hello,
she's in her sweat pants
and flip flops,
she sets
her bottles out to the curb
for recycling.
metal, and paper, glass
and plastic
separate in the blue bin.

waiting in the car

I used to wait
in the car for my wife.
the bags in the trunk,
the boy in his car seat,
the dog,
barking out the window.
I started the car,
turned on the radio,
skimmed a map,
tapped my fingers against
the wheel.
what is she doing?
my son asked. what's
taking her so long.
she's getting ready, I
told him.
you get used to it.
be patient.
hair, clothes, make up.
he groaned and rolled
his eyes.
then looked at me
in the rearview mirror.
there was a long
quiet pause as we both
looked at the door for
her to finally come out.
it seems, he said, nodding
to himself, that women
use make up to trick
men.
hmmm. I said, interesting.

don't start drinking

when
it was over, your father
told you,
in his awkward way to not
start drinking.
the thought had never occurred
to you.
there's more
fish in the sea, he said,
searching
for something wise to give you,
something he had never
heard or been told
before.
quickly after these words
of wisdom were dispelled,
he changed the subject
to football,
where he was comfortable
and safe
from your sadness.

the news

as you read the crime
section
in the newspaper you think
back
to summers
on the street.
there was always
a kid
who pulled the wings off
off of flies,
or butterflies,
or moths.
just to see what they
would do.
unable to take flight
again.
these same boys,
would put nails at the end
of sticks
and hunt frogs, or snakes
in the woods.
they showed no mercy
to caught fish,
or a stray cat
who wandered
upon their path.
it was hard to understand
when ten,
even harder now
at this age,
to give reason for
what people do.

the congregation of trees

the trees,
the congregation of trees.
elms,
and maple.
oak,
the willow bent against
the blue
skied wind.
rooted
in the round earth.
all in prayer, all
different,
all in silent
meditation.
together.
if there is grumbling
about the water
or light, the lay
of the land,
it goes unsaid,
unheard.
even the axe
upon
their trunk is taken
as part
of this life they've
been offered
to live in.

going back

a time machine would come
in handy
some days.
going back
to change what you just said,
choosing something
else on
the menu,
not this fish
you had instead.
or buying the black shoes
not the brown.
so much
good could be done
with hindsight,
traveling
back before
a wedding, before the dance,
before,
the first kiss
taken
or given.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

the bed in the basement

she couldn't sleep in the same
room with me.
you snore, she said.
like a hound dog.
I don't get one minute
of sound sleep
when you're here.
so she put me in the basement
on the futon,
which had magazines stacked
against it.
a horse hair blanket
and a saddle
was at the end, which I pushed
off with my feet.
it tilted so that
my head was
lower than my body by
six inches.
it was where the dog slept
when she went to work during the day
and I could feel
the indented circle of
her body where I lay.
at night,
I could hear her feet
walking above
me, in the real bedroom
where the real bed
was and tried to think
of things
that didn't anger me.

jimmy could do it

can you zip
me up she says, turning around
in her red dress
for me
to zip
then clasp
the tiniest piece of metal
and hook
I've ever seen
in my life.
my fingers are too large
I tell
her.
do you have some duct
tape, or a safety pin?
oh my, she says.
really?
you can't clasp that hook.
my old boyfriend
had no problem
with it.
you mean jimmy?
I tell her, still fiddling
with the tiny
hook, wiping my eyes
trying to unblur
and focus them.
james, she says. I never
called him jimmy.
whatever I tell
her, wetting my fingers,
and pinching
blindly at the hook,
determined to be a better
man
than jimmy.

being human

sometimes I yawn
at other's troubles,
as they do mine,
not always.
but on occasion
when I've had my own
brush with
chaos, I'll sigh
and be there, but not
there.
there's not enough room
in your heart
to take all
the world in.
we're human,
for better, for worse.
we can't
be good all the time.
it's impossible.

ocean view

she moves to the ocean,
for the view,
but cares less about it in time.
hardly
stares out at the sea
anymore.
she keeps the windows
tight, the drapes pulled
to keep sand out,
the salted air.
what she wanted was this.
but now,
she doesn't care anymore.
the ocean is hard.
as love is.
as anything is that you want
so badly and believe
that it will
make life right.

shoe shine

all day
the old man kneels
and shines shoes at the station.
his fingers
are blackened
with polish
and grime.
he spins and slides
the rag
across each pair
of wing tips, not with
love, but
with the hope
of a dollar more.
a tip, a coin to rattle
in his cup.
we all have cups,
we all have
rags
and shoes to shine.
we all kneel
to someone.

throw it deep

you can't get
back to sleep. something
is on your mind.
something has
gotten under your skin
and has taken
you away from
sweet dreams, deep
slumber.
you toss the pillows
around
to the cool side,
look out the window,
look at the red numbers
of the clock. you
close your eyes,
try again to get back
to sleep, but you can't.
over and over again
you ask the question
why did they run
the ball up the middle
at that stage of the game,
and not throw it
deep. he was open.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

the social worker

I remember the social worker
when she arrived at our house.
it may have been late 1968.
she had powder blue eyes
and strawberry red hair. she
was light boned, as a fox
might be.
she was holding a clipboard,
and a small satchel
at her side. she handed me
her card. sarah was her name.
my mother had just left
for her job on the back of
a motorcycle with frank the
Coca Cola salesman.
she had worked her way up
from waitress to barmaid
at the sunny brook tavern
and wouldn't be home until
3 a.m., if at all.
I asked the social worker
to come in and I would answer any
questions she might have,
me being the oldest at home,
the older brother away at
college becoming a minister,
the electricity was off at the
time, another bill late, but I guided
the woman with a flashlight
into the tight living room.
my sisters lit candles
and began sweeping the floor.
the smaller children
were in the basement screaming
at a mouse
that came out when the lights
went off.
I offered the woman a glass
of water, to which she said no.
she looked around as best she could,
went to the back yard, looked to
where the dogs were barking,
and my sister's chicken
and rooster fluttered their
short wings, fenced in by wire.
she didn't see the garden.
the lettuce, the tomatoes,
or the marijuana plants growing
in between.
we have a garden I told her.
pointing out into the flat
dark yard.
is everything okay
here? she said. is everyone in school.
eating, sleeping.
are you unhappy?
I looked at her and said. no.
are you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

down on the farm

the rooster has over slept.
there are no
eggs in the bin. all the cows
are lying down with
not a drop of milk
to share.
it's a lazy day down on
the farm.
not a pie on the sill,
no one rings the bell
for breakfast.
jezebel gives you a look of
disdain
as you tell her how pretty
she looks this
morning.
the fields are unplowed.
even the cats
don't care anymore.
the mice are running
wild.

Monday, October 31, 2016

when the bottoms come in

his new teeth
look like real teeth,
he half smiles to show you.
next month
with another check,
if the fish
bite, he'll get the bottoms too.
together,
he says, he'll eat again,
done with soup,
done with canned
meat and tuna.
done with
oats and soft bread.
steak, he says. his blue eyes
no longer
sea grey
but actually blue, blue like
the sky,
like a bird.
like hope.
steak. i'll have steak,
he says,
when the bottoms come in.

nothing to be said

there is much to be said
that goes
unsaid as night approaches,
as the cold
air settles upon you,
and the tiredness
of the days
seeps into your bones. so much
can be said
about so much.
when you were young
you would find
a set of ears
who would listen to such
talk. together by a fire,
or against one
another in bed,
you'd say what needed
to be said,
but now, it's okay to
say nothing.
say to no one what you feel.
it's okay
to be quiet
and let the night and sleep
fall upon you.

her books

to the curb
goes all these books.
two hundred and eighty seven
she tells you.
cook books.
not a poem by yeats, or plath.
or wordsworth.
no Whitman
in the lot.
not a single verse by
poe.
no sonnets by the bard,
or limericks, or
rhymes
by Dickinson.
even e.e. cummings
has been
ignored.
cookbooks she says proudly,
patting her round
belly, all of them
cookbooks,
some with
a sauce
puddled dry upon the cover.

hard medicine

she swallows
what she wants to say.
takes it in
like harsh
medicine. bitter on her tongue.
it falls
deep
within her, down it
falls.
this liquid
of tarred love,
once sweet,
now pruned
into a taste she wants
no part of.
another dose
tomorrow.

weather comes

where and why and when
says
the wind as it
finds its way
through any narrow
crease
along
the roof, a window,
a door
ajar,
metal bent.
it speaks
in no tongue that
you know,
and yet you know,
as weather comes upon
us.

to the top

a second
wind
gets you moving towards
the top of the hill.
legs
churning,
arms flailing.
lungs burning.
almost there, almost
there.
one foot after the other.
the top
is waiting.
the end of struggle.
the end of
fear and pain.
bliss awaits
at the top,
must keep going. going,
up and up
and up.
tell me
when you get there.
send me a postcard.

don't vote

fatigue sets in.
the blather of politics
is a rising
swamp
stench of nothingness.
are there no
good people anymore
to lead us.
has the world gone mad?
live long
enough
and you'll understand
that things
always get worse
before they get better.


broken pieces

I found a piece of the moon
on the way home
from her house one night.
a white sliver
of rock.
I looked up and could see where
it had broken off
and fell.
I picked it up, felt it's smooth
soft edges,
still dusty
and cold.
sometimes love ends like that.
in chips,
small broken pieces found
at your feet.

things have changed

i'm not in the mood tonight,
she says as I nuzzled
at her neck.
please, she says,
maybe next week.
but it's our honeymoon, I tell
her.
aren't we supposed
to make love
tonight?
it's a given, right?
she stares at the new rings
on her hand as she
brushes her hair
in the mirror.
says nothing, a thin
cat smile crawls
across her lips.

a stranger

we know too much
about what we don't need to know
and too little
of the things
we should
know.
take you for example.
I know you.
I don't really know you.
same goes for me.
for everyone.
name,
date of birth.
where you live and work.
but who
knows
how you like to lie on your
back
and dream
awake
while the sun rises
slowly
in another room.
each to one another always
a part
hidden.
a stranger.

hold my baby

someone tries to hand you
a baby
at a party.
but you resist.
it's a pink baby
with a frilly white laced
headband around
it's head.
you have a drink in one hand
and don't want
to smudge your white shirt
with baby goo.
there is no need to hold
this baby.
it's not yours.
it could be one of your
nieces or nephew's babies,
but
you're done with babies,
everyone is watching,
judging you to see if you
have baby holding skills.
you politely say no
as they push the baby into
your chest,
trying to give
him to you.
you smile and back away, but
they persist.
finally you take the baby
into your arms
and look into
it's bright sapphire eyes. new
like suddenly born stars.
neither of you have anything
much to say to one
another,
but there you are
holding a baby, staring at
one another with equal
wonder.

down a hill

off a hill you begin
to roll
gathering ice, melted snow,
leaves and branches.
you tumble forward
in a giant ball
gaining speed.
it happens so quickly.
one slip
and you're down,
moving fast
below the sun, below
the moon, past
the eyes and hands
of others. there is no
way to stop
where you're headed.

it looks the same

it feels like
you've been here before,
down this road
with someone else.
the sky looks the same.
over cast
and grey.
the air is cold.
the wind has picked up.
it's a change
of seasons, but it's
not any different from what
you remembered.
you say the same
things, think the same
lines of thought.
you stand with your hands
on your hips, look
backwards to from where
you came.
it feels like you've
been here before.
it looks the same.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

bats in the belfry

when my grandmother died,
my mother claimed
that she had a dream
the night before
that something bad was
going to happen.
my grandmother was a human
ash tray.
smoked three packs
of tarreytons a day
and drank
Canadian club whiskey
like most people drink milk.
eighty-five years
seemed plenty.
the day after she died.
my mother swore
that she heard her laughing.
it was my grandmother's voice
and it was coming from
a vent above the door
in the living room.
my father, wanting to see
if my grandmother
was in the vent, took the screws
out and stuck a broom
in as we watched.
a bat came flying out,
which made everyone scream.
we were glad it wasn't
our grandmother, but sort of
disappointed too.
we liked the crazy old witch.

double yolks

the double yolk egg
surprises me
when I crack it open
against the edge
of the black pan
and let it fall into a pad
of melting butter.
I wonder what it means.
I put the toast in,
pour some juice,
grill up some hash browns,
then settle in to
eat and google what two
yolks in one egg mean.
it means either someone
close to you is pregnant,
or someone close to you
is going to die.
a wide range to be sure,
both of which I hope
are untrue.
the odds are one in a thousand
that you'll crack open
and egg and have two
yolks.
I put some pepper and salt
onto the double yolks,
sunny side up,
and dig in with my
jelly jammed wheat toast.

an ear full

the third cup
of coffee does it.
sort of.
wakes
you into a reasonable state
of mind.
still annoyed
and grumpy
at many things, but alert
and in observation
mode.
why these birds
have to chirp so loud
in the morning
is beyond you.
that dog barking,
the neighbor with his
leaf blower
and crying kid,
his wife
talking on the phone
about how
she loves
Donald trump,
his hair
and je ne sais pas.
the windows are only
single pane,
with wooden frames
circa 1967, so you hear
everything.
everything.
you go back a little farther.
another decade
or so
and your one ear still
works good
enough to hear what's
going on.
where's the cotton?

a plate of fish

it's a plate
of fish.
some seasoned, some cold.
shrimp
and scallops.
tuna and cod,
bits and pieces,
bites of
lobster from the deep sea.
and bread.
it's more
fish than you've eaten
in a year.
you feel
like you could swim
the atlantic
under water
after eating so much
fish.
you feel the side of your ribs
to where
gills seem
to be growing.
your skin
has scales,
your eyes have flattened
and no longer
blink.
it's hard to breathe
in this air.
you stare at your glass
of water,
sprinkle it with
salt and pour
it upon your head,
you wiggle home.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

sugar sugar

ten bags
of bite sized candy bars seems enough,
I think
as I toss them into
the grocery art
for Halloween.
these kids are insatiable
these days
when it comes to sugar.
I see them in the courtyard
after school
running about like bees,
screaming
and throwing their arms
into the air
in shrieks.
where are all these children
coming from?
what are the parents
thinking?
don't they know how bad things
are in the world?
the end is near. maybe.
sugar though, will
soothe them.

making change

as a child
sitting in church,
sweating, knees aching
as I knelt, stood up,
sat down,
sang, chanted, etc.
i thought about the collection
basket
and how i needed
to make change for a five
a lincoln seemed too much.
the mass wasn't
as good as it
usually was.
I wasn't as scared or lost,
or trembling
like normal
sundays, even the incense was
thin, hardly burning
my eyes and throat,
but I had to put
something in.
two dollars seemed about
right,
and I could use the other
three to stop
off at the Rexall
drugstore on the way home
to read comics
at the counter and drink
cherry cokes
while eating a grilled
cheese sandwich.
the steel eyed old man
though holding the basket
saw right through me
as I reached in
for three ones,
and shook his head no.
it almost seemed like he'd
been down this road before.

not true

my mother would
beat me as I sat at the piano,
trying to learn
the scales.
slapping me with a ruler
against my
knuckles.
okay.
that's not true. we didn't
have a piano
and my mother was
very kind
and compassionate.
but if you create enough
drama in your life
and tell others
continually
how much of an innocent
victim you are in
the world,
they respond
in a gentle way.
there was this one time
though, when my
father
tied me up with kite
string
until I ate my peas.
okay,
also, not true.

Friday, October 28, 2016

the daily news

there are no more
paper boys
with a wagon and dog
tagging along. no
inked stained hands
anymore.
no bundled kid
at 5 a.m.
tossing the paper
baton towards
your porch,
into your yard.
no kid at the door
collecting for the Post
as the sun goes
down.
hoping for that Christmas
tip,
that bag of
warm cookies,
that pat on the head,
saying thanks.
it's a man and his wife now
in a station wagon
throwing
the thin wrapped
news from a window.
stale news at that.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

2 a.m.

kindly I tell
her to take a cab home.
take aspirin,
water.
call your therapist
in the morning.
I hate you, she says.
I hate all men
like you.
that's fine, I tell her.
I completely understand.
stop
drinking.
leave the bar,
go home alone.
call a cab.
get some sleep and stay
away from sharp objects.
we'll talk again soon.
never, she says.
we're done.
finished. I don't ever
want to see or
talk to you again.
then after a pause,
as long as I live.
you don't deserve a woman
like me.
finally, I tell her,
you sound rational.