Friday, January 19, 2018

before i fade away

I pledge my life
to carrots.
to spinach. to whole grains,
to lettuce, organic
fruits and
vegetables. please
reach up and
pluck that pear for me.
toss it here.
I devote my mouth
to soy,
to carob and juices.
I fall in love
with whole
grains, with nuts and
berries.
i'm in bed with lentil
soup. I sneak
into alleyways
to steal a moment with oats.
I am gluten free.
I shun gluten. I turn
my head in disgust
and look away,
but still, but still
i lust for
a marbleized rib eye, just
one more bite, a single
bite before I fade away.

the first one's free

the lick of a flame
under
the silver
spoon, heats this
insidious brew,
the crystals,
a fine white powder
melting
into a forever
stew.
how sublime
the light is cascading
through the window,
how soft
the rain sounds
falling down,
how hopeless the world
becomes
with a needle in
your vein.

another place to be

we all want
to reach chapter five.
the chapter in portia nelson's
succinct
and difficult poem.
how easily
we slip into holes
time and time
again.
climbing out
as if we had no clue
they were
there to begin with.
some holes
are deeper than others.
some are shallow
full of old rain water.
we repeat the chaos
of our lives thinking it's
home.
some holes you can
never get out of without
divine intervention.
without courage,
without knowing
where the bottom
lies,
but you can, so
let's find another street
to walk on.
another place
to be.

the hair cut

i tell the barber
to leave
a little on the top this time.
maybe part it on
the side.
I've got a job interview
tomorrow
and I've met someone
that really melts my butter.
the other barbers
chuckle
and shake their heads.
okay,
he says. you're the boss.
i'll leave some.
three minutes go by
and he swings the chair
around to the long mirrored
wall.
nice, i tell him. nice.
he splashes
some blue fragrant water
onto my cheeks
and brushes me down.
go get him handsome,
he says.
i'm ten years old all
over again.

vive la difference

she says can you pass
me another vol-au-vent
sil vous plait.
I say what.
you mean the canap├ęs,
no, she says, pointing
at the small dish
of puffed pastries filled
with meat.
those, she says,
her delicate finger
bent in their direction.
so I do.
merci, she says.
more champagne, I ask.
certainment, she says.
oui.
I put down my Budweiser
and leg of chicken
and pour
the bubbly into her
flute.
she smiles, she winks.
she puckers her lips and blows
me a kiss.

blue and blue

there is blue
then there is blue.
depends on the mood, last
nights
moon, last
nights rendezvous.
the blue sweater
torn
on the floor, the blue
pond of you,
frozen,
the blue
of a bruise.
the blues in a song.

the ball and chain days

I remember when the boss
used to whip
us.
he had a long leather whip
black
and oiled
with barbs on the end.
it was office
work. we were hunched over desks
in cubicles,
a ball and chain strapped
to our ankles,
but in the back there
was a dungeon,
next to the copier,
and reams of paper
where we'd be punished
for our many transgressions.
sometimes
they'd lay us out on
the stretching machine and
pull our arms
and legs in four different
directions.
did we work more efficiently,
yes,
did we take shorter
coffee and lunch breaks, yes.
did we drink more
at happy hour, and steal staplers,
yes.

places beside home

there are places
beside
home, Dorothy.
better places in fact.
peaceful and safe places.
most of the pain
and suffering endured
by many
started in a childhood home.
and it's lingered
until they place you
in another home,
the sunset home,
not yours of course,
but one where they feed
you oatmeal
with a spoon.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

one bathroom

after growing up in a house
with three brothers and three sisters,
a mother and father,
and one bathroom,
I have no quarrel
with less.
I have no issue with being
hungry,
or thirsty, or wearing
hand me downs.
more than one pair of shoes
is extravagant.
I understand being alone
in a crowd.
I know now, after those years,
that I can be heard
easier with a whisper
then yelling
out loud.

meant to be

careless
about the bills in my pocket
some fall out.
get caught in the wind.
I watch them
as they curve upwards
into the air,
crossing the street,
the wind
making them swirl, pushing
them away.
a part of me wants to chase
them,
but another part
says let them go, this
was meant to be.

the downed tree

I see a tree down
behind
the fence.
a large old oak.
we had no relationship,
this tree and I
despite passing it daily,
looking out
as it swayed
in the summer,
full of leaves
and emptied itself
come fall.
we were not unfriendly,
or unaware
of one another,
but respectful
and distant
in a neighborly
sort of way.

lava lamp musings

the lava
lamp
with it's swirl
of orange
and purple, how it made
the room
swim in color.
the black light
under jimi
and Janis, their posters
pinned
on the far wall.
the stereo
playing scratched
records.
the thump of pioneer
speakers
churning out a whole
lotta love
by zeppelin.
the bottle of wine.
the candles
slouching in cold
wax. a cloud of smoke
in the air.
wild talk about God,
if there was one,
and the universe.
it was a different
era then,
a different time.

asleep

the line of her
beneath the sheets,
asleep,
the soft curve of her.
the brush of hair,
the arm
over her eyes.
the smell, the taste
of her
on my lips, on my
hands.
how deep she's fallen
into sleep,
hardly moving, hardly
breathing,
away in a dream
she won't remember,
hoping it's of me.

we had words

we had words.
then we had other words.
the floor was littered
with them.
words we hadn't used before
with each other. there were
letters strewn about.
punctuation marks,
periods
and questions,
exclamation points.
there was small print
on our hands.
large case
letters inked on
our foreheads.
at some point she spoke
in French.
and I in Italian.
at times we didn't know
what the other one was
talking about.
but oh the words,
so many words.
some in red, in black.
it was a talk that
went on for hours.
on into the early morning
until we finally
ran out of things to say,
and said alright, enough.
let's go to bed.

no where to run

it smells like
rain.
feels like snow.
taste
like burned ashes.
something's in the air.
there's a fire
burning
to keep someone warm,
or did it start
while we were sleeping.
shovels lean
against the wall.
salt and sand.
the bags stacked and ready.
batteries.
water. dried food.
a pistol or two.
the news on, waiting for
word
to tell us which direction
we should run.

ships at sea

there's a crowd
at the docks. they lean
out towards the sea,
peering across the long water
under a gull
frenzied sky.
they wait.
all waiting for that
ship to come in.
that golden vessel.
the silver liner.
anxious for what lies
ahead.
where the money might be.
waiting for someone
up on the food
chain who might leave them
something, anything
to help them get by.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

maid visit

nearly
done after hours
of going
up and down and under.
the maids
are weary.
I've given them more
dust and dirt
than
they're used to.
who knew so many webs
could
form beneath
the beds. so many
places to scrub
that
haven't been scrubbed
and cleaned
in ages.
the house sings
with the smell of cleaning
tonics.
the lemons,
the pine.
the air swims with a
a fragrance
i'm unused to.
a place for everything.
the books so neatly
lined against
one another.
the glasses clean,
the bed made.
when are you coming back
dear maids.
I miss you
already.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

truth be told.

if we knew the truth
about everything,
about everyone,
about every e mail, every
text.
every word whispered
when not around,
each phone call taken
in the dead of night.
would it be better then?

judgemental

it's hard to be a judge
whether behind
the bench, or walking the street.
holding
each apple
to the light.
each word uttered, weighed
and examined.
watching the body
language,
looking deep into the eyes
of those he
meets.
to believe
or not believe is a daily
chore.
even when the barista says
it's nice day
today,
he can't help but say,
is it really?


nearly gone

I don't want to say
that I have my father's hands,
his shoulders,
the way
his hair line recedes.
I don't want to say
that I have his sense of humor.
his sadness
and joy.
I don't want to say anything
like that.
it makes me feel
that he's nearly gone
when he's not.

needs

i need little
to be content.
a hot bath, a nap.
some food
and a drink.
coffee.
i need my books, my
music.
my friends.
a hard days work.
beyond that is a blessing.
love
a cherry.

flying solo

at thirty four
my hair still thick
without a trace of grey
I felt that time was running
out.
that I had to marry her.
it wasn't love.
it's wasn't romance. it was
some primitive urge within
to settle.
to feather a nest. to make
a stand
no matter that it was on
soft land,
sand.
I wanted a family.
a child, a person to come
home to.
I was between childhood
and being
full grown.
between jobs,
between the earth
and the moon. flying solo.
I think of those years now,
far removed.
staring into the golden
woods
behind my window.
I think of how quickly the seasons
follow one another.
how hard it is to find
wisdom
when young. that mistakes
have to be made to get where
we are now.
to know what love really is.

Monday, January 15, 2018

carryout

a man comes
in wearing a green luminous vest.
he's been
outside all day
in the cold.
his face raw, his hair
pulled back,
red and grey behind his
work helmet.
he's not old,
but his body leans
against
the counter as if in pain.
he pulls out
a pair of glasses
from his baggy pants
and reads the menu.
he counts the money that
he has,
letting the bills
unfold in his large in hand
then whispers, tiredly
what he wants
to the waitress.
a beer comes to him.
he doesn't look around.
he's not looking into anyone's
for anything.
he's hungry.

boys in striped shirts

when things
were slow we'd go outside
and sit
on the porch.
when our legs were tired
from running
from kicking balls
across the yard,
when our mouths had no
more words to say,
our arms weary from games,
we'd go out
and sit on the porch.
the bunch of us.
the sun would linger
until nine or so,
then settle behind the buildings
across the ravine.
we were young.
boys
in striped shirts, short
hair,
dungarees.

are we there yet

are we there yet,
have we done enough,
have we said enough.
have we driven
the long
road long and far enough
to get there.
are we there yet.
have we not gone
to school,
have we not kneeled
in church
and prayed fervently,
do we watch what
goes into our mouth,
measure what
comes out.
have we given enough love
in return.
are we there yet.
have we read enough books.
have we learned enough lessons,
gone past
what was before
that tried to ruin us.
is it ever enough.
how much further on this
road do we need to go.
where and when
can we stop and get out.
and say,
that we've arrived.
we're there.
it's so.

no boundaries

the rabbits find
a way in.
the moles.
the snakes too. the squirrels.
a black
bird sits on the fence
and makes his
noise.
a hawk circles.
a vulture sits nearby
in his black robe.
it's judgement day.
it appears.
they've all gathered
to tell me what
I already know,
which is you can't keep
us out
if we don't want you to.

slow boat

someone gives me a ticket
to take a trip.
here, he says.
you look like a man who
needs a rest.
I look at the ticket.
china
it says.
I go down to the docks
with my suitcase
and look at the boat.
it's a small boat
with a wooden mast and old
yellowed sails.
it looks slow.
very very slow.
perfect.
I climb aboard and go.

forget about it

it's fifteen out there
the weatherman says.
but it feels like thirteen\
with the wind chill.
the wind
is gusting at six miles per
hour,
so button up.
bring the kids in,
the dogs
and cats
and if you have any tomato
plants in the yard,
forget about it.

the blinding snow

like blind
men in the snow.
we grasp
at the wind.
dig through the drifts
we sink into.
our faces stiff with ice.
we plow
forward
not knowing what lies
ahead.
we just want to get out.
to get warm,
to get to a place
where life
isn't so hard
anymore.

home cooking

home cooking
would be nice. a meal
at
the table.
a glass of wine.
take the warm bread out
and set it here.
the tray of butter,
the gems
of salt and paper
in their shakers.
bring
the pot over.
the hot steam rising
in our faces.
we could less
than this. this home
cooked meal,
this simple act of
human kindness.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

the high bid

the bid
is too high.
he tells me. others are
half that,
some a third.
why
is yours so high.
I want to use you,
but why
can't you go less?
can you do this for me?
I have more
work down
the road.
I promise. you won't
regret.

the get away

she leans back on her hotel
lounge chair
positioned just
so. pointing to where
the sun must go.
white sand, blue water,
a cold
drink in hand.
she just had to get away.
away from winter
to this post card
paradise. but
the food doesn't taste
right.
the beds don't cradle
her to sleep.
the hum of the fan is
a freight train.
her mind is elsewhere.
in a place,
in a far away place where
she wants to be.

sunday morning

the church is full
this morning. a man
leans
on his elbows, eyes closed.
the brush
of his eyebrows flicker.
he teeters
in half sleep.
the children
are restless.
the congregation has
other things
on their mind.
a baby cries.
the homily dry and old.
rehashed.
the people are in long
coats.
sweaters and scarves.
the world
outside
is cold.
but some are there
for the real thing.

stay home

we say
we're going here,
going there. we'll get there
soon.
we fill the car
with gas.
we pack for the road.
we go.
there is always somewhere
we need
to go.
but not me, not
anymore.
I want to stay home.

book ends

the day after
the party we pick up
where
we left off.
things go into bags.
into boxes.
we push the gaiety into
the closet.
the lights come down.
we start again,
these holidays mere
bookends
holding our
lives together.

the furnace

the slow frost
of
dust, the fog of us
gathers
on this new day.
the sun
decides to make an appearance
but provides
no heat.
a different heat
is needed
anyway.
one that radiates
from the inside,
the furnace of each heart.

Friday, January 12, 2018

mid century, like me

I prefer the clean line.
the smooth
surface,
that modern look of things.
mid century, like me.
I prefer
the black and white,
the square
tile,
the simple lamp,
and the George Nelson clock
with a wooden
ball
set on each dial.
give me your Frank Lloyd
Wright
with his falling water.
his flat stone
homes.
a place for everything
and everything in
its place.

the empty suitcase

before I throw
out the suitcase, I look
inside
the pockets, pull back the zippers
along the top.
not much is there.
a torn ticket
to a train, a bus.
small change.
a pen.
a toothbrush. a map.
a room key, or two.
I've been where this has
been,
this suitcase, faded
a cloudy grey,
but not always there.
not always present,
when there without you.

the rage within

the flare
of anger between the man
cutting
wood,
and the man buying
it is
fierce
and quick.
it tells you how easily
wars
begin, how
murders happen.
how
quickly men go
into a primitive
rage,
throwing themselves
into violence.

see you when you get home

I get a postcard
from my mother. I see her
familiar handwriting
learned
at the lessons
of nuns
in south
Philadelphia.
I see the smooth way
her letters swirl,
the lightly crossed
t's and dotted i's.
even and clear.
she says hello my son,
how are you these days?
my love
for you has never wavered.
don't be so
concerned about me,
i'm fine.
but i'll be leaving soon,
leaving this
old
body i'm trapped in, here
in his soft bed
where they feed me with
a baby's spoon.
none us can fathom
the mystery of why
God is taking His sweet time,
but please don't worry,
take good care of yourself,
i'm fine.
i'll be leaving soon.
i'll see you when you
get home.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

the student loan

i get the daily call
about my student
loan.
we can help you pay it off,
the woman says, stating
first that we're on a recorded
line.
i wait for all
the small talk to go away
and for an agent to come on the phone.
we can help you,
she says.
how much do you owe?
i don't know, i tell her,
you called me.
what's your name?
you don't know? i ask her.
again, you called me.
we can help you pay off your
loan, she repeats.
but i don't have a student loan.
I've never had
a student loan. i finished
college thirty five years
ago. well, she says,
is there anyone in your house
hold that has
an outstanding student loan.
let me check i tell her.
i yell out across the house,
does anyone here have a student
loan?
my voice echoes back.
there's no answer.
the dog barks.
wait, i tell the woman.
there's someone here who wants
to talk
about your payment plan.

floss more

the dentist is relentless.
floss,
she says.
you're not flossing enough.
your brushing
is fine,
real good, but i can't
say enough about
how important it is for
you to floss.
we've gone through this
so many times.
don't you care about your teeth?
your health?
my mouth is full of cotton,
while a hooked tube
sucks
saliva out of my cheeks.
my eyes water, but i nod
yes, in that meek trapped
sort of way.
okay,
she says.
your x rays look great.
mindy will finish up here
and i'll see you in
six months.
she taps me on the head
like a small child.
floss she says.

green peas

i have a bone to pick
with you
she says to her husband
while leaning over the table
with a fork
and carving knife.
every stone
in the chandelier above
the table
captures their faces
in the reflection.
we can talk it out now,
or we can
talk about it later over
coffee
and dessert.
what about tomorrow morning,
he says. sliding green
peas onto his fork.
call me,
i'll be on the golf course
shooting
eighteen holes.

at seventy eight

he wants to tell
his story.
I try to add in my two cents.
my own
connected
tale
to match his, or top his,
but I give
in.
he doesn't care so much
about what
i'm saying.
he's starved to let out
his well told words
to a new set of ears,
so I let him have his way.
we go on like this for
hours.
me silent, him
reminiscing
until the cows come home.

the news

some news
you need to sit down for
to hear
so that you don't
fall down.
while
other news
makes you run
through the streets
to shout it
out, to let everyone
know
what you know now.


no worry

there's not a line
of worry
creased
on a birds face,
there is
no slouch in his
shoulders,
no angst or anxiety
about
today or tomorrow.
no lingering
thoughts of where
he flew to
yesterday. he
stretches his wings
and finds
a tree
to builds the nest.
he doesn't wonder if
the other tree would
have been better.
he finds
the worms, the berries
that his family
needs.
he does what he's able
to do,
and lets God do
the rest.

the other world

there is reason
and structure, there are rules
to follow,
instinct
and intuition.
logic.
but there is something
else going
on here too.
something beyond what
we can see
or feel or
even know, unless
you let go
of this world and let
the other in.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

the paper route

when delivering papers
before the sun
came up
I would run with my
wagon.
dog beside me.
each paper folded
into a baton,
for easy throwing.
with a gentle toss
I'd watch the papers
land on porches
or sidewalks
of the addresses
I knew.
my hands would be black
with the soft
ink of that days news.
not a soul
out.
just the yellow
white lights
from a room here and there
along
the streets
of early risers.
the lingering stars
above me.

one of a kind

we are glass
figurines at times.
fragile
and small in our
ways.
we break easily.
we drop
we fall, we get
tossed aside,
thrown away.
handle with care
these hearts.
there's only of
of us.
just one of a kind.

to the other side

who doesn't want calm
waters.
a clear sky.
who doesn't want
to sail
into the sunset
or sunrise
with a steady boat
a tall
sail
and you.
throw down the map,
set the sexton
aside.
just let the wind
take us,
take us far away,
to the other
side.

Monday, January 8, 2018

clean house

I can't
vacuum fast enough
this dust
and debris that lies
within.
I can't sweep hard
enough,
dig deep
enough into the corners
of my mind
and pull out
the webs, the broken
latches,
the doors
and windows.
I can't toss the junk
far
enough away
to keep it out
of sight,
to keep it from
coming back,
but i'm trying.
good lord i'm trying
and in time,
will succeed.

stop the clock

the day
the day
the day.
another follows
another.
it's what
we do.
where is Friday?
why
do the weekends
speed by
so fast.
stop the clock.

clean glass

let's clean
the windows. wipe
the glass.
let's undo the smudges,
the fog
that blocks
our vision.
let's put the past
behind us.
you need to look
in at
me,
and me at you
with no obstruction,
let's take
the glass away
and go eye to eye,
heart to heart.
speak
freely
saying what we need
to say.


the smith cake

the smith cake
from St. Michaels
reminds me of you.
the sweetness, the layer
upon layer,
baked just right.
the high cake, the round
and iced
cake.
the delicate nature
of it all
when served,
so rich, so thin.

let's go up

it takes
some time to get to the high
road.
the low
roads are
easy. how they wind
and circle
without any fear
of falling,
how they hug the mountain.
wide and familiar.
it takes
a while
to go up,
to leave what we know,
to go up and stay there.
to see
what's really out there,
the broad view
of what life
can truly be.
let's go up.

the breathing of two

a fire would be nice
on this cold day.
sleeping in would too.
a hot cup
of something on the
night stand.
books waiting to be read.
the quiet of everything,
but the wind
outside,
a heart beside you,
the breathing
of two.

taffy

one arm
goes this way, the other
is stretched
in another
direction.
her legs too,
move
left, one going
right.
she's being pulled
like
taffy
towards places
she doesn't want
to go again,
everyone still
wanting a taste,
a bite.

still working

the lamp is old.
stained
with whatever has
floated
in the air.
the inside singed
with heat,
the outside
fuzzed
with lint.
the base
is bent,
but the light still
works.
the light goes
on
with a click of the switch.
like us,
we keep
bright, keep working
at it
despite
what the mirror says.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

the king's chair

he had a recliner,
an oversized stuffed mauve
chair
that could be
moved backwards or
forward
electronically or manually
with a wooden
handle on the side.
it felt like velvet.
there was an oval spot
on the arm rest
for bowls.
two inserts for cups
or cans.
a webbed pouch on the side
for remote controls.
a phone,
a guide.
he sat
there for decades.
as time flew by,
the children grew
and moved,
his wife turned grey,
finding a life on her own,
but
this was where he wanted
to be,
in his king's chair,
a king quietly
growing old.

it's all the same

the children
don't know a Ming vase
from
a lamp
bought at target on
the discount,
discontinued table.
they
don't care
if they take the marker
and write
boldly on the silk wallpaper,
or etch into a table
with
a key their names.
drawing
cows
or dogs, who's to know.
unaffected
by value,
by the price
we've placed upon things.
they think it's
all the same.
and truly it
is.

let me know

less is more,
unless
the tank is nearly
dry, or empty.
then I want it to
overflow.
I want extra
to get me through the night.
call it affection, call
it love,
call it what it
is,
but bring it on,
let me know.

thirty minutes

thirty minutes
the driver
says, calling again for
the third time.
you just called me, I tell
him.
you told me thirty minutes
ago,
that you'd be here
in thirty minutes.
thirty minutes, he repeats.
I will be there.
I hear the grinding
of gears,
the rumble of exhaust
as his big truck
pulls away from a
light into traffic.
i'm here, I tell him.
i'm waiting.
knock on the door
when you arrive.
okay, he says.
thirty minutes.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

bleeds through

despite so many
coats
of paint, the words in ink
come through.
the script on the wall.
little can mask the message.
the large
letters formed
into words
still bleed through,
as transparent thoughts
in us,
most often do.

the vision

the vision
comes
at any time, but only
to the chosen.
the child,
the woman, a person
of divine intent.
Mary in
blue and white,
her hands
open
with compassion.
listen to my son
she says.
only in He will
you find
true life.

Friday, January 5, 2018

the lives behind us

he found faith
late
in his life.
you see him at mass every
morning
praying
for forgiveness
for the life behind him.
you kneel
beside
him
and do the same
as others join you,
heads bowed, finding
sweet bliss
in lessened
pain.

finding felicity

we find
ourselves in felicity.
a small
town
outside
of nowhere,
on the border
of somewhere,
away from
everything we know.
we find a white house
made
of stone.
a bare yard
with a small
wall and garden beside
it.
in the distance
there are mountains
capped
in snow.
we string white
lights
upon the walls.
we paint,
we throw down rugs,
hang pictures.
we make it our own.
during the day
we look out,
hand in hand at
the cloudless sky
and smile. at night we
hold onto each other
under the dense array
of stars
and wonder why
we didn't do this
sooner.

doubt

he was strung
as gossamer,
so light
upon a slight breeze
blowing
to and fro
barely holding on
to what,
at times,
he truly believed.

oblique methods

they are feathers,
soft tickles across
a neck,
small
tear drop kisses,
oblique
methods
of getting what one
wants.
they fly
under our radar,
we assume
the best of intentions
in the shape
of gifts laid
forth, unknowing
purposely,
perhaps, what they really
mean.

the session

the therapist
is warm.
her soft eyes,
glow
like gems.
she's in her blue sweater today.
a white scarf
wrapped
around her neck.
she holds her pad
and pen,
her legs folded beneath her.
the room is gentle.
pictures of friends,
books
and posters saying things
like
true love never ends.
what brings you
here today, she asks,
as you sit across
in your coat.
your hat still on,
your hands
trembling from the cold,
what should we talk about
today?

preset to 350

with flour up
to her elbows,
she's baked
while crying,
while laughing,
while quiet,
flour
the dough
pressed before her
on the counter, the oven
preset to 350.
she's baked for lovers,
for friends,
for family.
there is nothing she'd rather
do than
take a tray
of cookies out
of the oven,
let them cool.
then wrap each,
with
a ribbon and a bow.

word play

words
are dangerous.
they're strong,
they carry
weight, they have
sharp points,
but they can ease
the pain as well.
they can heal a broken heart,
or break
it again.
words
are everything
when spoken plain,
said
together, face to face,
or written and sent
from some far away
land.

the world outside

a day off.
a day
to do what?
to go where?
to sing, to write.
to sleep.
to indulge in things
that bring
a smile.
the options are wide
open.
the world
outside is white.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

the pipes are frozen

the knob won't turn
to the left or right.
the water
runs and freezes in
this
cold spell.
soon the pipes will burst.
soon,
the sea
of water
will envelope the floor
rise
up the stairs.
soon we
will be floating along
towards
the river
to the bay to the ocean,
out the door.

light and easy

the house
sags
with the weight of books.
the ink
heavy
on the page, the covers
thick,
the markers
stiff in place.
the house
bends with the knowledge
of so much
fixing
of hearts, of pain.
bring me
adventure,
bring me mark twain.
bring me
something light and easy
for a change.

the dark light

it's a bitter taste
in one's mouth
to be misunderstood, to
be looked at
in a dark light that
truly isn't there.
where can one go
if even those dear
to you, see so little
of the love
and compassion
that dwells so
strongly
within your soul?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

that happy whistle

his whistle
reminded me of my father's
whistle.
if you heard it,
you knew that things were
bad.
something was amiss.
he'd whistle and whistle
some happy tune
and we'd wait
for that foot
to fall, for
the tree to crash,
for the earth
to quake.
we'd run for cover
and wait
when we heard
that happy whistle.

the stew

it's our stew.
this life.
this pot of boiling
potatoes
and rice,
carrots and onions.
meat.
it's our pot.
our lot in life
part chosen,
part given.
our hand seasons it.
the ladle
goes to our lips
and tastes
what boils
on the stove, what's
good enough
to eat, to serve
to others
or throw away.

speak up

to be silent
and suffer as if a martyr
about to die,
with no
whimper
or cry. no response
to the slings
and arrows, the crack
of a whip
against your back.
to lay
low and do nothing,
saying nothing,
just turning the cheek
to smile
as they slap, to
pretend that everything
is fine
is no longer
a viable option.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

needs

the list is short.
love
and warmth.
fun
and adventure,
conversation.
kisses.
a desk to write at.
a home
to nest in.
and cake.
the rest is nice,
but a box
in the woods
with the one you
love would
work as well.

a house into a home

the movers
tuck one box under an arm,
the other
goes onto
a shoulder.
there's a man coming
down the ramp
with a dresser
strapped to his wide
back.
they are fast
and efficient.
it's everything you own
bought
from day one,
brought into your life
over years.
a picture, a lamp,
a vase.
finding a new spot
for each,
turning a house into a home.

the spill of stars

the stars
are a surprise tonight.
the gems
spilled out from some
black bag
of sky.
a pattern of sorts appears,
everything
in place,
as it was one
or a million years
ago.
but still
they awaken you to something
beyond
your home,
your house, the things
you own,
or desire.
the problems that surround
you.
how small we are
beneath the stars.

what to read

I was trying
to figure out which self help
book to read
on this cold day
in January
as I sit on the long dark
couch and take
my emotional temperature.
should we go with
grief,
or regret, or am I blue
because of the weather?
perhaps the miracle book
would be helpful
in this current state of mind.
or the one
that says i'm okay you're okay,
let's just live and let live,
then forget.
I toss a coin
jung or freud,
nouwen or manning.
c.s. lewis, or Stanley.
maybe a long sweet nap
would be best.

twenty nine cents a gallon

I remember when gas
was twenty nine cents a gallon,
leaded.
when the guy
would run out
in his white uniform and hat
and pump your car
for free.
he'd check the oil,
show you the black wet stick
and say
you're a tad low,
or you're just right.
he fill the tires with air.
wipe the windshield,
both front and back.
and then
sometimes he'd give you
a dinner plate or a saucer
and cup
to match.
things were different then,
jfk was still in the white
house, and
betty crocker was a mere
child.

fruit cakes

the fruit cakes
that arrived in the mail
have come in handy this year.
I've lined them
up against the drafty door
to keep
the winter air
out.
two I use on the shelf
for books,
thick and heavy volumes
of updike and cheever,
billy Collins,
holding them in place.
another is on the porch
for the birds,
but only woodpeckers seem
to have an luck
with them.
one pair
I use for weights when I wake
up in the morning.
twenty lifts with each
arm into the air.
next year i'll regift
them all,
they never seem to go bad.

still falling

we box
our love letters,
our sweet nothings,
we save
messages on our phones,
the texts,
the photos of anything that
remind us of happier
times, we send them again
hoping against hope
that they might
change your mind,
and bring you home.
we think
of ways say to hello,
we lie awake at night and wonder
who you're kissing now.
we find
excuses to reach out
and say
remember when
we did this, went there,
the time
you slipped and I caught
you and held you in my arms,
now when
I do these things I think
of you,
but i'm alone,
and when I fall, I keep falling
like i'm
doing now.

a late christmas

the gin
smells like Christmas
cold and clear
in a tumbler of ice.
but
Christmas isn't here.
it hasn't
arrived quite yet.
maybe the gifts
under the tree will help.
the songs on the radio.
the snow falling.
the dinner,
the candles the lights.
maybe the mistletoe
too
will get us there.
or at least get us through
the night.

press on

we curse the cold.
the wind that rattles our
bones.
we feel
the strength of a world
we
are powerless against.
there is
so much
we can do little
about, but
bundle ourselves,
wrap scarves around our
necks, glove our hands,
button up
and press on.

Monday, January 1, 2018

nothing but rest

a day of nothing
would be nice right about now.
nowhere to go,
things to do,
people
to greet.
lets stay in bed.
watch the sun rise
then set.
we'll bring food up
and drinks,
turn on a movie.
we'll cancel the day
and do
nothing but rest.

the aftermath

the room
is littered with empties.
champagne,
wine,
vodka bottles
scattered about
some on their sides
drained
and exhausted.
the plates are scattered
with cake
and icing,
half eaten sandwiches.
someone is asleep
on the floor
still in a suit,
a woman beside him
in a dress,
her hand on her blinking
phone
full of messages
asking
where are you, are
you coming home?

i'll do anything for you

i'll do anything for you,
i tell her in the heat of passion.
anything.
she takes it
word for word. okay, she says.
go jump
into that lake covered
in thin ice
and swim to the other side
and back.
you said anything.
quickly i change
my proclamation
to nearly
anything, wondering what
could be next.

the risk

the danger
of love
is of losing it.
of having
it spoil
or drift away in
some unseen
wind
that finds its way
between us.
the danger
of love
is losing it,
but worth the risk.

where are you going?

where
do they go,
the ducks, the birds,
the animals
in this cold. where
is the burrow
that they find,
the tree
knotted out,
the stones stacked
just so,
to give
them a cave to lie
in.
where do they sleep,
or wander
on a night like
this.
where are you going?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

new year resolutions

what is your new years
resolution
the waitress
behind the counter asks
as I sit and order
a chopped green salad.
funny you should ask,
I tell her. I actually
have several.
for one thing i'm going to start
speaking my mind.
I've earned the right.
i'm at that age now where I
should be able to call
people out
on the bad things they're doing.
tell people how I really feel
about them.
okay, she says, okay,
putting a knife and fork
beside my bowl
of greens.
what else?
i think I might
start drinking more, martinis
or manhattans maybe, and
eating more red meat,
grilling out on real charcoal,
not those gas grills.
what else, she asks, as
I flip the lettuce leaves over,
pulling out
the cranberries.
I need to relax more and stop
stressing out
about things I have no
control over, like traffic
and my immediate family.
I thought about taking
up smoking too,
but that's a cup of crazy.
so, she says,
hands on her aproned hips,
speaking
without a filter, red meat,
and drinking are your
new years resolutions?
and being more relaxed?
yeah, and less salads too,
I tell her,
sprinkling bacon bits onto
the bowl, then chunks of blue
cheese.
I've had it with salads.

men and women

the women
have their cheese.
their salmon,
their red wine,
and chardonnay.
politely they say excuse
me when going
to powder their nose,
while over in the corner
the men
are pulling the legs
off a chicken
and drinking
beer or hard cider,
chewing on slow cooked
swine.
somehow they find
a middle ground,
and get along.

tell me how you really feel

the gravy train
stops
and you discover who people
really are when
they no
longer get what they want,
no longer
get a check
in the mail.
a pocket of cash to get
them buy.
or a quiet nod when they
tell you of
their lies.
you discover sadly
how you've been played.
conned,
and manipulated for
so many years, enabling
them
by saying nothing, calling
them out
on nothing. letting them
go on,
as if everything
was alright.
no one is perfect, especially
me,
but speaking
up is difficult
at times.

what must be done

I dream of salmon
large pink salmon,
swimming upstream,
their bodies bending
with muscle
in the sunlight.
the glisten of their
scales, the bright flecks
of blue
and silver,
small rainbows above
the rage
of white water.
I dream of them
leaping, pushing their way
up to where they need
to be.
I dream of some
in the mouths of bears,
clawed from
thin air, they too
doing what must be done
to go on.

the note

after the thieves
ransacked the car, I wondered,
what they were
now doing with my
picture id,
my credit cards, now
cancelled.
the garmin, the small wad
of cash I kept
for emergencies.
and when I get
the police report I know
where they
stopped for gas,
for beer and cigarettes,
how they ate at mcdonalds
at seven in the morning,
hardly an hour after
seizing my goods.
I can see them at the table
eating French fries,
drinking milkshakes,
staring at my
library card,
my triple A card,
a note reminding me
of ginger's birthday,
there they are
gazing at a picture
of you
and me.

the square yard

I see no hope
for the back yard.
the stack of ladders,
the old fire place made
of metal,
the rattle of the wood
on the limp
shed.
a weber grill
that's seen better days.
look at how the vines
have
creeped
into the fence, climbed
with fast fingers,
green
upon the brick.
where's it going?
the bushes are scarce,
and stiff,
the ground cover a mix
of gravel and weeds.
it's a pleasant place perhaps
for birds,
for snakes, for passing
animals
looking for shelter,
but not for me.

red with winter

it's a tight fit,
but i'm able to squeeze
the car
into the narrow spot
before the plowed
drift,
slipping slightly on
soft snow.
the treachery of weather
is upon
us.
the slide of
boots
and shoes,
wrapping tight the noose
of scarves
around us.
pulling down the wool
upon our
heads.
our cheeks red with
wind
and winter.

to unworry

we are what
we do. the habits we
form
and continue
from day
to day, into night.
how we sleep,
or eat,
how we speak to one
another,
moving things into
positions
that feel just
right.
we need the comfort
of the same.
narrowing our
world into
tidy safe places.
oasis
we can go to
and unworry.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

take one

the woman at the market
stands
by her tomatoes, her plums,
her apples.
she's proud of the boxed
fruit, the busheled
potatoes. it's
as if she herself
put the seeds into
the ground, watered
and tended to their growth.
maybe.
she says taste one, go
on, see what they taste like.
you wont regret, you'll
buy. you will take them home
to your wife, your
children, your friends,
they will smile and want
to know where they
came from. go on, take one.

hot coffee

the coffee is hot
here.
the waitress is soft spoken
and fun.
older than rain, but
clever with a wink.
she knows what I want,
but brings
a menu just the same.
I slide it to
the side
and say her name.
over easy, I tell her.
bacon and toast.
juice.
I know she says
and walks away.
tomorrow i'll come back
and we'll
do it again
for old time's sake.

the man outside

I see a man standing
outside my house.
he's across the street
wearing a long black
coat.
he's stiff, looking
towards my
window.
the shape of him
in the fog
is tall and lean.
he looks like a shadow.
his hands are in
his pockets.
he wants something,
from someone,
perhaps from me.
but i'm busy with things.
I don't have
the time for whatever
it is he wants,
or needs to say.
I go out the back door.
I hope one day
he comes to his senses
and goes away.

her last meal

she says that for a last
meal
if convicted and sent
to the gas chamber
for some horrific crime
she'd like to go
out on fudge.
fudge brownies, white
fudge.
fudge with raspberry.
dark chocolate
of any kind.
perhaps a Whitman's
sampler
and glass of wine.

remember the time

I ask her if she
remembers Woodstock, how
hard it rained,
the music,
the craziness of it all,
how we danced
and sang
threw our hands
to sky
when Janis Joplin
came on.
how we passed around
a bottle of
boone's farm wine.
she says no,
I was only nine.
oh. well,
what about when
the beatles came to
town?
oh never mind, just
come here and kiss
me. perhaps we should
make our
own history.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

home again

it might take days or
months
when younger to get over
being misunderstood
by someone I love.
now I sigh
say a prayer
and go for a walk.
I skip a stone across
the icy pond.
I count the stars,
gaze at the moon.
at walks end
i'm whole again
and home.

how nice to have a dog

how nice
to have a dog.
a big pooch with floppy
ears
and wet nose,
a paw
scratching at his
side.
how he howls at the moon
and stretches
before lying
in a puddle of sun.
his bark
heard down the block.
look how he gnaws
at my shoe.
how nice to have
dog.
thanks for bringing
him by.

lamps on line

the special
order lamp is delayed.
seems
shades
are
being bought in bundles,
hiding the light
from so
many faces, eyes
turned
upwards into
the harsh glare
of a hundred watts
laid bare.

the stage mother

some mothers shadow
the child
from birth till death,
keeping close,
never letting
them breathe
on their own, they never
cut the cord
or let them know
what pain is when suffered
alone,
or
what it means to bleed,
or to find their
way when lost,
without a line of seeds,
back home.

we disagree

I surrender,
toss in the towel, raise
the white
flag.
what good is it to argue.
two minds
made up
with different views.
leave it on
the table, why go over
it again
as done ten years ago,
or more,
and will be same
ten more from now.

quick haste

the mud comes in
on his boots.
red brown and wet.
he make his tracks
along
the floor,
the stairs, into
the room
where she waits.
the carpet holds
the imprint
of his weight.
there is no time to
clean
or take them off.
she must be seen,
she must
be made aware of how much
betrayal costs.
the trail
he'll leave behind
will tell her.

sand pebble

this pebble in my hand
so smooth
so round, so white,
where it's been
or how it got here
from some
distant land of
ice, or wind,
swept along in rain
is hard to say.
this pebble,
so smooth in my hand,
i'll set it down again
and let it go on
its way.

the vagrant moon

a vagrant moon
appears in the sky,
the streets are full
of men
in long coats.
leaning forward
in the wind.
it's too cold to sin,
too cold
to be of good cheer.
the brittle
trees
hold on
as we do trying
to get home again.

nothing left to do or say

all you can do
sometimes
is pray about things.
be silent,
let go
and pray
that the truth will somehow
prevail,
that love will overcome
the differences,
and rise
and fill each soul
with compassion
and forgiveness.

the apple and the tree

the apple,
now bitter,
does not
fall too far
from the tree,
but there are
two trees
and one wins out
unfortunately,
planting herself
again,
nearby.

thirty years later

still you protect your children,
you cover
their ears
and eyes from the harsh
truth
of reality.
you give and give hoping
to make up
for some loss
of time.
you make their lives as
normal as possible,
through
grade school into college
and beyond.
saving and spending,
giving them all the things
they need
out of love.
some see the effort,
some don't, some churn
inside forever,
wondering why things are
they way they are,
but still you don't tell
them.
it's too hard.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

delores

I can hear her mother's
voice
on the phone, going between
French and English,
the heavy accent,
the proper phrasing, the love
so pure
for her daughter.
she's still a child in her arms.
still a girl
who needs her
hair braided, her dress
just right, sent off
with a prayer and a kiss
on each cheek,
her shoes tied
tight.

the spill of time

the spill
of time, that puddle of hours
we've lost
in worry.
in grieving what can't
be undone,
that dull spot on the floor,
where
we let it drip and drip
until
empty, until there was
no more.
how careless we
are
with time, with each
hour,
with each daily pour.

how she rolls

some are dressed in bling.
from
neck to toe,
a bracelet, a watch,
an emerald ring, or
a band of gold.
some
never leave the house
without
a diamond
or ruby placed somewhere
where it must
be seen,
while others just rely
on what's inside,
that inner glow,
they need nothing
to make them shine,
they are walking bling.

beauty within

she's not a pretty
girl anymore,
the man says, at least not
like she was
when we met
so many years ago. and yet
I love her
more today
than yesterday and I realize
how fleeting
beauty on the outside
is
but not within,
how foolish I have been
to wait so long
to know what I should have
known then.

slow down

it's hard to change
from being
so fast
with things,
scurrying ahead
without a thought
or looking
both ways.
just getting there seems
to be the only goal,
then to find
that in
getting there.
by being the hare,
you've become
too rash.
it's time to slow down,
to be
the tortoise,
to pace oneself
and seek that
and only that which
will last.

all night long

there is singing
next door.
a piano, I can hear
them.
I hear the dogs barking,
the children
running
up the stairs.
there is life next
door.
the open windows,
the sound
of dancing
against the floors.
what fun they're having
beyond my wall.
what joy
there is in their
lives.
I hope it goes on
all night long.

one petal

the small gifts
are large,
the book, the poem,
the baked
goods.
a note written with
love.
they outshine
the diamond,
out live
the clothes.
they last forever in
a heart, one petal
plucked
from a keepsake
rose.

still in touch

it's hard to let go
of old things, things that
no longer
can be used or worn.
the shirts and shoes,
that luggage
dust caked in the corner.
the broken things
we store
and keep for sentimental
reasons.
the loves that linger
on,
that we keep nearby,
unable to
let go.

our actions

the words are fine.
the sweet talk of love
and forever,
I want you to be mine.
but they mean
little
compared to the touch,
the things
done.
action
says it all, not wishes
and whispers,
not cards
or letters, not calls.
we decide who's in
who's out,
who stays close by,
or not at all.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

time to sleep

the bones of the beast
are dry in the light,
the scrapings
of corn pudding, the hard
scraps
of crust
from bread
we had no room to eat.
the stain
of cranberry
on the white linen cloth.
the packages
torn asunder
of all things shopped
for
and hastily bought.
the sleep
of the night is welcome
now,
it's over it's over
only three hundred and fifty
three days
before we
do more.

don't say i'm fine

we need to tell one another
that we hurt.
that we
are in pain, or confused,
distressed.
we can't stay silent
and let this problem simmer
beneath the skin,
into a hot boil.
don't say i'm fine.
we are lying if we do.
hard words
are good words at times.
the gloves
have to come off
if love is to be lasting,
and true.

the room where she dies

she's unwhole,
lying in the same bed for nine
months.
her glasses gone,
her voice silent.
she's underwater, does she hear,
does she
know her son who
sits on the bed beside
her
and holds her hand.
it's a sad room.
a dark
room down the hall.
we pray,
I push her hair back.
I wipe her
chin of food.
I cry and feel for her life
which isn't a life
anymore,
but a slow death.
and after she dies
someone else
will
lie where she lies,
another son will come and
think these things
as well.

the one night room

the room, not far
from the shore, but not close
enough
to make the cost
be more,
is square and simple.
the smell of dust
and loneliness linger
in the wallpaper,
patterned as if the beige
scales
of an old fish.
the bed of iron rests
against the far wall.
a table,
and lamp,
a curtain, sheers,
of a flowered nature
fall
short of the sill.
a bathroom down the hall.
it's a room for one night
or two.
not a room for lovers,
or for keeps,
but a room to rest
and be off the road,
to sleep.

lost love

lost love is hard.
the pangs
of it,
the sleepless nights.
the ill
feeling of something
isn't right.
desperation sets in.
we reach,
we call, we send.
we play the music we
once listened to
together.
we tearfully visit
the spots
where love once bloomed,
now old and grey,
ancient ruins.
we ride by
to catch a glimpse,
we hope.
lost love is hard,
the tears
and trying keep
going,
keep going, we keep
walking
blindly in the wind.

Friday, December 22, 2017

the tiled floor

the tiles
cut easily. each finding
a place
upon the floor.
each
snug and tight
against the other,
the wall,
cut clean and even
where the end is,
at the door.
how sweet life would be
if it
went that way. with
no loose ends,
no frayed edges to worry
us
throughout
the day.

purging

the trash truck
is fun to watch as it gobbles
up
the years
of unwanted things.
bad prints of monet and van
gogh.
shoes with worn
soles.
there goes the lamp
my mother gave me when I was
twenty years old.
that pot
that burned on the stove.
a box of old photos
of people I never knew then,
and still don't know.
how easily the big
doors open
and moan,
then crunch down with its
metal mouth
upon my history, for better
or worse,
making it gone.

the answer

life
is not a circle.
not a square
or
rectangle. there are
no even sides,
no middle, no
straight lines
going from
point a
to point b.
there is no equation,
no mathematical
solution
to solve
the problems put
before you.
no sine or cosine.
no square root of anything.
you just have to wing
it sometimes
close your eyes
and say
I think that's the answer
today.

social media quicksand

you try to delete
your life from social media.
sick
of the voyeuristic nature
of it all.
the inane postings,
the searching,
the snooping around into
other's lives, but they wont
let you go.
you delete, you wipe clean
the slate,
but when you go to look
to make sure you're gone,
you're still there.
your picture, your name,
your life's information.
like tentacles they wrap
themselves around
you and won't let go,
dragging you
forever into the quicksand.
even the dead are active
within the last
two hours.

the cookie queen

she is the queen of cookies.
in the kitchen
still in her work clothes. her
work shoes.
her coat on.
her hands in the bowl
of dough.
sugar and butter, vanilla.
cutting each
one out into stars and hats.
candy canes.
each tray goes into the warm
oven,
she waits. she stares
through the open glass,
the light on.
when they cool she wraps
each package
with a ribbon and a bow,
a name.
tomorrow they will get their
cookies
and be happy
with the love she shares
so gracefully.

before sleep

it's nearly
midnight, but I decide
to wash my car
in the dark.
it's thirty eight degrees.
I fill a bucket
of warm water and soap
and go at it,
feeling my way along
the body,
the tires, the windshield.
I throw more buckets
of water onto
the hood,
the sides. I rub it down
with a dry towel.
then wipe each window.
it's nearly midnight
and I can see a crescent
moon
between the bare limbs
of swaying
trees.
I can go to sleep now.

surrender

I used to care
about so many things I no
longer care
about now.
the list is long.
the focus
is different now
with grey in my hair,
the heart
still strong despite
the scars.
so much has come and gone,
all the worry
and angst in the world
has done nothing
to change that.
I get it now.
relax. be at peace with
whatever comes,
or doesn't.
surrender to that
higher power
and have no fear
of tomorrow.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

permanent liberty

my father
begins each day with a black
cup of coffee.
very hot.
two slices
of toast and a bowl of
oatmeal.
he reads the paper,
checks the lottery numbers,
then
takes a walk around
the block
before coming home
to cut coupons.
he might go out into the small
square of a back
yard and tend to his
tomatoes and peppers.
straighten the fence around
them.
the television is always
on.
a new flat screen,
jerry rigged to use one
remote.
his big chair is in the corner.
it's pleather
with cup holders.
around him are photos
of all of his
children and grand
children of whom
he rarely sees or
speaks to,
but there they are.
after being on a dozen ships
and serving
thirty one years in the navy.
he's docked
for good now.

getting a complex

the woman next
door
accidentally said hello to me
the other day.
normally her and her husband
are cold as ice.
silent
and unresponsive
to my cheerful
greetings.
she thought I was someone
else
taking the trash to the curb.
she said,
hey.
then she saw who I was,
and quickly
put her trash down
and moved like a bunny
back into her house.
i'm not sure what I must
have done
to either of them
to cause this behavior
but it's giving me a complex.

the go to analysis

my therapist
was on vacation, but I called
her anyway.
i'm on vacation, she said
when she picked up the phone.
I could hear
the ocean behind her,
the clinking of glasses,
the breaking of
lobster shells
in her hand.
more butter, I heard her
whisper. garcon,
more butter.
can't this wait? she said.
I had a bad dream,
I told her.
I dreamed I was in the ocean
swimming
and swimming.
the waves were enormous,
but I wasn't scared.
she let out a sigh.
we've been over this dream
so many times.
it's your mother, you have
to let go of these
feelings of abandonment
and let her be
who she is. you be you.
move on with your life.
garcon, I hear her say.
tapping the table with a glass.
we're out of champagne
over here.
that's it? I told her.
no matter what I say you say
it's about my mother.
I know, I know. it's my go to
analysis, but hey.
i'll see you when I get back
in two weeks.
we'll have a session
and talk this through again.
i'll have cindy in the office
bill you for this one.

sit up straight

where once I was deemed
adorable,
with flaws, I was
now, almost over night,
it seemed, deplorable.
the ex would needle me
incessantly,
pick the lint off my coat.
brush
back an eyebrow, point
out
the spinach
in my teeth, or tell
me that i'm
talking too loud.
tuck in your shirt,
sit up straight.
you have shaving cream
in your ear, she'd say.
let me help you with that.
I appreciated all of her
hard work,
making me the man she
wanted me to be.
but finally she gave up,
there was just too much
to fix. now
I feel lost without her,
walking about
with a long strip of paper
stuck to the sole
of my shoe.

say what?

I forget to
put the stickers on the tags,
misplace
my keys,
my wallet. I don't remember
the name of my
first dog,
my first wife, what I had
for dinner.
did I even have dinner?
did I eat
yesterday, or this morning?
how do I separate an egg white?
who am I?
who are these people that keep
calling me by
a strange name.
is that the sun, or is it
the moon rising
in the sky.
is it old age,
dementia?
am I ready for that padded
room,
or is it just the holiday
season upon me?

daily devotions

without
these words in ink,
these thoughts that I go
to daily,
i'd be lost,
i'd sink.
i'd be drowning in a sea
of mystery
without a light.
bring me
more words to read,
more
blood from the cross,
more
rising from the dead
in victory.

imperfections

we turn the vase
so that the vein of a crack
doesn't show.
we knock down
the webs in the corner,
turn over
the pillows on the sofa
to hide the stain.
we do our
best to be perfect,
worrying foolishly
about things that don't
matter.

postcard from LA

to the west coast he goes,
hardly
to be seen again, the post
card,
the call.
the plea
for supplies. the painted
picture of
how hard life is there.
send money.
how quickly
the need for love
subsides.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

early morning dmv

third in line at the dmv
was
an act of mercy.
by seven thirty there were
twenty people
behind me
standing outside the locked
doors,
shivering in the cold
air.
drinking coffee, smoking,
tapping their
feet, staring
numbly into their phones,
the paper work
of cars and trucks,
hard plates beneath their
arms.

gazelles

we would jump
the chain link fences in
a bound.
our young legs lifting us
over the three foot
high
steel wire
to the other side.
a short run then over
we'd go.
gazelles full of sugar,
full of spice.
sunshine
in our faces.
tireless in our summer
days,
fresh into
the night.

to be broken

God is unfair,
she says. why me?
why this, why now.
I've been a good person
all of my
life. not perfect,
but good,
and now i'm broken.
truly this is where
the blessings
can begin.

the hidden genius

the genius
of so many never comes to light.
the checker
at the supermarket
bent darkly over the belt,
the hairdresser
her hands
in water and soap,
the man pushing the mower
across a lawn.
they till
the soil, make the bread,
prune
the shrubs
of our lives.
their genius stays intact,
unspent.
never being
seen by most,
except by those
who love them.

no need for pockets

he keeps
a nest egg tucked away.
it's been
the same number
for ten years, untouched.
he has no need
for pockets,
for spare change,
or cash.
he's an astronaut
on land,
never needing to pay
his way,
there are others who
will gladly
do that.

before it begins

like
short bread
the pre school kids
are lined
in rows on their blue
and pink mats.
the lights dimmed low.
music
playing from above.
it's nap time.
not a wiggle in any
of them.
innocence personified,
before the world
begins
to keep them awake,
twisting
and turning
with worry.

i'll get us there

I can row
all day. across any lake.
give me
an ocean and i'll
cross it in no time.
a stream,
a river, don't be
silly,
it's easy. give me
a good boat,
an oar and
with these arms,
these legs,
this heart,
i'll get us there.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

double bubble

there was the time
I got gum in the hair of
the girl
I was dating in high school.
we were slow
dancing to a beatles song
in her parents
basement.
other kids were making
out on the couch.
the no stop, don't do that,
pleas were louder
than the music.
she was captain of the cheerleaders,
long black
hair. a shining
mass of straight black locks
that she parted down the middle.
I was chewing double bubble
to keep
my breath fresh in case
she allowed me to kiss her.
but the gum fell out,
and I tried desperately
to retrieve it with my
lips and teeth, to no avail.
she screamed as she
asked me what I was doing
and felt the stuck wad
in her hair,
the lights went up.
the music stopped.
her parents ran down
the stairs as she cried,
and all the girls called me
horrible names, screaming.
I saw her that Monday in school,
passing her in the hallway.
she looked the other way,
her hair now short, just
below her ears.
we never danced again.
every time I chew a stick
of gum, I think of her
and what could have been.

some weather we've been having

it's a deep
talk.
a long talk into
the night.
we get into it.
love and death,
sex
and money.
children and work.
old loves.
parents.
God.
we turn
over each and every stone
that we've
had in
our lives,
the mistakes, the paths
not taken.
the ones we're on.
exhausted,
we look at the clock
and say
as one. bed?
yes, she says.
I tell her this is some
weather we've
been having, lately,
and she says
I know, leading the way
up the stairs.

quit whining

we were scuba diving
off the coast
of the florida keys
when a shark
came over to bite us.
I yelled through my mask,
the bubbles of air,
that I told you this
would happen.
we're gonna die
and this is all your fault.
look out.
but she couldn't hear
me, and punched
the shark in the nose
making it swim away.
then we continued collecting
white shells
from the bottom
as if nothing ever
happened.

she would knit

she would knit
for hours.
sitting alone, her hands
a blur
of needles and yarn,
rocking in her
chair
by the fireplace.
in time
there was something
long
and wide,
warm. she'd fold
it together,
set it aside,
then start another,
something
of a different color
for someone
else.

the blue light

the night light,
a soft
blue
bulb
in the socket
would show her the way
out the room
down
the hall
then down the stairs
where she would stay
until the sun
rose,
unable to sleep
thinking too hard
about what
was,
what wasn't meant
to be.

Monday, December 18, 2017

the sixth grade

we used
to stand and pledge
our allegiance
to the republic, for which
it stands, etc.
then we'd all pray
the our father who art in heaven.
we never questioned
any of that.
we just did it like all the
all the kids
who carved their names
in the wooden desks before us.
we used to bring our
lunch to school,
in a bag or a metal
lunch box. we'd
buy cartons of milk. two cents.
trading tuna
for ham.
peanut butter for
turkey.
we used to carry our
books
under our arm.
a strap keeping them
together.
we were well behaved.
hair combed.
polite and quiet. neat and clean.
we were shiny apples
back then.
we knew there was more
to this world,
more to come,
but this was good too.

it felt like home

it's no longer a bar.
it's
a video
display.
everyone on their phone
staring numbly
at the small screen.
a dozen tvs
on at once.
it's hard to get a drink
in here.
it's hard
to order food.
calamari is not food.
no smoking allowed.
the place is lit up like a Christmas
tree.
I miss the fat bartender
with a stogie.
his red apron
and no nonsense ways.
the black and white tv
on a shelf
with the fight on,
or a game.
the dimmed lights, the dark
wood.
the wobbly stools.
the conversations,
the bumping
of elbows.
the flirting with the girl
at the end
of the bar
in a red dress. oh,
how things have changed.

a step slow

it doesn't happen over night,
but it feels
that way,
when you suddenly can't
hit the curve ball,
or get the pitch over
the plate.
you are a step to slow
through the hole,
perhaps your leap
is less than it was
a year ago.
the jump shot no longer
hits the bottom
of the net
but spins and swirls
on the rim,
then falls out.
you hate to admit
it, but you're getting
old and must
find other things to
do, things that don't
remind you
of your youth.

new words for the old machine

once
we were young at this
machine.
typing
into the night.
letting the words fall
out
like rain,
like leaves, bright
and soft
off the autumn trees.
what new
thoughts would arise
so easily.
what joy
there was in not knowing
what came
next.
they still come, but
it's different now
with so
much time, so much
love and pain gone by.

wiser than yesterday

wiser
than yesterday, but
leery
of tomorrow,
of the fool mistakes
to be made.
at what point does wisdom
set in
for good
and say,
we're done?

this is easy, for now

right now
as it has been, this is
easy.
the swing of the axe
to take
down a tree,
more swings, chopping
the wood
in cords,
then stacked.
I know though, that
a day
will arrive,
when the axe
will be heavy, too
burdensome to swing,
to bring down
and chop
at the fallen trees.
what then?

the blue bird

the bluebird
comes early this morning
to sit
upon my sill,
he ruffles the cold
out of his feathers,
stares in
while I stare out.
there is nothing to say.
no words
need be spoken.
in time,
we'll both
go on our way.
begin our day.

there is bliss

there is bliss
in the uneventful week.
no
chaos,
no broken lace,
no cuts
or bruises,
no words
misunderstood,
a clean smooth
slate
of work
and food and sleep.
throw
love and affection
into the mix
as well.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

the lake

the lake is endless,
so it seems.
iced blue.
cold
and gloved,
scarf and hat I make
my way along the familiar
paths.
how many miles
I've walked I don't know.
but I go back
to it again and again
in times
of trouble.

the morning light

striving
to make things better,
to make
things right,
i turn the screw,
to make
the handle tight.
it breaks off in my hand.
it will take
time to fix this,
but enough for now,
i'll wait for the morning
light.

who makes it

the low
plane is in trouble.
you can hear the cough
of the engine,
the wafting of wings
as it scrapes
the tops of trees,
but then it rises
with speed and disappears
in blue clouds.
did it make it?
who's to know
these things.

these woods

these woods.
these paths where I go
now.
dark
and delicious
with
the past.
a new past comes.
they go.
still I walk. together
or alone.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

misunderstood

not unlike Oscar
Wilde I often felt the fear
of not
being misunderstood,
a cryptic word
or motion
upon the stage was
always in play,
but now
I want to be perfectly
clear, to be heard
and understood, from
the first row
to the back,
and to the one who stands
beside me.
life is simpler
that way.

by now, at this age

by now, at this age,
this stage
of life
you've seen the giants.
you've seen
what hides
in the dark,
beneath the bed,
in the attics
of the world.
you know what a broken
heart is,
a broken bone,
a broken home.
pain is no stranger at
this point.
you've seen the giants,
not all, but most.
the rest
are yet to come,
but will.

accepting tomorrow

they've cleared the trees
on the far ridge.
plowed the field down.
the patch of woods, the path,
is gone.
a sign is up
with a drawing of new homes.
new trees.
streets paved,
images painted of
friendly faces passing by.
a long dark
hose is filling in
the new pond
where we will go and skate
when it's frozen
and remember little
of what was before.

the news will come

she's not ready yet,
but
the news will come.
give it time.
you'll get the call
that says
she's gone.
you'll nod
with a relieving sigh.
you'll make arrangements
for the funeral.
talk to
each other on the phone,
discuss all the things
you must decide.
the news will come,
give it time.

slimy smelly kids

I think
about all the classes
in high school
that seemed unnecessary
at the time.
economics
and biology, social science,
wrestling.
do we really need
to be wrestling
other children in the middle
of the day
in tight blue
shorts
and t shirts?
i'm glad now about taking
the other classes
the osmosis of learning
did set in,
but not wrestling
or bounding over
the pummel horse, or dodge
ball where only
the strong survived
ala
Lord of the Flies.

on the train

there were no need for words.
the two
elegant
travelers
sat across from one another
on the crowded train.
she in her long
grey coat,
him in black, a top
coat,
a scarf, a cane.
he would nod no at each
stop
and she would smile.
her hands folded
in her lap.
he stared at her as if
for the first time.
his love
and her love taking
them
everywhere
with no words needed
to be said.
when they reached
their station
he stood up
and smiled,
nodded yes,
taking her hand, letting
the crowd go first
then her.

doing their job

there are two levels
of glass,
acrylic windows protecting
the man
inside
from you or anyone
that might want to do
him harm.
he's just doing his job
towing cars
in the wee hours
of the morning.
you slip your credit
card
and id through
the narrow slot.
then he opens the gate
to let you have your car
back.
there's a Christmas
tree in the tight
office,
the lights on.
there's a round table
where you imagine they
talk about
their nights work.
a coffee pot on,
staying warm.
you can see the manger
scene next to a tool box
on the far counter,
opened. Joseph and Mary,
three wise men.
there is baby Jesus
in a bale of hay,
and a crescent
wrench beside Him.

easy and slow

we take our time
with things.
she at the sink, the mixing
bowl.
me at the table,
a paper in hand.
the oven warmed,
the dough rolled and cut
into stars
and snowmen,
candy canes and trees.
we put the radio
on
and listen
to the soft sounds
of holiday singing.
there's snow on the ground.
the house is warm,
the fire rises
and glows.
we take our time with
things, easy
and slow.

Friday, December 15, 2017

let's google someone

it's a snoop dog
world we're living in.
social media
saving us gas and time,
that pesky in person stalking,
like in the old days.
darkening the headlights.
kneeling in a bush
outside a window.
we can
find out what's on someone's
mind in
a heartbeat now,
where they've been
and with who.
with the click
of a mouse into their lives we go.
finding out all
the things we wish we never
knew, but now we know.

who wants to read their poems?

sometimes she'd forget
to put her
purse down, or take off her coat.
she'd hold her car keys
in one hand and a piece of
white chalk in the other.
she'd teach poetry
all night in front of the class
just like that.
on and on she'd go about
Sylvia plath
and anne sexton. you have
to read phillip larkin, she
said.
he's wonderful.
and mark strand.
who wants to read what they
have?
did anyone write this week?
are we not poets
my dears?
she'd rattle her keys
in the air,
anyone?

rent control

the landlord raises the rent.
I say, why?
it's not me, he says, it's
the neighborhood,
it's historic now.
we've go three starbucks
around the corner.
I saw a rat the other day,
I tell him. a big one,
carrying a gun.
he had luggage
and was moving in,
coming up the stairs with
his family.
i'll look into, he says.
put a towel under your door,
and shut the windows
at night. don't leave any
food on the counter.
the radiator is making
so much noise,
I can't sleep, I tell him.
and the neighbor above
me is making
love or arguing
all night long.
two o two? he says.
blonde, blue eyes? no,
pigtails and a plaid skirt.
she looks like
Dorothy from the wizard
of oz.
he shakes his head and
rubs his grizzled chin.
yeah, you have to look out for
those types.
i'll look into that too,
he says.
anything else?
the hot water is not hot
enough when I take
a shower, two minutes and it's
like ice water pouring out.
okay, okay. i'm freezing
your rent, but just for
this year only. okay?
okay, I tell him.

banished

your truck gets towed.
deep into the night,
a cowardly quiet truck
from dominion towing
did hook it up
and sped it away to some
foreign lot
in Lorton.
apparently you've violated a cardinal
rule.
no ladders are
allowed to be seen
by this gentile
neighborhood. how unsightly
to have aluminum rungs
bared and roped upon the rack
for all to see, the horror,
the fainting,
the case of vapors
that must have prevailed.
how their tender eyes must have
burned from
the visage of such a thing.
take this truck
away from here, the condo
board president screamed,
his bowing minions
cloaked in red,
chanting tow it, tow it, tow it.
and him
pointing his black gloved
finger towards the highway.
banish this unsightly
thing from our sight.
the audacity to have left
a ladder on top
of one's work vehicle.
the shame of it all. the shame.

the inheritance

she left everything
to the cat society.
the house, the car,
the retirement fund.
stocks and bonds, the cash
she tucked between
mattresses and hid into
jars.
her children,
despite
her kindness
and generosity
throughout their lives
got nothing.
they
never loved her, not
the way
children should love
a mother.
so it all went to the cats,
her cats, and the cats
of others,
despite their
aloofness
and needs when needed.
not unlike
the kids when you think
of it.

the heirloom

it's hard to throw
away
that chipped cup. the coffee
mug
from the five and ten,
used a thousand
times, filled with
hot water.
sometimes tea,
sometimes a French
or Italian brew, steamed
to boil.
i turn it so
that my lip doesn't
touch the crack,
the sharp edge
where it hit the sink
and crumbled.
it's hard to throw it away.
it's a strange
friend to my mornings,
what would i do without
her.

the plateau of age

i feel better
since the clock stopped.
broken,
the little red
bird no longer swinging
out on his
plank
to cluck and coo
with the hour.
the heavy pine cone
weights have stopped
moving.
the tick has been silenced.
i'm no longer getting
old.
I've plateaued.

from the north country

she brought me maple syrup
from afar,
from up north
across the border.
just a pint of brown maple
syrup.
it was years ago.
her name
was jane.
she used to ride her horse
along the ocean,
racing
in the sand.
she used to sing in
the choir
at the cathedral.
she had a voice like
an angel,
but it wasn't meant
to be.
it wasn't me.
I still have the small
amber bottle
on the shelf,
never used and think
of her from time to time.

on the island

on the island,
it's different now.
see how the shadows are long
against
the field.
how the buildings
are grey.
the lights yellow
from
a few low windows.
see how the town sleeps
in,
the stores all
closed. only the fishing
boats
move away from
the shore,
the village roads
unburdened
by those from the mainland.
see how the women wait
for their
men to come home
from the sea, how they
open the windows
and stare out,
their long dresses
blowing in the wind.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

before we move on

don't tell me about the old days.
i'm tired of reminiscing about
the days
we had fun.
when we were young.
the nights out carousing,
drinking,
dancing, howling at
the moon,
chasing the girls
who laughed at us,
kept us on the run.
let's move on from that.
water
under the bridge.
ancient history.
let's talk about today,
tomorrow, what's to come.
but before we do,
remember that girl
you used to date,
betty, I think her name
was.
whew. good lord, what
a set of legs she had,
those big brown eyes.
whatever happened to
her?

woman in a cake

at the birthday party
a woman
pops out
of an enormous cake.
seven layers.
she's wearing
icing
and a smile,
high heels, and little
else.
I don't care about her.
but I care
about the cake.
is it still edible,
can we have
someone cut us a slice
and bring me
a glass of cold milk.

the hunger

to lie in bed
and be hungry is
something I remember
very well. I've never
discussed this with siblings.
were they as hungry
as I was?
were their stomachs
empty too.
did they hear what
I heard being said
below the floor late
at night.
that was something I could
do nothing about.
that train wreck
of a marriage had been
off the tracks
for a long time,
but the hunger, I could
find a way.

don't be happy

don't be happy.
it won't go over well.
no one wants
to hear about that.
about how you fell in love
and hope
to live happily every
after.
this will anger them
and make
them disappear.
tell them misery
stories,
some sad tale
and they'll be kind
to you,
put their arm around
you and say,
oh well.
things will improve.
don't worry. i'm here
to help you.

regift

a gift
arrives in the mail.
a small horse
with a saddle.
the postman tied
him up
to the rail outside.
there's a ribbon
on his head.
and a note
that says enjoy.
have fun with your
new horse.
we just didn't want
to send you another
fruit cake
this year.

the walk through

the best we can do
sometimes is just a lazy
swipe
at the day,
an anemic effort.
a lackadaisical
walk through.
sometimes you got nothing
and can't wait
to get home
to crawl back in bed,
go to sleep
and give it another
shot tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

the rabbit's foot

I used to have a rabbit's
foot attached to my one single
key. the foot was soft and white,
with a brown circle
of fluffy hair down the side.
on occasion I
would rub it for luck
when playing marbles,
or cards, or rolling dice
in the alley
with bedeviled kids.
but then I thought,
how lucky can this foot be?
what luck was it for
the rabbit to have one?
I put it in the circle
and lost it to
a freckled face kid
named Peter Ornstein.

where someone waits

the pigeons
in St. Mark's Square
in Venice
have their way with things.
all the food
they care to eat,
thrown into the air
by tourists.
they're blue and black
with wide
dark wings.
when they take flight,
it's a shadowed wind.
they remind you so much
of home,
where someone waits.

true lub

he nearly lost the will
to live
and teetered crazily on
the edge
of the calvert
bridge.
he couldn't take it anymore.
the traffic,
the cable bill.
indigestion from
all the Chinese food
he'd been eating from
hunan duck.
not to mention Susie who left
him for another man.
he held on to the cold
buttress
of the bridge and stared
at his phone.
scrolling through
the text messages that they
exchanged over
the past
three weeks since they met.
thousands of them.
picture too.
them eating ice cream,
going to the carnival,
to the botanical
gardens, the zoo.
I love you he thumbed in
one last time before
the leap.
but his hands were cold
and he had his gloves on
so it came out, I lub you.
he stared longingly at the phone
as his feet began
to slip and his hands
grew numb.
then the phone dinged. she wrote back
I lub you too sweetie.
I want you back.
the other guy had no sense
of humor and would never
misspell a word
in his texts. but not you.
what we have is true love.
or should I say lub, she wrote.
smiley face.
but it was too late,
down he fell into the dark trees
of the park.
thankfully though he was caught
by a net the fire department had
installed
just for this reason.

the church crown

her collection of bags
was without measure. plastic white
ones balled and stuck
inside of other plastic white ones.
the paper bags,
folded tight and neat
and set inside
a larger brown bag with
handles.
the bags were everywhere,
in the closets,
under the beds.
not to mention the cardboard
boxes.
boxes inside of boxes.
hat boxes, cobwebbed
and musty.
from stores now gone.
garfinkles and woodies.
Kahn's on f street in town.
oh my the boxes,
all empty, each and
every one, but at one time
they carried what she needed
and wanted.
a new blouse, a new dress.
a pair of shoes, a red
hat with a feather,
a church crown to flaunt.

the sunset inn

unwilling to give
in, to give up, to leave
and go
where everyone is a stranger,
she begs
them not to take
her there.
to a place
where the meals
are soft.
the walls are a pastel
blue
or pink.
where everyone smiles
too much. calls her
by her name.
how do they know my name,
she thinks.
it's the end game.
the sunset inn.

red fox in the morning

a slender red fox
tip toes
down the street.
thick with her winter
fur,
she's going somewhere.
the way she
wobbles and veers.
there is the dull cast
of no light
in her eyes.
you can tell she's lost
her mind,
or has a broken heart.
she just
isn't right.
we've all been there.

rainy day money

there's cash
in the cupboard. hidden
on the second
shelf, stuck together
under ancient cans
of baked
beans, green giant
string beans.
I separate and
count the three fifty
dollar bills, then
rinse them under
the sink.
she must have put
it there
for a rainy day,
or maybe a sunny day
that never came.

moving out

it's hard to let go.
to move
to not cling to what's
been
home.
these steps that creak,
this wall with the crack
where the wind
comes in.
the window
that won't open,
the radiator
that jumps and clangs
all night.
it's going to be hard
sleeping
without the sounds
of the street rising to this
third floor flat.
the sirens and horns
blaring all night.
it's going
to hard
not hearing the neighbors
up above
the newly weds
making love all night,
reminding me
of my own young life.