Wednesday, September 20, 2017

slow boat to china

the slow boat
to china is nearly full,
but they make room for me.
they pull me on board
and give
me a seat.
who asked you to leave,
they say.
who told you to hit the road
jack
and don't you come back?
oh, it's a long list
I tell them.
where should I begin?
never mind they say,
here's an oar, start
paddling.

to forget

to forget
you go to work.
you work.
you skip lunch, you skip
coffee.
you watch the sun
rise
and set.
you get lost in the weariness
of work,
letting yourself
get spent.
but it doesn't go away,
not yet.

the apple

the apple
once a red shine
in your hand, has a brown
spot,
a soft dent,
the meat has darkened,
the worm
has turned.
nothing lasts forever
despite
wanting it to.

when it's over

in passing,
she points
to your wrinkled brow,
your hands,
the limp
you carry, the white
in your
lessened hair,
she
asks you about
your health, your
age
approaching
medicare,
what beach or island
do you plan
to lie down upon
when it's over,
she says.
she isn't being cruel,
or unkind,
it's a matter of fact
small slap
against the lips of
someone who
loved her.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

early xmas

the gin
and tonic
tastes like Christmas
on ice.
the lime
cut on the edge,
the bright smell
and taste
upon my lips,
cold going down.
come here and have
a sip of me.
let's celebrate
early,
who needs a wreathe
who needs a string
of lights, a tree?

enough

the sharpest knife
in the drawer
is not you, but what you
have seems
good enough to get by.
to live the life
you live, to
the keep the shelves
full,
clothes on your back,
gas in the car,
there's enough to keep
the home fires burning,
enough to buy roses,
and dark chocolate,
a card that reads
thanks for being you.

the song

the song
keeps rattling inside
the cage
of your
tired brain.
your fingers snap,
feet
tap.
there's a beat
to it all.
there's a dance
going on
inside of you,
but you can only
sit there and gaze
out the window,
home at last.

short love

the man in the white
cowboy hat
is making love to the woman
on the dance
floor.
his hands
slide up and down her
stout
body. she doesn't mind
a bit, spinning
around so that their
bodies fit.
she throws her arms
into the air
as if she might be on
fire.
she shakes
and tosses her hair from
side to side.
he whispers in her ear,
nibbles at her neck.
the band keeps
playing.
they don't even pay
attention.
they've seen short love
before.

three meals and a bed

they are old birds
in a circle, without
wings, nodding off
to
the Jeffersons
on tv.
the big couch and chairs
holding them
like soft hands.
the dinner bell has
not rung,
lunch just over
though they don't remember
what was eaten.
there is no talking.
no movement.
the eyes
flutter towards
the screen or to the door
when the doorbell
rings.
there is little difference
between night
and day.
Christmas could be tomorrow,
or it could have
been yesterday.

the girl next door

the girl next
door has grown up.
i remember kissing her
in the shadows
of summer
under the big tree
where we couldn't be
seen.
we had no idea what
it all meant,
but our hearts
were in it as we
made promises we could
never keep.
I can still feel her
hand in mine.
smell the perfume
in her hair.
taste her lips.
I think about her
often, wondering
if she's found another
lover, another
tree, but knowing deep
inside that i'll
always be hers, and
she'll always be mine.

the three day weekend

inspired by
all the continual protests
going on in front of the white house,
you feel a little left
out.
you need a cause, something
that you
are passionate enough about
to chain your self to the white
house fence.
then it comes to you.
the three day weekend.
with three of your close
friends of like minded
intentions
you go downtown on a Friday
morning
and lightly
tie
one leg to the fence.
the others do the same.
you wave your signs
and begin to chant. we want
a three day weekend over
and over.
the other protesters laugh
and laugh, they can
hardly contain themselves,
as do the police as they
pepper spray us and haul
us away. they keep us
until Monday, so we did
accomplish what we wanted,
sort of.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

it's the little things

it's an amazing
parking space
that opens up
in the middle
of the packed city.
it's a miracle worthy
of the parting
of the Red Sea.
there it is, open
and free,
unrestricted, no
twenty minutes only,
no Sunday
through Thursday
from nine to five,
no meter, no tow away zone,
no nothing. just a clear
open space
where your car
can fit perfectly in.
you grab a box of Kleenex
to wipe your eyes
and take it.

free range

the cow
is only eating free range
grass,
corn and oats
grown without
chemicals
to make her large and fat.
its a good life,
for awhile,
the blue skies,
the endless plain
rolling green along
the hillside,
the sun
warming her
soft white hide.
she could stand there
forever
if she had a say
in it.

the one that got away

my friend jimmy
likes to tell stories
of the women
he's taken to bed.
all of them gorgeous
beyond belief,
but you never see him with
anyone,
not even on a Saturday
night.
he sits at the bar
and orders another round
and says stop me
if you've heard this one.
there was this girl, he
says,
I think her name was Gloria,
or Linda, he shakes
his head.
she had a crazy head of red
hair, and eyes
that sparkled like
blue diamonds.
I don't know why i let
her get away. she was the one.
she was the real deal,
the keeper. he talks
as if she might be a
fish on the line,
hooked,
struggling to be free,
which she may have been.

the dog trainer

the dog
paddles out into the shallow
lake.
the stick he wants
is just beyond
the pier
after a cartwheeled throw.
all four legs
below go at it, as if
running,
but afloat.
the owner stands dry
on the shore, he claps,
proud
of the lessons he's
given the dog,
sit heel, play dead,
go fetch, now here's a
little bone.

come morning

the light switch sparks,
the bulb
sputters on
then off. not a single
watt illuminates
the book i'm trying to read.
a new light might be
in order.
this lamp is done,
the wires frayed,
the connections loose,
the button
won't push anymore,
but it's okay.
the darkness
we live in
will change come
morning.

love and friendship

reality
is a cold glass of water
thrown
into your face.
it's the nail you step on.
the branch that
falls from a tree
upon you.
it's the unexpected bill,
the dog
getting hit by a car,
the storm
approaching
taking everything with it.
being misunderstood.
much of this makes life
hard,
and matter,
but love and friendship,
if true,
will never fade
or fail.

Friday, September 15, 2017

champagne love

some affection
is of the champagne
variety.
there is the pop,
the bubbles,
the fun of it all
pouring out.
the tickled pink
drink of it
going down,
but by nights end,
the bottle
has gone dry,
gone flat and what
was once
infatuation,
brimming with hope,
is now old hat.

get over it

shame about the grudges.
the animosity
that goes on.
the lingering sting of words
said,
deeds undone,
vows broken.
it's too bad about it all.
but what can one do
but reach out,
wait and wait
for them to come around,
or you.

caught in the rain

it smells like rain,
see how the leaves
have darkened
and turned up.
feel the wind, the push
of a front
moving in.
let's wait though,
let's stay a little longer,
finish our drinks
and feel
it when it begins.
let's sit here
hand in hand, then run
to car, soaked.
it'll help us, make
our love
stronger. I don't know
why or how,
but I feel that it will.

does she dream

it's hard
to see your mother lying
there,
wordless.
when was she ever without
something to say?
her glasses lost, or taken,
the white hair
still thick and pulled
behind
against a stranger's pillow.
it's difficult
to remember how she laughed
and told a story,
how she felt
your head for fever,
told you to come inside,
dinner was ready.
how a single sip of wine
made her dizzy.
and now,
still alive, barely,
she lies there with all of
life behind
her.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

keep going

trains
arrive, then leave.
we board
and ride to where
we need to go.
tomorrow is the same.
bag in hand.
the trees outside
go from green to bare
as the months
turn.
the wind blows
grey
into our hair.
we lean
and keep going, keep
riding.
what else is
there to do.

thinking about baseball

the cold shower
helps
at times,
thinking of baseball too.
from first to third,
then home plate,
but then
my mind strays
and I can't help
thinking of you.

Stella

it was a street car
named
perspire.
a lot of sweaty tired
people
were on it
coming home from work.
not a day
went by when your
back didn't stick to
your shirt.
I grew tired of jumbalaya
and catfish.
hanging vines
and swamps.
who dat,
etc.
I needed to get home
to where the water
stayed put,
didn't rise halfway
up the house any time
it rained,
to a place where I understood
the language,
where I wasn't
always yelling
for Stella to forgive me.

hanging on

I see
them hanging on
to the cliff
of love and affection,
clawing at the side
of what was,
but it's over.
nails dug
in. frantic, trying
to hold on
to the mountain,
boots struggling
to find a divot
to keep them steady.
they don't realize
that they're only
two
feet off the ground,
not a thousand.
they need to let go.
other cliffs are out
there.
other mountains
to climb
and rest upon
with easier roads,
and rest stops along
the way.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

the last piece

I nod yes.
not because I agree
but because
I don't want to argue.
i'd rather you
get your way then have
to go through that.
go ahead,
have the last piece
of cake.
we'll make more.
there's always more
until they're isn't.

that screeching sound

that screeching sound
you hear
is the caliper which is connected
to the rotar
which is connected
to the pads,
etc. everything is
sticking.
looks like it could
be anywhere between five
hundred and a thousand
to fix things.
we've got it up on the rack
right now.
of course you know
it's best to do both
brakes,
not just one. (long pause).
I hear the whir
of a power wrench,
the clink of lug nuts.
cursing.
so what do you think, bub?
should I give
Jimmy the go ahead?
what choice do I have
I say.
none, he says. making
a noise that sounds
like cha ching. do it jimmy,
he yells out into
the garage.

not like that

when he would
carve
the turkey, she'd take the automatic
knife from
his hand
and tell him
to sit down, let me do it.
so he would.
don't water
the plants like that she'd
say,
don't pour so much.
you snore
she says. i'll be in
the other room.
didn't you wear that shirt
yesterday,
here, let me find you one.
you can't go out
like that.
and now,
that's he gone, she
misses all the things he
did and visits
him weekly to weed
the grass he's under.

toll booth love

every day
she takes my money.
I hand her
a bill and wait for her
arm to
reach out with change.
we say
little, but hello.
goodbye.
we smile.
there is the metal
of my car,
the half rolled window,
the anxious next car
behind me
that keeps us from
knowing one another, from
falling
in love and living
happily ever after.
there always seems
to be something
or someone in the way.

seeing green

it smells
like jealousy. tastes
sour
and bitter
on the tongue.
it's a love gone
bad
left out
to rot in the sun.
it's green, it's a vile
potion
a dangerous
emotion. left unchecked.
it goes red
and wild with
imagination. there's
the ride by,
the phone,
the woods, the roof top
with which to spy.
once it bites
there are no shots to
cure it,
no quarantine
to keep it at bay.
only time, a new love,
or a restraining
order from a higher court
can help keep
him or her away.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

nothing else to do

you nearly fall asleep
listening
to chet baker
and his trumpet.
funny valentine.
you try not to think
too much of his troubles,
his addictions,
his strange end.
you let the music
spill
between your ears,
it's almost like
listening to sin.
it's tragic blues,
the blow of the horn,
soft
and sweet.
his whispery voice
singing
melodies you could
listen to all night,
all day
if you had nothing else
to do.

the HOA

the HOA,
that coven of witches and warlocks
who meet monthly
the third Thursday,
at the mark twain elementary
are walking
the streets
with their clipboards.
one has a camera,
another
points with her long
hand
to a bush, or roof,
or color of paint
that isn't on the program.
they nail
a manifesto to your door.
we can't see the parking
permit in your car.
who said you could change
your locks.
third warning.
get that dog to stop
barking
or else. but I don't
have a dog.
it's me they hear.

the safe

she had an ear
for wall safes.
bank vaults.
pulling back her long
hair
to listen against
the thick walls
for the click click click.
with her delicate fingers
she would turn
the dials
and open up any cold
box
holding jewels,
cash,
bonds and stocks.
there was no safe she
couldn't crack, no door
or heart
she couldn't get to,
until will met,
and that was that.

the vampire years

we were vampires
in our twenties.
out all night with our
bat wings,
dressed in black.
carousing the dark
caves
of music and drink,
fluttering near
girls with bright lips
and tight clothes,
tender necks.
we wanted to
make them our own.
to bring them
home to our webbed
nests.
we were upside down
for years, not caring
about the daylight
hours,
avoiding the sun,
delaying the eventual
tomorrow when we believed
there would be
no more fun.

charity bucket

the rag tag girl
in front of the grocery
store
has a bucket,
bright yellow,
with the word Florida
taped to the side.
it's full of dollar
bills
and change.
thank you, she says.
as I drop
some money in.
I see her later
at the coffee shop
buying
a caramel macchiato
and a blueberry
scone.
she's wearing what looks
like a new dress
with new shoes
and a matching handbag.
the yellow bucket
beside her chair
says Tennessee now.

just a rumor

it's just a rumor,
a few words whispered into
my ear,
passed down
along the wire,
across the fence,
through the grapevine.
I say oh my,
really? I can't believe
that.
who would do
something like that.
and the other
person, who seems
to know everything
about everyone, says
I know. I know.
crazy isn't it?
what's wrong with these
people, she says.
I'm shocked, I say,
and then quietly
promise myself
to never tell her anything.

Monday, September 11, 2017

friday night

there is dust
on my shoulders from
the long week. I shake out
my hat
and sit down
in the kitchen chair.
the walls are yellow.
the calendar is a month
slow on the fridge.
I see myself in
the toaster as I bend
to take off
my boots. i could use
a shave, a newer face.
I turn on the radio,
grab a beer
and a cold half sandwich
still on a plate.
a song comes on,
just my imagination by
the temptations, I begin
to dance in my socks across
the linoleum
floor. I spin,
take a sip of beer, go
low, rise and spin again.
I can still dance.
I still have it even after
all these years.

quiet desperation

who isn't brilliant
to some degree.
whether the stock boy
in the store,
the man
directing
traffic,
the stripper on stage
wearing
nothing
but shoes.
the cook, the salesman
with his bag
of goods
going door to door.
there is still something
inside
everyone
that may be never be
known or seen.
they are Picassos
and mozarts,
singers and poets,
people living their lives
in quiet desperation,
while inside
they dream.

three cats

three cats.
not real cats, but hipster
cats
are on the corner
of king
and
union playing songs.
one
with a bass, another
a sax,
the third
beating on a drum.
three hats collect
the coins
and cash.
they nod and smile
with each donation.
how good to be young
and carefree,
to do
such things as that.

zoo girl

when I hear
a radiator clunk in the dead
of winter.
bang and sing its strange
old pipe
song, I think of her.
the steam and rattle of her.
zoo girl
in her ancient digs,
the monkeys across the street
swinging
in their cages.
the pandas
tucked in a cave.
seals being seals.
I wonder about the zoo
bar below her,
the Dixie land band,
the stragglers
coming in
in the dead of night for
one last round,
one last chance at love
before dawn.

pure and true

the best
shot is the one taken
without thinking,
the clean swish
without rim.
the arrow from a bow
striking center, red.
the best spiral of a ball
when leaving
your hand
in laser precision is
the throw
without thought,
landing in open hands,
without measure or push.
it's a natural
thing.
so are the words spoken
when from the heart,
they too flow
most pure
and true.

burning bridges

behind him
are bridges burning.
he throws
down
match after match
on the spill
of gasoline.
it's better this way
to move
forever forward,
escaping the past,
never
having to deal with
what has
been.

go slow

it's the slow
food,
the slow drink,
the slow
rise
from sleep, the slow
and easy
love
at night
that takes hold,
puts
you on the right
path.
little remains
of anything else
that happens
fast.

go as two

you don't know until
you set
sail
if the earth is flat
or round.
if what lies
beyond your sight
is real.
you don't find what
you're looking
for
by staying put,
staying home,
never thinking
beyond
what you've been told.
but it's better to
go as two,
if you go at all,
and not alone.

a higher power

I lie
down in the bed
I've made.
harvest
the field of seed
I've planted.
I have no one
to blame
or praise
but me for what
rises
from the ground,
or what
dream appear
with or without
sleep.
I don't really believe
any of that.
there is a higher
power.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

the best part

i don't see an end.
but maybe
she does.
maybe she knows what i
don't know.
women are like that.
so far
advanced
and evolved than we
are.
i don't see an end,
or a middle.
i see the start.
where the flowers are fresh
and full
in the vase.
i always see the start,
the best
part.

shopping late on a sunday night

with an empty
cart
I wander the store.
the one wheel
off kilter,
squeaking on the linoleum
floor.
what i'm looking for I can't
find here.
but still I go down
each aisle,
reading labels, touching
boxes,
inspecting apples
and pears
for marks.
I hold a loaf of bread
into the air
and put it back onto
the shelf.
i'm there an hour or more,
but I buy nothing.
what I want and need
from her,
I can't buy in a store.

half way there

half way
to where i'm going
I turn around.
maybe the oven is on.
the iron
in the basement.
did I lock
the back door,
close the windows.
blow out the candle.
of course all of these things
have been taken care of.
but I feel better
now,
somehow. I take one last
look around
the room,
then pull the door
shut, I begin again
to go where i'm going.

the separation

i remember
packing my bags at her request
and driving
to a motel
on route one.
a shabby place with thin
walls
and smokers.
loud televisions
filling the hall.
i remember lying on the stiff
bed,
the hard pillow
and thinking
what am i doing here.
what has become of me
that I've landed here on
the edge
of nowhere.
i listened to a man in
the other room
coughing.
he was alone too.
the wall shook with his cough.
still dressed,
still unpacked,
i drove home at three
in the morning.
i went up the stairs
looked into my son's room.
kissed him
goodnight then when to
bed. i would never leave
again, but she would.

three pills

with cold water
I swallow
three pills and wait
for the pain
to subside.
I listen to my limbs,
my heart,
the throb of blood that flows
through me,
that constant
tide.
I place ice where
it hurts,
behind my
mind and hold it there.
a cool blue of bag of ice
upon my neck.
I wait
for pain to leave.
to exhale,
to sigh.

to whom i love

I say
what I don't mean,
not literally
at least.
I babble in obscurities,
vague
cryptic notions
of thoughts
that ramble in the corners
of my mind.
I stretch the canvas,
dabble in
abstract.
I can't get out
of being me,
maybe I can be less
talkative,
less misunderstood,
more
aware of those i'm
speaking to
and their sensitivities.
I can take a vow of
limited silence,
spend less
on talk
and more on
listening to those
I love.

we can remove this virus

it sounds like the same man
or woman
who called yesterday on the phone
about the virus in
my computer.
i'm from Microsoft he says
in broken English.
you have downloaded a corrupt file.
put one finger on the control
button
and the other on the shift
key, press and let
me in. we will fix your computer.
he sounds like
the same guy from the IRS
wanting to help me with
my over due taxes,
and the same fellow who
wants to award me a grant
from the government
for nine thousand and seven
hundred dollars.
I can hear the chatter in
the warehouse of people behind him.
we talk and talk about all of
these issues,
becoming friends of sort, then
they grow weary and hang
up telling me to go do an
impossible thing to myself
involving procreation.
I don't worry though, i know
his anger and frustration with
me will subside. I know
he'll call back tomorrow,
around the same time.

small print

it's the small
print
that gets you.
the tiny words and numbers
on the pill
bottle,
at the bottom of a contract
waiting to be
signed.
the instructions
are hardly legible
on how to build what
came in a box, or
the ingredients
on the back of can
or tub
of something you want
to eat.
who has the time
for small print, if it
was that important
wouldn't they make it
easier to see
and read?

waiting it out

she's category
four
in the rating of storms.
you don't want
to go there
and be caught up in
the fury of her winds
and rain,
the surge of her words.
it's best to
evacuate and let
her roar
herself out. grab
your pillow
and sleep it off
in the guest room
with the dog
by your side.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

the wave

she washes over you
in soft tumbles.
she's clear blue,
with
golden rays.
she's unstoppable.
she keeps coming.
hardly a day goes by
that you
don't drift
into her waters,
to dive, or wade.

the black snake

it's a fat snake,
wrapped
around the fence,
climbing in his rope
like twist
up, up.
he smells an egg
in the tree, a cupped
nest with
no one around.
his tongue out,
his black leather
jacket both
smooth and sticky
at the same time.
with no legs, no arms
or hands, he finds
a way.
hunger
having no bounds.

the new world

everything
and everyone is on camera
now.
nothing is in the shadow
of night.
big brother
and sister, mother and
father,
the bright lens is
at work. whirring
away in some
corner or high point.
the bank
the store, the building
across
the street is filming
twenty four
seven.
not a thing done is
unseen,
not a crime
committed,
or step taken hasn't been
captured forever
on film. for better or
worse,
it's the world
we live in.

the game

let's not keep score,
let's
not
worry about who wins
or loses.
it doesn't matter
does it?
just as long as
no one
gets hurt
and everyone has fun
during
the game
and after. tomorrow
we play
again.

Friday, September 8, 2017

a can of beans

I have this one can of
baked
beans in my cupboard
that I've had since the early
eighties.
i'm not sure why I haven't
opened it
and ate what's inside
after all these years.
sometimes I take it out
and look at the faded
label. it's unreadable.
I see the word soy, and fructose.
salt and something
that looks like
potassium chloride.
I don't even like beans
from a can,
boston baked or otherwise.
but there it is.
this brown labeled can
on the shelf
behind other cans,
boxes of rice
and bottles of barbeque
sauce. i'll never in a million
years eat it,
i'll never throw it
away.
some friendships are unbreakable.

my friend mr. lincoln

the maître d is purposely
a little
snobby, a little uptight
in his dark suit
and white shirt, his
bold red tie with flecks
of gold.
he looks
down at the hungry
people gathering
at the door
reservations? he says,
hardly making eye contact.
there's a three hour
wait, he sniffs,
but please have a seat
at the bar
and we'll let you know
when a table becomes
available.
three drinks later, he
doesn't budge when I go
up to his pedestal.
you're on the list sir,
he says.
there are seven people ahead
of you.
please, be patient.
have you met my friend mr.
Lincoln, I tell him,
casually shaking a five
dollar bill in front of him.
no, I haven't he says.
but if he has some friends,
such as mr. grant
or Hamilton, perhaps we could
seat you sooner.

the roar of her

if she was an animal,
i'd say
lion. that beautiful
mane,
those brown eyes.
the scratching,
the biting,
the dragging me around
by the nape of
my neck into her den.
not to mention
the roar of her.

the car wash

the boy scouts
in their uniforms
covered in merit
badges
would wash cars at the church.
there would be
twenty of them,
all ages and sizes.
except for the old guy
in the same outfit,
who must have been the pack
leader. he stood back
and waved you forward in the line.
they were like bugs on
your car
spraying, washing, hosing
it down
as you sat inside
listening to the radio
and eating potato chips.
they did a great job,
but there was always
one side
missed, somehow,
a five foot stretch
of untouched dirt, which
was okay.
what did they know about
washing cars.
building a fire, yes.
catching fish, or tying knots.
yes.
car washing, well.

what are those for?

her medicine cabinet
was full of brown bottles,
and tubes
of ointments.
there were syringes
and
instruments that I wasn't
familiar with.
smelling salts
and bandages.
tweezers and nail clippers,
not to mention
a jug of hydrogen
peroxide.
there was the little
plastic container
with the days of the month
inscribed
on the plastic doors.
cue tips.
sprays and roll ons.
powders and perfumes.
hair dye,
shaving cream and razors.
loose pills of all colors
and sizes.
pepto bismol.
gum.
I took some gum and got
out of there,
pushing the squeaky door
closed again.

late again

late for work
again.
I have my list of excuses ready.
they are much like
the ones I used in high school.
my aunt died, no, not
that aunt, the other one.
my dog is sick.
I couldn't find my books.
my shoelace broke.
traffic,
the weather.
the line at starbucks
was a mile long,
and there was no
half and half on the counter.
I thought it was Saturday.
I ran out of gas.
my wife wouldn't let me
leave because she wanted
to fool around.
I know, not all of them
are very believable.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

holy ground

how quick we are to
flee
from those in need,
those
who have fallen on hard
times.
we want to comfort them
with
an argument of blessings.
look what you have,
who you are, it's not
as bad as it seems.
this will all pass we
say, be patient.
it's not what they want
to hear.
instead they need a quiet
hand upon
them. an acceptance of
where they are.
an agreement that yes,
it's okay to lower
our heads as one
and weep,
sorrow being
holy ground.

one last gathering

we gather around
to all take another kick
at the dead
horse in the room.
not a literal dead horse,
of course.
that would be a cup of crazy.
but the argument
at hand.
it seems to never end.
this sibling disagreement.
passed down through the years
and regenerated
with each new holiday
where we are forced to be
in the same room
together.
we need one last gathering
to get past this.
it's coming
soon, i suspect,
then we can all rest
and move on.

hearts are wild

i don't understand you,
she says to me,
as i look at my cards,
holding them tight
to my chest.
i can't read you.
me either, i tell her,
putting two cards
down on the table
and staring at
the deck in her hand.
it's confusing at times.
i push all my money to
the middle, take off my
watch, my shoes,
my shirt and add them in too.
i look at my two new
cards. i can't win with
this hand, but i do know this.
i want to keep it
going.
i raise you everything
and call.
show me yours and i'll
show you mine.

the old radio

the radio,
a transistor, I suspect,
is beat.
paint splattered, the
antenna bent.
the wobble of the dials
can't find
the station
i want to hear.
forget about AM, you
might as well be on the moon
for that.
it's
battery powered, with
a plug
in option. twenty bucks
or so
at radio shack.
how many drops
off a roof has it survived,
stepped on,
spilled upon,
kicked accidentally
across a room,
but it still has a heart
beat.
four triple double
A's will
keep it going through
the winter, the bent
plug
can be straightened
out,
if there is a socket to
stick it into.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

the sun came out

your blood pressure
is strangely low and normal.
it hasn't always
been this way.
at times it seemed as if
your top would
blow, your bubble burst,
your eyes
would pop out because
of the calamities that
you lived with,
the people that you knew,
stuck in your life,
by blood or friendship.
chaos was your go to
place, it seemed safe to
be in the middle
of a hurricane.
but something changed.
the sun came out.

when the water rose

when the floods came
what was there to do
but grab
what we could.
the children, the cat,
the dog, we
let the birds
fly to where ever
they wanted to.
the cow went to the roof.
we stuffed
a phone, some papers,
photo albums,
clothes into a suitcase,
the rest can go down,
go under.
we let the water rise
then boarder our small
boat and set sail
for drier land.
we watched
as we rowed away
as everything we owned slipped
into the sea,
the new sea where only
fish were safe
from drowning.
there was no bargaining
with God for it seemed
He wanted this rain
to come down.

the clearing

the priest in
black, white collar
is just as confused and
doubtful
as you are, at times.
how do we explain
the world
and all that transpires.
it doesn't matter.
you go on.
you kneel, you pray,
you wait for an answer,
which is often
no, or let's see.
it's not blind faith,
but a fog
some days.
the clearing lies
far ahead for him,
for me.

wanting more

a cold cup
of coffee doesn't get it done.
nor does
a stale
slice of bread,
a half moon,
gives us just a glimpse
of what's to
shine in full, to come.
a taste is not a meal.
a kiss on the cheek,
or pat on the back
hello or farewell
is heart breaking
when you desire more.

penance penance penance

penance penance penance
she said
as she lie dying
at the end
of her short life,
having seen the blessed
virgin,
the immaculate
conception.
insane, feeble minded,
a poor child
seeing visions,
why would God choose her
to be a Saint,
not those
in robes, at the heads
of church.
and the water
that sprung from rocks
and dirt,
making the blind see,
the crippled walk,
what is this that lies
beyond our reason,
how often do we need
a Bernadette to still our
doubt,
restore our faith.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

wind and moon

if not
for the wind
and the moon,
we'd be still.
motionless,
unable to decide on
things
of the heart,
or otherwise.
there would be no
pull or push
towards one another,
no sail
to blow us forward
across the sea,
there would no way
to discover other lands
to live on,
if one must leave.

i'm not home

it's hard
not to be suspicious
of strangers,
or even relatives
you seldom see,
whether approached in person
or on the street,
or on the phone.
they want something.
advice, or for you
to listen to their
woes. maybe they need
a handout, or a loan,
directions somewhere,
or a lift
to where they want to go.
they want to talk about
a religion they want you to try,
or investments
in real estate.
it's best to keep on
the look out
for these souls.
have caller id,
or take a peek out
the window
to see who's rapping
on that door as they say
hey, I know you're
in there, open up,
I can see you.

she likes pink

she likes pink.
carnations,
sheets,
a dress, or what goes
underneath.
she likes
a pink sunset,
lipstick,
a pale pink.
nails too,
and shoes. she even
likes
pink icing on her
cake.
she's all over
the color pink, but
goes black
or navy blue when
her retinas
need a break.

underwater

it would nice to have
a submarine,
a ship that goes under the water.
everyone has a boat,
a silly
boat with sails,
that floats,
or a motor on the back
that roars, or glides
down ego alley
in Annapolis.
i'd make my submarine
out of glass,
blue glass, or
stained glass
with indigo panes
ruby red, bottle greens.
it would be fun take
friends
out to sea,
taking them under
to float with fish,
the crabs,
the lobsters, cruising
along the sandy
bottom with mermaids
and waving seaweed.

not a dandy

when out and about
you see
that most men your age
and older,
some younger
are wearing the same
clothes.
at some point, without
discussion
we found a uniform
to wear.
it's what we wore
when in our teens.
khaki shorts,
a long sleeved t shirt,
tennis shoes
and a hat.
I look around the room,
and there's
twenty of me.
we've run out of ideas
for fashion,
not a dandy in the room.

pick up days

i chase the trashman
down the street with my bag
of trash.
i heard the roar and clang
of it
as i lay in bed, then rushed
out.
i'm in my robe
and slippers as i chase.
the men in orange
jumpsuits pay me no
mind.
they keep rolling.
throwing bag after bag
into the back.
chairs and boxes.
old bikes,
lamps without shades.
clothes.
they go faster and faster
as i keep running.
by the end of the day
my trash bag
has broken
and everything
has fallen out along
the way.
i walk up to the back
of the dark
truck and throw the empty
bag in.
i walk home, discouraged,
wondering
even after 14 years,
when i will get these days
and times
right for pick up.

someone else

when i get home
late at night i find
that someone else is in my
house.
putting my
kids to bed, kissing my
wife
goodnight.
the dog has been walked.
the doors locked,
the windows pushed
down tight.
i stand and ring the bell
out front,
i look up
to the darkened house
and yell, i bang
on the door with my
fists,
what about me, i say,
this
was my life. this isn't
fair.
this isn't right.

the soft silence

sometimes she's
quiet,
she disappears
for a day or two.
not a word said,
or written,
just a soft silence.
it's almost like
white noise in her absence.
a waiting for her
to tell me
things I don't yet know.

Monday, September 4, 2017

the hydrogen bomb problem

three people in my
neighborhood
have the hydrogen bomb now, so
we're all a little nervous
and treating each other
with kindness, at least,
in front of them. I have
one too, but the HOA
grandfathered it in,
and I would never use
it for evil,
only good.
behind closed doors
we're a little worried.
we shake our heads
and say, what the hell
are we going to do now?
these people are nuts.
they promise not to use them
unless absolutely
necessary, but who knows.
we're keeping our dogs
on a leash, and picking up,
and never
parking our cars in front
of their houses.
I tip my hat when I see
them, good day, I say.
my you're looking well.
splendid in fact,
lose weight?

the happy postman

my Christmas list
for cards
has grown shorter and shorter
with each year.
people disappear.
it's whittled down
to eleven now.
down from an even dozen
because
I said her fruitcake
was stale. I guess I won't
ever see it again,
which will make the post
man happy,
when he delivers his
mail.

the unwrapping

the wraps
that you have, the cellophane,
the foils,
the freezer paper.
the gift wrapping,
stars and stripes,
comets,
birthday wishes,
candles burning,
Christmas trees and snow
falling.
your box of ribbons
and bows.
what haven't you wrapped
or unwrapped?
even you,
in heels and little else.

surrender dorothy

so nice
not to hear a word
from siblings.
not a peep from over the river.
but I suspect
they must
be up to something.
tired from writing
your name in the sky,
now off their brooms.
I can almost see them
hovering
over a boiling
cauldron, the raging fire,
with big spoons,
throwing in bat wings
and bitter spices,
chanting
in their special way,
casting a spell
to make something happen
to curtail
the happiness of you
and others.

the island shirt

there's a wine
stain
on my white shirt. or is it
blood?
I don't even drink wine
and I have no cuts.
it's shaped
like
a map of some island
in the west indies.
I can see
the coastline.
the trees
swaying.
I can see the natives
waiting to greet me
as I step
off the boat,
coming ashore.
it was that kind
of night. the shirt is
done,
but i'll keep it.

kenny

he would break into a whistle
at any moment, like
he was eating bird seed
all day.
cool in his button
down yellow sweater,
his blue pants
and white shoes.
he was bing and frank
and dean
all in one.
there was always a wink
in his eye,
a grin
on his face,
shaking his head at the world
bemused
but not worried.
it was hard to see him
pass on.
the world changes,
not always for the better,
one life at a time,
coming and going.

uberville

clarendon boulevard
the young man says hopping
into the front seat of my
car as I sit at a light.
excuse me I say.
he's a complete stranger.
clarendon boulevard, he
says again, and points
down the road.
come on dude, i'm sort
of in a rush.
do I know you, I ask him.
he shrugs, no. how would
we know each other?
let's go, step on it.
he hands me his credit
card. swipe me, he says.
for what, I ask him.
to pay you man, to pay
you, now are you going to
go, or not?
I think you'd better
get out of my car right
now buster, I tell him,
or i'm dialing 911.
hey, aren't you uber?
what? I have no idea
what you're talking about.
okay, man, be cool.
my bad. peace out. I see
him get into another car
behind me, and off
they go.

jenny and bill

it's strange to see a chicken
or two
in someone's yard,
a rooster too
pecking at the ground.
but there they are.
they've given them names.
talk to them
in baby talk.
hey jenny, the woman
says from her window,
hey bill.
watcha doing?
the chicken never looks
up
with her black pebble
eyes, skipping
along in a bundle of white
feathers.
she's more interested
in some bug
in the ground.
the rooster is another
story.
spreading his shoulders,
making sounds
with a sharp beak
to scare you away.
he's angry all
the time.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

the eye doctor

my eye doctor
gives me the bad news.
he's moving
back to new jersey to start
his own practice
and make some real money.
a tear
wells up in my
good eye.
but what about us, I ask
him.
us? he says.
asking me to read the
second line
from the top
on the chart against
the wall.
there is no us, he says.
he takes a bite of a large
pastrami sandwich
he pulls out of his lab coat.
read, he says,
I don't have all day.
a e o p, i say,
squinting. the last
letter
might be a w
or an m.
good. he says. good
enough. he wipes some
mustard off his chin.
here's some eye drops
and avoid
heavy lifting, bending
your head,
or wild dancing.
he tapes a new clear
plastic patch over my
eye.
do you have anything in
a different color?
I ask.
no, he says. get out here.
here take this pickle as
a parting gift.
next.

survival

you wake up
thinking of bacon.
potatoes.
eggs.
toast.
coffee.
you look sideways
into the hall
mirror
and see if you have
room today
for such a meal.
maybe
stretch pants
might be in order,
but you can do it.
you'll have water
and crackers
for the next three
days to even things
out.
winter is approaching
after all and
god forbid you get
stuck in a snow
drift miles from home
without a new
layer of fat
to keep you warm.


surrender

it slips by so quickly,
each season.
how days turn into months
feels incredibly
crazy.
it's the scene in the movie
where they show
the passing of time
by calendar pages
being wind blown,
turned or torn off
the pad
in black and white.
have we changed.
have we become who we
want to be,
grown in a good direction
with another year,
or have we surrendered
with our hands in the air,
and said, well.
I think this is it,
this is who I am.

rock on

you can't hear too clearly
the voices
of the band at the sunset
grille. but you can see them.
each silver haired
and slightly
bent over their guitars and drums,
not a wrong note played.
the young woman
in front,
does her best to wail out
a Joplin tune
despite never having the blues,
being born
just yesterday.
no one pays much mind
to the mix being wrong,
the balance of
sound muddled,
or like the screech
of trains wheels stopping
at the station.
no one cares.
the crowd hits the dance floor
to a medley of proud mary
and born on the bayou,
they shake their
collective senior citizen
booties
until closing time at ten.

the first draft

the first draft is really
what you want to say,
but then you let it sit for awhile.
you sleep on it
you rise early and dive back in.
i'm close you think, but not quite.
the second draft is more
poetic, you find words that
you'd never use and prop
them in. you manipulate a rhyme
or two, you try to be more obscure.
you put in the word love.
you stare at it for a while,
shaking your head, then move on,
you come back again
that night with a drink in hand
and sigh.
in the third draft you take
the last stanza
and make it your first.
you change the title. you take
out the word love
and put in the word adore.
you adjust commas,
and punctuation. you wonder if
anyone will understand what you've
said, pffft. so what.
you read it over and over.
it makes no sense. you hate it.
you go back to the first draft.
it's really what you
want to say.

never quite done

from the window
I can hear
the sleeve
of stream, not silver
or blue
but a clear
line
of water
hitting stone
and shore,
making a new curve
against the sand.
the cool of autumn
has begun.
the new trees
have grown,
the old ones wonder
when
they will fall,
it's never quite
done.

what we know

who needs
the trouble. who wants
the chaos.
the roar
of waves
continually crashing
upon
our shore.
who seeks it,
wants it,
wants to feel the same
as they did
as a child.
no one,
and yet we bring
it on,
it's the place
we know, our
safe place, our
crazy place
of discord.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

nothing to eat

it's hard to find
food at this hour.
the fridge has nothing
of interest.
dried figs, spoiled fruit,
something wrapped
and frozen
in the ice box.
lettuce
and American cheese,
singles.
I dial
up the local pizza
shop
while I nibble on a
slice of cheese.
nothing.
then the Chinese
place, nothing again,
then my mother.
there's no answer.
the phone keeps ringing.
it's probably too late anyway
to be eating.
although I could
use some of mom's pot
roast right about
now.
I can almost taste
the carrots and onions.
the beef falling
apart
in my mouth. the crusty bread
she set beside my plate,
with butter.
the memory of youth
in each warm bite.

Friday, September 1, 2017

the big top

we met when we were both
travelling
with the circus. the big top.
she used to ride
the elephants
into the ring,
sitting high behind
their floppy ears, while
I was shot out of a cannon
into a haystack.
we had some good times.
she'd fill in
on occasion for the bearded
woman,
gluing hair to her cheeks
and chin,
and sometimes
i'd stuff myself into a
little car
with the clowns when
one got sick,
or arrested.
it was fun for a while.
being on the road.
the romance of it all.
the smell of cotton candy
and hot dogs.
cigar smoke and sawdust.
kibbutzing with the midgets.
but sadly it ended when
an elephant stepped on
her one day
and that was it.
I was flying though
the air as the human cannon ball
and looked down
to see it all. I can still
hear her scream
and see the puddle of her
in a silver sequined dress. i
haven't been to the circus
since then.

land lubber

I've find being out
on the water
is bad for me.
the save
the cruise marriage
didn't quite pan out,
despite dropping
ten grand
on the suite and bathtub
in the room,
her idea.
the trip
to the Aegean sea
with
linda blair was a disaster,
how the bed rose
and shook,
that mess with the pea
soup
and speaking in tongues
when the waiter
asked if we
wanted another cup of tea.
the boat trip on
the chesepeake
where we nearly cap
sized
after hitting a buoy
was no fun either.
man overboard is not a phrase
I like to hear
when it involves
me being in the drink.
i'm more of a land
lubber,
i suppose.
but even then I have
my issues.

six more to go

it's understandable
why cats
are so aloof,
off into their own world.
unbothered
by the barking dog,
being left alone
all day.
their blood pressure is
low.
they know
while staring out
the window
that they have more lives
ahead of them.
so what's the rush,
the worry?
don't bother me with
your silly
toy mouse, i'm busy.

aunts and uncles

the aunt
who pinches your cheek
and says my oh my,
how you've grown.
look at you.
the uncle
who takes you aside and says,
what now.
what are you
going to do with your life.
you need to have some
skills.
something to make
a living.
what? still no wife?
you're them
now.
handing out advice
like candy.
letting them know what
you've learned,
how to avoid the wrong
turns, pinching cheeks,
and saying
things like, I remember
when I cradled you
in my arms.
you were so cute then.

the social calendar

my social calendar
is wide open.
not a party planned, no
weddings to
go to.
no wake, or class reunion,
not a single invite
to the opera,
or broadway show.
picnic season is nearly
over
and i'm still
holding my basket
full of boiled eggs
and sandwiches,
ready to go.

the apple and tree

the sound of your son's
voice
on the phone
is clear, the cadence
is yours,
the thoughts and words
so like
you.
the apple and the
tree
speaking as one
as he rolls
to his own way
with you staying put,
happy with who
he's become.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

shut up

there's not a funny
thing in you today.
not a joke, or smirk,
or sling
of sarcasm.
you no longer pop
out with a random
word or observation
about the insanity
of it all,
finding easy prey.
quiet is okay for now.
silence.
let everything lie
where it is.
begin again tomorrow,
or the next day.

saying nothing

i can't always write
what i want to write.
i censor myself.
i feel the eyes upon
the page,
taking in each word
measuring what's been
said.
i write, then prune,
then add and subrtact
once more, then erase.
it's better that way.
saying nothing when
there's nothing nice
to say.

making it across

sometimes the ice
is thin.
but still I go out.
I listen for
the subtle cracks
that will break and take
me in.
I know
it's deep if I go
through.
that I may die, that
I may freeze in
this thick cold water,
but I go out.
I want sometimes what
I can't have,
or won't be given,
but I go out
just the same.
I gently step onto
the ice,
the blue frozen pond
holding the sky
and I hope this time
i'll make it across.

nutty buddy

the ice cream
truck awakens me as I recover
with a patch
on one eye.
the grit of something
beneath the lid
making me blink.
but the truck with its
repeating
tune of elongated notes
brings me
to the window
where the children
in the court run wild,
having not had ice cream
since yesterday.
I can see them clearly
now.
the white of their teeth,
the color of their eyes,
the brown of their
long hair or short.
they scream
and run in all directions
to get the money
needed for a snow
cone, a creamsicle,
or nutty buddy.
my favorite.

a different face

it's the imperfect
world
that interests you.
the out of tune piano,
tom waits,
the torn sleeve,
the broken
tooth, or bone.
the dog with one leg.
the prom
without a date.
the fruit with a soft
spot.
the double yolk
egg.
the awkward phase
of youth,
or old age,
the unpolished
shoe,
a button gone loose,
the moons ragged edge,
a different face.

and now you know

as I sit
at the end of the bed
pulling socks on,
stepping into pants,
sliding a shirt
over my head,
my shoulders, sticking
arms into the openings.
I sigh and breathe.
I find my shoes,
put them on,
make a bow.
there was a time when
someone did these
things for you,
when you were young
and small.
this is how we do it,
she said.
and now you know.

wipe your feet

I remember how concerned he
was about
sand.
about tracking sand into
the beach house.
he kept a vacuum on each
floor.
a tub of water
on the porch, fresh
and cold to dip your sandy
feet in,
then a towel,
a mat.
and a sign that said
wipe your feet before
entering.
it was just a week at
the beach. a long week.
my feet have never been
so clean
and free of sand.

missing

I see my face
on a poster tacked to a pole
down
the street.
missing it says.
it's me from several
years ago.
tanned, hat on, carefree
and smiling.
missing it says.
no reward, but if you
see him,
tell him we said
hello.

the rented room

the rented room
above the store is fine.
the bed hard,
the sheets pulled tight,
two pillows
on the spread, side
by side.
the window is propped open
by a wooden spoon.
the light curtain
of a shadowed green
hang to the sill, blows in.
a tv sits
on the dresser,
there's a bible
in the drawer.
a pen, a pad of paper.
it's fine. this room.
the black phone
on the night stand.
the long black cord.
it's just one night, or
two.
perhaps more.

revisiting lakes

you see the broken
hearted
at the lake.
of all ages.
they sit alone and stare
endlessly
out across the placid
water.
wondering what if.
you give them room.
you allow
them this grief,
this strange grey sorrow
of love lost.
there are no words to say.
there is no magic,
no
easy way through
to be healed
and whole again.
for now it's just this,
this lake.

the new book

the book surprises you.
how complex it really is
despite what you thought.
it goes in a direction
you didn't see coming.
it scares
you on some level, but
you don't want to put it down
either.
characters
appear reappear never
quite out of the picture.
there is the hint of danger,
the risk of love,
the risk of once again losing
everything you care for.
you keep reading.
you like the book,
you are falling in love
with the book, you
don't want to put it down,
but it scares you.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

the work

the butcher
is covered in blood.
he likes it like that.
his smock
stained with the days work.
his cheeks bristle red
from the cold.
his muscles ache,
his fingers have stiffened
into claws.
the tiles are white
behind him, the knives
shine silver, sharp
and pointed.
he knows his beef, his
sides, his
pigs, how to break a
chicken down. he thinks
nothing of what has died.
he just works.
bring him a fish and
it will be boneless
in no time.
then he goes home
to the kids, the wife.
he speaks little of his
day. these are separate
lives.

out in the woods

the bed
which wasn't really a bed
but a hard
futon
was located in the basement
between
pillars of home and garden
magazines
dating back
to the Reagan era.
they wobbled if touched,
each standing three
foot in height.
clothes were hung
on wire hangers, each door
full, unable
to be closed.
the bed was where the dog
slept
during the day,
a horse blanket was folded
at the end,
fresh from the barn.
there was no light
but the overhead light
which was bare
and burned a hundred watts.
the windows
didn't open from fear
of snakes, locked
tight on both sides.
it was a hard relationship.
sleeping over,
with no tv, or radio or
cell phone reception.
once in a while there was
the rare doling out of affection
with
an occasional touch
on the shoulder,
when bringing you a sandwich
of tuna
with the crusts cut off, or a
bowl of soup
with a chicken bone rattling
about in a chipped bowl
found at a yard sale.

first day of school

these poor children
standing on the corner.
back packs loading them
down like mini
astronauts awaiting lift
off.
the fear in their eyes,
stiff in their new clothes,
the timid waves to
parents crying,
as the ship arrives,
yellow and long
with black lettering,
the same as they've always
been. a stout woman, or
old man at the wheel,
flipping the doors
open, yelling sit down
and be quiet.
off they go, first day
at school. the dream
is over.

off key

art is not
my thing, nor is
playing music.
not a key board
or a drum stick,
or string,
feels right
in my hand.
I look at a block
of stone
and see
a block of stone,
the white canvas
is just that.
a snow storm
with no one in it.
if I sing the dogs
howl,
the neighbors bang
shoes against the wall.
I have to find other
ways to say what I want,
or spare the world,
and say
nothing at all.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

the new job

this clerk, this woman
at the grocery
store, small and round,
I remember her the day
she started over
twenty years ago.
I over heard her talking
to customers.
today is my first day
she said happily.
her hair was dark, she was
young.
I remember her polishing
apples, stacking pears,
moving
lettuce into bins.
I look at her as I pass by,
pushing my cart
full of groceries,
she's quiet as her hands
work without thought,
staring down.
I wonder what day she's on now.

i've seen worse

it hasn't rained
in ages.
the earth is dry.
livestock lie where
they've died
with bloated bellies,
the bones bleached white.
the crops have fallen
flat and brown
to furrows in the earth.
not a cloud
floats
in the sky.
every flower is bent,
wilted
with thirst.
how long can we
survive this drought.
sit on
our porches
fanning ourselves
and talking
about when will it
rain again. only the aged
seem unworried.
they peer out
the screen door and say
don't worry
about it. I've seen worse.

small things

it only takes
a pebble in your shoe,
a splinter
in a thumb,
a tooth to ache
to darken
your day.
a broken lace,
or spill
upon your shirt.
a word said in anger
towards you,
a car that veers
in front.
the small things
add up
sometimes and you
can't wait
to get home
and be done.

don't worry

I wake up
from the anesthesia
in a white room.
i'm lying on an altar
wearing
a suit.
it's white with black
lapels. a ruffled shirt.
I see the shine of my
black patent leather
shoes.
I smell the carnation
pinned to my coat.
masked men and women
wearing blue
are around me.
some holding scalpels,
others
eating fruit.
apples and peaches.
they lift their masks
and take
fat juicy bites.
a priest approaches me,
sprinkles holy
water on my forehead
and says, don't worry.
everything is going fine,
you're just in love,
you'll be
alright.


the longest running show

it's not Shakespearean by any
stretch.
the family drama,
although tragedy and mirth
runs rampant.
it's more
like a sit com
that should have been
cancelled
after one season.
the canned laughter,
the crocodile
tears,
the plot lines
that go nowhere.
there's
the matron who refuses to die,
the father
who disappeared.
a band of children trying
badly at times,
to survive.
the stage is full of
characters too cliché
and stereotyped
to be believed.
it's the longest running
show in your life.

did you hear

it used
to happen at
the back fence,
after the laundry was hung
to dry,
after the kids
were put
to school. when there
was a calm,
a moment when holding
a cup of
coffee, that the news
was made
clear.
the neighbor
next door would lean
forward, arms
resting on the rail,
and whisper, hey,
did you hear.

Monday, August 28, 2017

ship wrecks

you know the ship wrecks
when you meet
them.
that distant stare.
those thread bare clothes.
those words of woe
after a lifetime
of sailing and crashing
on the rocks,
stranded on deserted shores.
there's never
a sunny day,
never are seas calm,
a coast clear.
you know them when
you meet them,
these ship wrecked souls,
they need help
to get back out to sea,
they want you to come
along,
to get on board,
go down they say,
go down with me.

we can help you

the industry
of scamming is endless.
they are tireless in their
efforts, working
on the dumb,
the old,
the confused masses
that pick up the phone
say hello.
we are the irs,
we are the bank,
we are the physician,
the mortician,
the insurance salesman.
we can fix
your computer, your
windows,
your roof, your
heater.
we can bring God into
your life. You like God,
don't you?
we can get you out of
debt,
pay off your student loan.
we can heal your
liver, put a spring in
your step.
just give us
your name, your number
your date of birth,
a bank account
and we will make you
whole.

the appraiser

she could hold
a piece of silver in her hand,
measure the weight
by touch,
see
if the paint on
the portrait was old
or older
than the date inscribed.
she knew
periods of
time, when wood was
carved
and made into something,
rich and
unique, sublime.
that vase? that clock,
that necklace,
bring it here and put
it under the light.
she could look into
your heart and know what
was true,
or a lie.
she had not just one,
but two
good eyes.

two states

it shouldn't matter, but
somehow it does.
states being divided
by mere lines on a map,
a stripe of blue,
the river.
it shouldn't mean a thing,
the differences
between us and them,
how they behave,
we act.
the way they drive,
or talk,
or think, so different
across that line.
isn't it the same
air that we breathe,
the same
sun or moon above us.
strangely there seems to
be more to it,
than that.

the slow go

she burns
slow. small embers
crackling
in her stove.
she takes her time in
coming around.
nibbles at
the edges of me.
speaks softly
and kind.
there is no rush in
her.
no hurry
in getting where she
wants to go.
she has the patience
that
I've lacked,
but always wanted
to learn, to know.

i almost died

the year, that frightful year,
that my ex went on a diet
I nearly died.
no sugar
or salt, no butter or
cream,
no chips
or candy anywhere.
no cookies to be found,
or cake,
or red meat.
not a single granule
of sugar, refined
or otherwise.
I grew gills from eating
so much fish.
I fluttered my
wings and clucked from
eating
chicken after chicken,
boiled
with the skin
off. divorce saved my
life.
the second the ink dried,
I wasn't worried
so much
about my next true
love,
my next cell mate, no
I ran out and bought
a rack of ribs
with all the trimmings
and a cherry pie.


the slice of pie

on Christmas eve
my mother
would set out a slice of pie,
mince meat,
and a glass of milk
for Santa.
peering around
the corner, unable
to sleep
I saw my father eating
the pie,
drinking the milk.
I ran out in my pajamas
and yelled, hey.
what are you doing?
that's not for you,
which made him laugh
and carry me to bed
with his rough
beard against my face,
his whiskey breath
upon me.
we'll put out more,
he said.

the middle of the storm

the calm is eerie.
are we in the middle of the storm
or has it passed.
no phone calls, no emails,
no threats of slander,
no one at the door
with a restraining order
to keep you
off the premises.
maybe they're tired of being
angry.
the balloon of their
angst has burst,
or maybe they're resting
for the final
act, gathering winds
to blow you and those
they dislike completely
off the map.

red ink

the over due
bill comes to you in red
ink.
a penalty attached.
red gets your attention,
studies have
shown.
take the bull for example
in the ring.
he doesn't like
red either.
a woman in a red dress,
beware,
she's up to no
good.
the stop sign, the red light.
but this red ink,
I know I paid this bill.
at least I
think I did
when I paid the other ones,
licked a stamp
and dropped them
in the mail.
wait a minute.
there it is
stuck to the back
of magazine I ordered.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

play on

the sound your knee
makes
is not unlike a stick
cracking
that you step upon
in the woods.
the shoulder too has
it's own
voice, crickets
chirping between the bones.
the neck
the knuckles, you
are a symphony of
sound,
long out of tune.
but you still play on.

night reading

in bed before
eleven with book in hand,
the tv
off, the phone muted,
I lie
there against
a wall of pillows and
read.
one lamp on,
a bright curve of light
upon me.
I turn a page or two.
look at the back page
to see how long
the book is,
I reread the first page
to see what
I remember, then go back
to from where I
started, page ten,
ear marked with a corner
turned. i'm sleepy
now. I'll try again
tomorrow.


not your day

not everyday is a home
run.
not even a single,
or double,
sometimes
you never get to any
base,
you swing and miss, foul
off ball after ball,
then strike out.
sometimes the ball
hits you
between the numbers
and even then
they send in a pinch
runner. it's just not
your day.

the dream

the dream
is no different
than the now. awake
in the moment.
can you draw a line
around it,
make sense of what
any of it
means.
you guess at
the stars in the sky.
the life
you lead,
or don't lead.
so hard to tell one
from the other,
awake,
or the dream.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

discount therapy

i'm not usually one for
coupons
but this one I cut out
from the magazine
psychology today.
it's a discount offering
for group therapy.
a one time offer to be
with a leading psychologist
for six hours,
ten person max.
I try to figure out how
to get my brothers
and sisters all in
the same room which is
going to be next to
impossible. it gets tiring
after awhile
when they begin
each conversation
with remember that time
fifty years ago
when mom didn't tuck
us into bed
and dad yelled at me, or
the one time there was no milk
for cereal.
it's going to be tricky.
numbers are deleted
and blocked. vows of
never contact me again
have been made,
no one picks up or
calls back. they turn
their backs
when you see them on
the street.
so it's going to be tough
getting them all in the same
room.
maybe a crab feast
with lots of desserts
and an open bar.
an anonymous invite
in the mail, maybe
that will work. my
fingers are crossed.

smarty pants

she's not only
book smart, but street smart.
kitchen smart
too,
and some other rooms
in the house.
so that makes her house
smart, I guess.
there's hardly a room
that she's
not smarter than me in.
she's even smart
when out and about
walking, not even needing
the google
on her phone
to look stuff up
that I ask her
and don't know.

christmas all year

it's Christmas
and your birthday
all year long
with the amazing
delivery service
these days.
how nice to have a big
brown box, or a small
package
on the porch
when you get home from
work, or
open the door in
the morning.
oh my, you say
gleefully,
bending over to pick
it up, shaking the box,
pressing the package,
what have I bought for
myself this time.

off to college

she takes
her daughter to college.
a u haul van
hooked up to the back of the car.
but they need
to stop one more
time at target.
a few things have been
forgotten
after nineteen trips
there
for sheets and blankets,
lamps and dishes,
forks, spoons,
pillows, towels,
pens and paper,
printers, chargers,
art work for the walls,
underwear, an alarm clock,
a radio, snacks, gum,
dishtowels, plates,
Tupperware,
and a microwave,
a small fridge. make up
and other assort girl
necessities. but something
has been forgotten.
they aren't sure
what it is
but they'll walk the aisles
until it appears.
there's still a tiny bit
of room in
the trunk left to fill.

Friday, August 25, 2017

starting over

the statues
are suddenly offensive.
they've been there over
a hundred years.
the names on the building.
the carvings,
the pictures,
the books they read,
the homes they lived in.
we are guilty.
we are shamed.
let's burn the world
down and start over,
rewrite history.
pretend that nothing bad
ever happened.
that no one
has the right to be praised
unless he died
on a cross
and rose
from a grave.

the pizza joint

you can get eggs there,
all day, scrapple, hash browns,
lasagna too. a waitress
in a wig
will serve you at your booth.
but it's mostly pizza
that goes out the door.
calzones,
sub sandwiches.
fifty years or grease
and mozzarella,
pepperoni
with sal behind the counter
with his wife,
gina.
the kids too, the big
kid,
the sassy one at the grill,
the daughter, too gorgeous
for this place
giving you a wink as she
puts your greek salad
in a bag, your napoleon
in a box.
now it's over.
the sign's up saying,
thanks, but we're done.
we'll miss you.
the doors are closed,
it's dark in there
while workers break down
the ovens,
carry chairs and tables
out the back. throw menus
in the trash.
a sign is still taped
to the front door.
single slice and a coke,
three bucks. a nail salon
is coming next.

feeling glum

my bartender pete
says, what's wrong. you seem glum.
he pushes
a gin and tonic
in front of me, drops in
a wedge of lime.
girl trouble, he says,
putting his hands
on the bar,
tossing a towel over his
shoulders.
love will break your heart
sometimes, he says.
stick with it, she'll come
around.
I stir the drink with
the clear swizzle stick,
stabbing the lime.
what's up buddy?
work? I've never seen
you so down. look at you
all gloomy and quiet.
what is it?
family issues? your crazy
sisters again? I know
your mom isn't well.
your son? is he okay?
nah, I tell him, taking
a long sip
of the gin and tonic.
it's not that, it's not
any of that, that's all good.
i'm just worried about the up
coming season.
we lost so many good
players, and we have yet
to sign
our quarterback. we don't even
know who's going to start
at running back. have you
taken a look at
our schedule this year?
it's brutal. pete nods
and shakes his head.
menu? he says.
no, that's okay, i'm not
really hungry.

the old boyfriend

the old boyfriend
did so much with flowers
and gifts,
cards and letters, carving
their name
into trees,
spray painting their
initials on the sides
of bridges.
the meals he cooked,
the bling he bought,
or made,
crafting
love and affection with
his bare hands.
the sweet nothings never
stopped.
it's an uphill battle
to win her.
to show her how much you
love and adore
her.
you only have words,
just words, and hope
that's enough for now,
until you get the hang
of it.

bring snacks

the news is
so bad that you try to crawl
under
your bed,
but others have already
gone there.
move over you whisper,
give me
some room.
let's hide together and
wait out this
storm
that never seems
to end.

which tree

so many trees
have fallen.
mostly in the night it seems
when
a wind swept
through.
it's hard to know who's
turn it is.
so many friends have passed,
they too
caught
in their sleep,
leaving us behind
to grieve, to wonder,
who's next,
which tree.

the slow elevators

the slow elevators
are not a lesson in patience.
i stare at
the three blue doors, all
needing a new
coat of paint
and gaze at the blinking
numbers above them,
a crowd gathers as they
wait too.
there are groans as one
elevator nears
the first floor, but
then goes up
again to ten, then twelve.
there's one in the basement,
the middle one,
but it isn't moving,
the light stuck on B.
another fluctuates
between six and seven,
occasionally dropping
to five.
some people take the stairs,
cursing as they bang
up the steps,
others
lean against the wall
or one another.
a prayer begins as children
cry,
someone throws down
a rug and lies down
facing mecca.
there's a war dance,
a rosary appears.
a man holding a snake
throws it in the air,
his bug eyes rolling in his head.
a woman wearing
culottes places her
hands on door number three
and begins speaking
in tongues.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

put the knife down

i recognize some of the people
on Dr. Phil as i turn on the tv
with a big bowl of popcorn
in front of me and a pitcher
of white Russians.
i know these people. in fact
i'm related to them by blood.
i turn the volume up
and put my feet on the coffee table.
you people need to stop hurting
one another, the good doctor says
in his country twang,
glasses perched on his nose.
he points a finger and wags
it in their faces.
the lights in the studio
shine off his enormous bald head.
now listen,
when she stabs you with a carving
knife, don't you pick up the knife
and stab her back. no, refrain
from stabbing one another.
you two are siblings for crying
out loud. you have the same momma,
and i presume, daddy too.
put the knife down sister,
and put it back
into the kitchen drawer where
you found it.
then help her apply
a tourniquet to her
arm or leg, or god forbid
her neck. good golly miss molly,
stop hurting one another people.
we solve nothing with violence,
isn't that right audience?
(loud clapping ensues. someone yells out,
put the knife down, a chant develops,
put the knife down, put the knife down!)
okay, okay.
when we come back from commercial
break, we'll discuss
what precipitated this stabbing,
and why this one
put a restraining order on her
sister for sleeping with her
husband, and fathering a set
of twins. the twins will be brought
out too, so that you can decide
who looks like who. we'll be
right back.

rolling dice with the universe

not a single number
on my tickets come up on
my five lottery tickets.
I feel shorted by seven hundred
million clams. ducketts.
dead presidents on paper.
it's almost like luck in
reverse.
can it be true,
unlucky at cards, lucky
in love.
what if neither is true?
what if it's not luck,
but fate, or destiny,
that makes you a winner,
sends you the girl, or maybe
God is rolling the dice
with the universe, going
against what Einstein said.

done with time

i open the junk drawer in
the kitchen
where dead phones abound.
flintstones and smarts,
screws and nails,
rubber bands
and paper clips. white out
and Elmer's glue.
there are watches too.
all still ticking
keeping time, some off
an hour or three,
some slow by minutes,
others just right waiting
for a hand to find
them, and take them
for a ride, but i'm done
with keeping time.
choosing to ignore it,
letting the sun
and moon, the lunar pull
decide.

mums

I find the freshest
and largest pot of mums
to bring
to my mother, to set on her
small
wobbling night
stand in
the senior home hospice.
blossomed blue.
a picture too.
she won't notice,
but somehow it brightens
the room,
brightens me to do
such a little thing
for her,
at the end of this
strange and winding road.

the eclipse

almost finished with
my eclipse cardboard box.
the hole cut in.
the white backing, the edges
taped, but i'm too late.
it's over.
I wanted so badly to see
it without going blind.
I go back inside
and try to use a lightbulb
as the sun
and a hard boiled egg
as the moon.
it sort of works,
but it's not the same.
I crack the egg open,
salt it down
and eat it.

the street artist

the police artist
was sketching another chalk
outline
of a body
in the old hood.
she'd done a few hundred
this year alone,
but she was doing it
in a way
that reminded you of
matisse,
the thick wavy lines,
or Picasso, with a head
or toro were the other
should be,
one, drapped over
the curb,
was more salvadore
dali. she put a clock
in too, dripping with time.
she'd stand back when
done, then go kneel down
for touch ups,
to crook a leg left
of right. or put
a hand raised in the air,
or chalk in the surprise
of a faceless face.

line in the sand

there's line
in the sand that you've
drawn
for many things.
unable to take it anymore.
to listen
or enable
those who behave
in bad ways,
and have their entire lives.
you finally break
and give it to them.
tell them exactly how you
feel.
this shocks them,
makes them defensive
and angry, but
never once do
they say,
maybe he's right, maybe
I should look in
the mirror and try
for once
not to be this way.

saving the letter

I toss the letter
into the fire, but quickly
change my
mind and pull it from
the fireplace.
I blow the flame
out, tap at the singed
edges of
black and red
embers.
the smoke rises into
my eyes and burn.
I can still read everything
that's written.
I fold it up
and put it with the others
for safe keeping.
it's good to remember
things
just to keep you from
making the same mistake
again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

family reunion

the family reunion
is sparse this year.
three show up. no kids.
no pets.
not a single cousin
or uncle. the last time
there was thirty people.
all related.
we look out the window
to see who might
pull up. but no one
does.
maybe they thought it
was tomorrow, someone
says.
or they had better things
to do, or they're still mad
at something
we said or did.
possible, but hard to
believe they wouldn't
want to see their
loving family again
after all these years.
the phone rings. it's cousin
johnny saying we can't
make it.
aunt D, either, they have
colds.
we fire up the grill,
throw on some dogs,
make some drinks then
get into the blow up pool
in the backyard.
we take photos
to post on facebook
where we're all still friends.

the matinee

the movie almost brings
me to tears.
it's that good, but because
I've eaten so much
popcorn and drank
so much soda
I have to run to the
bathroom. I miss about
ten minutes
of the middle, which
makes me whisper to
ginger, what happened?
she shakes her head.
i'm not telling you. I
told you not to get that
giant drink.
next time, maybe you'll
listen to me. now shh.
she puts a finger up
to her lips, I try to
kiss her, but she turns
her head and my
greasy buttered lips
hits her cheek.
yuck she says, taking
one of my twenty napkins
out of my lap
and wipes down.
who's that person, I ask.
I don't remember seeing
her before.
then the usher comes.
a fifteen year old
kid with a flashlight
and warns me, that i'm
out of here with one more
outburst. okay, okay.
i'll be quiet, but first
i'm going up for some
twizzlers. need anything,
honey bun?

the recipe

the recipe
is old. the paper it's on is
old.
yellowed,
wet and dry
with flour and oils.
oregano, thyme.
words are
smudged in her own
hand, but
you can make them out.
how many times
did she use
this over the years,
the decades,
remembering by heart
each measurement,
each ingredient,
but never once
giving thought
to throwing it out.
now it's yours.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

it's bigger

there's the picture,
the day, the moment
the hour.
but there's a bigger
picture too.
beyond me,
beyond you.
it's hard see it when
you're up that close.
unseeing the forest
for the trees.

a half a cup

my neighbor,
the piano teacher,
came over one night
to borrow some olive
oil.
she knocked at my door
with a small bowl
to hold it in.
normally when she knocked
she was carrying a glass
of wine and a nearly
empty bottle of chardonnay.
she was almost always crying.
not this time.
i'm cooking for my fiancé,
she said.
and I just need a little oil
to finish
the recipe. half a cup will do.
my fiancé is waiting,
for me.
he's a teacher at my school.
he's younger than you
taller too.
perhaps you'll meet some day.
I gave her the bottle
and said keep it. my gift
to you
and your fiancé.


the change in us

I see the change
in you, the change in me.
I notice
the distance
that we keep, no longer
hand
on shoulder, or knee.
the gap has grown
as we lie asleep,
the talks
have slowed, the kisses
aren't as sweet
as they used to be.
I see the change in you,
the change in me.
tomorrow might be
different, but I doubt
it.

getting out

the dog wants in
the dog wants
out.
the bird rattles in
her cage,
the wings trimmed,
the swinging door
locked.
the marriage on
the rocks,
the hospital bed,
the coffin
where we lie.
we were not made
to be within,
stuck
where we don't want
to be.
we itch to be
on the road, in
the air, to be free.

saving

we salvage
what we can. metals,
tin,
fools gold, and silver.
we save string, making
a large ball.
pennies clink
into the can.
coupons cut are stacked.
there's even one for spam.
we go easy on the water,
the lights
kept down to one, and that
one low.
these shoes have
another year in them,
same with these thread
bare clothes.
we salvage love,
doling out just enough
to keep loved
ones close.
we do just enough
to keep
the home fires burning,
a log
a day, letting a small
flame glow.

judges

the judges in black
are human too.
not all cases get handled
the same way,
with fairness to all.
maybe
they got up on the wrong side
of the bed,
they have a cold,
or headache,
they might be hungover
from too many manhattans
at the local bar,
or the wife or mistress
said no
last night.
they slap down the gavel
and give
the verdict
read by the jury,
it's just another day.
another crime,
another string of mishaps
by miscreants who can't
get out of the their
own misguided way.

gone fishing

early in the morning,
he'd put on his
waders, his boots,
grab his tackle box,
his rods
and reels, his worms.
his dough balls
and cigarettes
and head down the river
via
panorama drive.
he'd park his white
chevy Malibu on the gravel
path,
then make his way down
to the shore
of the Potomac
river.
the sun almost
up.
the fish splashing
fat and large on the calm
water.
this was his
island, his retreat,
his sane place to be,
alone
waiting for the line to
move, to tighten,
for a fish to take the bait,
and strike.

the new horse

you buy a horse,
you've always dreamed of
having a horse, and put him
in the back yard
to roam
the pasture.
but it's only a twelve
by twelve space
with a shed
and ac unit, some ladders
and a weber
grill
tucked inside.
there might be poison
ivy along the fence,
and snakes,
but you aren't sure.
sometimes you knock on
the window
to say hey to the horse
whom you haven't named yet.
he nods his head and makes
that neighing sound
that horses do.
you should get a saddle
for him
and ride him around.
take lessons.
for now though you wait
for amazon
to deliver oats.

closing words

they come by plane
or car,
train.
some don't come at all
but prefer
to mourn
from a distance.
some take the front row
to be seen,
or the back row
to not be.
one will wait in his car
for everyone else
to leave,
then go in.
some are happy with the
reunion
dressed in bright colors,
not in black.
others,
are bent over in tears,
remembering
when. thinking we martyred
so long
for her, now what?
a few bring baked goods,
it's what they
know best.
flowers too.
words are hard to come by
except for the perpetually
long winded,
and someone will say
in closing,
it is what it is.

happy with my fix

i'm at the visiting
dog phase of life. I don't want
another, what
with the chewing
and barking, the picking up
after them,
the vet visits,
the bills, and dealing
with fur and fleas.
now, I lean down
and pet. say hey buddy.
what's up.
I might rub the belly
of a passing
grey hound,
or shepherd or fat little
dachshund who looks
like he should
be on a bun. I get a lick
or two in, then I move
on, happy with my fix.

say cheese

don't smile
the dmv worker says as I
stand
and stare into
the camera
for my new license.
they don't want happy
drivers.
they want the same glum
look you'll
have if pulled over
by the po po.
let's try again, she says,
I saw a smirk
on your face.
think of something that
makes you really really
sad.
I don't have to go far
for that, I remember
a week ago or so.
so I do.
perfect she says hitting
the button.
that's the one. very sad.
very good.
what happened?

the grudges

the grudge is long
and hard. old.
two years, three, they forget
why they're even
mad at each other.
but it's important to not
talk,
to not take a call,
to visit,
or make eye contact
when in the same room.
it's a strange sickness,
this grudge thing.
not a bone of forgiveness
or understanding
found
in their closed minds.
they drink the poison
every day to keep the grudge
fresh
and current.

piece of work

my grandmother loved
cigarettes, chained smoked them
like nobody's business.
she loved lamb chops
with mint jelly.
her tea and cinnamon toast.
and liberace
in the morning
with his lace suits
and candelabra.
she liked
billy graham and asked
us to kneel and put
our hands on the black
and white screen
when the callings were
made. she
hated those kennedys,
those rich
bastards on Hyannis port.
she like to buy the paint
by numbers
kits for all of us children,
the ones with the geese
flying over
new England waters,
then critiqued our work,
shaking her head,
saying stay between the lines.
your magenta is running
into your indigo.
she often said excuse
my French
when saying the word
damn or hell which she said
a lot.
when she died of lung
cancer at eighty, my mother
swore that she heard
her laughing, her spirit
present as we sat
around the dinner table
three days
after the funeral.
I didn't hear anything.